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I didn’t like that I’d done that. I showed a side of myself I didn’t like to expose.

Coming here, five states away, was to start new. Not remember the old me. Me reacting to that guy just now, that was the old me. And I really didn’t want to get into why I had to be that way in the past. No way. No how. No, siree.

“That beer’s going to hit me in about two minutes. Can I still ride with you?”

Siobhan jerked awake, startling forward. “Yeah. Uh. My car’s over here.”

“Sha, you know how to get to my place?”

She was crossing the parking lot but nodded. “I remember. Last Biofest, remember?”

Trent’s face brightened. “Oh, yeah! I forgot. Yeah, okay. See you guys there. AJ’s there. You can ring up. I might stop and grab a few things on the way.”

I noticed the little grin on Siobhan’s face as we got to her car and got inside. And because I knew a friend would say it, I teased, “He’s getting a few things. Like condoms?”

“Shut up!”

But she was blushing and blushing hard.

Starting and reversing out of the parking spot, she moved around until we were following Trent out of the parking lot.

She waited until a stoplight before muttering, “Besides, I’m not that kind of girl.”

“What kind? The kind who likes sex?”

Back to the blushing. She was full-on red sea star. “You know.” She moved around in her seat, her cheek suddenly pulling in. “The kind who has sex on the first night.”

“How long have you known Trent?”

“It’s not the same thing.”

I wasn’t following. This I wasn’t faking. I said it almost tenderly, “Having sex with someone you have feelings for, no matter how many hours you’ve spent together, isn’t a bad thing.”

She swallowed, shoving upright in her seat. Her hands tightened on the wheel. “It is if he thinks you’re a slut after.”

The question wasn’t if she knew a guy who’d do that. Guys did that. It was a question if she thought Trent would do that.

“For what it’s worth, I’m pretty certain, and by certain I mean I’m like 99.8% sure that Trent is completely into you.” I nudged her arm, lightly. “I get the double standards, but if you like sex and you like Trent, then what’s really stopping you? I’ve known relationships that start that way. And honestly, life’s too short to worry about that stuff.”

A gnawing and hollow ache was forming in my chest, rooting and digging deep in there. My words hitting a little close to home.

I continued, faint even to my own ears, “French angelfish love should be cherished. Indulge while you can still feel those emotions.”

Yes, I was talking about myself.

Yes, I wish I could feel that again.

But yes, I believed in what I said.

You never knew when your time was up. Then what would you do? Die with regrets of not trying something? That’d be worse than dying having tried and been rejected. Who cared about rejection? That stuff was never remembered. But not living, that was remembered till someone’s death bed.

“Live, Sha.” I used his nickname on purpose. “Regret will eat you alive if you don’t.”

She was quiet, then burst out laughing. “Okay. Yeah. Where’d that philosophical side come from? And it’s not for sure that French angelfish mate for life, you know.”

I half grinned. “That’s my side major. Deep thinker here. Didn’t you know? And let’s just go with the analogy, yeah?”

She thought I was half-joking.

I wasn’t.

Chapter Eight

Siobhan and Trent played footsie all night. Literally.

We went to his apartment. Those two started on the couch together, their feet touching, while we watched a movie. Then we moved to their kitchen table with some wine poured and a game of Sequence. They sat across from each other, but the sly looks, flushed faces, and hushed giggling mixed with the constant squirming on their seats told me if they didn’t get it on that night, they were idiots. Or that I’d be in for a looong semester with them.

AJ wasn’t anything like Trent. A dad-bod, more than a dad-bod with a cut-off tee that had ‘Trees are old. Go digital.’ and hair that was sticking up in an almost adorable way, he was my cosigner on how Trent and Siobhan were cute, but verging on the line of being annoying.

I caught him watching them, a slight grin, but a slight grimace at the same time. The two weren’t hiding it anymore, and when I said my goodbyes after two games of Sequences, I was wondering if Siobhan was going to follow my advice and just live. Either way, I figured I’d get a call the next day or an earful on Monday in class.

I was looking forward to both.

Feeling good that I had a friend, at least one, my mood didn’t diminish when I got to the house to find a full party going. The house was busy, literally every room except mine had light streaming from the windows. The backyard light was dimmed, but a group of ten or so was standing around the picnic table. I recognized Mia and heard Nicole laughing as I walked past them, heading to my door.

None of them looked at me.

Well, glancing over, I was wrong. Dent was eyeing me, but his arm was around Nicole’s shoulders and she was half in his lap. One of her legs was thrown over his and her hand was splayed out on his chest. As I watched, his hand slid down around her back, cupping the other side of her hip so he was half-cradling her to him now and his head was bent down to hers.

I just kept going, but as I went down the stairs to my door and unlocked it, I couldn’t help wondering if I’d acted too quickly the other night at the bar? If I should’ve stuck it out, sat with them longer? Nicole technically hadn’t done anything to me. Just Mia and Lisa had been bitches, but Sav and Nicole hadn’t.

Remembering my own advice, I figured what would it hurt? Be nice. Apologize for ditching. I mean, they could laugh at me and do exactly the reasons why I left in the first place, but it wasn’t sitting well with me. Maybe invite them to meet for lunch on campus, or at the very least, a coffee somewhere. Even just sitting and having a coffee at the house together, except the problem is that I didn’t feel comfortable venturing upstairs, and neither of them came down to the basement. I heard Lisa slam her door every now and then, always followed with her stampeding feet up the stairs as if she couldn’t get away from being on the same floor as me fast enough. With her and Mia, I definitely hadn’t acted too harsh or quick, but still, with Sav and Nicole another try was warranted.

Tomorrow. I’d do it tomorrow.

I was determined to tune out the yelling from the room next to me. They must’ve had a pool game going because I kept hearing ‘Eight ball, motherfucker.’ But, making sure my door was locked — I’d even went as far to add an extra chain lock on my door during the week — I turned my fan on full blast. It was a box fan, rivaling ones that could be in a barn (not really, but I liked to pride myself that I’d found a gem like that), but I was fooling myself, I was too jacked up to head to bed.

Opening my laptop, plugging in my headphones, I typed in Texas C&B job classifieds. I’d been putting off finding a job all week, but my bank account was dwindling every day and I’d skipped lunch today to use my money for beer at the Quail. Thank God they had a two dollar tap deal until eight.

Trent and AJ had brought out a charcuterie board of meat, cheese, crackers, and dip back at their place. There were other things on there, along with chips and salsa and yes, I ate to my heart’s content. I knew I had enough money for a couple things of ramen the next day, so I was taking advantage of their excellent hosting skills.

My full belly greatly appreciated it, but yes. Back to the matter at hand.

I needed a job. I couldn’t put it off anymore, so I was searching the classifieds.

There was a lab assistant job, but reading more on it, it looked like it was for a graduate student. No-can-do for me, then. At least, not yet.

I kept going.

A library aide. I’d done that job before, and while I loved books, I knew I’d hate it. I’d gotten a look at the staff in there this week, and they were a whole new level of stuck-up. Serious. Sometimes you ran into that, where they looked down on people who read outside what was considered the greatest literary works of arts like Pride and Prejudice or War and Peace. Don’t get me wrong, those books were amazing, but there were novels and even textbooks outside the ‘literary masterpieces’ that were equally as enjoyable, too.

But that wasn’t a literary battle I wanted to take on, so I kept looking.

Kitchen attendants.

Janitorial staff.

A custodian position.

I wasn’t sure the difference between the last two.

A babysitter/nanny job, but looking more into it…they wanted longer hours than I could promise. And I’d have to be available during my classroom times.

Tech support.

Tech assistant.

Tech internships.

Maybe I was picking the wrong major?

I kept on until between the experience needed and the hours they were asking for, either weekends or evenings, I was down to two positions. A barback or waitressing job at the Quail or I could work concessions at the sporting events.

I clicked on the applications because I’d have to try for both. If I got one of them, I’d be happy. If I got both, I’d be ecstatic. They said their hours were flexible, would ‘work with student schedules’, so I was hoping they weren’t lying like on my room rental details, because as I was filling out the applications, I was completely lying. Yes, I did, in fact, have an iota of job experience. Which was true, somewhat. I’d volunteered for a few bake sales. And yes, the time I bagged for a very short term, like a week, at Stone’s parents’ store before we became enemies might’ve been a lot shorter than I was admitting.