“Any appearances from dream guy?”
Katherine’s face paled at the mention of him, “Nope. He’s just gone. I was probably stupid to think he was real in the first place.”
Taylor grabbed Katherine’s shoulders, “You were not stupid. I’m the one who insisted he was real. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. It’s okay,” Katherine fought against the mist that formed in her eyes.
“So hey, Danny and I are going to grab some dinner after practice tonight. Do you think you want to come with?”
Katherine knew what Taylor was up to, “That would be nice. Do you think Coop will be there?”
“I can guarantee that if you’re going, Cooper’s going.”
“Really?” the thought seemed so absurd to her.
“Are you crazy, Kat, or just dumb? Cooper has been trying to get you to go out with him since the moment he laid his stupid speckled eye on you.”
“I know. I just don’t get why,” she blurted out. “Sorry, I don’t mean that as bad as it sounds. I just don’t get it. Is he like this with every girl, or just me?”
“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask him tonight?”
“Well have you seen him with anyone else? Does he talk about other girls?” Katherine pressed.
“He talks about you. All.the.time,” Taylor rolled her eyes.
“But whyyyy?” she let out a frustrated sigh. “Don’t you ever wonder why Danny likes you so much? You don’t do you?” Katherine laughed at the absurdity of her question.
“No! Obviously he’s smart. Only an idiot wouldn’t want to date me. And since I don’t date idiots, it all works out.”
Katherine laughed, “Oh my gosh. Get out of here and let me finish getting ready.”
The girls walked toward their dorm when they heard someone shout and a horn honk. They both turned to see Cooper and Danny yelling at them from Cooper’s black Jeep Wrangler. The top was off the Jeep and the guys were shirtless.
“Do you think they know they look like a couple of douche bags?” Taylor pondered.
“It might be our civic duty to inform them,” Katherine rolled her eyes towards the boys.
“I mean, really...girls everywhere will thank us,” Taylor nodded with a smile.
They ran over towards the lifted Jeep and Katherine felt dwarfed by the size of it. The oversized off-road tires made it really high off the ground and Katherine thought it made the car more masculine and fun. She thought it simply suited Cooper better, who looked incredible with his shirt off. Her eyes followed the traces of his broad, tan shoulders to his muscular arms. She lingered a little too long on his overly defined abs as Taylor cleared her throat.
“So, guys, you know that you look like losers driving around like that, right?” Taylor informed them and Danny dipped his head down. “I’m just saying that we all KNOW you have amazing bodies...is it really necessary to drive around with your shirts off?”
Danny looked up and said, “We just wanted to get a tan.”
Katherine burst into laughter because his response was so sincere. “Well, you guys should go lay out or something, not drive around in the Jeep with your shirts off. You look like cocky jerks who are just trying to show off their nice bodies.”
Cooper pinned her with his eyes and asked, “You think I have a nice body?” Then he turned to Danny and gloated, “See, I told you she wanted me.”
“Oh yeah. She can’t stop dreaming about it, Coop. Every night she screams out your name while she’s sleeping. It’s getting really annoying,” Taylor retorted.
“If that’s what it takes to get you to go out with me, Katherine Johns, I’ll take it,” Cooper said in his normal confident tone.
“Will you at least put on a shirt?” Katherine asked with a smile as she looked into his sunglass-covered eyes.
“Most likely, but I can’t guarantee that it will have sleeves,” Cooper negotiated.
“Oh my God, where am I…Jersey shore? This is like a nightmare—Taylor, please wake me up.”
“I’d wake you up, but you won’t let me do anything for you,” Cooper teased playfully.
“Here we go again,” Taylor tossed her head back in mock disgust.
“Taylor, will you please talk to your roommate and tell her to cut me some slack already. She makes me work way too hard.”
Katherine was deafened by the sound of her heart pounding in her ears.
“Maybe she wants you to work hard?” Taylor offered.
“Then I will. I’ll do whatever she wants me too,” Cooper smiled at Katherine and her stomach twisted into knots.
Katherine wondered why though, in the moments where she should be completely consumed in all things Cooper, she couldn’t stop her thoughts from drifting to the boy from her dream. The very thought of him snapped her into some subconscious world. It was as though she could literally feel him all around her. She knew that seemed crazy so she tried to enjoy the life that happened right in front of her.
“We’ll see you guys later tonight,” Taylor said as she leaned in to give Danny a quick kiss on the lips.
“Don’t forget about those shirts,” Katherine joked while she mimed pulling on a shirt.
“Mmm, they do look good,” Taylor commented as she glanced back at the two guys in the lifted Jeep. “They probably have seat belt tans.”
“I bet you’re right. We are so asking them later!”
“And make fun of them relentlessly if they do.”
“Did I tell you that Cooper’s parents have a lake house?” Taylor suddenly remembered.
“Oh it’s in Northern Jersey. It’s right on the shore. Apparently it’s super nice. I think they have a couple of other houses too. I think his parents are loaded.”
“That’s cool,” Katherine responded nonchalantly.
“That doesn’t impress you?” Taylor marveled.
“Not really. I don’t really care about that kind of stuff,” she hesitated and then questioned, “You don’t either, do you?”
“Oh please. Danny’s broke as a joke. I could care less.”
Katherine nodded in agreement, “It’s not about money. I was surrounded by people like that back home. As if having a ton of money made up for having a crappy personality.”
“I know, right? Why are rich people such a bore?”
“Cause they don’t have to be fun—they’re rich!” Katherine laughed.
“You can’t buy chemistry,” Taylor noted.
“AGREED!” Katherine practically shouted. “I just want that feeling you get when you know without a doubt that you’re supposed to be with someone. That connection, that no matter what you do, can’t be denied.”
“Do you feel like that with Cooper?”
Katherine’s cheeks burned, “I do. But I also felt it with the guy from my dream.”
“Yeah. Sorry, I hate that I keep doing that.”
Taylor cocked her head to one side, “Doing what?”
“I think I’m over the guy from my dream, but I’m not. It’s like he won’t go away. Everytime I think he’s gone, he reappears. Whenever I try to think about only Cooper, Dream Guy pops into my thoughts. I feel like he’s planting himself in my brain so I won’t forget about him.”
“I’m sure he’s not doing that,” Taylor eyed her sympathetically.
Frustrated, Katherine took a deep breath, “Taylor, I’m making a conscious decision.”
“Well, that’s a first,” Taylor responded in her typical sarcastic tone. “What exactly are we so conscious about?”
“I have to put the guy from my dream behind me. He has to just go back to whatever part of my subconscious he came from. I can’t keep waiting for him to show up at Starbucks or something!” she huffed.
“And I have to give Cooper a chance. He’s a really nice and good guy. And I’d be an idiot to let him walk away because I’m holding out for some guy I saw in a dream one time. Right?” Katherine needed Taylor to agree.
“Yep, you’d be an idiot all right. But I still sorta think your dream guy could exist.”
“Taylor!!!” Kat pleaded; her voice exasperated.
“Fine, fine. Yes, you have to give Cooper a chance. Your country would want this. If you don’t date Cooper, the terrorists win. Happy?”
“Perfectly,” Katherine smiled at Taylor and knew what she had to do. She had to get dolled up for the date tonight and really open her heart to Cooper. It wasn’t like she didn’t want to. If there were no dream guy, she was certain she and Cooper would have already been together. She was very aware that she set the pace for this relationship…or whatever it was.
“I’m so excited!” Taylor wailed.
“Because! I’ve been waiting for this day to come. And Cooper is awesome. And you’re going to love him. And if you want to talk about dream guys…well, Cooper is one.”
Music played in the background while the girls got ready for their dinner date. Every so often they’d stop what they were doing and break out into dance. Katherine tried on four different tops before she agreed with Taylor which one looked best.
Katherine pulled at her straight brown hair and twisted it around the hot curling iron. She watched as loose, fat curls fell around her face. She added a shiny gloss to her lips and puckered.
“Tay, are you almost ready?” Katherine shouted.
“Ready when you are.”
They headed out of the building and into the still evening air. Giant trees lined the pathway, leading them away from campus. The small one-story brick restaurant sat nestled between two larger, more contemporary buildings.
“You know they wanted to pick us up, right?”
Katherine perked up, “No. Did you tell them they couldn’t?”
“I told them that we could walk. Plus, we’re not going to be able to for long. We actually have winter in this state.”
“That cold, huh?” Katherine asked concerned.
“Oh yeah. You’ll probably die.”
Katherine gave Taylor a shove, “You suck.”
The restaurant was owned by an older Italian gentleman, in every sense of the word, named Dominic. Every time the girls walked in, he would greet them with hugs and kisses on each cheek and say, “Ciao, bella,” which meant, “Hello, beautiful.”
Every so often he would slip and speak to them excitedly in his native tongue, forgetting that the girls had no idea what he was saying. Katherine always loved when he did that because she thought the language was so beautiful.
When they walked through the door, the guys were already there. Dominic saw them and his eyes lit up. He hustled right over and greeted them with his usual flair. He spoke in his accented English that the girls had grown to adore. “You two are here-ah with the boys in the corner, si? They look-ah like perfecto gentlemen.”