If there was one thing Kyler had learned in his first two years in college, it was that things always started to get busy around four weeks into the semester. Whatever classes looked busy would start the meat of their workload. And there would always be one class, no matter how simple its syllabus looked, that would have some early semester project that would take way more time and effort than Kyler anticipated. The trick was figuring out which class it’d be.
Tuesday morning of the fourth week of class, Kyler got his answer. History 2220 was Kyler’s final course that was technically classified as a lower-level course. Though it was frowned on for juniors and seniors to take classes that weren’t third and fourth-year courses, every once in a while a general education course would end up in the back half of an upperclassman’s schedule. If there was anything lower-level courses were known for, it was group projects and poor attendance.
“Nice of everyone else to show up,” said Lauren as she sat down by Kyler.
“Like I said last week,” Kyler replied, “we’ll be lucky if we see the rest of our group before the project’s due. If at all.”
Lauren Newsome was a sophomore who lived in the apartment complex across the street from Kyler’s. She was one of the few people in the class that bothered to ask questions — much to the chagrin of the professor who was in her final year before retirement — though they were the type of questions that always seemed to segue into whatever the instructor was going to be talking about next anyway. Kyler was fairly certain Lauren had worn the same basic outfit to class every day this semester: a hooded sweatshirt with Fulton-Henry College on the front, a hair tie that matched said hoodie, and jean shorts that looked like they were brand new. As long as she showed up, that’s all the more Kyler could ask for in a group partner.
“I’m sure I can get ahold of at least one of them,” said Lauren. “Everett is in my English class sometimes. And I think Mina’s roommate is in one of my brother’s classes. I’m sure I can get them to show up if we bribe them with pizza.”
“Wait,” stated Kyler. “You mean all I had to do to get pizza was not show up to class?”
Kyler feigned getting out of this chair and packing up, only for Lauren to swat him in the back with her notebook.
“If you’re that worried about pizza, I’ll pay for yours,” she replied. “Let’s at least get started. We can figure the two of them out later.”
That evening, Troy and Kyler had just finished dinner at Campus Commons. They were walking back to their apartment, a chilly fall headwind slowing their advances. They pass a basketball court, a handful of campus dwelling students playing a pick-up game.
“Think we should join them?” Troy asked.
“Why?” Kyler replied, tightening the strings on his hood.
“I’m bored, but I’m not physical activity bored.”
“Call Sloane and have her come over,” Troy replied. “I’ll even try to annoy her less than normal. I mean, no promises. But I’ll try.”
“She’s got a 7 pm class, then she’s studying,” replied Kyler. “Her internship kills her time to work on stuff on the weekends.”
“Damn. Is she coming over at all this week?”
“I’ll get lunch with her tomorrow. Maybe on Friday before she goes to Toledo.”
“That’s it though?”
They walked on quietly for a few minutes, leaves swirling around their ankles as the wind kicked up in gusts, dying down in a false reprieve from the fact that the weather was getting colder. Troy kept looking over at Kyler, trying to get a read on his mood without being too conspicuous. Unfortunately, the hood blocked Troy’s line of sight, leaving him to wonder exactly how Kyler was feeling.
“Dude,” Troy interjected. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” replied Kyler. “It’s just an adjustment. That’s all.”
“Do you have anything due tomorrow?”
“Fuck around for the evening,” said Troy. “Go see a movie or something.”
“That’s money,” replied Kyler.
“There’s free movies in the theater on campus?”
“Right, because I want to watch movies from the 1920s.”
“Look, I’m just trying to help,” replied Troy.
They finished the rest of their walk in silence. Kyler retreated to his room upon arriving back at the apartment, only acknowledging Troy’s presence when Troy intermittently shouted at the TV. He signed onto instant messager, nearly instantly getting a message from Riza.
“Hey,” she said.
“Hey,” Kyler replied.
“You going to be free for an hour or so later tonight? Around midnight or 1?”
“Driving back to Ada. Had to run home unexpectedly.”
“Everything okay?” Kyler asked.
“Yeah,” said Riza. “Dad just needed help moving stuff out of the basement. He’s feeding me, I’ll work on stuff here for a bit, then drive back when he goes to work.”
“Just call. I’ll have my sound on in case I’m asleep.”
“Will do. Heading off for now. Pizza’s here, then we need to finish moving stuff.”
As the clocked turned past midnight, bringing with it the early morning hours of a new day, Kyler stared at the pages of his history textbook. His focus stared through the pages rather than reading them, as he often found to be the case when trying to do any of the assigned reading. He’d made a promise to himself that he’d do the reading this semester, just as he’d made the same promise to himself every semester prior. On the plus side, this was the furthest he’d made it into a semester keeping the promise. It didn’t make his eyes glaze over any less when he had to read about military tactics of some British general he’d never heard of in World War II.
Troy had gone to bed when his shouting — an outburst caused by a baseball game, Kyler learned — finally subsided. It left the apartment quiet, which was both helpful and distracting to Kyler’s scholarly efforts. With Troy asleep, he had no excuse to keep him from studying, especially since Sloane was asleep and Riza had yet to call. Kyler felt bad for ignoring Troy’s concerns earlier, though not enough that he’d say anything about it.
The sound of a hard rock ringtone jolted Kyler out of his daze. He fumbled with his phone before picking up and answering.
“Did I wake you?” Riza asked.
“No,” replied Kyler. “I was studying.”
“That’s terribly unlike you. Are you being held at gunpoint?”
“I told you I was going to do the reading this year.”
“Right,” said Riza, “but we’re halfway through September and you’re still going. Are you trying to win a bet?”
“I’m not trying to win a bet,” Kyler replied.
“Do you get to pick Sloane’s costume if you make it to Halloween? Ooooo. What are you planning on picking? I know she was slutty cop last year. And I think slutty Oktoberfest stereotype the year before.”
“She was very explicit about it being referred to as her ‘sultry policewoman’ outfit.”
“Oh, it was explicit alright. The number of nightsticks you saw she walked by was astounding.”
“You should pick something you’re into,” Riza said. “What does it for you? Cheerleaders?”
“It’s too late at night for this, Riza,” Kyler replied.
“I’ve got an hour to kill and this riles you up. So I think it’s the perfect time. Come on. What would you have her wear? I could totally see her being a Sailor Scout.”
“I don’t think she’s ever heard of Sailor Moon.”
“Fine. What is it then? Schoolgirl? Secretary? Member of the Canadian Olympic curling team? Stripper?”
“One of those was incredibly specific,” Kyler replied.
“Hey, you do your thing, I’ll do mine,” Riza said.
The line went quiet. Kyler could hear the radio faintly playing in the background as Riza drove. He couldn’t quite make out what she was listening to, but considering Riza’s mix CDs tended to vary in range from show tunes to death metal, he wasn’t about to venture a guess.
“Is she at least hanging out more when she’s not in Toledo?” Riza asked.
“Not really,” Kyler replied. “She cancelled lunch with me tomorrow. She’s too busy with class or something.”
“Is the or something your words or hers?”
“Mine. I’m just frustrated.”
“I get it,” replied Riza. “You two were together pretty much every day for the last two years. And now she’s busy when you’re not. It’s an adjustment.”
“I know,” said Kyler. “I just wish I could see her more.”
“You should do something nice for her. Plan ahead since she’s so busy.”
“What do you mean?”
“Take her on a date,” Riza said. “You can’t be that dense.”
“I mean what do you mean about planning ahead?” retorted Kyler.
“Talk to her and pick a night one night next week or something. Avoid a day where she has an early class the next morning if you can. Then take her to dinner. Or a movie. Or whatever. Fuck, make her dinner that isn’t just spaghetti and beer.”
“What’s wrong with spaghetti and beer?”
“Absolutely nothing,” said Riza. “Just save it for a different night.”
“I’m sure there’s a movie she’d like to see,” replied Kyler.
“You know her better than me,” said Riza. “But if you want help, tell me a list and I’ll give you some suggestions.”
“Of course. What good is having a female best friend if she can’t help you with your girl troubles? Now. Tell me what you’ll talk her into for Halloween.”
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