“How much does it cost?”
“Does it really matter?” Julia drawled. “This is my dream school.”
“Well …” her dad said nervously. “Just don’t go overboard ”
“Don’t worry so much!”
Snorting, she pressed end on the phone and turned to her best friend.
“Seventy dollars for a tee shirt, would that be ‘going overboard’?”
“Um,” Caitlin hedged, secretly feeling sorry for Julia’s dad. “Maybe a little.”
Julia huffed, hesitating.
“Well, I don’t care. This is what I want, and it isn’t like he can’t afford it ”
Caitlin, years of practice and experience under her belt dealing with Julia’s whims, wisely said nothing as she followed her to the queue. The credit card swiped, a pleasant Thank you issued by the student worker at the university bookstore, and the two friends on fall break pushed the doors open to the fray and melee of changing classes.
Backpack laden, flip flop wearing students milled everywhere. Some focused as they headed to their next class, others reading phones, grabbing something to eat in the cool, fall sunshine. On the open stage, acoustic guitar filled the air from the students of the Music Business Program scheduled performances. Caitlin was quietly enthralled, soaking in the academic atmosphere, feeling in her bones that she was home.
“Let’s go sit over here and watch that beautiful guy.”
“What guy?” Caitlin asked. She’d been watching the guy with his guitar and for a second felt the pang of jealousy that Julia might be referring to him. Caitlin never won out in a competition with Julia over a guy. Brown hair and brown eyes never won out over blonde hair and blue eyes. It was a fact and Caitlin had accepted it long ago, back in third grade when both friends had liked Michael Reeder.
A quick glance and Caitlin followed Julia’s eyes to a group of frat boys. The khakis, the untucked button downs, sandals and sunglasses were a dead give away. Breathing a quick sigh of relief – which was ridiculous, of course, Guitar Boy was a complete stranger – Caitlin turned back to watch him sing only to find his eyes on her.
When I’m gone, when I’m gone, you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone …
Caitlin blushed and looked down, turning her head slightly to look behind her because there was no way he was actually looking at her. Finding herself quite alone, Julia had gotten brave and moved over to talk to Frat Boy, she looked up again.
His eyes stared, as if trying to see inside her. Research her. The moment stretched on as everything in Caitlin’s peripheral blurred. Like she was in an Impressionist painting, she focused on the brush strokes that made up the boy in front of her.
She started, surprised as movement and life began again around her.
“Uh …” She stammered, aware Guitar Boy was still watching.
“Let’s go, Jack is taking us to see his dorm.”
“Beautiful man,” she whispered, “remember?”
Caitlin felt the pull of Julia’s hand and stumbled along behind, because this was how it was with Julia. But as she walked away, she turned, memorizing his face.
“Ethan Simmons is my name!” Guitar boy said to the crowd.
Ethan Simmons. Caitlin tucked that knowledge away, and followed her friend.
Authors note: I am sitting at UGA with Emma as we wait for Lucy. Em is spending the weekend with sister, makes me very happy for them to be together. The above is because I had time as we were waiting, and because it is fascinating to observe. Some of this happened, some … well, it’s just my silly, romantic imagination.