The bell rang, giving the impression that the sweat shop was done for the day. All week, Janice studied for her doctorate, a never-ending sojourn in the college library. Now there’s a fire alert and everyone had to leave the building. There’s no fire, it’s just a test to check the school’s readiness. But it couldn’t have come at a worse time. She was focused on her studies, and the alarm broke it. There was nothing for it but for her to grab her books and laptop and head outside.

She joined the queue of students heading for the door. Once outside she found the short wall that was a part of the outer deck and had a seat. It was a moderate day, warm enough where you didn’t need a coat, but not to warm. So she crossed her legs, put her things on her lap and slumped, to patiently await the all clear.

Among the students and faculty milling about was her friend Amy. 5’6” of bubbly excitement, pudgy in the right places, red haired and blue eyed with a round face and a bob. Compared to Janice’s 5’5” of skinny-ness, limp black hair tucked behind her ears, narrow face, thin lips and brown eyes, Amy seemed voluptuous. Janice smiled and prepared herself for Amy’s bubbly-ness as she ran over to join her.

“Hi, I didn’t know you were here. We should join up later, ya know, be study buddies!” It seemed to Janice that Amy never left home, at least not mentally. She’s a third year art student, and she treats everything like it’s fun and games. They met two years ago in the dorm. Janice didn’t think they’d get along at first, but two years later they’re practically bff’s.

“Amy, we’re studying two different things, we can’t study together.”

“I know”, Amy said chummily while leaning closer to her, ”but we can still share a table, right? It’ll be fun!”

“I don’t know”, Janice replied, “I’ll be pretty focused on my paper. And we won’t be able to talk, ya know cuz it’s a…”

“Will you stop doing that?” Amy huffed. “I forget we’re in a bar one time!” We were in a bar six months ago. She spaced on where we were and I had to remind her. And I never let her live it down.

Janice laughed. She liked Amy, and enjoyed the little jokes they had together. Nothing could change her mood, she was always happy and always happy to see her.

“Ok, I’m sorry”, Janice replied in a mock sympathy tone. “You here alone?”

“No, I’m with a couple of guys from class. Hey, you should meet them, one of them is pretty cute. But you get the other one.”

“Gee, thanks. No, I think I’m going to pass on that. I’m not looking for a boyfriend, you know that.”

“I know, but it doesn’t hurt to look. Remember that guy we met at the quad? Have you seen him around?”

“The guy in the hip-huggers? Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t be surprised if he was gay. Wait, do you think he knows he’s gay?”

“Aaah” was Amy’s response as they both started laughing. 

“But seriously Janice, you need to get out there, or else you’ll grow up to be an old maid. And I can’t be seen hanging with an old maid.”

“Then don’t hang around me”, she replied in mock defense. “I didn’t like you anyway!”

“Aaah! Don’t ever say  that!” Amy retorted while grabbing Janice in a big hug.

“Alright, alright, I’ll never say that again.” Janice was laughing more and more. Amy always did this to her, it’s one of the reasons she liked her so much. “Promise?” asked Amy. “Promise” replied Janice. Satisfied, Amy released Janice as the laughs continued through their mock bickering.

“Hey, can you at least meet the guy?” asked Amy. “He’s right over there.” She pointed out two teens who were standing not too far away talking to each other. One of them kept making furtive glances in their direction. She waved at them and motioned them over. Janice hated this part of Amy, always trying to fix her up with one guy or another. After what her ex did to her she wasn’t too keen on meeting anyone. But Amy was a little boy crazy so she couldn’t resist.

The two walked over at Amy’s gesture, one a little too eagerly. Amy began the introductions. “This is Eric, and this is Keith. Say hi, boys.”

“Hi, boys”, they said in unison. Great, Janice thought. A stereo sense of humor. 

Aren’t they funny?!”, said Amy. “Me and Eric are going to a mixer they’re having at Curtis Hall tonight. Janice, you should come with us! You could be Keith’s date.”

Keith took this as his cue to speak up, although shyly. “Well, if you’re not, um, doing anything, I would be, uh, grateful?” He reminded her of Brian, her ex, which was bad news for him. 

He was 5’10” with broad shoulders a square jaw and blond hair cut short. She and Brian were high school sweethearts. He had convinced her to join him at this college so that he could have her near while he enjoyed his baseball scholarship. Then, while enjoying all the things the scholarship gave him, he met another girl and cheated on her. His excuse? “Look babe, things are looking up for me. I have to live my life.” Leaving her with a pretty useless excuse for going to college and pursue an English degree. Even her parents took his side, berating her on her rash decision to follow him to college. 

So she decided to switch majors and focus on what she really enjoyed; astrophysics. And she did it all by herself, to spite her parents and Brian who all seemed to think that she was useless without him. It still left a bad taste in her mouth the way he discarded her, which is why she’s been single for the entirety of her college life. She didn’t know who to trust, so she wouldn’t trust anyone. Except Amy, who she knows is only looking out for her.

“I’m sorry, Keith was it?” she replied. “I’ve got some serious studying ahead of me if I’m going to get my doctorate. Perhaps another time.” She was polite, and hoped the let down didn’t lead to him looking for an opportunity to make a second date.

“You’re doctorate?” Eric exclaimed. “Wow Amy, I didn’t know you hung out with post-grads. You’re cooler than I thought.” 

“Well, you know”, replied Amy in a casual, my-life-is-great tone. 

“Well”, said Keith, “Maybe next time.” He looked a little crest-fallen, but not enough to be impolite.

One of the staff had come out of the library and announced the all clear. Couldn’t have come at a better time, thought Janice.

“Well I need to get back to it. Amy, I’ll catch up to you later.” She grabbed her books and laptop, stood up and headed for the front doors. “It was nice meeting you, bye.” She walked purposely back into the library to put all of that behind her. They were things she didn’t need in her life right now.

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