14 viewpoints, one love story. Sandy Hall’s debut novel is an irresistibly sweet romance between two college students told from multiple perspectives.
Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is a little aloof, Gabe is shy, and it looks like they are never going to work things out.
But something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The barista at the local Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV series. The bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes Lea and Gabe were meant to be together.
You'll be rooting for Gabe and Lea too, in Sandy Hall's quirky, completely original novel A Little Something Different, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads.
Praise for A Little Something Different:
“Recommend for those looking for a quick, sweet romance.” VOYA
“A fun, light romance that will appeal to male and female readers alike.” School Library Journal
“Romance with a twist.” Booklist
About the Author
Sandy Hall is a teen librarian from New Jersey where she was born and raised. She has a BA in Communication and a Master of Library and Information Science from Rutgers University. When she isn't writing, or teen librarian-ing, she enjoys reading, marathoning TV shows, and long scrolls through Tumblr. A LITTLE SOMETHING DIFFERENT is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
Maribel (Lea’s roommate)
“I’m going to get us fake IDs,” I say to Lea as we walk to class on the first day of school.
“What? That’s illegal!” she says.
Even though we’ve only been roommates for four days, I’m not surprised by her reaction. I think there must be something about the first few days of college that really make people bond together, because I feel like I’ve known Lea my entire life.
And I can already say unequivocally that she is a great roommate. She’s neat, polite, and quiet without being boring.
“Don’t think of it as illegal,” I say. “Think of it as helping out local business owners.”
“You have a skewed perspective of the world, Maribel.”
“Drinking is fun!” I say, throwing up my hands. I’ve only actually been drunk twice in my entire life, once at my sister’s wedding and then prom weekend. But still, I know it’s fun.
“I don’t even really drink!” she says, also throwing up her hands. She’s laughing now though.
“Do you want to?” I ask.
“I mean…” I trail off. We’re walking onto an enormous green where about half of the academic buildings are located, and I want to take a moment to appreciate the fact that I am actually starting college.
“We’re really here,” I say, looking around.
“We are,” she agrees, smiling. “We should embrace the moment.”
“What class are you on your way to?” she asks after a sufficient amount of “embracing the moment” has happened.
“Development of Europe part two.” I make sure that my voice is as unenthusiastic as humanly possible.
“I assume that there will be a lot of spoilers if you ever decide to take part one.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. What are you on your way to?”
“How did you get into an awesome upper-level course like creative writing?” I ask as we approach the steps to the English building.
She turns to walk backward for a second and swings right into a very cute guy.
“Oh my gosh,” Lea squeaks as she kneels down to help him with his belongings. “I’m so sorry.”
“S’okay,” he says. He’s cute, but super awkward as he tries like four different ways to pick up the books he dropped.
“You’re sure?” Lea asks.
He nods but doesn’t look at her.
“I just don’t want to be late for class on the first day,” she says, glancing at me and then back at him.
He settles on the ground and scoops things into his backpack.
He finally looks at her and sort of smiles. “I’m fine.”
“Okay, as long as you’re okay,” Lea says. “See you later, Mar.”
I nod and walk toward my own classroom. I think I just got to witness my first collegiate meet cute. I’m sort of assuming meet cutes happen a lot here.
Inga (creative writing professor)
People always expect the first day of school to be crisp and autumnal when the reality is that it’s all too often on the hottest freaking day of the year, and the sun burns with the heat of a thousand George Foreman grills.
I stand in front of my latest bunch of creative writing students and look around, trying not to sweat through my thinnest blouse. When I left the house this morning I asked Pam what she thought of my outfit and she said it was like “slutty Little House on the Prairie.” I didn’t know that was a thing, but I felt proud that I had achieved such a look without even trying.
I hop up on the desk, making sure my Laura Ingalls miniskirt doesn’t ride perilously high, and then lean over to check the time on my phone. I’ll give them at least four more minutes. It’s the first day of school, and even though they’re mostly upperclassmen I doubt many of them have been into this far-reaching subbasement before. I swear, it’s well below sea level. I would say the depths of hell, but the air-conditioning just kicked in.
There are nineteen seats taken and twenty-seven kids on the roster. I can’t help but hope that an odd number of them drop the class. I hate having an odd number of kids in creative writing; it throws everything off when we pair up.
The door opens and my TA comes in.
“Hey, Cole,” I say.
“Hey, Inga. Where are we? Twenty thousand leagues under the sea?” he asks, gesturing around confusedly.
“You’re telling me. I’m gonna have to leave a trail of Beer Nuts back to my office.”
“Why Beer Nuts?”
“Because if I’m wasting food like that it’s going to be something I’m not particularly fond of. I would never waste decent nuts.”
The door opens again and student number twenty walks in. He’s frazzled looking, out of breath, but when he sees us looking at him, he smiles shyly at Cole and me. He takes a seat on the side near the door, next to the angry-looking kid and a girl who looks younger—and more nervous—than the others. He makes blink-and-you’ll-miss-it eye contact with the girl before they both blush and turn away.
I glance at the time again and clear my throat. This is the part I’m bad at. I’ve been teaching my own courses for ten years, but every semester I feel like I mess up my greeting. I always try to be way too cool. I’m thirty-six; what am I trying to prove?
“Hey, hey, hey!” I say, and inwardly groan. I’ve obviously watched too many reruns of Fat Albert in my life. “Let’s get this started,” I add, clapping my hands.
At least I omitted the word “party” from that sentence this semester. One year I said, “Let’s get this party started!” and then ended up on a tangent about how writing can be a party, it can be fun, but there are no kegs involved and limited opportunities to dance.
The students all look up at me attentively, aside from the angry kid. He scratches his ear and rolls his eyes. Guess he’s not a Fat Albert fan.
“I’m Inga Myerson, and this is Cole … my TA.” I blank on his last name and mouth “sorry” to him. He shrugs and smiles. “And in case you’ve trudged into the depths of Narnia by mistake, this is creative writing.”
I fall into my usual creative writing spiel and pass out syllabi while I chat. I put it on autopilot and try to pick out the two students who I want to see get together this semester. I have a weird knack for this. It all started when I was a TA for my favorite professor back in grad school. She said she liked to think about the students as stories and enjoyed writing one in her head as class unfolded. I took it one step further and made it a romance.
There were a couple of boys I picked in a seminar in the late nineties who are now happily married with two kids of their own. They’re my most successful pairing, but pretty much every semester I see the couples at least get to the point of in-class flirtation.
“I’m going to take attendance, because I like to get everyone’s name right eventually. We’re going to have to get to know each other in this class, so I hope everyone is comfortable with that idea. There’s no way to become writers together without knowing each other at least a little.”
The angry kid’s name is Victor. I’ll remember that.
The nervous-looking girl is Azalea, though she quickly amends it to “Just Lea is fine.” She seems less nervous after that.
The last kid who walked in is Gabe. He’s got a quietness about him that I like. He has the kind of posture that makes me want to tell him to stand up straight, but I’m sure he has a mother who likes to tell him just that every time she sees him.
There’s a girl named Hillary who is everything you imagine a Hillary to be. At least everything I imagined a Hillary to be before Hillary Clinton came on the scene and smashed all of my previous Hillary prejudices, like hair tossing and talking like a Valley girl. This girl is setting that movement back twenty years.
There are other kids, obviously, but these four stick out more than the rest.
When I finish taking roll, I jump back into my spiel.
“I’ve got a theory,” I say.
“That it’s a demon,” Lea says, so quietly I almost miss it, and I probably would have, but she slaps a surprised hand in front of her mouth. I see Gabe turn to her and smile.
“A dancing demon?” he says quietly.
And then in my finest Rupert Giles impression of all time I say, “No, something isn’t right there.”
No one else seems to get the joke, but it’s in that moment that I know my couple of the semester is going to be Gabe and Lea.
The quick eye contact they shared was good, but the fact that they both picked up on my inadvertent Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference makes me feel like they must be kindred spirits. Also it makes me happy to realize that kids these days still watch Buffy.
Now I have to figure out a way to orchestrate this relationship.
I hope Cole’s into it. I’ve had TAs in the past who were wet blankets about my little game. I look over at him and he chooses that moment to give me jazz hands and I know we’re going to be on the same wavelength.
Bench (on the green)
I’m the oldest bench on this green and I get no respect.
I’d like to say there are worthwhile things about the job. And maybe sometimes there are. Sometimes you get a really perfect butt; however, all rear ends are not created equal.
The one currently seated upon me is the kind I appreciate; it’s the kind of behind that I would invite back time and again, if I had the ability to speak. And the best part is that it seems to be attached to a person who wants nothing more than to sit. No chatting, no moving around, no graffiti or gum. I could get used to this.
“Gabe,” a voice says, sitting next to him. I’m not a big fan of this tuchus. It’s ruining the quiet time I was enjoying.
“Sam,” the good butt owner says.
“Did you notice that you’re sitting like a millimeter away from bird shit?”
“Is there a reason you’re here?”
“No. Mom gave me money to buy you lunch on the first day. She was worried about you not eating enough.”
“Why would Mom worry about that?”
I imagine there’s a meaningful look here and that seems like just enough to make the best butt I’ve ever known stand up and walk away.
Sam (Gabe’s brother)
“So, how’s your first day back going?” I ask.
He shrugs. My brother has never been much of a talker but in the past nine months he’s practically become mute.
“No, seriously, you have to tell me something to tell Mom, or else she’s not going to believe me that I took you out for lunch. She’s gonna think I kept the money to buy a keg or something.”
“Take a picture of me eating,” he mutters.
“Or you can tell me something about your day.” I pull on his arm to get him to stop and actually look at me. “As your older brother, it is well within my rights to force you to talk.”
He sighs. “Fine, tell her that I’m more tired than I expected, but that’s what happens when you sit on the couch for nine months. But everything else is going really, really well.”
“You’re tired?” I prod. Gabe is not a sharer. Gabe is a holder-inner. A holder-inner who is punching me in the arm. “Ow!”
“Why can’t she ask me herself?”
“Because she thinks you lie to her.”
“Whatever. Why are we still talking about this?”
As we’re about to turn off the green, a girl sitting on a bench waves at Gabe and me. Mostly at Gabe, I’d imagine, because I’ve never seen her before in my life.
He waves back, so I guess it was meant for him.
“Just some girl,” he says.
“We should invite her to lunch! She’s not doing anything.” I turn back toward her and he grabs for my backpack to haul me around.
“No we will not.”
“You’re never gonna get a girl if you ignore them.”
“I didn’t ignore her.”
“I think she’s talking to that squirrel.”
“She’s … quirky.”
“How do you know her?”
“She’s in my creative writing class.”
“Oh. Excellent. How was that class?”
He smiles at that. “It was good actually. Aside from the fact that I was almost late because I had no idea there were two levels of basement in the English building.”
“Oh, subbasement classes. Yeah, I’ve been there. They’re in many fables, but few have experienced them. I heard there’s a clan of mermaids who live in one of the bathrooms.”
I’m surprised when Gabe laughs out loud at that. It’s really not a great joke to begin with and he hasn’t been a big laugh-out-louder recently. He just hasn’t been Gabe. I’ve tried to explain that to our mom, but I don’t think she gets it. I think she assumes there’s more she could or should be doing, but the secret is that there isn’t. This is something Gabe needs to deal with in his own way.
“Anyway, the professor seems cool and the other kids seem okay. It might not be so bad.”
As we approach the diner, I want to get one last sentiment out, even though I know he’s going to sort of hate me for it.
“You’re allowed to talk about it, you know.”
He rolls his eyes. “I promise I know.”
I notice the girl eating peanuts. I love nuts.
Nuts, nuts, nuts.
I hop across the grass, trying to be as cute as possible, hoping that maybe if I’m lucky she’ll drop one. And her loss will be my gain.
She sees me and smiles.
I’m in! Hooray!
She purposefully drops a peanut on the ground and I eat it up.
Then she drops one on the bench next to her.
Is this a trap?
I take my time eating the first one, watching her, trying to see if she has a net or a cage or a brown bag that she’s going to capture me with.
I decide it’s all clear, so I hop up on the bench.
She watches two boys walking away across the lawn.
“Do you think they’re brothers?” she asks. “They have the same eyes, and maybe the same nose; it’s hard to see from here.”
I sit up straight. She’s talking to me. No one ever talks to me. Oh, how I wish I knew human and could answer her.
Instead I nibble on my peanut.
Victor (creative writing classmate)
I hate everything about this stupid class. We’re only a week into the semester and it’s already the bane of my existence.
I hate the professor’s dumb jokes, I hate the location, I hate the other people in it. In particular, these two idiots who insist on sitting near me every freaking class make me want to stab my own eyes out with my mechanical pencil.
I take a couple of deep breaths. I need to calm down. I need to make it through this semester. This was the only lit class that fit in my schedule; I need it to graduate. I do not want to worry about taking a lit class next semester when I want to be concentrating on my kickass internship.
But seriously, I thought the people in my own major were awful—the comp sci guys can be pretty annoying—but these English majors are the dopiest bunch of assholes this side of the Mississippi. They think they’re so deep and filled with meaning. They are not.
And if this dude behind me kicks my chair one more time, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I know I probably couldn’t take him physically, but I would definitely win in a battle of wits.
As I’m thinking that, he kicks it again and I turn to give him a death glare. He sits up straight, moves his freakishly long legs into the aisle, and begins his assault on the chick sitting next to him. Or at least, an assault on her bag. He kicks the shit out of it.
I’m not shocked. He has the biggest feet ever. I suppose they go along well with her abnormally long neck.
Does he realize he would be a lot more effective helping her pick up her bag if he would bend his elbow? He’s like Frankenstein’s monster over there, all jerky movements and no movable joints.
I tune it out as Big Foot makes random noises of apology and the Giraffe squeaks that it’s not a big deal.
I hate them both so much.
How many days until the semester is over?
Bob (a bus driver)
I have hundreds of kids getting on and off this bus every day. Some kids are real sweethearts and some kids are complete jerks and some kids are neutral. Some are loud in a good way, some in a bad way. There are always a couple who stand out. Sometimes it’s because they’re just noticeable looks-wise, or sometimes it’s a simple case of logistics, like they always get off at a weird stop. My wife, Margie, loves to hear about all of them.
Lately I’ve been telling her lots of stories about these two kids, a boy and a girl. There’s something different about them.
I noticed the boy because he grips the standing bar awkwardly. It’s a funny thing how you can be an expert on gripping the standing bar, and this kid is doing it all wrong. He’s awkward and it kind of looks like it hurts. I want to give him in a lesson in making it less painful.
And then a couple days ago, I realized that he does it so he can sort of hinge into her personal space every once in a while, because I see him do it even when the bus is almost empty. But he doesn’t ever want to get close enough to her to sit near her; it’s like he’s happy to lurk.
The girl is a different story. I always notice the readers on the bus. I can’t read when a bus or car is moving. I get motion sick.
But she’s always reading. And he’s always holding on like it hurts his arm. And I’m sitting up here thinking about them.
I make the next stop and they get off together, though they don’t talk to each other at all. Both of them thank me, and they’re the rare kind. Makes me happy, makes me think that maybe they should talk to each other, but I suppose I don’t have any control over those things.
I watch them walk until they part ways, her going toward the cluster of dorms, him veering off toward the student center. Then one of them little devils in the back calls out, “Are we going already?”
Some of these kids are just dicks.
Casey (Gabe’s friend)
I’m sort-of-almost napping when there’s a knock on my bedroom door. I swear to God if it’s that new guy from the room off the kitchen again I’m going to go postal on him. I’m not doing anything in my room; I’m napping, there’s no way I could be thumping around. He acts like I’m a moose or something up here.
I flip over on my bed and throw myself to the end to open the door. I have to say the best part of having a tiny room is being able to open the door without getting out of bed. I find Gabe standing on the other side. He’s looking straight ahead and makes a confused face when there’s no one standing in front of him.
“Hey, man!” I say, sitting up straight and throwing the door open wider for him. He looks down and smiles.
“I couldn’t figure out how the door opened,” he says, dropping his backpack and taking the computer chair. “I was thinking you rigged it somehow.”
“I’m not that kind of engineer,” I say.
“What’s going on?” he asks.
“Not much. I was napping.”
“Oh, damn. I’m sorry, I should have texted. I’ll go,” he says as he stands up. That’s the kind of guy Gabe is. He’s always so worried about stepping on other people’s toes that he doesn’t even notice if you want your toes stepped on. Or like, I don’t ever want my toes literally stepped on, but my point is, I like having Gabe around even if he is interrupting my nap.
He obeys, because that’s also the kind of guy Gabe is. The first time I met him, my freshman year, after I had already been roommates with his brother, Sam, for a couple of months, I was shocked by how different they were. Gabe came to spend a weekend with us to check out the school for himself, and knowing Sam, Gabe was not who I expected.
Where Sam is loud and nearly shameless, Gabe is easygoing and sarcastic. But even with his quieter vibe, it was boring around here without him. I made sure I told him that every time I went to see him last year.
He chews on his thumbnail.
“How’s everything going?” I ask, leaning against the wall behind my bed.
“Pretty good. I was just in my creative writing class and there’s this girl who has totally … captured my attention.” He smiles.
“That’s cool, but you know that’s not really what I was asking.” I know he’ll talk about everything if and when he wants to, but I like to let him know that I’m around when he’s ready.
“No, but that’s what I feel like talking about,” he says.
“All right, that’s fair,” I say. “Tell me about this chick.”
“She’s not a ‘chick.’”
“Tell me about this skirt, broad, gal Friday.”
“You’re the worst, you know?”
“She’s just in my class and she’s cool and I keep thinking I should talk to her because she’s always chill about everything in class. Like the other day I knocked her backpack over and instead of giving me a dirty look she was all smiling and telling me it was no big deal.”
“What’s her name?”
This is weird. Gabe and I don’t usually talk about girls. Or I talk about girls and he nods and listens and reprimands me for being kind of a dick about girls. I thought maybe he was asexual or something for a while, but then I realized he was so shy he didn’t really know what to do about girls so he kind of ignored them.
“Are you going to talk to her?”
“How do you know I don’t already talk to her? Maybe she’s outside waiting for me in a pimped-out Lamborghini and we’re going to ride off into the sunset.”
I raise my eyebrows at him. “You would never buy a Lamborghini. Who even owns Lamborghinis anymore?”
“All right, you caught me,” he says, putting his hands up in surrender. “I haven’t talked to her. Not really. I kind of mumbled sorry when I kicked her bag, but we haven’t exactly conversed.”
“You should probably converse.”
“Maybe. Could also be fun to like her from afar and make up stories about her in my head and pretend that we’re dating.”
“So, stalk her?”
“You call it whatever you need to call it,” he says with a straight face.
“Listen, I don’t want to go all big brother on you,” I start.
“By the way, please refrain from mentioning this to my ‘big brother,’” he says, using air quotes. “I’d rather not have to deal with Sam about this yet. He’ll totally make fun of me. Or worse, he’ll tell our mom and she’ll start picking out floral arrangements for the wedding.”
“Fine, but it’ll be tough seeing as I share a room with him.”
Gabe stares at Sam’s empty bed. “He’s not coming back anytime soon, is he?”
“Nah, he has work or something.”
“All right, so what’s the brotherly advice?”
“Just that she needs to know you exist and that you like her, if you want anything to happen. If you don’t want anything to happen, then it doesn’t matter. But you probably shouldn’t stalk her.”
“That’s reasonable. Thank you,” he says, and then changes the subject.
Maxine (a waitress)
People always ask me, “Maxine, how are you still waitressing at the diner this far into your seventies?” What I tell them is that it keeps me young. What I don’t tell them is that I’m already eighty. Working in a college town like this, kids in and out all hours of the night, always hungry, always saying, “Hey, Maxine!” when they see me. I feel like I have a million grandkids without all the trouble of regular kids.
It’s a nice, quiet Friday night for coming toward the end of September. That first month of school always flies by. It’s busy, people in and out all the time. But things are calm tonight.
There’s a group of girls in one booth, and a group of boys in another. I know some of them, particularly the boys. They’re all on the baseball team together, and they can get a bit rowdy at times, but they’re good boys, nice manners. They’re the kind of boys who girls don’t mind being around.
Maybe next time I’ll have to accidentally sit them all together. I’ve done that in the past and it always worked out. But my boss doesn’t like it much. Says I can’t go messing around, playing with table seatings like that. And to him I say, “Ptooie! This ain’t Buckingham Palace!”
Both groups are so polite, which warms my cold heart. Lots of “pleases” and “thank yous.” I even get a couple of “ma’ams,” which is nearly unheard of these days. Back in my day, it was a pretty standard thing. I had it drilled into me.
But I digress.
I notice two of these cutie pies in particular, because they’re making moon eyes at each other every time they don’t think anyone’s paying attention. And as soon as the other notices, they look away.
It’s all so darling I don’t know what to do with myself.
So I bring them free pie and hope that’s enough to bring them back here again.
Yes, indeed, I hope they come back around here soon.
Danny (Lea’s friend)
“What’s up, buttercup?” I ask, coming up behind Lea and patting her ass.
“Danno!” she cries, turning around and hugging me long and hard. “I missed you so darn much.”
“Why did it take us weeks to have time to get together?”
“I have no idea.”
We take a seat on the nearest bench, both carefully avoiding the dried bird crap. We’re on our way to meet up with high school friends for dinner, but we have some time to waste before the meetup. Lea and I did a lot of theater together back then and I was thrilled to hear she was going to the same university as me. We’ve seen each other a few times since I graduated, but it’s always pleasant to have a little Lea time.
“So, how’s life?”
“Good,” she says, smiling wide.
“You look like eighty-five million dollars,” I tell her.
“This old thing?” she asks, swishing around the cardigan she got on super sale with me at Old Navy last winter.
“How about you? How’s the life of an upperclassman?” she asks.
“Good. I don’t know that junior year is going to be much different than all the other years. You know, new semester, new classes, all that crap,” I say, letting my eyes roam. “Oh my God!” I yell, clutching her arm.
“What is it? A bug? A rat? A cockroach?”
“No,” I whisper, leaning close. “The boy of my dreams.” I take her head and turn her in the direction he’s walking.
“Gabe Cabrera is the boy of your dreams?” she asks.
“Oh, totally. He’s amazing. One of my housemates lived on the same floor as him freshman year and sometimes we end up at similar gatherings. One time he totally flirted with me,” I brag.
“He’s so charming and one of those like sneak-attack gay guys. Like you don’t know he’s gay and then he sneaks up on you, and GAY!”
“I didn’t know he was gay.”
“Oh, for sure,” I tell her. “One time he complimented my jeans.”
She looks like she’s taking this fact in. “In addition to the time he flirted with you?”
“Yes, I’m very lucky.”
“You obviously are.”
“Come on,” I say, pulling her up.
“But we’re meeting people…” she says, pointing in the opposite direction.
“And we will, but first we should stalk Gabe for a little while. We have at least twenty minutes until we need to be at the restaurant.”
“All right, let’s do it.”
He hasn’t gotten very far, just barely onto the sidewalk that leads off the green toward the other end of campus.
“Tell me about Gabe,” she says as we walk. “He’s in my creative writing class.”
“Creative writing, be still my heart,” I say.
“Cute, right?” She threads her arm through mine and leans in closer.
“Totally. I thought he was majoring in something else, like teaching phys ed or something. And he’s on the baseball team, or maybe he was on the baseball team? Anyway. I used to see him around all the time and then last semester he disappeared, fell right off the face of the Earth, so I haven’t seen him in almost a year. I was starting to worry that he graduated or transferred or flunked out.”
“Don’t talk so loud,” she mumbles. “I think he can hear you.”
She’s right, I should be more discreet. “I get so darn excited about him though. He’s like this perfect mystery boy to me.”
“He’s a perfect mystery boy to almost everyone.”
“He is. I think I like to keep him that way. That’s gotta be the only reason I have yet to make a proper approach.”
She nods in understanding.
“I can’t believe I haven’t asked you,” I say, loathe to change the subject, but aware that I need to bring this up before I forget. “How’s the roommate?”
“She’s good! Her name is Maribel. She’s really funny but not in a mean way. She has incredible hair. I just want to touch it all the time.”
“You have nice hair,” I say, batting at her short, straight bob.
“Not like Maribel.”
“We’ll see about that.”
“She wants to get us fake IDs.” Lea crinkles up her nose at the thought.
“That’s a great idea. Then you can come out with me all the time! Or at least, you could when I finally turn twenty-one next month.”
“You don’t have a fake?”
I shrug. “It didn’t seem worth it. Most clubs are eighteen and up, and I don’t mind not drinking. And with an October birthday I’m the oldest of all my friends anyway.”
“Now, getting back to the matter at hand, no one really knows where Gabe was all that time. I’m sure that his friends do, but I like to imagine that he was overseas or taking care of a dying relative or something romantic like that.”
“Isn’t this basically the plot to 10 Things I Hate About You?”
“Rest in peace, Heath,” I say automatically. “But yeah. It’s probably something dull like his parents didn’t have enough money, or he briefly transferred somewhere else and hated it.”
“We should pretend that he was overseas.”
I think about that. “But if he went abroad it wouldn’t have been a secret.”
“How do you know it was a secret as opposed to something you personally just don’t know?”
“Well, my housemate Maureen, you’ll meet her, she’s the one who lived on the same floor as him, and while they didn’t all keep in close touch, she knows people who still know him and are friends with him, but they were always vague about where he was.”
Lea looks doubtful. “So people would come out and ask his friends directly where he was and they wouldn’t answer?”
“Well, I don’t know if Mo-Mo ever asked directly. But I guess so?”
“Maybe he was in rehab,” she says.
“He doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who does drugs. Although, if he was on the baseball team maybe he was on steroids or something.”
“Or maybe it was for painkillers. Or NyQuil.”
“You can’t go to rehab for NyQuil.”
“You do realize that sometimes you’re no fun to joke around with and you take my silliness far too seriously.”
I throw my head back and laugh.
“Maybe it was crystal meth. Or sex addiction!” I say in a dramatic whisper.
“I mean, really, Dan. If he’s half the man of mystery that you claim he is, he was probably working abroad as a tattoo artist for the queen of England or something.”
“Which begs the question, what kind of tattoo would the queen of England get?”
“A corgi in a crown,” she says, not missing a beat. “What kind of tattoo would Gabe get?”
He’s several blocks away from us now; we’ve been walking at a slothlike pace and need to take the next turn, but we can still see his red T-shirt in the distance.
“A ‘Mom’ tattoo,” I say with a grin.
“Definitely, on his bicep.”
“You’re sure he’s gay?” she asks, making a sad little face.
“I’m pretty sure,” I say, scratching my head. “I mean, my gaydar could be on the fritz, but that doesn’t happen often.”
She smiles. “Well then, our mission will be to get you guys together. And to find out what his mysterious disappearance was about last semester.”
“Yes, agreed.” I extend my hand to shake with her to seal the deal. Then we head over to dollar tacos at Casa del Sol.
Pam (Inga’s wife)
“Now that we’re a few weeks into classes, I have to know, who is your couple of the semester?” I ask as we sit down to dinner Friday night. It’s rare that we both sit down at the table to eat, but if it happens it’s going to happen on a Friday night.
“I can’t believe I haven’t told you,” Inga says, her eyes lighting up. “They’re a boy and a girl this time, Gabe and Lea. When I tell you they’re adorable, I mean they are adorable.”
“That’s what you say about all of them,” I say, leaning back and sipping my wine.
She rolls her eyes. “They are all adorable, but there’s something special about these two. I feel like I would have picked them out anywhere, not just in class.”
“I’ve heard you say that before.”
“I know! But they’ve been giving me some great material. She read a short assignment in class the other day and I think he definitely drooled.”
“Maybe he just got back from the dentist.”
“Why do you insist on teasing me?” she asks, glaring at me. “They have a story. I’m telling you, there’s no way they don’t have a story. They have this chemistry that’s impossible to ignore. I don’t even know what it is. But I’m going to do whatever I can to get them together.”
I shake my head even though I can’t help but smile. My girl has a passion for matchmaking.
“Or to at least talk to each other.”
“At the very least,” I agree, teasing her. She doesn’t even notice and just keeps on going.
“They sit next to each other almost every class. Or sometimes Victor sits between them,” she says, making a face.
“Curse you, Victor!” I say, thrusting my fist in the air. “Who’s Victor?”
“He’s one of those kids who have to take the class for a requirement.”
“Oh, one of those.”
“He had the balls to come see me at office hours and request that I change something on the syllabus because of his own personal timetable. I wanted to smack him.”
“There’s always one.”
“He kind of reminds me of that Indian kid from Mean Girls.…”
“Kevin G.,” I say without missing a beat.
“Yes! Except scarier, because this kid is not happy about being in this class. I’m a little bit worried he’s going to set something on fire. He’s like a cesspool in the midst of my creative writing oasis.”
“I know the type.”
“Anyway, sometimes they do that thing. Where one of them looks over at the other like they’re going to say something and then looks away just as the other senses someone’s looking at them so they look up.”
“Ugh, the bad timing thing.”
“It’s the worst. But Gabe and Lea will fall in love, mark my words,” she says, tapping her finger on the table to punctuate her statement.
“These words, they are marked.”
We’re quiet while we eat for a few minutes.
“So what’s new in the world of astrophysics?” she asks.
“We’ve been married for five years and you still have no real concept of what I do with my days.”
“No, I really don’t.”
Copyright © 2014 by Sandy Hall
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