This is first draft material from a story I’m working on during a two week hiatus before I start editing Insurgent. It’s a departure for me, because it falls under the “new adult” genre.You can find the beginning of the story, discussion of what NA books are, and contents of the story, here.
Crying: Not. Going. To. Happen. (Alex)
Okay, look, I’m not exactly an emotional basket case or anything. Not a drama queen. But Dylan had been a big part of my life for a long time. And sitting there next to him in Doctor Forrester’s office was literally torture.
When the appointment was over we got up, awkwardly. Forrester shook our hands. I turned and left, without a word, while Dylan was still trying to figure out how to get out of his chair and collect himself.
I went straight to the Financial Aid office.
The office was packed, of course. Beginning of the school year, and people were trying to sort out their financial aid. Every single person who had a problem just had to choose that moment right then to go to Financial Aid to get it sorted out. So when I asked to see Sandra Barnhart, I was told to take a seat. And I waited. And waited. And waited.
She finally let me in to her office. First impression: she was exhausted. Hair frazzled, her desk was stacked high with papers. When I entered the room she was fishing the last pills out of a bottle of Tylenol.
Not a good sign.
“Hi there, what can I do for you.”
“Hi… I’m Alex Thompson. We spoke on the phone the other day… my work study assignment was being switched?”
“Alex, Alex… oh yes, I remember.”
I shifted in my seat. “Um… I was wondering if its too late to switch to something else. Anything else.”
She frowned. “That might be difficult. Generally, the work study assignments are made at the beginning of summer. To be honest, you were lucky to get this one. Doctor Forrester’s contract wasn’t confirmed until last week, which was why we had a last minute opening. What’s the problem?”
Oh, God. I didn’t really have a good reason. At least, not one I could explain. I’ve been assigned next to my ex-boyfriend. Yeah, that would go over well. I tried to think of something, and stupidly I just said, “I’m not sure its a good fit.”
She sighed. “I can tell you for sure, right now, that there aren’t any other openings. You’re actually the fifth student to come in and ask to be reassigned. It might be possible for you to switch with someone, you could always post something on the bulletin board outside. But I can’t promise you anything. Although you can always check back in a couple weeks. We often drop a few students in the first two weeks. Something might come up.”
I nodded. Disappointed. This was going to make for a very difficult year. I did not want to be stuck working with Dylan for the entire year. It would turn what had been a pretty wonderful college experience into misery.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful,” she said.
Okay, I can take a hint. I was being dismissed. I thanked her, and got out of the office. I could survive a few weeks, and then I’d come back and get a job washing dishes or something equally entertaining.
Back on the street, I walked toward the dorm.
I was not going to cry. I refused.
Crying. Not. Going. To. Happen.
I remember being charmed and intrigued by Dylan. I’d never met anyone like him. My life was centered around academics. I worked, and worked damned hard. But I also had all kinds of support, from my parents, who hired tutors and piano teachers; to my sisters, who helped each other in subjects we had trouble with. We’d lived a block from Golden Gate Park in a wonderful old row-house ever since my Dad retired from the Foreign Service.
Dylan was … so different. He’d been homeless, for God’s sake. He didn’t talk much about the difficult parts of his life… at least not when we first met. But it was clear we were from different worlds. But he was strong. He had to be, to come back from a drinking and drug problem, go back to school on his own, get the kind of grades he got.
I fell fast.
We spent the twelve hours of our flight to Tel Aviv talking while most of the rest of the students were asleep. I remember playing a stupid game of questions, until some of them got uncomfortable (for instance Do you have a girlfriend) and we changed the subject. To favorite books. Harry Potter. Hunger Games. Both of us hated Twilight, but loved Katniss Everdeen.
“I love a strong heroine,” he told me with a grin. Oh, my God. How could someone cute be so perfect?
But he was also a contradiction. He was passionate for Hemingway, and could get lost talking about his favorite book, The Sun Also Rises. He looked mystified by my attraction to Milan Kundera.
The exchange students spent the first two nights in Tel Aviv at the Youth Hostel. We attended a bunch of information sessions, then went to a big formal dinner. Dylan looked uncomfortable at the dinner. I don’t think he was used to formal functions like that. Afterward, a bunch of us walked down to the Old City of Jaffa, which we’d seen during an official tour earlier in the day.
We sat on the pier, looking out at the Mediterranean Sea. He smoked, and we talked. I told him about my sisters (all five of them) and he talked about his friends.
“We just kind of fell in with each other,” he said. “Bunch of drama geeks, mostly. All the kids who were mostly outcasts in middle school. But… you know how it goes. The wrong person sleeps with the other wrong person, and DRAMA.”
I laughed. I’d never slept with anyone, but I knew all about high school drama.
I kept stealing glances at him, and I knew he was doing the same. His blue eyes were incredible, and he had adorably long hair, growing into loose curls. At one point I found myself resisting the urge to run my fingers through them, which would not have been a very cool and collected thing to do. I carefully kept an inch of space between us, because if we’d touched I might have thrown myself on him. Oh, God, it was intense.
I wonder if that’s why it was so painful when we split up? Because we’d fallen so hard, so fast. I lost myself in him.
One thing I knew for sure. I would not allow that to happen again.
When I got back to the room, Kelly was there. She was laying on her bed, staring at the ceiling. Absolutely still, eyes wide open.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Kelly stationary, except possibly while passed out.
“Kelly!” I asked. “Are you okay?”
She burst into tears.
“What’s wrong?” I dropped my bad and rushed to her side.
“Josh,” she said, then erupted in a new burst of weeping.
“Oh, honey,” I said, sliding onto the bed next to her.
“He needs space. He wants to ‘play the field,’ whatever the hell that means.”
“Son of a bitch,” I said. “What an asshole.”
She burst into a new round of tears. Was this what it was like living with me last spring? No wonder she got so impatient. I hugged her, not saying a word.
After a few minutes, she stopped sobbing, then said, “So, um, how was your day?” She giggled, but not a good giggle… more like she was going to go into hysterics.
“Well,” I said carefully. “It turns out that Dylan Paris is out of the Army and going to Columbia. And we’re assigned to the same work study job.”
She sat up suddenly. “Oh, my God, what? You have got to be shitting me.” It’s possible the neighbors three blocks down heard her screech.
I nodded my head, miserably.
“It was super awkward. And … hostile.”
“What did he say?”
I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to stop myself from crying. “He said he’d hoped we wouldn’t run into each other.”
She reached out and grabbed my hand. “Oh my God. I didn’t think it was possible to hate him even more, but I do. Let’s go. Right now. And get drunk.”
I nodded, because right that minute, it seemed like the best possible idea.