By: Cora Brent

Maura shrugged. “Well, it’s a pretty name anyway. I’ve always hated my name. Did you say at orientation that you’re a junior?”

“Yes,” I said. “And I’m enrolled in a concurrent MBA program.”

She nodded thoughtfully. “I’m not sure what I’m going to major in yet. What are you going to do when you graduate?”

I shrugged. “Hopefully something that involves shuffling money in the downtown financial district in exchange for a decent paycheck.”

“Oh.” She seemed confused, almost disappointed. “Is that what you always wanted to do?”

Nope. Not even close. Reality wasn’t turning out to be located in the same hemisphere as my dreams. Dreams are fine for youth. Adulthood requires practicality. However, Maura didn’t need to explore that kind of headache tonight.

“It’s pretty close,” I lied.

Maura began twirling her hair again as she looked me up and down. “How old are you, Cecily? Twenty one or something?”

“I was once,” I told her with a smile. “Now I’m twenty five.”

Something flickered in Maura’s eyes when she heard my age. I could probably have guessed what she was thinking. She was eighteen. She couldn’t imagine what the passage of seven years will mean. Seven years ago she was a middle school kid, probably trying on her first training bra. She was probably thinking about the difference between then and now, wondering what in the hell was going to happen in the space of time between where she is and where I am. I wouldn’t blame her for wondering that.

But all she said was, “Cool.”

Maura hung around for a little while longer. She talked about how she might want to major in psychology even though her parents wanted her to major in political science. She talked about the boy she dated her last year in high school and how she didn’t realize that she never liked him very much until they split up the day after graduation. He was going to school in Boston. They didn’t keep in touch.

I kept her talking because it seemed to help her. I wanted to help all of them if I could.

Except maybe the elusive penis artist who’d decorated my door. Seriously, fuck that guy.

By the time Maura heaved herself out of the beanbag chair she was actually cheerful. “You’re the best,” she said. “Thanks for listening to all my whining and crap.”

I held the door open for her. “Anytime,” I said.

She smiled. “You’re lucky that you have everything figured out already. I wish I did.”

I shook my head with a laugh. “I wouldn’t say I’ve got everything figured out, but I’ll always listen if you need me to.”

Maura got two steps out the door, turned around and waved, then nearly collided with some kid who was breaking a few rules by riding a skateboard down the narrow corridor while he smoked a cigarette.

“Sorry,” he said to Maura and she giggled.

The guy swept his curly hair out of his eyes and gave me a sheepish grin as he hurriedly snuffed the cigarette out and pushed the mess into his pocket. I tried to level him with a stern glare but I wasn’t really good at stern glares. He relaxed when he realized he wasn’t about to get lectured or written up and started checking out Maura.

The two of them forgot about me and started a ‘Hey, what’s up?’ sort of conversation as they drifted in the opposite direction. I was glad that they looked happy to see each other but I really hoped I wouldn’t encounter in them in the study lounge later doing something gross.

As I lingered there in the hallway and stared fondly after the pair of freshmen I felt almost parental. It wasn’t really a bad way to feel.

All those warm, fuzzy feelings were interrupted when I was smacked in the head by something that felt like a rock.

“Oh, shit!” yelled some guy with a silver golf club in his hand and a thin brunette clinging to his waist. “Fuck, I’m sorry!”

I reached down and picked up the golf ball that had beaned me in the back of the head. I didn’t recognize the guy or the girl who were both now wrestling noisily for control of the golf club.

“Gimme the stick,” demanded the girl as she laughed and played grabby hands all over the place, including in regions that weren’t anywhere near the golf club.

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