"What are you doing in here so late?"
I looked up from my Spanish textbook. Ethan Nix was standing in the doorway of the study room, pale fingers resting gently against the frame.
I actually didn't know Nix that well. I mean, we'd gone to the same middle school and the same high school, so you'd think that, in a small college like this, we would have bonded or something—but we didn't. Nix was that type of person who'd give you a smile or a wave if he thought you looked even vaguely familiar, but we weren't close. Our social groups hadn't exactly … crossed.
The fact that he was standing here—right now—was slightly odd. I wondered if I was hallucinating. Blinking, I returned my gaze to the doorway. Ethan was still there.
Well … I suppose that was a good sign, right?
His smile grew quizzical, and I realized I still hadn't answered his question.
"Oh, ha … ha." I forced a smile to my face. "What does it look like? Studying, of course."
Don't sound so chipper. He's going to think you're on something.
"At this hour?"
"The library doesn't close until eleven."
He looked pointedly at his watch, and then at me. "But it's almost nine."
"I have a Spanish test tomorrow."
He walked into the room, carefully shutting the door so we wouldn't bother the other studious-types, who had began to glare at us over the protective walls of their cubicles. I settled myself comfortably in the chair. The interruption, though surprising, was a welcome one. I was sick of the stupid language.
Why couldn't I take something easy? Like … like …
Oh, who was I kidding. This was college. It wasn't like high school, when I could blow off my senior year with classes like Literature in Movies and Foods. No, I actually had to learn stuff.
Which was why I was currently studying. At night. Alone.
"And how's that going?" he asked, leaning back against the wall, with a slightly mocking smile—as if he could read my mind. Ugh. The studying was getting to my brain. It was making me paranoid.
I stared at him. Nix looked so comfortable against the wall. Was he even the slightest bit nervous? I never could have done that—I couldn't walk into a room and just start chatting with someone. I envied his easiness. He gave me a reassuring smile, crossing his arms over the front of his white shirt as he waited for his answer—which I still hadn't given him.
God, he must think I'm totally insane.
"Honestly?" Nix nodded. "Horrible."
I told him all about the teacher—how unfair she was, how this was my first year studying language in college and I absolutely hated it. "I don't understand the words at all!" I said, "And my accent's horrible! I'm thinking about dropping the class."
"No, you shouldn't do that," he said. "Stay with it."
"You really think so?" I said, dubiously. "Even the teacher said I should drop."
"Hmm." He frowned. "You know, I tutor Spanish. I could help you study, if you want."
"Really?" Oh, ho, ho. Jackpot. "I'd love that!"
"Here." He wrote down a number on the pages of my book. "That's my number. Call me and we can set up a date—" Heat flooded my cheeks at his words, even though I knew that hadn't been the type of 'date' he had meant "—in the meantime, I suggest making index cards and memorizing the words."
"Thank you so much," I said. "Wow. That helps so much. How much do you charge?"
Ugh. It sounds like he's a call boy.
"The tutoring's free," he said, with a smile. "At the college, anyway. That's where I work."
"Oh, cool." My smile slipped for a minute, and some of the awkwardness of the situation started to settle in on me. I mean, I was in a small space with a cute boy at night, and the door was closed. I had to say something to fill the silence. "You didn't have to do all that, you know."
"Emily, don't be stupid. I wanted to."
"Why?" The question came out slightly more serious than I wanted. A crease formed between his eyebrows, and he frowned in thought. "I mean, I'm next to hopeless," I added quickly, trying to lighten the mood. We'd had such fun talking—or I had, anyway—I hated to think I'd blown it with one stupid statement.
He shook his head. "I like you, Emily."
I smiled. "Thanks. I like you, too."
"No," he said. "I mean I really like you." His eyes sidled away from mine, to the wall behind me. "I have for a while, now. I just didn't think you were interested."
I wished I could say more. Ethan Nix liked me? There was so much to say, I had no idea which to choose. I mean, I was sort of... plain. I had the endearing qualities most forest animals have—big eyes, rabbity nose, too-big ears, and downy-colored hair. No fur, thank goodness.
But the traits that make animals look endearing don't look so good on an eighteen-year-old human girl.
And Ethan had bright green eyes that could morph into bluish tones, depending on what he was wearing. Scratch that. I think he wears contacts. He has what my mom calls a "nice face": Sensitive, but not too feminine. A square jaw, decisive eyebrows, those eyes, and a mouth which can be friendly or sexy.
I know, that's weird, giving characteristics like that to someone's mouth. But it's strangely true. He has varying degrees of smiles—seductive closed-lipped once, and broad, toothy silly ones. Right then, his mouth was drawn into a grim line, and he was still not meeting my own eyes. The mud brown ones.
Nobody had ever compared him to forest wildlife.
"What time do you have to be home?" he asked.
"Oh, uh, around ten-thirty," I said, with a shrug.
"We have some extra time,"he said, "Want to work on your accent?"
"Sure..." He chuckled. I guess my lack of enthusiasm was obvious. "You'll be disappointed."
"I highly doubt that." From his place on the desk, he leaned in close, and pressed his lips to mine. I was so shocked, even as he carefully removed my glasses, I couldn't believe it. Nix was kissing me. Kissing me. "'A' is 'ah'," he murmured, chewing my lip.
"Ah," I repeated. There was faint stubble along his chin, and I carefully dragged my fingers across his face, down his throat. I could feel him smile against my mouth.
"'E'" is 'eh'," he continued. "'I' is 'ee'." Nix pulled away from me suddenly, glancing at the door. Footsteps. He gave me a wry smile that didn't seem to match the rest of him at all. The footsteps passed and we both sighed in relief. Him, amused; me, slightly embarrassed.
"I don't normally—" I broke off. Make out in libraries? Kiss people? "—do this kind of thing," I finished.
"Oh," I said.
"That's next." He grinned, leaning towards me again. "And then I'm going to show you roll your tongue."
+ II + II +
+ II + II +
I got an A on that test, by the way.
+ II + II +
+ II + II +
Author's note: I'm cleaning out my computer and came across a ton of one-shots I wrote during my senior year/first two years of college, which I will be posting throughout the day. I think they're cute, if a little unpolished, so I'm sharing them with you.