2012: FRESHMAN YEAR

Mandy met Daniel at a fraternity, of all places. She had gotten bored at a freshman event they were holding, and decided to sneak into the kitchen and grab a snack.

Standing there by the refrigerator, holding a bottle of Jack Daniels, was a boy. He was attractive. In fact, he was just Mandy's type. The boy looked at her as she walked in, stood very still for a second, and then took a swig of whiskey straight from his bottle.

"Hi. I assume you're not a member of this fraternity."

"Um, no," she responded with a nervous chuckle and a (hopefully) charming smile. "I actually was just looking for a snack. Like maybe some cereal or something..?" She was fairly hopeful that a semi-attractive freshman girl would be able to score some cereal in a place such as this.

He looked bewildered for a moment, and then stepped away from the refrigerator. "Have at it. Cereal's in this cabinet." The two of them stood there in contented silence while she crunched her cereal and he took a swig of his whiskey every once in a while.

"My name's Mandy," she said between bites.

"I'm Daniel," he replied. "I'm a sophomore."

"Cool," she answered, before another momentary pause. "So you've been in this frat for a year?"

"Yep."

"Tell me about your experience."

He smiled wryly. "Um… well, I wouldn't consider myself a frat kind of guy, to be honest, but I've actually had a pretty good time here."

"Is that so? Tell me more."

He seemed amused by her halfhearted insistence. "Well, uh, what do you want to know? This is the geek frat, you know. 'Jews, gays, and geeks' is how the saying goes."

Mandy snorted at the saying. "So are you a Jewish, gay geek then, or are you just a geek?"

He let out a short laugh. "Just a geek… for now!" He raised his eyebrow playfully with that last word, and Mandy smiled.

"Cool. Sounds like my kind of place."

"Well, you are—you know—a girl. So, unfortunately, this might not be the place for you. You'll probably need to find somewhere else to get cereal, in general."

"Not if I'm friends with you."

"I guess that's true."

She finished her cereal and placed the empty bowl on the counter. She eyed his whiskey.

"Hey, Daniel. Can I maybe… have some of that?"

Daniel looked surprised. "Um… yeah. Sure. Do you want like, ice or something? Or do you want it mixed with Coke maybe?"

"Sure, yeah. Coke sounds good. Or, actually, ice and coke would be good."

"Okay."

Daniel got her a glass of Coke with ice, and then handed her the bottle of Jack Daniels. "Here, add however much you like."

Mandy tried to pour a little bit, but the bottle was heavier than she expected, and she ended up pouring a lot. She tasted it. It was fine.

"Wow, you like it heavy on the alcohol, huh?"

"Eh, I don't know. I like it both ways."

"Here, why don't we sit down?" They found a table and sat across from each other. Mandy held her drink with both hands and took small sips.

"So, tell me about yourself, Daniel. Where do you come from?"

"I'm from a small fishing town in Washington State. My dad actually owns a couple of fishing boats."

"Oh, wow. That's cool. So did you ever work on the fishing boats for a little extra cash? Sounds like pretty cool job."

"Eh, it's not that cool," he replied, resting his face in his hand. "It's really hard work though. My dad made me help out a little growing up, but I never got much money out of the deal. He made me work practically for free."

"Doesn't sound like the nicest guy."

"No, he isn't."

Daniel's eyes, slightly dulled by the alcohol, made sudden intense contact with hers. "I'm sure you wouldn't relate, though. Let me guess, you come from a perfect family? You seem like that kind of girl." The unwarranted comment caught Mandy by surprise.

"Um, not really," she replied with a look of disdain. "Actually, my dad left when I was a kid. So your family's probably a lot more perfect than mine."

"Oh." Daniel seemed taken aback. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you. It's—" He let out a mirthful chuckle. "I think it's the alcohol talking."

"No, it's okay," she answered. "It's… whatever. It's not like, a sad thing. My mom was holding my dad back from all the things he really wanted for his life. And what kind of life is it when you're being ruled by someone else? If his convictions about his life motivated him to leave, then how can I judge him for that?"

"Oh. Well, that's interesting. So you still talk to him then?"

"Not really. Sometimes."

"Do you get along with your mom?"

"Not really."

"Huh." There was a moment of silence as Mandy twirled her glass in her hand and Daniel gazed thoughtfully at his slowly emptying whiskey bottle.

"Anyway," Mandy said, "we just met each other. So why don't we talk about something a little less serious?"

"Okay," he chuckled.

They got to talking about their hobbies, and they found out that they both liked sci-fi and had read a lot of the same books. Mandy wondered where this new friendship would lead, if anywhere at all.