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I longingly watched Geo place his cap on the rack and start turning up his sleeves as he walked around to the other side of the bar. Bartenders don’t really notice the public I thought. He turned and poured a fresh root beer, dropped a scoop of ice cream in to it and slid it over the bar to me. I glanced up in surprise. He smiled and I melted slightly as he reached over and sprinkled cinnamon on top. I raised my brows. Guess I was wrong about that whole not noticing people thing.
“I’m calling it ‘The Puddle’,” he said and winked. I felt the heat spread through my face and hoped it wasn’t too obvious. My tutor came in then and slid into the seat next to mine. He was tall, blond and played on the football team. He got some kind of extra credit for his tutoring, so he deemed it acceptable to be seen in public with a nobody like me as long as I had a book in front of us. And at least a foot of space. I sipped The Puddle and was overwhelmed with the flavor.
I looked up and Geo was watching me. I couldn’t speak so I gave him a thumbs up. He flashed that award-winning smile and I felt my tutor move slightly. I glanced up and he was looking at me. Actually, it felt like he was checking me out. I felt for just a moment like a miniature model. I say that because I’m only five foot one and a breath tall. No super model here, just little ole me.
“Your hair looks nice today,” the football player tutor said. I frowned at him. He was my tutor. I’m ignoring him. I looked at Geo and smiled. He smiled back, and all was well in the world.
I’d finally made it through the final semester. It had only taken me an extra year, three tutors, and a serious amount more cramming than any of my fellow students. But here I was, walking up in my cap and gown, to accept my diploma. First, thanks the having the name Aaron Aaronson. You can never be late for anything when your name starts with two As. Twice. Then I watched my best friend walk up not too long after me. Lina beamed, looking so freaking happy it made her twice as beautiful. I imagined I must have looked pretty damn happy myself only a few minutes earlier. I took a picture for her, just as she’d taken one for me. Her family looked on, and I felt a stab of jealousy. My family were not invited, and if they were, they wouldn’t have come.
Later, after her family had headed back to their hometown, we were bar hopping, still wearing the caps, but otherwise settled into more casual clothes. It started raining, and I lifted her laughing right over a puddle in the parking lot of this particular bar before we walked in. After asking for whatever they had on tap, we headed to the pool table and I offered to kick her ass, and she accepted. I broke, of course, since she was tiny, almost miniature compared with me. She’d tried breaking once, and had almost had to climb on the table to get enough force to do it. The result had been… well, pathetic. So now I broke no matter who won last.
Some of the patrons watched us quizzically, but there had been lots of fresh graduates in that night, so I imagined it wasn’t the caps we were still wearing. We probably looked comical side by side, me being so large and her so tiny, but our shared love of steampunk and cosplay had brought us together as the class’s only comic convention nerds.
She won the first game, and I won the second, and before the next game, she bet me five bucks she’d win.
“How about we make it more interesting than that?” I suggested, smiling wickedly.
“How?” she answered, eyebrows raised in interest.
“You win, you get your five bucks; I win, then I tell you what I won.”
“That’s not how bets work.” She grinned, and I almost thought she could tell what I wanted.