Traffic was light. Liza arrived on campus almost an hour before class. She could have gone home first, but she didn’t feel like dealing with Laura. There was a little garden with a seating area on one side of Norton Hall. It was out-of-the-way and far from an entrance, so it didn’t get much use.
Liza tossed her bags onto an old marble bench and slumped down next to them. She fished a cigarette from her purse, making a mental note to try to quit again next week. Her eyes were killing her from staring at spreadsheets all day. She closed them and sat enjoying the peace and the nicotine buzz. A minute later she heard the soft tread of shoes on the mossy brick ground. She opened her eyes to find Bruce looming over her a few feet away.
“Mind if I sit down?” he asked.
“Sure,” said Liza, dragging her bags closer to make room. Today he was wearing jean shorts and a cheery bright shirt with little fruit people walking across the front. He was sporting an impressive five o’clock shadow and one eye was closed slightly more than the other. He looked dead tired. “Rough night, Professor?”
“Are you in any of my classes?” he asked.
“Are you going to take any of my classes?”
“Literature? I’d love to, but no.”
“Then it’s Bruce, and, to answer your question, I did have a rough night. The storm kept me up,” he said. “So, if you’d love to take one of my classes, what’s stopping you?”
“Well, unlike you, I don’t work here. My employer only reimburses half of the tuition and only then for business classes.”
“Ah, point taken,” he said, eyeing the energy drink that she was pulling from one of her bags.
“I feel bad drinking this in front of you,” she said. “You look like you need it more than I do.” She cracked open the can, took a swig, and held it out to him. He looked from her to the can and back again a few times before accepting it and taking a big sip before handing it back. Just then Halestorm blared from Liza’s phone, signaling an incoming call. She pulled it out of her pocket. It was Laura. The smile slid off of her face. She looked at the phone for a minute before rejecting the call.
“Who’s Laura, if you don’t mind me asking?” said Bruce.
“I don’t mind, but it’s a long story and I don’t want to talk about it,” said Liza.
“Fair enough,” said Bruce. They were quiet for a minute, passing the energy drink back and forth, enjoying the beautiful summer evening. “I have to ask, just tell me this, is Laura your girlfriend?”
Liza looked at him, not catching his meaning at first. “Oh! No, Laura isn’t my girlfriend. I’m not gay,” she said with a smile. Ok, so maybe he was interested.
“Boyfriend? Husband?” he asked.
“No and no. You?”
“No. Not anymore.” The way he said this gave Liza the impression that there was much more to the story.
Liza hesitated. She wasn’t sure if it would be rude to ask or rude not to ask. “Do you mind if I ask what happened?”
“I don’t mind, but it’s a long story and I don’t want to talk about it,” said Bruce with a grin. Her heart melted. There was no doubt that he was handsome; greys, five o’clock shadow, sleepy eyes and all. When he smiled, he looked unbelievably cute; younger than she figured him for. She couldn’t stop herself from smiling back at him.
“Fair enough,” said Liza, passing him the can.