“Liza! It’s good to see you again!” said Janice. “How are you?” Today her stark white hair was trussed up in a series of braids. She was wearing an indigo blouse with an asymmetrical neckline and a black pencil skirt. Purple contact lenses replaced the glasses. Liza hoped that she was this cool when she was Janice’s age.
“Hi. It’s good to see you too. I’m…ok,” Liza lied. She forced a smile on her face, but she had a feeling that it looked more like a grimace. “How’ve you been?”
“I’ve been well. The summer was slow, especially with the Dean gone for the past few weeks, but now that he’s back and the new term is about to start, things are picking up…” Liza didn’t hear anything after that. It took a lot of effort, to keep the smile/grimace on her face. He was already back. She felt like a total dumbass for breaking down and checking on him. Janice was looking as if she expected her to say something. Wait, what were they talking about?
“Uh, oh that’s good,” said Liza. Janice looked delighted. Apparently that had been an appropriate response to whatever she had just said.
“Are you two walking over to class together? I’ll let him know you’re here.”
“No!” Liza hissed. Janice looked taken aback. “I’m…not going to class tonight.”
“Isn’t this the last class?”
“There’s no final…just a paper,” said Liza. Partially formed thoughts stampeded through Liza’s mind. Why hadn’t she thought this through? She realized that it hadn’t occurred to her that Bruce may have already returned to work and hadn’t contacted her. Liza felt stupid all over again. She wasn’t going to be able to hold it together for long. How was she going to get out of here without running into Bruce or making an idiot of herself?
“Oh,” said Janice. She looked confused. Of course she did. Liza had just turned up for no discernible reason. Liza heard movement from behind the office door. “Well, I have to get going. It was really nice seeing you again.” Janice opened her mouth to say something, but Liza was out the door. Her face burned as she jogged down to the first floor. At least she didn’t get lost this time. Jim was downstairs, but he was on the other side of Hunter Wood’s huge foyer. Liza got away with a quick wave as she jetted out of the building.
She didn’t know why Bruce was acting this way, and she wasn’t going to waste any more time figuring it out. She was done with him. Her niece was dying. She was in trouble at work. Her house was falling apart. She needed a good grade on this paper, but screw it. There was no way that she was going to class if he was going to be there. She tossed her paper into a trash can at the curb without breaking her stride. Five minutes later she was racing down the highway with a cigarette dangling from her lips.