English was fully immersed in the copy of Hamlet which Theater had lent her when the knock on the door came. “It’s open!” she called, swinging her bare feet from side to side as she flipped the page. When the door opened, she looked up from her position – lying on her stomach on the bed, her chin propped up on her hands as she read – and greeted the young man coming into her room with a small wave.
Theater edged into the room and closed the door behind him. “Hey. I was afraid you might have gone to bed already.”
English shrugged. “No, I’m just reading. Soaking in the eloquence of Shakespeare. A girl’s got to love her Shakespeare, you know?”
Theater half smiled at her. “Yeah, I know. Even though I’m not a girl.” They grinned at each other.
“How was the after-dinner meeting?” English asked, sitting up and making room for her friend on the bed.
“Boring as usual,” Theater said with a sigh. “I wish they didn’t make us beg for donations every single year. I get so tired of all the useless talk.”
English rolled her eyes at him. “Says the dramatic, talkative one.” She crossed her legs and closed the book as Theater collapsed next to her, half lying down, one arm flung over his forehead and eyes. “See? Remarkably dramatic.”
Theater groaned and made a shooing gesture at her. “Hush. It’s my job to be dramatic.”
English shrugged and leaned back against the wall behind her bed. She watched him with moderate interest as he continued to complain.
“I don’t see how Geology and History get to get out of all of this by simply claiming they are on an academic trip. Couldn’t they have scheduled their trip at a later time and come here to suffer the insipidity of the Board members along with the rest of us?”
“Oh don’t be jealous,” English said, giggling at him. “Just because they get to cuddle up somewhere together away from worry doesn’t mean you have to wish them ill.”
“I don’t wish them ill, I just… Hold on, are you implying they’re together?” Theater took his arm off his eyes to stare at her incredulously. “You’ve got to be kidding, right?”
“Why are you so surprised? It would be a very romantic story of two reclusive rebels-at-heart who loved each other for their entire lives in the face of all the odds—“
“Oh yes, the evil Board Members of doom who work tirelessly to keep apart the star-crossed lovers!”
English swatted his arm in half-amusement and half-annoyance. “Stop it. Really. They could be in love.”
“Making love?” he asked, a slight, teasing smirk turning the corners of his mouth upwards.
She raised her eyebrows slightly. “Sure.”
Theater rolled his eyes. “Please. Trust me, the only sort of orgies those two are having are brain orgies.”
“I didn’t say orgies. What if I meant intercourse between only two partners? In fact, I didn’t say anything about sex at all to begin with!” English looked a little shocked at the way he just jumped to conclusions like that, as though words only had one meaning to them. He, of all people, should understand the crucial versatility of language.
“Then it’s all just mind fucks. Nothing good can come from that either.”
“You’re horrible!” English proclaimed, slapping his arm. “What about a happy ending?”
Theater groaned. “Have you been listening to Film Studies again? Film has it all backwards, you know? Besides, it’s so terribly cliché. What about a real emotional ending? Something provocative and evocative that produces some real feeling?”
English looked unconvinced. “I can do tragedy. But, first, I don’t want our friends to suffer. Second, a romance story is so much more enjoyable with a happy ending.”
Theater didn’t say anything to that. Instead, he merely looked at her and blinked. “Ok. You know, this is getting weird.”
“Because we’re talking about life in terms of stories.”
English screwed up her face as though she couldn’t quite understand why this was an issue. “So…?”
Theater shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s just strange. Life is too bleak to be a story.”
“I don’t think so,” English replied lazily, lying back so her head was on Theater’s stomach. “I think there is plenty in life that can be made into a story. Like think of Music and how he pines after PE for ages and ages and it’s completely hopeless.”
“Yes, but Music hasn’t gone and committed suicide over it, has he? But in a story he would. Or PE would suddenly turn out to be a closeted bisexual and they would live happily ever after, if you were more fairytale inclined.”
English thought this over. “Point taken. Well then, how about the complicated relationship between Political Science and Sociology?”
“There’s nothing complicated about fuck buddies, dear.”
She rolled her eyes even though she wasn’t sure that Theater could see her expression. “You’re no fun.” He began to play with her hair as she thought it over, chewing on her bottom lip. “What about you and Film?”
Theater tensed. “What about us?”
“The two of you have an interesting love-hate dynamic. You’re in love with her, she’s fascinated by you, but you can’t quite put everything together.”
Theater deflated and shook his head. “Nah, we’re hardly fit for a story. All we do is squabble and it hasn’t gone anywhere in years.”
“Are you gay?”
“It’s a simple question.”
Theater craned his neck so he could get a better look at her, to see if maybe she was joking. “Why would you say something like that? And for the record, no, I’m not.”
English shrugged a little awkwardly. “I don’t know. I mean you certainly have a flair for the dramatic.”
“That automatically makes me gay? I thought you just said I was in love with Film? Last time I checked, she’s a girl.”
English stared up at the ceiling, feeling the way Theater’s fingers wove through her hair. She liked it when he did that. Sometimes she thought he was her best friend in the world. “I don’t know. Bisexual then.”
“No, I’m pretty sure I just like girls. I’m just…I don’t know… Sensitive?”
“Do you like me?”
Her question gave him pause and Theater was sure there had to be a feminine catch somewhere in there. “You’re one of my best friends. What do you think?”
“That’s not what I meant,” she said, a little sharply, turning her head to look over at him. When English finally managed to catch his eyes, she realized just how shuttered his expression was. Much more than she had ever seen it and, suddenly, she felt flushed and uncomfortable, as though she’d said something inappropriate. “Never mind. Forget I said that.”
They lay in silence for an immeasurable amount of time until, finally, Theater said he should go to bed. He left English with his copy of Hamlet and walked out. She remained sitting on the bed, clutching the book to her chest with both hands. Maybe what she should write is a book about the dorky girl who liked her dorky best friend who liked a popular, flashy girl who wouldn’t give him the time of day. Except, in her version of the story, they would have a happy ending.