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Freshman Year

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John Reese was a college freshman. He was from a small town in Washington. Deciding that he wanted to get out of the state and experience big city life, he decided to attend Columbia University in Manhattan.

His father and he had butted heads when John told him that he wanted to go to college, rather than join the military, but John’s mother seemed to have put out the flames a bit while John was away at college.

It was about the third week of the first semester and John headed down to the library with his roommate, Lionel Fusco. He had his laptop bag slung over his shoulder and his books propped under his arm.

“STATS 242 is killing me. I can’t even understand the professor half the time. He’s like Swedish or something,” Lionel huffed and held open the door for John to enter in front of him.

“There’s tutors for a reason, Lionel,” John chuckled sitting down at one of the tables upstairs in the library. He opened his laptop and logged on. The rolling waiting screen popping up, granting him access.

“Yeah, I guess…” Lionel rolled his eyes and sat down next to his roommate.

John started to work on his essay. The different relationships of interpersonal communication was the subject. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to major in; he was just taking his prerequisites right now… but he was starting to lean toward communication. 

He was in the middle of typing his thesis when he heard a soft voice, “Excuse me, do either of you have a pencil I could borrow?”

He looked up to see a small, skinny kid with glasses and medium length, straight brown hair. John swallowed and blinked, not realizing why his mouth was suddenly dry and his palms were getting sweaty.

After a moment of awkward silence, Fusco kicked John’s leg from under the table. John broke out of his daze and cleared his throat, “Uh… yeah. Sorry…” He leaned over and grabbed a pencil from his book bag, “Here you go,” he smiled.

“Oh, thank you. I promise to return it,” the smaller man nodded with a small smile.

“Don’t worry about it. Keep it,” John smiled back. Hoping that his cheeks weren’t turning a bright red.

“Okay, well thank you.” Glasses turned around and headed back over to his table. He was there with two other friends. A taller, blonde kid and a short, stocky kid with black curly hair.

John kept staring at the little guy until Lionel kicked him again. John glared at him, “Will you stop doing that?” he hissed.

“Then stop staring,” Lionel chuckled and turned his attention back to his book.

John glanced back over at the other table. He watched as the smaller kid started to type on his laptop and then write things down as he went. John couldn’t take his eyes off him.

The smaller man had something about him… some quality to him that intrigued John. It was like he was just drawn to him.

Maybe it’s the glasses. John chuckled to himself.

The thick black frames did look cute on his face. His bangs fell against them perfectly.

“Yo, you going to sit there and stare all night or are you going to write your paper?” Fusco broke him out of his daze. He looked over to Lionel to see him laughing at him.

“Yeah, yeah…” John rolled his eyes and turned his distracted attention back to his essay as best as he could, but he couldn’t help stealing a glance now and then.

#

Harold searched all through his book bag for a pencil, but couldn’t find one. “Nathan, do you have a pencil?”

“I only came here to try to convince you and Arthur to go to the party tonight, why would I have a pencil?” Nathan chuckled.

“Arthur?” Harold asked.

“Nope, sorry, Harold.” Arthur kept his attention fixed on the code he was writing for his computer class.

Nathan looked over toward the table where two guys had just sat down. A shorter one with curly brown hair and then a taller one with short, gelled black hair. “Why don’t you go ask that tall drink of water if he has one?” Nathan smirked.

“Nathan!” Harold hissed, “Must you always be so…”

“Cheeky?” Arthur said absently, not looking up from his computer.

Harold chuckled, “Exactly.”

“I’m just trying to get you some, Harold,” Nathan winked.

Harold just rolled his eyes. Nathan was the smuggest person he had ever met. He’d practically shoved Harold and Arthur out of their room on the first night because he brought a girl home. The following morning, Harold locked him out of the room while he was wearing nothing but his boxers… well… Nathan hasn’t done anything like that since.

Harold stood up with a soft groan and headed over to the other table, “Excuse me… do either of you have a pencil?”

Tall, dark, and handsome picked his head up from his laptop screen and looked at him. His eyes were so blue that Harold’s breath caught in his throat. He was staring at Harold, not saying anything. He gulped and hoped that his cheeks weren’t getting red.

His friend kicked him under the table and Harold tried not to chuckle. “Uh… yeah. Sorry…” He leaned over and Harold saw his arms. They were toned and extremely tan. Harold figured he must be from Texas or Florida. Maybe California. He almost looked out of place in the library, now that Harold thought about it.

He sat back up and handed Harold a pencil, “Here you go,” he smiled at Harold and he felt his heart beat a little faster.

Harold managed to say thank you without making a complete fool of himself and after toned arms told him he could keep the pencil, he backed away with a smile and felt his face still heated from the exchange.

He sat back down without a word. Nathan was staring at him with a grin on his face and Arthur had yet to take his attention off his computer screen.

Harold went back to his work from earlier until Arthur nudged his arm and had a sly smirk on his face, “So if we’re to assume by the color of your face, I’d say you may have just met your first college crush.”

Nathan busted out in laughter, prompting a mortified hiss to be quiet from Harold.

“I thought you were supposed to be on my side, Arthur!” Harold groaned.

“It’s an innocent question, my friend. It’s nothing to be ashamed about… you should go ask him out.” Arthur turned his attention back to the lines of code streaming across his screen.

“Better yet,” Nathan stood up. “Ask him to the party tonight. If you guys don’t show… I’ll be deeply disappointed. I can’t save your reputation forever, you know.” Nathan smiled and winked at the both of them before he made his way out of the library.

Silence filled the air between Arthur and Harold for a while until Harold spoke up, “He probably didn’t even notice me… worse yet, he’s probably straight”

“There’s no harm in asking, Harold…” Arthur looked at his friend, pushing his glasses up from the bridge of his nose. “Now please, while I’m enormously interested in your romantic life, I really need to get this done.”

Harold snuck another glance at the attractive young man then smiled and turned his attention back to his laptop.

#

John was sitting in class, waiting on the tech person to come in and fix the professors computer. Well, the tech people were usually just students who worked in the library.

Anybody in the class could have told her what was wrong, but then that would mean she would start the lecture again… and no one really wanted that.

He took out his phone and started to scroll through Twitter. He heard the door open and then his professor started to talk to whoever it was.

In the middle of his Twitter timeline, he heard a familiar voice. Where had he heard that voice before?

He looked up to see glasses hunched over his professor’s computer and logging her back into the network.

John chuckled a bit and sat up in his seat. At least now he knew where he worked…

#

Harold was sitting at his IT desk in the library flipping through his philosophy textbook. He enjoyed reading it even when it wasn’t for an assignment.

Thomas Hobbes was his favorite philosopher so far. He hated violence and believed that humans would never be satisfied with the power they have without acquiring more power. Something that Harold agreed with wholeheartedly.

He was engrossed in reading about Hobbes’ experiment on the state of nature when he looked up and saw tall, dark, and handsome walking in through the library doors.

He almost choked on his gum. How did he know he worked in the library?

“Hey,” he smiled at Harold and he got that strange feeling in his chest again. He could already feel his cheeks starting to get rosy.  

“Uh… hi,” Harold smiled back. “Do you, uh, are you looking for something?”

“Your phone number would be a good start,” he smirked. “My name’s John by the way.”

Harold swallowed hard, “Excuse me?” His brows furrowed and his eyes narrowed. Then it hit him, “Did Nathan put you up to this? Is that what this is?”

“I’m sorry?” He was obviously a good actor. Harold thought. He really looked like he had no idea what he was talking about.

“I can’t believe this. To actually think…” I thought someone like you could actually like someone like me. That was what he wanted to say, but the words stuck in his throat. “You were in the library at the table next to us last week and now you just appear here, where I work, miraculously at the same time my shift is.” Harold rolled his eyes and started to turn away, muttering to himself that he was never letting Nathan back in their dorm.

Then he felt a strong arm grab his elbow, “What in the heck are you talking about?” he chuckled. “I was in the library last week to finish my paper because I needed some COM books that I couldn’t find online. I saw you in my algebra class this morning and that’s how I knew you worked here. I’ve never met and do not know anyone on this campus named Nathan.”

Harold’s heart skipped a beat when he saw the sincerity in his eyes. He really meant it. He really wanted Harold’s number.

“You… you’re not just messing with me?” Harold gulped.

“No, why would you think that?” John huffed out a breath of air and looked confused.

Harold didn’t say anything. He couldn’t really think of anything to say. Living in a rural farm town in Iowa of less than 1,000 people doesn’t really give you a lot of dating experience.

“I’m sorry…” Harold huffed, “My friend… he’s rather…”

“Don’t worry about it,” John smiled. “How about we start over?” He turned around and walked out of the library. He did a U-turn and headed back towards Harold. “Hi, I’m John.”

Harold smiled at the sweet gesture, “Hi John. I’m Harold.”