Adam hated the administrative offices in Harvard.
They were in the basement; low ceilings, beige walls and raggedy furniture. A musky smell hung over the waiting room and none of the magazines were published in the last decade. It was like the grandeur of the upstairs never quite reached the lower levels.
The worst part was a person was rarely invited down here for good news.
The actual worst part was the staff.
They knew they'd been shucked off, knew they'd been thrown away, knew they didn't get nearly as many perks as the upstairs did, and so they were not the most helpful, not the most efficient, definitely not the fastest people at doing their jobs.
Adam felt for them, he did. He'd worked enough crappy service jobs, not to mention spending the better part of the last year as an underpaid intern in one of the top tech startups in Boston, but even his patience was running thin; his appointment was meant to be at half two and it was now a quarter to four. It was his day off. He was bored and hungry and worried. He just wanted to know why he was there.
He'd glanced up from his book and the secretary smiled. "Any time now."
"No problem." He was absurdly proud of how not sarcastic the words sounded. "Do you know how long?"
She shrugged. "Any time now."
He nodded and just managed to prevent the eye roll that was aching to be released from behind his eyelids. The buzz of his phone distracted him and he grinned when Ronan's name popped up.
The text was brief as always. "Done yet, Parrish?"
Adam smirked and typed a reply. "Still waiting."
He ignored the nerves crawling up his spine. The letter he'd received a week prior had given him very little information; a date, a time and a demand for a meeting to discuss changes to his upcoming scholarship.
His phone buzzed again. "They're probably giving you more money. Reread all those fucking references and decided to make you king of the nerds."
Adam stood and nodded, tucking his phone away and smiling. He didn't waste words replying since he was the only person waiting.
The small, squat woman turned around on thick heels, without waiting for him to show signs of following. The bun holding back her grey hair looked too tight to be comfortable. He looked away from her tweed suit; the skirt and jacket looked rough and made his skin itch. The dim hallway she was leading him down had chairs and a heavy looking photocopier, plastic rubbish bins and a desk with three legs lining the walls. The threadbare carpet caught under his runners. The office they entered was even dimmer. The small windows barely let in any natural light and it was filled by harsh overhead fluorescents.
The dull panic sitting in Adam's stomach moved up and started a ratataptaptaptap beat against his ribs. He sat on the chair she pointed to, wincing as it squeaked when he put his full weight onto it.
"So, Adam Parrish." She shuffled some pages on her desk and typed quickly on her laptop. The clack of the keys echoed around the room. "Graduated with a first in Finance and Accounting, worked a Harvard sponsored internship with the intention of entering into our MBA on a full-ride scholarship. Is that correct?"
"Yes, m'dam. I got a letter about my scholarship last week."
She nodded, eyes on the screen. "Okay, so I've a bit of bad news. They've changed the terms of the MBA scholarship. You still get the course paid for, but unfortunately, unless you're married or a single parent, we can no longer support you in your housing or food."
Adam swallowed when the contents of his stomach hit the back of his tongue. He rubbed his damp palms on his tense thighs,mind racing. There was no way he could afford accommodation and food for two years. The course was too intense to work part time and study and he'd already gutted his saving doing the barely paid internship for the last twelve months. He swallowed and almost winced at how loud it was.
"Is there any reason for the changes?" He hated how hoarse his voice was.
"The college decided to move their support to people who needed the money more." She shook her head, eyes still on the computer scene. "I can see you probably do need the extra maintenance but unfortunately my hands are tied."
"How long do you need to be married for? Only I just recently got engaged, and if we skipped the fuss and were married before the course started, could I still avail of the support?" Adam had no real clue what he even saying. He just knew without the scholarship the MBA was gone and his future was bleaker without it. No one even looked at CV's anymore unless they had a master's on them. "My fiance was planning on moving up with me since I'd applied for off campus living."
"Well, congratulations Mr Parrish." She typed some more and the tapping speed matched his heartbeat. "You marked the box as single on your application."
"Yes, m'dam. I'm use to being on my own and I guess it was just habit." He almost winced again at how weak it sounded. "It took awhile for me and my fiance to sort ourselves out... It was complicated," he said with a huff and hoped his red cheeks looked like they were from his embarrassment at the mistake and from his complicated relationship status. "He was a high school boyfriend," he lied. "And I guess it took us a bit longer than it should have." He forced out a laugh. "Ronan only proposed last month actually. Ring is in the shop getting sized." He held up his bare hand and grinned like he was thinking of a fond memory instead of the roaring in his ears.
He'd said Ronan.
Ronan Niall Lynch.
Ronan Niall his best friend who he'd had an almost unbearable crush on since forever Lynch.
She smiled and giggled. "Oh that's so sweet. Let me see what I can do." She started typing again.
Adam stared down at his empty hand. Ronan would never agree to this. He didn't lie. He would never… fuck fuck fuck
"Okay, it'll have to be a bit of a quick turnaround. I'll need a new form with the wedding certificate by next week so that I can get you in under the wire. Will that be possible?"
He nodded his head so fast, he felt his brain shake. "Absolutely, we were planning on a small wedding anyway, so we can have a civil service and just throw a party later on." He grinned, hoping it didn't look as strained as it felt. "Neither of us are romantic."
She laughed. "I'm so glad. I've had to deliver this news to fifteen students so far from a multitude of courses and most have had to defer. Some good news was needed."
"Glad to be of service, m'dam."
The printer whirled to life behind her, and she spun around in the chair, catching the paper as it was spat out. "You won't need to fill out the entire form again. No more essays."
"Just the first few pages and an attached original copy of your marriage certificate." She turned and handed him the paper. "So let's say we meet back here on Monday and get you all sorted."
Five days. He had five days to convince his best friend to marry him, and then, they actually had to go through with it.
"Thank you so much for your help," he managed. "I really appreciate it."
She waved off his thanks. "Oh, you've made my week." She walked him to the door. "Have a lovely wedding," she said before saying goodbye and shutting the office door.