A day, Anne could tolerate. Two days were annoying but not unforgivable. Shit happened, Anne knew that better than anyone.
But a week? No. No way.
Anne wasn’t a patient person by any means, but even the most saintly student would find that too long a wait for a stupid group project. Couldn’t Anne’s partner have sent her an email or something? A text? That wasn’t too hard, right?
It shouldn’t have been. Anne had already sent her erstwhile partner nearly a dozen increasingly-desperate messages over the past week, her casual hey how are you’s peetering off to a single defeated did you fucking drop out or something, sent at three in the morning during a haze of post-essay exhaustion.
No replies. Not even a single lousy reaction. Anne had checked and double-checked her partner’s provided contact information thrice now. She’d tried begging her professor for a reassignment, an extension, leniency, anything - but the heartless old bastard only shrugged and shuffled out of the lecture hall, off to fossilize in his office hours while Anne’s grade and graduation dangled over her neck like a sword on a string.
Safe to say, Anne wanted to throttle him.
Almost as much as she wanted her hands around Catherine Parr’s absentee neck.
“Yeah?” asked Anna von Cleves, looking up from her phone. Anne chucked a stuffed animal at her. Kitty, who’d latched onto Anna the second they’d been introduced with strength even a barnacle would envy, only gave her a delighted smile.
“Anne’s bothering me again.”
“‘Bo, come on, leave the poor girl alone. She’s got three centuries of European history to pick apart.”
“Technically speaking, all she’s gotta do is analyze the evolution of feudalism across three centuries of European history,” Anne said mulishly. She sighed and let herself slip off Kitty’s horrible dormitory bed, thudding shoulders-first onto the ground beside Anna. A stray piece of notepaper lined with Kitty’s neat, bubbly handwriting drifted down with her. “Me? I’ve got a theology project with a partner who might’ve already gone through the heavenly gates, for all I’ve heard from her!”
“Wow,” Anna intoned gravely. “She’s really going above and beyond for this class - getting the scoop from the big man himself.”
“Woman,” corrected Kitty. “God’s a lesbian.”
Kitty sniffed delicately. “No.”
Anne prodded Anna’s side and winced when her finger impacted against solid muscle. Damn. It’d be nice to have abs like that someday. “I know you’re just joking, but nothing short of that can save us now. I’ve tried everything. Even brought the old man a coffee after class to try and sweeten him up.”
“Did it work?”
“Nah. He took the coffee and mumbled something ‘bout how I’d have to cooperate with difficult people all the time once I graduated, might as well get used to it.” Anne threw her hands up and nearly knocked Anna’s phone clean across the room. “C’mon, I work lunch shifts at Queens’, I don’t need a bad partner in a group project to know that!”
Kitty chewed thoughtfully on the end of her glitter pen. “Maybe he doesn’t want to reassign you because he doesn’t want to show favoritism? Like, if he gave you a new partner because you complained, then he’d have to reassign everyone else who doesn’t like their partners too?”
Anne scoffed. “Look, there’s equity and fairness and then there’s this. She’s not answering my texts, my emails, I can’t find her on social media… I even tried calling her!”
Kitty, the only person Anne knew who hated phone calls as much as Anne did — though for very different reasons — winced in sympathy.
“For all I know, this chick’s gone and dropped the class. Hell, maybe she dropped out!”
Anna leaned her head against Kitty’s bed and sighed. “What’s her name, ‘Bo? Maybe you missed something—” Anne snorted at that. “Yeah, yeah, I know, you’re a real social media savant, no one can escape you, not even the locked accounts. You’ve said it before, weirdo. But when it comes to the campus,” Anna placed a hand on her own chest, looking remarkably regal for someone with a hot pink, dolphin plushie in her lap, “I’m the queen of the castle. I can try asking some of my other buddies, see if anyone knows her.”
“That’s… not a bad idea.” Anne was a full-time student and shift manager down at Queens’, which essentially meant she spent six hours a day as a janitor, waitress, barista, and line-cook because the university’s dining department — and at this point, probably the universe too — had it out for her and her specifically. Anne’s schedule didn’t leave much time for extracurriculars.
Anna, on the other hand, made time like magic. She played lacrosse for the school, had a seat on the student affairs council, an internship with a nearby veterinary hospital, and still somehow had enough of herself to share with any number of rotating extracurricular clubs around campus. Anne had long since given up keeping track of which ones Anna deigned to show her face in.
“You happen to know a Catherine Parr?”
The question was directed at Anna, but it was Kitty who answered. She sat up so quickly that her unbound binder regurgitated notes, glittering paper falling in sheaves to the floor.
“Your partner’s Cathy Parr?”
“You know her, Kit-Kat?” Anne clutched at Kitty’s sheets and pulled herself upright, so quickly her head spun. All those texts, all those emails, and all that bitching - and her baby cousin had the answers the whole time?
Kitty nodded eagerly. She was smiling, her lean face lit up with the joy of it. “Cathy’s president of my creative writing club!”
“The one you’re always talking about?” Anne couldn’t help the doubt in her voice. She’d never gotten the name out of Kitty before — it was always “my president” this, “my president” that, but Anne just couldn’t reconcile the single most stressful part of her semester with the woman Kitty swore hung the moon and shot sunlight out of her ass.
“Yeah! Cathy’s, um, pretty busy. Like, really busy, all the time, but she always shows up to meetings.”
“Let me come with,” Anne said, gripping the sheets near Kitty’s hand. “Seriously. Please. I need to talk with her.”
“Just talk, right?” Kitty reached out and jabbed Anne’s forehead. Anne let her. Kitty was so particular about touch - Anne would let her do just about anything if it meant Kitty would come out of her shell. “You’re not gonna jump her like you did Jonesy last year?”
“Okay, but Jonesy had it coming.”
“He really did,” Anna offered. She watched their exchange with her usual cool distance, a smile flickering at the corners of her mouth. “Though it’s funny that Kit knows Cathy, because I do too. P’s on council with me as the Head of Media and Technology. Saw her at this week’s meeting, even, but she didn’t say much.”
Anne groaned. “Are you telling me everyone knows this girl but me?”
“It’s a funny coincidence, isn’t it?” Anna nudged her with her foot. Anna was the only person alive to have ever made mismatched socks look cool, and Anne did begrudge her for it. “Imagine how quickly we could have resolved this if you’d just told us her name earlier. But seriously, ‘Bo — you promise not to rush her as soon as you see her or something?”
“I’m not gonna fly off the handle and attack anyone who inconveniences me, you know. If I did my professor would already be off to an early retirement,” Anne grumbled. She indulged herself a moment of childishness and slumped, sulking. She knew she could be excessive — there’d been plenty of situations where even she had to admit she’d overreacted. Still, sometimes Anne wished her friends just… had her back, unconditionally, without question. Was it too much to ask for them to believe that Anne had reasons for acting the way she did, or at the very least, not assume she’d go for the jugular the second things didn’t go her way?
It was such a little thing. Just a friendly dig Anna had made a dozen times and would make a dozen times more. Anne even found it funny, sometimes — she just wished it wasn’t all the time.
But she couldn’t say that.
Anne swallowed her frustration and made a show of thrusting her hand into the air, pinky extended. “I promise I won’t do anything more than give Miss Cathy Parr a few strong words. Swear on my… uh. Whatever I’ve got that you prefer. My mum? I don’t much like my mum, though.”
“That’s good enough, far as I’m concerned.” Kitty slid off her bed and began to gather up her notes. Anna reached over Anne to help. Anne, for her part, obligingly nudged a few scattered pages closer. “I’ll text you the meeting time. If you show up five minutes early and help me set up the clubroom, I’ll introduce you to Cathy!”
“Oh, my hero!” Anne puckered her lips. Kitty laughed and inched closer, letting Anne smack a grateful kiss against her freckled cheek. “I appreciate it, Kit-Kat. See, this is why you’re my favorite cousin.”
“It’s not like I’ve got stiff competition,” Kitty giggled, “but thanks anyway.”