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She never told anyone who Zoe’s father was. It seemed safer that way.

She thought about him sometimes, though. Late at night, when she couldn’t sleep and her thoughts wouldn’t quiet.

He looked right at the tattoos on her collarbone; she found that refreshing. Most people glanced once, pretended they hadn’t, then their eyes would dart back for a second look. As if they would suffer a horrible fate if they just looked straight at her. She didn’t mind the glances, but blatant staring was good too; it was different.

She’d caught him staring, a few seats down, as they were both waiting for a tech seminar at MIT to begin. (Not that she was technically supposed to be there, but she figured that no one would look twice at a mostly harmless-looking nineteen-year-old girl.) His hair stuck every which way and his body seemed to be entirely made up of angles, looking every bit the cliché nerd. But he looked right at her, and that was something new.

Afterwards she struck up a conversation with him, which seemed to shock him into near-silence for a few minutes before he swallowed (visibly) and attempted to reply shakily. He was actually a student there, majoring in computer science, and while he wasn’t as good at hands-on tech as she was, he was “pretty much a genius,” in his own words. Something about the way he said that piqued her curiosity.

Relationships had never been a high priority to her, and on the rare occasion she was attracted to someone, it was because they interested her in some way. This boy was definitely interesting.

They ended up going out to a local bar together. Or rather, she suggested it and he (eyes still wide as an animal’s in headlights) nodded erratically. She got the idea this didn’t happen to him much – which, truth be told, it didn’t happen to her much either. But what the hell, she was in a good mood and he could keep up with her when she talked about her gadgets so why not?

Unsurprisingly, he was a lightweight. Two drinks and he’d already begun slurring his words, and smiling in that way one does when the world is ever so pleasant and slightly wobbly. But on the other hand, he was also less shy this way – he’d repeated several times how nice her eyes and hair and breasts were, alternatively. If any other guy had done that she’d have left long ago, but with him it was kind of endearing.

Finally, after he’d eagerly recited the first fifty digits of pi with barely any hesitation (or slurring), she cut to the chase and asked, rather bluntly, if he would like to have sex with her. First he choked on his drink, and then after recovering he nodded so hard she thought he might do some damage to his neck. He mumbled something about how they could get a cab and go back to his dorm, since his roommate was away for the weekend. Which suited her fine, since she wouldn’t have to worry about kicking him out of her apartment the next morning.

He wasn’t a great kisser, but nobody is when drunk, and anyway at that point she wouldn’t have cared if he’d been the worst in the world at it because dammit, she was getting some of that. Brilliant people didn’t come along often enough.

The rest of the evening was a pleasant blur in her mind of tangled arms and legs and the smell and feel of him. For all his apparent inexperience there was certainly nothing to complain about. Later, as she began to doze off, he gently traced the tattoos on her collarbone with his finger over and over. None of the others had done that. She wouldn’t have thought she’d like it, but she did. As she drifted into blissful sleep she felt him snuggle up beside her and smiled slightly.

She hadn’t loved him. But sometimes in those late nights she would admit to herself that she had liked him. And that was enough.