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The first time Alec Simone sees Shiloh Roswell, he knows he has to help.

Okay, maybe help is too strong of a word. But watching her on orientation day is almost painful. Everyone is supposed to be meeting new people and making new friends, but there she sits in the corner, clutching a notebook that she jots in every once in a while. Finally, after nearly an hour of this, she gets up and wanders closer to his writing posterboard. Alec had been talking with a small group over by the board for his theater group, but he’s glad to see her venturing out of her corner, so he sidles up to her, careful to keep far enough away that he doesn’t make her uncomfortable - she seems like the type who wouldn’t like to be touched.

“That’s a great place for new students to meet other writers,” he says.

--

This hall is entirely too crowded, Shi thinks, as she finds a relatively quiet corner to sit and observe. She really didn’t want to come, but she had promised her over-protective mother that she’d meet new people, and when Mom had pushed about how she was going to manage that when she never did in high school -- well, this was the first thing that came to mind, and she does hate to break a promise.

She spends almost an hour brainstorming her latest novel idea. It’s a spy thriller, featuring a poorly disguised version of herself that she wished she could be. This Shi was tall and beautiful, and knew how to defend herself with a dagger and sword. The real Shi would be more likely to cut herself on a butter knife than stab an enemy. She sighs.

She promised Mom she’d make friends. Maybe if she took down some information on some of the organizations she could join, that would be enough. There’s one about a writing group just a few feet away, so she carefully closes the notebook and walks inconspicuously toward it.

She reads the information, but doesn’t really take it in. Life would be so much easier if friends could just find you, she thinks. If she were in a novel right now, some guy would come up to her and just start talking as if they’d always been--

“That’s a great place for new students to meet other writers,” she hears. She’d jump, but she’s so used to her imaginings seeming real, that this latest incarnation doesn’t even faze her.

“You know I’m too shy to actually go,” she replies.

--

“You know I’m too shy to actually go,” the girl says. Alec wrinkles his nose a little. It’s a weird response, but he can roll with it.

“Maybe you are, but you should at least take the info in case you change your mind,” he tells her. She considers for a moment, and then grabs one of the invite cards off the table. Finally she looks at him.

“Thanks, Alec,” she says, her eyes darting to his name tag. Finally he can see that she has written “Shi (pronounced “shy”)” on hers. How appropriate. He smiles winningly at her.

“No problem, Shi,” he returns.

--

It’s a few weeks before Alec sees Shi again. It’s not that surprising - even if they weren’t pursuing drastically different majors, Freshmen and Sophomores rarely have classes together, and since Shi hadn’t turned up at any of the writing group meetings so far he really hadn’t had the opportunity. But this afternoon she’s sitting right in the middle of the lawn outside the student union, her back against a tree. He tells his friends he’ll catch up to them later, and goes over to sit with Shi.

“How do I even get the Turpins to leave the house though?” she mutters.

“Gas leak?” he asks.

--

When Alec reappears, she’s in the middle of plotting out the second half of her novel. In order for the next major plot point to happen, the neighbors of her main character’s target - she still hadn’t come up with a good name for her - had to leave so that she could stake out the target’s comings and goings.

How do I even get the Turpins to leave the house though? she thinks.

“Gas leak?” Alec suggests. She glances sideways at him.

“That’s… not actually a bad idea,” she replies, “But it’ll be hard to pull off with just a one-woman operation. I was thinking she’d just have them ‘win’ tickets to the Bahamas or something.”

“Oh, that works too!” he exclaims. He’s very exuberant for one of her characters, but then, that’s probably a good thing. Last year’s Creative Writing teacher told her she needed to diversify her characters - clearly whatever she’s doing is working.

“Yeah, and it gets them out of the house longer, ‘cause she might need up to a month. So how does that work?”

“Well, I’d assume she’d just leave a note in the mailbox?”

--

“Well, I’d assume she’d just leave a note in the mailbox?” he replies, but Shi is already lost, scribbling in the notebook. He thinks it’s the same one, but it’s almost full now - she’s really prolific! He wishes she would come to their group and write, but he can tell that pushing it wouldn’t help. Maybe, though, if he keeps telling her that her work is good, she’ll finally get up the courage to show it to someone. He smiles down at her and watches her write for a few moments, before getting up to head on to his next class.