It’s the Saturday before the fall semester starts back up, and Alex is already sick of school.
That’s what you get for taking summer courses her sister had said, useless and mocking like sisters are wont to be. Completely useless, of course.
The coffee shop two blocks away from campus is normally overcrowded, the comfy chairs near outlets a prize worth murdering over, but the remaining hordes of students haven’t made it back yet and Alex, blissfully, has almost the entire shop to herself, save for the staff and the girl two tables away with some boring torts law school-ish book and an empty cup.
Alex wiggles down a little more comfortably into her chair, feet propped up on the one across the table from her, and settles her laptop on the table. Headphones in, music on, and she’s good to go with an entire exciting afternoon of working on her dissertation in front of her.
In the past hour, a few people have moved in and out of the coffee shop, but none of have stayed. The torts girl (who’s annoyingly hot, which Alex definitely did not figure out because she kept accidentally glancing over at her) is on her second refill, Alex is glaring at the comments on her dissertation regarding, of all things, the prevalence of commas, and a guy walks in.
He looks like a dick, what with the slouchy beanie and scarf (it’s August ) and skinny jeans and black leather notebook in hand and copy of Gravity’s Rainbow carefully visible in the external pocket of his bag, and Alex wrinkles her nose from behind her laptop as he saunters up to the counter to order. She contemplates looking over at the torts girl to share an eye roll because surely no woman in her right mind wouldn’t roll her eyes at him, but she’s busy and laser-focused and Alex is not at all distracted by the fact that she’s biting her lip as she concentrates.
Oh, well. Back to commas.
The guy is tugging carefully at his scarf and he accepts his coffee-- it’s black, he ordered it so loudly as black, no room that the sound skewered right through Alex’s headphones-- and moseys back across the shop. He pauses in front of torts girl and Alex’s eyebrows creep higher as he waits for her to notice him.
Finally he clears his throat loudly and waves at her, startling torts girl out of her extremely attractive attentive studying.
Oh, they know each other. How unfortunate, torts girl seemed interesting. Alex turns her music down anyways and definitely does not eavesdrop.
“Evan,” he says, holding out his hand. “Dave’s friend?”
“Oh, shit, sorry,” torts girl-- Lucy-- says. She shakes his hand and closes her book with the other. “I was studying, I lost track of time-- hi.”
He takes a seat across from her, settling both his coffee and his notebook on the table carefully.
“I totally get it,” he says. “I get so caught up reading sometimes I just-- lose track of everything, you know?”
Oh, Jesus Christ.
Alex downs a huge sip of her now-lukewarm coffee to avoid laughing. Out of the corner of her eye, torts girl politely nods along and asks what he’s reading these days.
He pulls his copy of Gravity’s Rainbow out and hands it to her.
“Sorry about all of the notes in the margins, my handwriting gets terrible when I’m invested in something.”
It’s been half an hour, and thus far Evan the Douche has told Lucy about his intentions to get a master’s degree in creative writing, how women just never really seem to appreciate it when he talks about Kafka, and that he’s an excellent chef without training.
“I thought about law school,” he says with a shrug. “I just couldn’t see myself in a corporate existence, you know? It seems so blase. Not that that’s a bad thing, of course, I just….”
“I feel like so many women diss Palahniuk unfairly, it’s like they just don't understand what he’s going for, you know? Like they’re too caught up in the superficial reading of the whole thing…”
Alex has gone through an entire bottle of water trying to mask her need to laugh at how many times Lucy has nodded and smiled and politely said that’s so interesting .
Evan’s phone rings.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he says. “It’s my professors-- well, we’re really more like friends, I guess, I--”
“Go on and take it,” Lucy says quickly. “It’s not a problem.”
He smiles at her-- oh God , it looks like he’s intentionally trying to smile crookedly and it just pulls at his eyebrows-- and rattles off a quick one second before standing and walking over closer to the windows. As soon as his back is to her, Lucy slumps back in her seat and pushes the heels of her hands into her eyes.
Alex rips a corner off of her dissertation draft and scribbles on it quickly before balling it up and throwing it at Lucy’s table. It lands on Evan’s stupid leather notebook and bounces over towards Lucy, who looks over at Alex with a furrowed brow.
Alex gestures at the paper impatiently, rolling her eyes and waiting for Lucy to read it.
Gimme your # i can text you an excuse to ditch him
Lucy looks over at her, eyes wide, and mouths Really? At her. Alex nods quickly, still in her headphones, and points to where Evan is wrapping up his phone call.
Lucy scratches the number onto the paper and hurls it back over to Alex, who barely manages to catch it without upending her coffee, laptop, and dissertation all at once. As Evan makes his way back to Lucy’s table, Alex starts to pack her work up, plugging her headphones into her phone instead of the laptop but leaving the music off, because now Evan is talking about how his professor views him as both a protege and an equal, and Lucy is unabashedly staring at him with distaste.
Outside, Alex walks just out of sight of the windows and dials the number on the paper, waiting for it to ring.
“Hi, Mom,” Lucy says. “What’s up?”
“Oh--uh.” Shit, that threw her. “The house is on fire, you should probably get home immediately.”
“Oh no,” Lucy says loudly, loud enough that Alex winces. “That’s terrible, I’ll leave right now.” She hangs up and Alex blinks down at her phone.
“Well, okay then,” she mumbles. She peers around the corner to the coffee shop and waits to Lucy to appear, waving dramatically from her spot in the alley between the shop and the neighboring bank. Lucy hightails it down the block, ducking into the alley just as Evan pops out of the shop as well; she grabs Alex by the arm and drags her behind a dumpster to hide.
Evan shuffles by, moodily engrossed in his book, and Alex snorts loud enough that Lucy slaps at her arm, glaring until Evan is gone.
“Oh my God,” Lucy groans out. “You’re a godsend.”
“That guy is an insult to humanity, holy shit,” Alex says, shifting her bag. “How did you even--”
“My friend is a dick , that’s how,” Lucy says. “I’m going to murder him. Or just tell him I only date women now. I don’t know.”
“Possibly an excessive reaction, but okay, go for it,” Alex says, filing away the only date women information for later. She grins at Lucy, who huffs out a sigh and offers a smile of her own.
“Lucy,” she says, holding out her hand.
“Yeah, I heard from Evan,” Alex says. She curses the chipped nail polish on her fingernails as she shakes Lucy’s perfectly manicured hand. “Alex.”
“I owe you one,” Lucy says. She hasn’t let go of Alex’s hand. She’s got a strong grip for such a slight frame. “Since I cut your studying short to bail me out.”
“Nah, not really,” Alex says. “Well, actually, okay, you do.”
“Well, you have my number.” She finally lets go of Alex’s hand, leaning forward minutely as she does. “So you let me know when you want to collect.”
She punctuates it with a slow scan down Alex’s body and back up again and a lazy smile before settling her bag on her shoulder and turning to leave.
“How about now?”
“What?” Lucy pauses and looks back over her shoulder, and Alex licks her lips, suddenly nervous because shit she is terrible at this part.
“Do you want to go get a drink?”
“Well,” Lucy says slowly, turning around. “That depends on a few things.”
“Well,” Lucy says again. “Like, one, is that a date?”
“I guess that’s up to you,” Alex says.
“Two: are you going to tell me that I can’t fully appreciate Fight Club because I have a vagina?”
Alex laughs, short and loud. “I hate that book.”
“And three: do I get to pick where we’re going?”
“Sure,” Alex says. “So is that a yes?”
“Absolutely,” Lucy says. She takes Alex’s hand and tugs gently, pulling her along as they make their way out of the alley. Alex pulls up short just before they make it to the sidewalk, the stop swinging Lucy back around, and Alex catches her hip in her free hand and steps in to kiss her, short and sure.
“Presumptuous,” Lucy says, even with her fingertips pressing against Alex’s back under her t-shirt.
“Of course you would think that, you only read Palahniuk superficially--”
Lucy rolls her eyes and elbows Alex, knocking the wind out of her laugh, and drags Alex down the block towards a bar.