chapter one

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"I hate kids!"

It started off as a normal day. It was the twentieth of December—a frigid day with a deceptive deep-blue, sunny sky—and I had just completed my last final all the way on the other side of campus. Why my college liked to torture students with finals at eight in the morning this close to Christmas I'd never understand, but the only thing on my mind was that I was done with this semester. Done, in every way possible.

My roommate Aimee seemed to be very done too, in a slightly different manner.

Her vibrant red hair loosened and bounced from side to side out of the bun on the top of her head—her studying bun, as she called it—as she kept pacing back in forth in the small empty space between our beds.

"God, they ruin everything! Why did it have to be a kid, Samar? Why couldn't it have been something more...able-to-get-over-with?" She placed her face into her hands and mumbled, "I can't believe my life is ruined."

I poked my head out from our closet where I was folding the last of my turtleneck collection. "Technically that girl's life is more ruined than yours, but just saying..."

Her jaw dropped, and she took a declarative step forward. "I just found out that my boyfriend of four years dumped me last week for what I thought was my personality, only to see him today posing in a picture on Facebook with the caption 'Proud father to this little one' with his seven-months pregnant girlfriend who I never knew existed, and her life is worse? Her whole family can't stop sending her congratulations on her wall when her baby daddy is a lying, conniving, two-faced asshole!" She collapsed onto her bed, her chest heaving up and down from her outburst as she stared at our defunct ceiling fan. She scrunched her face up slightly and then mashed her head into a pillow, grumbling, "I hate Facebook."

"Aimee," I began gently, neglecting my clothes and padding across our room. I sat down on the edge of her bed and pulled the blue pillow off her face. "That guy didn't deserve someone as loyal as you. Well, if we're being honest, he's always been horrible, but I didn't want to hurt your feelings by pointing it out all of the time."

"Thank you. I feel so much better." The thick sarcasm dripped out of her tone like the last drop of maple syrup in a bottle, and she went back to mashing her face into one of the many pillows that took up half of her bed. I sighed and sat there for a few moments, deciding on what to say.

"At least you get to go home tomorrow?" I tried to make her feel better with this. She was almost as closer with her family than I was with mine, despite the fact we were very tough competition.

"Yeah, but I still have to survive this math final tonight." She sat up and rubbed her forehead, dragging her pale hand down her cheek. "And I'm going to admit, I haven't made it past reading last week's notes."

I nodded in understanding of the stress of finals. "My head is still throbbing from that bio final I took this morning. The scantron was blurry by the end." I found myself rubbing my forehead as well, before letting out an obnoxious yawn. "I need to sleep for the rest of the day."

"Don't you have a date later? With that weird boyfriend of yours?" She stretched her arm out as far as possible to move her pile of notebooks and old exams from on top of her desk to her bed. She opened them all in front of her and stared at them for a moment, the grimace on her face precisely reading, "Is college really worth it anymore?" At one point or the other, it seemed to flash across the faces of all crammers.

"It's tonight, and he's not weird," I defended, hopping off her bed. "He's just very...intelligent. He got accepted into an early admission med school program last spring, which you know, he mentions nearly every conversation." Jeffrey usually had some interesting stories about his life adventures (like his times in the library), but his "journey to becoming a doctor," despite the fact he was still a lowly junior in college like the rest of us, was one I was tired of hearing.

"Intelligent is also a sugarcoated term for socially-inept, but you know..."

"Aimee," I snapped, although I couldn't help but laugh at her remark. I assumed her cynicism towards humanity itself would last for a while. Truly, until the part of her brain her ex-boyfriend occupied ejected him like the outdated VCR back at my home did to any inserted tape.

"Sorry," she mumbled, looking like she was about to cry, either because of her recent Facebook finding or the fact she had no idea what she was studying. I figured both. "He's still weird though."

I rolled my eyes and began to hunt around my desk for all of my chargers. Finding only an old, twisted iPhone cord—those things had a lifetime shorter than Aimee's attention span—I sighed in frustration. Sitting down on the edge of my bed, I glanced at her. "Is he really that weird? I mean, the fact he only wears button-downs is a little nerdy for a college student— "

"And can't forget those cardigans," Aimee interjected, piling her silky hair into a ponytail. She stopped fidgeting with her hair and stared directly at me. "Do you ever just look at one of them, Samar, with their soft, woven green fibers, and think damn, that is one sexy cardigan?"

"Aimee..."

"My sarcasm peaks when I'm angry. Kind of like how your boyfriend peaked in popularity on December 23, 1995 in a hospital room in upstate New York." For a second I was confused by her specificity with the numbers until I realized she was mentioning his birth date. I dropped my hands onto my bed and glowered at her.

"Oh come on, Aimee, he's not that nerdy. He was actually student council president at one point."

"When, exactly?"

I coughed slightly into my black turtleneck. "Middle school..." I coughed again and cleared my throat. "by pity votes..."

She smiled a wide, sarcastic smile, until I could see a trace of a dimple in her right cheek. "See, even you admit it." When she noticed my slightly-offended expression, she sighed. "Look, Sam," she began, using her old nickname for a mispronounced version of my name. "I'm not trying to be rude."

"But you are though."

"Come to think of it, I am..." She nodded to herself in realization, placing her pale fingers under her chin, as if somewhat amused by the fact. "It's kind of like second nature, to be honest. Anyway, I'm only saying this because maybe Green Cardigan—"

"Jeffrey."

"Jeff. As I was saying, maybe Gree—I mean Jeff—is just the nerdier version of my ex. Maybe there's some girl out there right now pregnant with his baby about to post a picture with h-him on...Facebook and..." Her words turned choppier by the second, as she held back a sob in the back of her throat. Scrunching her face up, she tried to continue insulting my boyfriend, until tears took the words away from her mouth. My heart broke as I watched her cry, and I ran over to give her a hug.

I let her cry into my sweater for ten minutes, her ugly sobs the perfect compliment to our ugly dorm room.

I wished I was wearing one of Jeffrey's cardigans so that moment could have been even uglier.

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