After the Goodbye - Part 1

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Starting university had been rough. I was miles away from home with no familiar faces, completely on my own.

I had two roommates, Henri and Philippe. They told me they were brothers, and I guessed they were step brothers or something since they were the same age but looked nothing alike and liked each other enough to room together. They weren't bad guys, but the way they literally talked behind my back, oftentimes in French, as if they couldn't speak to me directly was annoying.

"À quelle heure que Liam va se coucher."

"J'espère qu'il ne laissera pas la lumière allumée si c'est tard."

"Je parle Français," I'd told them one day. "Studied it in elementary and middle school."

That didn't stop them, though.

I started off with no real major. Interdisciplinary Studies was the major for people who had a job they wanted to do and needed to create a major that fit. I was not one of those people. I had no clue what I wanted to do. I shoved in classes I thought might spark my interest. Psychology. Astronomy. Computer Science. Film.

I'd gotten Hell about it from my grandparents and aunts and uncles. They figured I was going to uni to mess around. My parents didn't work their asses off and save up money so I could go to uni for me to blow it dabbling in various things for kicks. Well, they weren't that blunt, but that's what they meant. However, my parents were supportive. "Find your passion, Liam," my mom had said.

I went to my classes and they were interesting, but I didn't feel a passion for anything. I would go to class, come back to the room, eat alone, do homework, then repeat it all every day. When my parents called to check in, I told them I was fine. But I wasn't fine. Despite following the path and sticking to the humdrum pattern, I was floating somewhere above the ground, lost.

*

In October, to get a bit of pocket money, I signed up as a participant in a study the Psychology department was doing. When I entered the department lobby, I saw about five other people, clearly also there just for the extra cash. One person in particular caught my eye.

Warm, light brown skin. Long, black hair. Thick eyelashes. And perfectly formed, full, rosy lips. It didn't look like she was wearing makeup other than her winged eyeliner which made how pretty she was even more shocking to me.

I stopped myself from staring and went up to the desk to mark my name on the check-in list. I scanned the other names under the day's date and decided she had to be the one named Selena Carvalho. After turning around to take a seat, I noticed the only empty one was adjacent to her and so sat down and started signing the consent forms. When I finished, I handed them back to the person behind the desk, then sat down again, this time with nothing to really distract me from looking more closely at her.

I glanced over at her crossed legs and noticed a camera bag beside her in the chair. My eyes traveled upwards and I found her looking back at me.

"Photographer?" I asked.

"Technically not for another 3 years," she replied.

"So you're in your second year?"

She nodded.

"What kinds of things do you take photos of?"

"Whatever my professors tell me to."

I laughed weakly, regretting my stupid question and she smiled. Her smile was so pretty.

"As a hobby, though, I like photographing real things."

"Real?"

"Yeah. Homeless people on the street. Graffiti on a wall. Last minute Thanksgiving shoppers. That kind of stuff."

I nodded. "So, no sunsets."

She chuckled. "No, no sunsets."

She looked straight at me, gaze intense, not glancing away even once since I began talking to her. I'd glanced away at least five times already. "That's cool. Even though we see real life every day, I guess showing it through a photograph gives you the chance to actually think about it."

She smiled wider and her eyes sparkled. "Yeah. Exactly. What's your name?"

"Liam."

"Last name?"

"Santos."

"¿Eres Latino?"

"Medio. Y no hablo bien el español."

"Soy Selena Carvalho. También soy mestiza. Mitad Mexicana, mitad Filipina."

'So that's why you're so pretty,' I nearly said. "Nice to meet you," I said instead. "But isn't 'Carvalho' Portuguese?"

"My mom remarried. She does that."

"Oh."

Selena stared at me. I stared at her. Then she said, "You have really beautiful eyes."

"You have really pretty lips." I blinked and felt my cheeks heat. "Sorry. Was that too much?" She'd given me a compliment and I sexually harassed her. Nice move, Liam.

She smiled and shook her head. "No." And we stared at each other again.

Our attraction to each other was pretty obvious. But we weren't the type to sleep with or even kiss someone we barely knew. So we got to know each other as friends first. In getting to know her, I got to know photography and I'd found what I figured was as close as I'd get to my passion. So, after talking to my parents, I decided to change majors and start the photography track the next semester.

Selena was insanely cute. Her brown skin was pretty and her lips were gorgeous and three weeks had passed when I kissed her before even telling her I liked her. And she kissed me back.

I was head over heels for this girl. I felt comfortable around her. The way she looked at me, like she knew me. And her smile was the same. It had everything and for the life of me, I could not explain it. I just knew that her smile and her gaze made me feel like she knew me. Like we connected.

I had shared basic things with her. Where I was from, what it was like growing up half-Dominican. But I hadn't told her about Alex. For some reason, I didn't want her to know about Alex. I didn't want her to know that part of me. I was embarrassed by it.

I didn't feel like I was floating anymore, though. Selena had appeared out of nowhere, taken my hand, and pulled me down to her path.

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