July 11, 2016: The Day I Met an Android and a Poet (Part 4)

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I sat down at one of the rustic round tables near the bookshelves. George brought me a caramel macchiato with a big dallop of whipped cream, plus a surprise brownie. This kid sure knows the path to a woman's heart, and it's paved with sugar.

I sipped my drink. It was thick, sweet, and delicious. I licked whipped cream from my lips and said, "So you're working on a book?"

"Yeah, I am! It's not very good, but...yeah."

"Don't put yourself down. Every great story starts out as a terrible first draft. Instead you should say, 'It's not very good yet.' "

George laughed shyly. "You're right. I'm just not used to talking myself up, you know?"

"What genre is it in?"

"It's kind of hard to describe." George rubbed his neck. "I like to write in a way that breaks down the traditional barrier between poetry and prose. Like, stories told through poems, but untethered from the structures of grammar and rhyme and logic. That doesn't make any sense, does it?"

I hid a smile behind my cup. It's so cute when young writers think they've invented something new.

"You mean modernist narrative poetry? Like The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot?"

"Yeah, like that, maybe!" George blushed. "I don't actually know who that is, because...I couldn't afford to go to college."

For a moment I felt guilty for dropping an allusion to an obscure literary title, as if I'd been trying to show off how educated I was.

Then I felt guilty for feeling guilty, because what's wrong with being educated? Was I going to become one of those women who pretend to be ignorant to protect other people's egos? Hardly!

And then I processed everything George had said, and I was confused. He was the brother of the Stanford-educated, designer-sports-coat-wearing Will Darcy, but he couldn't afford college?

As if he could read my mind, George said, "You're probably wondering how that is, when Will is so well-off. The truth is, we're not blood-related. My last name is Wickham, though I never knew the man who gave it to me. Will is my stepbrother. I think of him as my real brother, but he...Well, you saw how he was earlier."

George rubbed his thumb along the rim of his coffee cup. "Robert--that is, Will's dad, Robert Darcy--promised to help me pay for college. My plan was to go to Yale and get a BA in Creative Writing. I actually got in, and I was so stoked."

He turned his face away, eyes downcast. "But the month I graduated from high school, Robert passed away."

"Oh my gosh. I'm so sorry." I never know what to say to people who have lost someone precious. From the way George's face crumpled, I could tell the grief was still fresh for him.

"Robert was a great man, you know? He was good to my mom, and I knew he meant it when he said he would send me to Yale. When I showed him that acceptance letter, I'll never forget the look of pride on his face, and the way he hugged me. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had a dad."

George took a deep, unsteady breath. "But then Will inherited everything, and he refused to keep Robert's promise. He said since Robert hadn't adopted me, I wasn't a legal heir, and he was under no obligation to help me with my education. He said if I wanted to go to college, I'd have to choose a state school I could afford, and get loans and a job."

I gaped at George, stunned. Though the coffee I was holding was hot, my hands went cold. I knew Will Darcy was a stuck-up jerk, but I could never have imagined he was so selfish and greedy!

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