|25| - "You don't have to tell me I'm a hypocrite." -
If we were in England, the students would have abandoned the lecture theatre by now. The exam had been scheduled to start at three o'clock, but by twenty-past three, the teacher still hadn't arrived. Desks abandoned, groups of classmates huddled together, laughing and joking around. I had to admire the Italians for that. Not only for their willingness to hang around to find out whether this exam would go ahead or not, but for their chilled-out attitude leading up to it.
Maybe January exams didn't hold as much importance for them, or perhaps they felt confident. Either way, it stressed me out further.
The professor arrived just before half-past, and students returned to their desks, the noise level dropping.
She handed out the papers, shouted something to the room about us having an hour to complete it, and then she retreated to a corner where she pulled out a book.
Stunned at the quick turnaround, I lowered my eyes to the paper in front of me, reading the first question three times before I understood it. And even when I understood the words, I couldn't fully work out what the question needed me to answer.
That set the mood for the remainder of the exam. I'd had tough exams at school, and even some at university where I'd felt like it was bound to bring my average down, but I'd never come out of an exam hall convinced that I'd failed. It wasn't purely insecurities, either. It was the fact I couldn't understand half of the questions. How could I give the right answers if I didn't know what it was asking me?
As I began the walk home, I text Jasmine and warned her that the exam had gone badly and so I was in need of an extra-large pizza. It took less than half an hour to get back to my flat, but when I arrived, two pizzas sat on the living room table, a bottle of wine breathing between them.
My second and third exams were only marginally better, but I left the room feeling like I at least stood a small chance of passing.
When I returned home after my final exam, I was yet to switch off. My head revisited the questions, doubting the answers I'd submitted and mentally calculating how many might have been correct so I could estimate whether I'd passed.
A vase of flowers stood proudly on the dining table, distracting me from my torment over exam questions, and I took a moment to inhale their fragrant scent.
"Sean sending you flowers now?" I called out to Jasmine, hooking my bag over the back of a chair.
"Not from Sean."
The familiar deep voice sent a jolt through my body as I spun around, wondering if my distress at being separated from Nathan was now causing me to imagine him.
But he was there, leaning casually in the doorway that I'd just walked through. His arms folded, wearing his jeans low on his hips along with a baggy hoodie, Nathan resembled exactly the type of guy I'd avoid if walking home alone after a late lecture. Tall. Muscular. Intimidating if I didn't know better.
"What are you doing here?"
"Nice to see you, too, Bella."
I smiled and closed the distance between us, reaching up to peck him on the lips. The fabric of his hoodie felt soft against my fingers, his aftershave intoxicating, driving me to deepen the kiss and press my body closer. When it sunk in that he was here for real, unexpected and yet at the same time comfortably familiar, my hands roamed lower, sweeping under his top and over his abs.
He flinched, prompting me to lean back and raise a questioning eyebrow at him.
"Your hands are freezing," he said by way of explanation.