Chapter 2

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Thursday lunches were exclusively with Anita. We had a standing date for 12:30 p.m. at the main campus cafeteria. I found her nursing a large chai latte, reading over a marketing textbook and making some notes. She'd recently lopped off her long black hair in favor of a short bob. She claimed the new 'do freed her from the confines of long hair and being a slave to pleasing the male species.' While I questioned her thought process, her new look was fabulous. It suited her thin, toned frame.

I took the seat across from her, setting down my half-ton backpack with a thud and pulling my brown bag lunch from it.

"I called you last night."

"Sleeping," she said, slamming shut her textbook. "We've only been back in school for less than eight weeks and I already feel overwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, I love it, but I love my sleep too."

Her mocha-colored brown eyes did look a bit droopy, and her deep bronze skin tone did lack its rich color, but Anita Kumar was still a goddess. She walked into a room and everyone took notice—male and female. I'd kill to have that kind of command of a room.

"Law school doesn't usually accept slackers."

"Tell me about it. I'd kill for a good party right about now," Anita said, and sighed. "But those days are long gone, aren't they?"

"I'm afraid so."

Anita and I had been friends since middle school. She'd been the new girl, her father uprooting her from back east after her mom died from breast cancer when Anita was only thirteen. He thought he was doing the right thing, but I think Anita resented him for taking her away from her friends and the rest of her extended family when she needed them most. When Anita arrived, I took her under my wing . . . or so I thought. In our friendship, Anita most definitely wore the pants and I was okay with that.

"We studying Sunday?"

"Yes, but I work until five," I said, taking a bite out of my hummus, sprouts, and feta pita. Much to the chagrin of my parents, Anita had introduced me to vegetarianism. This caused much bickering and all-out confusion with Mom. In her mind we were meat eaters; that's why we had three steakhouses. She fought me for months, nearly a year, until she realized I was not going to relent. Only then did she start thinking more outside the box and even enjoyed a good batch of hummus herself. She became more adventurous with dinner and even claimed that my lifestyle choice made her enjoy more vegetables. She still made beef, pork, and chicken for my dad and brother, but it didn't bother me. My mission wasn't to convert.

"How goes work?"

Anita asked about work all the time. Firstly, she had the luxury of not working. Having a big-shot banker for a dad meant that he paid for everything. Secondly, I always had entertaining stories from my job. It was no secret how much abuse I took at Anthony's. The worst abusers were those with delayed or cancelled flights who often used the Anthony's staff as their personal punching bags. At first it bothered me a lot, sometimes to the point of tears, but now I'd become so accustomed to the insults, jabs, and name-calling that they deflected right off me like Teflon.

"There's a new guy at Customs," I said between bites.

"He sounds cute. Do tell," Anita said, leaning forward and pushing all her books aside.

"How did you leap to him being cute?"

"You wouldn't have mentioned him otherwise. Besides, I love a man in uniform."

I rolled my eyes. If anyone hated a man in uniform more, it was Anita. Campus police were very familiar with my best friend. There wasn't a protest she hadn't attended, rally she hadn't missed, or a sit-in she hadn't sat at. Anita the Activist did not mesh well with people in positions of authority.

"Your sarcasm never fails."

"I'm curious. What's his story?"

"I don't know yet. I've spoken to him once and it's not like sparks flew. They actually did the opposite of that."

Anita's light brown eyes inspected me and I knew she could see everything. I hated how transparent I was. "So you like him."

"There's nothing to like." I could feel my cheeks start to burn. Damn it!

"He's totally hot?"

"He's a jerk."

"He's a totally hot jerk?


"You like him!"

"I don't."

"Do you want me to call him after school and see if he likes you?"

"Oh, shut up."

Anita let out a laugh. "It's nice to see you showing an interest in the opposite sex again. It's been awhile."

I scoffed at that. "Who has time?"

Now Anita took a turn rolling her eyes. "You can blame it on all the problems your parents have had, but I wouldn't blame you for taking your time dating again. Eric was a rat, plain and simple."

"No need to insult innocent rats," I said, taking another bite of my sandwich. All discussion of Eric was off the table and Anita knew that. He was ancient history—no, he was beyond that. He was prehistoric history, and if there was a time period before that, then, well, you get the picture.

"It's been over a year now," Anita continued. "It's time."

"Maybe. Maybe not. When I want to date again, I will."

"It's nice to have a guy around, not that that's important. But it's nice to have a go-to to get some bedroom action."

"Bedroom action? Really?"

"Fine, get laid and have hot sex. Better?"

"Much." It was time to change the subject before she kept on going with the sex talk. "Did you finish that American Lit paper yet?"

"Nearly done. You?"

"I'm just doing some revisions now. I could use at least an A on that paper."

We finished up lunch and the latest gossip. I had Bio followed by my Democracy and Citizenship class before a four-hour shift at Anthony's. As I was leaving, Anita caught my arm.

"Look, sorry about bringing up Eric. I didn't mean to piss you off."

"You didn't," I said sincerely. Anita had a lot of questions, but I didn't want to answer them.

"If you like the guy in uniform, pursue it. What do you have to lose? Even if you just hang out with him a few times. No big deal. You never know, you may get laid."

I frowned a little. "There's nothing to pursue. It's not like he's done anything. I guess he caught my eye, that's all. Totally harmless."

"Like I said, it's nice that you're showing an interest in someone. You owe it to yourself to at least give it a shot."

Give it a shot? No. The last time I'd done that, I'd paid dearly.

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