You have about three hours until your appointment with Doctor Templin, and since Trixie doesn’t have class for another hour, you decide to get some breakfast before either one of you passes out from starvation.
She calls Bill and has him meet you over at the Overground, the largest eatery on west campus. Bill lets you know that he’s already there by the time you arrive, with seats saved for both of you.
He’s undeniably punctual for everything, even something as informal and trivial as getting food. While you find it overzealous at times, now is not one of them. The place is packed and crowded as hell, and his early-bird tendencies are definitely paying off in your favor right now.
Several bright yellow signs are randomly scattered across the hall, cautioning everyone that it’s slippery and to be careful. You look down at the floor. It’s covered in haphazard muddy shoe prints and has a few soggy paper towels and disposable cups littered here and there as well.
It looks disgusting.
Suddenly, your appetite evades you. You can almost actually feel it leaving your body. If being at the clinic earlier hadn’t already made you nauseous, the sight of this floor would have done the job perfectly.
After more minutes of rummaging through the crowd to find Bill and having Trixie say, “I can’t hear you, you’re breaking off,” twenty times over the phone, you finally spot him at one of the bar stools by the east wall, frowning at a newspaper from behind nerdy glasses and running a hand through his disheveled dark blonde hair.
You tug at Trixie’s elbow to get her attention. “There he is,” you say, pointing over to where Bill is seated. You make your way over to him with a bit of difficulty, trying to not get knocked over as you constantly rub and bump shoulders with every other person who’s also trying to get by.
“Ugh, why the fuck does it always have to be so damn crowded in here? It’s like a goddamn flea market on steroids,” Trixie scoffs.
You completely agree, but you don’t say anything. Your mind is still preoccupied with worry. You’re worried about what this Doctor Templin guy might potentially find. You’re worried that you don’t have health coverage in case it is serious, and that you can’t afford to be sick on any level right now. The Koplan performance is two weeks away, and you don’t have the money to deal with this.
Aside from your grandmother, singing is all you have left. It’s really the only thing you can rely on and call your own.
Without it, I’m…lost.
And whatever this thing is, it’s disrupting it. You simply cannot have that.
You try to breathe and think positively. It might be nothing. Maybe it’s all in your head. You’re probably freaking out for nothing.
You let out another frustrated sigh as you realize that you can’t seem to convince yourself that things are truly okay. They’re not, and you can feel it your gut.
As you approach Bill, you grab Trixie’s arm and pull her back for a second to whisper in her ear.
“Hey, you mind not saying anything to Bill about earlier? I don’t really want anyone else knowing about it. At least not until after I know what’s wrong.”
It’s not that you don’t trust Bill or that you can’t confide in him. You’re just not comfortable with sharing a lot of your problems with people, even with Trixie at times. You’re not really sure why, especially since they’re fairly open with you about the nitty-gritty of their own lives.
“Sure,” she nods. She has a slightly worried look on her face, but a smile soon brightens it up again.
“Come on, we’ll get run over if we keep standing in the middle of the way here,” she says as she continues to walk.
She places her backpack on the seat next to Bill with a loud thud.
“Hey, Pooch,” she says as she snatches the newspaper from his hands before he even gets a chance to speak. “And what a surprise! You’re actually here without your girlfriend for once,” she adds snarkily, the word ‘girlfriend’ laced with a bitter undertone.
He offers a groan in response. “I was reading that! And are you really still going to keep calling me that? We aren’t ten anymore, you know.” He clearly ignores her show of disdain toward his girlfriend, Gina. Then again, he’s probably used to it by now.
She looks at him with a nonchalant expression. “What, you mean ‘Pooch’? Please. You absolutely love that name,” she says with a wry grin. There’s nothing more on the planet Trixie loves more than teasing Bill.
“Right. I absolutely love being called a name you only gave me because you thought I was a good replacement for a pet after your dog died,” he says sarcastically, smiling nonetheless. He turns to you and puts his hands up dramatically. “You see what I have to put up with every day?”
All you can do is chuckle and shake your head. You’ve known both of them for over a year now, but these two have been friends long before you came into the picture, and the chemistry between them is undeniable. Any outsider can see they’re meant to be together, even if they aren’t.
Trixie hasn’t explicitly told you this, but it’s not hard to see that she has feelings for him, and considering that they’ve been friends since they were both eight years old, she’s probably had them for a while. And if you know her as well as you think you do, Satan will go ice-skating in a bright pink tutu before she tells him how she feels about him. And you can understand why.
Potentially losing a great friendship over feelings that might be unrequited is an incredibly scary and awkward thought. Plus, you’re not sure if Bill’s feelings for her go beyond friendship like hers do. He can be a bit hard to read at times.
In the same vein, you can only imagine how hard it must be for Trixie to see Bill with Gina practically all the time. Your heart truly breaks for her every single time you see the both of them being affectionate with each other in public.
Seeing the person you love with someone else just…stinks. It just plain sucks. Even without experiencing it firsthand, it’s obvious. You can’t even begin to imagine the full extent of how horrible it must feel. You definitely wouldn’t want to be in her shoes.
But then again, that’s where you and Trixie are completely different. You’d cut Bill out of your life completely if being around him caused you that much pain, no matter how far back your friendship ran.
Heck, you’d cut him off the nanosecond you realized you were falling for him. But then again, you suppose Trixie isn’t dysfunctional. At least, not in the way that you are.
Her voice comes through in an equally sarcastic tone that matches Bill’s. “Oh please, you’d be lost if I wasn’t in your life. Not to mention, bored out of your fucking mind.”
He just shakes his head and picks up another newspaper from a nearby stand.
You set your bag down and grab your wallet before you head over to the food dispensers. You shuffle around, looking at the array of choices as you decide on what to get. You don’t even know why you’re bothering. You’ve lost most of your appetite and the food here is expensive. You consider just skipping breakfast altogether, but Trixie won’t let you.
She’s like a second mom, insisting you get something, especially since I’ll be heading to the surgical center later. A shiver creeps up on you, and you try not to think about having to go there.
You keep looking around some more, searching for something cheap. You end up opting—well, more like settling—for a plain bagel and a small cup of coffee, more to appease Trixie and her continued nagging than your stomach. She tells you to go ahead and pay for your stuff at the counter as she waits for her freshly made vegan wrap.
You head over to one of the counters, and you’re struggling to get your card out when you feel someone bump into you as you stand in line.
You look up to see Jamie Wrighton, the head running back of the football team and one of the best-ranked college football players in the nation at the moment.
“Sorry,” he smiles. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
He’s much taller than you thought, and standing next to his big body makes you a bit uneasy. Even covered in his heavy winter gear, his good-looks are apparent, and even you of all people can admit he’s cute. It’s no wonder every girl on campus is constantly on a mission to hit him square in the face with their underwear.
He also seems like a decent guy, and that’s saying a lot for someone on the football team. He’s definitely outgoing, a classic people’s person, and he certainly seems to be a lot friendlier and grounded in reality than most of his teammates.
You wish you could be even half as outgoing as he is, but you guess you can dream.
You shake your head at his apology. “It’s okay,” you simply offer. You turn your attention back to the line in front of you without another word, slight discomfort etching its way into your body at his closeness.
“You’re Ramona Gallo, right?” you hear him ask, his voice a deep rumble in his chest.
You turn back to face him again, a bit surprised that he knows your name.
“Yeah,” you confirm with a bit of suspicion.
He nods. “I thought so. I was at the Mushroom with a few buddies on Saturday and I saw you perform there. You have a beautiful voice.”
You feel yourself blush slightly at the compliment. Your ego can certainly use the flattery right now, even if it’s just generic praise from a sweet-talking ladies’ man.
“Thank you,” you smile back.
He continues to look at you, still maintaining his friendly smile. You hold his stare for a few seconds too long, and are grateful when you hear the girl at the counter ask for the next in line.
Any other girl—any normal college girl—would see this as an awesome opportunity to exchange phone numbers with a star athlete, but not you. Besides, even if you were looking for casual sex, you wouldn’t go for a football player who’s younger than you.
You pay for your items quickly and head back over to Bill without looking back at Jamie.