[I wrote this and then had a craving for a Wegman's cookie. If anybody wants to send one to me, that would be great.]
"Stay calm. You have an hour."
Pat tucked his hands into his yellow cardigan and rocked back on his heels.
Great. An hour to prove I couldn't do physics. Deep breath. Don't panic. I flipped the test over to the front and looked at the first question. Vectors. Vectors and force. I had a formula for that. I think.
Oh, I absolutely despise physics. Even if I was allowed a calculator and one side of a three by five notecard, covered in formulas. All of which was starting to look like a language other than English. Didn't really matter which, honestly, but holy hell this didn't make much sense.
And I had fifty-five more minutes to make it resemble something coherent. Just to answer the damn question, too. Why, exactly, was I a science major again? Because, for some odd reason, I enjoyed torturing myself. Mentally, at least. Did that classify me as a masochist?
Dear God, I was so going to fail miserably.
"Don't even friggin' ask because I do not want to talk about it," I snapped at Sasha as I sat heavily on my stool in the locker room. She looked at me blankly, waving away the other girls. Sasha knew how to deal with me in a snit - ignore me and give me something to use as an outlet.
Like soccer practice.
First day back to full contact and I was volatile as hell. I pitied whichever teammate I slide tackled first.
There was more than a hint of violence in the way I pulled on my socks; the way the electrical tape snapped like it couldn't handle the aggression after it wound around my shinguards.
Taking a shit day out on others wasn't right. Taking it out on a ball with black hexagons? Perfectly acceptable. Anything else could be classified as collateral damage.
"Have you seen Murph today?" Sasha asked when she knew I'd calmed down enough not to rip her head off.
"Nope." Focused on winding the laces under the flattened arch of my cleats, cinching them tightly. Did the same to the other and thumped my right heel against my brace. It wasn't fair of me, but I wanted my starting spot back with minimal effort.
Not likely to happen, but a girl could hope.
Sasha tried a few more times to get me to talk to her with limited success. By limited, I mean none. Simply not in the mood. She finally gave up as we headed toward the field, clacking along the floor in tight silence. We weren't supposed to wear spiked shoes inside. Our theory was that if the boys could do it, so could we.
That philosophy actually got us more flack than anything else, really.
Which always brought me back to a card I'd seen at CVS one time while looking for a birthday card for my sister. It very succinctly stated the obvious: We learned it all in kindergarten; Boys are stupid.
Considering our boys listened to techno, I'd be inclined to agree with that line of reasoning.
I needed another day like that much like I needed a hole in my head. Casey hadn't said who was starting Saturday as the other central defender now that I was back, and I could handle that. Would drive me nuts for the next day and a half, but I'd deal.
What might make me certifiable would be waiting for the results of my first physics test. After taking a few moments to look back at my notes while trying to unwind with Glee playing in the background, I could see it quite plainly scrawled across the top of my notebook. Congratulations, you're utterly useless at vectors and have failed. Do not pass physics 150, do not graduate. Little more significant than missing out on two hundred dollars by not passing go.
My phone rattled against the bed frame. I tipped sideways to lie curled on the comforter, fumbling for the power cord. There was a knock on he door.
"Open," I called, flipping open the little black box. Text from Sasha asking about my current mental health. Considering Murph had just made an appearance, it couldn't be all that bad.
"Hey." He shuffled his feet on the carpet before leaning down to kiss me.
"Hi." I'm no fairytale princess. Murph's presence didn't instantly make all my troubles go away. Didn't make me feel any more chipper or happier about my damn day. He helped, sure, but he wasn't a miracle cure.
No shit. "You could say that."
He leaned his hip against the mattress. "How'd the physics test go?"
I stiffened. "It didn't." Leave it alone, Murph. Please.
"Couldn't have been that bad." He took one look at the expression on my round face and flinched. "How do you think you did?"
Fact: Death glare is less potent on boyfriend than best friend.
"I think I failed." And really, putting the fear that had been bugging the shit out of me all day out into the open air? My chest felt lighter. Not by much, though. Just enough.
Enough to realize I'd been an absolute asshat to everyone I'd spoken to since the test. Including my bestie and, as of very recently, my boyfriend.
Murph moved to the foot of the bed, raised himself on his toes, and sat. Nudged off his shoes and swung himself around to put his back against the dresser and slip a leg under both of mine to rest my knees on his calf. "For what?"
I yanked one of my pillows from under my head to prop my chest on to look at him better. Faded blue jeans and a green plaid button-down, sleeves rolled to his elbows. He was a sharp contrast to my soccer shorts and over-sized long-sleeved shirt. Not that it mattered.
"I've been the world's biggest bitch since my physics test."
He shrugged. "Everyone's entitled to an off day."
I sat up, looping one of my legs around his and letting the left one dangle off the bed. "Yeah, but that doesn't mean I get to take it out on everyone I come across. Which I did. All damn day."
"She still speaking to you?"
The Sasha reference threw me a little. "Yeah."
"No problem, then."
Did he eat a bowl of stupid for breakfast today? "Uh, not the way it works."
Murph snorted. "Have you heard the saying that those that matter don't mind, and those that mind don't matter?"
It was a Facebook bumper sticker. Course I knew it. "Yeah."
"Apply it here, then," he snapped, rubbing distractedly at his forehead.
I sucked on the inside of my cheek. "What the hell happened that upset your apple cart?"
He flushed and looked over at my desk, Rachel belting it out in the background as we lapsed into a tight silence. "Had a shouting match with my brother."
Well. That'll do it. I'd had a few of those with my sister. Izzy has the ability to make me feel incredibly small with very little effort. I could only imagine the brutality that could happen between twins. Izzy and I used to hit a point where mom would just punt us into the backyard and tell us to fix it without a trip to the ER.
"I haven't told our parents yet," he said softly, head thunking sideways against the wall. "I mean, our dad knows, but Ma? I haven't told her yet." He looked at me helplessly and then away again. "And he let me know that wasn't fair to you. Wasn't fair to you and Ma, and told me to get my head out of my ass." He nudged my thigh with argyle-clad toes. "Also told me that if I was going to run around in your sweatshirt to at least change my status."
"We can fix that." My own conscience was gnawing at my belly.
I chewed my lower lip as I looked at him. He gave me a slightly hairy eyeball and then snorted. "You haven't told yours either, have you?"
"My mom knows. I haven't told my dad. Yet." I was going to tell him. Just maybe not in front of Murph so that whatever he said in response wouldn't embarrass the boy. Or me.
And I definitely wasn't going to tell Murph that my dad had been hunting for years and owned multiple shotguns. Not that he'd actually shoot my boyfriend...
He chuckled. "We're a pair, aren't we?"
That we were.
"How did your physics test really go?"
I fell back onto the mattress with a thump, glad for my flexibility. "It sucked. Plain and simple."
"Did they let you have anything?"
It was my turn to snort. "A calculator and one side of a three by five index card with whatever you could fit." Which wasn't much when you panicked and tried to squeeze everything in your notebook onto that tiny space.
Not the point, probably, though that was how I'd used it. I curled on my side, facing the computer, suddenly dying for a cookie with frosting.
"Wanna go to Wegman's?"
The comforter rustled. "Now?"
"Yeah." I rooted for my phone and clicked the side to light up the front screen. "It's only ten-fifteen."
"Liam has the car in Medbury."
Not that I think about it, I'm not entirely sure Murph knew I had a car. Of if he did, which hunk of metal in the parking lot was mine.
"I'll drive." Never mind that I looked more ready to go to bed than on an errand, barefoot and still somewhat grumpy. Didn't care, since I was going to wind up with a cookie.
"Alright." He untangled his legs and slid off the bed. I dismounted sloppily and pulled on the nearest sweatshirt before stuffing my feet into sneakers sans socks. Murph slipped on his own shoes - his dress ones - and followed me out the door once I'd grabbed both my Vera and the Brine lanyard. I had two sets of keys - my car keys, house key, and stuff like that, and the keys to my building and room.
We held hands on the way to the parking lot; I had to remember where I'd parked my Oldsmobile. Oh, look. Between an Audi and a new Honda. Fabulous.
"Murphy, meet Fred." Yes, I'd named my Oldsmobile. What of it?
Murph looked at me over the roof of the car, expression unreadable, and trying not to smile as I unlocked the doors. Fred was in a generous mood tonight, starting on the first try. Murph had some issues with the seat belt - everyone did - and reached for the radio as I backed out of the parking space.
Country flared immediately through the only functioning speaker on the passenger side.
I glanced at him as we sat at a stop sign waiting for a gaggle of girls to cross. Where the hell they were going on a Wednesday night was beyond me. "Yes?"
"No idea." He leaned back, stretching his legs out as best he could. He might have tried to look like country wasn't his thing, but I caught him bobbing his head to Rascal Flatt's Summer Nights and couldn't help but chuckle. He flicked my elbow where it rested on the middle console - as I have a habit of driving one handed - and I outright laughed.
"Only for you, Ol," he said as we pulled into the Wegman's parking lot. "Only for you will I listen to country."
It was natural for me to park my car, lock it, and sucker myself to Murph's side on the walk into the store. They'd already started setting out the Halloween stuff even though it was a couple of weeks until the big night.
We bee-lined for the cookies, and I untucked my hands from the sweatshirt cuffs to sort through what was left of the cookies-by-the-pound.
"Ladybug or butterfly?"
Murph mulled it over like I'd asked him to recite the English monarchs. He could do it, too, though he'd sometimes flip the Stuarts and Tudors on accident. I could easily do the equivalent with the periodic table.
"Butterfly," he said, looking over my shoulder in such a way as to have my back flush to his chest. Feeling anything but comfortable would have been a waste of time and energy. "Blue, please."
I handed the cookie over my shoulder and snagged one of the ladybugs with the hand he hadn't claimed, feeling a little lighter.
Every day wasn't always going to be rainbows and sunshine. Contrary to popular belief, life wasn't a Disney movie set to a Taylor Swift album. Things - like physics tests - happened. And I gave Murph credit as most people would have taken one look at the foul mood I'd been in and come back when I'd re-entered Earth's atmosphere and suitably mellowed out.
Murph, though? Murph was either fearless or stupid when it came to me. He could weather me. And there he went again, makin' my heart hurt because of it.
I was going to attempt to be a lady and wait until I got back to our building to inhale my cookie, and therefore almost missed Murph attempting to rip his fingers off on a locked door handle since I was more focused on other things.
Keys. Right. Concentrate.
Considering I wasn't wearing legit pants, rummaging through pockets I didn't have would be fairly stupid. They weren't in the kangaroo pocket, they weren't around my neck...
"Shit," I breathed, tossing my plastic-wrapped cookie onto the hood so I could cup my hands around my face to see in the window. There, barely visible in the yellow fluorescent light, was the Brine lanyard hanging from the ignition. "Um..."
"Tell me there's a spare key in your room."
"There's a spare key in my room." We looked at each other over the roof of the car. "Seriously, there is." And since he was looking appropriately skeptical. "Really."
He held his hands up, butterfly cooking dangling by its cellophane sleeve. "Okay. So do we walk or catch the trolley?"
A flash of green and gold by the traffic light at the other end of the parking lot - head-level with Murph - caught my eye. "That trolley?"
Murph didn't even turn around. Instead, he walked to the trunk and held out his arm in a very gentlemanly way with a flourish. "Shall we?"
I have a faux curtsy before I threaded my arm through his. "Let's."
We set off more like a two-man marching band than a romantic moonlight stroll. But that's more our style, anyway.