Monday, March 26, 2012

Murphy and Me XXXXV

[I...I have no words for this. I'm actually almost in tears at this point. This is the last chapter of the first draft of Murphy and Me: Sophomore Fall. Thank you so much for sticking with me in what went from a smartass beginning to make my sister snort a banana through her nose to a full semester's worth of a love story between a science geek soccer player and a history buff football boy. Thank you.]

I stood on my tiptoes, balanced by Murph's hands on my hips to kiss him goodbye. The Honda was packed, Liam in the driver seat with Dev talking to him through the open window, the pair of them graciously giving us as much privacy as we could get in a public parking lot.

"You'll do fine tonight," Murph said, one hand coming up to cradle my face.

"Thanks." I looked over at the Honda. It wasn't fair to hold Liam up much longer. Not with such a ride ahead of them. Leaned up and kissed the underside of Murph's jaw, discovering he hadn't shaved when he'd gone back down the fishbowl. "Love you."

"Love you, too, Ollie." He gave me one last rib-breaking hug and a kiss, and headed for the passenger side of the Honda, bumping Dev's fist as he came around the trunk.

Dev and I stood on the sidewalk to watch the Honda pull out toward St. Claire, the twins waving from their respective sides of the vehicle. Dev gave me a short, one-armed hug before we headed back inside, him to pack and me to study for physics.

And to look up exactly how long winter was, almost down to the minute.

Physics was a train wreck. Not a HAZMAT-size train wreck, but more than train meets car kind of deal. I'd somehow pulled it out though, managing two C's - orgo and physics - an A- in acting, and pulled a B+ out of a random body orifice for T-S Britain. My GPA wasn't the greatest, but it would work, and there were more requirements for my degree done, which was kind of the point. And once grades came out - about a day before Christmas, which was about the best present ever - it felt like I could breathe properly again. Which was a welcome feeling.

Christmas passed in a bit of a blur. We had a full house, as usual - even the ones from Michigan this year - and the sheer amount of food was almost unreal. I could practically see Murph's eyes bug out of his head when I told him we'd had thirty-five people in the kitchen and, even more wondrous, was the fact we'd managed to eat at the same time and not in shifts. El had wanted to know about "Morephy" and my heart nearly burst, simply for the fact she remembered him.

A few days after New Year's the restlessness set in. Not so much to see Murph - he'd convinced me to sign up for Skype, and we had less-than-romantic, slightly awkward internet dates at least once a week - but to be busy again. In short, I was ready for the fresh start a new semester brought and more than ready to go back to class. That's just how I was.

As for being home and in my own bed, there were some nights when it felt too small. It was hard not to try to imagine a larger, furnace-warm body curled behind me, one huge hand splayed open against my belly. The way he'd snuffle in his sleep sometimes, other times murmur words - English or Gaelic, they were usually too low and garbled to tell exactly which language - into the back of my neck. The way good morning was said with a hug, a shift of a leg between mine, and the trail of kisses along the top-most knobs of my spine. Sometimes beard stubble, too, when he hadn't shaved in a while.

All of it was Murph, his presence, his comfortable-ness, and his love. And it was mine.

And it was good.


I jerked further awake, rolling over to stare at the stars on the ceiling. Sounded an awful lot like dad.


What did he want at - good Lord - eight-ten in the morning? "Yeah?" I shouted back, not inclined to get out of the warmth yet.

"Olivia Mae!"

Damn it. I rolled - literally - out of bed and jogged down the hall toward the stairs. Dad was at the bottom, looking at me with an expression of absolute grief that made my lungs forget to function for a second. "Dad?"

In this instance I saw my father - the strongest, most collected man I know - do something I hope to never see again.


"Dad?" It was barely more than whisper, and about the only volume I could manage at the moment.

He rubbed a hand over his mouth. "Harris died."

My knees gave out and I slid to the floor at the top of the stairs, head resting against the wall with a thump with my knuckles against my mouth, not sure whether to sob or puke.

Harris, my grandfather in all but blood, was dead. It was then the tears came.

Murphy and Me XXXXIV

[This is the second to last chapter in Murphy and Me: Sophomore Fall. But don't worry, because after the fall semester comes the spring semester. Happy Monday.]

I keep swearing every time a big paper comes up I won't do this. It's not fun. It does nothing for my blood pressure and my brain melts right around two-thirty, three o'clock. These don't get any easier. Might actually get harder, come to think of it.

Which is why all-nighters aren't good for the human body. Which was why I was not totally coherent.

Which was mostly why I was falling asleep in my omelet in Saga the second day of finals. My T-S Britain paper was due at eleven, and Em and I had handed ours in at ten-thirty after starting them at six the previous night. Not a moment of brilliance on my part, and if there was a way to mainline coffee, I needed to do it. Preferably an hour ago.


Not a voice I recognized, first of all, and, to be frank, my outfit left a lot to be desired. Murph's flannel shirt, rolled up to the elbows, William Smith soccer sweatpants, the legs pushed up to my knees, and my beaten New Balance sneakers. A hot mess, that was me.

I looked up, blinking hard to get the fuzziness out of my eyes.


I was not awake enough for this shit. That much I knew.

"Hi." She looked like she hadn't just ripped an all-nighter - more like she'd come from the gym, with all her carefully applied makeup still intact - and she sat delicately across from me.

My appetite promptly fled. "Morning."

"Yeah." Manda shifted. "So, you're Murphy's new girlfriend?"

If she meant "new" as in "together officially for four months" then yeah, I was the new girlfriend. "Kinda, okay, yeah." Really hope that made some sort of sense.

"Well, there's some things you should know." She shifted again.

What happened next was more...verbal vomiting from a sleep-deprived brain that did not want to deal with this shit. Not now. Not ever.

"Wait a second."

Manda looked at me - actually looked at me for the first time - and froze.

"If you're going to sit there and tell me secrets - dirty secrets about Murph, then I don't want to hear them. Not from you." That damn Boyd temper was rearing its ugly head. "Any secrets," I said, calmly gathering my things, "about Murphy I plan to learn from Murphy when Murphy is ready to tell me." Didn't care she had to look up at me. "I have no desire to hear anything you might have to tell me about Murphy. Good luck with your finals."

And I walked away. That was a moment of brilliance.

Packing was a good way to procrastinate on studying for physics. While listening to music, of course. My orgo exam had been more of a train wreck than originally thought and the act of decompressing from that was more to let my brain solidify again by random action than anything else.

The little black flip phone buzzed against the bed frame.

you upstairs? from Liam, of all people. He must have been visiting his brother. I sent back an affirmative and seconds later - which told me he'd been standing outside the door - he was knocking. A quick trip to open said door, then around the piles on the floor to turn the music down.

Liam must have figured the only safe place to stand was leaning against the door. "So...You walked out on Manda."

I moved a pile of sweatshirts and sank into the moon chair. "Yeah. Guess I did." To be honest, that whole exchange had a funny, almost out-of-body feel to it. More like I watched it happen than actually did it.

"Thank you."

Again, not what I was expecting.

Liam opened and closed his mouth a few times before he found the right words. "When Murphy was with Manda he...He wasn't happy at times. Downright miserable, really. And when you're the older sibling - by a whopping minute and forty-five seconds - you want your younger sibling to be happy." He put his hands in his pockets. "I haven't seen my brother this relaxed in a long time and he's content with you in a way he never was with Manda."

I clutched the pile of sweatshirts tighter, not sure what to say.

"I don't know," he said, "if I were in your position, if I would have walked away. I really don't. And to do that took a lot and, just...Thank you for having such faith in my brother."

Liam was open and raw in a way that was almost shocking in its intensity. It made me wonder what exactly Manda had done to him, and why anyone would ever want to hurt Murph in any capacity, but especially on this level.

"You would've," I said. "You would've walked away."

He shrugged. "I don't know. I don't have a solid answer for that."

Just because he wasn't sure didn't make me the better person. Did it?

"You're good for him," Liam said. "And thank you for that." He smiled softly. "And he is going to be unbearable for the majority of winter break."

I blinked. "He won't be that bad."

Liam outright chuckled at that. "Oh, yeah, he'll be fine for the first two weeks and then he'll be bear to live with." He brought one hand out of his pocket to swipe at his nose. "But you're good for him." He fumbled for the door handle.

"He's good for me, too." Not sure if he heard me, but he smiled one last time and left almost as quietly as he'd arrived. I sat in the chair, still clutching the pile of sweatshirts, and trying to put my newly melted brain back together again.

It really helped to put perspective on things. What perspective on what things was a little vague, but at the end of it all it boiled down to being with someone - loving someone - and being loved in the capacity Murph and I had found in each other. This was probably one of those cases where the head had problems reasoning through what the heart could understand instinctively.

It was more than slightly confusing when a critical examination was attempted. Better to just go with it, no questions asked.

There was another knock on the door. No point in me getting up to sit back down. "Yeah, it's open."

Murph slipped in and had no qualms about navigating the piles to sit on the only space on the bed not covered in physics material. "Hi."

"Hi." Now I was not only procrastinating at studying but also procrastinating at packing. But Murph was always a welcome distraction.

"So, Liam's done tomorrow at eleven and then we're packing the car and heading home."

"I have the seven to ten tomorrow."

"Shit." Murph scratched at the slight stubble he had going. "You'll be around in the morning?"

"Yeah." My room was a mess but he'd probably seen worse. "You wanna stay tonight? Up here?"

He hesitated, glancing at the open physics book. "You have an exam tomorrow."

"Tomorrow night." There was this almost tangible I sleep better when you're next to me that we both acknowledged but didn't verbalize. "I have all day to study for physics."

"Like you've done so far?" He smirked.

"Funny." Smiled anyway. "But really. Stay, please?"

He looked at me, then looked down, then finally back at me. "If you're sure."

"I'm sure." No hesitation on my part. There probably never would be, either.

Murph looked at my clock. It was late. "You want me to go grab some pajamas?"

"Yeah. I'll stuff all this stuff...Somewhere." Have I mentioned my hatred for packing? I asked Murph as much. He grinned. I scrubbed my hands over my face and mumbled, "I need to go to bed."

"I'll be right back."

The door swung shut behind him and left me there staring at the piles of stuff on the floor and wondering how I was going to get all of it home. Then again, did it all need to go home in the first place? Regardless, it went into the hamper and the hamper - now bulging - sat by the closet.

A pair of soccer shorts and a tank with a built-in bra were pajamas, and I was tugging the hair tie from my curls when Murph came back in, dropped both warm hands to my hips and tipped his forehead all the way down onto my bare shoulder.

Neither of us needed to say anything. The how long is winter break and I'm going to miss you was clearly there. But that was going to be then. We wanted to stay in the here and now for as long as possible. Here and now in this corner single with Murph and Ollie and nobody else, not even in memory.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rust Bucket

My legs hurt, but I feel better than I have in a long time. I'm going to need to spend time - preferably while I read a hundred and something pages of Lear tonight - with my legs upright against a wall to drain the lactic acid from slightly abused muscles. My ass hurts. I've drank more water in the past two hours than I have all day.

I blame - and thank - all of this on my pal, Rust Bucket.

Let me back up before you guys think I'm more nutzo than normal. Remember all those commercials New Balance put out about people getting back together with running? How it shouldn't be difficult to have a relationship with running, and that getting it back is a good thing? Well, I don't have a relationship with running. I have one with Rust Bucket.

Rust Bucket is my bicycle, appropriately named because the thing is a bit old. I mean a good ten or eleven years, and we got him fairly new - maybe a year or two old - at a yard sale one summer when I was in middle school. So RB has been with me a while and of course made the move to college. He's a sturdy little shit, despite the startling amount of iron oxide (rust) on him, and he and I have gone on many an adventure, both here at college and at home.

RB and I haven't gone for a ride in the past four months. It's been the middle of winter; the tires needed some air (and actually wound up getting replaced yesterday), but none of that seemed to matter because rather than doing this damn formal lab report on Co(III) complexes, we took advantage of the nice weather and went for a 7.8 mile ride.

Yeah. My lower body is going to hate me in the morning.

For as much pain as rolling out of bed is going to be tomorrow, it was worth it. Really worth it. It feels really good to have gone for a ride.

Though maybe next time we'll start a little smaller.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Murphy and Me XXXXIV

[College. 'Nough said.]

Dinner Friday (12/11)
December 7, 2009 10:30 AM

In celebration of a successful sophomore fall, I thought we could have dinner at my house - something easy, like pasta - and just hang out.
Of course if you have other plans, that's cool, but it was really fun to watch movies with you guys - and girls - but taking you all out to Parker's might break the bank, but we could, if you want to. But maybe movie at my house as Ollie's room is a small and Murph and Dev's isn't much bigger.
So - dinner at my house or out somewhere? And the movie or whatever we're doing after. Or you could all eat and then abandon me, too.
I'm okay with whatever, as Todd and Charlie - my housemates - are going downtown that night.
Just let me know.

Amazing. Colby had the ability to ramble in an email.

RE: Dinner Friday (12/11)
December 7, 2009 11:15 AM

I think all of us cooking would be fun. Something like lasagna maybe?
Ollie Karizslowski
WS '12

RE: Dinner Friday (12/11)
December 7, 2009 11:20 AM

Is this what you were typin' in the library? I thought it was your English paper.
Lasagna sounds good. Bread too?
Murphy R. MacRiley
Hobart 2012

RE: Dinner Friday (12/11)
December 7, 2009 11:22 AM

My brother the carb junkie.
Dev - can you bring apples to apples?

RE: Dinner Friday (12/11)
December 7, 2009 11:25 AM

I see everybody knows how to use Reply All. Lasagna, bread, salad. Golden.

RE: Dinner Friday (12/11)
December 7, 2009 11:37 AM

How the hell do you get Sasha from Alexandra?

RE: Dinner Friday (12/11)
December 7, 2009 11:39 AM


RE: Dinner Friday (12/11)
December 7, 2009 11:50 AM

Hi again
Murph just reminded me - shindig starts at 5:30 (to start cooking). Tunes will be provided.
See you all then.
P.S. - Here's how to get to my house - 4th house on the left on Pulteney Street, other side of 5&20

Dinner at Colby's
December 9, 2009 12:24 PM

Hey guys,
If you're coming to dinner, maybe bring a few bucks to chip in? Colb's gone grocery shopping out of pocket.
See you Friday!

RE: Dinner at Colby's
December 9, 2009 12:45 PM

Of course.
Ollie Karizslowski
WS '12

RE: Dinner at Colby's
December 9, 2009 12:55 PM

No shit.
-Liam and Murph

By the time Friday hit three classes was almost three too many. Finally it was hallelujah time. First thing I did to celebrate was take a beautiful, nearly two hour nap. Made since, since yesterday's bedtime was actually two-thirty this morning.

Yeah. Nap time.

Once awake it was just glorious to lie there staring at the ceiling with Edgar looped under one arm. The ambient noise from the hallway filtered through the closed door. It was no only peaceful but relaxing, too. Can't remember the last time I was able to do this.

Someone knocked on the door.

"Yeah?" The door, hopefully, was open. No way in hell was I getting out of bed.

Murph's head and shoulders appeared around the now open door. "Did I wake you up?"

"Nope." Rolled over to curl on my side. "Whatcha doin'?"

"Comin' to see you." He came all the way in, the door shutting behind him. "You sure I didn't wake you up?"

"I'm sure." I scooted to put my back against the wall. "You don' anything at the moment?"

"That sounds like an invitation."

"You betcha." My boyfriend was no dummy.

Murph left his shoes by the closet and dropped his keys and wallet on the desk by my laptop before climbing into bed in jeans and a layered button down. He got settled, head on my pillow, and blinked.

"I was napping" Our legs tangled. "And then woke up and was just lying here." Shrugged. "It's warm."

He moved closer, resting a large hand on my side. "It's nice."

"Do you mind if Jo walks with us to Colby's?"

"Not at all." He inched a bit closer, tucking one leg between mine. Forgot how big his thighs were. "Liam's coming here after his last class."

"Sasha and Cara are meeting us at the bottom of St. Claire Street." Screw this shit - I tucked myself against Murph, plastering us together from chest to toes with his belt buckle digging into my hip. "Will you move your belt buckle?"

"Yeah, no problem." He reached between us, yanking on his belt, knuckles dragging against my belly. That odd feeling was back, a fluttering in my gut that scared me. That same arm came up, working under my head and the pillow. The other came around my side, sliding under my borrowed flannel shirt to splay open in the dip at the end of my spine.

Tit for tat, my own hand snuck under his button down to rest between his layers, halfway to his heart. He shifted minutely. Away from me.


He buried his face in my hair.

"If it hurts..."

"It doesn't hurt. It's just..." He readjusted us to better look me in the eye. My hand stayed where it was. Unless he got very uncomfortable, that is. I wasn't going to push this, though it was getting more obvious what the cause of his insecurity was.

"Your scars?" I said softly.

It was emergency surgery. It was bound to be messy. My own scars were fairly tiny and straight forward. Murph's probably not so much.

"Yes." He paused. "I'm a little sliced and diced down...there...." Color filled his cheeks.

I picked up what he was trying to get out, as that's where mine were. "Between your belly button and your..."

"Yeah." He was a shade of red only seen in a twenty-four count box of crayons. "They're huge."

"You had emergency surgery." My fingers found the dip in his shirt belonging to his belly button. "It was bound to be messy."

He flinched.

"Sorry," I muttered. "Have you seen the scar on my knee?"

"Which knee?"

"Left." The hand on my back ghosted down to the joint in question and I had to work very hard to stay very still as the area was rather ticklish. "Do you know how I got that?"


"I was in first grade and riding the bus. Not sitting up in the seat in the back and the driver stopped suddenly. The heater sliced through my leggings and into my knee. Started screaming. I couldn't stand the idea of stitches so they put a giant band aid on and sent me home." I leaned back to see him a little better. "Never had stitches until the dissolving ones they put in me both inside and out."

His hand slid up my leg to cup my thigh. Considering I was using compression shorts as pajamas, there was a lot of bare skin under his palm.

"Whe - When they're less red and raised," he said.

"Whenever you're ready, Murphy." And that was all there was to it. He'd be ready when he was ready. And he'd get the space he needed, too.

With some pulling, poking, and prodding, we found one of our most comfortable positions: Murph with his head tucked under my chin, one arm curled around my torso - which kept most of his weight cleverly on the mattress and not all on me - and me with a leg on either side of him, the fingers of one hand through his belt loop and the other still between his shirts.

Comfortable. Very comfortable.

"You're too good to me, you know that, right?" he murmured against my throat.

"Just returning the sentiment." That didn't sound quite right. "More than that, you know. Right?"

"I know."

We stayed like that for almost an hour, talking casually and occasionally stroking patches of skin - within reason - and generally just...There's not really any good way to describe it other than we were still getting to know each other and doing a fine job of it so far. Murph and I didn't know everything about each other - which we shouldn't, not this soon - and there was the notion we wouldn't know everything. My parents have been married for thirty-four years and they're still learning about each other in some ways.

Murph and I had only been doing this boyfriend-girlfriend thing for going on four months. Definitely not long enough to know everything about my partner.

It was nice, trading memories with Murph. Sharing bits of childhood.

Around quarter to five the room started to get nighttime dark and we separated, mostly because I needed to change into actual clothes. Jeans, my favorite red-striped collared shirt with a long-sleeved tee under it, and Timberland boots, as it hadn't stopped snowing all week. Mis-matched outwear on and then it was out the door. Jo sat in the beaten armchair; Murph leaned against the table.

We had to collect Dev and Liam from the third floor fishbowl, wait while Murph got his coat, and then went thudding down the stairs. It was a dark, snowy walk to St. Claire and Pulteney. Sasha and Cara were waiting by the trolley stop.

"Hey." Sasha had her arm looped through Cara's and we were a rather motley group walking down the street.


Murph tangled his gloved fingers with mine, tucking them into his left coat pocket. As it didn't make walking awkward - and kept my hand warm - it was fine by me.

"I am so glad to be done," Dev said. "No more freakin' spreadsheets." He nudged Liam. "Until when? Thursday?"

"Wednesday morning." Liam shrugged. "I'm not worrying about it until Tuesday."

"That's the spirit," Sasha remarked.

We chuckled all the way down to five and twenty. A snowplow went through. The streetlights were a little more spotty on this block, but we were only going four houses down. The tree out front was oddly familiar from mine and Murph's first ER trip when he'd been hit over the head with a picture frame. The seven of us crowded up on Colby's small porch and rang the doorbell multiple times like little kids.

Before Liam turned the knob and we barged in like hooligans, at any rate.

Colby's head appeared in the kitchen doorway. "Hey."

Coats went on the peg, shoes on the mat, and we traipsed into the kitchen. Boxes of pasta, jars of sauce, and what looked like two pounds of mozzarella sat ready and waiting.

"You can eat this, right?" Colby asked, handing me a box.

"Yup. You did good."

His eyebrows hit his hairline. "I'd hold off on that until after we actually eat."

"You got a backup plan?" Dev asked.

"Yeah, it's called ordering pizza." Colby began rummaging for appropriate pots and pans. With some direction as to where things might be, we split into teams - which wound up being Hobart on one side of the kitchen and William Smith on the other - and began to make a sort of assembly line. Colby, Dev, and the twins took over the stove while we found something to actually bake the stuff in.

Jo held up a nine-by-thirteen. "You think?"

Sasha and I looked at each other.

"It should." Sasha glanced at Cara. "Cara?"

Cara gave us all a how the hell would I know? look and, in the end, we ran with it.

Someone had put Murph in charge of getting the cooked noodles out of the water, and he did a decent job - until about halfway through none of them came out in one piece.

Two stuffed pans later and there were still some doubts. Namely whether it was going to overflow. We put them in the oven anyway - at the same time - and cleaned up our prep mess before retreating to the living room, Liam setting a timer on his phone. Dev dug out a pack of regular cards and we settled in for a rather raucous game of bullshit.

Colby had no poker face. Jo had a keen sense for bullshit, and Dev and I had at least half the deck between us. Murph was down to three cards, Liam only one, and Cara laid down what she had left with a smug, "Two fives."

"Bullshit," Sasha, Jo, and Colby said together. Colby turned over the cards in question and winced.

Liam rubbed at his eyes, sniffing. "It smells like smoke."

Cards went everywhere; Colby nearly ran his head into the wall trying to get to his feet and the kitchen at the same time; the smoke alarm went off with a banshee-like peal, and nobody really moved until Colby yelled for someone to get the fire extinguisher. We couldn't move fast enough then. Liam was the first into the kitchen, grabbing said fire extinguisher from where it hung on the wall and dear Lord, those were actual flames. Lasagna-induced flames.

I threw the door to the back porch open as well as the window over the sink, hoping to move some of the smoke out and still marveling over the fact Liam knew what he was doing.

Sasha, Cara, and Jo crowded in the doorway, a stiff December breeze blowing from one end of the house to the other.

Colby took the fire extinguisher from Liam and leaved heavily against the counter.

"So," Dev said as Liam's alarm tone - the Star Wars theme - played for the timer. "Mark's or Dominoes?"

"Liam," Sasha asked, "where did you learn to use a fire extinguisher?"

The twin in question paused, slice of pizza halfway to his mouth. We'd managed to clean up the disaster in the kitchen - including scrubbing the inside of the oven as much as possible - and now sat in the living room, pizza boxes on the coffee table.

It was an innocent question, to be honest, one most of us were probably curious about.

"Our Da taught us," Liam said, setting his pizza slice back on his plate. "When Murph and I were in middle school, we'd go to Da's studio after school. The forge is always lit there, for the glass, and Da wanted to make sure in case somethin' happened we knew how to use the fire extinguisher." He took a bite of pizza, finally.

"So one night before Ma got home, Da took us out to the backyard with one of the studio's fire extinguishers," Murph said, picking up where his brother left off. "And started a small fire there for us to get practice."

"How old were you?" Jo asked.

Murph had to think about that for a second. "Ten. I think."

It was my turn for a question, this time for Colby. "Why is there a fire extinguisher in your kitchen?"

Colby swapped one of the empty pizza boxes for the dessert pizza, ripping open one of the vanilla icing tubes and handing it to Jo.

"Well," he said, "our landlord used to live here. And ex-wife number three used to like to bake. After he lost the second oven, he invested in a fire extinguisher."

"When did your landlord tell you this?" Cara was appropriately skeptical.

"We have him over for dinner a couple times a month." Colby shrugged. "He wonders why he hasn't gotten notification from the police and stops by to make sure we're still breathing. Compared to other houses, we don't cause much trouble."

"Except for that one time," Dev put in; Murph blushed.

Colby shot his friend and teammate a glare. "Except for that."

"What happened?" Cara and Jo asked almost in unison.

"Dev tried to be a gentleman and Murph took a picture frame to the back of the head," Liam deadpanned, giving both Devan and his twin a stink-eye El would be proud of.

"Anyway," I said, snagging a piece of dessert pizza as it went by and accepting the icing from Murph. "Which final are you dreading?"

"Sociology, oddly enough," Dev said.

"Economics," Liam reached for Dev's backpack, presumably to grab Apples to Apples.

"Shakespeare Comedies," from Sasha.

"Chem," was Jo.

"Calculus." Murph turned pink as we all stared.

"Calc?" No idea my boyfriend had been taking math. "Goal?"

"Yup." He looked at Colby. "Colb?"

"Poly Sci."

"Physics." That was me.

Liam broke open Apples to Apples and started handing out cards. First green card was comfortable. My opening hand sucked and I tossed a card purely for the fact it was required of me.

Liam was equally impressed by the selected answers. "Canada? The Gulf War? Hot Lava? Big Foot?" He glanced around the circle. "Did any of you even read the description on the card?"

Cara shrugged. "Who says we read?"

Jo nudged my side. "When was the last time you read your physics textbook?"

"Yesterday night," I said immediately, not looking up.

"More than the homework problems pages," she clarified.

Damn it. "September." No ashamed. Not at all.

We all got a good chuckle out of that. I'm not entirely sure how long we played cards, generally shot the shit, and decompressed from a semester that had never seemed to end, but the next time check anybody did revealed it was half past ten.

That and the return of a slightly tipsy Todd and Charlie - Colby's housemates - had us pulling on coats. Murph stayed to help clean up, and I naturally lingered, too, putting pizza boxes in the trash. Which is when, in the process of trying to leave the kitchen in the same condition we'd found it, we discovered the bags of lettuce mix originally bought for salad. Colby sighed, grumbling about making space in the fridge.

"Dude," Todd said, hanging onto the kitchen door frame like it was the only thing holding him up, "should we get Joe's Hots delivery or walk?" He looked at me, then looked me up and down. Awkward as hell, considering Murph was in the room. "Hi."

"Hi," I said quietly, not entirely sure what to do.

Murph must have the ears of a damn bat, and he made sure to take the long way to the fridge, calmly not breaking eye contact - no glaring - to slide his hand along from hip to hip across my belly and press a kiss to my cheek, bag of lettuce in his other hand.

Todd promptly disappeared into the living room, calling out, "Chuckie! We're walkin'! Let's go!"

Murph cast one more glance at the door and handed the lettuce to a slightly bewildered Colby.

"Did I miss something?" he asked, closing the fridge.

I looked at Murph, who looked at me, and I shrugged as Murph said, calm as ever, "Nope."

Colby wisely left it at that.

It was still snowing when Murph and I left the house and started the walk back toward Campus. The world had a snow silence to it - everything blanketed. Muffled. There weren't any cars out. Not a whole lot - if any, and I couldn't hear them - college kids either.

Five and twenty was untouched. Covered in a layer of snow - about four inches, from the feel - it was deserted. Not even a snowplow had been through recently.

We didn't wait for the walk sign. In the middle of the four-lane, Murph spun me around gently.

"Hold up," he said, and we stood there alone in the middle of the silent winter night approximately over the yellow center line.

Maybe I should have felt it. But it's not like the world shifted. Or maybe it did. There was this look in his eye, the same look he'd worn in the Pub back in September.

His bare hands framed my face as he leaned down. "I love you," he ghosted over my lips, the corners of his mouth twitching upward. The words seemed to echo oddly. I huffed out a small laugh with a jumble of emotions behind it.

He chuckled, grinning. "I love you." The kiss was short and sweet, almost chaste. He took a deep breath, hands still framing my face.

If time hadn't seemed to stop before now it slowed considerably in this moment. His thumbs brushed over my cheekbones. "Ta me chomh mor sin i ngra leat," he said, slowly and carefully. "I love you so much."

My only response was to gently take his hands in mine, extend onto my toes to be cheek to cheek with him, and gleefully whisper, "Every day I love you more and more."
"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz