I have about three hours until my appointment with Doctor Templin, and since Trixie doesn’t have class for another hour, we decide to get some breakfast before either one of us passes out from starvation.
She calls Bill and has him meet us over at the Overground, the largest eatery on west campus. Bill lets us know that he’s already there by the time we arrive, with seats saved for both of us.
He’s undeniably punctual for everything, even something as informal and trivial as getting food. While I 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 our favor right now.
Several bright yellow signs are randomly scattered across the hall, cautioning everyone that it’s slippery and to be careful. I 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, my appetite evades me. I can almost actually feel it leaving my body. If being at the clinic earlier hadn’t already made me 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, I 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.
I tug at Trixie’s elbow to get her attention. “There he is,” I say, pointing over to where Bill is seated. We make our way over to him with a bit of difficulty, trying to not get knocked over as we 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.
I completely agree, but I don’t say anything. My mind is still preoccupied with worry. I’m worried about what this Doctor Templin guy might potentially find. I’m worried that I don’t have health coverage in case it is serious, and that I can’t afford to be sick on any level right now. The Koplan performance is two weeks away, and I don’t have the money to deal with this.
Aside from my grandmother, singing is all I have left. It’s really the only thing I can rely on and call my own.
Without it, I’m…lost.
And whatever this thing is, it’s disrupting it. I simply cannot have that.
I try to breathe and think positively. It might be nothing. Maybe it’s all in my head. I’m probably freaking out for nothing.
I let out another frustrated sigh as I realize that I can’t seem to convince myself that things are truly okay. They’re not, and I can feel it my gut.
As we approach Bill, I 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 I don’t trust Bill or that I can’t confide in him. I’m just not comfortable with sharing a lot of my problems with people, even with Trixie at times. I’m not really sure why, especially since they’re fairly open with me 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 me and puts his hands up dramatically. “You see what I have to put up with every day?”
All I can do is chuckle and shake my head. I’ve known both of them for over a year now, but these two have been friends long before I 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 me 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 I know her as well as I think I do, Satan will go ice-skating in a bright pink tutu before she tells him how she feels about him. And I can understand why.
Potentially losing a great friendship over feelings that might be unrequited is an incredibly scary and awkward thought. Plus, I’m 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, I can only imagine how hard it must be for Trixie to see Bill with Gina practically all the time. My heart truly breaks for her every single time we 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. I can’t even begin to imagine the full extent of how horrible it must feel. I definitely wouldn’t want to be in her shoes.
But then again, that’s where Trixie and I are completely different. I’d cut Bill out of my life completely if being around him caused me that much pain, no matter how far back our friendship ran.
Heck, I’d cut him off the nanosecond I realized I was falling for him. But then again, I suppose Trixie isn’t dysfunctional. At least, not in the way that I am.
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.
I set my bag down and grab my wallet before we head over to the food dispensers. We shuffle around, looking at the array of choices as we decide on what to get. I don’t even know why I’m bothering. I’ve lost most of my appetite and the food here is expensive. I consider just skipping breakfast altogether, but Trixie won’t let me.
She’s like a second mom, insisting I get something, especially since I’ll be heading to the surgical center later. A shiver creeps up on me, and I try not to think about having to go there.
I keep looking around some more, searching for something cheap. I 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 my stomach. She tells me to go ahead and pay for my stuff at the counter as she waits for her freshly made vegan wrap.
I head over to one of the counters, and I’m struggling to get my card out when I feel someone bump into me as I stand in line.
I 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 I thought, and standing next to his big body makes me a bit uneasy. Even covered in his heavy winter gear, his good-looks are apparent, and even I 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.
I wish I could be even half as outgoing as he is, but I guess we can all dream.
I shake my head at his apology. “It’s okay,” I simply offer. I turn my attention back to the line in front of me without another word, slight discomfort etching its way into my body at his closeness.
“You’re Ramona Gallo, right?” I hear him ask, his voice a deep rumble in his chest.
I turn back to face him again, a bit surprised that he knows my name.
“Yeah,” I 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.”
I feel myself blush slightly at the compliment. My ego can certainly use the flattery right now, even if it’s just generic praise from a sweet-talking ladies’ man.
“Thank you,” I smile back.
He continues to look at me, still maintaining his friendly smile. I hold his stare for a few seconds too long, and am grateful when I 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 me. Besides, even if I were looking for casual sex, I wouldn’t go for a football player who’s younger than me.
I pay for my items quickly and head back over to Bill without looking back at Jamie.