"Hey Emily," said a smooth and familiar voice.
Emily's eyes looked up from her copy of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood which she was reading. There, perched on the bus seat in front of her, was a classmate. Dread gripped her by the calves as she recognized him. Suddenly, her contact lenses felt uncomfortably present.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to startle you. I'm just happy to see a face I know. Nervous right now. On my way to a date."
"Oh, me too," she told him, though she didn't mean to. Though she was nervous, a classmate's face was the last thing she wanted to see until Monday morning. "You didn't see me here."
"Gotcha. I hardly did anyways. I uh-uhm... I didn't recognize you without make-up," he said, though he had never seen her hair with so much volume.
"Neither did I," Emily admitted. "Trying something new."
He smiled. The silver piercing on his lower lip glistened like a drop of mercury dribbling out of his mouth, and that amused her. "So, we're hanging out tonight?"
She raised her thin, blond eyebrows, "We are? I mean, yes, we are, at this very moment. But once we get off this bus..."
"I have a triple date," he told her. "And I bet you're the Emily we're expecting."
For a moment, Emily gaped. Then she spoke, "I am, but I didn't know. I thought I'd be the only high schooler there, even though I am on my victory lap."
"Is she why, for the record, I didn't see you tonight?"
Emily pursed her lips. "Yes, Diego. My closet door creaks." A bookmark slipped gently into place, and she closed The Handmaid's Tale.
He nodded, "I'll respect that. I've been there."
A pink, tight-lipped smile passed across Emily's face and up into her eyes. Her legs shifted and then relaxed.
"How long have you two been seeing each other?" he asked, while admiring the three coloured streaks in her hair of blue, indigo and purple; he recognized them as being symbolic of bisexuality.
"A month and a half," said Emily. "I really like her. It's refreshing, and... well, I didn't expect it would work this well, y'know, being my first. What about you and, uhmm... which one of the boys?"
"James," said Diego, unsure of who the other two guys were, though he knew one of them was James's roommate.
"Oh, I see... you're dating my ex-boyfriend," Emily said simply.
Diego's head leaned back against his neck in surprise, eyebrows raised.
Emily looked down at the cover of her book. A young lady's lips, sewn shut.
"You poor thing," said Diego. "I heard about that a little. He didn't name you. But I did hear a little. That was tough for both of you. I wouldn't wish a relationship like that on anybody."
She shook her head, "It doesn't matter. It wasn't a relationship. Not to him."
"If he could come to love a woman like he's able to love a man, I'm sure you two would've been something great," proclaimed Diego.
"Just like Sam & Quinn," said Diego.
"Uhmm... what?" Emily was confused.
"She is blond, but I guess she's not bi," he commented.
The bus pulled onto York boulevard.
"What are you talking about, Dee?"
Diego shook his head, as if dazed. "Sorry, I was talking about Glee. I mean, if Sam Evans is really slated to become Kurt's boyfriend, as he was originally cast to be, then Quinn is in for a rough ride in her relationship with him."
"Didn't they cast Darren Criss as Blaine, a gay transfer student who will be Kurt's boyfriend?"
Diego looked crestfallen at the mention of this. "I hope that's just Ryan Murphy trying to get us to look the other way while he pulls a fast one. I think Sam's still good, they just want to put the cat back in the bag. Blaine is apparently only gonna be good for an unsatisfying, non-romantic benefriendship."
"That's gay," said Emily, bracing herself and tucking her book into her bag as the bus pulled to a stop in the Harry W. Arthurs Commons bussing area of York University.
"I know. It really is. Unfortunately," admitted Diego, as he pulled himself to his feet.
"James isn't like that," she reminded him, as she led him to the open door to exit.
He smiled at that. "Oh, I know."
"How long have you two been an item?"
"Two and a half weeks," he recalled.
She stepped gracefully out of the bus.
He followed after her.
"Let me guess," said Emily. "He hasn't done any more than kissed you once or twice in those two and a half weeks."
Diego nodded, remembering how sensuously intoxicating all three kisses were.
"Pace is very important to him," Emily stated. "He will sleep with you several times before he actually sleeps with you."
Diego chuckled, the laughter escaping in a cloud of warm breath in the crisp, wintry air.
They began to walk in opposite directions, snow falling gently around them. He turned around.
Their eyes met.
She smiled, scarf cuddled against her neck.
"I'll see you at nine-thirty, then," said Diego.
Emily nodded. "Later, Dee." And then she looked at her watch. It was 8:52 PM. She was vaguely familiar with York University campus, but definitely knew where she was. As she walked further away from the street, Vari Hall towered over her with its name in big gold letters. She found her way into a sheltered walkway and headed north along the western edge of the open square of Harry Arthurs Commons, which was laced with bus stops.
Her cellphone jumped in her pocket with a loyal vibration calling out for attention. She reached for it, and raised Katrina's frantic voice to her ear.
"She's brought him home! As in, to her house, Emily!"
"What!? Why would she do that?" Emily was shocked, knowing that Katrina and Alexis were having a 'Girl's Night' sleep-over with a chick flick this Friday night.
"I don't know! It's like her plans with me are out the window. Which is exactly where I'm standing, on the snow in her backyard to get a good look inside. My bag and my purse, even my house keys, are in there beside them. They're making out on the couch!"
"You're kidding," accused Emily, as she passed through a walkway between the Student Centre, which smelled like fast food and coffee, and the Behavioural Science building. "How intensely?"
"Tongue to tongue, mouth to neck, hands in many places..."
"Alexis? On a first date?!"
"What do I do, Em?"
"I'm worried, Katrina, but I'm in no place to be of any help. I don't mean to shrug this off, but seriously... call Veronica or Virginia. I mean it. I want to help, but I can't," Emily told her, as she turned west and set foot down the Campus Walk.
"You're right. I'm sorry. I just can't think straight right now."
"Me neither," admitted Emily, knowing that any minute she would be in the arms of another in the middle of a crowded pedestrian walkway, flanked on either side by massive lecture halls and study complexes, while students returned from evening classes.
"Where are you, anyways?" asked Katrina.
"Good luck," wished Emily. "Your connection is breaking up, I better let you go. Goodnight, Katrina." She hung up on her friend, a lie fresh from her chapped lips.
Snow landed gently on her nose. And she caught sight of a bench under a lamp post where she'd been kissed. And looking on, down the Campus Walk, she saw nobody she knew. Walking on, she continued towards the Calumet Residence at the far end of the Campus Walk. And then, reaching for her phone, she typed in an eager text in hopes of being met halfway with a warm hug.