Michelle glanced up and smiled at Adam. "Hey you! Nice to see you again! How great to run into each other on the first day!"
Adam grinned back, "Yup. It's sure to be a good day now," he teased.
"It's a free world," Gavin had said.
Hazel ate her food and tried to make small talk. It turned out that they liked a lot of the same bands. "Maybe we can go together to check out the Lounge together alittle later."
Gavin had shrugged. "Sure, could be fun."
Wow! He was a hard guy to get to know. But, all the other people here looked stuck up, Hazel thought. She wanted someone wild and daring to go on adventures with.
One day, she'd invited her professor over to talk about her grades and she'd insinuated that she'd do anything for an A. He'd been livid and had lectured her about grades and responsibilities, then he had poked her and said that the only way she would get an A in his class was hard work and by showing up.
Hazel broke down crying right in front of him, feeling like a big fool and an even bigger loser. Sobbing, she ran into her room and cried into her pillow. Screw that class, she thought angrily. Who needed a good grade anyways.
It wasn't a surprise when she was put on academic probation in the middle of her sophmore year. The dean of the Lit department had called her into his office and handed her the probation forms that she needed to sign. She basically had to sign an agreement stating that she understood that if she didn't boost her grades up that she would be expelled.
"This isn't going to get sent to my Mother, is it?" Hazel asked.
The counselor gave her a knowing look. He'd seen his fair share of misbehaving kids. "It will not be sent to your Mother. But, may I offer you some advice?"
Hazel numbly nodded.
"Take this seriously or your Mother will find out after you've been expelled. You can't fake a diploma."
Now there's an idea, Hazel thought, faking a diploma. She'd have to look into that.
But sometimes, Adam got the feeling that she was holding something back that she didn't want to discuss with him. He assured himself that she would talk to him when she was ready.
Hazel kissed Gavin one more time and got off his lap. Laughing, he tried to grab her back down. Laughing and slapping his hands away, she said, "Quit it. I have to see who it is!"
Gavin sighed and let her go. "Fine. I'll be right here. Waiting."
Hazel stepped out the front door. "Walter! What are you doing here?" she asked, surprised. Then, glanced around for her Mother. "Is everything okay?"
Walter just glared. "No, everything is not okay. Mom's a mess. You're not answering her phone calls."
Now it was Walter's turn to hedge. He blew out his breath and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Actually, I'm not sure. Mom won't talk to me. But, she's been trying to get a hold of you every day."
Hazel's stomach knotted. Now she felt bad about ignoring the phone calls. But, really. Mother probably just wanted to criticize her about something.
Walter glanced at his watch. "I gotta go before she gets home. Call her!" he said as he started to run down the block. Then, turning around, he said, "Oh yeah. And Don's not living there anymore. I don't know what happened. If you find out... let me know!" Then, Walter took off again.
"I mean, if it was something important, why didn't she come see me?" she asked. "And why would she tell me Don was gone. He was such a creep."
Gavin just let her talk.
"I mean, I don't even know what I'm doing with my life anymore! I only wanted to get into music because it drove her nuts. So, what do I want to do?"
Gavin had leaned his head back against her and said, "Maybe it's time to stop trying to hide from yourself. Life's not about making your parents happy, it's about making yourself happy. Are you happy?"
Hazel hung her head. "No," she said miserably. "I can't ever remember being happy."
Gavin had turned around and chucked her under the chin. "Then it's time to start making you happy! Here's $50. Start it off with a new outfit!"
"You don't like my clothes?" Hazel gasped.
Gavin had wisely shut his lips and just glanced from side to side before tickle-attacking her.
Pretty soon, she'd turned her GPA around and was actually snagging a spot on the Dean's list. And for the first time in a long time, she was actually happy.
And whenever she noticed it, it always felt so alien to her. And she always wanted to run over to Gavin and hug him. But, Gavin had graduated and moved on. She'd always known they weren't meant to last, but he would always be her best friend.
She finally felt ready to face her Mother. Inviting her Mother over was one of the hardest things she'd ever done. She'd created a bubble at college and didn't know if she was ready to face the real world.
When her Mother finally arrived, Hazel was struck by how old she looked. It was like she'd aged overnight, not that Hazel was stupid enough to say anything.
"I know you..." he said. "It starts with an H... something funny... Hailey?"
"Away from you," Hazel snapped.
"Aw come on, stay a little while. It isn't very often I get to talk to such a gorgeous girl," Sean pleaded.
Hazel just kept walking.
"Think fast!" Sean said.
Laughing, Adam grabbed his pillow and started to hit back.
"Dang!" Sean joked. "This gets more dangerous the older you get! You really packed a punch behind that one! Have you been practicing?!"
Adam just laughed. "Oh yeah. Every night."
"Yeah. It wasn't easy, but I did it. I have a degree and the woman I love. And to think, you tried to get her first."
"Ha," Sean scoffed. "If I had tried to get her, I would've had her."
Adam's smile didn't reach his eyes. It was something he worried about sometimes. What if Michelle really wanted Sean instead of him and he was sort of like a consolation prize just because he was nearby.
"Aw, man. I was just joking," Sean said when he saw how upset his twin was. "She really loves you, I can tell."
Slapping Sean on the back, he grinned. "Yeah. I know. It's just a crazy time right now. Let's go save Michelle from Mom."
Grabbing it, she saw it said Alvin Potter in small, neat lettering across the front. Swallowing, she clutched it to her chest and breathed in deep. The pain hit her from out of nowhere. She thought she was over Alvin. Opening the book, she flipped through the pages, trailing her fingers down the words.