Mason sat in the corner of the Student Center with a cup of regular coffee and two week’s worth of reading to finish before his history mid-term tomorrow. He needed the constant distraction to stay focused. Silence never suited him. He abhorred libraries and he struggled with the silence of test taking. Sipping his coffee, he devoured page after page of his reading. Whenever he looked up and saw another student walking past him, it reminded him why he was sitting there in the first place. He was skimming pages to match the slant of the text book to the slant of the professor. It’s why he liked history, the facts seldom changed, only the interpretation of what they meant. Once he knew if this book thought the founding of America was an invasion by the oppressive white man or manifest destiny, he would be able to fill in the blanks from there. In two hours he covered a week’s worth of reading when a distraction arrived he couldn’t ignore.
“Ugh, American History,” Whitney groaned. “I have to take that next semester.”
“Here’s a hint, we still win the revolutionary war,” he said as he smiled at the petite nineteen year old from Northern Arkansas. Whitney smiled, tossed her now ginger colored hair over her shoulder and took a seat next to him at the table. “You look good as a redhead.”
“Thanks. It’s ginger. Red is next week. I have to keep going darker.” She inspected his cup. “That’s just coffee, isn’t it?”
“Hot and black, like my women,” Mason joked. He was as white as Whitney.
“Do you think I’m hot?” she asked. She played with her hair, blew a bubble with her gum and Mason struggled to remember she was nineteen. At twenty-eight years old, he was too young to feel old. Being surrounded by people in their late teens did that to him.
“In that innocent, I’m a rube from the country kind of way.”
“A rube?” Whitney objected.
“Better than calling you a hick from the sticks, ain’t it?” Mason said, letting his Southern Missouri roots show.
“Listen to you,” she said, smiling. “You think you’re all that and a cherry on top because you’re old.”
“You can be on top if you want.” He wore an amused grin on his face as he watched her work out what he meant.
“Hey! I’m not a cherry!”
“You will be if you go red the wrong way,” he offered, taking the sexual edge off his comment. She shot him a smirk and he decided he liked her better when she looked surprised. “So when you dye your hair, do you make sure the carpet matches the drapes?”
“What’s that mean?”
He rolled his eyes and gave the world a painful sigh. “Nothing.”
“Don’t be like that with me, Mister. You tell me what that means right now.”
He flicked her hair. It felt soft and silky. “Drapes,” he said before looking down at her waist. “Carpet.” Whitney still looked confused. He didn’t help. He glanced at his history book. He was turning a page before she leaned close and put her hand on his knee.
“You confused me because I don’t have a carpet,” she told him. He gave her a skeptical look. “I’m serious. Shaved smooth.”
“Since last summer… Hey! That’s none of your business!” But she was smiling before a cloud passed over her face. “I did it for my boyfriend before we broke up and liked it.”
“Did he ever get to see?”
“His loss. Can I see?” he asked with a grin.
“No!” she said, returning to her default setting of being shocked at his suggestions before she glanced away. She looked at him again and changed her mind. “Maybe.”
He kept his spot in his history book but his attention was on her. His eyes flickered over her. Short and busty, Whitney referred to herself as fun sized. Mason towered over her when they walked together. She had attached herself to his side after the first week of classes. They shared two classes and she had an uncanny ability to find him whenever he lounged around the campus. Mason wondered if she was part of the reason why he choose to study in the Student Center instead at his off-campus apartment. “Maybe?” he asked.