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Definitely, Maybe in Love

By:Ophelia London

Definitely, Maybe in Love
Ophelia London

       Part I

Fall

"Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used  synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates  more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity to what we would have others  think of us."

From Pride and Prejudice





Chapter 1

"Spring Honeycutt, nice of you to finally join us."

All eyes, including Professor Masen's, were glued on me as my attempt to  stealthily enter the classroom fifteen minutes late failed.

"Sorry," I said, hovering just inside the door. "I was … held up."

With his gaze still boring into me, Masen tilted his head but didn't speak, as if waiting for me to further explain.

"Um." I gripped my backpack. "On my way to campus, I found a cat in the bushes."

A few guys at the back of the room snickered.

"It was injured. I called the SPCA and waited. There wasn't any blood,  but it couldn't walk, so … " I wondered why Masen was allowing me to take  up lecture time. Weren't we discussing Thoreau and Walden today? "It,  uh, was a gray tabby with a collar but no tags."

Masen leaned against his desk and did his chin rub thing. It always gave me the impression he was annoyed.

"I don't even like cats," I added for some reason, "but, I mean, I  couldn't just leave it." I felt a lump in my throat, remembering how its  sad, glassy eyes had looked at me and how, when I'd gently stroked its  back, it tried to purr. "There was a group of people by the time Animal  Control arrived, so I left then. Anyway, yeah, that's why I'm late."

As breezily as possible, I walked down the third row and slid into an empty desk, wondering how red my cheeks were.

Masen nodded, his expression kind of baffled, then he pointed at the whiteboard, continuing with his lecture.

I barely had time to round my mouth and exhale before a sneery female  voice hissed in my direction. "Classic entrance, Spring. So very  thorough."

I didn't have to look to see who had just hissed at me. When we were  freshman two years ago, Lilah Charleston had forgotten to leave her  "mean girl" mentality back in high school where it belonged. It sucked  enough that her sorority house was only two blocks away from my digs,  but we also both chose Environmental Earth Science as a major. So I was  forced to share a classroom with her at least twice a semester.

Usually I just ignored her, but wouldn't that be setting bad precedents  for the rest of our junior year? Not that stooping to her level got her  off my back. Ever since I'd beaten her out for a freshman-year  internship, her goal had been to make my life a living hell. I eyed her  outfit. In a perfect world, Lilah decked out in head-to-toe leather  while sitting in our Sustainable Earth class would have been grounds for  automatic failure.

"Thanks," I whispered to her when Masen's back was turned. "And nice  boots." I left it at that. She knew what I meant. Baby cows were so much  cuter than any pair of boots Lilah could wear.

She narrowed her icy-blue eyes but then kind of tucked her feet under her desk.

Advantage: Spring.

At a quarter to twelve, Professor Masen removed his glasses and ended  class. Hallelujah. If I was fast enough, I could meet Mel at the campus  café for lunch.

"At least I wash my hair," Lilah said as she gathered up her books. "I  can smell you from here." She leaned away, her nose wrinkling in  disgust.

Nice. She played the "you stink" card. I guess we really were back in high school.

I reached for a handful of the skinny blond braids hanging over my  shoulder and stroked them protectively, my thumb and index finger  pausing over the tiny dark blue bead on the end of one.

"Good luck finding any self-respecting guy who'll come within ten feet  of those things." As Lilah was talking, a muscly jock wearing a Rugby  shirt gave me the half-smile/nod combo, then winked as he strolled by.

It wasn't that I didn't want to date, it was more of a time-constraint  thing. There were simply not enough hours in the day and much more  pressing issues on my plate. I would think about guys after earning my  PhD.

"Are those supposed to make you look tough?" Lilah asked all sneeringly. "Because they don't." She eyed me up and down. "Freak."

"Is that Chanel number five I smell?" I couldn't help replying. Two  could play the immature banter game. "Did you wear that in the Peace  Corps? That is where you're telling everyone you were over the summer."  Lilah froze and stared at me. "Because the rumor going around is that  you were on a shopping spree in Paris and not rebuilding houses in  Zambia."                       
       
           



       

I was watering it down. The real rumor was that she'd hid out after some  kind of plastic surgery, but I wasn't about to go there. I wore braids,  Lilah went up a cup size. Live and let live.

If Lilah was as impassioned about doing good in the world as she  claimed, she should have gone to Africa instead of Europe. She certainly  had the means to take off like that. Unlike me. With two scholarships,  one hefty student loan, and three jobs, I was barely making ends meet.  Lilah didn't know how fortunate she was to be financially independent.

She puckered her raspberry-stained lips. "You wouldn't dare tell a story like that."

I was glad I had a good two inches on her. When she goaded me like this,  my inner-pacifist evacuated like a bran breakfast, and I wanted to  throw a roundhouse kick at her head. But violence wouldn't solve  anything.

"No, I wouldn't tell anyone that, Lilah," I said wearily. "And you want to know why?"

"Spring?"

We both snapped to attention when Professor Masen called my name.

"Do you have a minute? Or do you have another class?"

"Busted," Lilah sang under her breath as she walked past us, then out the door.

I stepped up to Masen's desk, about ready to launch into promises that I  would never be late again, no matter what wounded creature I stumbled  upon. Though I knew deep down that wasn't true. My love of animals in  general outweighed my dislike of cats or fear of my academic advisor  being momentarily pissed at me.

Masen was squinting at his laptop screen. While I waited, I gripped the  strap of my backpack and stared past him at the board, which was covered  in a rainbow of terminology and definitions I still hadn't memorized.  Two days into the fall semester and I wasn't as on top of my classes as  I'd like to be. How had that happened?

"I was just going over the proposal for your independent study project,"  Masen said, jolting me back to the present. "It looks … familiar."

Panic seized my insides. Three students had been expelled from Stanford  last year for plagiarism. Blood was still in the water, and the teaching  staff was circling like sharks.

"Professor Masen," I said, stepping forward. "That work is my own, I  swear. I can cite everything." I was about to pull out my laptop and  show him the files of proof when a hint of a smile crossed his face.

"That's not it," he said. "What I meant was, this is the stand you took  in my Anthropology of Capitalism class last year. Do you intend to spend  the next two semesters regurgitating the same opinion?"

"Regurgitating?" I repeated. "Wouldn't recycling be more apropos?" I  laughed at my own environmentalist joke, but Masen only stared back.  "I … I chose to research sustainability again because it's what I believe  in," I said, all kidding aside.

"I know that, Spring. The entire class knows that. Being vocal about your attitude on preservation has never been your problem."

Problem? Is being a champion for bettering the planet a problem?

My natural instinct was to go on the defensive, but instead I took a  moment to breathe, sliding my fingers up and down one of my braids. A  calming ritual.

"This is an important project; you know that, don't you?"

I nodded silently, but inside I was reciting that everything about  attending Stanford University was important. Just ask the four certified  letters my high school counselor had sent to the Admissions Board. It  wasn't just getting accepted into Stanford that had been a challenge for  me, the succeeding was proving to be an even bigger task-which,  obviously, was the most important thing in my life. Over the past year,  I'd added more classes, more causes, more claims on my free time with  the sole intention of standing out in a sea of fifteen thousand other  overachievers.

I had to. Otherwise, I was going to drown.

"You're an exceptional student," Masen continued. I smiled at this, my  stomach muscles unclenching. "I have ties to periodicals. I see  potential in your thesis, and if it turns out well, I can almost  guarantee publication."

Whoa-what? Publication as a junior?

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