Laila couldn’t help comparing her first day at Yale to her first day at Harper’s. She remembered being so nervous and taking a seat in nearly the last row of her English class. But then she had seen Sterling. He had walked up to her and asked if he could sit next to her, kissing her lightly on the cheek as he sat down, saying how cute she looked in her uniform. Laila smiled at the memory, her heart nearly overflowing as she thought about Sterling.
She knew, of course, that he wouldn’t come to her rescue today. He had Chemistry this hour and was on the opposite side of campus. Not that she needed him to save her today. She would be fine on her own, knowing that she could see him in just a little over an hour when their classes were finally finished. She searched the large hall for an empty seat and sighed when she realized the only available chairs left were in the first two rows. Reluctantly, she set her books down and pulled out a notebook, ready for anything the teacher might lecture on.
Much to her surprise and delight, Laila found the professor to be incredibly entertaining. His choice of literature already had her pleased and his exuberance on the subject couldn’t be contained. It wasn’t until the end of class that she was even slightly disappointed.
“As you can see,” the professor was saying, “there are more than 200 of you in this classroom. Far too many to carry on a structured conversation or debate. That is why I am assigning each of you to a smaller group consisting of 30 to 40 students each. You will meet every Friday, in lieu of my lectures, with a Student Teacher, each of whom has my complete and utmost respect for their knowledge of English Literature. In these groups, you will discuss, analyze and critique the assigned readings, thus formulating the thesis for your bi-weekly writing assignments.”
Laila heard some of the students in the class grown but she had to smile. She always preferred a written assignment to a quiz or test.
The professor gestured for a group people to stand up and Laila glanced over each of them. They were clearly older than the freshman who made up the majority of the classroom, each of them had a serious manner about them as they stared back at the group. But there was one boy in this group of student teachers who appeared to be more relaxed than the rest. His mop of curly blonde hair was carelessly brushed from his face and, while his companions wore slacks and dress shirts, he was casually dressed in khaki shorts and a blue polo.
Soon she heard her group called, last names starting with the letters O – S, and quickly jotted down where they were assigned to meet every Friday. She glanced up at the front of the classroom at the row of student teachers, hoping to discover which one she and the rest of her group had been assigned to. But not one of them had spoken, gestured, or even moved from what she could tell. Yet as her eyes scanned the upperclassmen, she noticed one of them was looking at her. The boy with the curly hair, well she supposed he was a man at this age, was grinning at her and winked when she caught his eye. Laila quickly looked away and started packing her books into her bag.
Within a few short minutes, the professor had excused them for the day and Laila quickly picked up her things and started for the door. She couldn’t wait to see Sterling, to fall into his arms and tell him all about her day. Not that anything exciting had happened to her, but his day could be a completely different story. Maybe he had some crazy professor or maybe something in his chemistry class had exploded. Or maybe nothing had happened and they could finish their homework quickly and spend the rest of the evening in bed. That thought was worth getting excited over and Laila picked up her step as soon as she was outside the building.
She was surprised when she heard a voice beside her. “You’re fast.”
“Excuse me?” She said, looking up and seeing that the curly haired boy who had winked at her was walking quickly at her side.
“You walk fast for such a short girl.”
“Oh,” Laila said, not sure if she should be offended or amused. “I’m in a hurry, I guess.”
“Don’t tell me you have another class today.” The guy smiled down at her.
“No. I’m meeting someone,” Laila responded, slowing her step as she felt herself about to cough.
“Hi. I’m Will.”
“Oh. Hi. I’m Laila.”
Will was still smiling at her as he spoke. “I think you’re in my study group for Professor White’s Lit class.”
“O through S?”
“The very one.”
Laila nodded and looked ahead of her, wondering if Sterling was going to be waiting at her dorm room or if she should go straight to his apartment.
“I’m glad you’re in my group,” she heard Will saying.
“And why is that?”
“I can see that you really like literature.”
“How do you know?” Laila asked, slightly annoyed Will was still walking with her.
But he smiled at her question, clearly not picking up on her annoyance. “I can tell by the way you were paying attention to Professor White – like you were completely enthralled with everything he had to say.”
“He’s a really good lecturer,” Laila answered shortly.
Will laughed. “And luckily, you’ve been assigned to a really good student teacher.”
“Well, that’s great, Will,” Laila finally looked at him again. His curly hair was thick and his dark brown eyes seemed to always be smiling. He appeared to be genuine in every respect and Laila couldn’t help but smile back.
“What other classes are you taking this semester?” Will looked down at the adorable blonde beside him. He had seen her in class when she had walked in and had been watching her nearly the entire hour. The smile on her lips as Professor White spoke about Tolstoy and Bronte had been one of pure bliss and Will felt as though his prayers had been answered when he realized they would be working together in study group.
“Um, I’m taking A History of Ancient Civilizations, Physics and French.”
“Ooh,” Will mused over her class selection. “Who do you have for French?”
“Watch out for her. She’s the reason I now speak Spanish.”
Laila laughed. “Thanks for the heads up.”
“Anytime,” Will answered, wanting nothing more than to put his hand on the small of her back or run his fingers through her hair – anything to just touch her.
They walked in silence for a few steps, Will completely mesmerized by Laila’s movements. Her walk, her posture, the adorable way she stared curiously in front of her. But all too soon she ended his bliss.
“Well, it was really nice meeting you. I’ll see you in class,” he heard her say as she skipped off toward one of the buildings. Will had hardly taken the time to look around but quickly realized they were outside of a dormitory and Laila was running quickly into the arms of a tall blonde jock-looking type. Will paused and watched them embrace, Laila’s small body being nearly engulfed by this meat-head’s large arms. That couldn’t be the type of guy she liked. He looked like he had no brains at all, just pure muscle and testosterone. But he saw the look on Laila’s face as she looked up at him. It was one of joy, pure happiness and love, and Will’s heart twisted slightly inside his chest.
The two shared a quick kiss before Laila smiled at him and allowed him to take her book bag from her. She moved quickly to the door, sliding her key inside and disappearing from sight. Her boyfriend paused before entering the room, glancing over his shoulder and catching Will’s eye with a cautionary glare. Could he feel threatened, Will wondered as he smiled to himself and walked slowly home.
“What are you smiling about?” Gavin asked as Will walked in the front door.
Will looked at his roommate. He hadn’t realized he was still smiling but didn’t doubt that he was. “Is a guy not allowed to smile?”
Gavin cracked a grin. “I guess I should rephrase my question. What are you smirking about?”
Will laughed. “Just thinking about something.”
“Thinking or plotting?”
Will laughed again. “Why is it you always assume I am up to no good?”
“Because you usually are,” Gavin said quickly before turning back to his book.
“So true,” Will agreed as he sat down on the couch and turned on the TV.
“Well, what is it this time?” Gavin couldn’t count the times he had tried to talk Will out of some seemingly ridiculous plan or scheme. He could always tell when one was brewing inside his head. His friend’s face would be set into a permanent grin, his brow creased with pensive lines. But eventually he had given up, realizing that Will would never listen to him. Normally, he tried not to pay attention to what Will did. More often than not, his plans were devious and deceptive, yet always seemed to work out in his favor – a pattern that irritated Gavin to no end. Deep down, he wanted to believe that Will was a good person, but lately he wasn’t so sure.
“More like who is it this time?”
Gavin raised an eyebrow at him and set his book down. The way Will had managed to secure the position as Editor in Chief of the Yale Daily News was still a sore point for many of the people working at the newspaper. Will had gone behind the backs of many of them, using one and their entire year’s worth of research to benefit only one person: Will. Gavin knew him to be determined, but what he had done could only be described as vicious.
Will hadn’t spoken, using the pause for dramatic effect and hoping Gavin would ask him to clarify his statement. But Gavin wasn’t speaking. “Her name is Laila and I just met her in White’s English Lit class.”
“And it looks like she has a boyfriend.”
From that moment on, Gavin didn’t want to know what Will had in mind, but knew his roommate would inform him anyway. “Maybe you should let this one go, then. Don’t you have enough to occupy your time this year?”
Will laughed quietly to himself. “Probably. But there is something about this girl, man. I can’t quite put my finger on it yet. But I feel like I just have to have her, you know?”
Gavin shook his head. “No, I don’t. And I think you should leave this one alone. She has a boyfriend.”
“Maybe they aren’t serious,” Will replied, his attention starting to focus on the television rather than his roommate.
“Let it go, Will.”
“We’ll see,” Will said quietly. But both men knew he had no intention of letting it go. The idea of Laila had been permanently cemented into his mind and, like he was with all his ideas, he wouldn’t let this one go until she was his.
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