Two weeks after the incident, Robert immersed himself in a project which involved hours of meticulous research. He welcomed the diversion and embraced it. He’d logged many hours at the library.
The winter weather was not being helpful, however, since he had to make frequent walks to the library, on the other side of campus. There was one good thing about the weather, though. His walks to the library gave him plenty of time to regroup and focus on his approaching graduation.
Adjacent to the library’s Ancient History section, Robert returned each day to a table he had claimed as his spot. Unloading his backpack, he would stretch and set to work.
This particular day, the weather had decided to throw a curveball and warmed to nearly 50 degrees. Robert shed his heavy parka and chose a lighter jacket for his jaunt. After two hours of reading and writing, Robert set down his pen and rubbed his eyes. While his face was covered by his hand for a moment, another voice broke his silence.
“Pardon me, mate, are you alright?”
Robert quickly recovered and looked the stranger up and down. He was surprised that the body did not match the British or Australian voice. In front of him stood a rough-looking young man with a dark tan, blond-dyed hair in a ponytail, and lots of tattoos. He wore camouflage pants, a white tank top, and scuffed black military books.
“What? Sorry, I was just taking a break from reading. I’m fine, thanks.”
“Anytime. You mind if I sit here?” the newcomer asked, pointing to a seat a few chairs away from his. “I’ve got a lot of research to do, myself.”
Robert cocked his head in interest. “Oh, what on?”
The student laughed and pointed to the sign indicating the section they were seated in. “On Ancient History.”
“Me, too.” Robert smiled. “You aren’t in Foster’s class, by chance?”
The young man stuck out his long, tan arm across the table. “Sure am. I’m Cleve Wilmington. What’s your name?”
Robert shook his hand. “Robert Marshall. Most people call me Rob, though. Nice to meet ya.”
“Same here. What year are you?”
“I’m a senior, you?”
“Same. I’ve seen you in class. Near the front, right?”
Robert nodded. “Yup, total geek. I need to sit close so I can hear him better. I guess you sit near the back, I hadn’t seen you before. I would’ve remembered.”
Cleve smiled as Robert blushed. “Sorry, that came out wrong.”
“No problem at all. Hey, the library frowns on all this gabbin’. How about we go warm up with a coffee at the student center?”
Robert smiled and closed his book. “You read my mind. Let’s bolt.”
They left the library together and walked in the melting snow over to the student center café. Coffee turned into dinner, which Cleve insisted on buying. Robert took the opportunity to better study his companion’s features. Cleve was 5’11” and had mocha brown eyes. His build was quite muscular. “You must work out a lot, to get those muscles.”
Cleve looked at his arms. “Oh, these? They’re rented. Got ‘em from my brother before I left home.”
“Where is home for you?”
“London. I’ve got dual citizenship, though, since the parents are from both places.”
“Sounds pretty cool to me. I have enough fun being from just one country!”
They laughed together and their hands brushed up against one another’s. Cleve shot him a look and coyly ran his fingers over Robert’s pale knuckles.
“You got a roommate?”
“No, I’m single. Oh, wait. Yes, I have a housemate who never seems to leave the house.” Robert stopped blabbering. “Do you?”
“No. I’ve got my own dorm room, wanna go see it?”
Robert genuinely smiled and replied with confidence, “Yeah, definitely.”