Willow Bolden, a nineteen year old psychology major, is on track to finish college so she and her BFF can attend grad school together and open their own clinic. And Willow loves her fiancé. She’s just not “in love” with him anymore. If only she could figure out how to tell him.
However, the “minor” fiancé problem pales in comparison to the brazen flirt hitting on her in cyber space. A zealous dancer hitting on her in Central Park. And a world-class psychology professor blocking graduation whom she’d like to hit.
She hates one. She’s never met two. And she’s analyzing all three. She has a roommate who loves to stir the pot, a cat who pretends to be a dog, and a dog who sings with a horse. Willow’s mother calls daily, her almost-ex-fiancé refuses to give-up, and she finds herself in a predictable rut.
But Willow is full of surprises!
How much remorse could any girl summon for a half-carat diamond? I wagged my fingers in the morning sun streaming through the apartment window, and the rock glittered. I loved Elliot Collins, I just wasn’t in love with him anymore. Guys sensed the difference. They believed it. They dealt with it. And I imagined Elliot could begin this process if only we weren’t still engaged.
Lela Thompson, my best friend/roommate, hunkered down on our tattered couch, studying for a test. Spring break was over—for one of us, at least. We were psych majors, juniors, hoping to attend grad school together; then we’d open a clinic here in Greenwich Village.
“Girl, why don’t you muster the courage to tell him?” Lela didn’t even look up from her notes, but she knew what I was thinking.
“I’m buildin’ up to it.”
“Buildin’ up to what?”
She mocked my Tennessee drawl, Northernized, since I’d spent early childhood in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, before we moved south of the Mason-Dixon Line. “My life is in turmoil, and all you can do is make fun of my accent?”
“Just take off the ring and drop it in his hand. He’ll get the message, Willow.” Her New Hampshire accent sounded like a cross between Brooklyn and breathy. Maybe she’d lived too long in the Village, or she’d watched too many Marilyn Monroe movies.
“Elliot’s a nice guy. I don’t want to hurt him.”
She extended her arm, palm up, still without looking. “Practice,” she said.
I frowned because I’d never taken off the ring. I growled because the bugger wouldn’t budge. I tugged harder and twisted, but my finger must’ve swollen in betrayal. The ring, like my social life, was going nowhere.
“Just text him.” Lela glanced at me, and the devil danced in her eyes. She stroked our cat as he wandered by, an elegant line from his head to the tip of his curled tail—black fur, white chest and paws, all tuxedoed up.
I’d scribbled the list when I woke this morning, then memorized it: The top five reasons not to marry Elliot Collins.
Number five: “You don’t understand me.”
Lela smiled without looking. “Did you say something, Willow?”
She’d heard me. “Practicing,” I said.
We studied into the afternoon. Classes started again tomorrow. I’d transferred my work to the floor and milk and Oreo cookies to the coffee table. GREs were coming up soon, and I had a 3.9 GPA to protect. Lela wasn’t far behind me. I accepted she had a better bod; I wasn’t going to grant a better brain.
“I’m checking school e-mail,” Lela said. “Want me to see if the psych department responded yet?”
We kept private e-mail addresses, but neither of us could afford smartphones, so for convenience we occasionally checked each other’s official school mail. “Sure.”
I had one required course remaining: Crimes in Psychology. I didn’t even like the title. We were halfway through March registration and the class was already closed. I’d discovered too late that the next academic year, Huntington University—for the first time ever—was offering Crimes fall semester only. I had one fall semester left. Administration would certainly understand and award me a place in the class. Just a formality for me to route through department channels.
Lela reappeared a few minutes later and leaned against the arm of the couch, hands on sculpted hips, and she was smirking. “You’d better read their response yourself,” she said. “I closed your mailbox so you could enjoy the full Internet experience.” I couldn’t read Lela as easily as she read me. What could the e-mail say? Of course you’re in the class, or of course you’re in the class and sorry we made you sweat this one. The cat sauntered into the living room with his nonchalant “doorbell” look.
I scurried into my bedroom even as the bell rang. Lela answered, and Elliot’s voice infiltrated its way into my psyche. “Be there in a minute,” I shouted.
The e-mail was from Clarisse Naughton, administrative assistant for the psych department. I guess I didn’t expect Professor Kirin—who taught the class and to whom I’d directed my request—to respond personally.
Subj: Re: special request for Professor Kirin
Ms. Willow Bolden, Junior:
Professor Kirin says there’s no need for him
to meet with you, as that class is already full.
In accordance with University procedures,
I’ve put your name on the wait list. Your
number is noted below, and you’ll be contacted
if the appropriate number of students drop
Wait list #208
Encouraged by the wonderful echoing of hardwood floors, I may have stomped once or twice on the way to greet Elliot.