"Don't you?" Dad asks gently. "Why haven't you returned Tad's calls yet, Heather? Is it really because you've been too busy? Or is it because deep down, you know you're in love with someone else?"
I nearly drop the wineglass I'm scrubbing.
"Ouch, Dad," I grumble. "Way to hurt a girl."
"Well." He gets up from table and comes over to lay a hand upon my shoulder. "That's just it. I don't want to see you hurt. I want to help you. Lord knows you've helped me these past few months. I want to return the favor. Won't you let me?"
I can't look into his face. I know if I do I'll say yes. And I don't want to say yes. I don't think.
Or maybe part of me does. The same part of me that's ready to say yes to Tad, too, when he decides the time is finally right, and he pops the question.
Instead, I look into the sudsy brown water in the sink.
Then I sigh.
"Let me think about it, Dad, okay?"
I don't see Dad smile, because of course I'm not looking at him. But I sense the smile anyway.
"Sure thing, honey," he says. "Just don't think about it too long. Opportunities like this don't last forever. Well… you know that from last time."
Do I ever.
(I wish I had one)
(Wish I had one of those, too)
(No cheatin' with this one)
(I really mean it this time)
Written by Heather Wells
I don't have a clue anything out of the ordinary is taking place over on Washington Square West until I round the corner of Waverly Place the next morning, sleepily slurping the whipped cream topping off my grande café mocha. (About which, as Gavin would put it, whatevs. Like I totally didn't go running yesterday. I deserve a little whipped cream. Besides, whipped cream is dairy, and a girl needs dairy to fight off osteoporosis. Everyone knows this.)
I'm licking off my whipped cream mustache when I see it-or think I see it, anyway: a giant rat.
And I don't mean your everyday, gray-brown, cat-sized subway rat, either. I mean a GIANT, twelve-foot, inflated, semi-lifelike replica of a rat, standing on its hind legs and snarling directly across the street from Fischer Hall's front door.
But how can this be? What would a twelve-foot inflatable rat be doing in front of my place of work? Could I be seeing things? It's true I only just woke up. Relishing the fact that I got to sleep in this morning-no running for me-I rolled out of bed at eight-thirty, and, forgoing my morning shower-well, okay, bath. Who bothers with a shower when you can bathe lying down? - I just pulled on a fresh pair of jeans and shirt, ran a brush through my hair, washed my face, slapped on some moisturizer and makeup, and was out the door at five of nine. Time to spare for that grande café mocha. I didn't even see Cooper or my dad. Both of them being early birds, they were already up and out-Dad had even taken Lucy for her morning walk. I was definitely going to miss that when Dad was gone, that was for sure.
But it doesn't matter how many times I stand there and squeeze my eyes shut, then reopen them again. The rat doesn't disappear. I'm fully awake.
Worse, marching back and forth in front of the rat, carrying picket signs that said things like New York College Doesn't Care About Its Student Employees and Health Care Now! were dozens-maybe hundreds-of protesters. Many of them were raggedy-looking grad students, baggy-pantsed and dreadlocked.
But many more of them were in uniform. Worse, they were in New York College campus security, housekeeping, and engineering uniforms.
And that's when it struck. The cold, hard terror that crept around my heart like icy tentacles.
Sarah had done it. She had convinced the GSC to strike.
And she'd convinced the other major unions on campus to strike along with it.
If my life were a movie, I'd have tossed my grande café mocha to the sidewalk just then, and sunk slowly to my knees, clutching my head and screaming, "Nooooooooo! WHY???? WHYYYYYY????????"
But since my life isn't a movie, I settle for tossing my drink-which I suddenly feel way too queasy to finish-into the nearest Big Apple trash receptacle, then crossing the street-after looking both ways (even though it's one way, of course-you can never be too sure on a college campus if a skateboarder or Chinese food delivery guy on a bike is heading the wrong way)-cutting between the many news vans parked along the sidewalk until I reach a tight circle of reporters clustered around Sarah, who is giving the morning news shows all her best sound bites.
"What I'd like to know," Sarah is saying, in a loud, clear voice, "is why President Phillip Allington, after assuring the student community that their tuition wouldn't be raised and that neither he nor his trustees would receive a salary increase this year, went on to raise tuition by six point nine percent, then received a six-figure salary increase-making him the highest paid president of any research college in the nation-while his graduate student teachers are not offered stipends equal to a living wage or health benefits that enable them even to use the student health center!"
A reporter from Channel 7 with hair almost as big as Sarah's has gotten from lack of sleep (and Frizz-Ease-although I assume the reporter's hair pouf is on purpose) spins around and points her microphone into a surprised-looking Muffy Fowler's face. Muffy's only just stumbled onto the scene… literally stumbled, on her four-inch heels, having just arrived via a cab, clutching a red pocketbook to her tightly cinched Coach trench, and trying to pull stray curls of hair from her heavily glossed lips.
"Ms. Fowler, as college spokesperson, how would you respond to these allegations?" the reporter asks, as Muffy blinks her wide Bambi eyes.
"Well, I'd have to check m-my notes," Muffy stammers. "B-but it's my understanding the president donated the difference in his salary between this year and last year b-back to the college-"
"To what?" Sarah calls with a sneer. "The Pansies?"
Everyone laughs. President Allington's support of the Pansies, New York College's less than stellar Division Three basketball team, is legendary, even among the reporters.