This is, as the title suggests, the second installment of this short story. Go to my last post to read from the beginning.
The campus was mostly quiet as Annie and Mallory walked back to their dorm. Indistinguishable voices came from somewhere in the distance, traveling far on the night air. The sidewalk was well lit, but the cold hurried them along with little appreciation for light with no heat.
“Man, that study group is getting awkward,” Mallory said.
“You mean Hannah and Aaron making moony eyes at each other?”
“Sometimes they’re a little too cute. But I’m talking about your little triangle.”
Mallory laughed. “Oh, my goodness, this is you.” She put on a high squeaky voice. “What are you working on, Carlos? Can I sit on your lap for a better look?”
“I do not sound like that.” Annie tried to act innocent, but she was cringing on the inside. She had to admit she’d been getting pretty obvious with her attention to Carlos. She wanted him to notice but not anyone else.
“Meanwhile, Jake’s all… Look at me, Annie! Look at me! Why don’t you just go out with Jake?” Mallory asked.
“Why? So you can date Carlos?” A bit of jealousy flared up. Not about Carlos specifically but simply because Mallory was very pretty, with long legs and a charming southern accent. Annie wouldn’t want to compete with her for any guy. Sometimes she had to remind herself that standing next to Mallory wasn’t a competition.
“Relax,” Mallory said. “I’m not interested in Carlos. Why do you like him so much?”
“Are you kidding? He’s like tall, dark and handsome personified. If, um, that didn’t already…” Mallory was beginning to chuckle at the fumbling description. “Come on,” Annie said, “you know what I mean. It’s too cold to be eloquent.”
Both girls quickened their steps to acknowledge that the weather was pretty typical for February in Ohio.
“Fine,” Mallory said. “You like the way Carlos looks. But what do you like about him.”
“Don’t make me sound shallow. There’s nothing wrong with noticing that a guy is good-looking. You make it sound like that’s the only reason I like him.”
“You haven’t said any other reasons,” Mallory pointed out, a little too smugly for such a good friend.
Annie tried to think of how to erase the smugness. “I like his sense of humor.”
“Cliché.” Mallory dismissed the reason. “And Jake is funnier.”
“Carlos takes school seriously. I admire that.”
“No, he doesn’t.” Mallory didn’t sound smug anymore. Now she was looking at Annie as though she was delusional, which was not better.
“What do you mean?” Annie asked. “He keeps a record of all his scores for all his classes to monitor his grades.”
“That’s because he needs to keep a C average to keep his scholarship, and he doesn’t want to accidentally do more work than necessary.”
“Yeah. He’s said it more than once. I think you must have been too busy smelling him to use your ears.”
Annie’s face burned despite the cold wind. The others could tell when she was enjoying the scent?
“Don’t worry,” Mallory said. “I think it’s only obvious to me because you told me. But… I have to say that Jake seems to put forth good effort out of respect for his teachers and the money his parents are spending.”
“Why do you keep bringing up Jake? Do you have a thing for him?” She knew it was a stupid question before Mallory laughed. She wouldn’t be trying so hard to convince Annie of his merits if she wanted him for herself.
“I just… I can see you two together. And clearly Jake can, too.”
“Well, that’s not going to happen.” Annie didn’t want to talk about Jake. She’d rather talk about Carlos.
“Are you sure? Because he’s not giving up.”
“What makes you say that?”
Mallory laughed with disbelief as she pulled open the outer door to their dorm and held it for Annie.
Annie walked through. “Thanks. Now why are you laughing at me?”
“Either you’re blind or you’re even more distracted by Carlos than I thought. You didn’t notice Jake offering to help you with non-existent homework? And did you really think he wanted all three of us to join him for a snack?”
“Hmm…” Annie frowned as she began to climb the stairs. Their room was on the third floor.
“Why won’t you go out with Jake anyway?”
“I don’t know. I guess… there’s just no spark there. Wouldn’t I be leading him on if I went on a date with someone I’m not interested in like that? He’s more of a friend.”
“One date isn’t leading him on,” Mallory said earnestly. “It’s giving him a chance.”
“I wish Carlos would give me a chance.”
“Then you know what you have to do.”
“I do?” Annie sent her friend a questioning look as she began to unbutton her coat. Climbing stairs was an efficient way to warm up.
“I really don’t know if you have a shot with Carlos, but I don’t think you can find out until you go out with Jake.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. Why would going out with one guy give me a chance with another guy?”
“Well…” Mallory’s steps slowed as her mind picked up the pace. “It’s not like I’ve sat down and had a conference with the guys so maybe I’m way off… but I think Carlos feels like, sort of like Jake saw you first. Or a less childish way of saying it. I think he’s not going to make a move if he wants to, until Jake backs off. So you need to prove to Jake that there’s no spark to get him to do that.”
“I’m not going out with him,” Annie said. “I’ll just have to tell him to back off.”