This story is based on events that I wish were true.
"But you need to solve for X by eliminating all the other unknowns," Greg tried to explain calmly.
Rebecca was quickly losing her calm. "But I don't KNOW what the other UNKNOWNS are. That's why they are UNKNOWN."
"But you can express them in terms of X, so that it is the only unknown in the equation. All you have to do is use this equation over here."
"But I thought we were looking at this one. This is the one you said we have to solve." Rebecca tapped the paper on the table.
"In order to solve two unknowns, you need two equations," Greg said for the umpteenth time that afternoon.
"But we have three unknowns!" she squealed.
"That is why they gave us a third equation in the book," Greg offered, pulling the thick textbook back to the middle of the table.
"Arhhggg!" Rebecca cried, pulling at her brown hair. Beside her Susan just laughed at her friend. "What's so funny?" the brunette turned to look at the skinny blonde beside her. "You've got all this figured out?"
"No," Susan said. "I just think this is an odd thing to be talking about the week before Christmas."
"But I need to pass this final," Rebecca said. She shook her head in an attempt to clear the frustration and turned back to the infernal math problem before them that Greg once again tried to explain.
Susan had long ago given up on it. Algebra wasn't her thing, but she had kept up with the accounting class so far, and had a B+ heading into the final. She only needed a C on this test to keep her GPA above 3.0, which is all her father cared about. Instead of thinking about the tricky math, she turned her head to look at the tables around them in the Student Union Building. The place was nearly full, everyone taking advantage of the free coffee offers during finals week.
Kevin, Greg's roommate, was two tables away. Two girls were around him pretending to study history for their final. Thomas was at the table too, but Kevin was the center of attention. Erin and Cindy kept leaning over the book in front of them to pretend to look at the paragraph Kevin was reading, but all they were doing was trying to show off their chests to the good looking junior.
Yes, Kevin was a looker with a chiseled jaw, thick arms, and washboard abs, but Susan knew him to be a womanizer of sorts, and he was currently chasing two different senior girls. Susan wanted something a bit more stable. She laughed at Thomas's efforts to steal looks down the girls' shirts that were meant for his friend. He wasn't bad looking, and Susan was willing to bet that eventually at least Erin would warm up to his advances once she realized Kevin wasn't giving her any attention.
On the table behind them was the link to this group of friends. Dan and Mindy were going over a text book studying for their finals. Or, at least, that is what they pretended to do. Their hands were under the table squeezing each other's upper thighs more often than they turned pages.
Dan was Thomas' roommate, and the 4 guys (Greg, Kevin, Thomas, and Dan) were close friends since freshman year. They played on all the intramural sports together by collecting one or two other guys they knew for each sport, but the 4 of them were always the constant. Dan had been dating Mindy since High School, and so she introduced all of her friends (Susan, Rebecca, Erin, and Cindy) to Dan's friends and the group had been together for the past two years.
As Susan turned back to the math bee at her table, she regarded Greg for not the first time since the friends had been together. There were 5 girls in their group and 4 guys, so one would think that a girl would be the fifth wheel, but it was usually Greg. He was not ugly by any stretch of the word, but he was not nearly as good looking as his three friends. Thomas, Dan, and Kevin were all about six-feet tall, muscular with clear skin and thick hair.
Greg still had the occasional acne break out, but was usually clear. He had tried growing a goatee, but you could count the individual hairs from across the room, so Kevin had told him to shave it. He was very tall at 6'7'', which helped in the sports they played, but it stretched his frame out, so that he did not have nearly the muscle definition of his friends. Also, Susan was the tallest of the girls at 5'7", and they would all prefer a guy closer to their height.
Susan always thought of Greg as the secret weapon in their group. He was incredibly smart and funny. He was always willing to help them study, often doing most of their homework for them. When the girls watched the boys play sports, Greg was underestimated by the other team and was usually the difference in them winning or losing.
But when it came to dating, Greg was left out. It didn't help that he surrounded himself with some of the best looking guys in school. It didn't help that for him classes came first, sports came second, and he had left little time for anything else. It also didn't help that he was kind of a nerd. He had a double major of Engineering and Computer Programming. The DVDs he had brought to school were all science fiction and fantasy. He wrote fanfiction, and wasn't ashamed of it.
The girls in the group tried to think of it as cute, but none of them shared interest in those kinds of movies or TV shows, so he usually went to the theater alone. And, if it wasn't for the fact that Kevin was super hot, and most of the girls wanted to get in his pants, they probably would have tossed Greg to the side a long time ago. But, he was Kevin's best friend, and he was a fun guy, so they humored him.
Susan tried to pay attention to the math again, but motion to her left startled her. An arm snaked down over Rebecca's head, and a hand deftly swiped at the Cowboy's hat that Greg always wore. The girls often wondered if he took it off to shower and if it was stapled to his head. It apparently wasn't stapled and came off in a flash.
"Hey!" Greg cried, swiping at his head. He was too slow, and the thief stood ten feet away holding the dingy hat.
"I'm sorry, but NASA called. They rejected your application for the seventeenth time, but they are interested in this hat. They said several new life forms might be growing in it."
Susan thought she recognized him from the basketball game she had watched the guys play a couple days ago. Kevin's team had won big and Greg had scored a lot of points.
"Very funny," Greg replied. "Give it back Rob."
Rob didn't reply but waved the hat in front of him and then feigned that it stank and held it further away. He took a step toward the trash and poised it over the open can. On top were half eaten fries, chicken fingers, and lots of sauces. If the hat went in there, it wouldn't be going back on Greg's head any time soon.
"Give it back, Robert," Rebecca scolded. "We're trying to study here."
Rob smirked at her. Susan was beginning to remember this thief from last year too. She thought that maybe he and Rebecca had been on a date before. "You don't fool me, Becky," he said. "You aren't studying. You just want an excuse to hang out with your new boyfriend. I'll tell you what, give the freak a kiss on the lips, and I'll give his hat back."
Susan watched with interest as Greg's expression changed to one of hope, but then to dejection as he saw Rebecca's reaction to the suggestion. Susan's friend did everything but yell, "Eww gross!" Her face screwed up in repulsion, and she shrank back from her tutor.
Rob was about to voice her thoughts for her, but Thomas had snuck away from his table and came up on Rob from behind. Rob heard him at the last moment and bolted forward. Kevin was ready to spring from his table to defend his roommate, but Rob chose to race passed Dan and Mindy's table instead. The couple never looked up from their book, apparently too enthralled in each other to pay any attention to what was going on.
Dan was sly, though, and just as Rob passed the table, his leg extended, and the hat thief went sprawling, hitting the tiled floor of the SUB hard. Kevin and Thomas were on him in a flash, but before they could wrestle the hat from him, he tossed it back toward the table his attackers had vacated. The bill hit two of the open coffees on the table and spilled them both over. Erin and Cindy jumped back from the table to keep the brown liquid from staining their designer tops and everyone just watched the hat soaking in the coffee.
Kevin didn't know if he should pummel Rob or try to save the hat. Eventually he just kicked the bully and walked back to his table. Dan who had only pretended not to be paying attention had already pulled a handful of napkins from his table and joined Kevin to clean things up.
Susan got up from her table, leaving two stunned people behind. Greg was still trying to absorb Rebecca's reaction to giving him a kiss, while Rebecca was trying to think of some appropriate comment to make to soften the blow to Greg, yet still make it clear that she was never going to kiss him.
Susan pulled the hat out of the mess and brought it dripping back to their table. "Just throw it away," Greg said dejected. He pushed his chair back from the table. "Good luck with your final," he said to Rebecca. "I hope I could help." With that, he stretched out his tall frame and walked out of the cafeteria.
"Good job, Becky," Susan said after she had thrown the beloved hat away.
"What?" she cried. "Do you want to kiss him?"
Susan didn't answer but heard her mind scream NO. She wasn't dating anyone right now, and she was just fine with it. She had jest been through a rough summer relationship that ended badly, and she was enjoying hanging out with her friends without any pressure to date. When she decided to start again, she likely wouldn't choose Greg. Still, she felt really sorry for him right now.
She turned back to her friends and saw that they had finished cleaning up. Erin and Cindy were ready to get back to studying with Kevin, but the guys were standing there unsure of what to do. Rob had made himself scarce, and they hadn't seen Greg's quick departure. Susan could see the frustration on Kevin's face at the abuse Greg was cursed to endure. Eventually he realized he couldn't do anything about it and sat down to work on the final he needed to pass.
Rebecca had cleaned up her books and papers and looked ready to go. "I think I understand it better now," she said to Susan. "Do you want to go back to the room and do some sample problems?" Susan agreed.
Finals were over two days later, and the group was getting ready to depart for Christmas Break. Dan and Mindy had already left together and Thomas had driven Rebecca to the airport since he lived nearby. Kevin, Erin, Cindy, and Susan stood in the cold parking lot getting ready to say goodbye.
"Where's Greg?" Susan asked. She had thought more about him in the past few days, wondering if there was something they could do to make him feel better about himself. She hadn't come up with anything.
"He's staying here over the holidays," Kevin replied.
"What?" Susan asked for clarification. "He stays at college? He doesn't go home?"
"He doesn't have enough money to fly home, and it's a lousy bus ride."
"But it's Christmas," Susan argued.
"His family, what's left of it, doesn't celebrate Christmas much. You know his father died when he was sixteen, and that was right before Christmas. His mother, who is an amateur alcoholic, becomes a pro this time of year, and it isn't a happy house. His older sister ran away from home during a Christmas break two years ago and now lives in California doing her best aircraft carrier impersonation on the internet."
"Aircraft carrier impersonation?" Susan mouthed the words to herself and Cindy leaned over to explain.
"Covered in seamen," she whispered.
Susan nodded, understanding that Kevin was guarding the honor of his best friend's sister by not blurting out that she did internet porn. "So he just stays here?"
"They leave the power on in the dorms for those who want to stay. The cafeteria is closed, but there are plenty of restaurants in the area. I've offered to take him home several times, but he doesn't want to."
The friends stood in the cold a while longer before Susan and Erin hugged Kevin and Cindy goodbye. Kevin was going to drive Cindy to the bus station and then continue home. Susan had her own car, and Erin lived on the way to her house two hours away.
Before the two girls walked to their car, Susan stopped. She handed her keys to Erin. "Here, warm up the car. I think I forgot something."
Two minutes later Susan jogged up to the front of Greg's dorm and slipped in as one of the guys was leaving. The doors to the buildings were already locked for the break. She had been up to Kevin's room many times and quickly went up the stairs and down the hall. She thought as she walked that it would never occur to her to call it Greg's room. She guessed that he spent more time in it than Kevin did, but to her and her friends, it was Kevin's.
She knocked on the door and heard Greg calling her to come in. He was reading a book, and put it down when she entered. "Hello?" he said cautiously, almost a question. He really wanted to be alone right now and felt by the look on Susan's face that she was going to invite him to something.
"I heard you were staying here for the holidays."
"'Tis true," he replied.
"You can't stay here," she argued. "You'd be all alone."
"And it is about time I got some peace and quiet," he said. "This 21-hour semester killed me. I need to unwind, and I can't think of anything better than a couple weeks alone, reading books, watching movies, sleeping in, and no one to bother me."
Susan knew a portion of that was true. He did work hard during the semester, and he probably enjoyed time by himself, but not over Christmas. "Erin and I are getting ready to leave. My family has an enormous house with more empty rooms than they know what to do with. My dad even built a theater room in the basement with a 100" flat screen. No one ever uses it anymore, especially with company over. And we have so many relatives flowing in and out of our house the next two weeks that no one would notice an extra person."
Susan was thinking out loud as she talked, not sure what had caused her to invite Greg to her house. She just wanted to be nice to him, but wasn't sure if she was signing up to spend her whole break with him.
Greg smiled back at her, and she was surprised at how pleasant it made him look. "Thanks for the offer, but I'll be just fine here."
Susan thought she could go on and on about how it would be no problem for him to come to her house and how many things there was to do there. Her mother was a doctor and her father was a lawyer. They had an indoor pool even. Her dad kept talking about putting a couple bowling lanes as an addition.
However, as she looked into Greg's eyes, she saw that he wasn't interested. And she didn't think it was that he wanted to spend time alone or that the wonders of her parent's mansion wouldn't excite him, but he wasn't interested in her charity. Susan searched out her true feelings, and realized she was offering charity. She didn't really want to know him better, she just felt sorry for him.
"Well, don't say I didn't try," she replied. "Merry Christmas." With that she turned and closed the door behind her.
Susan's house was a zoo. Every year the Christmas bash got bigger and bigger. Relatives from both sides came in droves. Susan could hardly keep the names straight. Some of her cousins gave her creepy looks too. There were probably about 10 college/high school age guys that thought they might get lucky. Truth be told, there were so many divorces in her family that Susan couldn't tell which cousins were blood related and which were not.
Either way, she didn't feel attracted to any of them. They were all at their rich uncle's house for the week and they acted like they owned the place. The pool was always busy, and the kitchen was always swarming with a dozen women preparing food for the throng. There was a 25' tree standing in the vaulted great room with enough presents below to supply a third world country.
Susan waded through the noise and confusion to her room on the third level and was happy to find that she only had to share it with one person this year. Kelly was a cousin on her mom's side. She was a withdrawn 17-year-old that had been homeschooled her whole life. She would probably spend most of her time in the room reading, which meant Susan's stuff would be guarded from her other demon relatives.
She had brought home laundry, but the line of clothes that needed to be washed was so long, that Susan thought she might have to go to a laundry mat to get anything clean. She complained to her mom that she was running out of underwear, and a 16-year-old boy that was in earshot said she should just wear a bikini instead. She gave him a sour look, but her mom had no response, as if that was a valid option.
As much as Susan might want to relax in the pool, it was so busy with kids, that relaxing wouldn't be possible. And she didn't even want to think about putting on a bathing suit. She would be wearing turtle necks and baggy pants around her horny cousins; as long as she had enough clean ones.
When Susan retreated from the noise enough to have some quiet time to herself, she found her thoughts turning more and more to Greg. It was funny that she had invited him to this madness and now she felt jealous that he was in peace and quiet. And had he come, they could have found quiet places. Her dad had locked the theater and billiards rooms. The equipment and furniture in those places was far too expensive to remain open to the rowdy relatives. Susan knew the combinations to the locks and they could have retreated down there for quiet entertainment.
But she had seen the look in Greg's eyes when she had made the offer and thought that he might have found it just as insulting as the look Rebecca had given him when it was suggested that she kiss him. She was offering charity. But what if it wasn't charity? What if she truly wanted to spend time with him to get to know him better and he believed her?
Christmas Eve was when the presents were opened. Her mom and dad had already told her that her gifts would come later so she wouldn't have to wade through the mess of people to get them. It was more for the little kids anyway. Susan had her room to herself during the gift opening. Kelly was down with the rest of the family. There she plotted her escape. Greg wanted to be alone on Christmas, but he was in for a surprise. Her biggest problem was clothes. She could continue to lounge around the house in pajama pants and old sweaters, but she shouldn't go out like that with Greg. She would insist they leave the dorm, and she wanted to be presentable.
The underwear was one problem, she wasn't going to wear a bikini underneath, but outer clothes were a problem too. The only clothes available to her were clothes that she hadn't brought to college. There was a pair of fat jeans that she had used a lot the past summer when she binged to get over the stress of her bad relationship. Her waist was narrow again, but her hips and bubble butt were still big enough to keep the jeans from falling down.
The next question was the sweater. She had two Christmas sweaters that she hadn't taken to college. One was red with Santa and reindeer prancing across the chest, and the other was green with elves on it. Neither one was that gaudy or she would have taken them to Goodwill by now. The green one with elves won out. The red one was too scratchy and she didn't have a clean shirt to wear underneath.
Six am on Christmas morning Susan's phone vibrated beneath her pillow and she woke up. She was careful not to wake Kelly, who hadn't come to bed until around 2am anyway. The older girl got dressed quietly, laughing to herself about the elves on her sweater and then slipped out of the room. The house was deathly still with close to 50 people sleeping in it right now. She made a quick stop in the kitchen for coffee that was always hot and ready, left a note that her mom would probably never see, donned a coat, and then slipped out of the house.