First day of school. It's a concept that loses its shine by the time you're a college senior. It was my last first day, so I suppose that's something. And there I was stuck in French 101.
It's one of those horror stories you hear about your first or second year. Seniors that push aside their requirements, go on to devour material in their majors and passions while ignoring those silly introductory classes the college wants you to check off so that you can be a liberal-minded intellectual able to function in a multifaceted world.
I was the idiot senior that forgot about her language requirement. The worst part was that while all my other senior friends were sleeping in, I was stuck in a classroom at nine in the morning. The outlook for the semester was already off to a bad start.
My eyes scanned the room, noticing the fidgeting hands of freshmen that had been more responsible than myself, making sure their very first semester included a semester of foreign vocabulary and grammar. There was an upperclassman sprinkled here or there; you could tell by looking at what everyone was wearing. Typically, the older the student, the less they started caring, but the room was filled with people that had clearly taken time. Dresses and skirts, collared shirts and kakis. I was surrounded. It was like I was back in Ohio, forced to go to a service at church with everyone dressed like dolls. I self-consciously looked down, inspecting my Northwestern sweatshirt before shaking my head. What did it matter anyway?
I turned to my left in hopes of catching a glimpse of the clock and determining how late our professor was when a curtain of fabulous blue trapped my attention. I had no idea what kind of skirt it was; anyone that had met me knew my standard uniform involved jeans and whatever shirt had managed to survive two weeks on my floor without getting too wrinkled. But it flowed like water, liquid fabric from which emerged two pale legs. I found myself following the slim appendages down to a pair of heels. They were grey. Greyish blue. Cobalt? I don't know. Bluish grey was the best I was going to be able to come up with at nine in the morning. The cool colors made the pale hue of the legs the adorned appear creamy and inviting.
A shiver ran down my spine, and I ripped away from the shoes to the face atop the body that wore them.
The blue hue of her skirt was warm like the ocean, but her eyes were pure ice. I froze at the cold stare that questioned me, eyebrow hitched upward in mild annoyance. I did the only thing a person can do when they've been caught staring at a girl's legs. I nervously smiled.
I received a look of pure death before the young woman slowly turned her head away as if I didn't deserve a second more of her attention.
Well, that was awkward.
I turned to face the front of the room, but I found myself glancing to my left to try and see more of this mysterious, cold girl. Besides her extremely fashionable clothes, the next feature I immediately spotted was her hair. It was like someone had invented a way to melt gold and copper together, and the reddish waves glowed against her dark blue top. Her profile revealed a long, narrow nose. Her features were intense and pointed but she was certainly very beautiful. Suddenly embarrassed with my thoughts and staring, I looked down at my desk and the solitary notebook I had brought for the class.
Before I could continue to embarrass myself, an older gentleman entered the room and approached the larger table at the front and center of the room. Taking great purpose in avoiding the girl in blue, I exaggeratedly looked up at the clock above her head. 9:06. I guess that was fairly on time for a professor.
"Hello, I'm Professor Bisset. This is French 101, so I hope you're in the right place. It looks like most of you are new to the school as well as French. Actually, why don't you raise your hand if you're a freshman?"
Almost all the hands in the class shot into the air. I saw a guy in the front with his arms crossed that looked about as pessimistic as I was for this semester. There was one girl a few rows to my left that was staring at her phone in her lap. I glanced to my left. The elegant woman did not have her hand raised. I frowned slightly; she had a thin build so I assumed she was younger.
"Let me be one of the first to welcome you here," Bisset stated with a small smirk, "Now, I'm going to pass out the syllabus and then take attendance so we can get started. You'll notice on said syllabus that attendance is required for a good participation grade in this class."
Damnit. Looks like I wouldn't be skipping. Not that I was the type of student to really skip all the time. But sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do to get a little more sleep.
Because it was an introductory level class, there were a lot of people and a lot of names. I groaned internally. Maybe I could take a quick nap before he actually started teaching. I rested my head in the palm of my hand and sighed. A movement caught the corner of my eye, and I turned slightly to see what it was.
The girl next to me brushed her hair over her shoulder, placed her hands on her lap, and pursed her lips while glaring towards the front of the room.
At least I would be hearing what this girl's name was soon enough. Calling her the Girl in Blue in my head seemed over dramatic.
I knew my name would be close to the end, and I waited. And waited. Name after name came and went with a responding "here," and still the girl beside me did not answer to any of them. I was wondering if she would maybe follow my name when the professor finally issued a name that made her twitch.
"Miranda," was the firm reply as she held her chin high like she was giving a regal command.
"Hm?" The professor stopped, trying to understand why she was saying a different name.
She sat up straighter and stated resolutely, "Je m'appelle Miranda."
The eyes of the professor grew wide and excited. "Parlez-vous français?"
That was really all it took for me to get completely and utterly lost. The two of them went back and forth in this foreign tongue, and the only part I really caught was something about Paris. Whatever it was, Miranda sounded like she had been speaking it her entire life.
At the end of their exchange, the old man grinned and began to cross out something and scribble at his attendance sheet while saying, "Alright then, Miranda."
I was still pretty lost. Why was this girl taking intro French when she obviously spoke it so well? Why didn't she like her birth name? How did she get the nickname Miranda?
Why was I so nosey?
"Here. I go by Andy," I said a little too excitedly, jumping out of my thoughts when I heard my name.
"Andy," the professor muttered, writing it down on the form below him. And that was that before he went on to call the remaining names on the list.
There was some discussion about what was on the syllabus. We had to look forward to quizzes and midterms in addition to a final project, but it looked like we would be able to get partners for those. I was dreading the participation grade, and I was going to have to force myself to talk at least once per class in French if I wanted a decent grade. Whatever. I really just wanted to pass.
He had us open to the first chapter in our books, and he started going over some basic introductory phrases on the board. I felt like I was getting the hang of it as I was writing it down in my notes when the old man set his chalk down on the table.
"Let's have you guys try it. Turn to the person next to you. Use the vocabulary in your textbooks and try asking each other some basic questions."
I looked around and noticed that the desk arrangements were rows of even numbers. There were two desks to my right. One to my left.
That meant Miranda was going to be my partner.
Okay, Sachs. Don't screw it up this time.
When I turned to smile at Miranda, I was once again greeted by a scathing glare. Her overall expression was pure irritation. It was as her gaze trailed down my hoodie in pure judgment that I realized how bad this was going to be.
Too late. Already screwed it up.
I hesitantly looked down at my book and tried to piece together some words with what our professor had already showed us on the board. Who knows? Maybe she was just having a rough day. I tried to ask her how she was, in French, as cheerfully as possible. I was pretty sure I used the right words. I looked up and waited for her answer. A pause.
She started rapidly speaking in lengthy sentences, as if she were dangling each word in front of me like a tasty morsel she knew I could never have or understand. It sounded nice, but I could tell she was getting a thrill out of my stupidity. Come on, it was an intro level class; she was totally cheating! There was an evil smirk as she just kept going and going using words that I'd have to dig in the back of the textbook to find, if they were even in our pathetic little book.
"Look, I get it," I snapped, "You clearly know a lot more than me. Can you just give me a break here? I've never taken a French class before," I blurted out, interrupting her advanced linguistics.
An eyebrow twitched as Miranda's lips slowly pursed together. A solid beat passed. Just before I was about to give up, a single word came as my response. The "bonjour" that left her mouth felt more like an annoyed insult than a greeting.
I winced as I too uttered, "Bonjour."
A pause lingered as she simply stared at me as if to say "well?"
I looked down at my textbook and cleared my throat. We proceeded to have a deep, intellectual discussion about our ages, where we lived, and if we liked cheese. Miranda's responses were always short and cutting like individual daggers, but I managed to learn that she was a year younger than myself, she still lived in a dorm as an upperclassman, and that she did, in fact, like some cheeses. I stammered pathetically to ask her these questions, and I considered each answer a victory, my own answers extremely limited by what terms were readily available on the pages before me.
Just as I was about to ask which cheeses she liked, or at least try to look through the textbook index for the right words, our professor cleared his throat and addressed the class.
"Very good, very good, I hear some great conversations coming along."
I almost rolled my eyes. He definitely couldn't have been referring to ours.
"In any case, I hope you've gotten to know your partner," he said with a big smile, "The person you worked with today will be your conversation partner for the next few weeks as well as your partner for the final class project at the end of the semester."
I'm pretty sure I heard something in Miranda's head explode.
I felt bad. I realized I wasn't exactly the ideal candidate, but I'm sure any other student in the class would have been at the same level of French as me. I was a hard worker…in my other classes. Anyway, I was a nice person! She didn't have a reason to hate me. Well, yeah, she had caught me looking at her legs. Oops. But it really was because of the pretty skirt that I looked, not because I was checking her out. Mostly.
Professor Bisset dismissed the class, and before I could even turn to fumble with asking Miranda for her number or some way to contact her about the project or the class, she was walking briskly out the door.
"What the hell is up with you?"
I lifted my head from off the table and hazily looked around until I could spot the source of the voice.
"It's only the first day of classes, Andy," Lily laughed, shaking her head, making her black curls bounce before taking the seat next to mine, "Let's not pull a repeat of last year when you practically lived in the lab."
I stared at the computer in front of me, the blinking cursor taunting me for the low word count on the page. I had been trying to work on my assignment for the first issue of the Daily Northwestern of the new semester. I had proceeded to fall asleep beside the lab's bulky desktop computer.
"I didn't have anyone to do the piece on this year's orientation. I literally had to go interview freshmen about what they were looking forward to about college. It made me want to throw up," I whined, sitting up and stretching before turning to the girl getting into the seat beside me, "How's the Arts section going?"
"Great. We got a cool line up of concerts for the first week of classes and something on the new museum exhibit."
I nodded, half listening, glaring at the word document before me.
"You're going to make a great editor in chief of the paper this year. This little assignment should be a piece of cake," she stated, pulling off her sweater. The AC had died, making our paper's humble little office space a bit unbearable. Lily's dark, coffee-colored skin was still in full force after the summer. I frowned when I realized I hadn't even been outside enough this summer to get sunburned.
"I guess," I sighed, "I just don't get how I'm supposed to write this hopeful piece about the new, doe-eyed students when I'm entering my fourth year here and still have no idea what I'm going to do when I graduate."
"Parents still not thrilled about the whole journalist thing?"
"Not really. My dad wants me to go to Stanford for law like he did," I said with a wince, remembering how my last phone call home ended with me crying after I hung up.
"Why don't you just apply? It'll at least get him off your back," Lily shrugged, giving me a smile small.
"True. I clearly look like the lawyer type," I replied, reclining in the lab's chair and posing in my simple t-shirt. My sweatshirt hung on the back of the chair.
Lily just snorted, "Try again, honey," before logging on to the computer next to mine.
"Hey, I'm smart. I know things."
"Yeah, but you look like a hobo sometimes."
I pouted, "It's not my fault our society decided the clothes I like aren't in style."
"Right. Who was it that decided the clothes you like should sit on your floor and not get washed?"
Sometimes it was a pain in the ass when your best friend was your roommate. They had too much dirt on you.
"I just have more important things to do," I paused, staring again at the blink cursor before me, "Like learning French," I quipped sarcastically.
"You're the idiot that forgot her language requirement."
"I know, I know. And now I'm stuck being partnered with this girl that's fluent and hates me."
Lily raised an eyebrow, but I just shrugged it off.
"Long story. We just seem like totally different people. She was in this incredible outfit and had these like piercing blue eyes," I trailed off, remember how intense our brief interaction had felt.
"Uh-huh," Lily said with a small smirk.
"Nothing." A look. "Incredible, huh?" Now she was wiggling her eyebrows at me.
"Oh shut up. It's not like that."
"Come on! It's been almost a year since you and Nate called it off. You worked all summer. You're going to be obsessive being the editor for the paper, I can tell. Do not go all psycho this year, please," she demanded, turning in her chair to face me completely, "Take care of yourself."
"I am." Even I could tell there was a hesitation in my answer that lasted a half-second too long.
"I mean try to have some fun," she said firmly but softly, and her hand reached out to touch my arm.
Lily's dark eyes took a moment to hold mine, and I found myself nodding. She smiled, and turned back to her computer screen.
"But first, for the love of God, do your laundry, girl."
A/N: Hey guys! Sorry it's been awhile since I've written for you. I really hope to have the next chapter out very soon. Please let me know what you think. I know it's very AU, so every thought and opinion helps.