Definitely, Maybe in Love(2)

By: Ophelia London



I was watering it down. The real rumor was that she’d hid out after some kind of plastic surgery, but I wasn’t about to go there. I wore braids, Lilah went up a cup size. Live and let live.

If Lilah was as impassioned about doing good in the world as she claimed, she should have gone to Africa instead of Europe. She certainly had the means to take off like that. Unlike me. With two scholarships, one hefty student loan, and three jobs, I was barely making ends meet. Lilah didn’t know how fortunate she was to be financially independent.

She puckered her raspberry-stained lips. “You wouldn’t dare tell a story like that.”

I was glad I had a good two inches on her. When she goaded me like this, my inner-pacifist evacuated like a bran breakfast, and I wanted to throw a roundhouse kick at her head. But violence wouldn’t solve anything.

“No, I wouldn’t tell anyone that, Lilah,” I said wearily. “And you want to know why?”

“Spring?”

We both snapped to attention when Professor Masen called my name.

“Do you have a minute? Or do you have another class?”

“Busted,” Lilah sang under her breath as she walked past us, then out the door.

I stepped up to Masen’s desk, about ready to launch into promises that I would never be late again, no matter what wounded creature I stumbled upon. Though I knew deep down that wasn’t true. My love of animals in general outweighed my dislike of cats or fear of my academic advisor being momentarily pissed at me.

Masen was squinting at his laptop screen. While I waited, I gripped the strap of my backpack and stared past him at the board, which was covered in a rainbow of terminology and definitions I still hadn’t memorized. Two days into the fall semester and I wasn’t as on top of my classes as I’d like to be. How had that happened?

“I was just going over the proposal for your independent study project,” Masen said, jolting me back to the present. “It looks…familiar.”

Panic seized my insides. Three students had been expelled from Stanford last year for plagiarism. Blood was still in the water, and the teaching staff was circling like sharks.

“Professor Masen,” I said, stepping forward. “That work is my own, I swear. I can cite everything.” I was about to pull out my laptop and show him the files of proof when a hint of a smile crossed his face.

“That’s not it,” he said. “What I meant was, this is the stand you took in my Anthropology of Capitalism class last year. Do you intend to spend the next two semesters regurgitating the same opinion?”

“Regurgitating?” I repeated. “Wouldn’t recycling be more apropos?” I laughed at my own environmentalist joke, but Masen only stared back. “I…I chose to research sustainability again because it’s what I believe in,” I said, all kidding aside.

“I know that, Spring. The entire class knows that. Being vocal about your attitude on preservation has never been your problem.”

Problem? Is being a champion for bettering the planet a problem?

My natural instinct was to go on the defensive, but instead I took a moment to breathe, sliding my fingers up and down one of my braids. A calming ritual.

“This is an important project; you know that, don’t you?”

I nodded silently, but inside I was reciting that everything about attending Stanford University was important. Just ask the four certified letters my high school counselor had sent to the Admissions Board. It wasn’t just getting accepted into Stanford that had been a challenge for me, the succeeding was proving to be an even bigger task—which, obviously, was the most important thing in my life. Over the past year, I’d added more classes, more causes, more claims on my free time with the sole intention of standing out in a sea of fifteen thousand other overachievers.

I had to. Otherwise, I was going to drown.

“You’re an exceptional student,” Masen continued. I smiled at this, my stomach muscles unclenching. “I have ties to periodicals. I see potential in your thesis, and if it turns out well, I can almost guarantee publication.”

Whoa—what? Publication as a junior?

“That’s amazingly huge,” I blurted and dropped my bag. “Whatever it takes. If you don’t think my thesis is strong enough now, I’ll work on it. I’ll do anything.”

He leaned back in his squeaky chair. “I do have a few ideas, but first…” He toggled to a new page on his computer. “I see that you took twenty-one units last semester and nineteen last fall.”

“Yeah,” I confirmed, eyeing the screen.

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