My heart shot up through my esophagus when I heard the knock. The first thing he said was, where had I been? He had stopped by three times already, yesterday afternoon and once in the evening. (Stupid manatees!) He said he even talked to the grouchy dotard next door. He told me his name: Connor. I was Francesca, I said, barely holding it together. Thank God he was wearing a shirt, or I would’ve been fidgeting like a freak not to gawk at him. I told him straight up that if he thought I was some ingénue and his designs were purely amorous, then we should just shake and say bye now. I was just out for an innocent, friendly adventure. He said that was good to hear because he was dating someone back at school anyway.
We went out to walk and talk on the beach. Connor’s official deal was dreamy-college-athlete-frat-boy-Communications-major. He played lacrosse at Virginia, a fact gathered by the insignia and number on his orange baggy shorts.
“What exactly do you study as a Communications major?” I asked.
“I know. It sounds ridiculous, right? It’s, like, are they teaching me how to talk on the phone or what? I mean, from the sound of it, I could be working toward my degree right now.”
I laughed. “Because we’re communicating.”
“Exactly. So Francesca, tell me, what do you think about my communication skills? Pretty awesome, huh? What grade would you give me?”
“On your communication skills?” I asked.
“Yeah. Go ahead. Hit me.”
“I don’t know. B-plus?”
“B-plus!” Connor mock-yelled. “That sucks! That’s the worst grade of all, ‘cause it’s not quite an A!”
“A-minus?” I squeaked.
“Oooh. That one. Toughie. Hmm. To be honest, that’s where we run into a little bit of a gray area.”
“You stole that line from Chevy Chase,” I recriminated.
“You’re right,” he said. “From Fletch. I’m impressed you know that. You an eighties movie buff or something?”
“Yeah, sort of.”
“Cool. Me too. You know, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing either. Maybe I’ll go to Hollywood and become an actor, like Chevy.”
“So Communications majors become actors?”
“They can,” Conner said. “Lots of us go into journalism. I was kind of thinking about the game show host route. What do you think?”
I looked at him, trying to see if he was joking or not. After a second he started to laugh, and I laughed too. This was how all our conversations went—lots of talking nonsense and laughing at it. His self-deprecating sense of humor kept me in stitches. He said he couldn’t wait for me to go out partying with him that night, obviously oblivious to the fact that I was down there with my parents. No reason to tell him, really. It was enough to admit that I was in high school, even though I somehow turned into a senior who would be matriculating at Northwestern in the fall. (Which wasn’t a total lie. I was thinking of applying there.)
For the rest of the day, I felt lighter than I had in weeks. It felt nice to take a little break from hating myself and feeling incessantly guilty. I walked into town to buy myself a shirt suitable for being seen among the “college crowd.” I acquired a SnoKone and ended up with a purple ring around my lips, just like back in the day. Read a few more pages of my novel out on the patio and ate dinner with my parents and Rico.
Later, I went down to Connor’s apartment at around ten. The guys staying there—Steve, Ryan, Mike and Watts—were all gregarious and nice-looking, with their baseball caps worn in the exact same way. After hanging out in their apartment for a while, we drove to some garishly decorated dance club that was fairly burgeoning with carousing spring-breakers. Connor showed his gentlemanly side by paying my ten-dollar cover charge.
It was funny. Seemed like the second you had a guy-friend around, guys would start coming out of the woodwork. I got hit on by a plethora of guys, most of whom didn’t even bother to utilize come-on lines. Luckily, my crew of Virginia lacrosse boys emancipated me each time, boldly stepping in between the most recent interloper and me.
Connor and I didn’t get to talk as much as I’d hoped, because the place was just too loud. But we danced like fools. I was psyched to see that he had enough rhythm to dance respectably to hip hop music. At around four in the morning, Connor asked if I was ready to split.
Never in my life had I had the option to take a guy back to “my place”—a place in which my parents weren’t. It felt cool and mature, but on the other hand, inviting Connor over, especially after my brazen pool-side introduction, seemed like the type of courtesy that could be easily misinterpreted. So instead we went for another walk on the beach, talking some more about our lives and even about his girlfriend and my ex, Jeremy. He said Jeremy didn’t deserve me, and that I’d find someone else who did. I couldn’t believe it when the sun started to come up—the night had flown by. Conner walked me back to my room and said goodbye.
“I guess this is it,” he said when we stopped in front of my door. “It was cool meeting you, Francesca. Wish I’d met you earlier.”
“Me, too,” I said. We hugged goodbye, and he gave me a quick kiss on the cheek.
And yes, it reminded me of a certain someone whose name starts with the letter “L,” okay? But we’re not going there right now.
Looking back (I’m on the plane ride home now), that whole day and night with Conner was really perfect, probably because it was also so transient. We had just enough time together to know that we liked each other, and not long enough to start figuring out we didn’t. Stavros was right about looking for trouble. Unfortunately, as soon as I get back, I have to do the exact opposite—extricate myself from the trouble I’ve caused. But for now, it’s time to put my tray table up, lean my seat back and catch some sleep.