Sebastian calmly observed the second hand on his watch gliding around one last time. When it reached the twelve, indicating that it was eight twenty in the morning, he rose from the kitchen chair he was sitting in, took one last walk around the apartment. Carrying his alarm clock in one hand, he closed and locked the door behind him for the final time.
After he'd dropped his keys in the landlord's mail slot, he got in the van he'd borrowed from his brother and drove down the main strip of the Stryker University campus to the little cafe nestled up against the book store. Two weeks after graduation, the campus was more or less deserted except for the construction crews that seemed to pop up every time there was a break in classes. Idly, Sebastian wondered what new buildings were going up this time. He was sure it had been in the student newspaper. He just hadn't considered it very important at the time. He supposed it wasn't now either.
"Good morning, Sebastian," said the woman behind the counter. "You're here early today. Your regular order?"
"Just the coffee. And another coffee--same bean, three sugars, no milk."
"You got it. Big day today?"
Sebastian nodded, "Yup. This is my last day at Stryker. I'm driving down to Austin this week with... a friend.
"Texas?" she asked as she made the coffee. Sebastian nodded. "No shit? What's down there?"
"A job, an apartment, a life."
She put the coffees on the counter and looked up at Sebastian, "Take me with you."
Sebastian laughed, "Why on Earth would you want that?"
She sighed, "I just finished sophomore year. I'm two long years away from any of that."
Sebastian laughed harder, "Don't rush it. It's over before you know. I haven't even left and I miss this place already."
"I suppose," she said, looking doubtful. "Well, good luck, Sebastian. Knock em dead in Austin."
Sebastian's next stop was Adam Smith Hall. The work-study student working the front desk looked up from his textbook, "She didn't show up?"
Sebastian shook his head, smiling as he balanced the cardboard tray with two coffee cups on one hand, "Nope. You owe me twenty bucks, Case."
Case scowled, "Have a heart, man. I'm just a poor, lowly college student. You're a fancy CPA with your own office. You're taking food out of my mouth."
Sebastian showed no sympathy, "Don't bet if you're not ready to lose."
"Come on, man," wheedled Case. "I'm good for it."
"Case, you wouldn't be good for it if I were standing behind you all day, bugging you about it. Now, I'm supposed to believe you're going to pay me when I'm in Austin?"
Case shrugged, feigning helplessness.
Sebastian shot his hand, palm up, over the desk, "Give me her key."
"Give me her key and I'll call it even."
Case looked around the empty lobby, "Oh, man. I can't do that. I'd get in..."
"Give me the key or pay me the money."
"Case..." growled Sebastian. "The key."
"Fine," said Case, throwing up his hands in exasperation. "But, if anyone finds out you've got it, I'm going to claim you stole it."
"Thanks, Case. You're a pal."
Still balancing the coffee, Sebastian listened at the door of Michelle's room for a minute before letting himself in. Michelle was visible only as a mop of kinky, black hair poking out from one end of a pile of blankets on her bed against the far wall.
Quietly, Sebastian carried the desk chair over to the side of her bed, sat down on it, and watched for a few minutes, sipping his coffee. The blankets rose and fell with her breathing.
After watching her for a minute, he announced, "You packed your alarm clock, didn't you?"
Michelle poked her head out of the blankets and gave Sebastian a bleary-eyed stare. "How did you get in here?" she asked groggily.
Sebastian shrugged, "You must have left the door unlocked last night."
"Ohhhh... what time is it?"
"Eight thirty," said Sebastian holding out a cup. "I brought you coffee."
"Why didn't you wake me sooner?"
"I wanted to give you a chance to show up."
Michelle levered herself up on one arm, taking the cup of coffee, "You should have known better. When have I ever been on time when it really mattered?"
"Hope springs eternal," offered Sebastian, taking another sip of his own coffee.
Michelle sat up and took a sip from the proffered cup. After a second sip, she seemed to notice that she was naked from the waist up and wrapped her towel around herself. It was an oddly modest gesture for Michelle, particularly considering that she'd spent two weeks after New Year's in a cabin with Sebastian rarely more than half-dressed.
Of course, her behavior had been odd ever since that break. The two of them had been friends since before high school and gone up to the cabin as part of two separate couples. The first night, all four of them had wound up in bed together. Somehow... and Sebastian was still not entirely clear on this point... their dates, Devon and Sakura, had left as a couple. Sebastian and Michelle had left as... well, Sebastian didn't know what to call them anymore.
"Grab me my robe, would ya?" Michelle asked.
Michelle laid her coffee on the windowsill, took the robe from Sebastian's hands, wrapped herself in it, and staggered to the suite's bathroom.
When she emerged, Sebastian asked, "What's all this stuff? I thought you were packed."
Michelle retrieved her coffee before answering, "Yeah. I am. I just need to bring my sweats, my blankets, and my phone."
"You're just leaving the rest of this stuff?"
She nodded, "Housing fines you forty bucks if they have to clean up after you once you leave. Cheapest maid service I ever got."
Sebastian shook his head, but couldn't fault her logic.
Michelle leaned close to him, raising one arm, "Do I need another shower? I had one last night."
Sebastian wrinkled his nose, "I can't tell. Your robe does, though. I could tell when I brought it to you."
Michelle sighed and shrugged out of one shoulder of her robe, keeping her breast covered, but nearly spilling her coffee. Obediently, Sebastian leaned in and smelled her.
"You should be all right until Roanoke."
She nodded, "Good. We're already late because you didn't wake me up sooner."
Sebastian could see the twinkle in her eye and didn't rise to the bait. Instead, he said, "Drink your coffee and get dressed, then. I don't want to be driving much after dark."
"Baby," taunted Michelle as she downed the rest of her coffee. Holding her robe around herself, she said, "Hey, why don't you head out and wait in the lounge? I'll be there in ten. I promise."
Sebastian nodded at the dismissal, "All right."
True to her word, Michelle was out in the lounge, dressed for the road and carrying a few possessions wrapped in her blankets. She was wearing a pair of denim cut-off shorts and a sky-blue tank top with no bra. She hadn't put any make up on, but she didn't wear much anyway. Sebastian knew from past experience that she could apply it in the van in less than ten minutes while driving, but it would be ten minutes that could take ten years off his life. That was one of many reasons he'd offered to drive the first shift.
"So," she asked. "You ready to hit the road, Tonto?"
"I'm ready," said Sebastian. "But, we need to make one thing clear. You're Tonto. I'm Kemo Sabe."
"Ah, yes. Kemo Sabe--old Indian word that means 'horse's ass.'"
As they went through the lobby, Sebastian tossed the keys underhand to Case, "Thanks for the keys, buddy. That was a great idea."
Michelle looked from one of them to the other before glowering at the student at the desk. Sebastian saw her mouth the word, "dead man" at Case, who paled noticeably.
"He gave you my keys?" asked Michelle as they were climbing into the van.
Sebastian nodded, "Cost me twenty bucks, too."
"Damn," said Michelle. "I'm going to have to have a talk with that boy. I'm worth much more."
As Sebastian was pulling off campus, she added, "Did you know I almost slept with him?"
Sebastian shook his head, "I didn't know you ever almost slept with anyone."
Michelle nodded, "Normally, it's not my policy, but he passed out before it went very far."
Sebastian gave her a reproving glance, "Michelle, what did I tell you about taking advantage of drunk little boys?"
Michelle shrugged, "None of them have ever complained."
"Corey flipped out," Sebastian reminded her.
"Yeah, but Corey was a girl," pointed out Michelle. "And she thought she was straight."
Michelle shook her head, "You remember my belief on this matter."
Sebastian nodded, "Alcohol is an excuse, not a motivator. Nobody ever does anything drunk that they don't want to do sober."
"No," said Michelle, staring out the window, "I suppose they don't."
It was the first road trip Sebastian and Michelle were taking together since that Christmas. Usually, they drove to and from their parents' houses in Michigan together several times a year. This year, Sebastian had been looking forward to getting a chance to talk to Michelle alone for a couple of days when they drove home for spring break. At the last minute, Michelle had elected not to go, instead heading to New York City for a pool tournament.
.... There is more of this story ...