I didn’t want to go to class.

So, what’s new, right?

I mean, I’m a junior now and nipping away at cum laude, but going to class often meant waking up before nine o’clock. That was the case today. I was working to keep my eyes open, only partially successfully, and my roommate was trying to help.

“It’s the first day of classes, Arch. I told you that you needed to get a summer job. Three months away from this has kinda spoiled you.”

I heard through “Three months,” and then things got a little fuzzy.

“Archie, wake up,” Willie said a little louder than usual. “When’s your first class?”

Managing to get one eye open, I said, “Not until nine.”

“Well, Mr. Not Until Nine, it’s now eighteen before nine.”

That woke me up quickly because, despite my distaste for early rising, my penchant for punctuality was a controlling influence in my life, and I was out the door almost before Willy finished saying “nine.”

It was a five-minute drive to the university, but lot number one was full, and parking in lot number two meant I’d be doing some running. Checking my watch as I ran told me I was just going to make it. I rounded the corner of Benton Hall when it happened.

I stepped on something, heard a squeal, and watched her sprawl to the ground, books and papers flying.

“Are you okay?” I grabbed a hand to help her stand. “I’m so, so sorry.”

“I’m all right, and it’s my fault,” she said, looking at me with the most beautiful blue eyes I’d ever seen. “I was bloody stupid to wear flip-flops to school just for this reason.”

Her glorious English accent had my heart beating a little faster. And I was nearly eye-to-eye with those amazing blue eyes of hers–she had to be six feet tall. We both dropped to hands and knees, gathering up books and papers–and I was being assaulted by the enticing aroma of her perfume.

“I’ll do that,” she said. “You need to get to your class.”

“I caused this, and I’ll stay till you have everything together.”

She laughed, a delightful sound.

“It will take a lifetime for me to have everything together.”

If she was inviting me to spend a lifetime with her, I was willing to give it a try. Silly boy.

“I have an English class, and I’ve heard the professor is usually late,” she added.

“Seems you should have an American class, and I should have the English class, which I do, too. Can I help you carry some books or something?”

“Thank you, but I have them now. Let’s hurry to class.”

I held the door and followed her to the lecture hall, careful to avoid the flip-flops. We slipped through the door and noted that the lectern was unoccupied. I watched her eyes search the room. Finally spotting something or someone, she headed across the back of the lecture hall, me right behind as I planned to sit beside her if possible. Exhaling, she sat down, and I grabbed the empty seat beside her.

But she wasn’t paying me a bit of attention, talking instead to the guy sitting on the other side. I could hear a little bit of the conversation–she was explaining why she was late to whoever he was. I debated about moving to another seat when he leaned forward and looked at me. At least he was smiling.

“I hear you knocked Sonia on her butt,” he said with a laugh.

“Peter!” she said, cheeks reddening. “Don’t be so cheeky.”

“I’m so sorry. I was late and not paying attention, and…”

“It was my flip-flops, Peter, not…”

“Archie,” I said, filling the void.

“…not Archie’s fault.”

The pink cheeks only seemed to enhance the blue eyes…and the blonde hair…and the devastating figure I’d just noticed while walking along behind her…and beside her. I was hoping that Sonia was about to introduce me to her brother, or cousin, or old family friend.

“I’m sorry, Archie. This is my boyfriend, Peter Trotter.”

My whole world shriveled when I heard those six words. I extended my hand, though.

“Archer Doyle,” I said, leaning across Sonia to shake hands with Peter, inhaling the scent of her perfume once again. Thank heaven the professor had arrived, and the lecture began.

It was quickly obvious that this English class could easily endanger my cum laude since it was nearly impossible to concentrate with Sonia so close. And even if she wasn’t close, I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep my eyes from searching her out. Twice she leaned toward me to whisper a funny remark about the lecture, the English-y sounds coupled with her warm breath tormenting me no end.

I adjusted my position so that I couldn’t see Peter, which, in my fantasy, meant that he wasn’t there. I did notice a scraped place on the wrist closest to me and pointed to it. She leaned close again and whispered.

“Pfft,” she said. “I get lots more than that playing football or soccer.”

The puff of warm breath that hit my ear made me close my eyes. This was ridiculous. She had a boyfriend sitting right next to her, and here I was, being tormented by every little thing she did. I told myself that boyfriends come, and then they go, and they weren’t engaged or anything yet, so I kept my hopes alive, no matter how futile it seemed at the moment.

Class ended, and we stood to leave; both Sonia and Peter off to their ten o’clock classes. Sonia took hold of my arm.

“Don’t feel badly about what happened,” she said. “Because of it, I’ve made a new friend, so it wasn’t bad at all.”

Fortunately, I was free till eleven, so I could get a donut and cup of coffee and attempt to cool my jets a tiny bit–maybe a whole lot. I stopped at the bookstore on the way and bought a notebook and a pen since I’d run out of the house without grabbing the ones I already had.

I munched, and sipped, and did a lot of thinking–actually arguing with myself–about Sonia. I’d had a girlfriend my freshman year and one my sophomore year and was looking forward to a junior year girl as well. I’d found the perfect one on the first day of classes, but there was an impediment that was going to make it difficult to have Sonia be that girl. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much I could do about it either.

I moped through the rest of my classes, keeping an eye out for Sonia, but with around fifty thousand students milling about on over fifteen thousand acres, I knew it wasn’t likely to happen. Tomorrow’s English class was probably my best hope.

Willie, my roommate, was amazed when I was up and dressed early the next morning. I told him that I just wanted to get to class on time. Any discussion of Sonia would have to wait for…well, more progress, I guess, if more progress was possible.

I was early and leaned against a wall, watching one of the doors to the lecture hall for Sonia’s appearance. When it didn’t happen, I stepped inside the hall and spotted her sitting by herself, with vacant seats on both sides of her.

“Mind if I sit with you?” I asked.

“Oh, please do,” she replied enthusiastically. “I was hoping you’d be here so we could sit together and giggle about the lecture.”

Be still my heart.

“Is Peter late today?”

“He’s not taking this course. He was just here yesterday to keep me company. But you’re here now,” she added with a big smile, her teeth as flawless as the rest of her. She was nibbling a cookie and sipping a cup of coffee when the cookie suddenly crumbled and flew out of her hand.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “My biscuit has soiled your trousers, I’m afraid.”

I brushed the crumbs away and smiled. “All good,” I assured her.

So, I would have her all to myself for one hour each day. Not perfect, but better than it might be. Just the occasional whiff of her perfume was enough to keep me enthralled and oblivious to the lecture taking place. Occasionally Sonia would chuckle, then reach across and write something in my notebook.

“That’s important, and you seemed to be daydreaming.” she’d whisper, which immediately restored my attention but restored it to her and not the lecture. She even carefully lettered S-o-n-i-a M-a-r-t-e-l-l at the top of one of the pages. She was either flirting with me or just being very friendly. I prayed it was the former. I needed to find out more about Peter Trotter but didn’t know how that might happen. Sonia offered a simple solution.

“Do you do anything special for lunch?” she whispered near the end of the class.

If I’d been invited for lunch at the White House, I believe I’d have canceled in anticipation of what Sonia might ask next.

Trying to be as cool as possible, I shrugged. “Nothing special,” I said. “Why?”

“Peter has a work-study thing he’s doing this semester, so he’s going to do it at eleven o’clock. Maybe we could get together for lunch.”

I tried to get a look at her face, but she had already turned back toward the lecturer, and I couldn’t get a hint of what might be going through her mind. But it was my turn to whisper to her, my lips just an inch from her ear, which was hiding behind the blonde hair.

“Sounds good,” I said as casually as possible. “Where?”

When she turned her head before I had moved, we were nose to nose, just inches apart. She chuckled and moved her head.

“Student Union or Wendy’s?” she suggested.

“Which is closest to you?”


“Noon, then?” I asked as the bell rang.

“See you then.” Another smile and whiff of perfume, and we parted.

Things like this never went my way, as this seemed to be doing. I wondered what might happen to spoil it.


I was waiting outside Wendy’s when I spotted Sonia about a block away, seemingly not aware of the stares she was drawing. She spotted me and smiled, picking up her pace.

“Hey,” she said.

“That doesn’t sound very English.”

She laughed. “I’ve managed a few things since I arrived.”

We went inside, ordered, picked up our food, and found a vacant table. I felt like a prince just sitting at the table with Sonia.

“What kind of a work-study program is Peter doing?”

Sonia took a bite of her Apple Pecan salad. “Something to do with banking, I think. He’s just getting started, so he doesn’t know much about it yet.” Another delicate nibble of salad.

“You known him a long time?” I avoided looking at her as I asked that.

“Well,” she began, carefully crunching a pecan, “I said he was my boyfriend, but we’ve had only two dates, and I’ve known him about two weeks.” She rolled her eyes up from the salad, licking her lips to clear a piece of lettuce.

I wondered if she was innocently very sensual or was very aware of what she was doing. Either way, the effect I was experiencing was the same. Still, the two were nearly opposites and made me wonder.

“What’s your major?” I was venturing into more familiar territory now.

“Would you believe mechanical engineering?” she asked as I attempted to interpret her grin.

“Um, kind of a stretch, I think.” I raised my eyebrows.

“Didn’t think you’d buy that. I’m studying English literature.”

“Wait, you came to the US to study English literature?”

“Not quite. I came to the US to be with my sister…and then decided to study English lit.”

“Back to England when you graduate?”

She sighed and took another bite of salad before answering.

“That’s a possibility, but there are lots of others as well,” she said, avoiding my eyes.

I was sure that Peter was one of those possibilities, and I could only dream and hope that I might be one as well once Peter was out of the picture. But that was far off, and, right now, I was sitting here enjoying her company way beyond what I should be. And I was wondering why she avoided looking at me when she said that.

“Your fries will get cold,” she said, looking at me once more. “And see, there’s another thing I’ve gotten used to, calling them fries instead of chips.”

“Well done, and I was just thinking,” I said, stuffing two of them in my mouth.

“Ah, care to share?” she said, chuckling.

“Talking about what you might be doing just had me thinking about what I might be doing too. Lots of possibilities, I guess.”

“I never asked about your major,” Sonia said, a slightly guilty look on her face.

I had to laugh because of what she’d said just a few minutes ago.

“Mechanical Engineering.”

“Rubbish,” she said, and it was her turn to laugh, those blue eyes sparkling. Seeing the look on my face, she continued. “I’d never have guessed,” she said. “You don’t seem like an engineer.” As she finished, her cheeks began to turn pink.

It wasn’t like I hadn’t heard that or something similar in the past, and I accepted it as a compliment. But the way she looked at me and the tone of her voice had my blood heating dramatically. This all seemed to be going the way I hoped it would, even as I wasn’t sure that was the way it should go.

Trying to recover, she asked, “What are you doing in that English class, then?”

“Working to not be like an engineer,” I said. “How am I doing?”

“You’re cruel,” she said, giggling, “but I deserve it and need to make it up to you.” One of those gorgeous blue eyes winked at me.

Where to go from here? It seemed she was inviting me to follow the path I was yearning to follow, but, like it or not, I could see an obstacle in that path, even if it appeared it might not be there. Of course, there was always the possibility that she was simply a mischievous tease, happy to torment me relentlessly. I hoped not.

“Do I get to make suggestions?” Perhaps I could tease a little as well.

“That could be a little dangerous, couldn’t it? Maybe I should make the suggestions.” Another big grin from Sonia.

Before I could answer, her cell phone rang, and she fumbled in her big bag to find it. When she finally answered, she mouthed, “My sister,” and I looked away to give her some privacy. The conversation was short, and when she turned to me, she was smiling.

“Here’s my suggestion,” she began, and I was immediately alert. “That was my sister on the phone, and she’s on her way. Why don’t you stay and meet her?”

I didn’t have a class, so of course, I’d stay, not to meet sis, but just to be with Sonia. Maybe I’d see what I could discover.

“What’s Peter’s major?”

Sonia surprised me with a half-hearted shrug.

“He’s working on a master’s in business–accounting.”

I knew that accountants could be in the same category as engineers on the “most boring people” list, perhaps explaining her shrug.

“So, he’s a little older, then.”

“Four years. He’s the same age as Martina, my sister, who is coming through the door right now.”

Martina wasn’t quite Sonia, but she was a fine-looking young lady. Blonde like her sister but several inches shorter, her eyes a different shade of blue than Sonia’s, she was, nevertheless, beautiful.

Martina smiled at me. “Is this Peter?”

Sonia snorted. “No, no, this is Archie,” she said, laughing, and took hold of my arm.

I’m sure the smile that came onto my face was as wide as any that had previously been there. When I glanced at her, those blue eyes were looking right at me. Then, another surprise.

“I need to introduce you to Peter,” she said to Martina. “He’s almost exactly your age.”

“I’m game for that, but I have some bad news.”

“Ugh. What’s that?”

“Mom called–”

“–that’s bad news in itself,” Sonia interrupted, and the expression on her face changed drastically.

It was my turn to wonder.

“I know, but grampy Paul is sick…very sick. Mama thinks we should come home. She’s booked tickets for us for tomorrow night.”

“Just run home, the hell with school,” Sonia grumbled.

“It’s grampy Paul, and you know how much he’s meant to us. When you ran away that time, where did you go?”

“I didn’t really run away; I just had to get away, and Grampy’s was the only place to go.”

I felt like I was intruding on a family drama, but Sonia had a near death-grip on my arm, so I decided, based on the way she was holding me, that I needed to learn more about this fascinating blonde.

Martina joined us, and the two of them talked more about what was happening, as I learned, in England. Sonia had released my arm when we sat down, but her hand was interlocked with mine under the table. I was beginning to forget about Peter.

Martina sighed. “Were you serious about introducing me to this Peter person?”

“If you’re interested, I sure can.” Sonia looked directly at me. “He and I just didn’t hit it off…or maybe it was just me.” My hand received a very pleasant squeeze.

Then, one more time, Sonia’s breath surrounded my ear. “Would you think I was too brash,” she whispered, “if I asked you to take me out tonight before I go to England?”

“No, I wouldn’t, and yes, I’d love to.”

“No whispering,” Martina teased, “but knowing you, I can guess what you said.”

“Don’t you have a class?” Sonia was looking out for me.

“I do, but that’s okay,” I said, perfectly willing to cut a class in this situation.

“It’s the second day of school; get to your class,” Sonia said, giving me a mock severe look. “Wait. Give me your cell number, and I’ll ring you.”

She wrote the number on her notebook.

“Now, get to class.”

“Yes, ma’am.” I got another squeeze and left the restaurant reluctantly. However, I was elated at what lay ahead for the rest of my day.


At ten till four, my phone vibrated. Thermo class was nearly over, so I texted Sophia that I’d call after class. It was only five minutes but seemed much longer. Finally, outside, I called.

“Hi,” she answered, and that pretty face was looking back at me from the phone.

“Hey. Could hardly wait to talk with you.”

“I’m glad you didn’t decide I was just too weird and would ignore my call.”

I laughed and wondered what kind of idiot would do that.

“No way. I want to find out everything that makes Sonia, Sonia.”

“You might learn more than you want to know.”

“I’ll take my chances. So, where are we going on our first date?”

Sonia laughed. “I did the hard part. It’s up to you to fill in the details.”

As long as I was with Sonia, the details didn’t matter. But before I could answer, she put some restrictions on the evening.

“Please don’t spend lots of money on me. Let’s do something simple, okay.”

I was smiling at my phone and at her. I’d met Sonia just yesterday, but it seemed we’d been good friends for much longer. I was thinking, though.

“It’s still warm,” I said.

“I beg your pardon. I’m from England, and it’s hot.” Her emphasis on the last word made it a very English-sounding, “hawt.”

I chuckled. “How about a picnic?”

“You mean just go to a park together?”

“Sure, and I’ll have snacks.”

There was a moment of silence. “I’d like that,” she said quietly.

“May I ask a personal question?”


“How old are you?”

“I’m twenty-one, and do I know why you asked that?”


Sonia gave me her address, we waved to each other, and I was ready to head to the grocery store, unsure of what to get.


All the way to the store, I debated about what to take to the picnic and my first date with Sonia. Once inside, I spotted a lady stocking shelves and wondered if she could help. I explained my situation, and she seemed eager to assist, telling me to pick the wine I wanted (I had decided to go with the wine) while she gathered the rest of the things I’d need.

I paced through the wine isles, trying to decide which wine would be appropriate. A light went on in my head, and I grabbed my phone to text.

red or white? A twenty second delay.

either lol

Sticking to Sonia’s instructions, I picked a bottle of inexpensive merlot, careful to get one with a screw top. When I found my shopper-helper, she had a basket full of picnic goodies. I shuffled through it to see what she’d picked.