He moved into my room and sat on my desk chair, not my bed.
I walked up to him, our knees bumping, wanting him to tell me he was just in a bad mood, or worried about his upcoming exams. My heart thudding heavily, I put a hand on his shoulder. “Kennedy?”
“Jackie, we need to talk.”
The drumming pulse in my ears grew louder, and my hand dropped from his shoulder. I grabbed it up in my other hand and sat on the bed, three feet from him. My mouth was so dry I couldn’t swallow, let alone speak.
He was silent, avoiding my eyes for a couple of minutes that felt like forever. Finally, he lifted his gaze to me. He looked sad. Oh, God. Ohgodohgodohgod.
“I’ve been having some… trouble… lately. With other girls.”
I blinked, glad I was sitting down. My legs would have buckled and sent me to the floor if I’d have been standing. “What do you mean?” I croaked out. “What do you mean, ‘trouble’ and ‘other girls’?”
He sighed heavily. “Not like that, not really. I mean, I haven’t done anything.” He looked away and sighed again. “But I think I want to.”
“I don’t understand.” My mind worked frantically to make the best possible situation out of this, but every single remotely-possible alternative sucked.
He got up and paced the room twice before planting himself halfway between the door and me. “You know how important it is to me to pursue a career in law and politics.”
I nodded, still stunned to silence and pedaling hard to keep up.
“You know our sister sorority?”
I nodded again, acknowledging the very thing I’d worried about when he moved into the frat house. Apparently, I hadn’t worried enough.
“There’s a girl—a couple of girls, actually, that… well.”
I tried to keep my voice rational and level. “Kennedy, this doesn’t make sense. You aren’t saying you’ve acted on this, or that you want to—”
He stared into my eyes, so there’d be no mistake. “I want to.”
Really, he could have just punched me in the stomach, because my brain refused to comprehend the words he was saying. A physical assault, it might have understood. “You want to? What the hell do you mean, you want to?”
He bolted out of the chair, walked to the door and back—a distance of a dozen feet. “What do you think I mean? Jesus. Don’t make me say it.”
I gaped. “Why not? Why not say it—if you can imagine doing it—then why the f**k not say it? And what does this have to do with your career plans—”
“I was getting to that. Look, everyone knows that one of the worst things a political candidate or elected representative can do is to become embroiled in some sexual scandal.” His eyes locked on mine in what I recognized as his debate-face. “I’m only human, Jackie, and if I have these desires to sow my wild oats or whatever and I repress it, I’ll probably have the same desire later, even worse. But acting on it then would be a career-killer.” He spread his hands helplessly. “I have no choice but to get it out of my system while I can do it without annihilating my future professional standing.”
I told myself, This isn’t happening. My boyfriend of three years was not breaking up with me so he could bang coeds with shameless abandon. I blinked hard and tried to take a deep breath, but I couldn’t. There was no oxygen in the room. I glared at him, silent.
His jaw clenched. “Okay, so I guess trying to let you down easy was a bad idea—”
“This is your idea of letting me down easy? Breaking up with me so you can screw other girls? Without feeling guilty? Are you serious?”
“As a heart attack.”
The last thing I thought before I picked up my econ textbook and hurled it at him: How can he use such a piece-of-shit cliché in a moment like this?
Erin’s voice woke me. “Jacqueline Wallace, get your ass out of that bed and go save your GPA. For chrissake, if I’d let a guy throw off my academic mojo like this, I’d never hear the end of it.”
I made a dismissive sound from under the comforter before peeking out at her. “What academic mojo?”
Her hands on her hips, she was wrapped in a towel, fresh from a shower. “Ha. Ha. Very funny. Get up.”
I sniffed, but didn’t budge. “I’m doing fine in all of my other classes. Can’t I just fail this one?”
Her mouth dropped open. “Are you even listening to yourself?”
I was listening to myself. And I was every bit as disgusted with my cowardly sentiments as Erin—if not more so. But the thought of sitting next to Kennedy for an hour-long class three days a week was unbearable. I couldn’t be sure what his newfound single status would mean in terms of open flirtations or hookups, but whatever it meant, I didn’t want to stare it in the face. Imagining the details was bad enough.
If only I hadn’t pressed him to take a class with me this semester. When we registered for fall classes, he questioned why I wanted to take economics—not a required course for my music education degree. I wondered if he had sensed, even then, that this was where we’d end up. Or if he'd known.
“You can and you will.” She ripped the comforter off. “Now get up and get in that shower. I have to get to French on time or Monsieur Bidot will question me mercilessly in passé composé. I can barely do past tense in English. God knows I can’t do it en français at ass o’clock in the morning.”