Stone Steps

Maisie always ate her lunch on the stone steps of the campus library. The weather was nice, warm and gentle, not yet the willowing and choking humidity of heat of even June.

She made her self a sack lunch every morning. A bologna and American cheese sandwich with mayonnaise. A cookie. A pickle. And a thermos full of unsweet tea.

She’d gotten in the habit of not bringing her earbuds out with her. She’d eat her food and watch the students walk to and from class, watch the sun play through the new growth leaves.

 

Maisie saw Claudia walking towards her from the little café on the other side of the courtyard. She was sipping from a bottle of diet soda, and was, as always, distracted.

Maisie placed her half-eaten sandwich on her knee, waving to Claudia, her other hand over her mouth as she quickly tried to chaw and swallow the mouthful of sandwich.

Claudia looked up, and smiled and waved, then pulled her phone from her purse, and started tapping out a text, drawn into that scrying light.

Maisie looked down, went back to her sandwich. Maisie at 25, was older than the undergraduates going about their way, but she was so far behind them in every other way.

 

Maisie felt a hand squeeze her shoulder, just as Mary sat down next to her. She smiled, and felt a little flip in her belly. Mary was one of the students she liked best, and she hoped that they’d become friends, real friends, not just co-workers.

“Pretty day.” Maisie offered. When all else fails, comment on the weather.

“Yeah, good day to eat your lunch outside.” Mary offered.

“You know why you can’t hear it when a Pterodactyl goes to the bathroom?”

“Why?”

“The P is silent!”

Mary got the giggles, and laughed for a good minute. Maisie felt pleased with herself for this. Making jokes made people like you, made them feel good, disarmed them.

Mary squeezed Maisie’s shoulder again, and got up.

“Got class. Enjoy your lunch.” Mary was walking away.

“Wait!” Maisie called out. Mary stopped, and looked back. Maisie sat for a long beat, mouth open, struck dumb. There was so much she wanted to say, to tell Mary, about things that had happened, that she hoped they’d be friends, that she still feared so much, that this was all a dream, somehow.

“Good luck on your finals. I’ll have my fingers crossed for you.”

Mary smiled, gave her a thumbs up, and then turned again to head to class.

Maisie finished her sandwich, then went inside, hoping the afternoon’s work would distract from things she couldn’t name.

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