Home > The Junior (College Years #3)

The Junior (College Years #3)
Author: Monica Murphy


Prologue

 

 

Late Spring

 

I watch her enter the coffeeshop, her gaze searching the room before it lands on me. Her smile is faint, but it’s not fake, thank God. I know we haven’t always gotten along.

Wait, scratch that. It’s not that we don’t get along. It’s more that we’ve always been wary of each other, thanks to him.

Stupid, frustrating Caleb.

She approaches the table I’m sitting at, and I can just tell she’s nervous. Unsure. I explained nothing when I said I wanted to meet with her, and she’s probably afraid I’m going to drop some outrageous verbal bomb on her.

That’s not my plan. It never has been. I’m just trying to clear the air. And I’m trying to figure out what she wants in life. From him.

Maybe even from me.

Clutching my iced coffee in my hand to stop my fingers from shaking, I smile up at her. “Hey. You’re early.”

“Hi. So are you,” she returns, her tone soft.

“I wanted to make sure I got a table for us,” I admit, glancing around the crowded café. “Are you going to order anything?”

“Oh, I suppose I should.” She glances over at the counter, where a small line has formed. “I’ll be right back.”

This gives me time to think about what I want and need to say. As if I haven’t pondered it enough. Ever since I reached out via text to her a few days ago, this is pretty much all I’ve thought about, which is so unlike me.

After much consideration, I finally banished him from my life over winter break. Mom always said winter break was where relationships go to die, but she was referring to high school. I don’t know how many relationships I witnessed end over winter break. More than I can count, and a few that included me.

The idea also applies to college.

I can’t deny it’s been tough, not seeing him anymore when before I saw him almost every single day. And of course, when you banish someone from your life, you see them everywhere. Or there are reminders of them everywhere you look, which is frustrating.

Can’t help but also take it as a sign. I’m a big believer in them.

Signs.

Within minutes, she’s returned to the table, an iced coffee in her hand, and she settles into the chair across from me, taking a sip before she sets it on the table in between us. I take her in, admiring her beauty, her pretty hair, her sparkling eyes. Even full of wariness, they still sparkle. I can see why he’s attracted to her. How he hasn’t been able to quit her.

“Can I admit something?” she asks.

I nod. “Please.”

“I was surprised to get your text. We haven’t seen each other in—a while. I thought you were mad at me,” she admits.

A sigh leaves me. “I have no reason to be mad at you. I never did. You though, definitely have more reason.”

She shakes her head. “No, that’s not true. Didn’t you hear?”

I frown, watching as she takes a big sip from her straw. Like she needs the coffee to continue speaking. “Hear what?”

“We’re done. Through. For good.” Her expression turns sheepish. “I know you cut him out of your life a while ago, and I admired you for being so strong. I finally decided to do the same thing.”

“You did?” I’m surprised. Now it’s my turn to take a drink before I say something awkward or dumb.

She nods. “It was so hard, but after going a solid month without him texting me or seeing him, I realized I felt…free. Now I barely think about him anymore.”

“We’ve been dealing with his B.S. for a long time,” I say softly.

“Years. For the both of us,” she agrees.

We smile. Sip from our drinks. She leans forward, a tiny smile playing upon her lips and I can tell she wants to tell me something.

“I’ve met someone too,” she says, her voice low. Like she’s sharing a secret. “We’ve been seeing each other for a couple of months, and I’ve kind of kept it a secret because I didn’t want people to know.”

I frown. “Why don’t you want people to know?”

“He’s, um, sort of connected to the friend group. Loosely,” she admits, biting her lower lip.

My curiosity grows. “Now you have to tell me who it is. Not like I’m seeing them much anyway.”

A little white lie. But I can keep a secret, and I will. For her, I totally will. It’s the least I can do.

She glances around, as if someone we know is lurking behind a dark corner, before she finally says, “It’s…Carson.”

My mouth drops open. “The dude who was interested in Ellie?”

She nods, her eyes dancing. “He is totally not my type. I’m a snob when it comes to boys, I can admit this.”

I silently agree with her. Not that she’s the only snob—I’m one too.

“But he’s so sweet and nice, and I can’t lie, he’s totally into me, and it feels so good. Like he actually wants to spend time with me, and I know this sounds pathetic, but I’m not used to that from a guy. I’m not some nuisance he has to deal with, which is how a lot of guys treated me in the past. But not Carson.” She sighs, her gaze turning hazy. “I really like him.”

Reaching out, I rest my hand over hers, giving it a quick squeeze. “I think that’s amazing. I’m so glad you met someone who’s totally into you. You deserve that.”

“I definitely do,” she says firmly, and I realize she seems stronger. Bolder. She chased after Caleb for so long, and he just expected her to always be there.

Now she’s gone, and she’s found someone else. She looks truly happy, and I’m thrilled for her.

I’m out of his life too. Sort of. I needed the distance, but guess what?

I miss him.

And it’s stupid, my missing him.

He’s annoying and he says the rudest things ever—like, ever. He’s crude. Even filthy sometimes.

My problem? I want to know what it’s like to have that filthy mouth all over me. Is that wrong?

Yes, probably.

Okay fine. It is totally wrong. But that’s the problem with things—and people—that are wrong. Bad.

You’re drawn to them, even when you know you shouldn’t be. That’s part of the allure. Either you want to be corrupted, or you want to tame the bad boy.

I don’t think Caleb needs taming, but he definitely needs to grow the hell up. He can’t be a jock frat boy for the rest of his life. Deep down, he knows this. And that’s why I think he’s so much extra all the time. He’s living it up while he can, before he has to get serious and actually live life as a responsible adult.

“You like him, huh,” she says out of the blue.

I glance up, realizing I was lost in my thoughts for a moment too long. “What do you mean?”

“Caleb. You like him.” She nods, like the Caleb expert that she is. “I get it. He’s…magnetic. Being with him feels like you’re a VIP member and you were invited to his exclusive party. He’s a good time.”

She just described him perfectly.

“He’s ridiculous,” I say, hating how bitter I sound.

She nods. Laughs. “That he is. But his ridiculousness is also attractive. He’s completely over the top, but deep down, he’s a decent guy.”

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