“I’ll tell you, dude, you missed an awesome party,” Jasper announced when he finally returned to the room that night. It happened that Willow was still awake, but he got the impression that Jasper would have delivered his statement whether or not anyone was alert enough to hear it.
“Yeah, I’ll cry about it later,” Willow grumbled, blinking rapidly and trying to refocus on the book he was holding.
“Seriously,” Jasper went on. “Crazy good.”
Willow looked up with suspicion-narrowed eyes. He was just noticing how much Jasper was using phrases like ‘awesome’ and ‘crazy good.’ It was an infrequent day that Jasper used words like that, and when he did, he normally reserved them for something a little more worthy than a dance party. “Something wrong?” Willow asked.
“Wrong? No,” Jasper said as he stripped out of his shirt, which was clingy with sweat.
“Because you’re never that happy unless you’re trying to cover up something else,” Willow said.
Jasper got angry at this, which only confirmed Willow’s assessment of the situation. Jasper hardly ever got angry with him. “God, do you always have to read into everything? I’m just trying to tell you that I had a good time, and you have to make a big deal out of it.”
“Okay, fine. So, it’s not a big thing.”
“Damn right,” Jasper said, throwing his shirt down and extracting another from his closet. He whipped it off the hanger so violently that the plastic retaliated against the wall. He tugged the shirt on and sat on his unmade bed.
Willow, meanwhile, decided to get a little more studying in while Jasper collected himself.
“April left me,” Jasper finally admitted, opening the conversation they should have had from the beginning. Why couldn’t Jasper just say what he needed to say?
“Tonight, yeah,” Jasper said. “Well, maybe she made the decision earlier, but I just found out tonight. Standing there like a moron waiting for her until I text to ask where she is. She just says ‘Oh sorry, it’s just not going to work out.’ And that was it. That was it! I mean, really, who does that?”
Everyone, Willow thought, unhappily. Personally, he was out of relationships as often as he was in them, and was starting to think he preferred the former. “I’m sorry, Jasper,” he said. “I know you really liked her.”
Jasper flopped back on the bed. “I’m not going to take her back,” he said, though the words sounded out of placed since they were dressed in a sad tone rather than a defiant one. “She’ll come back after a while like she did last time, but I’m done with girls like that.”
Willow felt like this was the part where he was supposed to sympathetically berate April, but he’d only met her twice.
“It’s probably better anyway,” Jasper said. His voice deepened slightly, like it was foreshadowing the man he would become when he graduated and all of this college stuff became just ‘stuff.’ “Having a wife and family would just make it hard to really be something. It’s not fair to them; I know if you get the right assignment, you have to move around a lot.”
Willow wondered why that was considered the ‘right’ assignment, but he’d always been a fan of holding to one place. “You wouldn’t get lonely?”
“Nah,” Jasper said, but Willow didn’t believe him. “I’ll be too busy to be lonely.” He sat up again. “Hey, I’m going to the gym. Want to come?”
Willow glanced at the clock. “It’s almost 4 in the morning. The gym isn’t open.”
“Oh, yeah. Right. Going to the track then,” Jasper decided.
“You sure that’s a good idea?” Willow said. “Don’t you have class tomorrow?”
“Not class,” Jasper said. “Just the study group. And it’s not until the afternoon.”
“Hey, Jasper…” Willow wished he didn’t find these ‘be a good friend’ conversations so difficult. “Maybe you should just sleep. If you go out there you’ll push yourself too hard, and… don’t be stupid okay? Go to bed. This sucks, and you should just go to bed.” Willow frowned at the clumsy words. They had sounded much prettier in his head, like those big, dramatic speeches that took place around campfires in his favorite novels.
“I’m not running for her,” Jasper said, though Willow couldn’t quite believe that. “I’m running for myself.” Willow figured that, at least, had to be partially true, and he let Jasper go without further comment.
If you’re curious about
Willow and Jasper, you can
find their book here.