Tamar closed the door once the truck rolled off the sidewalk and immediately walked back inside to find Bekah. She found her cousin scrubbing the counter furiously. “You’ll wear yourself out or the counter at that rate,” she said, smirking.

“They’re gone?” Bekah asked, not easing off.

“Hmm. Just now.” She eyed her cousin. “What’s up with you and Tonio?” She bit back a laugh when Bekah stiffened instantly.

“Nothing worth considering… He’s annoying.”

Tamar laughed softly then. “So annoying you can’t even look him in the eye or stay in the same room as him?”

“Exactly!” Bekah threw the rag into the sink and turned on the faucet.

“I thought you two were going to be partners in crime.”

“Plans changed.” She turned to Tamar then, her gaze solemn. “He knows. About Neecy. About us moving here to avoid her.”

Tamar’s smile waned. Her heart skipped a beat. “You told him?”

Bekah shook her head. “No, that’s why he’s annoying. He figured it out without me saying a word.” She winced. “I mean, I expressed some interest in what he knew about the girl and he picked up immediately.”

“Oh no.”

Bekah heaved a sigh at Tamar’s wavering voice. “Don’t worry. He’ll lay off for now, but made me promise to tell him if Neecy caused any trouble. He said he wouldn’t tell Dylan for now.”

“For now!” Tamar scoffed in anger. “For God’s sake, Rebekah. Why couldn’t you just keep quiet for once?” She turned in disgust and stormed off to her room, slamming the door.

“I’ll take care of it, I said!” Bekah called after Tamar and clenched her fists. She’d have to deal with Neecy and the others as soon as possible. For Tamar’s sake and hers.

Tamar rolled her eyes as she moved away from the bus stop just as the bus rolled onto the next street. Adjusting the phone against her ear, she stepped onto the sidewalk. “I’m okay. You don’t have to leave your class to come walk me to class. I’m not a child.” She grimaced at the stern lilt in her voice but couldn’t help it. Bekah was taking her role as protective mother hen too seriously. “Relax. I’ll be fine,” Tamar said softly in an attempt to assuage her guilt for inconveniencing her cousin who was undoubtedly busy with her own schedule.

“I’ll call you when I’m leaving campus,” she promised and once Bekah agreed and hung up, Tamar heaved a sigh and disconnected the call, pocketing the phone.

She eyed the campus that looked strangely different to her now that she’d moved to their new place. It was a bit too early to worry about bumping into Neecy or her friends, Tamar’s shoulders remained stiff and her gaze wandering around her as she walked to the library to wait for her first class.

Thankfully, the library was relatively quiet and empty when she arrived. Tamar smirked as she made her way across the lobby to the lounge area, knowing full well that once midterms began, the place was almost impossible to find seats. Settling down in a booth near the back of the first floor reading room, Tamar pulled out her notebook and spiral pen to jot down a few notes about her week.

A smile tickled her lips as she wrote about Dylan, her cheeks warming as she relayed openly about their blossoming relationship. That smile waned slowly as she went into detail about his passion for football and his popularity and she hesitated over her next sentence, the smile completely disappearing as her pen stilled momentarily. Shaking her head, Tamar skipped a few lines on the notebook and continued writing, this time about her new place with Bekah.

Garrett smiled when he walked into the reading room and found Tamar tucked away in a corner writing furiously in a notebook.  His smile widened at the blush across her cheeks that became more and more noticeable as he got closer.

“You must be writing something really interesting,” he noted quietly as he approached the booth.

Her first reaction was to curl in her shoulders and pull the notebook against her chest. She snapped her eyes to the person hovering over her seat and she blinked before heaving a sigh. Her shoulders loosened instantly and she let out a relieved laugh. “You startled me. Hi Garrett.” She still kept the notebook pressed against her.

“Sorry about that.” He flashed her a warm smile as he slid into the booth across from her.  “You don’t mind if I join you, do you? I’ve got some time to kill before class.”

Tamar paused replying as she looked around her at the other empty booths before turning back to him. “I mean, you already sat down so it’s fine.” She reluctantly closed her notebook and pushed it back into her bag, pulling out a textbook instead. “What class is it?”

He just laughed and leaned forward on the table. “Anatomy. What about you? What are you doing out so early?”

“Waiting for class also.” Tamar tapped the front cover of her textbook. “Psychology.” She wrinkled her nose to display her feelings for the early morning class.

“Not a fan of psychology, huh? What do you like? English?” he asked gesturing toward her backpack where the notebook had disappeared.

Tamar refrained from rolling her eyes. “Math.” She scanned his face, taking note of his coiffed hair, before returning to his amiable expression. “Are you a morning person? You notably cheerful for it being so early.”

He shrugged. “You get used to early hours with football and it doesn’t hurt that I’m starting my morning off with a friend.”

She managed a smile, noting his mention of ‘friend.’ After being starved the opportunity to make friends easily, Tamar wasn’t sure what to say to his comment. “Do you like football as much as Dylan does? It seems he’s always practicing and working out there.”

He gave another light shrug and smiled. “I like football. Dylan can be a little obsessed sometimes.”

Tamar raised a brow. “Obsessed?” Her brow furrowed. “That’s such a strong word. I’d like to think he’s devoted and passionate about what he wants… Nothing wrong with that.” She recalled being that devoted to soccer once in her life and smiled wistfully at the thought.

“No, there’s nothing wrong with it at all. It’s admirable even. It just leaves him less time for other things sometimes. Are you a football fan?”

“Well, I guess that’s what separates him from the others. Being the star quarterback isn’t a cakewalk.” Tamar laughed softly and peeked up at him sheepishly. “Honestly, no I’m not…” She leaned back in her seat, her shoulders relaxing completely. “But for Dylan, I’ll be interested.”

He chuckled at the shy admission. “At least you can admit it. There aren’t a lot of women who will take that stance for their man. Dylan is very lucky to have you. I hope he knows that.”

“I’m the lucky one, but thanks…” Her cheeks warmed as she thought of Dylan’s boyish smile. “Oh, I’m sure he does.” She fingered the edge of her book and glanced back at him, eying him openly. He seemed nice enough. “I take it you’re single then?”

When she blushed like that he could see why Dylan was willing to make a fool of himself over her. The blatant way her eyes ran over him could’ve explained it too. There was something about being a woman’s complete focus. “Yeah, I’m single.”

“Pity. You seem like a nice guy,” Tamar remarked softly before she returned her attention to her textbook and flipped it open, set on reading a chapter before class.

“I’m glad you think so. You have a very beautiful accent. Where are you from?” he asked, undeterred by her interest in the textbook.

Tamar glanced up quickly, her blue eyes widening slightly. Even Dylan hadn’t noticed it. She smirked. “Madrid. But I’ve lived in the States for most of high school… I’m surprised you picked it up. Are you a linguist?”

“No, just a good listener I think. Did you like Madrid? I know people always assume it would be amazing to live someplace like that but it’s different when you actually do, huh?”

“Well, not necessarily. I was actually bummed when we had to move. Metropolis is a great place, don’t get me wrong.” She shifted in her chair to get comfortable. “It’s just different from Madrid and it was hard to get used to it.” Tamar smiled. “Believe the hype. It’s a great city to visit and live in.”

He smiled as she flourished under the topic, becoming more animated. “So the hype is true. I’ll have to remember that. Is there anything here that reminds you of Madrid?”

“Some places in Metropolis are reminiscent of places I’ve been too.” Tamar could feel herself relaxing as she spoke with Garrett. He was remarkably attentive, his eyes steady on hers and his smile was generous. Maybe making friends wouldn’t be so hard after all. “Especially the outskirts and even town square.” She shrugged. “You’ll have to go for yourself, if you want to really understand what I’m saying…”

“Maybe I will. They’re always pushing the study abroad program and Madrid is a big draw. After hearing you talk about it I can’t help but want to check it out. You were happy there.”

“Of course it is,” Tamar boasted, laughing softly. “And yeah, I was. But I’m happy here too.” She recalled Bekah’s words to relish the happiness she felt with Dylan and her smile widened. “Very happy.”

“Anything that keeps that smile on your face is good. You look good happy.”

Her cheeks flamed again from his compliment and she raised a brow at him. “That’s nice of you to say… Tell me you don’t know who I am or are you being nice because of Dylan?”

“Neither. Some of us choose our friends based on our own opinions and not everyone else’s. Whether Dylan liked you or hated you, I’d still be here. I think you’re cool. That’s enough for me.”

Tamar refrained from asking what he thought was cool about her and instead gave him a kind smile. “You are a nice guy. Thanks for saying that.” She closed her book, knowing her time was up. “Well, I gotta head out to class.” Shoving the book into her bag, she scooted out of the booth and stood to her feet. “Thanks for keeping me company.”

“I should be thanking you,” he said as he got to his feet. “We should hang out again sometime.”

“Sure. I’ll let you know.” With another smile, Tamar turned and started walking toward the door. Once she got to the exit door, she turned and waved at him before heading out to her class.

Garrett smiled and lifted his hand in a quick wave before sticking it in his pocket, whistling as he left the library.

 <<Chapter 23 || Chapter 25>>