A few evenings later, Yulia called up Chloe and asked her to play pool at the Student Union.
"I suck at pool," Chloe said. "You always beat me."
"So, we won't keep score. I really need to maintain my skills, or I'll lose my pool scholarship," Yulia pleaded.
The two girls had been playing for a short while,
when they were greeted by Randy London, who had just come in with his fraternity brother, Kevin Beare. "Hi, ladies--fancy meeting you here!" He winked at Yulia; they had both noticed that Chloe and Kevin had seemed to hit it off at Randy's party, and they had conspired to get the two together this evening.
"Gotta keep up those pool skills for my scholarship, you know," replied Yulia, cagily.
Kevin had hurried over to join Chloe.
"Well," Randy said, observing them and rubbing his hands together with satisfaction, "my work here is done."
"Don't leave yet--" Yulia whispered urgently, "they'll suspect we set them up!!"
Randy looked at Yulia with amusement. "Kevin knows I brought him here to 'run in' to Chloe. He was very enthusiastic--he thinks she's really cute."
Yulia looked over at Chloe and Kevin, who were already laughing and seemed to be having a great time. "I guess it's true what they say--there's someone for everyone. Except me, of course," she added.
"And me," laughed Randy.
"Yes, but that's because you want someone with the business instincts of Meg Whitman and the looks of Heidi Klum," Yulia teased.
"No, I'd take Meg Whitman just as she is," answered Randy. He was a big fan of powerful women in business. "I've got to go off to a lecture: 'Investment Opportunities in Climate Change: Global Warming, Cooling, or Whatever--Why It Doesn't Matter.'"
Yulia moved to another table so as to allow Chloe and Kevin some privacy. George and Tosha had just come in.
"What's with the longer hair on George?" she asked Tosha as George passed by. "It looks good," she added quickly.
"He's growing it for his part in that musical," Tosha explained. "He's supposed to be a 'backwoodsman', and backwoodsmen apparently don't have short hair. He's also trying to grow a beard," Tosha added quietly.
Yulia laughed. "How do you feel about that?"
"It tickles," admitted Tosha. "Hopefully it will be just temporary."
A few evenings later, Chloe was packing up her knife kit. She had taken Calista's suggestion and changed her major from Philosophy to Food Science, and often went to the culinary department in the evening to experiment with new recipes. This time, though, Tosha noticed that Chloe was wearing lipstick. "Off to the test kitchens again?" Tosha inquired.
"No, I'm going over to Randy's fraternity," Chloe answered, trying to sound casual.
"His friend, Kevin, wants to eat more healthy, and he asked me for some basic cooking lessons." Tosha smiled to herself and said nothing.
One day, Chloe was puttering in the dorm's kitchen (though the cafeteria worker assigned to the dorm didn't much care for this) and called her friends over. "Could you guys please sample this and tell me what you think of it? I'm trying to come up with a new appetizer."
They all loved it. "This is great, Chloe," George said. "Hey, do you want to handle the opening night party for our musical? We've got a budget, and everything, and I know we haven't found a caterer yet."
"Wow," said Chloe. "My first professional food gig!"
Yuri and Calista were playing one evening when Rebecka Louie came in to the Campus Lounge with Ashley Pitts. Rebecka gave Yuri a quick wave and launched into an animated conversation with Ashley directly in front of the stage.
At one point she leaned in and kissed him on the cheek and giggled about something.
They danced for a while (also right in front of the stage),
then sat together at the bar, where they continued their seemingly intimate conversation.
Yuri wondered what in the world they were discussing.
"So, Becks, you think your plan's going to work?" Ashley asked.
"Absolutely," replied Rebecka. "I can tell Yuri's already very curious about what's up between you and me. Let's stay at the bar for a few minutes more, then you can leave the room for, like, 5 minutes--go to the bathroom or something--and then we'll leave the building together and you can go on to your real date with Uma. If tonight doesn't work out, are you still available Friday evening to go to his friend's musical with me? Because there's no way Yuri won't be there--he and that dancer guy grew up together."
"You're unbelievable," Ashley laughed, admiringly. "I think you're wasting your talents just trying to attract some rich guy. You should be running the country. Or at least some paramilitary operation."
As planned, after a few more minutes Ashley left the room. Seeing this, Yuri immediately signaled to Calista that he wanted to take a break, and he put his guitar down. Rebecka went over to the stage.
"Yuri, you're fantastic!" she gushed. "You too, Calista!" She gave Calista a friendly (if fake) wave over Yuri's shoulder.
"Yeah, and we're delighted to be playing background music for your date," Yuri said sarcastically.
"Oh, Ash and I are just friends," Rebecka said, innocently. "We are on our way to an event, but I wanted to stop in because I haven't heard you play in so long, and I was telling Ash how good you are."
Yuri thought he'd never seen eyes as blue and clear as Rebecka's.
"Well, if you're not officially 'off the market,' maybe we could go out some time?" Yuri said.
"That would be fun," nodded Rebecka.
"How about this weekend?"
She demurred. "Okay, except for Friday night. I'm going to the opening night of 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers'--I just looooove musicals."
"A good friend of mine is in that--why don't we go together?" suggested Yuri.
"Oh, good idea!" replied Rebecka. Ashley had just re-entered the bar, and Rebecka gave him a sign over Yuri's shoulder. "Gotta go now, Yuri--see you Friday!"
Outside in front of the Campus Lounge, Rebecka kissed Ashley on both cheeks. "Mission accomplished--thanks, Ash! And, you're off the hook for Friday."
Chloe was finalizing her menu for the opening night party. She liked using the kitchen at the fraternity house because there was no cafeteria worker to get in her way, the frat brothers were an enthusiastic bunch of tasters, and Kevin was more than happy to chop vegetables and clean pots for her.
He came up behind her. "I saw an apron the other day that said 'Kiss the Cook'--but I didn't get it for you, because I was afraid someone besides me might see that as an opportunity."
He kissed her lightly.
And that was another reason why Chloe enjoyed using the kitchen at the fraternity house.
"I'm so nervous I could die," Tosha muttered to herself as she sat in the audience Friday evening, waiting for the show to begin.
The hall was packed, and all of George's friends and acquaintances had shown up to support him.
Tosha needn't have worried--George's dancing was spectacular,
and he brought the house down.
Since George's number took place in the first act, Chloe left at intermission to go back to Landgrabb House to prepare for the party. She wasn't worried, though, because Kevin had generously foregone attending opening night in order to set up the buffet and go through procedures with the bartender Chloe had hired.
As soon as the production ended, Tosha hurried backstage to find George. The din made conversation impossible, and George took Tosha by the hand and led her out to the stage in the now deserted auditorium.
"Oh, George--I took about a million photos!" Tosha squealed.
"That was you? I nearly went blind from the flashes!" he teased. He held her close.
"Thanks so much, Tosh, for all your support these last few weeks. I couldn't have gotten through it without your encouragement." He kissed her tenderly.
She broke away, her face bright. "Oh, guess what--a reviewer was here, and it was someone Yulia knew--some woman who had given her good reviews before. So, Yulia went over to schmooze her and talk you up!"
"Thank God for Yulia's solid business instincts," George said. "Did you hear any of their conversation?"
"I heard just a little bit," said Tosha. "The reviewer was commenting on how good-looking you were and what an incredible physique you have." Tosha was silent for a moment. "I suppose I'll have to get used to females swooning as you become more famous--women will no doubt be throwing their underwear on stage pretty soon," she said, ruefully.
George took her by the shoulders and looked her straight in the eye. "Tosha, you will never, ever, have to worry about me in that regard. And that's a promise."
The opening night party was a roaring success. Kevin diligently attended to the buffet,
Chloe traded info with the bartender,
she and Kevin kept each other informed,
and she schmoozed the adults who attended.
George graciously received the compliments of his public,
and took a few moments to dance with his girlfriend,
and everyone seemed to be having a terrific time.
Rebecka, who had come to the party with Yuri, spent quite a bit of time chatting up George.
Yulia noticed this, and commented to Tosha that she thought Rebecka couldn't be trusted. "As far as I'm concerned, that one's a golddigger,"
"and George is just the kind of high-value target she'd try to latch on to."
Tosha replied, "I trust your instincts, Yulia, but George has assured me I never have to worry, so I won't."
George came over a few moments later to nuzzle Tosha's ear.
Rebecka made a point of commenting to Tosha, "You must have the hottest boyfriend on campus,"
and she made sure that Yuri heard her.
And Kevin came by and said to Rebecka, "Yeah, but I have the hottest girlfriend."
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Join us next week for the end-of-term vacations (who goes where with whom???).