"Looks good!" Coll exclaimed quietly to herself, hands on her hips, looking over what was the final product of two hours of work. Triumph.
She sighed heavily and mindlessly began adjusting her long ponytail as she moved across the room to her desk. She plopped down into her desk chair and rolled her computer mouse around to rouse it back to life.
The glow of her email inbox was the first thing to appear on the screen. Its browser window sat atop a wallpaper image she had swiped from the internet: a vintage photo of a man playing guitar and a woman standing on the front porch behind him.
She refreshed the email window, waited.
"You've got mail."
_1 new message.
Coll - can't wait to see you tomorrow - well, more than tomorrow for you, I guess. Do you need anything before you go? Let me know how it went with packing the bag I sent you haha.
She rolled her eyes and smiled, looking back over at the suitcase. When it had first arrived, she was positive that an entire summer's worth of clothing and shoes wouldn't fit. She protested, asked for an accommodation, pleaded for an extra bag, but this was the tradeoff, she told herself, for the opportunity to travel all summer with her friend, at basically no cost to her.
Nick - so excited to get to Germany and see you, too! The bag is packed, it was a challenge, but I made it happen. I should be all set, but I'll let you know if anything comes up. It was not really necessary to book it first class, but thank you. I'll be well-rested and ready for whatever when I arrive.
She sent it off and shut the computer down, unsure when the next time she would use it again would be. The clock on the wall indicated it was time to head out for dinner soon, and she popped into action to change her clothes.
Upon opening the closet that was now mostly lacking seasonally appropriate clothing, she hung her shoulders in defeat.
Becka watched as Coll fidgeted with the sundress she was wearing as the four of them waited for their buzzer to go off and their table to be ready. The low hum of Friday night family time created a warm ambiance around them; their parents were making small talk with another couple standing near them, Becka bit her nail.
"What's up with you?" She asked.
"Yes … ?"
"This doesn't fit me; it was the only thing I had left to wear, though."
Becka raised her eyebrows, suspicious. "You were able to pack ALL of your summer clothes in that tiny little bag?"
"The good ones."
Coll nodded with a smile; it was indeed a triumphant moment.
"I'm so sad you're leaving me." It was a sentiment Becka had expressed at least once a day for the past month. Being three years older than Colleen, she had the "displeasure of being employed full time." Her summer would be full of clinical observation and training as she completed her master's degree.
"I know you are, but you're so excited - remember - to be on your way to your dream job!" Coll expressed with a spirit of optimism turned up a few notches for Becka's sake.
"Yes, I remember," Becka said flatly, resting her head in her hand as Coll patted her head and giggled.
"It's buzzing." Eric held up the flat, flashing disk. The family moved into action behind him as he made his way to the hostess stand.
Upon being seated, Becka pointed out that "Nick's on" as she pointed a single, casual finger into the airspace above them.
"Careful Becka, people might think you like the Backstreet Boys." Coll teased.
"Oh, please." Becka retorted. "I do appreciate a good pop song. Plus, as you know, you can like several genres." She widened her eyes at Coll, who surprisingly enough was very fond of 80s music and classic rock, not a very poppy person in many ways.
"Did you memorize all the songs yet?" Jill asked, winking at Becka, as they both knew she hadn't. Early on, she expressed that it was her goal to learn all the songs on the new CD before leaving for Germany, but it hadn't happened. Between finishing junior year, finals, and wrapping the last few shifts at her job in the school bookstore, there wasn't a lot of time for pop culture.
"You know I haven't. BUT I do have a whole transatlantic flight to work on it." Coll smiled as she flipped her menu open.
"It's okay, sweetie; I'm sure they won't mind."
"You'll learn fast enough after all those concerts."
"I'm not planning on going to the show every single night…."
"We'll see." Becka slid her hand over the glossy cover of her menu and raised her eyebrows at Coll. "Once you're there. With them."
"I know you think I'm going to turn into some roadie girlfriend, but I'm not."
"'kay." Becka smiled.
Coll rolled her eyes and continued with the menu. Becka had been teasing her mercilessly for the last three weeks about which guy she was most likely to hook up with. The reality of the situation for Colleen was that she had no objections to casual relationships - and had been out with several men in the past few years since starting college. The thrill of this trip, however, was in the prospect of being able to explore Europe and write all summer. The idea of getting involved with anyone she'd see every single day while traveling internationally was unappealing in many ways.
"All those cute male dancers…." Becka sighed wistfully.
Giggling, Becka closed the menu and sat back into the booth. "Just let me be a little jealous." She stated as she tucked some of her blonde curls behind her ear.
"Be jealous all you want, none of the little fantasies you've concocted are going to materialize." Coll batted her eyelashes at her to emphasize the point.
"Well, except for that pre-loaded, free laptop gift thing."
"Nick just wants her to have what she needs for the experience; it was very generous," Jill interjected.
"The rest of the little fantasies… sure, they may not happen. But I'm not taking my bets off the table."
"To be perfectly honest, I would be more comfortable if we changed the subject." Eric parlayed his feelings into the conversation for good measure.
Coll took a long sip of the water a waiter had just poured her and looked at Becka over her glass.
"When are you going to check out those apartments?" Coll asked.
As Coll was hopping into bed that night, Becka knocked gently at the door.
"Yes?" Coll asked, her voice weightless and on the verge of laughing. She knew it was Becka on the other side of the door, and she knew why.
Becka opened the door and pouted at her.
Coll rolled her eyes and giggled, "Becka, we discussed this."
Becka jumped into Coll's bed and wrapped her arms around her sister's smaller body.
"I know, I'm just going to miss you so much."
"You don't even see me that often as it is!"
"I know, but summer is our time!"
"Come visit me while I'm away."
"I might have to."
"Look, I'll email you almost every day." Coll laughed.
"Almost every day?! Are you already planning on forgetting us regular folks?!"
"Not at all, Becka. You know I'm teasing you."
They were both quiet for a while as they laid there.
"What if the next person you're in bed with like this is a Backstreet Boy?" Beck asked.
Coll rolled her eyes again and turned over to click the light off. The room fell dark, and Coll spoke softly. "You know I'm not equipped for that job."
"I'm not talking about a full-blown relationship."
"I think I've done the casual thing enough to know it's overrated."
"Even with a celebrity?"
"Becka!!!" Putting her elbow into Beck's side, Coll put the cap on that.
"Does John know you're leaving for the summer?"
Coll sighed. "No clue. I didn't tell him." Knowing she had not expressly told many people about her summer plans, she doubted he knew. "Maybe he heard it from someone else." She said simply as her mind wandered off. John, the upperclassman she dated for about four months this past winter, still popped into her life now and again, but she had not heard from him in several weeks. They had a fun and casual relationship, but Coll broke it off with him once it was clear he was far more into her than she was into him. He was a good-looking senior who played on a co-ed soccer team with her friend Melanie; she met him at a game she went to in October. He asked her out almost immediately, took her to a moderately expensive Thai restaurant on Mass Ave, and kissed her goodnight when he dropped her off. They always had fun and good conversation, but she never developed any strong feelings for him. He, on the other hand, was fascinated by Coll. On more than on occasion, he had flowers sent to her dorm room. If she had to be somewhere off campus after dark, he offered to walk her home, and he always picked up the bill. He left her sweet notes in the mornings after he spent the night if he had to leave before her. All very sweet, but none of it touched her, and she wasn't interested in going that deep that fast. At least not with him.
"He was so into you." Becka mused. "Wish anyone would pay even half as much attention to me as he did to you."
"He was a little bit annoying."
"Only because you didn't feel the same way about him. That shit is NOT annoying when it's mutual."
"Someday, Beck." Coll sighed and closed her eyes.
"I just am going to be alone forever."
"You are not."
"Well, there aren't any prospects, and I can't exactly invite a guy back here. 'Hey, come over to my parents' house.'… not to mention everything else I'd have to explain."
"It's not worth worrying about for a first date."
"There's just so much to think about." Becka was devolving into sadness; she pressed her hand to her forehead.
"Hey, come on. Someday the perfect Mr. Becka is going to come along, and he's not going to be afraid of any of that stuff." Coll reassured her.