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Alexandra closed her laptop and stood up. Even though the reading room was about to close, around half of the long tables had at least one student still seated. Most were pecking away at keyboards, just as she had been.
She looked up at the vaulted ceiling. Years ago, this had been the University of Chicago’s main library building. Now, Harper was mostly a reading room. Even the dark wood shelves lining all four walls of the room were empty of books, decorated only with knickknacks and periodicals rather than the heavy volumes of yesteryear.
Yet the room was still the best study space on campus, and there was no close second. Alexandra had spent significant parts of most of her first three years here, and it had always been a silent retreat and an efficient workspace.
Now it was a bit more. Tonight was Thursday, seven days after her prior visit here. Last time, she’d met – and subsequently slept with – the tall blonde woman working the front desk tonight.
Since then, they’d quickly paired off and were now officially in a relationship. Alexandra had already gotten into the habit of spending every night at Kira’s North Side apartment. The last two nights, they’d slept naked, curled together under the thick blankets.
A lot can change in a week, thought Alexandra, her mind cycling through the recent days.
Kira smiled at her when she emerged from the heavy double doors at the end of the room. It clearly had not been a busy night for Alexandra’s girlfriend: she had her reading glasses on, a massive law textbook open in front of her, and a blue highlighter next to it on the wide desk.
“I see your employer is really demanding a lot of you tonight,” said Alexandra, smiling back.
“Some nights I get lucky,” said Kira. “Nobody in there talks too much, nothing breaks, it’s not too busy…oh, well, a girl can always dream.”
“Dream come true tonight?”
“Sure did,” replied Kira. “Silent as an empty church in there.”
Alexandra looked around her. They were alone in the entrance hall. She leaned across the wide desk and gave Kira a quick peck on the lips. Despite the steady diet of them lately, the softness of Kira’s lips still surprised Alexandra. It was somehow not in keeping with the angular lines of her face, the sharpness of her voice, and her confident demeanor.
“I have to hit the ladies’ room,” said Alexandra, leaning back over the desk. How long ’til you’re done?”
Kira turned her head to check the clock above the door. “Five minutes until closing, maybe five more to kick out the stragglers, another couple to lock up. So, maybe fifteen?”
“Sure thing. You want me to walk home and pick me up there, or just hang tight?”
“Whatever’s easier for you,” said the blonde, adjusting her glasses to go back to her reading.
“K,” replied Alexandra, crossing the narrow lobby to the women’s room.
A long day, thought Alexandra. Class, then far too much writing, but it’s almost done. She felt like checking over her calculations one more time to make sure they were right, but Alexandra knew she hadn’t made a mistake.
The hunch behind her economic theory paper was right: a true balance of supply and demand in the Chicago ride-sharing economy was probably never possible beyond only the most theoretical level. The user and driver data she’d received from her friend (and at least one-time lover) Katy had shown clearly that the system was too dynamic, the demand and supply too unpredictable, for them to ever match on anything more than an instantaneous basis.
Alexandra looked at her reflection in the mirror before leaving. She realized she had noticeably changed her everyday look, even in just the last week. She had on more eyeliner than before, a delicate winged look that she now favored, having shamelessly copied it off her girlfriend. Her sandy brown hair, often braided before, was up in a tight bun.
The grey sweatsuit she had often worn to the library in years past was also absent tonight, replaced by a pair of jeans and a loose, heavy wool sweater.
Well, times change, she thought, noticing the difference. Even in Chicago in late fall, you don’t quite need to look like a bum.
“Hey,” said Kira, watching Alexandra step back across the room. “I have an idea you might enjoy.”
“I like when you say things like that.”
Kira laughed. Her broadening of Alexandra’s sexual horizons had become somewhat of a joke between the couple.
“Not that much fun. Well, not for me at least,” she said. She turned in her chair and rooted around in her purse for a moment, nodding when she came up with her target. “It’s cold. If you’re willing to go warm it up, you can drive home.”
Alexandra snatched the keys up as soon as Kira slid them onto the desk. She liked many things about Kira, and the woman’s ride, a ruggedly worn-in Jeep Wrangler, was definitely one item on the list. Ever since their first night together, when she’d ridden across the city alongside Kira, canlı bahis şirketleri Alexandra had wanted to sit in the driver’s seat and feel the rumble of the engine as she shifted into gear.
“I think I can manage to get it started sometime in ten minutes,” said Alexandra. “Might not bring it back, but that’s your fault for trusting me.”
“Don’t go ruining a good thing, honey,” Kira said, shaking her finger teasingly, the smile lines next to her eyes showing behind her glasses.
Alexandra kissed her again lightly, but held the kiss for slightly longer. She let Kira’s lips linger against hers, then the light touch from a slight distance at which their lips barely brushed. She loved kissing like this, the teasing, anticipatory exploration of a moment yet to come to full fruition.
Just as Alexandra broke her momentary spell and began to stand upright once more, the door to the reading room opened. A woman in a heavy jacket emerged, already staring down at her phone and apparently unaware of the moment she’d just failed to witness.
Alexandra felt a blush spread across her face, full and fast, and saw that Kira’s emotions matched her own. She hunched over her textbook, covering her mouth with the back of her hand, and was giggling uncontrollably.
“Guess we need to be more careful!” she said, the laughter still evident in her voice.
“Oops,” said Alexandra, her eyes following the patron as she exited into the stairwell to the outside.
“Well, um, time to start closing up shop,” said Kira as she rose from her seat.
“Indeed. See you in a few minutes?”
The door to the main hall opened again just as Kira slipped past, so Alexandra’s hope for another stolen kiss went dashed. Ah, well, at least I have the sweet truck, she thought, heading down the wide stone interior stairs. Just a matter of sitting in a freezing car for a few minutes until it gets warmed up and Kira gets downstairs.
She waited until the last moment to don her heavy coat, wrap her scarf around her neck, and shoulder open the door. The night air was familiar, yet still chilly. She thought about the months to come, when mere chill would give way to the offensive, almost aggressive cold of the Midwestern winter. Alexandra shook her head at the thought alone.
Even though it was not late, the short walk to the off-street staff parking was quiet. Kira’s Jeep sat nearly alone in the small lot, with only a silver sedan across the way to keep it company.
Alexandra unlocked the door on the removable hardtop and clambered in, wasting no time before starting the ignition and flipping the heater to full blast.
With nothing to occupy her time for the next few minutes, she stared out into the South Side night. A few students shuffled back and forth, heading either homeward or to parts unknown. With a start, she recognized one of them, her former teammate Samantha Reynolds, who had just exited the same building Alexandra herself had come from.
She was carrying what looked like a heavy backpack on the outside of her long coat. Her uncovered head of dark curls reflected the glow from a streetlight momentarily, contrasting with the drab outer layer but failing to overcome it.
She looks so beaten down, thought Alexandra. I hope I don’t look that bad when I walk down the street after a night of studying.
Alexandra whipped out her phone, seized with an idea. She quickly found Kira’s name – not difficult, as it was at the top of her recent calls – and made the call.
“Hey, everything ok?” came the hurried answer on the other end.
“Yeah, all good. Just wondering if I could drive a friend home? She lives just down the street, but the poor girl just came out of Harper and looks like she could use a ride. I promise I’ll be back in ten minutes?”
“Sure thing. Pick me up out front then?”
“Got it. Thanks, babe.”
They hung up, and Alexandra hopped out of the car, which was now beginning to grow warm.
“Sam!” she shouted, waving her arms.
Startled, the younger woman nearly jumped, but quickened her pace when she saw who had hailed her.
“Hey,” she said when they were within normal speaking distance. “I thought you left like ten minutes ago.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was sitting like four tables away from you in Harper,” Sam said, her dark brown eyes glinting. “I don’t think you looked up once in three hours, and then poof, you were gone! I thought we were friends!” she said, the emphasis in her tone making clear that she was joking.
Alexandra felt an odd pit in her stomach, not sure why. “I’m sorry! I would have said hi if I was, you know, paying even the slightest bit of attention!”
“No worries,” replied Sam. “So where you off to?”
“Giving you a ride home,” said Alexandra, pointing to the Jeep.
“Like you said, we’re friends.”
Sam bounced into the passenger seat and closed the door politely.
Alexandra canlı kaçak iddaa depressed the clutch and slid the long shifter back and to the right, putting the Wrangler into reverse. The truck engine rumbled. Yeah, I could get used to this, she thought. It’s not the engine, really, it’s just that this thing looks fucking cool.
“So, how’s your week been?” asked the slender brunette in the passenger seat, as Alexandra pulled out of the lot.
“Too long, but I suppose productive, at least?”
“Yeah? What’s productive, in your world?”
“I’ve written most of a paper that I’ve been led to believe will get me a job after graduation.”
Sam ran a hand over her hair, smoothing it. “Sounds pretty productive.” She let out a nervous laugh. Then, “Are you worried about Lydia?”
Alexandra had given some thought to the subject of their mutual friend who was taking a breather from her studies after the next set of exams. “Yes and no. Yes, in that you’re talking about someone who’s never lived alone, a young woman – petite at that – moving to a strange city, dropping out of a path in life that is a surefire way out of her background.”
“And no?” asked Sam. Alexandra noticed that Sam was listening to her, really listening, paying attention in a way that few people managed to do when faced with the competing interests of cellphones, the world around them, and their own self-absorption.
“No in that she’s a smart kid. She actually has a plan,” elaborated Alexandra. “This isn’t one of those ‘Oh, I’m gonna move to New York, I’ll get a job as a waitress or something, I’m gonna be an actress’ things.” They stopped briefly at a light, then continued. “Yeah, she’s gonna go work in some weirdass marijuana breeding experiment, but it could be a lot worse.”
“That’s pretty much where I come out too,” said Sam. “I don’t like it, but my biggest worry is that she’ll like it too much to ever come back.”
“Yeah.” There wasn’t much more to say on the subject, but they were nearing their destination anyway. “Just here, right?”
“You got it.” Sam smiled. Alexandra recalled again that it was a smile she hadn’t seen much, but one that Sam wore very well indeed. “Speaking of Lydia, you’re coming to the party, right?”
Alexandra sighed. “Yes, and I hate parties. Noise and people I usually don’t want to talk to.”
“Well,” Sam replied, “We can stand quietly in the corner and prevent other people from talking to us?”
“Meet you there when, ten? Ten-thirty?”
“Ten. That’s far enough past my bedtime,” said Sam.
“Then it’s bedtime for you now, I suppose?”
“Indeed. Thank you for the ride. Seriously. And, also, sweet car. Friday? Isn’t that tomorrow?”
“Friday. And yes, tomorrow is Friday, thank heaven.”
Sam hopped out, shouldering her bag in one smooth motion, and smiled once more before closing the door. Alexandra watched her until she made it inside the building, then headed back towards Harper. The clock on the dash told her she had five minutes before she said she’d pick up Kira.
No problem, she thought. What’s more of a problem, however, is Sam. I really shouldn’t, but I totally want to hook up with her. And there’s not really anyone I can talk to about it. The thought train stopped at a station. Assuming she feels the same way, of course.
She drove on. It wasn’t strictly a problem of being unfaithful to Kira – they had had an open and honest discussion about expectations in those regards – but about her own emotional tranquility. Alexandra knew she wanted to be friends with Sam, and indeed had stated that out loud as a desire, but she also was coming to accept that she wanted to have sex with her as well. If only those two Sams were two different people, she thought, it wouldn’t be a problem.
She was quickly approaching the street-side entrance of the library. Kira wasn’t down yet, so Alexandra parked directly outside the door. The inside of the Jeep was now warmed sufficiently, so she unwrapped her scarf and tossed it on top of her backpack.
She returned to thought. But if it’s okay with Kira, and she’ll be out of town anyway… deep breath. Think of something else. Economics papers.
Alexandra found herself staring vacantly out the windshield when the passenger door opened. A quick glance told her it had been only two minutes, but it might as well have been twenty for all the awareness she had of the interval.
“All good?” asked Kira, noticing her girlfriend’s level of distraction.
“Yeah. Sorry, just spaced out for a moment.”
“Been waiting long?”
“Nope, a minute or two, I guess? Everything good closing up?”
“Yeah. Just one guy who fell asleep in those chairs by the door. He’d been reading John Milton, so I can’t really blame him.”
Alexandra laughed. “I don’t think I ever finished anything by Milton either.” She shifted into gear and pulled away.
“Enjoying driving it?”
Alexandra nodded. Her parents’ cars canlı kaçak bahis when she had been high school had been Toyota sedans, practical but utterly undistinguished. The Wrangler wasn’t fast or especially exciting, but the mere act of steering its blocky body through city streets gave her a rush.
“So, was the data dump all you hoped it would be?” asked Kira.
“Better than I hoped, actually.”
“I’m a bit envious. I never really had the head for a lot of numbers. Logical reasoning is fine with me, but put numbers into it and it all turns into mush.”
“How did you ever manage economics consulting then?”
“Computers solve a lot of things, Alexandra,” Kira said. “Most specifically, a lot of math problems.”
They drove on mostly in silence along Lakeshore, taking the scenic route home. Alexandra enjoyed the illusion of power the Jeep gave her, although its acceleration in traffic did leave something to be desired. For a moment, Alexandra thought Kira had fallen asleep. This is, until she spoke.
“It’s really quite a beautiful lake, isn’t it? Almost like being on an ocean shore,” she said.
“If only,” replied Alexandra.
“No, really, it’s rather nice, even when it’s as cold out as now. See the lights reflecting off the water, the small waves coming in, one right after the other?”
“Causing you to get all contemplative?”
“Well yeah, I guess,” said Kira, unoffended. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been on this stretch as a passenger.”
“And a long time since I’ve driven it, maybe the first time ever.”
“Chicago is an interesting place geographically, although you’d never know it from today. I mean, it’s really all about the lake and the river, and getting from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi watershed.”
“You mean the river that’s basically a sewage canal?” asked Alexandra, unable to help herself.
“Was a sewage canal,” corrected Kira. “Yes, that one, although the river used to actually flow in the opposite direction until our city fathers decided to reverse it.”
“Yep. Apparently, people didn’t want all the stuff in the Chicago River flowing into Lake Michigan, so they completely reversed the flow of the river. Send all the shit to St. Louis instead,” said Kira. “Literally.”
Alexandra wrinkled her nose involuntarily while suppressing a laugh.
“Chicago’s always been an interesting place,” Kira continued. “People here can’t seem to decide whether we’re an East Coast city stuck in the Midwest or the city where the Midwesterners who have ambition but can’t stomach New York move to.”
“And?” Alexandra had no idea where Kira was going with her thoughts.
“It’s weird, it’s interesting, it’s good, and it’s always changing. Except the lake. The lake is always there, and it does not care one whit about what we do in the city. It just sits there, freezing, thawing, lapping at the shores, century after century.”
They turned into Kira’s street, and Alexandra squinted, searching for the entrance to the parking.
“So while the lake doesn’t change, we’re constantly changing, and I enjoy that dichotomy.”
Alexandra spun the wheel right, having found the garage. “That was a lot of words to tell me that you’d rather live on land.”
Kira gave her a playful swat on the shoulder as she pulled into the parking space.
“No, I was just going to give you a heads up that I decided to do a little re-decorating, and I was wondering if you’d help.”
They grabbed a pair of flat, elongated objects from the back of the Wrangler.
“IKEA boxes. How shocking,” said Alexandra.
“Shut up, you’ll like them.”
“I better. They’re heavy as hell.”
They entered the elevator and Alexandra placed the box down, leaning against the wall, and hit the button for the fourth floor, arms aching. Kira held hers steady in front of her, showing no apparent exertion.
“So, your shoulders don’t just look good, eh?”
Kira laughed, but there was a curious look in her eyes. She sighed. “I’ve spent so long being self-conscious about the size of my shoulders that I might as well get some damn use out of them.”
“I like them.” It hadn’t occurred to Alexandra that Kira might be self-conscious about any part of her body, much less her lean, toned upper arms. But it was true that she carried more muscle there than most women, which Alexandra guessed from other friends was something that girls were apparently supposed to feel bad about.
“I like your shoulders. I think they’re sexy, especially when you’ve just been working out.”
They exited onto their floor and proceeded to apartment 415. Kira paused as she opened the door and kissed Alexandra on the forehead.
“I can’t tell you how relieved I am right now,” she said, entering the hallway.
“Wait, really? I didn’t realize it was a big thing at all.”
They leaned the heavy, flat boxes against the entranceway wall.
“Thanks. I’ll take those from here. But yeah, I think most women have a part of their bodies they’re never happy with,” said Kira. “Mine are my shoulders. And at least for me, I’m constantly afraid anyone I’m with is going to hate them too.”
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