At the moment, however, both young men were clearly more interested in their phones than the world around them. Luckily for one of them, Justin was a klutz and knocked over his drink when he reached out in search of another sip.
As the duo scurried to save their electronics from the ever growing puddle of Snapple, Marc noticed a familiar face on the other side of the quad.
“Isn’t that Amber, your eternal crush?” he teased his buddy as he sopped up iced tea with napkins that were already soaked through with Snapple’s most popular flavor.
The mere mention of Amber’s name caused Justin to go on high alert. He abandoned the clean up process to seek out his target in an area teeming with people.
He spotted her quickly. She was alone at a table, reading a book, and picking at a muffin. Justin’s face lit up at the sight of her, and it was impossible to miss that he was smitten.
“Go talk to her,” Marc suggested as he tossed his wad of iced tea soaked napkins into the trash and snatched a handful of new ones from the dispenser.
“I wouldn’t know what to say,” was Justin’s lame reply.
“How about telling her you’ve had the hots for her for years, and you thought it was time to finally man up and ask her out?” Marc tossed out there without any sarcasm.
Justin shrugged. “I always get so tongue tied around her. I don’t get it.”
“Go say hi, and make some witty comment about what a coincidence it is that you would run into each other here,” Marc directed. “Perhaps you can ask her to borrow a few napkins…”
Justin shook his head like those were horrible suggestions.
“I need something better than that,” he admitted as if he’d been wrestling with how to approach this woman for a very long time. “It’s got to be something unique.”
Marc stopped cleaning the table long enough to take a long, hard look at Amber.
“Why don’t you tell her that’s the most hideous hoodie you’ve ever seen, and then offer to burn it for her,” Marc offered with a straight face.
She was wearing an extremely ugly sweatshirt. It was a tie dye rainbow of colors that didn’t go well together, and was made even worse by hot pink lettering. Amber was very easy on the eyes, but the hoodie was easily as ugly as she was beautiful.
“I’m sure I’ll come up with something better than that,” Justin replied, but not in the most convincing fashion.
He set out across the quad, his determined strides carrying him quickly to Amber’s table.
She looked up when a shadow fell across her book, and offered Justin a charming smile.
“Hey, Justin. What a coincidence that we would run into each other here,” she said as she closed her book to give him her full attention.
Justin was momentarily flustered by the fact that Amber had greeted him with the exact words Marc had suggested he use on her. His brain simply could not process the odds of that happening and come up with something witty to say simultaneously.
As a result, this happened…
“That’s the most hideous hoodie I’ve ever seen. Can I burn it for you?”
Justin just stood there, incredibly horrified, but trying to hold it together.
“It’s my boyfriend’s sweatshirt, so I don’t think he’d appreciate your setting it ablaze,” she informed him and then took a bite of her muffin.
Now Justin was really dumbfounded. Boyfriend? This was not going as planned. Why the hell had he allowed Marc to talk him into this?
“I didn’t realize you had a boyfriend,” he mumbled awkwardly.
Amber nodded. “He’s in the Marines. Stationed in the Middle East. He gave me this sweatshirt right before he left so I wouldn’t forget him. I treasure it more than anything else I own.”
She broke off another piece of muffin, popped it into her mouth, and smiled.
Justin could feel the color draining from his face and the sweat forming on his brow, but while his body was begging him to run, his heart refused to allow him to budge.
“The Marines? Overseas? Wow. That must be really hard on a relationship.”
Amber let out a long, sad sigh and finally shook her head in agreement.
“We Skype as often as we can,” she explained. “He likes seeing me in his sweatshirt when we talk, so that’s why I’m wearing it now.”
She glanced over at her phone hopefully.
Justin looked down at the device in horror.
“Oh,” he uttered in panic. “Are you expecting him to Skype now? Am I interrupting?”
“You should stick around and say hi,” Amber offered. “I bet he’d get a real kick out of your telling him how much you hate his sweatshirt and want to burn it. It’s the official colors of his unit, you know.”
Justin clutched the chair in front of him to keep from falling. The entire quad was starting to spin now, and he feared he would drown in his flop sweat when he passed out from embarrassment.
“I really didn’t mean to bother you,” he whispered as he steadied himself on the chair and prepared his body to flee the scene of his crime. “I just saw you sitting here and wanted to say hello. So sorry…”
Amber broke off another piece of muffin and put it in her mouth as she studied Justin with keen interest. He looked so unbelievably pale, and she had no idea that the human body could produce so much sweat in such a short period of time.
Justin turned to scurry away before he made the situation any worse. Not that he thought that possible, but with the way things were going, there was probably a way.
That was when Amber broke into the brightest smile.
“Justin, wait!” she called after him. “I don’t have a boyfriend. I was just messing with you because I never know what to say around you, and being a sarcastic wise ass is apparently my default setting for such conversations.”
Justin slowly turned to face her again. He needed to see the look on her face to make sure this wasn’t some elaborate hoax.
“Not if you promise to stop being so shy around me and finally ask me out,” she assured him.
“That was a pretty convincing yarn you were spinning there,” Justin complimented her as he pulled out the chair and sat down across from her.
Amber smiled and blushed as she nervously pushed the glasses up on her nose.
“I’ve always wanted to be a convincing pathological liar,” she chuckled. “Looks like you bring out the best in me, Justin.”
It was Justin’s turn to blush now.
“That’s sweet,” he told her as he flashed a handsome smile. “For the record, that hoodie is ridiculously hideous. Please don’t wear it on our first date.”
Amber nodded in agreement and blushed a little more…