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Getting to Third Date
Could a forgotten cutie be Katelyn’s newest catch?Katelyn Spears is a firm believer in the two-date rule. First dates are so awkward; every guy deserves a second chance. But a third? Not unless he’s got serious Romeo potential. Enter Tyler. Tyler thinks Katelyn’s rule is too harsh. He dares her to go back through her Little Pink Book and grant a third date to all the two-date duds. Oh, and she should report back to the whole school via her newspaper column. Standing by her policy (and determined to prove Tyler wrong), Katelyn makes a few phone calls. But will any of her old flames rekindle a romance?
Dear Mother Hubbard,
I think my bf has lost my cell number. We had a fabulous evening last weekend and he said he’d call. I’ve skipped class all week (my professors make us turn our cell phones off in class), and he hasn’t called yet. I’m thinking of slipping my number under his door. Do you think he would be embarrassed knowing I knew he lost my number?
Trying to be Considerate
DON’T YOU GET IT? YOU’VE BEEN DUMPED. INSTEAD OF SLIPPING YOUR NUMBER UNDER HIS DOOR, WHY DON’T YOU GO TO THE CAMPUS BOOKSTORE AND BUY A COPY OF HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU. THERE SHOULD BE SEVERAL COPIES, AS I ALWAYS HAVE THEM RESTOCK WHEN THEY RUN OUT. READ IT. TWICE IF YOU NEED TO. THEN BLOCK HIS NUMBER ON YOUR CELL, GO BACK TO CLASS, AND FORGET HIM.
As soon as I saw the column, and the big red slashed circle, universal sign of disdain, I should have known better than to open the door to “The Campus Times.” I should have just turned around, fished my cell out of my pocket and called Tyler to claim a migraine. Or typhoid. Maybe ebola. But I didn’t.
For one, Tyler didn’t usually ask me to come down to the paper’s tiny basement office—he preferred to keep me very “Deep Throat.” No one was supposed to know who Mother Hubbard was, and Tyler was determined not to be the first editor of the campus paper to let the secret slip—not even in the age of teddy-cams and instant messenger.
For another, call me a patsy, a wimp or a die hard romantic, but I didn’t want to let the jerk down. If he needed me to haul my little USB storage device down to the office (after carefully wiping my computer of all evidence of this week’s column) so he could plug it into the main computer tonight, so be it.
I stepped closer to read what was scrawled over my column this week.
Mother Hubbard Go Back To Your Cupboard.
In drippy, red acrylic paint, someone —obviously a creatively and romantically tortured student from the Arts & Theatre Department- has taken exception to my sensible advice and this was her artistic way of telling me (as a football hotshot had done more bluntly last week) to go fuck myself. Nice. Maybe Tyler’s overboard secret-service/FBI clandestine meeting type secrecy wasn’t as overboard as I’d first thought when he’d asked (read begged—literally down on both knees) me to write the column my first week on campus.
When I opened the door, offensive column in hand, it only took about 2 seconds for Tyler to look up and start gobbling. The jerk.
I waved the torn out column around. “That would be Mother Goose, not Mother Hubbard. Brush up on your nursery rhymes.”
Clearly, he didn’t care about his gross inaccuracy, because he continued to gobble. What else can you expect from someone who thinks he can make his mark on the campus paper by aiming more toward the audience of The National Enquirer rather than The New York Times?
His behavior signaled it was okay to shed my deep cover—for the moment. The only two in the office were Tyler and Sookie—his assistant editor and the one who refused to write the column, even when he begged. Which meant that she was smarter than me.
I slid over to Sookie’s desk and slipped her lighter from her cigs—she already has a three pack a day habit and a smoke voice that portends throat cancer in the next thirty years. It doesn’t seem to keep the guys away, but that could be because of an impressively curvaceous figure and the column she writes called “The Kama Sookie.” Her sex advice gets the paper a lot of administrative finger slapping and gets Sookie dozens of love letters each week…if that’s what you’d call letters offering everything from a night of multiples to offers of marriage.
Holding up the clipping of my (artistically vandalized) column, I put the lighter to it so the flame touched one torn corner. The paper began to char and smoke. Very satisfying.
Tyler stopped gobbling and leaped up. “You’re going to set off the sprinklers.” He grabbed the paper from my hand before it could burst into flame. Probably a good thing, considering the building (and its retrofitted sprinklers) were older than God. “You have to learn to take the criticism that comes with the job.”
Sookie looked up from her laptop and nodded. “You should see what comes through campus mail for me.”
I had, courtesy of Tyler, who was probably one of the few people on earth who considered stalk-mail a compliment to his editorial acumen.
“I don’t think glow in the dark condoms or razzyberry underwear is quite in the same league.”
She shrugged, not glancing up from her work. “At least you know it isn’t personal—no one but you, Tyler and I even know you’re Mother Hubbard.”
Tyler frowned and looked over his shoulder as if he were afraid we were under surveillance. “I’d rather you didn’t say that aloud.”
Sookie slipped a cigarette between her lips as she considered his request. She didn’t light it, because of the aforementioned overly sensitive sprinkler system, but she knew how much he hated her to have a cigarette, even if she didn’t light it. “You’drather a lot of things, Mr. Editor Man. But you can’t have everything.”
I could smell it in the air—the scent of an imminent fight. A common occurrence when two strong editorial egos collide. It was almost a tradition. Just like homecoming, graduation, and the 102 year-old Mother Hubbard column, dispensing advice through the current unfortunate student minion. Like me.
I thought about saying something to diffuse the situation – but then I remembered how mad I was at Tyler for forcing me into the stupid job in the first place.
“I thought you liked controversy, Tyler. Good for the bottom line.” Bottom line: the more papers that were read, the more revenues the paper brought in from ads. He was the kind of editor who would happily embrace Doris Kearns Goodwin, Stephen Ambrose, or even Jayson Blair. After all, they had readers even if their ethics were a touch shaky.
“I’d love the controversy, Katelyn—if it made people read the paper instead of burn it in front of the Student Union.”
Sookie leaned forward, showing some of her cleavage—a sure sign she was trying to make Tyler blow a gasket tonight. “That was cool! The firemen came, and the police. The TV cameras loved it. They interviewed me, and even got a close up of my favorite earrings.”
Tyler perked up for just a minute.
“Yeah, the condom jewelry made the news.” Then he slumped in his chair. “So did a call for Mother Hubbard to break a century of tradition and come out of hiding—so no more little slips. Not even when we’re alone, please, Sookie.”
Sookie, of course, taunted him further, egged on by his desperation. “Maybe it is time for Old Mother Hubbard to come out of her cupboard.”
I could hardly blame her. Tyler was prone to giving frantic, pompous ‘nose to the grindstone’ speeches. He was not usually one to slump in his chair like he was contemplating the end of his career before it even got started. But then, he was a senior, and they all seemed to oscillate between making morose predictions about how they’d be living on Kraft Mac & Cheese forever, or dreaming about how they’d all be snapped up by top grad schools and employers.
In fact, I was so focused on enjoying his torment that it took a minute for me to digest what she had just suggested. Outing Mother Hubbard. Oh right. That’s what I wanted. It was bad enough to have to write the stupid column. I’d have to transfer to another school—in another state—if I actually admitted it I was Mother Hubbard.
“No thanks. I didn’t even want the job in the first place. I don’t want to have to go around the next three years worried I’m going to get a shot of red spray paint when I’m not looking.”
“It could work. Get somebody to draw Mother Hubbard’s face on a bag and stick it over your head—secrecy and someone to interview on the news. Perfection!”
With anyone else, I’d have dismissed it as an absurd joke. But this was Sookie. When Sookie gets an idea in her head, it takes over. I’m sure her boyfriends like that about her. But I wasn’t her boyfriend and I wasn’t liking her idea, either.
Fortunately, Tyler didn’t like it any more than I did. “Forget it. We’re not breaking the tradition on my watch.”
Not for the first time, I was glad that Tyler was a pompous patriarchal idiot (I learned in high school a girl can’t help who she crushes on, it just happens, like tornados or zits). Until he continued, “Katelyn, you’re going to have to give the people what they want. And fast.”
“You mean instead of giving good advice, I should just tell them to go at it like rabbits?”
I didn’t like his solution, although I’d heard it before. Too many times.
“Why is it so hard for you to be normal?” Tyler got so mad his little tic started showing. I liked that tic, usually. It was a blue vein that swelled and pulsed right at the left curve of his temple. Reminded me of the heroes in some of my mother’s romances I used to sneak out of her room and read when I was twelve. They had a tic when they got mad, too. Which was how I knew when I made Tyler really mad. It didn’t happen nearly as often as I liked. But this time, I worried a little that that tic was going to blow.
I thought I’d lighten the room. A little. “Why can’t you just get that everything is not about the big o or the big a? Don’t you ever get enough of either?”
Oops. Apparently, that came out a little too angry to be funny. I brushed my hair behind my ear to casually check for a throbbing tic. Nope. No giant pulsing vein that I could feel. Maybe it was inside my skull, just waiting to burst. But no, I wasn’t that lucky.
Tyler stared at me. “You have to fix this. You’re ruining me.”
“You? Not the paper?” Which was a joke, of course.
The Campus Times had been in constant circulation since 1902. Even the World Wars hadn’t disrupted it. And I should know—it was my misfortune to be drafted to search the archives that had been preserved on microfiche to find fun or scandalous facts about the past of the newspaper for its 100th anniversary (what can I say, he needed it quick and like I said, a girl can’t help who she crushes on).
My jab hit home, because he turned white. But he regrouped quickly. “I meant the paper, of course, but I am the paper—I’m the editor.” I guess that was a good sign for his future ambitions—he could give anything a good spin and polish.
Not that I was picking up what he was putting down—I knew him too well. “The 75th editor, to be precise (it even said so on the masthead). And the paper has survived 74 editors, some of them worse than you. It’ll survive you, too.”
“I wanted to make it great. We were just starting to get taken seriously.” Read, we were getting some decent ad money from the beer companies and local liquor stores. “I think you may have found the way to destroy the paper and all my good work…or at least the integrity and longevity of Mother Hubbard.”
It was my turn to regroup. Fortunately, I’m as good (maybe better) at it than Tyler. “Well, that’s what they don’t pay you the big bucks for. You’re the editor. Sookie’s right: you figure out how to take advantage of the controversy.”
“Oh yeah? Well maybe we should run your face instead of Mother Hubbard’s tomorrow. How would you like that?”
I’d hate it. Fortunately, so would he. We both knew it was an empty threat and I didn’t give him the satisfaction of a direct answer. “Can you just download my column so I can go home and go to bed?”
“Ooooh!” We had both forgotten that Sookie sat watching us. “I just love those words.”
“Fine.” He plugged in and downloaded my column. I held my breath while he handed me back my device. I was almost out of the office before he read the column.
His wolf howl stopped me cold. “You have to do the column over, Katelyn. I can’t put this one out. We’ll get bombed!”
I countered, almost hoping he’d fire me from the job I hadn’t wanted in the first place. “I’m right, that’s what they don’t like.”
“You’re telling this guy that his girlfriend is just using him.”
“Don’t you all?”
Oops. I had forgotten Tyler’s weakness. She was Italian (really, from Italy, cute accent and all). She wrote a column for the foreign exchange students (Tyler had talked her into it, but she—unlike me—hadn’t agreed because she had a crush on him, but because she thought it would give her a deeper dating pool). She was also, unfortunately, my roommate and the reason that Tyler usually collected my column directly from my room—when he knew Portia would be around.
“I don’t.” I think we all knew (well, except for Tyler) he could “discuss” her column with her forever and it wasn’t going farther than that… But somehow he thought she was toying with him and would eventually succumb to his editorial wiles. Yeah, right.
“That’s right. You always turn down guys for a third date because of your stupid rating system.” I was a little surprised he had remembered—I’d rambled about it one night when I’d had too much coffee and too many letters from students who seemed to cling to people I wouldn’t have given one date, never mind a third.
Stupid rating system? For a guy who thought he was so different, Tyler certainly seemed to think like everyone else on campus. “Whatever. I don’t know how I’ll survive with my 4.0 GPA.”
Sookie laughed. “Give me a hot guy over a little A any day.”
“Whatever.” Tyler ran his hands through his hair. He looked like The Thinker with ADD. Apparently having his hair stand on end helped his process. “Never mind. I’ll rewrite it.”
“Whatever.” I pretended I didn’t care. I didn’t want to care. The column was stupid. The questions were stupid. But I was used to succeeding at what I did. I never failed. Especially not in such a spectacularly public (if anonymous) fashion.
Tyler probably would have rewritten my column, complete with answers that would keep the student body trapped in situations that would only make them miserable, if not for one little thing. More precisely, my little black book (more precisely pink), which fell out of my purse as I opened it to jam in the storage device.
“A diary!” Tyler snatched it up, carried it over to Sookie’s desk and the two of them started going through my neat little shorthand as if they were deciphering the key to the electronic lock to Fort Knox – while I threw erasers at them (the paper had a ton, left over from the pre-computer era) and demanded the return my private property. The book contained names, stats, bits of information and column to check whether or not the guy was…
Tyler caught one of the erasers and threw it back. It bounced off my desk and landed in the trash. “What does TDW mean?”
“Third Date Worthy.” I could have (should have) refused to explain. But that crush thing was going strong—especially since it would be disaster upon disaster if he cracked my code and recognized one particular entry.
“Not just date worthy?” Sookie seemed nonplussed at the idea that you’d judge a man by more than whether he’d be a fun two hour ride. What can I say? It worked for her.
Not for me, though. “If they’re not even date worthy, I don’t list them.”
“Then how do you remember who you’ve already ruled out?”
Just how many men did she get asked out by? Forget that, I don’t want to know.
“I have a good memory.” I wasn’t going to put my record of one date a week up against hers of one date for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner. I won’t even go into midnight booty calls. Besides—I think most of the time it was Sookie who made those, when the dinner guy didn’t perform up to her standards.
“This is it.” Tyler held the book up like it was the Holy Grail, or a Pulitzer, which I knew he coveted winning one day. He hadn’t seemed to make the connection that scandal didn’t usually win prizes. Except maybe Deep Throat and Watergate. But that was before celebrity sex videos hit the internet and changed the scandal scales big time.
He thumbed through the book. “What do the codes mean? RTG1-2”
Sookie whistled low in her throat—approvingly, I think. “Wow. You’ve got the blog address, and the online dating profile?” She looked up and grinned at me. “I’m surprised you don’t have the blood type.”
“That would come later,” I snapped. “Can I have that back please?”
Tyler grabbed it back. “Man, you have more research on guys than Uncle Sam.” His happiness was unsettling. And then a shadow crossed his face. “Anything on me?”
That was all I needed him to see. “No. Only guys I might date. Could you give it back, please? You two have work to do and we don’t want anyone to notice how long I’ve been in here, do we?”
For a moment he held on to the book and looked as if he wanted to go through it to make sure I was telling the truth. Not a good idea. I considered whether my six weeks of Karate would be enough to take him down. Maybe if he was unconscious.
Fortunately, his crush on Portia made him blind to my crush on him. He seemed relieved that I didn’t consider him in the slightest bit dateworthy.
He handed me the book back. “This rating system of yours would make a great column.”
“No thank you!”
“Why not?” He seemed surprised that I wouldn’t immediately agree. You think you’re right, right?”
“The readers think you’re wrong, right?”
“Yes.” I wasn’t sure I liked where this was going.
He got that ADD Thinker look again. “Let me get the paper to bed and then I’ll figure out where to go from here.”
“You could always just fire me.”
“That would be the traditional response—“ He grinned at me. That damned grin that triggered the crush in the first place. “And I’m anything but traditional. I’ll think of something.”
“Great.” I didn’t even bother to pretend enthusiasm as I escaped from the office (after Tyler checked to make sure no one suspicious was loitering around outside). I was going to be doing some thinking, too. About how to get out of this stupid column assignment. Not to mention how to crush a crush back into benign indifference.