The new year may’ve been celebrated with the beautiful display of fireworks and resolutions, but it brought more challenges for Crystal to conquer. Not only was she emotionally drained from the intensity of working and studying, her academic timetable was in tatters. Accommodating her job, classes, and social time required her to devote more time than she desired on campus.
Her heart sank three feet further into her stomach and she buried her face in her hands at the revelation that Fate threw her and Ryan into the same tutorial yet again. It wasn’t the respite she hoped for because it strained and wore her patience out to have dealt with him for the entire year. Sure, she went to extreme lengths to convince herself that Ryan didn’t harbor any grudges against her. His erratic approach towards her was the result of his temperament and the continuous stress of excellence instead. But what was she fearful of? Her application for a study tour was approved and she’d be setting sail to the far east - to the snowy grounds of Edmonton next semester.
“Screw the bugger for choosing Auckland,” she had whinged once to Tracy. “He’s making me jealous with all of those pictures of Queen Street and Mount Victoria in Devonport.”
“You could still continue with your plan of studying a semester in AUT, though.” Tracy raised an eyebrow. “It’s not as if you’re doing in at the same time or campus as Ryan.”
“Come to think of it, I think I’ll be adventurous and head off to Canada instead while experiencing my first and only white Christmas.”
With a cheery smile that lit up the sombre aura of the room, Crystal made herself comfortable as she waited for the rest of the students and tutor to float into the area. Breathing the same air as Ryan for the umpteenth time made her nervous because there was a chance history would repeat itself. She sighed, recollecting that this was the same location for their morning class last year and how his guts almost spilled on the carpeted floor when he saw her neutral expression as he entered.
Snap out of it, a little voice reminded her. Just be yourself.
Little did Crystal expect the cards that Ryan would throw in the fire.
What made the class experience worse for Ryan was the fact that all of the students were required to present a topic of their choice from the course content. He was alright with class presentations, but his friend, who promised to join him in this course, withdrew at the eleventh hour for another subject. His friend’s decision left him in a dilemma because he didn’t have an alternative subject to enroll in and he didn’t know anyone - or so he thought. He breathed a sigh of relief when he spied Crystal minding her own business in the class. She must’ve been fixated on something because she hadn’t heard his entrance. He secretly observed her conduct for the first half of the class time and satisfied that she, like him, was a stranger to their peers, he swallowed his pride and went against his wishes. He gingerly approached her and asked whether she’d be willing to collaborate with him for the presentation as they were already familiar with each other’s work ethics.
His request must’ve shocked her into silence because he saw her eyes dilated with a mixture of shock and surprise.
“I guess it’s alright.” Crystal found her voice. “It’d make our lives easier if we work together again and there wouldn’t be any glitches.”
“Awesome! What topic would you like to do? I’ll leave the choice to you.”
“I’m alright with anything. Do you have something on mind?”
He rattled a couple of options. “Then again, it’s dependent on what the other groups have chosen.”
“We’ll see how it plays out. Who knows if we’d be lucky to nail the first option?”