The topics of ethical issues in a fair trial was the choice that they wanted for the class presentation.. Because it was a complicated topic that required countless research, the other groups dropped this in favor of other ones. This allowed Crystal and Ryan to work as a team with another two students on this.
Once their presentation was done and dealt with, she breathed a sigh of relief and returned to her seat. She felt the nerves strangling her throat and shaking her alive towards the end of her piece, as if she could’ve engaged with her materials in a confident manner. It was after the tutor announced that the seminar was done for the weeks that she slid to the front and gathered the handouts that her peers left behind. It would’ve gone to waste if she didn't bring it home with her as rough papers.
Her breath caught in her throat when she spied Ryan loitering outside the smaller lecture theatre. He was waiting for someone. It’s just that she didn't know who. She rearranged the folder that she carried like a baby and tried to pass him unnoticed. Dealing with him on academic matters was alright, but she ensured that she was out of his way whenever they were out of class. She rationalised that it was probably a friend he waited for and lowered her head, not wanting him to notice her. It was their final week of classes and he was probably relieved that he’d see the back of her for the semester.
She stopped in her tracks when she heard her name. With a deep breath, she turned to face him with a smile. “Hey, Ryan.”
“Thank you so much for making the presentation a success. You were the last presenter and the execution rested solely on your shoulders.”
“Thanks. You weren’t too shabby either. In fact, you did better than myself.”
“You think so?”
She nodded. She finally saw him for who he was in that instant. Behind all the facade and seriousness was someone friendly and warm. The air of tension that wrapped him melted into one of easiness, as if they were friends since young. The notion that he called her name was indicative of it. It dawned on her that he allowed her to see another side of him - one that only his close friends know - without the presence of their friends. He wore a grin that not even a scouring pad could wipe off. His eyes were softer and friendlier although it was in the direction of the staircase behind her. “Let’s make a move.”
“Sure.” As they walked down together, he continued speaking. “There’s something I am curious on.”
“What made you bolt out of the lecture all of a sudden? You looked as if someone dipped you in hot sauce.”
She sighed. Although he didn’t explicitly refer to a certain week of lectures, she knew which one he referred to. It was the only time that they sat in close distance, almost side by side. She moved a couple of seats away from her original one when it was occupied by a straggler. He sat towards the back row and in the middle seat. She never expected him to have noticed her quick departure. By this time, they arrived at the ground floor foyer, where he continued to wait for her response.
He sensed her hesitance and in a crowded area like this, she would never spill. “It’s okay,” he whispered, “if you don’t want to talk about it.”
She saw the concern etched in his eyes, but she never spoke of it. Not even to Trace. “It reminded me of a touchy situation,” she simply replied. “I’ve a brunch date to catch, Good luck for the exams and I’ll see you around.”
“Thanks. You too.”
She nodded again and took her leave.
As Ryan watched her rushing out of the building faster than lightning, he couldn’t help but shake his head. The more he thought that he finally understood her, the more she never failed to amaze him with another side of her. Although her Instagram and Twitter accounts illustrated nothing negative in her life, she flinched when he innocently scraped the surface of a scab. It must’ve been something bad or she wouldn’t have signed and paled.
He had to give her the credit. He never could decipher her true thoughts in their limited time working together. It was as if he was looking at his reflection in the mirror, which only fuelled his desire to know the Crystal off-campus. He craved to know her core courses next semester because he wanted to be in the same presentation group as her. There was no motive there; in fact, it served as mutual benefit due to their familiarity with each other’s work ethics.
His lips curled into a smile when he saw her sitting on the table near the locked doors of the exhibition hall six weeks later. Papers were strewn around her with a folder in front of her. She frowned with annoyance and stress at the prospect of a difficult paper. Although she looked like she wanted to be left alone, he gambled with the risk and headed in her direction.
“Excuse me, Crystal. Can I have a word with you?”
Crystal looked up at the voice in front of her. “Yeah, I guess. Let me push the papers -”
“It’s fine, i’ll be quick. Are you taking any core courses next semester?”
“Wow. You really can’t wait.” A half-smile emerged on her face. “Sorry to disappoint you, but no. I’m doing my electives abroad.”
A flash of sadness swept through his face. “Oh, okay. Where, if I may ask?”
“That’s half a world away! You should have considered Auckland.”
That was my first choice, she thought. You made a decision for me without me even having a chance to say anything. “Well,” she answered. “I did, but …. I figured since it was only for a semester, it’s alright to live a little on the dangerous side. Hence the choice of Edmonton. Why, are you going to Auckland?”
Her answer threw him off-guard. “I -”
“It’s okay, Ryan. I overheard your conversation with your friend. You’re going there next year.”
“I didn't expect our conversation to be that loud."
She forced a laugh. "It's hard not to ignore when it's so close to your ears."
He sighed. "In that case, I think I better let you return to your revision. Keep in touch via Facebook, yeah?”
“Good luck for the paper!”
“Thanks.” She smiled. “All the best!”