I fumbled with the doorknob, glad to find it unlocked, since I there was no way I could have managed it with the stack of copies I was holding. I almost tripped over the boxes sitting by the doorway. “Damn it, Evan, didn’t I tell you to put those back on the shelf?” I shoved the door fully open with my shoulder to see Ramesh standing in front of the whiteboard instead, an eyebrow raised, and another student I didn’t recognise lounging on the only empty seat we had by the wall. Not from our course, then (we were pretty small), but I felt I knew him from somewhere. Material sciences lectures, maybe?
“Evan went out to get … something,” Ramesh said, gesturing vaguely at the door with the marker in his hand. “He took your car keys. Sorry about the boxes; I just pushed them aside. I thought he was doing something with those circuit boards?”
“We’re lucky he didn’t explode the room,” I said. I looked around, trying to find somewhere to put my papers. Our guest stood up, and I deposited my burden on the chair. “Thanks,” I said to him, and he shrugged, and I turned my attention back to Ramesh. “Seriously, though, did you have to put Evan in charge of this thing? Now he’s panicking and pushing everything on to me! He’s got no sense when it comes to delegating work.”
“That’s why you’re vice president,” Ramesh said smugly. “You get to wrangle people and make them do what you want.”
“Oh, shut up,” I said. Managing people was not really something I was comfortable with, but for some reason my classmates jumped when I gave orders, much to my surprise. Our visitor was now leaning against the wall as I surveyed our cluttered meeting table, wondering how I was going to find enough space for everything. “Sorry, sorry, we’re usually better organised than this,” I said, giving up on the pile of unfolded pamphlets and simply stacking them on top of some other documents I couldn’t decipher. I glanced up at Ramesh, who was still contemplating the whiteboard, scribbling names under various headings. He was currently filling in ‘demos’ and ‘facilities tour’. “I don’t think Hakeem is a good choice for a tour guide,” I told him. “He barely opens his mouth around people he knows, let alone visitors.”
“I have to put him somewhere,” he said, tapping the board in annoyance. He wiped Hakeem’s name off the list, though. “This is supposed to be a class activity.” Participation in the exhibition and Open Day was usually voluntary, but somehow Dr Harrington was tying this to our grades. The other faculties weren’t doing this to their students; I wasn’t sure what we’d done to deserve such sadistic treatment.
“Decorations, maybe?” I tried. There was antisocial, and then there was Hakeem. “We can trust him with scissors, probably.”
“No, Lily’s head of that committee. She’s going to stab him with the scissors.” Our visitor’s cough barely hid his laughter. Ramesh blinked at him in his absent-minded way. “Oh, sorry. Sophie, this is Jay; Jay, our vice president, Sophie.”
I nodded, finally placing him. “Nice to meet you. You’re from the student council, right? Here to observe us flounder through this?”
Jay shrugged. “Ah, kind of. I’m trying to finalise itineraries for the VIPs.”
I winced. That didn’t sound fun. “Good luck.” At least he wasn’t being graded for that, I thought morosely, chucking an empty drinking can at the wastepaper basket and missing. Evan chose that moment to come through the door, almost tripping into the boxes.
“What the hell, Soph, I told you to put that box away.”
I almost threw the next can I found on the table at him. It was probably his, anyway. “No, I told you to do that; you were so absorbed with that compass thing when I went to pick up the lecture notes copies!”
“Oh, come on, you told me—” He broke off when I crumpled up a piece of paper and aimed it at him, and he finally noticed the student council rep standing by the wall. “Oh hey, it’s Jay,” he said, throwing the paper he’d caught into the wastebasket. He didn’t miss. Jay made a face at the rhyming. “Here to watch us stumble through this thing?”
Jay gave him an odd look. “Are you two married or something? Sophie said the same thing, or close enough.”
Ramesh chuckled. I scrubbed at my face with my palm, feeling my skin heating up, but hopefully the boys wouldn’t notice. “They’re always doing that,” Ramesh said, “to a point it gets creepy.”
Evan glared at him for a moment before the whiteboard caught his attention. “You can’t put Isaac with Nina; they’ll talk the visitors’ ears off.” Ramesh flung his hands up in exasperation. I could tell he was getting close to erasing everything and pulling names out of a hat.
I managed to clear up enough table space to spread out the papers. I couldn’t remember getting notes when I visited for Open Day, but then again, I wasn’t interested in the course at the time. “Where’s Jenna?” I asked. “I went to pick up the notes because she said she was going to meet the faculty with you.”
“She got stuck discussing details with Dr Chun,” Ramesh said, looking guilty.
“And you left her with no backup?” I demanded, and he grimaced. Despite being the president he didn’t get on at all with the faculty advisor, and their arguments were already legendary. Practically no one got along with Dr Chun, though Jenna was the most patient person I knew, and probably was the best choice for such discussions. I was just glad that we no longer had classes with him. “Don’t worry about it,” I said, backtracking when I caught his expression. “She’ll be all right.”
I cleared three of the chairs of their loads (two had boxes labelled ‘xmas deco’ and I couldn’t see why they were relevant) and gestured to Jay to sit. “If you want to discuss itineraries you’ll have to wait for Jenna,” I said apologetically. “She controls most of the scheduling.” He nodded, toying with his own notes as he watched me collate the papers and staple them together. The headache that had been building up since yesterday’s meeting just wouldn’t go away, and I rubbed at my temples, pushing my hair out of my face. Evan slid into the seat beside me before slipping me a blister pack of Panadol and my car keys. I blinked at him in surprise.
He shrugged. “We’ll be doomed if you’re out of commission,” he said, lips quirking up in a smile. I muttered my thanks and went back to the notes, pausing to swallow two of the pills when he shoved a water bottle at me. We got into a groove of him picking up the papers in order and me checking and stapling them together, barely pausing when Jenna arrived and started discussing the schedule with Jay and Ramesh.
Instead of leaving, Jay came back to sit down across us once they were done. We completed forty-nine sets of the notes (one set was missing page four) and I was finally able see the surface of the table when Jenna passed some sort of chart for me to review.
Jay was staring at me. I looked up from my chart, feeling trapped. Jenna was arguing with Ramesh by the whiteboard, still moving names about, and Evan had his face planted on the table, fretting over the introduction speech that he was supposed to give.
“Yes?” I said, too disconcerted to actually form a question.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” Jay sounded bemused. Evan lifted his head enough to glance at us.
I gave Jay the look I usually reserved for stupid questions from Evan when he was scrambling to finish assignments he put off. “You’re Jay. Ramesh just introduced you.” He gave a crooked smile but didn’t say anything, flustering me even more. “Um, of course I remember you from the student union — you’re from EE. I voted for you!”
Jay started to laugh and Evan sat up properly to stare at us, his draft abandoned. “You really don’t remember,” he said, a bit breathless from laughter. “I’m Jay. We met when you were in school with my sister. I’m Amy’s half-brother.”
I could feel my face growing hotter by each word. Now both Jenna and Ramesh were listening in, and Evan had his head tilted in confusion. “Wow,” I heard Jenna say, “I didn’t think Sophie could even blush, but look at how red she is.”
I gave in and covered my face with both hands. “Oh god. You’re Jay.”
“Hello.” He still sounded amused.
“Amy mentioned you were studying here.” I forced myself to look at him, fingers crumpling my cardigan instead, but my voice still sounded strangled, even to me. I didn’t like being caught off-guard, especially by people I didn’t know. “But . . . I just never—”
He pushed his chair back, away from the table and me, hands up in a placating gesture. Evan frowned at him. “Hey, hey, sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you.” He still had a grin on his face, though now it seemed a bit self-deprecating. “It’s been, what, six years? Not really a surprise you didn’t know me.”
Ramesh snorted. “Funny. She remembered Evan just fine.” Even Jenna, who usually minded her own business, was looking curious, and Evan more discomfited than before. “When these two met the first time it was chaos and half-finished sentences.”
Jay turned to face him as I tried my best not to hide under the table. “Really?” he asked, and Ramesh gestured at me and Evan.
“Apparently they knew each other when they were in primary school, and only met again on the first day of orientation.” He shook his head and put on his most disappointed face. “They kept whispering to each other like gossipy kids throughout the welcoming speeches.” I opened my mouth to protest and he pointed his marker at me. “I was sitting right behind you.”
Evan looked rueful. “There was a lot to catch up on?”
“So you remember someone you met when you were little, but not me?” Jay asked, listing in his chair, eyes fluttering close and one hand to his forehead, absurdly devastated by this revelation. “Alas, to have such a forgettable face.”
I felt myself going red again, though his antics made me smile. “Well, it’s good to finally meet you,” I managed to say. “Properly, I mean.”
He grinned. “Yeah, nice to meet you, too.”
And now this thing is not even in chronological order. I’m trying to have the snippets able to stand on their own, but I’m not sure it’s working.
This was written for the daily prompt clumsy, even though the word itself didn’t manage to get into the prose.