The rest of the week goes by relatively smoothly. I only have two classes this term, Statistics and Business Calculus, but by the end of the week, I have three new tutoring students so my schedule fills up fast. My nerves are still a little frayed but slowly, the new experiences are becoming standard and my busy schedule feels like a welcome distraction. By Friday, I’m beat and super ready for a much-needed happy hour date with Gabby.
I’m getting ready at home looking for a comfortable yet cute outfit. I settle on a pair of fitted gray jeans, a black top, and a green cardigan. My wavy hair falls down right at my shoulders and I wear minimal makeup as usual.
I make sure my pepper spray is in my pocket and I look around before carefully locking all three locks on my front door. I slide into my Honda and drive towards our favorite hangout: Howie’s Bar & Grill.
“Cara, over here!” Gabby waves at me across the crowded room. I notice she’s at a tall table in the back corner with another person. As I approach them, I notice she’s sitting with Elias and swallow hard.
“Hi babe! I invited Elias, I hope that’s okay.”
“Oh, of course, hi Elias, how are you?” I respond, trying to sound casual.
“I’m real good Cara,” Elias responds with a slight smirk on his face. I fumble with my keys and put my pepper spray in my purse pocket before sitting down. I feel his eyes on me the whole time.
“We waited for you to order, what do you want? I’m buying first!” Gabby asks.
“Vodka Tonic please,” I respond.
“You got it. Elias? Beer?” Gabby points at her brother.
Elias nods and Gabby slides off her chair.
“Oh, let me help you Gabby!” I say quickly, not wanting to be alone with Elias.
“It’s cool, I got it.” Gabby disappears into the crowd before I can get off my chair. I look around to see if I recognize any other Howie’s regulars when I finally turn back and find Elias staring at me with his head tilted to one side.
“What?” I ask accusingly.
“Nothing,” Elias responds casually like it’s the most normal thing ever to stare at someone.
“H-how was your first week?” I ask, hoping to lighten the mood.
Elias' smirk deepens.
“As well as it can be when you’re three years older than all of your classmates,” Elias shrugs.
“Do you know what you want to major in yet?” I ask.
“Not really,” he runs his hand over his slightly scruffy face. “I’d really like to start a business of some kind, work for myself. So I’m starting with basic business classes, like calculus.”
I swallow hard and nod then start looking anywhere but his hazel eyes which still seem to be laser-focused on me. I feel like he is consistently staring at me even though I know it’s not true. Is it?
“Are you nervous?” I’m surprised by his question.
“Are you nervous? You seem kind of nervous,” he says.
“Oh, uh, no, I mean, kind of. But mainly, no." I swallow again, where the hell is Gabby?
He laughs. It’s both genuine and sweet and makes me want to laugh too.
“Yeah, it seems like it!”
I nervously laugh in return and hope my skin doesn’t turn red.
“So listen, I may need some extra help with calculus. Is it okay if I come to you?”
“Of course, I can’t directly tutor you because you are my student but I have hours in the Math Learning Center and you can come talk to me there?” I pause, then keep talking for some reason. “If you need more personal tutoring, I can recommend a few colleagues who aren’t your instructor.”
“Oh I definitely don’t want another tutor,” Elias leans forward as if it’s something he only wants me to hear. I blush. “But I’m sure I’d benefit from personal tutoring.”
Am I imagining things? Is he flirting with me? No, he can’t be. I nervously start to play with my hair and wonder for the 10th time what is taking Gabby so long.
"I-I mean, I can't directly tutor you. I'm your instructor," I try to sound confident and teacher-like.
"Is that so?" He replies.
Elias' eyebrow is still raised when Gabby finally returns with our drinks.
"Sorry, that took forever!" Gabby plunks down in her spot and holds up her Moscow Mule. "Cheers you two! I'm so excited to have two of my favorite people in the same place!"
"Cheers!" I say.
"Cheers," Elias says.
A few drinks later, Elias and Gabby are going back and forth telling a funny childhood story while I cover my mouth and laugh.
"You were the one who told me that's where Mom kept the Christmas presents! I didn't even know what sex toys were!" Elias playfully hits Gabby with the back of his hand.
"Mom nearly had a heart attack when one fell out of your pocket at dinner!" Gabby replies.
We all dissolve into laughter again as Elias clicks his tongue and Gabby throws her arms around his shoulders.
"Hey, she still punished me, no harm done," Gabby says.
"Yeah just to my emotional wellbeing and psyche!" Elias says, laughing.
"Well, well, well. Look who we have here," my supervisor, Paul, is looking down at us with a sneer on his face.
"Oh hi Paul," I say, sounding slightly less enthused than intended.
"Cara, Gabriella, and...?" Paul's eyes land on Elias and become slightly icy.
"This is my brother Elias, he just started at the university," Gabby gestures to Elias who returns Paul's cold stare.
"As a freshman?" Paul immediately responds looking Elias over with scrutiny.
Gabby goes to answer but Elias beats her to it.
"I've been working on a farm in Mexico for the last few years so I am just now getting to go to college," Elias takes a swig of beer. "So yeah, as a freshman."
"A farmer at a big ol scary college huh?" Paul laughs. "What'd you grow? Soy beans?"
"Actually, we grew over 20 different organic crops and distributed over 800,000 pounds of product all over the U.S. and Mexico," Elias says confidently. An awkward silence descends over the table.
"Oh, well, good luck with...school," Paul says, his lips curling into a bigger sneer.
"I'm good, I won't need any luck. But thanks...professor." Elias says, smirking. I notice his muscles tense under his shirt. He brings his beer to his lips while refusing to take his eyes off Paul.
"Cara, I'm heading to the bar, can I buy you a drink?" Paul gestures to my empty glass.
"Oh, Uh, no thanks. I was just getting ready to leave." I say quickly. Paul shrugs.
"Suit yourself, see you Monday." Paul disappears into the crowd. I turn back to the table and see Elias glaring at the back of Paul's head.
"Is that guy as much of a shit head as he seems?" Elias asks.
"Worse actually," Gabby replies. "he's been hitting on Cara since she walked into the MLC. He constantly gives her shit for being a girl in the math department while simultaneously hitting on her. Needless to say, he's not our favorite person."
I nervously sip my drink even though there's nothing left, not wanting to talk shit about a supervisor in my department.
Elias narrows his eyes at me.
"If he ever goes too far, let me know Cara," he says. "Personally, I'd go teach him some manners right now but I have a feeling Gabs wouldn't like that."
"It's less me and more Mom that you'd have to worry about," Gabby says.
We all laugh, the tension finally draining from the table.
A few minutes later, we're walking out the door together and piling into the Lyft we called. I decided to leave my car at the bar and pick it up in the morning.
I'm sitting in between Gabby and Elias in the back. We pull up in front of Gabby's place where Elias is staying with her. After Gabby gives me a hug and gets out Elias says he's staying at his friend Nate's tonight and he'll be home tomorrow. Gabby nods and says goodnight to both of us before closing the door.
I instantly tense at the thought of being alone with Elias, even with a Lyft driver in the front.
"Do you have roommates Cara?" Elias breaks the silence.
"Huh? Oh, no, I just have a little one bedroom," I reply. "But I have some pretty nosy neighbors if that counts?"
I laugh and hope it doesn't sound forced. I look over and see Elias' dazzling smile. His cologne is intoxicating and I'm suddenly feeling nervous again.
I don't know what it is about this guy that makes me so nervous. I don't feel tense like I do around Paul or random frat guys who grab me while I'm running, but something else. I mean, he's absolutely stunning and I feel silly that I'm his instructor since he has so much more world experience than I do.
We finally arrive at my apartment. I say a quick thank you to the driver and goodnight to Elias before jumping out of the car.
Suddenly, I hear another door close and turn around to see Elias standing on the other side of the car as the Lyft takes off.
"W-what are you doing?" I ask.
"Oh I'm walking from here, Nate's place isn't far," he says as he approaches me. "After I make sure you get into your place safely."
"Oh, uh, thank you Elias,"
I walk through the gate, Elias is right behind me. Before climbing the steps to my apartment I turn to Elias.
"Thanks again. It, uh, was nice to hang out with you," I give a small smile.
"It was nice to hang out with you too," Elias licks his lips and drops his chin while looking directly into my eyes. "Good night Cara."
I hurry up the steps, unlock all three locks on my door then immediately lock them again. I gently peek through the shades next to my door and see Elias standing there with his hands in his pockets. He has a gentle smile on his lips as he lo9oks up at my place. Finally, he turns and slowly walks off.
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