The crisp November air whipped across my face as I clutched my green to-go cup. I tilted my face up to the sky briefly and took a deep breath. I loved cold weather. It made me feel invigorated and I was looking forward to spending the holidays with people I love for the first time in nine years.
“Emily? Hello earth to Emily!“, Wyatt said as he looked at me expectantly.
“Sorry I was spacing out. What did you ask?“, I said quickly.
“I asked if you were happy with the grade you got on that last creative writing essay”. His coat was wrapped around him tightly and I could tell he was colder than he had originally let on.
After our creative writing class, he had asked if I wanted to hang out at that café he had shown me during the first week of classes. Another girl in our class, Talia, had taken to sitting next to us and when I offered for her to come with us, she looked excited. Wyatt not so much.
“Yeah, I’d say I’m happy with it. Cartwright and Greyson gave me some interesting feedback to think about for the next assignment too though. What about you Tal?”
She pushed her dark curls out of her face as the wind picked up. “I think it was the best paper I’ve ever written. I love this class and I’m considering changing my major from economics to creative writing”, she admitted.
“My grade sucked”, Wyatt cut in. “I swear the TA hates me or something”.
I tried not to roll my eyes at his statement. Wyatt was a nice guy to hang out with in between classes, but he was the kind of person I didn’t see myself calling to hang out with on the weekends. “I doubt that Greyson hates you”, I tried to say gently.
He scoffed and took a sip of his coffee. “Easy for you to say since I’m pretty sure he’s in love with you”.
His words took me by surprise and I saw Talia try to cover up a smile by picking up her cup. What was I even supposed to say to that? He was right but I didn’t want him to know that. It’s not like our relationship was against the rules but it didn’t need to be public knowledge either.
Especially because I happened to be in love with him and his three roommates.
Luckily Talia saved me from having to come with an answer. “Emily’s hot who wouldn’t be in love with her”.
The laugh that bubbled out of me was genuine and I sent Talia an appreciative smile. Having her here made me wish I would have invited her to hang out earlier. She never failed to make me laugh before classes and she radiated an energy that was equally as beautiful as she was.
“I have to get going but I’ll see you two later”, I said after finishing the rest of my drink and standing up. “Wish me luck on my Italian exam”.
“Good luck”, they both said in unison before turning back to each other. Fishing my headphones out of my backpack, I let Dermot Kennedy’s voice guide me through the city and back to campus.
I put my pencil down and looked up.
Unsurprisingly, I was the first one to finish the exam and I looked over at Luka to find him with his face in his hand. He could do this.
I gathered my stuff and made my way up to the front of the room where Vera was working off of her laptop. I silently placed my exam in front of her before sending her a parting smile.
“Emily”, she whispered. “Are you planning on taking Italian III?“, she asked me without taking her eyes off the computer screen.
I scrunched my nose at the question. “Umm yes I was”, I answered.
She looked over at me then. “Don’t”.
Confusion swept over me, and I stared at her. “Don’t?“, I repeated.
“You are fluent are you not? Every test I give, you finish before the rest of the class, you have not faltered once during speaking practices, and your assignments are flawless. Do not waste your time with Italian III”, she said confidently.
I appreciated her praise but was still unsure about what I was supposed to do if she didn’t want me to continue my studies in Italian “What am I supposed to do about my minor then?“.
“Once this semester comes to a close, I will have you test out of Italian III as well as Italian IV. Then you will join Italian V. That course diverts from simply studying the language to diving into the culture of Italy. I think that would be much more rewarding for you”.
Vera leaned back in her desk chair and waited for me to respond. I couldn’t see a reason why I would turn down her suggestion and quickly realized that she was right. I was fluent and it didn’t make sense for me to take classes that were below my skill level.
“I’d be happy to do that. Thank you for suggesting it”, I said gratefully.
She smiled at me in a way that led me to believe she knew what my answer was going to be before I said. “Excellent. Now, have a good weekend”.
Her attention shifted back to her laptop and I turned away to walk towards the door.
The campus was relatively calm as I stepped outside. Considering that most people were in class right now I wasn’t surprised by the lack of people. My favorite relaxation spot came into view, and I sat down underneath the branches of a large oak tree.
I brought my knees up to my chest and took in my surroundings and turned my thoughts inward. Vera’s advice made me think about the other ways I had grown since coming to New York. I was ready to take on more than just an advanced Italian class.
I wasn’t that timid and broken down girl anymore.
I didn’t flinch as much when the movements of people around me took me by surprise. My panic attacks didn’t sweep me away as frequently as they used to, and when they did I was able to come back to myself faster. I was learning to trust and let go and just be happy.
To just fucking live according to my own rules.
I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit that the guys had helped me find myself again. Or at least this new version of myself that was both shattered and complete. When they asked me if I wanted to be with all of them, I thought my heart was going to stop and I wanted to pinch myself at that moment.
It was too much. Or at least that’s what Gio would have had me believe. I was done denying myself things because of his voice in my head telling me I didn’t deserve them.
I deserved every second of happiness that I was experiencing with them.
I saw Luka exit the building and the sight of him grounded me and what my thoughts had been leading to became clear. I wanted to move in with them.
They weren’t going to hurt me or lock me away or stifle who I wanted to be. If anything they would lift up whatever version of myself I wanted to be.
I stood up from the ground and walked over to greet him. “How did it go?“, I asked.
“I know it looked rough”, he started, “but I think I crushed that”, he said proudly.
“Luka that’s awesome!“, I exclaimed and stepped closer to hug him.
“It is isn’t it”, he laughed. “Ready to go home?“, he asked.
His question brought me back to my earlier thought, but he misinterpreted my silence.
“Sorry you have your home. Ready to go back to my place? Colt said he’s cooking tonight”.
“No, you had it right the first time. I’m ready to go home”.
He narrowed his eyes slightly as he took my hand. “You don’t mean...“, he asked.
Nodding my head at him I started walking with his hand in mine. “Yep. I’m ready to move in with you guys”.
His face lit up and not for the first time I wondered if he was an actual angel. There was something about him that always seemed otherworldly.
“Em! That’s fantastic I can’t wait to tell the others. You know Greyson is going to wake you up way too early on Sundays to go to some pretentious café that some pretentious author visited right? And Colt’s going to go overboard with moving you in, so you have to reign him in because you know he won’t listen to the rest of us. Aidan will probably drag you to the gym so you can drool over his abs and shit. Actually, Colt will probably have you do that too-“.
His excited rambling about all the ways the guys were going to enfold me further into their lives gave me butterflies in the best way.
I was just looking forward to waking up in a home with them again.