Chapter Ten: Flashback
Assanti Meddles

"Maddy, this is starting to get unnatural."

Assanti dropped her pile of books down next to her room-mate, making her jump.

"I know you've always been a study-bug, but you've spent most of this semester holed up doing work for this or that or the wretched Student Union and I hardly even see you. It's like you resigned your social life at the end of Junior year...what gives, girl? You're becoming a first class geek."

"Maybe it's safer being a geek." Madeleine pushed her folder aside, casting Assanti a tired smile. "I'm not studying. I'm plotting agendas for this committee meeting...why?"

"What do you mean, why?" Assanti softened her tone, sitting down on her friend's bed. "Listen to me, Maddy. This...all of a major cry for help. You can't keep a secret from me - we've been roomies too long for that. I know this is about Luca. I know it's been about him all semester. I don't know why you don't quit feeding his Bono complex, anyhow...he's been nothing but a jerk to you and we both know it. You can't still seriously be crushing on him - why not just ditch him and his sad act music and move on with your life? You're worth way more than that."

"Oh, I wish." Madeleine sighed. "Santi, sometimes you scare me when you do that. Have I really been that tragic?"

"Well, when was the last time we hung out? Like, the girls, all together?" Assanti raised an eyebrow. "And when, more importantly, was the last time you had a date?"

"I don't want a date." Madeleine admitted. "Honestly, truthfully, Santi. I'm not over him - I don't think I'll ever get over him, sometimes. And the stupid thing is, even though I'm completely mad at him - I still want to hang out with him. Like I'm torturing myself. Since he graduated, though, he's done nothing particularly earth-shattering. He and Clay have this crummy apartment and they hire out this really wrecked old warehouse in which to practice. I don't know why I still bother with it, but I do. Even spending a few hours a week in his company is better than not seeing him at all."

She groaned, rolling over onto her back.

"It's sick, isn't it?"

"Completely." Assanti looked amused. "Luca's cute, Mad, but there are other cute guys and you're a classy chick. You're sacrificing all your options. It's senior year, after all. Sure, you had a chemistry and you went out for a long time - but it's past. Over. It's almost eight months since you broke up now. You have to move past that and get over him. And definitely, you have to make him see exactly what he's missed out on. Don't you want to show him you're not a sad act hanging around waiting for his attention?"

"So what do you have in mind?" Madeleine looked wary, and Assanti laughed.

"Come with me." She said playfully. "There's someone I want to introduce to you."

"Blind date?" Madeleine was doubtful, though she obediently got to her feet, following her room-mate out of the dorm room and down the corridor towards the stairwell. "Santi, you know how I feel about those."

"It won't be a blind date." Assanti promised. "Listen. Gabe has four tickets to this concert on Friday night. His friend is working it backstage and got him in, even though it's been sold out for ages. He's taking me, and he asked me if you wanted to come too. I said, of course you did, but that you didn't exactly have a date. Well, turns out Gabe's friend Jared is in the same boat as you are. So maybe there isn't a romantic attraction," As Madeleine opened her mouth to object. "But you can come hang with us in a friend capacity, can't you? And besides, Jared's a nice guy. He's a bit quiet, sure, but he's cute and friendly and he's interested in all that boring political jargon you've got your head into. He's actually an Economics major, but Gabe said he's into all that Human Rights activist crap. Who knows? You might even get along."

"Well, I guess he sounds okay." Madeleine admitted. "So long as you don't think we're going to meet and fall head over heels in love right away. I know how your mind works, Santi."

"And I know how yours works." Assanti rolled her eyes. "Stuck on Luca FM. Come on, Mad. You're young. Act it, huh? You know you wanted to go to that concert. Now you can - and with a cute escort."

"So where are we going right now?" Madeleine asked.

"We're meeting Gabe and Jared at the Raven for lunch." Assanti dimpled. "So it won't be a blind date on Friday, because you'll already know Jared before we go. Neat, huh?"

"You are so manipulative." Madeleine laughed. "All right, already. I'll come peacefully. I guess lunch can't hurt."

"That's the spirit." Assanti said approvingly, leading the way across the quad to the Raven cafe, a popular on-campus haunt. "And here we are. Smile, and don't mention the L word."

Madeleine glanced around her, her sharp gaze picking out Assanti's boyfriend and a stranger in a far booth. As Assanti picked her way through the busy tables and clusters of students, she followed, gauging the newcomer's appearance as she did so.

He was tallish, but next to the stocky, athletic Gabe, he seemed small. Thick brown hair curled all over his head, and there was a sprinkling of freckles across his nose and cheeks. Piercing blue eyes sparkled as he laughed at something Gabe said, and as the two girls sat down, he cast Madeleine a curious smile.

"Hi there." He said, by way of preamble. "You're the infamous Maddy?"

"And you're Jared." Madeleine grinned. "Pleased to meet you - though I dread to think how I'm infamous - what's Santi been telling you?"

"Nothing at all!" Assanti looked indignant. Jared laughed.

"She's right." He agreed good-humouredly. "I'm just a fan of everything you've been doing this year with the Student Activities Committee. I know that they were vastly over budget last year, and yet we seem to have had more things going on over the last few months without even crossing that threshold. Plus I'm on the Debate Society too. You make a fine debater...I have to admit, I'm impressed."

"I've never seen you." Madeleine looked sheepish. "I'm sorry."

Jared grinned.

"I don't speak up as much as I should." He acknowledged. "But it's all right. Truthfully, I've missed a couple of meets here and there of late. Other things kinda eating up my time."

He spread his hands.

"How do you find time to fit everything in?"

"I don't." Madeleine was rueful. "I just have a room-mate who bullies me into coming out every so often."

She pursed her lips.

"You don't mind us being pushed together like this on Friday night? I know we're strangers - it seems a touch, well..."

"Contrived?" Jared raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, I had the same thought. But I want to go to the concert and I'm sure, so do you. We can be the gooseberries at their party, can't we?"

He jerked his head in the direction of Gabe and Assanti, who were now engrossed in some conversation of their own. Madeleine chuckled.

"A part I'm well used to playing of late." She owned. "All right. I probably do need to have a night off, anyway. I'm just working really hard on everything right now. I'm looking at graduate schools, you see, and I need a really high GPA to even be considered for what I'm looking at."

"Grad school?" Jared looked interested. "To do what?"

"Politics, actually." Madeleine pinkened. "So it means something that people think I know what I'm doing. I've kinda got hooked on it all this last major is Literature, but I'm getting pulled more and more to the dark side with all the extra curricular stuff I have going on."

"Wow." Jared grinned. "Full on. You see yourself in Congress one day?"

"Maybe." Madeleine laughed. "In a very, very long time from now."

"Where are you looking at?"

"I've a few choices." Madeleine admitted. "But I'm really trying for Harvard. With my GPA, I've got a why not aim for the moon? If I don't get it, well, there are other options."

She smiled.

"You?" She asked. "Any plans after college?"

Jared looked thoughtful.

"Well, no more studying." He replied ruefully. "I've done enough of that to last me a lifetime. I don't know. Find a job, maybe. Travel, perhaps. The perpetual student lifestyle isn't for me."

"Fair enough." Madeleine laughed. "Though I'd like to think I won't be in school forever. It's know. Making decisions. I'd like to go as far as I can go. It's all kinda exciting. Plus, I love the East Coast. I'm from Kansas originally, but I really like the vibe out here."

"My family are from Boston." Jared owned. "I might be biased, but I don't think you'd be disappointed by the city."

He rested his chin in his hands.

"Whereabouts in Kansas are you from?"

"Topeka." Madeleine grinned. "Though my family are from Martinique originally - hence the French name. We still speak it, at home."

"That'll help, on the political front." Jared grinned. "I've never been to Martinique - what's it like?"

"Honestly?" Madeleine looked rueful. "I've never been either. Shameful, isn't it? I know my heritage, but I've never really seen it."

"Guess that's true of all of us." Jared observed. "Another thing on the to do list, when we finally get out of this place, huh?"

"Maybe." Madeleine agreed. She dimpled.

"I can't believe we haven't run into one another before. It seems so crazy, if you're a friend of Gabe's."

"Well, we really only met up in that sense last semester." Jared admitted. "It's cool to meet you though, Maddy. I was a bit worried about Friday, and it being a blind date and all. Now I've properly met you, well, I'm looking forward to it."

"Me too." Madeleine nodded. "I think we're going to have a blast!"

Prologue: Flashback: University of Connecticut, Winter 2009
Chapter One: Starcrossed
Chapter Two: Tante Regine
Chapter Three: Flashback: University of Connecticut: Winter 2011
Chapter Four: The Poem
Chapter Five: A Shock
Chapter Six: Nancy Confesses
Chapter Seven: Flashback: Break Up
Chapter Eight: Blackmail
Chapter Nine: Conflict
Chapter Ten: Flashback: Assanti Meddles
Chapter Eleven: Pay Off 
Chapter Twelve: Stefana Gambles
Chapter Thirteen: University of Connecticut: Finals Week
Chapter Fourteen: Cracks
Chapter Fifteen: A Tiny Piece Of Truth
Chapter Sixteen: Flashback: Forever Changed
Chapter Seventeen: Secrets Will Out

Chapter Eighteen: Fall Out

Chapter Nineteen: Flashback: A New Life

Chapter Twenty: Darren Admits

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