“You can set your bags down over there.”
You brush your hair out of your face and survey the room around you. It’s small, much smaller than you expected. Then again, this is Harvard. Your expectations were far too high.
“Thank you for letting me stay,” you say to your host, tentatively taking a seat on their sofa. They’re a random Harvard freshman your residential college assigned you to stay with for The Game. You can’t help but feel like an intruder — like you’re a friend their mom has forced them to include.
They shrug. “It’s no big deal. This time next year, I’ll probably be invading your dorm.”
You fake a laugh, just to be polite, before an awkward silence fills the dorm. “Hey, um, where’s your bathroom?”
“Just go out the door, then make a right. You’ll see it.”
The couch squeaks a little as you get up. You’re eager for a moment to yourself. Everything about this school feels ancient, you think, grimacing as the residue from the rusty doorknob rubs off on your fingers.
Your phone dings! in your pocket, so you dig it out and look at the screen. Head down, you step into the hallway—
—and run right into a wall of muscle.
“Watch it,” a deep voice grumbles.
You look up into a pair of dark brown eyes. “Sorry,” you clip. He’s tall, so you have to take a step back in order to look at him properly.
The guy studies you for a moment before rolling his eyes. “You’re a Yalie. Of course.” You follow his gaze to your white knit sweater and its bold navy “Y” stitched proudly in the center. You dropped one hundred dollars on it just so you could take cute photos at The Game, and it’s the most basic Yale merch you own. It stands in stark contrast to his own polyester t-shirt. The crimson fabric hugs his Herculean frame, and the words “Harvard Athletics” stretch across his broad chest.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” you ask, defensive.
He shakes his head, and his curly brown hair flops back and forth. “There’s so many of you. It’s like you’re taking over our campus.”
“Someone’s got to liven it up. This place is miserable.”
He lets out a chuckle, and you cross your arms. “You’re just jealous.”
It’s your turn to laugh. “Jealous? Of red brick buildings and shitty parties? I think not.”
“Oh, please.” He leans back against the wall, eyeing you with suspicion. “Let me guess: you didn’t get accepted here, and that’s why you’re at Yale.”
“Let me guess: you’re a pre-law trust fund baby who has never had to work a day in his life,” you shoot back, raising an eyebrow. His mouth parts in surprise, and your lips turn up in a smirk. “Am I wrong?”
“Pre-med,” he stutters. “And I’m not a trust fund baby.”
“That’s what they all say.”
“At least I won’t be rooting for the losing team at The Game,” he tries again.
You can’t help but roll your eyes. “Fat chance. If Harvard wins, I’ll personally take the whole football team out to dinner.”
“I’ll take you up on that,” he replies. He spreads his arms proudly. “You’re looking at the quarterback.”
You blink at him in disbelief. “Are you serious?”
“Why would I joke when there’s a free meal on the line?” He grins mischievously. “Is this an official bet?”
“Uhh, I’m broke,” you reply. “I don’t have enough money to take a whole football team out — not that I’ll need to, because Yale’s gonna win, but still.”
“What about one person?” he presses. “If you’re so confident, let’s bet on it. Loser has to buy the other person a meal. Deal?”
Is this a date? your brain practically screams. You don’t necessarily want it to be one; it’s not like you’re attracted to this pretentious prick, but your middle school self read a few too many enemies-to-lovers fanfictions to not be excited at the prospect.
You stick out your hand, and he shakes it. “Deal.”
“I’ll give you my number,” he offers. You try to ignore it, but a stubborn jolt of excitement runs through you as you hand him your phone. “I’ll text you after The Game and tell you where you’re paying for dinner.”
“We’ll see how confident you are when you see the scoreboard tomorrow,” you reply as he hands back your phone.
He gives a little salute before turning on his heel and walking back down the hallway. “May the better team win,” he calls back over his shoulder.
A grin spreads across your face. “Don’t worry, we will.”
By the time he pays the check at dinner the next night, the smirk has vanished from his face. “Sore loser?” you quip, fighting a smile.
“It was a close game,” he begrudgingly admits.
“I’d hardly call 49 to 27 a ‘close game,’” you laugh, putting on your coat. You’ve had a surprisingly good time tonight. For a Harvard guy, he’s not half bad.
“You got your dinner,” he reminds you. “There’s no need to gloat.”
“And it was delicious.” You shoot him a smile, a real one. “Thank you. This was great.”
“Where are you off to now?” he asks.
You shiver as you push open the door and step into the bitter November air. “I should start packing. My flight home leaves in a few hours.”
He stops walking and turns to face you. You mirror his movements and suddenly, you’re standing nose-to-nose. “Would it be crazy if I asked you to stay?”
You wait for the punchline, but it never comes. You stare back into his brown eyes, and his gaze is so intense that you know he’s not joking. “Stay in Boston?” you clarify, and he nods. Slowly, you start to shake your head. “I can’t—”
The rest of your excuse dies on your lips as he closes the distance between you both. Your lips collide, and though you know it’s wrong, something about it feels so right.
He pulls away and looks at you with a sheepish grin. “Now can you stay?”
No! your brain shouts.
Your voice disobeys. “I guess I can always change my flight.”
“What ever happened to that guy from Harvard?”
You glance up at your friend mid-bite. You’re sitting in the Silliman dining hall, debriefing after Thanksgiving break. “Who?”
“You know, the one you changed your flight for.” She takes a bite of her burger and chews it, pensive. “You seemed pretty serious for a few days there. Have you talked to him since?”
You shake your head immediately. “Not really. I wasn’t feeling it.”
“I’m sorry,” your friend frowns. “He sounded nice.”
You shrug. “I guess he was. I don’t know. It was fun for a night.” You lock eyes, and you give her a wink. “Besides, who wants a Harvard man anyway?”