“You should go talk to him.”
“What?! Are you crazy? He doesn’t even know me!”
I look up from my textbook and raise an eyebrow. “That’s the point! That’s why you have to go talk to him!”
“No! He’ll think I’m a creep!”
I sigh. “Ash, dear. One, you’ve been telling me about this amazing guy you’ve seen around Cinnamon, and how nice and kind he is, for TEN STRAIGHT DAYS. You need to do something about it. Two, if he’s so nice, why would he think you’re a creep just because you go up to him and say ‘hi’?”
Her neck withdraws into her shoulders, a blush crawling across her cheeks. “Y-you know… I just… I’ll mess it up-”
Kreeaaaakk-! The sound of my wooden chair against the floor resounds through the previously-silent Dining Hall.
The couple sitting two tables away from us almost jumps at the sound and peers at us with a look of concern. I give them a tight-lipped smile before turning my attention back to Ashley, who, by this time, looked like a timid turtle.
I reach across the table and she jumps from my sudden grip on her shoulders.
“Ashley, look at me. Look. At. Me.”
She looks up at me.
I sigh, relaxing my grip. “You are an amazing person. You know that? You were lead the Flag Comm, you’re in ambass, and you got an A+ in ToHo last sem! While juggling 26 MCs in the same semester?! Like… who even gets a freakin’ A-plus for freakin’ ToHo?!
“You’re like a freakin’ goddess, woman! If you can handle all of that, you can handle talking to a guy you have a crush on, no problem.”
She sits there, unmoving, the gears turning in her head. When her body finally relaxes a little, I find myself letting out a breath I didn’t even know I was holding.
I sit back down, content that my words have finally gotten through her thick head.
But soon enough, self-doubt crinkles her face. “But… but what if he thinks I’m… like… weird, or something?”
“Then he doesn’t deserve you.”
Krang-grum, one of the Dining Hall doors opens behind me. I didn’t need to turn around to know who it is; the look on Ashley’s face said it all.
Her eyes dart back to her textbook, holding up a hand that’s obviously an attempt to hide as she pretends to be studying. I look up to see our target setting up a makeshift-workstation at a table not too far away.
Hmm… things are gonna get very interesting…
Ashley notices my silence and looks up from her book at me. “Erm… Izzy… why are you smirking?”
“Now’s your chance.”
She pales. “W-what?”
“Go talk to him.”
I roll my eyes. “We literally just had this talk a minute ago! You have to go talk to him!”
“What, right now?” tension shoots up her shoulders. “B-but… can’t it wait?”
“NO. It cannot,” I narrow my eyes at her. “Valentine’s Day is coming up in just a few days. Now, I know you don’t care about the stupid holiday, but there’s bound to be someone who does. And if he’s as amazing as you’ve been claiming him to be, he’s gonna be snatched up by someone very soon. So you have to take ANY opportunity you can get.”
“No buts! Now go!”
“No, I just…” her iron-straight back melts into the chair in defeat. “I don’t know… what do I say?”
I shrug. “Just introduce yourself. Tell him your name.”
“What’s up with that suspicious face? Trust me, it’ll be fine. Just go up to him and say hi. Borrow an eraser if you have to, that always works.”
“But we hardly even use pencils anymore-”
“IT DOESN’T MATTER. JUST DO IT!”
Her face is wrinkled with nerves, while she slowly unfolds herself from her seat. She takes a few steps away from the table, but not before looking back at me with apprehension. I give her a thumbs-up and gestures to her to breathe.
Breathe in, and breathe out, I mouth to her.
She sucks in a deep breath and all the heavy nervous energy she had seem to leave her body. Her eyes are clear with resolve now, and she takes more confident steps towards the target.
One row down.
Three rows and-
There. She’s there now.
“Hi, I’m Ashley,” she says, and a bright smile spreads across her lips.
Story by Author X, cover illustration by Samara Gan