Girl Geek – Chapter 1

Non-disclosure, Shmon-disclosure. These things weren’t for real, right?

I read over the last bit of my most recent blog post, made a few tweaks and then hit “post” on my blog. It wasn’t easy keeping up with the grueling schedule of producing brand new daily content. The readership was increasing by the day—even more so since I’d announced that I’d be participating in the Dragon Epoch beta test. I’d have to play it safe while skirting around the NDA agreement all beta testers were required to sign.

I wasn’t the only person out there excited about this game!

I tried to ignore my textbook sitting neglected on the far side of my desk. All this blogging about gaming wasn’t interfering with my school work—yet but I was a tiny bit worried about what effect this new game would have. It looked amazing—just the perfect type of time-sink to suck hours of my day away in the proverbial blink of an eye. Danger Will Robinson. This could get hairy.

Good thing I had no social life whatsoever!  And no desire for one. I had a study group of friends, but when we were together, we talked medical terminology and strategized about how best to pad our resumes for med school applications.

Just after successfully posting, my computer screen flipped out—lines and waves covered the screen. I reached over and thumped on the monitor from the side. Damn it! It couldn’t break now. Not with this new game on the horizon. And now that my blog revenue was increasing because of my regular output of content, this was like a second job. It could pay off. Someday. Though I suspected that if I did sit down and calculate how much I made per hour that I put into this blog then it would end up paying me pennies per hour.

Oh well. At least it was fun. For now. I’d work on a plan for later.

Just as I was thumping on my keyboard, the front door opened and slammed a second later. My roomie entered in time to witness the end of my temper tantrum with the computer. His eyes narrowed, zooming to it.

“What’s good, Mia?” He said, throwing his backpack onto the couch—from where I’d have to remove it in a few hours, most likely. My roommate, Heath Bowman, was not the tidiest of people. In truth, he was a slob. But as he was also the brother-from-another-mother that I’d never had, I tolerated it. But as any good sister would do, I bitched at him about it. Often.

“You need a new monitor,” he said. “Hell you need a completely new box, but that’s beside the point.”

“Wow, that’s some amazing deduction work, Sherlock.” I leaned back in my chair, folding my arms across my chest and gave him the once-over. Heath was as tall, powerfully built and as blond as an ancient Viking. A handsome guy—though I had never thought about him in that way. He wasn’t straight anyway. “What do you do for an encore—”

His brows rose. “I don’t shit my pants. Aren’t you a grouchy one today.”

I rubbed at the crick in the back of my neck. “I didn’t sleep very well last night and I fell asleep in my lit class this morning. The teacher called me out. It was embarrassing.”

He frowned. “What’s with this sudden bout of insomnia? That’s like the third time in the last two weeks.”

I shrugged. “I have no idea. Just MCAT nerves, I guess.”

“Huh…you are stressing out over nothing. You have months to get ready for it and you are so smart, you’re going to ace it. Why worry?”

“Says the guy who used to cheat off my paper in our junior calculus class.”

“Says the girl who used to let me cheat off her during tests. Yeah.” He nodded at the computer monitor. “I just got a bonus for finishing that redesign on that website for Harrison and Sons a month early. I was going to use it to buy myself a kickass new monitor and video card so I can enjoy Dragon Epoch in all its glory. I’ll give you my old one. Besides, no one uses those clunky CRT things anymore. That computer is straight out of the Jurassic era.”

I popped out of my seat and hooked my arms around his neck, kissing him on the cheek. He made the requisite sour lemon face while I did, as was usual and also expected. Heath, my dear friend, never changed. And hadn’t changed much in the almost-decade that I’d known him.

“You rock, my friend.  Thank you.”

“Huh…well when you’re a rich and famous doctor, you can pay me back.”

I grinned. “I most certainly will. Free medical advice for life.”

He rolled his eyes. “Greaaaaat…” And with that, he disappeared into his room. The backpack, of course, was left behind and forgotten until I accidentally sat on it hours later.

Yep indeed. He never changed….

But as promised, only days later, Heath unboxed his new monitor and just as quickly, pulled my box apart to get my clunky old thing to work right.

He wasn’t super chatty, though, so I knew something was bugging him but to ask him to pour out his heart to me while cussing over old control panels was probably not a good call. Once he sat back and declared the work a “miracle exhibition of his finest skills at Computer Paleontology, I clapped my hands and thanked him.

“So… we’re logging on to the new beta tonight, right?” I asked, an eyebrow arched expectantly.

Heath glanced at me out of the corner of his eyes before getting up to push into the kitchen. From the smell of it, he was brewing a new pot of coffee. I frowned, following him. Something was definitely up and easily detectable from the tension in his shoulders and his stiff stance.

“Fight with Brian again?” I asked quietly.

He let out a long breath. “Yeah.”

There was more silence between us. I leaned back against the counter and folded my arms across my chest, trying to resist the urge to bash on the little twerp again. He seemed to enjoy yanking my best friend around and that just brought out the protective she-bear in me.

They’d been dating for just about half a year and it had been rocky from the start. But as Brian was Heath’s first steady boyfriend after a long string of flings, I’d been thrilled for him at first. Then I’d steadily had my doubts pile up with every diva-like demand that Brian put on Heath. They fought—a lot—but Heath was in love and determined to make it work. And for his sake, I tried to bite my tongue about Brian.

But I hated—hated—seeing my friend hurt. “What about this time?” I asked.

He shrugged. “He wants a bigger commitment.”

I let out a breath. “But you are—you’ve been seeing each other exclusively for months. What else could he want? Marriage? Last I checked, not legal here so you’d have to move until our state legislature pulls their heads out of their asses and legalizes gay marriage.”

He gritted his teeth and turned to face me. “I’m aware…”

“If I could transfer my own right to marry a man over to you, I would happily do it. I’m never getting married.”

He poured himself a cup of coffee and held the pitcher up to me as if to ask me if I wanted any. I shook my head. “So you’ve said. You’re going to be a nun without the religion part of it.”

I twisted my mouth at him but didn’t say anything, waiting for him to answer the question. He ran a hand through his dark blond hair and sighed before giving it to me.

“He wants us to live together.”

I waited a beat for him to continue. Two beats. We locked gazes. I shrugged. “Why don’t you invite him to move in, then?”

“Alone. Just the two of us.”

Another beat. This one awkward and thick. I looked away. “Ah.”

He spooned some sugar and poured milk into his cup, stirring as his stance grew even more tense with remembered conflict. “I told him no way. I’m not throwing you out on the street. He pitched a fit and claimed that you mean more to me than he does.”

Despite my misgivings, I had refrained from being anything but cordial toward Brian since he and Heath had begun dating. But I’d gotten the impression pretty quickly on that Brian didn’t like me. I never claimed to be the most likeable person ever, but his behavior had seemed more on par with jealousy. Which was ridiculous. Heath and I, who were both only children in our families, were like siblings to each other. Heath was one-hundred percent gay and would never have any other type of interest in me besides friendship and I was one-hundred percent okay with that. But Brian was jealous of any time Heath spent with me rather than him. I quietly wondered if the guy had any other interests—or even work—outside of dating Heath. Apparently not.

“Well you don’t necessarily have to kick me out in the street, you know. I can find a place on my own if you want to share this place with him.”

He shook his head vigorously and took a sip of coffee before setting the cup back down. “No. You would stay here. I was thinking about buying a condo anyway. I’ve got the money saved up and housing prices aren’t half bad right now.”

I read between the lines: Brian had not approved of our apartment as a livable place. My shoulders slumped and my stomach dropped to realize that Heath was seriously considering this. He’d been my roommate for the past three years—since I’d moved out here to begin college.

“I couldn’t afford to live here on my own and I don’t know who I could ask at the moment. You stay and I’ll find something on my own. Student housing close to the school.”

Heath’s lips pressed together so ferociously that they went white. “I fucking hate this.”

But there was no way I was going to make him choose between his boyfriend and me.

“I’m not even going to be the reason that you are having problems with Brian, all right? I’m cool with it. All I ask is that you give me a little time to find something? Will he calm down if you tell him I’m looking and I have a move-out date? Say one or two months from now?”

“Two months at least. But if you need more—”

“I won’t need more. I’ll be fine. Call him. Make up and let him know that we’re working on it.”

Heath nodded, but didn’t look happy. And though I hated seeing my best friend in a rocky relationship, I couldn’t deny the certain amount of self-satisfaction I felt that up ‘til now, at the ripe old age of twenty-one, I had avoided the ins and outs of navigating a real social life. I had a few friends—mostly study friends—and Heath. That was all I needed, besides my mom. I’d learned the hard way at a very young age that dating was not for me!

“So about the beta for that game…” I said, waggling my eyebrows expectantly.

Heath grinned, visibly relieved at the change of subject. “Yeah? Looks badass, doesn’t it?”

“It looks like it could be very addictive. Promise me that we’ll log on tonight? I think that my computer has the bare minimum specs to run this.”

Barely, sir,” he said, imitating Scotty’s accent from Star Trek. “The processors canna handle any more, Captain!”

“Well it’s all I got. And since I’m your favorite kickass gamer girl—”

He grabbed the cup off the counter, sipping again. “You wouldn’t even be hooked on video games if it weren’t for me…”

Pusher.” I said, poking a finger into his broad chest.

He smirked at me. “Junkie. I’m not the one who spent twenty-four hours straight on Dragon Age. That was all you, dollface.”

I sighed dreamily in fond memory of that beloved game. “Oh, Alistair…”

Heath put down his coffee cup and picked up his phone with a deep breath he started to text Brian. “Okay, it’s a date. You and me, tonight. Brian will be appeased and he’s working tonight anyway.”

“Mmm. Good to know,” I said, turning to leave the kitchen. I was a good girl and managed to fight rolling my eyes over the hot mess that was Brian until my back was turned.  Barely, sir…

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