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“What the heck is that?” Jim asked Nyota as she unwrapped her lunch in front of him.

They were sitting on a park bench in the park directly next to the university where they both taught. While Jim was all physics, Nyota taught linguistics.

“It’s a veggie wrap, Einstein. The wrap itself is made from spinach so it’s gluten-free.”

“That doesn’t look like real mayo.”

“It’s a vegan alternative. And before you ask, no of course there’s no cheese.”

Jim wrinkled his nose. He opened his paper bag. He’d picked up McDonald’s on the way to the park. It was literally right next door. He’d gotten two cheeseburgers and a small fries. After all he didn’t want to overdo it.

“How’s the visit go with your folks?”

“Good. My dad’s on the mend. It was good to see them, but man traffic was a bitch.”

She eyed him as he took a big bite of his cheeseburger. “Smaller bites or you’ll choke.”

“Mm.” Jim chewed and swallowed. Took a sip from his coke. “You ask Scotty out yet?”

“No. I mean I want to, but…” She shrugged. “I guess I’m old-fashioned and I want him to pursue me.”

Jim rolled his eyes. “Let me know how that works out.”

“How about you and that weird neighbor?”

“I was making some sort of progress, but I screwed it up and now it’s a no go.”

“How so?”

“Remember his cosplay ears?”

Nyota nodded, biting delicately into her wrap. “Sure. Legolas or whatever, right?”

Jim sighed and shook his head. Took another fortifying bite, slightly smaller since she was giving him her judgmental eye, and then chewed and swallowed. “It’s not.”

“Not what?”

“For cosplay. I guess it’s like a birth defect or something. I mean, he said he was born with the pointy ears. Anyway, I, um, I asked if he spoke Elvish.”


“Some of them do. You know they get into all that. Absolutely the wrong thing to ask him as he got obviously offended and told me he was born with his ears and it wasn’t cosplay. The rest of the evening was pretty strained. We were supposed to maybe have dinner together tonight, but he mentioned not a word of it. So…”

“Hmm. Might be for the best.”

“How so?”

“As it happens.” She paused to smile. “I have the perfect girl for you to go out with. She’s free Friday night and you could take her to see the latest Marvel movie. She loves them.”

Jim groaned. “Marvel? Man, those are so stupid. All those stupidly bulked up actors.” He popped a fry into his mouth. “What’s her name?”


He gave her the side-eye. “Like cotton candy?”

Nyota laughed. “No. Well, her name’s Candace, but everyone calls her Candy. Since she was a little girl. Anyway, she loves wine.”


“So? Your family has a vineyard.”

“My dad and brother do, yes. But I sure as hell don’t.”

“I’ve told her all about you and I showed her your picture from my phone and she thinks you’re hot.”

“Which picture?”

“The one from last year’s Halloween.”

Jim sighed and sucked down more coke. “Does she know I’m bi?”

Nyota rolled her eyes. “It’s not like that’s the first thing I say about you, so no. But why should it matter?”

He shrugged. “It does to some. They don’t like thinking of me sleeping with guys.”

“I don’t think she’s like that.” Nyota took out her phone and swiped her finger across the screen. She then handed it to him. On her screen was a picture of a long-legged model type brunette.

“She is pretty,” Jim admitted.

“Then you’ll go?”

Something was making Jim hesitate and he just wasn’t sure what it was.

“I’ll think about it and let you know tomorrow.”

Nyota sighed, but returned her phone to her purse. “Fine. But if you don’t go out with her, someone else definitely will. You aren’t my only hot friend.”

“Yeah, yeah. You surround yourself with hotness.”

She sniffed. “Just let me know as soon as you can.”

“Will do.”