Jess nodded, her hand suddenly resting on my thigh as she gave it a light squeeze before taking it away.
Immediately, my mind screamed, Put it back.
“That’s very . . . I want to say noble of you, but who calls people noble these days? But that’s sort of what you are in that situation. I don’t know if many guys would do what you did.”
I drew in a slow breath. Jess made me proud about my decision, yet my old man had practically disowned me for it. Which made absolutely no sense whatsoever, because he had always complained about how much of my life football consumed, insisting it was a waste of time.
He even threatened once to stop paying for school completely if I didn’t, so I did. I quit. And I thought he’d be happy but he still seemed disappointed, as if I’d let him down in some way. I couldn’t win with him.
That theme seemed to be the story of my life. How to Disappoint Your Father, starring Nick Fisher. Yes, I had the leading role.
I gulped down the rest of my drink before angling my body toward Jess. “Ready for twenty questions?”
She popped the last of her sandwich in her mouth and chewed slowly before saying, “Um, I guess.”
Whose life is this?
How was I sitting in the stands of the football stadium with Nick freaking Fisher right now, playing a game of Twenty Questions that he’d initiated? And why with me, of all people?
One minute we were in class, and the next time I blinked, Nick had bought my lunch, gotten a little jealous of the deli-counter guy, and claimed he wanted to get to know me better. Instead of psychoanalyzing everything, I went along with it.
Because I wanted to.
Because if Nick freaking Fisher wanted to get to know me better, then I was going to help him do it.
The overanalyzing could wait until later with Rachel.
Nick grabbed his baseball hat and flipped it around so it was facing the right direction. The move shaded his eyes, and I mourned the loss of being able to see them clearly.
“Where did you grow up?” he asked.
Easy enough. “The Valley. You?”
I nodded, but then wanted more specifics. “Where in Orange County?”
“Laguna Beach. Where in the Valley?”
“Studio City. The nice part.”
He smiled. “Parents still married?”
“Yep. Yours?” I had no idea why, but I figured Nick would say his were divorced.
“I think we’re like a rare breed or something,” I said, keeping my tone light. Very few people I knew had parents who were still together.
“Tell me about it. But their relationship is so fucked. I almost wish they’d split up.”
“Really?” I thought about asking more, telling him to give me reasons and examples, but it seemed too personal a topic to press, so I added a little bit about my own. “Not mine. They’re ridiculously in love, and it’s gross. And sweet. But mostly gross.”
“Two brothers. Older,” he explained before I could ask.
“How much older?” I cocked my head to the side as he grinned.
“Ryan and Frank are eight and ten years older than I am, so I don’t see them as much as I’d like. I was definitely an accident.” Nick snagged one of my chips and tossed it into his mouth, chewing while I processed his words.
“I always wanted an older brother,” I confessed, feeling silly.
He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing. “Not a sister?”
I shook my head sharply. “No. I wanted to be the younger sister. It always seemed cool to have an older brother watching out for you. You know, beating up the guys who tried to date you, and stuff like that.”
“You want someone to beat me up?”
Nick’s mock hurt made the already gooey parts of me melt even further.
I laughed. “I just want him to give you a hard time.”
“Cruel. Any pets?”
“One dog and three fish,” I said with a big smile. I loved those stupid fish.
I punched his shoulder. “Hey, I won them at the carnival and they’re still alive. That was six years ago, and that’s a major accomplishment.”
He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. “That is a major accomplishment. I think those things are meant to die the second you bring them home.”
“Well, Ron, Snape, and Harry are never dying,” I said over his laughter as he repeated the names of my goldfish. “Shut up, Nick. Stop laughing at me.”
“Harry, Ron, and Snape? Seriously?”
“I was going through a phase.”
“Please tell me your dog isn’t named Dumbledore?” he all but snorted, and I glared at him.
“My dog’s a girl. Her name is Bettina. What about you? Do you have any pets that I can make fun of?”
Nick stopped laughing and shook his head. “No. Sorry. My dad claims to be allergic to dogs, but I think he’s full of shit. No pets for me, not even as a kid. Not even a stupid fish.”
I couldn’t help it, but in that moment I actually felt sorry for him, and said so.
He shrugged but didn’t say anything.
After an awkward pause, he asked, “What are you majoring in?”
“Film production,” I replied, trying to stop myself from smiling at him like an idiot, but failing.
He let out a little groan. “Ah, that must suck.”
Confused, I squinted at him. Did he think my choice of major was lame? “Why does it suck?”
“Because I thought they were dropping it after this semester.”
I sat up straight in the hard stadium chair as my body instantly stiffened. “What are you talking about? Why would they drop it?”
He brushed his thighs, sending crumbs from his long-gone sandwich to the ground at his feet. “Shit, I could be totally wrong. It’s not my major, so . . .”
“But they have all the equipment, and three separate studios. It doesn’t make sense,” I said slowly, not wanting to believe that State would actually cancel the program.
Nick’s voice was clear, but my thoughts felt muddled.
“Jess, look at me.”