"Hi! I’m Hannah!”
The boy stares at the ground, and she’s not sure if he’s even heard her over the din of a thousand other freshmen simultaneously introducing themselves to other freshmen. She waits a moment, then prompts him. “What’s your name?”
“...Jake.” He responds, quietly, still not making eye contact.
“Well, it’s great to meet you, Jake!”
Then the line moves, and she finds herself standing in front of an Indian man, who sticks out his hand and smiles. “Nikhil.”
She takes his hand and shakes it. It’s warm, and smooth, like someone that spends a lot of their time indoors on a computer. “Hannah. Nice to meet you!”
Nikhil points his thumb vaguely to his right. “That’s Jake, if he didn’t introduce himself. He’s my roommate, and he’s really shy. I dragged him here, thinking maybe it’d be good for him, but I’m beginning to think that was a mistake.”
Hannah nods, not really sure how else to respond.
“So, uh. Computer science, here. Jake, too.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Same here. I was considering some engineering field, but this seemed less dangerous. I’ve never really coded before, though.”
He smiles at her, warmly. “It’ll be fine. I’m sure you’ll pick it up quickly. Let’s...”
Then the line is moving again, and Nikhil waves at her as he passes.
Hannah isn’t exactly sure what to expect when she walks into the first programming lecture, but she strangely feels a lot better when she spots Jake and Nikhil sitting together, near the front. She sits down next to them, and Nikhil smiles at her.
“That’s right! Nikhil... and Jake, right?”
He nods, while Jake seems intensely focused on scribbling in his notebook. She notices Jake’s hair is now streaked with red, and wonders if she just missed it before.
“I, uh... I like your hair, Jake.”
He turns to her and actually smiles, as Nikhil laughs. “Yeah, and now our dorm room smells like hair dye.”
“I’ve actually been considering doing that myself. My parents would never let me dye my hair at home, but I’ve always liked the way it looked.”
“I, um... I have some... left. If you... want.”
“That’d be nice. Thank you.” She pauses. “Do you maybe want to get lunch after this?”
Jake blushes at that, for some reason, and Nikhil shakes his head. “This guy eats like you wouldn’t believe. So, uh... you asked for it.”
The professor calls the class to attention, and Hannah opens her notebook, ready to absorb all of his knowledge.
The class ends early, and with disappointingly little actual content. Hannah packs up her bag and follows Nikhil and Jake out to the large open space in the middle of campus.
“So I’m kind of curious about that burger place. They had honey-apple french fries the other day, and I hear they had even weirder flavors over orientation.”
Hannah laughs as Jake’s outburst. “Sure, that sounds interesting.”
The three of them wait in line, and discover that the fries are “Sundae” flavored. Jake seems particularly excited by this while Hannah just stares at the sign, confused.
“What do you think that means?”
Jake orders the fries, and they turn out to be topped with ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and sprinkles. Hannah looks at the concoction as Jake digs in, not quite sure if she’s impressed or horrified.
“That kind of reminds me of poutine, man. If poutine was sweet. And made with ice cream.”
“Ice and ears and mouth and nose... cream?”
Nikhil laughs. “Head, shoulders, knees and toes?”
“Bees and toes!”
Nikhil laughs again, and Jake seems to be more relaxed with food, and Hannah’s really glad she met these people.
After Jake’s polished off his food, she follows the two of them back to their room.
She finds the room does smell vaguely of hair dye, and Jake quickly pulls an opened package of hair dye off of a shelf, and hands it to her.
“Thank you. I’ll do this tonight, and hopefully it’ll turn out well. I’m actually surprised it came out so bright in your hair.”
Jake shrugs, folding his hands together. “It’s made for dark hair, I think.”
“Hey, do you use instant messenger?”
“Oh, yeah. Um...” Hannah blushes. “I’m JustinMyIdol22. I was kind of... into American Idol at the time.”
Nikhil nods and sits at his computer. “Got it. Sent you a message. It seems like a good idea to have contact info for other CS majors, anyway.”
She nods, preparing to leave, when a familiar box on the shelf catches her eye. “Oh! Is that Carcassonne?”
Jake seems to perk up at this. “Yeah. Um. It’s my... it’s my favorite game.”
“Have you played Lost Cities? My sister and I play it a lot, together. I didn’t even think to bring board games with me to college...”
“I... haven’t heard of that. But I’ve been wanting to buy some new games. There’s a game shop not far from campus. So, um... maybe I’ll... try to get that.”
“We should all play board games sometime.” Nikhil looks over his shoulder at the two of them. “Jake introduced me to Bohnanza, but claims it’s better when it’s not just two players, so I’ve kind of been curious to try that out.”
“That sounds great, actually. I should probably deal with my hair tonight and get this back to you, but maybe tomorrow?”
“It’s a date!”
Hannah knows he’s just teasing, and Jake blushes at the comment, but it’s perhaps the first time she’s seriously thought about dating. She pushes the thought aside for now, and bids them farewell to drop some things off at her room before her next class.
Hannah ends up being late to recitation, and unable to sit with Jake and Nikhil. Instead, she meets up with them after classes in the student center.
“Well, these tables sure are odd.”
Jake shrugs and chooses a triangular one, pulling some board games out of a bag. “More convenient for gaming, since everyone has a side, so maybe that’s better anyway?”
“Oh, I almost forgot.” Hannah pulls the box with the remaining dye out of her bag. “Sorry I used most of it. I think I just have a lot more hair than you.”
“That’s fine. It... it looks good.”
Jake blushes and stares at his hands, while Nikhil rummages through the games. “Diamant? What is this?”
“Oh. It looked interesting, and was supposed to be quick. I figured it would be nice to have a quicker game, since Bohnanza and Carcassonne aren’t too short. Don’t know about Lost Cities, but apparently it only plays two people?”
“The two of us can play it later, Jake. I can teach it to you.”
Jake nods, and blushes again, as Nikhil pulls the plastic off of Diamant.
“Well, this sounds interesting anyway. Let’s start with this?”
She’s not sure how she’s never found this game before, but after the first play, she finds she’s addicted to it.
“I don’t know why this is so much fun!”
Nikhil laughs. “Man, I got eaten by spiders. Twice.”
“Is that where you... ferment spiders? That seems like it’d be poisonous.”
“On a plane?”
Hannah shakes her head. “Well, if you want to get eaten by snakes, too, we can play again.”
They do, and Hannah ekes out another victory, followed by a game of Bohnanza where Jake seems to harvest all the blue beans and win handily.
“Okay, you were right, man. That’s much more interesting with three people. The trading aspect just makes it feel better. Also I should remember to not trade blue beans with you, next time.”
“Speaking of beans, uh... food?”
“Let me guess, campus buffet? You seemed to really enjoy it last night.”
Jake nods and packs up the games. “Do you... want to join us, Hannah?”
“Thank you. That sounds nice.”
For some reason, Jake blushes at this again, and Hannah finds herself idly wondering if there’s more to this than just his shyness. She wills that thought out of her head, as well, as she follows Jake and Nikhil upstairs to the buffet.