That Thing Between Eli and Gwen(10)

By: J. J. McAvoy

“You were bullied in high school, weren’t you?” I questioned as the elevator doors closed.

She opened her mouth to speak, but just mumbled something under breath and tucked a lock of brown hair behind her ear.

“What was that?”

She faced me and shook her head, getting off at the lobby. “Nothing. Have a good day, Dr. As—Dr. Davenport.”

My town car was already waiting for me.

She waved to me as she biked down away.

“A friend of yours, sir?” the driver asked.

“Not in the slightest,” I said, getting into the car.

“Strange, I swear I’ve seen her before.”

I didn’t say anything, going over my notes for the speaking engagement at NYU. Of all the doctors the hospital could have chosen to speak to students, why the hell did it have to be me? I couldn't care less what these kids decided to do with their lives.

“My daughter tells me this event has been sold out for weeks. She’s broadcasting it over the campus radio.” He glanced at me in the rearview mirror.

“I don’t see why.” I leaned into the seat, watching as people walked past us. I hated traffic and we were currently moving at a snail’s pace. In this city, everyone had some place they needed to go, and quickly.

“Graduation is in two days. I think many of them are hoping all of those speaking will tell them what to do their lives.” He laughed as we started to move again.

“Wasn’t that the point of college? They had four years to figure that out.”

“You know kids, always doubting. I’m sure you had moments where you doubted where your future career would take you.”

“Never.” I shook my head. “I always knew what I was going to do with my life. It was never a question of if or how, but when. I believe everyone knows what they want to do, but they’re just too afraid they won’t be able to do it.”

“I might just listen in as well,” the driver said, pulling up to New York University.

He came around to my door as I fixed my jacket, nodding to him before walking up the steps. He was right; the place was filled with hopeful twenty-something’s, all gathered around the large theater.

“Dr. Davenport.” The director of the event, Professor Mills, waved as she tried to work her way through the crowd toward me. She was a short, pale woman with big glasses that nearly took over her whole face. In her hands were all kinds of files, which she shifted to one side in order to shake my hand.

“Welcome, sorry for the chaos. After we announced our last guest, we got an influx of students.” She smiled, showing her braces as more students passed us.

“I was about to say, I didn’t think this many students cared about science so much.” Why not was beyond me. “Who is the next guest, a musician or something?”

“No…wait, she was right behind me.” She turned, standing on her tiptoes, trying to look over the crowd. “Oh, there she is.”

I followed her line of sight. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” There, taking a selfie with two students—one with dreadlocks that almost touched the ground and another with a hot pink mohawk—was the Con Artist herself.

“Ms. Poe!” The director called to her as the campus police helped everyone get in order and move toward the hall.

Finally free of distractions, she focused on us, her brown eyes widening when she saw me. “What are you doing here?” she questioned when she reached us.

Why, God? Why? “I should be asking you that.”

“You know each other?” The director clapped in joy. “This is great. I can’t wait to get this open debate underway.”

“Debate?” the Con Artist and I said at the same time.

“I was under the impression this was question and answer with the students,” I stated.

“As was I,” she said.

“Really? We let your chair know, Dr. Davenport, and your agent, Ms. Poe. The reason is that the science and art department graduates have basically been having this battle for days now. They hope you both will hammer in their points. Since you two are friends, I’m sure this will be a healthy discussion. Follow me,” Director Mills basically proclaimed in one swift breath.