The room was dark when Cassandra walked in. The only light came from Theodore’s desk. He was working late again. His research proposal was due in less than a week. Yesterday it was Cassandra who was working late. Her proposal was also due soon. She sat at her desk on the other side of campus. Theodore had gone to visit her. She had turned him away.
Cassandra was tempted to turn on the ceiling lamp, but Theodore didn’t seem to notice when she entered; she didn’t want to disturb him. Like her, he would probably prefer to be left alone while he worked. She closed the door carefully behind her, guided it with her hand so that it wouldn’t make a sound. There might have been a soft click – Theodore didn’t look up. Cassandra leaned against the closed door. Theodore’s back faced her. His shoulders were slightly raised and he was hunched over his desk. She could see the outline of his shoulder blades through his shirt. His hand rose periodically to rub the back of his head. His collar was crumpled up around the back of his neck. Cassandra’s fingers itched to fix it for him.
The room was silent, with only the sound of Theodore’s pen scratching against paper. He never got used to writing his drafts on a computer. Cassandra sometimes teased him for being old-fashioned. He only used fountain pens, said they were less strenuous in the hand. He was using the one Cassandra gave him for his birthday last year. Seeing it made her happy.
It wasn’t that Theodore didn’t notice her. He simply chose to ignore her. He knew who it was by the way she closed the door, how she shifted, and by the sound of the sigh she let fall from her lips. He knew she would wait for him. He continued to write, no faster than before. He knew he was being a little selfish.
Theodore could remember how Cassandra looked that morning: she was wearing a long, wide skirt with a checkered, pale brown print. Her deep red cable-knit sweater gave her the appearance of warmth and comfort. He remembered the feeling of wanting to touch her. He held back. In the morning they had walked through the chilly autumn air together from the parkade on the south side of campus. He had pretended not to notice, how she probably dressed up a little today. He had imagined that she would smell like clean linen.
“You’re distracting,” he muttered suddenly. Cassandra said nothing. Maybe she smiled. Theodore didn’t turn to check.
He knew he was being selfish. He knew Cassandra would understand. They were both a little selfish. But it will only be another hour until seven. Then they will go home together.