Chapter 3: The New Girl
The next morning Demelza was back at the apartment and narrated everything about her night out with Dave, whilst playing with her platinum blonde hair hitched up in the neatest ponytail and showing off her freshly manicured nails. She looked as picture-perfect as ever – like an animate mannequin or Barbie doll. She disclosed that Dave had asked her to move in with him the other night. Archimedes and Kenneth gasped at that news, way too eager to know her answer.
“Of course, I said no!” she said matter-of-factly, “we’ve only dated like three months!”
Dave wasn’t too happy about Demelza’s living arrangement, which wasn’t shocking. However, Demelza couldn’t tolerate such conservativeness, and she’d never leave her two best friends for some guy she’d been seeing for a few months. She made it clear that she wasn’t ready for that level of intimacy or commitment with Dave. She needed her space, which was available to her while sharing an apartment with Archimedes and Kenneth.
Archimedes hauled Demelza into a bear hug, telling her that he was glad she wasn’t leaving him alone with Kenneth in the house. Then they started talking aloud about how Kenneth was such a control freak and capable of killing a person with boredom unless a third person was there to intervene and rescue.
Kenneth glared at them coldly and reminded them that he was in the same room, where he could hear them clearly. Archimedes and Demelza had a habit of ganging up and teasing him.
“One day I’ll get back at you two and you’ll regret it all,” he sulked every time.
Despite their time-to-time squabbles, these three loved each other and nothing would change that at the end of the day.
The second semester begun; Archimedes and Kenneth were walking to class when they ran into Barbara. Kenneth and Barbara had hooked up during rush week at the beginning of college and subsequently dated for about two weeks. Those two weeks were the worst of his life, since the girl was literally crazy. She kept nagging him twenty-four hours a day and obsessed over him as if she owned him. She would wail and cry her eyes out if he tried to get some space or didn’t reply to a text message within the next 5 minutes.
Barbara also loved singing all the time, but unfortunately, she didn’t sound even close to bearable. The thing about her that annoyed Kenneth the most was that she called herself and him NYU’s Barbie and Ken. Their breakup was pretty brutal; Barbara kicked him in the balls twice when he told her they were done. She also threatened to make a voodoo doll of Kenneth and kill him.
“Hey Ken, do you miss your Barbie?” she spoke seductively.
He panicked and ran for his life.
“I think he’s in love with you,” explained Archimedes.
“Please tell him I love him too and we should get back together,” requested Barbara.
“I sure will, and trust me, he is going to be so thrilled,” he assured.
Archimedes, Demelza and Kenneth got together for lunch later in the day when Archimedes brought up their encounter with Barbara. Once again Kenneth became the victim of mockery by his friends. They repeatedly chanted that NYU needed Barbie and Ken back.
Archimedes had pointed out that Barbara was a crazy-eyed freak and nothing but trouble, at the time Kenneth was contemplating asking her out. However, being his non-judgmental self, Kenneth didn’t listen to him, which led to dire consequences.
“This is what happens when you don’t listen to me,” reminded Archimedes.
Demelza jokingly advised Kenneth to patch things up with Barbara and marry her after college, unless he was willing to die young of black magic. He begged the two to stop pulling his leg and tried to change the topic multiple times in vain; eventually, they agreed that they had tortured him enough for the day.
“I heard there’s a new student transferring here from Alaska,” stated Demelza, as she picked out the olives in her salad.
“I heard the new student is a she,” added Kenneth.
“I hope she’s hot,’ shrugged Archimedes.
“I bet she’s cold, considering where she’s coming from,” jeered Demelza
“Guess what?” chirped Kenneth.
“What?” raised Archimedes in a bored fashion as he texted Alicia.
Three days after the encounter with the model girl, Archimedes received a call from her and she claimed to have seen him in her dreams. Once again his tactic worked and another girl fell into his trap. They hooked up a few times and then he grew fed up with her.
“The new girl’s name is Scarlett who’ll be joining us today, and she’s majoring in Chemistry just like us,” notified Kenneth excitedly.
“So we’ll be seeing a lot of her then,” acknowledged Archimedes.
Just then Demelza appeared out of nowhere. She revealed that the new girl was on campus and was exiting the dean’s office any minute. Kenneth wanted to know if she’d caught a glimpse of her, to which she replied in the affirmative.
“So what’s she like?” he demanded, “Is she pretty?”
“You should see for yourself!” she replied, sheer amusement all over her face “Can’t say ‘pretty’ but she is something!”
Scarlett nervously tugged at her yellow flannel skirt as she walked through NYU’s hallway for the very first time. Through her purple-framed hipster glasses, she could see that several pairs of eyes were observing her. She heard a few muffled whispers and subdued giggles. Archimedes grinned at her dark green tee-shirt with an image of ‘Sponge bob square pants’ over it. Demelza cringed at the sight of the matching green and yellow striped tights, plus rainbow sneakers.
“She’s cute,” suggested Kenneth.
“Cute from planet ‘Nerd’” mocked Demelza, “or rather the queen of tacky!”
“So not my type,” reflected Archimedes, “what a waste!”
Scarlett kept walking, hoping someone would approach her and eliminate the awkwardness. She touched her shoulder-length curly brown hair to make sure they were in place. Then she glanced at her multi-colored wristwatch and saw that she had half an hour to spare before her first class. She decided to go to the library – a place that had always been her safe haven when she suffered from social anxiety.
Scarlett tried asking some girl for directions, but she acted as if she were invisible. She was aware that she was petite, but at that moment she felt like an ant someone would step upon any second, squishing her unknowingly. Kenneth could sense the fright and confusion in her body language, so he decided to rescue her and be the hero!
Kenneth introduced himself and extended a hand, which Scarlett shook gratefully. She felt a sense of relief when he looked at her timetable and let her know that they were in the same classes. He seemed nice and warm, just what she needed. Later, he even volunteered to be her lab partner, which made the day a lot less stressful.
Scarlett and Kenneth became buddies in no time and hung around together a lot during college hours. However, there was someone who was not very happy with their budding friendship –a guy named Archimedes.
Archimedes glowered at Kenneth as he made his way next to Scarlett in class and worked with her in the lab. Before she happened, Kenneth always tagged alongside him. They sat in class together, worked as partners in every assignment, and were practically inseparable. The most infuriating thing was that he appeared to be immensely enjoying Scarlett’s company. It was like he had completely forgotten about him.
Archimedes drove home alone that day. Demelza was busy with some group project with her colleagues and apparently, Kenneth had made plans with Scarlett. Alicia kept calling him, but he was too pissed off to talk tand was in no mood of taking her out on a date.
“Thanks again for bringing me shopping,” said Scarlett.
“That’s what friends are for!” replied Kenneth as he drove into the parking lot of the mall.
Ten days had passed since Scarlett joined NYU and she was still living off stuff brought with her from Alaska or obtained from vending machines at college. It was her first time in New York so she didn’t know where to shop, and she wasn’t much of an explorer. Kenneth was the only real friend she had made so far, thus she turned to him for help. He accompanied her on grocery shopping and asked if she needed to buy any clothes or shoes as well.
“I have enough clothes and shoes in my closet to last me a decade,” she conveyed.
“I believe that’s the first and last time I’m hearing that from a girl,” chuckled Kenneth.
He then offered to take her someplace nice for dinner. Scarlett wasn’t up for a fancy meal but agreed that a sweet snack would be nice.
“Let’s go back to my place and I’ll make us both a special treat,” she suggested.
Kenneth couldn’t say no to that, so he followed her to a humble studio apartment in the city. It was grungy and could use some cosmetic fixes, but otherwise quite habitable. Most of her stuff was still boxed, and whatever was unpacked lay scattered around.
“Have you thought about unpacking and organizing this place?” teased Kenneth.
“Yes I have thought about it,” she retorted in jest.
Scarlett put out two clean bowls and spoons on the kitchen counter. After that, she took out a pint of vanilla ice cream and a tiny glass jug containing homemade caramel sauce. Next, she fished out a packet of salty roasted almonds and a box of coco pops from the grocery bags. In each bowl, she scooped out a generous amount of vanilla ice cream and garnished it with a handful of coco pops, almonds, and a drizzle of caramel sauce.
Kenneth was in love with the combination of flavors and demanded the recipe for the caramel sauce. He was eager to put together that dessert for his mom and dad the next time he visited them back home. Shortly, Scarlett’s parents came up who had died in a fatal car accident when she was four. Her aunt Rita (her mom’s sister) had taken her in and brought her up like her own child.
Aunt Rita had always been a loner and never tried making friends or a family of her own. She worked as a librarian all her life and was very accustomed to books. She wasn’t much of a talker but tried her best to cater Scarlett’s every need.
“I call her every weekend and every time she tells me about a new book she read,” recounted Scarlett.
Kenneth was touched by her tragedy and amazed at how calm and brave she was – not faltering for a second while she spoke.
“You’re a remarkable person, you know,” he complimented.
“I’m also a good cook,” she winked, “Wait until you get to eat my beef lasagna,”
“Can’t wait,” grinned Kenneth.
Kenneth returned to the apartment by midnight and was welcomed sternly by his best friend.
“Why hello there stranger” Archimedes sputtered cynically.
Kenneth was flustered by the standoffish attitude and asked what was up?
“You tell me,” he retorted, “Is Scarlett your girlfriend now?”
He scrutinized him from head to toe and guessed that his best friend was jealous, which wasn’t like him at all. He conveyed that Scarlett had become a good friend and that was all for the time being.
“So there’s a chance she’ll become your girlfriend in the near future?” he asked tauntingly.
Kenneth concurred that it was possible.
“What come may,” he stated poetically.
After that Archimedes lost it; he yelled at him for ditching him continuously for the past ten days.
“Because of you I’m stuck with that dim-witted Sarah,” he complained, “you’re supposed to be my lab partner,”
“But Sarah’s hot and I thought you had a thing for her,”.
Archimedes explained that he would love to hook up with Sarah or have a summer fling, but she was certainly not lab partner material. Kenneth didn’t understand why it mattered; he was the bright one among them and it wasn’t like he needed help. His best friend insisted that Sarah was too dumb and that having her around was sabotaging his work. He added that he didn’t even find her attractive anymore, given that she had a rusty nut for a brain.
“Scarlett’s awfully smart by the way,” brought up Kenneth, “more like a genius!”
It was true and another reason for Archimedes to resent her. Previously, he had been the shining star in all his classes, but now he had some sort of competition. He was always the first to figure out answers to complicated questions and solve problems, but now a girl who dressed like a twelve-year-old was stealing the spotlight.
“She’s such an annoying little know-it-all” he erupted, “what do you even see in her?”
Kenneth told him he was overreacting and needed to calm down. He insisted that Scarlett was an amazing person and very talented. He advised his best friend not to judge her without getting to know her first. Archimedes was tired and sick of hearing the praise and decided to give him a piece of his mind.
“For a guy who’s been crazy about Demelza since high school, I expected you to settle for someone way better than that freak show!” he cried out.
“Shut up Archimedes! Even walls have ears!” bellowed Kenneth.
It was true that he had always suppressed his feelings for Demelza and they were to remain within him till eternity. His best friend had figured out his secret a long time ago but kept it quite for his sake. Kenneth knew that Demelza would never like him back and telling her meant losing her as a friend too. He hushed Archimedes and reminded him that discussing this subject was forbidden; he couldn’t risk the word getting out and ruining their friendship.
Archimedes was mad about how he could stoop so low after setting the bar so high.
“You should be with someone up to the standards of Demelza if not Demelza herself,” he asserted forcefully.
Kenneth narrowed his eyes at him and sighed. He said he was tired and requested Archimedes to stay out of his personal matters. His best friend remained silent but the hurt in his eyes was unambiguous.
Later in the night, Kenneth received a text message from him saying “at least think about what I said”. After reading it, he switched off his cell phone, closed his eyes, and tried to fall asleep.
Click here for the next part!