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    Randy and Aubrey’s Love Story

        “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Randy Winslow dug the ball of his cleat deeper into the muddy sideline of the UNI football field. He eyed the scoreboard. North Dakota—28. Panthers—6.

       “Come on, Panthers. You can do it,” a voice screamed from the stands.

       Randy scowled and turned around, searching for the familiar voice. Vanessa could scream all she wanted, but the Panthers had no chance of a comeback. Not with ten minutes left in the game.

       Vanessa waved, catching his attention.

       He waved back, noticing the blonde standing beside her. The blonde threw her hands in the air, her gaze fixed on the football game. “Go Panthers!”

       Behind him, the crowd roared, but he couldn’t take his eyes off of the girl. She gave Vanessa a high-five, a smile spreading across her face.

       Why hadn’t Vanessa introduced him to her friend before now? Over the last couple of years, he’d hung out with Vanessa and several of his other friends from business classes, but he’d never seen the blonde. It was too late into fall semester for her to be a transfer student and she certainly didn’t look like a freshman. At least, not the typical freshman—tank top, thigh length shorts, swaying in a drunken stupor. She was beautiful—tall, tan, red rosy cheeks, clear blue eyes, and that smile—wow.

       Randy swallowed hard. He had to meet her.


       Randy paced in front of Vanessa’s door. He couldn’t knock. Not yet. What should he say? Would your friend go on a date with me? No, he couldn’t start with that.

       He rubbed his sweaty palms together. What if the blonde had a boyfriend? Someone as beautiful as her probably had a boyfriend. He should just turn around and leave.

       The dorm room door squeaked open. Vanessa stood in front of him, her face turning crimson. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Hi, I was just headed out to dinner.” She eyed him up and down, a curious expression on her face. “Why are you still in your football uniform?”

       He looked down at his purple and gold jersey. He hadn’t even thought to change. The moment the game was over, he’d left the stadium and headed here. He sucked in a breath, hoping he didn’t smell. How could he convince Vanessa that he was good for her friend when he smelled like sweat and dirt? “I uh, I need to talk to you.”

       She opened the door wider and stepped aside. “Do you want to come in?”

       Randy peered behind her, scanning the small space. What if Vanessa’s friend was in the room? He should have thought about that before now. He wasn’t thinking clearly. He shifted his weight to the side and glanced back at Vanessa. “Are you alone?”

       Vanessa gave him a crooked smile and nodded as he walked into the room. “What do you want to talk to me about?”

       “Who is your friend? The one who was standing next to you at the football game?”

       Vanessa frowned. “Her name is Aubrey McAllister. Why?”

       “Does she have a boyfriend?”


       Relief washed over him. “Do you think she’d be interested in me?”

       Vanessa looked down at her hands. She picked at her purple fingernail polish, flicking pieces onto the carpet. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

       His stomach dropped. Aubrey didn’t have a boyfriend, so what else could it be? Maybe Vanessa didn’t think he was good enough for Aubrey. “Why not?”

       Vanessa sighed. “Fine. I’ll invite her over and we can all hang out together.”


       Randy leaned back against Vanessa’s futon with a pile of DVD’s in his lap. Not that his choice mattered. He wouldn’t pay attention to any of these movies. Tonight he wanted to get to know Aubrey. Her favorite songs. Where she grew up. What she wanted to do after she graduated. He piled the DVD’s on the floor and held up the one on top. “How about Shrek?”

       “Perfect.” Aubrey put the disc in the player and sat down next to him, dropping a bag of candy corn between them. She opened the bag and grabbed a piece, popping it into her mouth.

       Across the room, Vanessa narrowed her eyes and stood up from her desk chair. “I’ll go get us something to drink from the vending machine.”

       Aubrey turned toward him, her blonde hair falling over her shoulder. “I’m surprised Vanessa wanted us to meet.”

       His cheeks flushed. Ten minutes into their date and Aubrey was already second-guessing her decision.

       “She really likes you.”

       “She does?”

       Aubrey nodded. “Vanessa’s been talking about the cute football player in her business classes for awhile now. I was shocked when she said that you wanted to meet me.”

       Randy’s eyes widened. So that was why Vanessa hadn’t wanted to introduce him to Aubrey. A glimmer of guilt shot through him, but he couldn’t force feelings that weren’t there. Vanessa was just a friend. “Is she mad at you for hanging out with me?”

       “No. I’m sure she’s disappointed, though. But she told me what a great guy you are and that I’d be crazy not to meet you.”

       Randy laughed. “I’ll have to thank her for making me look so good.”

       “You don’t need her in order to look good. You do that pretty well on your own.”

       “Thanks.” Randy adjusted his t-shirt, his neck growing warm. Hopefully, the red blotches—the ones that often appeared when he was nervous—didn’t show up tonight. “So uh, tell me about your family.”

       Aubrey turned toward him, extending her long legs on the floor and crossing them at the ankles. “I’m the oldest of five kids. I have one sister and three brothers. We’re a really close family. My sister and I actually share a dorm room. We’re only a year apart.”

       “I come from a big family, too. I have two brothers and a sister.”

       “Are you the oldest?”


       “That’s good. If you weren’t, I’m not sure I could date you.” She laughed as his lips drew a thin line. “I’m just kidding, but I think older siblings tend to have similar qualities.”

       He smiled. “Like what?”

       “Let’s see …” She paused, setting a finger to her lips. “They tend to be more driven and more sure of what they want to do.”

       His face grew warm. The red blotches were surely appearing all over his neck right now. “I’m majoring in technology management, but I’m not sure that’s really what I want to do.” No way was he going to mention that he’d switched schools four times. What else could he say to salvage his answer? “To me, work is just a way to provide for my family. I loved growing up with so many siblings, so if there is one thing I’m sure of, it’s that I want to settle down early and have a big family.”

       Aubrey inched closer to him and reached for his hand, lacing her fingers between his. “I’d like that, too.”

       His pulse quickened as his gaze flickered down to her lips. No way would he try to kiss her on their first date. But maybe, just maybe, he’d get the courage to kiss her on their second date.

    Where are they now?