Today, Daphne, the goddess herself, was invited to go to the new mall with Brendan. Because she hates being alone with him, I have to go with. I don’t mind because Brendan, being the Apollo of CU’s history department, has his own manservant and fool, Andy. Andy and I get along because we both understand what it is like to be attendants to campus royalty.
So it is a beautiful spring day. I have cut Psych 102 to be a part of this trip, and Andy has skipped a required meeting with his advisor. I sit in the backseat of Apollo’s BMW with Daphne, because Daphne can not bear to be in the front seat with him. What if he looked at her! Gasp! Her reputation would be mud.
Andy sits in the front seat with his window rolled down. It blows his sandy hair straight back from his forehead and whips Daphne’s hair around like a shih-tzu in a tornado. She looks pissed as she and Apollo argue about the best way to get to the new mall.
“The new cut through would be faster,” she says. She makes a big show of patting down her wind-blown hair; the gesture is lost on Andy, who can’t see her in his mirror.
“It might be, but I’m driving, so we’re going to try using my brain instead,” Apollo replies.
“I would drive if you ever climbed off your chauvinistic marble pedestal. Instead we must take your chariot and it’s going to take us fifteen minutes longer to get there.”
Apollo adjusts the rearview mirror so that it reflects Daphne’s face. “Fifteen minutes longer to look at you, then.”
Andy and I text each other. I see his head duck as he looks at his phone, and my phone rumbles silently in my hand.
him: we will. i forgot to mention im pregnant
I see his head turn ever so slightly as he listens for my reaction. I cannot laugh, or Daphne will emote on me, so I tap out another text.
him: me too. i think it gets better after the 1st trimester
Apollo swears as he gets cut off by a blue minivan. Daphne gives the minivan driver the finger.
“We should get married, Becca,” Apollo said (I should have mentioned that that is Daphne’s real name). He sails into the left lane and gets into the turn lane for the mall.
“Could I drive your car if we did?” Daphne asks this already knowing the answer. Apollo’s lips press together in a sad line. He loves Daphne, but he loves his BMW more.
Furious texting from Andy.
me: dont make promises u don’t intend to keep
Daphne makes a noise of awe as we pull into the mall parking lot. It’s packed. This is the second mall to be erected near the campus, but this one is The Largest Mall in Maryland with Open Air Public Areas! It also has a Pottery Barn. So of course everyone has come to see it. Brendan finds a parking spot at the far end of the lot, which is where he normally parks anyway, to protect his car’s delicate paint. Andy’s head ducks again as Brendan displays his superior reversing skills. Brendan’s neck cranes and he sets his jaw like a turtle as he verifies that the BMW is equidistant from the two vehicles on either side.
me: i have an evening class
him: dairy queen is open late
me: you’re on
“I’m wearing heels,” Daphne tells Apollo.
“I’ll carry you,” he says.
“If you touch me, I’ll . . .” Daphne is not witty, so she leaves the threat open-ended.
Andy gets in one last text to finish it off:
“Let’s roll,” Apollo says. We are already walking. He tries to put his hand on Daphne’s back and she shies away like a spooked deer, putting me in between her and him. He frowns prettily. She pouts sadly. He knows this is against the rules.
“What shall we see first?” I ask, because they are so busy not talking to each other I fear that we will end up in Sports Authority.
“Borders,” Andy suggests. It’s a safe suggestion. Though he and I have cut class to be here and Apollo and Daphne spend much of their time as denizens of the history department, we cannot change what we are: book geeks. But I know what will happen when we get there. Apollo will try to follow Daphne, so she will pull me into the modern history section and use me as a human shield until Apollo loses interest and goes back to the Russian history section on the other side of the shelf, taking Andy with him. I am not a modern history person. It smacks of Political Science, which is not a real major.
“I want to go to Hallmark,” I say. “And Things Remembered. And other boring old lady stores.”
“Why?” Apollo’s perennial look of confusion is replaced with true bewilderment. He holds the door open for all of us.
“I need to get something to mark the occasion.” I pat Andy’s stomach as I pass by him. I remember that the others are not in on the pregnancy joke just as I realize that Andy’s stomach is flat and hard under my hand. I was about to smile, and I saw that he was too, but instead we exchange a look that feels like it lasts a minute.
“What occasion? Lunch?” Daphne looks pissed at me. I am not supposed to have conversations that she was not a part of. Then she looks pissed at Apollo, who let his shoulder touch her shoulder. “I don’t get it. Emma, you should leave the funny to Apollo.”
Andy and I bust out laughing, as Apollo hasn’t been funny since the day his BMW got a scratch and he made his voice three octaves higher than usual. Apollo, however, looks flattered and grants Daphne one of his most shining, god-like smiles. Daphne looks startled, as if she hadn’t realized how awesome he could be when he smiled.
She lets him walk beside her all the way to Hallmark, and he keeps glancing over at her without trying to touch her. That leaves Andy and me to walk behind them, just us instead of lady in waiting and manservant for once. In the store, Daphne and Apollo head down the wrapping paper aisle while Andy and I walk to the stuffed animals.
I hold up an elephant to Andy; its eyes are slightly crossed. “Hi, I’m anatomically incorrect,” I say, moving the elephant’s head in time with my words.
Andy pushes some animals aside until he finds one that he likes. It’s a horse with a green mane and tail. “And I’m more practical for most third century B.C. land wars.”
“Are you going on about the Alps again?” I ask him with my elephant.
“I can’t stop thinking about it,” Andy’s horse replies. “It was a significant fubar.”
“I still get more views at the zoo.”
Just then, Andy’s head jerks up to look over the display, and I follow suit. Apollo has an arm braced on either side of Daphne, carefully inserted between gift bags hanging on the wall, and amazingly, it looks like he might kiss her.
Suddenly, Daphne bursts out, “I changed major.”
Apollo leans back. “What?”
“This morning,” she says. “I put in the paperwork. I got assigned a new advisor.”
“Poly sci,” Daphne gasps out, her voice desperate. She crosses her arms tightly over her chest. “I’m becoming a political science major.”
Apollo lowers his hands from either side of her and steps back. He is looking at her with an expression of utter loss and betrayal. I am reeling a bit myself. A poly sci major? It seems so drastic. But Apollo really had left her no other choice.
“I will stop saying bad things about political science,” Apollo says, formally. “I may even take some modern Russian classes.”
But things have changed, and we all know it. She’s not even the same species anymore.
We leave the store, Apollo and Daphne several feet away from each other.
I reach down and take Andy’s hand.