By: Kayti McGee

I sincerely doubt he’s ever heard of the Marvel Secret Wars. Lame. Although to be fair, only hardcore comic nerds knew that one, so your definition of cool needed to be fluid.

But, really. When a man looked like that––so firm and sculpted that it showed even under his suit––he didn’t have to be cool. Or.. Okay, I’m more nerdy than cool. All he had to be was the subject of a few of my late-night, um, drawing sessions. Yeah, drawing.

And speaking of his attire…

I pushed my glasses up on my nose and gave him a once-over. Be cool, Madison. Be cool. But he made me nervous. “You clean up pretty well. What’s the occasion?” And the understatement award goes to… me! But I was totally cool, so.

Really, though, he did clean up well. As far as I could tell from my few encounters with the man, Marc had two types of outfits––business casual and workout. (Workout was my favorite, in case anyone wondered. Post-workout, specifically--the shirt was frequently missing by that point.) Today’s look was decidedly more upscale.

“I had to defend my thesis this afternoon,” he said, loosening his tie. I was prepared to loosen my shirt as well, with as hot as the room was rapidly becoming. Actually, it was just him. Ha! Ha!

“Thesis! Man, that’s big.” I knew almost nothing about the thesis process, but I did know it was a big deal.

In fact...crap. Should I have gone to support him? Had anyone been there for him? Was that something people did for a thesis defense? Was that a thing that roommates did for each other?

Welp. Too late to wonder now.

“How did it go?” I asked instead, trying not to stare––okay, drool––as he tossed his tie on the arm of the couch and began unbuttoning his collar. I was going to have to have a “drawing” session immediately following this conversation.

“Pretty good. I’d been offered a teaching position for next year before I’d presented my argument and no one rescinded it afterwards, so I think, all in all, it was a success.”

“Awesome! Congrats! Woot! Yay!” Be COOL, Madison! “On both the thesis and the job. I hope you have big plans to celebrate.”

Actually, I couldn’t imagine him in a celebration situation, low key as he was, but it was Friday and he’d had quite the day. Surely he had a buddy to go out and drink with. Or a girlfriend. I was fairly certain he had one of those. She frequently left her wine coolers in our fridge and once I saw a bottle of her strawberry-basil bubble bath when I’d helped Marc unload his groceries.

Of course Hot Marc’s girlfriend smells like summer all the time. Le sigh.

“Celebrate?” The spot above his nose crinkled in confusion. It made him seem younger somehow. Less serious. More fun. I bet his students love that crinkle. I wish I was his student. “Oh, yes, that’s right. I do. Lots of celebration to be had. You’re off to work now?”

“Yeah, as soon as I clean up. Maybe, um, draw for a hot minute.” I twisted my lips to one side of my mouth than the other, a habit I had when I didn’t know what else to say. I mean, what else could I say? It wasn’t like I could invite myself to his party, even if I didn’t have a job and responsibilities. Even though I was awfully tempted, purely for curiosity’s sake. “I guess I better go and do that now.”

“Okay. And I’m going to change too. Have to get ready to, uh, celebrate and all.” He grabbed the tie off the couch and smiled awkwardly before heading down the hall.

“Right then. Bye.”

I slipped into my bedroom and shut the door behind me before letting out a sigh of relief. All in all, it had been a pretty decent encounter. We’d exchanged about as many words as we ever had at a time, and no dicks were injured in the process. Maybe there was hope for us as roommates after all.

So I worked full-time for SplatScreen, but I didn’t consider it my real job. The indie shop specialized in custom T-shirts and screen prints. Though we did have a small storefront where people could walk in and buy prints or shirts, most of our jobs came in over the internet, everything from labels for craft breweries to shirts announcing local sports championships.