My idea of going to Myrick had to be put on hold temporarily, thanks to mandatory company meetings, drills, meal formations, and, of course, classes. Not being a plebe gave me more free time, but not that much. I barely even saw JJ.
And then part two of my plan—letting Platt have his space until Seb reported back—went out the window in my second-to-last class of the day, when I walked into the room and saw the back of his platinum blond head shining like a beacon. I should’ve expected it, really, now that we were both polisci majors.
The decision to take the empty desk beside him, instead of one further away, was easy. I didn’t want him thinking he’d succeeded in shaking me off or made me angry when he threw me out of his room the night before.
“Hey,” I said, casually, as I sat.
He glanced over. There was that flash of fear again. I still had no idea what was triggering it. Shifting in his chair, he just barely nodded in acknowledgement of me.
The professor came in and called the class to order. Every time I peeked at the kid after, he looked for all the world like he was hanging onto her every word.
Once she dismissed us, I hurriedly packed my stuff up so I could leave first. Then I stood in the hallway just outside the door with my back to the wall, and was rewarded a minute later when Platt came out too engrossed in trying to zip his crammed bag shut to notice me until I’d fallen into step beside him.
“Here, let me try,” I said.
His head jerked up. Hugging the bag to his own chest, he said, “I don’t need your help.”
I shrugged. “Suit yourself. Listen, have I done something to make you uncomfortable? You’re going to have to tell me, if so, because I really can’t think of anything.”
Without answering, he continued to struggle with the bag for several seconds, carrying it with one hand and yanking on the zipper with the other as we walked. “Dammit!” he muttered when it refused to budge.
Sighing, I said, “At least let me hold it so you’ve got two hands free to pull.”
He scowled, but shoved it towards me. I steered us to the side of the hallway, out of the ongoing flow of midshipmen switching classes, and then turned to face him with the bag between us. Platt bent over it and started working loose the fabric caught in the zipper teeth. I tried to hide my smile of triumph as I watched. He’d accepted my help!
A couple of seconds later, he muttered, “It’s not anything you did.”
“Something I didn’t do?” I asked.
He shook his head.
“Whatever it is,” I said, quietly enough not to be overheard by the passing crowd, “I wish you’d say, even if it means you’re serious about not wanting to be friends anymore. Because having no explanation for this sudden cold shoulder feels shitty, after all we’ve been through together.”
His chin trembled. His fingers stopped working at the fabric, and I saw him swallow. “I didn’t mean that,” he mumbled. “I just… just don’t want to talk about my summer, okay?”
I had to seriously consider that for a few moments. Shutting down the conversation he was avoiding would do him absolutely no good in the long run, I knew. But insisting on having it now and pushing him away would only hurt him, too. Finally, I asked, “Can I give a conditional okay? An ‘okay, we don’t have to talk about it until you’re ready’ kind of thing?”
Platt chewed on his lower lip and went back to fixing the zipper. It came free at last, with a lurch from the force he was applying. I steadied myself and the bag so he could finish closing it. Then he said, “Yeah, okay.”
“Oh, good!” I said, bouncing. “Turn around. I’ll put this on you.”
He flushed the faintest shade of pink, yet he turned and let me guide the straps of the backpack over his shoulders.
We both had to hurry by then, to get to our next class on time. But we walked together part of the way, and when I suggested he come by my room after dinner for some of Maeve’s cookies, he sounded truly regretful as he said, “Can’t, I have an Eagle Scout Association meeting. Anyway, don’t you need to Skype with Seb?”
“Seb’s got an evening class.”
“Oh. Tomorrow, maybe?
“Sure,” I said, happy he’d taken the initiative to suggest it. “I’ll hide the cookies so JJ doesn’t eat them all.”
Platt smiled and called, “See you then,” over his shoulder as he peeled off to cross the terrace to another building.
That night, I looked up Myrick’s room number and went to track him down. A mid I assumed to be his roommate was sitting at one of the desks inside with a textbook cracked open in front of him. He looked up when I rapped on the doorframe.
“Hello,” I said. “Is Myrick around?”
“You Platt?” he asked, and then, without waiting for an answer, “He said to tell you he’s lifting weights in Halsey.”
“Thanks,” I said. Then I beat it before he could ask any other questions. Him thinking I was Platt might come in handy, especially if Myrick had been arranging meetings with the kid that neither of them mentioned to me.
The Halsey Fieldhouse weight room was the smallest on the Yard, and tucked a bit further out of the way than the larger ones. I wasn’t surprised when I got there to find it almost empty at this time of day. Myrick was alone, apart from a mid using the dumbbells on the opposite side of the large space.
I walked up to him as he did pretty advanced sit-ups on a glute-ham bench. He was in the down position, so he didn’t see me until he came up again. Then he paused. A frown brought his eyebrows together. “Where’s Platt?”
“I’m him, according to your roommate,” I said, smiling a little. “As for where he is, he told me he’d be at a club meeting, but now I find out you’re here waiting for him. What’s up with that?”
Myrick sighed, unhooked his feet from the bench, and got off it. “I wasn’t waiting for him. That was…” He sighed again, heavier. “Wishful thinking, telling my roommate what to say if he stopped by. Then I saw you and thought you might’ve brought him. What are you doing here?”
“I came to ask you what happened this summer,” I said, following him over to one of the other benches.
Shaking his head, he started putting weights on a bar. “I told you, you have to ask him that.”
“Tried,” I said. “Didn’t get very far. He doesn’t want to talk about it.”
Myrick paused and gave me a look I’d seen him use on plebes—including myself, on one prior occasion. “You disappoint me, Mohyeldin.”
That stung. “If you think you can do it better,” I started, evenly, but he cut in.
“I don’t. That’s why I gave it to you.”
I didn’t know what to say to that for a moment. The implication was flattering, but part of me resented how he seemed to expect me to fix this without offering any help.
He slid the last weight into place and lay down on the bench. “Make yourself useful and spot me,” he said, putting his hands up to grab the bar.
“You’re almost as grumpy as Platt was,” I told him. But I went to stand by his head and kept my palms under the bar, ready to catch it, as he lifted it up and began bench presses.
“Sorry,” he grunted. Then, after a moment, “Yesterday was the last time I’ll see Cameron until Christmas.”
“I know how that is,” I said, more sympathetic to him. “How’s she doing?”
“Nervous about starting med school. She’ll be great, though.”
I smiled. “Yeah, she will.”
He did the final two reps silently, and then put the bar back on the holder and sat up to wipe sweat off his brow. “Look,” he said, “the truth is, I don’t know exactly what happened. Platt and I were getting along fine. I allowed myself to be friendly towards him, in the hope of…” He glanced at the mid across the room. “Of moving things along. He reacted well, I thought. Then one day, he started ignoring me.”
“Just like that?” I asked, raising an eyebrow dubiously. “Nothing to trigger it?”
“Not that I saw,” he said. “It was like a switch flipped.”
“Huh. That’s almost what he did to me.” Sitting down on the bench next to him, I mulled it over a moment. What could happen to shift Platt’s attitude so dramatically, but be unnoticeable to others? “Did you try breaking through the wall?”
Myrick put his forearms on his knees and let his head hang down as he stared at the floor. “I… I don’t know how,” he admitted. “Justine is better at that, and so are you.” He shot me a sideways look. “I meant it when I said I was disappointed.”
I grinned. He looked almost sulky now. Even with my amusement, though, I did want to help him. And Platt. “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man—Dom—to fish for answers… I don’t know how to end this metaphor, but you see where I’m going. What you need are lessons in wall-demolition. I’m exceptionally good at that. I can give you references and everything,” I said, thinking of my ‘Seb 101’ emails to Quint. “What d’ya say?”
He narrowed his eyes at me for a few seconds. Finally, he said, “Alright.”
Before I could say more, my phone buzzed in my pocket. The buzz reserved for Seb. I fished it out and glanced at the message on the screen. Are you near your computer? Need to talk.
That couldn’t be good. His class wasn’t supposed to end for another hour. I stood up, saying, “Your education starts tomorrow. Come prepared with an apple for teacher, please.”
“Come where at what time?” Myrick asked as I took a step away.
I stopped typing Be right there to Seb. “You free after dinner?”
“Meet me in my room. We’ll start with a skills assessment,” thinking, Can’t coach you on interacting with Platt without seeing how you manage now, can I? Holding up the phone as an explanation, I added, “Gotta go. See you tomorrow.”
The words had barely left his lips before I was off and running to get back to my computer, and Seb, as quickly as possible. Either something was wrong or he’d heard from Platt. I hoped it was the second option.