Fifteen minutes later, she stepped out of the office, and started walking toward the hall. I waved to her, and she slowed, letting me catch up.
“Did you just see your advisor too?”
“Kind of. I got out, and then I noticed you were in there, and thought I’d say hi when you got out.”
Then I wondered if I’d been too honest. She could take that a bunch of ways ranging from “creepy stalker” to “he’s interested in me” to “just being friendly.”
The first two were the last things I wanted her to think. Even beyond not wanting to hurt Haley, I’d never thought about Courtney in terms of dating. She’d been dating Keith the entire time I knew her. I’d always thought of her as nice, and a lot more sensible than Keith in a lot of ways, but more as a friend than anything else.
If I’d met her for the first time in college, I’d probably have classed her as “completely unapproachable.”
“Hey, you’re silent all of a sudden. What’s on your mind?”
“I still can’t get over how different you look.”
“Oh,” she said, and took a breath. “Well, you know why.”
She’d showed Haley and I at the restaurant when we’d gone out together before prom.
“Yeah,” I said, “but you’ve made a lot more changes since prom.”
Her eyes darted around. We were walking down the stairs to the first floor with a lot of other people. Every freshman had to see their advisors today. Classes started tomorrow.
“Let’s not talk about this here. Let’s try…” She paused. “Let’s try somewhere on the lawn. Michelle always has people in our dorm room.”
We didn’t say much as we followed people down the stairs and out of the building. One look outside told us that the lawn wouldn’t be private. People were everywhere. Freshmen had moved in on Friday and Saturday, but on Monday everybody could move in. Cars filled the streets between buildings, and every parking space in front of them.
Students carried suitcases, backpacks, and duffel bags full of stuff across the lawn toward the residential halls.
“We could walk by the river,” I suggested.
A few minutes later, we’d walked past Voss Hall of Engineering, and stood near the water. The park where the League fought Evil Beatnik lay on the other side. A few people sat in the park, or walked down the sidewalk next to the river, many of them in business clothes.
The university’s side of the river hadn’t been developed as much. Weeds started where the lawn ended, and continued down the bank, ending in mud.
It was private in the sense that no one stood in hearing distance. I supposed that people could still see us through the windows of the engineering building.
We sat where the river bank began—the edge of the lawn .
“You’re probably wondering why Keith and I broke up?”
I had been, but I hadn’t intended to ask about it. I’d really intended to find out how much power juice she was using, and where she was getting it.
She stared down at the river before she said anything else. “Keith wants to be a superhero. He went to college in Chicago so he could impress the Midwest Defenders. He kept on bothering me to do it with him—I’d do the investigating, and he’d do the fighting. It was awful. I only wanted to lose some weight, or at least look like I had. It wasn’t coming off any other way. We argued for months, and he dumped me in July.”
“And that’s it,” she said. “After we broke up, I had a lot of time on my hands, and I spent it experimenting with my powers. I don’t know why, but I thought I’d see how attractive I could become while still looking like myself. Maybe it was supposed to be some kind of revenge on Keith. I don’t know. It’s a little like how my mom dyed her hair red after my parents divorced.”
She stopped, and watched the river. I didn’t say anything for a little while.
“Does it last? Or do you have to take more juice all the time?”
She gave me a slightly lopsided smile that reminded me of how she used to look.
“If I change myself, and don’t take any more, I stay that way.”
“That’s interesting. I wonder if you’re changing yourself at the level of DNA, or if you’re rearranging yourself, but you’ll slowly change back with time?”
“Can’t tell you. I’m not taking the risk of finding out. I’m making my own juice. I don’t want to get stuck if I don’t have to.”
“What happens if power juice becomes illegal?”
She shrugged. “Maybe I’ll build one of those machines that make powers permanent.”