Excerpt: Audible

People don’t generally get excited about moving to New Jersey, but then again, Marcus Williams is coming from Boston, so that might explain why he’s adjusting so well.

There’s a lot of reasons why Marcus prefers New Jersey to Boston. Better pizza is the top reason, obviously. The accents are less grating, comparatively. There’s a lot more diversity and a little less racism. There are four queer bars in his new university’s downtown, compared to the zero at his old school. Marcus has not heard one person use the word “wicked” since he moved.

And he’s not here.

As Marcus exits the science building, struggling to fasten his messenger bag and scroll through his Spotify at the same time, he notices another of his favorite things. Blair Bennett is leaning against the building, waving at him. Her red hair is buzzed short on the right side, and falls in messy waves over her left shoulder. Marcus smiles as he takes off his headphones and makes his way over to her.

Blair’s been a godsend since he transferred, always ready to lend a hand, letting him know about the best place to get falafel at four in the morning, or where the replacement drumsticks are kept in the music room, or emailing him the marching band practice schedule for the sixth time when he can’t find it in his archives.

Blair answers all of his questions, but asks very few in return, which suits Marcus just fine. He doesn’t want to talk about Boston. Everything that happened there is over and done with. There’s nothing left to discuss.

Blair pulls him into a brief hug. “Hey, glad I caught you. You’re done with classes until lab tonight, right? Want to grab some ice cream? We can eat it over by the park and watch people hit each other in the head with Frisbees.”

“Sounds good.” Marcus adjusts his bag over his shoulder and starts walking alongside Blair, who is complaining about some changes that the band director is looking to make to their formations.

“And I’ve told him a million times, we are a marching band, not a synchronized swimming group, and concentric circles are gonna look ridiculous on the field.” She sighs, tucking a few of the unruliest locks of hair behind her ear. “Anyway, that’s enough whining for now. What about you? How are your classes so far?”

Marcus shrugs in what he hopes passes as a careless manner. “They’re alright. The psych stuff lines up pretty well with what I was studying before, so at least my major-specific classes should be fine. I’ve got a bunch of core classes to make up, though. Transfer student problems, I guess. Chem’s gonna be a bitch, but I’ll be fine.”

Blair rolls her eyes. “Yeah, no you won’t be. My boyfriend’s a chem major, and I’ve met most of the faculty. They’re a bunch of flakey asshats, especially the TAs who teach the intro classes. You’re going to need help.”

Marcus shakes his head, but before he can protest, Blair grabs his hand and starts dragging him across the quad. “Ice cream can wait. Come on, I’ll introduce you to Ajay, my boyfriend. He and his loser best friend are chem nerds. He’ll tutor you, make sure you know what the TA is looking for.”

Maybe Blair’s positivity is infectious, or maybe Marcus is still high from lack of sleep after his first fitful night in his shitty apartment, but whatever the reason, he finds that he doesn’t mind being pulled along through campus. He’s surprised, however, when he realizes where they’re headed.

Marcus tugs at Blair’s hand, trying to get her to slow down. “Um, why are we going towards the football stadium? Is that where all the chem nerds hang out?”

“You know it,” Blair laughs. “Ajay and Seb are both on the team. They’re a couple of assholes, but they’re also some of the sweetest people I know.”

Marcus nods, furrowing his brow as he realizes who Blair is talking about. He’s not much of a sports fan, but everyone on campus knows Ajay Kumar and Sebastian Lockwood, the quarterback and wide receiver who are being hailed as the keys to assured victory in the upcoming season. Marcus has seen girls walking around in football jerseys with KUMAR and LOCKWOOD scrawled across the shoulders, and Sebastian (or Bash, as the campus gossip sites refer to him) is widely considered to be one of the hottest players in the Big Ten conference.

He looks over at Blair questioningly. “So, the band geek dating the quarterback. How very romcom of you guys. You been together long?”

Blair rolls her eyes, smiling. “Yeah, yeah, I know, cliché, but you can’t argue with what works, I guess. We got together at the end of freshman year after, um…some clashing.”

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