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The One Where They All Fall in Love

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Betsy entered the last creative writing class before Thanksgiving on a mission. It was her senior year of college and this was the year she would finally convince Joe Willard to come to Friendsgiving (and maybe more). The tradition had started freshmen year. Tacy couldn't afford to go home for the long holiday weekend, so Betsy and Tib had stayed with her and Tib had convinced the dorm oven to cook a turkey.

"Hi Joe," she said, as she slid into the seat next to him.

"Afternoon." He had his beat up computer open to a word document, prepared as always, even though she doubted Dr. Fowler would have much to teach them today. It was their second class with her and she worked them hard, but had enough sense to know that their brains were already turned off the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

"Joe . . . "

And he looked at her a little warily. She'd screwed this up freshmen year and sophomore year and was too proud to try last year, but she knew he didn't have anywhere to go.

"Wouldn't you please come to our apartment tomorrow?" she asked.

"I'm busy." He'd said that a billion times to her and she'd finally figured out it was his default answer to just about any invitation. She knew he worked long hours in the college writing center for his work study job, but she also knew he didn't have to work all weekend.

"Please, Joe," she said. "It's our senior year. It's our last chance."

Their last chance for a lot of things, but she wasn't going to push that right now.

"Come on," she said. "Tib invited her TA and you can't leave us alone with a stranger."

"If he's her TA, he's not a stranger."

"Then come for his sake! Don't leave him alone with a bunch of women."

Joe laughed. "Being left alone with three of you is pretty scary."

Betsy grinned. "If you don't come, I'll only say nice things about your stories for the rest of the quarter."

She knew he would hate that. She valued his critiques and insights into her work and she did her best to return the favor. Even though Joe was majoring in computer science, she knew he loved writing as much as she did.

"Well, we can't have that," Joe said.

"So you'll come?"

He looked at her for a long moment. And she felt all of the last three years between them. She knew they could have something special and she was almost sure he knew it, too.

"Please."

He nodded.

-

Joe showed up right at 1 PM and handed Betsy a bottle of wine.

"You didn't have to bring anything!" she exclaimed, and he shrugged.

"Can I help?" Joe asked, as he took off his coat.

"No!" Betsy and Tacy exclaimed at once.

Joe looked startled, so Betsy rushed to explain. "Tib doesn't let anyone in the kitchen on Thanksgiving!"

"Or pretty much ever," Tacy said.

Joe grinned. "I can cook, you know."

"Good!" Tib said, darting into the room. "Joe, you're in charge of keeping an eye on the food. I have to go pick up some rolls because someone forgot them."

"I was busy!" Betsy said. She'd been daydreaming at the store and forgot to look at the shopping list Tib had put on her phone.

"I can go," Joe volunteered, but Tib was already putting on her coat.

"Be nice to Harry, Tacy!" Tib called out, as she shut the door behind her.

Joe looked over at a blushing Tacy. "Who's Harry?"

"The TA. Tacy said she wasn't scared of teachers, so now she's in charge of him."

And when Harry came a few minutes later, Tacy somehow did end up being the one to answer the door. Betsy had met Harry a time or two--her 10AM class was near the one Tib took with Harry--but Tacy never had.

"I hope I have the right place," Harry said. He was a handsome man, about 25, with lively blue eyes, and he was looking at Tacy and she was looking back.

And Tacy said, "I hope you do, too." And then blushed.

Betsy jumped in then to make introductions and then wandered to the kitchen where Joe was indeed keeping an eye on the food. "You don't have to do this."

"No?" Joe said. "I don't want to be blamed for it if something burns."

Betsy looked at the stovetop full of pots and pans. "I should probably learn how to cook."

Joe looked at her for a moment and then handed her a wooden spoon. "No time like the present. You can be in charge of stirring the potatoes."

"You give hard tasks, Joe Willard."

And then she realized that stirring the potatoes mean she had to stand right next to him in front of the stove. And maybe her arm brushed against his more than it needed to, but Joe kept sneaking her glances, so she didn't stop.

"Last chance, huh?" he said.

She stopped stirring to look up at him. "Remember when we met?"

"Of course."

Freshmen orientation. He had been sitting in the back of the room with an apple and a stack of books and she couldn't resist sitting next to him and looking at the titles. He'd caught her and she thought maybe she'd have that perfect love story, meeting the first week of college, but he was always so busy. She never saw him at any parties or anywhere, really, except class and the dining halls.

"I liked you from the very beginning."

"I don't know where I'll be next year, Betsy."

"We have months before we have to think about that. And . . . you came."

"Yeah," Joe said.

"So?" Betsy asked.

And he drew her near him and kissed her.

It was a while before Betsy remembered to check on Tacy and Harry. They were sitting close together on the couch, deep in conversation, and didn't even look up at her. So Betsy went back to the kitchen and Joe. And then Tib came home with the rolls and a cute boy named Jack which, really, was just like her