Knuckles rap on our table, and I swing my head back to see Fletch Chapman standing over us, a whiff of some spicy fragrance hitting my nose. "I've gotta jet," he says more to his BlackBerry than to Kara. "Everything under control?"
"I think so." Kara nods nervously.
"No 'think.' You want an office on the nineteenth floor? You want us to produce your doc? It's riding on this, babe." He squeezes her shoulder and, with a tongue click and gun fingers at me, he hops off the stage.
"No worries, Fletch!" she calls after him. "It's covered!" She takes a second before she turns back to me.
"Wow. He seems intense." I smile.
"What? Oh. Yes, well, he's just compensating—" She halts, her mouth dropping open. "I did not say compensating. I just meant that he's a crazy prodigy—finished college at eighteen, MBA by twenty—running the network at twenty-four. He's put all his energy here, into this, so ... I'm really lucky to be working for him. You know, you have a great profile."
"Thanks." I glance down at the stats she's compiled on her pad. "No, your nose. The side view. Very telegenic."
"Can you tell that to Georgetown?" I ask, trying to absorb this new piece of information about myself. She laughs in a way that suggests she didn't expect to be laughing today. Over her shoulder, I watch as Nico swipes up her interviewer's pen and twirls it gracefully between her long fingers. "Sorry, are we done?" I say, because sitting here, expected to talk myself up not six feet from that, feels like a useless exercise.
"Sure. Thanks for sharing, and here's a baseball cap for your time."
I take it, imagining a hundred-plus of them flying in the air at graduation.
We don't hear the first oak tree fall in the adjacent field until lunch. Word ripples fast over the flattened manicotti in the steamy cafeteria. "Somebody has donated an Olympic-sized pool to Hampton High," Caitlyn says as she whips upright on our bench from the reconnaissance that extended her to the similarly stretched Jennifer Lanford at the next table.
"Hm," I say, taking this in as I twist off the cap on my Snapple with a dull pop. "Wonder if that somebody's going to tile a mosaic X on the bottom."
"Or hand out our diplomas in his Prada sneakers."