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I was desperate for cash, and meeting the handsome twins was the answer to my prayers.
I can’t afford tuition. Not even close. With my measly salary, I can’t even afford food.
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I looked at the tuition bill in shock. Forty-six thousand dollars for one measly year of school? I couldn’t believe it. More importantly, I couldn’t afford it.
I know I’m lucky in a way. I attend Trinity University, which is an elite private school in Virginia that has strong academics, an amazing athletic program, and a storied past combining the best of Southern tradition with Northern innovation and learning. We’re not Confederate flag-toting rednecks or anything, but a lot of kids here have famous last names, and in Virginia, a last name still means something.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a prominent last name and forty-six thousand in tuition was pretty much impossible. My mom divorced my dad when I was just a baby and we never saw that loser again. She scrimped and saved to raise me and did a good job, truth be told. Mom’s a pediatric nurse at the local hospital and she always made sure I had an excellent education and lots of extracurriculars. As a child, I never felt like we lacked anything.
Plus, a couple months ago, Mom married Sam Jones, a doctor at the hospital she works at. I guess they’d been co-workers for years, and had finally decided to come clean with the romance.
“Melly, aren’t you happy for me?” she asked.
“I am, Mom, I am,” I reassured her, my smile genuine and unforced. And I was happy for her. Years of working night shifts had prematurely aged my mom, and there were creases and lines around her eyes and mouth that deepened every year. Plus, she labored so hard that I hoped that the marriage would give her a sense of security and happiness, lifting her spirits and letting her enjoy life a little more.
And Dr. Jones (I mean Sam) was nice. He was an older guy, divorced with two kids of his own around my age. I’d only met Zander and Zeke once before, when they were in town visiting. Usually, they lived in California with their mom so our parents organized a special dinner for us to get acquainted before the wedding.
I still remembered it, unfortunately. My mom had forced me to wear a skirt she bought which was way too short. Most moms are trying to make sure their daughters aren’t dressing like whores, but mine’s the opposite. Noreen thinks I need to be more lively, so she’d bought this little pink number which would have been cute had it not ended right below my butt cheeks.
We’d shown up at the restaurant, and I was already self-conscious and trying to pull my skirt down. The wind was drafty and cool between my inner thighs, and I got goosebumps. God, this was awkward. But my feeling of impending disaster deepened when I actually met Zander and Zeke.
They stood up with their dad when we arrived, and looked nothing like their father. Whereas Dr. Jones was average, a nerdy-looking physician, Zander and Zeke were twin gods. They had charcoal black hair, so dark that it absorbed light, plus penetrating blue eyes set in rugged, handsome faces. We’d shaken hands awkwardly, and their eyes had been deceptively neutral although I’d felt their gazes skim my body the moment we approached the table.
“So Zander, Zeke,” said my mom at lunch. “Where are you guys headed after graduation?” Evidently, they were seniors as well at some prep school in LA.
“We’ll probably go to USC or UCLA,” rumbled Zeke, his blue eyes clear and sharp. “We’re really into movie-making and both schools have great film programs.”
“Oh right,” said my mom. “Didn’t George Lucas go to USC?”
“Yep,” rumbled Zander, “as did Ron Howard, Judd Apatow, and a slew of famous directors and producers,” he said.
I’d been too shy to add much to the conversation, but in a small voice, I said, “Peter Rainier went to USC.”
Both of my soon-to-be stepbrothers turned to look at me.
“I’m sorry, who?” said Zander smoothly.
It was hard to concentrate when there were two pairs of intense blue beams focused on me. After all, the twins were so handsome, large and imposing in their suits. But I gulped and continued.
“Peter Rainier’s a movie critic,” I managed in a small voice. “I read his reviews in Rolling Stone all the time, and I think cultural critics really add a lot to film,” I added hesitantly. “I mean, who doesn’t check IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes before buying a movie ticket now?”
I smiled at my brothers as they nodded thoughtfully.
“Yeah, that’s true,” said Zander. “Why, are you thinking about being a movie critic?”
“Oh no,” I blushed furiously. “I’d love to do something related to writing, maybe editing or fact-checking, but I’m too low-key to be the actual star of the show.”
Both my brothers nodded slowly, eyeing me with renewed respect.
“Well if you’re into editing, you might want to check out Cinaeaste or Modern Review,” suggested Zeke. “Both are trade pubs and have a lot of helpful articles about breaking in as an editorial assistant.”