Home > The Ex I'd Love to Hate

The Ex I'd Love to Hate
Author: Nadia Lee


Part 1: The Beginning

 

 

Chapter One

 

Aspen

I have worked too hard to get to where I am, and nothing’s going to derail my plans, especially not some trust-fund boy born with a silver spoon stuck up his butt!

I march to Professor Taylor’s office after Culture and Music in History to discuss the fact that my project partner, Grant Lasker, hasn’t been to class in weeks. Actually, I don’t think he’s come since the first day. I’ve never met him or spoken to him, but he had to have been there. Students who miss the first day are dropped, and Professor Taylor took attendance by passing out a sheet of paper, asking everyone to write down their name. On the other hand, somebody could’ve done it for him. The class has fifty-eight students—who’d know?

We have four days left until the paper is due. I’ve emailed, texted and even tried to call Grant after getting his number from a guy in the class who took pity on me. Grant wasn’t my first choice, but when Professor Taylor asked us to pair up, I was the only one without a partner. And Grant was the only one available, since he was absent. Again. Professor Taylor told me we were to do our paper on the tango and its impact on modern culture, while scrunching his face in distaste like he couldn’t believe he was throwing pearls in front of swine.

With my other professors, I’d assume I was the pearl and Grant the swine. But it’s hard to tell with Taylor. He shows overt annoyance every time I ask a question in class. He seems to believe that I’m challenging his authority with my questions, when all I want is clarification and deeper explanation. This is a 300-level college course, not high-school-level music appreciation, but he treats it like a kindergarten music class.

I check my phone again. Nothing from Grant. Damn him. That lazy jerk has ignored all my attempts to get in touch. He isn’t avoiding me because he thinks I’m one of those girls who drools over him like a starved dog over a bone. I made it crystal clear in my subject lines that I only want to see him about the project we’re doing for class.

He probably doesn’t care if he flunks the course. But I do. I have to maintain a 3.5 GPA or better to continue to receive my scholarships. Unlike him, I wasn’t born with a moneyed mommy and daddy. Actually, I don’t have any parents, rich or otherwise. And I couldn’t bear the thought of asking my grandparents to dip into their retirement savings because I couldn’t keep my grades up. They’ve already done so much.

There’s nobody outside Professor Taylor’s office, which doesn’t surprise me. It’s an easy course to meet the minimum degree requirements, after all. I knock on the plain wooden door and wait.

“Come in.”

I push the door open, resulting in a hair-raising creak. Professor Taylor peers at me over his round, gold-rimmed glasses with disapproval—like it’s my fault the hinges need oil. I clear my throat and shut the door, wincing as it creaks again. But I don’t want anyone overhearing our conversation and creating unnecessary drama.

Professor Taylor sighs, but doesn’t say anything. He’s in his mid-thirties, his hair slicked back with wax. He’s clean-shaven except for a mustache a shade darker than his chestnut hair. I’ve never seen him in anything but a suit and a tie, but they aren’t your standard academia outfit—staid and serious. Today, his jacket and pants are azure, his shirt lemon cream.

He doesn’t bother to offer me a seat, although there are three empty chairs. He merely steeples his long fingers, which remind me of spider legs. As he studies me, his eyes narrow, as though he’s just thought of something unpleasant.

“Alisha, what can I do for you?” he says finally.

“Um…actually, I’m Aspen Hughes.”

Three lines create deep gorges between his eyebrows. “I see. Thank you for that important correction.” His tone says it was anything but. “What is it you need?” His voice is colder now.

Despite the annoyance bristling in every syllable, I remind myself I did nothing wrong by telling him my name. “I need to talk to you about my group assignment.”

“It’s still due in four days,” he says thinly.

“Yes, I know. I need to talk to you about my partner.”

He waves a hand, gesturing for me to go ahead.

“I’m paired with Grant Lasker, but I haven’t seen him in class, and he isn’t responding to my emails or texts. I tried calling, but he’s ignoring me.”

His well-trimmed eyebrows jump an inch up his wide forehead. “And what do you suppose I should do about that?”

I pause for a second, stunned by his reaction. I thought he would at least show some concern over the fact that my partner is ghosting me. Not to mention, is he not bothered that Grant’s been missing his class?

I struggle to figure out what to say for a moment, then finally manage, “I was wondering if you could let me do it by myself.”

Haughty annoyance twists Professor Taylor’s face. “Aspen, it is your job to do this assignment with your partner. You’re in college. You should know better than to run to your professors every time you can’t get what you want. Maybe you should try to track down Grant yourself, and talk to him about the assignment. Being able to work together effectively is a large part of the grade.”

I can’t believe this. “So you want me to chase after Grant all over campus?”

He looks at me. “That would seem to be the inference. Unless you don’t mind getting an F on the assignment.”

Okay, I’m not going to get any help. “I see.”

I turn around to leave. What a jerk. I wish I could drop the course, but it fulfills two of the academic requirements I need to graduate—three credits each from social sciences and historical studies. There aren’t many classes that do both.

This time, I open the door with more force than needed. The hinges shriek in protest. Not caring, I shut the door just as carelessly, and its screech makes the hair on the back of my neck bristle.

It’s my little revenge against Professor Taylor. Asshole. He didn’t have to be so unsympathetic and rude.

As I walk down the hallway, I text Grant again.

 

–Me: This is Aspen from the Culture and Music in History class. We really do need to talk about our assignment. Are you available anytime soon? It’s due in four days!

 

I wait a few heartbeats. Nothing. I check my inbox. Nada there. I’m pretty sure at least one of my emails has reached his inbox. Just in case, I sent him emails using multiple accounts.

Bastard!

 

–Me: If I get an F because of you, I’m going to kick your ass!

 

Texting that little threat feels good, but it’s not going to be effective. There can’t be any ass kicking if I can’t find him!

As much as I hate Professor Taylor’s attitude, I have no choice but to track Grant down. He can’t ignore me if I show up in person and demand that he pull his weight on the project.

Assuming I can find out where he is.

I’m not part of his social circle, which is mainly kids with wealthy parents. The rumor is that even though he parties all night and sleeps all day, professors give him A’s anyway because his parents are important. But I don’t know how much of that is true, since not all the staff are like Professor Taylor. From what I overheard, Grant’s mom is a famous photographer and his dad is some hotshot movie producer in Hollywood. Every girl on campus thinks he’s God’s personal gift to them, and every guy wants to be him.

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