"What are the key factors in effective communication?" Alex asked, reading from his text book.
"Listen, clarification, no assumptions and attitude." I replied with a smile. Our final exam and presentations for Life Studies were coming up and Alex, Petronia, Veronica, Todd and Erik were all sitting on my living room floor to study.
"Yes! Your turn Ginny." Alex said as I pulled Erik's text book closer to me and looked for a question to ask.
"Veronica, approximately how many marriages end in divorce?" I asked.
"That's an easy one Gin! Fifty percent, more or less." she said. I shrugged and she looked at her own book. "Petronia, what is the number one cited reason for divorce today?"
"Money." Petronia said.
"Okay, speaking of money, Erik - what percent of college students graduating with a bachelors degree have student loan debt?" she asked turning to Erik.
Erik looked uncertain - most of us did actually. There were so many little facts and statistics that the text covered over the semester and Ms. Moore hadn't given us much indication on what to expect on the final. "Two-thirds?" Erik asked.
Petronia nodded. "More or less." she said. "60-70% depending on the area. Do you know the average amount of debt?" she asked with a grin.
"About twenty-five to thirty thousand I think." Erik said. "Todd," he said looking over at Todd who seemed completely uninterested in the review. "Todd? What are the important factors in child rearing?"
Todd didn't answer, or even acknowledge that he'd been addressed. Petronia smirked sounding annoyed. I wonder how she'd taken the news of their egg baby demise.
"What's your problem?" Todd asked Petronia, suddenly very aware of us.
"My problem? My problem is you Todd -there is a good chance we're going to fail AND Erik and Gin are going to fail because you smashed our egg babies in the middle of the cafeteria!" Petronia said. Alex looked uncomfortable around the fighting and stood up just as the door bell rang.
"Must be pizza" Veronica said following Alex.
Petronia and Todd were now on their feet and glaring at each other. "We're not going to fail!" Todd said.
"Really? Why not Todd? Plan to replace our baby with a fake fake baby?" Petronia asked looking smug - surely he wouldn't do that.
Todd got quiet and we all knew what he'd planned to do when a touch of pink touched his cheeks.
"Gah Todd! You can't!" Petronia shouted.
"Do you have a better idea?" Todd asked just as loudly. Erik and I just looked at each other helplessly. We'd already accepted the fact that we might fail this part of the project and hoped between the final and the end presentation, we'd squeak by in the class.
Alex returned carrying pizza and Todd and Petronia shut up long enough to move to the table to eat. The six of us ate in silence for the most part. As I was cleaning up the plates, I leaned over to Erik and whispered, "Maybe a little music will help sooth the savage souls." I said. He nodded and turned on the stereo, suggesting the group dance to work out their energy before we got back to studying.
After about twenty minutes of dancing, we all collapsed on the floor where we'd started and began quizzing each other from the text book and our notes. Erik stayed after the others had left to fine tune our final papers and presentation. We'd opted to incorporate the egg baby death into it as something that brought us closer together as a fake married couple and hoped that it would at least give us a few points.
The next day, the presentations were mercifully quick. Ms. Moore didn't let any couple go longer than five minutes but most were done in three. After each presentation she'd ask a few clarification points and then call up the next couple.
Todd and Petronia walked to the front of the classroom as the last couple to present. Todd was holding onto their egg baby tenderly, as if he'd never let harm come to it, and I exchanged a glance with Erik. He shrugged and shook his head. Surely news of the breakage had reached Ms. Moore - it had been pretty public. Ms. Moore let them go through their presentation but even I could detect that they seemed to be presenting a facade. Petronia couldn't hide the scowl from her face as Todd talked about caring for their egg baby.
"So you had no problems with fatherhood?" Ms. Moore asked as they finished.
"No ma'am" Todd said with a small smile. I knew he was lying but I wasn't sure if it was because I knew Todd or he was betraying himself.
"And that is the same egg you were assigned last week?" Ms. Moore asked.
Todd nodded. Ms. Moore turned to Petronia and looked at her questioningly, clearly asking her the same question she'd asked Todd. Petronia looked momentarily panicked. It was obvious she hadn't ever really agreed to Todd's plan and yet here she was standing up there with the fake egg baby. She looked over at Todd and then back at Ms. Moore. "No ma'am it's not." she said finally.
"I know." Ms. Moore said simply and waved them back to their seats. Todd was sending daggers at Petronia as he sat down and Ms. Moore stepped up to the front of the classroom. "Your final will consist of a single essay question. Please take out several sheets of paper and a pen." she said. She waited for the rustle of bags and paper to stop before continuing. "Everyday of your life, you will encounter and interact with people. People you like, people you don't like, people you know well and perfect strangers. You will have conflicts with your friends, your parents, your boyfriends and some day your children - conflicts you will have to work through. Using everything you've learned this semester, both from your text and from your experiences with the projects - tell me how you can and will apply the lessons to your everyday relationships. Use examples of conflicts and resolutions, how they apply to different people and different situations. You have until the end of class." Several people groaned but the pens started scrapping across the paper immediately.
When the bell rang, I scribbled the last few lines of my essay in quickly but I was still one of the last ones to hand my papers to Ms. Moore. "Genevieve." she said as I was turning to leave the classroom.
"Yes?" I said turning back to her.
"In spite of the losing your egg baby, in spite of the rocky beginning you and Erik had with this project - if your recent papers and your presentation today are any indication of this," she said indicating my final essay, "I think you and Erik can rest easy that you'll pass. You two made wonderful progress in learning the lessons." she gave me a rare smile and I smiled back at her, stammering my thanks as I left.
I practically skipped to my locker and skidded into Erik, who was there waiting for me. "You won't believe it!" I shouted and then lowered my voice. "Ms. Moore said we will probably pass! She thinks we did well!" I said excitedly.
Erik grinned. "We did do well." he said giving me a hug. I squeezed him back and couldn't contain my excitement. I'd been so nervous about failing the project and the class as a whole.
"Can you believe it?" I asked with a contented sigh.
"No. Well yes I can, I had no doubts in you." Erik said. There was a pleasant silence between us as we both seem to be savoring the moment of victory. "Gin...."
"Yeah?" I asked.
"Remember when I asked you last year - before....well before" he said leaving the before what part hanging, "to go back to Virginia with me for my mom's wedding?" he concluded.
I thought hard and remember it from before our break up.
"You said yes then, assuming your dad would let you of course. Is it still a yes?" he asked with half a grin.
"Oh....um, I guess. I mean I still have to ask my dad. When is it?" I asked wondering if my dad would even agree.
"Over the winter break." he said sheepishly.
"Like in the next couple weeks?" I asked startled. He just nodded and I sighed. "Well I'll ask but I don't know Erik....it's a little close for a transcontinental trip."
"I know..." Erik said. "Thanks Gin, for even asking." he added, giving me another hug.
"Come on, let's go to my house and ask my dad now -the sooner the better." I said grabbing him by the hand and dragging him quickly through the halls.
When we got to my house, my dad's car was in the garage so I knew he was already home. I suspected he was working in his office so I knocked on the door lightly and peeked in. "Dad?" I asked.
"Hey kiddo." he said smiling as I walked in. His smile only wavered a touch when he saw Erik on my heels. He had become accustom to Erik but he still liked our time to be just dad/daughter time. "What's up?"
"Well, Erik's mom is getting married in a couple weeks..." I started. "And Erik's going back over the break for the wedding of course..."
"Congratulations." my dad said to Erik, Erik nodded in acknowledgment.
"Can I go to the wedding with him?" I asked quickly.
"Sure of course, have a good time." my dad replied readily and then paused and looked at me. "Wait, you said he's going back....to Virginia? The wedding is in Virginia..."
"Yes..." I said looking a little embarrassed. "Please?"
"I don't know kiddo - two weeks isn't really much time. Why didn't you ask sooner?" he said
"That would be my fault." Erik chimed in. "I asked Gin last spring but then....anyway, I didn't even mention it again until today." he said leaving out all the whys my dad was aware of - the break up, the not talking, etc and so on.
"I'll think about it - and let you know in a couple days." he said shaking his head with a small laugh.
"Thanks Daddy!" I said feeling hopeful that he'd agree. I gave him a tight hug in his desk chair before Erik and I left him to his work.