How I got quarantined with Nadja Friess was one-part luck, one part circumstance, all parts awkward.
Her parents were out of the country. My parents were out of my life. So that left the two of us, in the hills of Vermont, with a bishop, a handful of nuns, and two sleepy security guards.
If the grass is always greener, so be it. I’d take this beige lawn of winter any day.
By the time St. Patricks’ Day rolled around, Nadja was going a little mad. It had been something like thirty three hours since our classmates had fled, including Chaz in his father’s Audi, looking a little like a puppy having to leave his crush behind.
Now, Nadja’s hair was up in a lazy bun, and she wore glasses instead of her usual contacts. It was like the nerd become the hot girl in reverse, and don’t get me wrong, I was digging it. It was going to take a lot more than a scowl and a pair of glasses to make Nadja less noticeable.
She plopped down on my roommate’s bed, looked at me with something akin to a smirk on her lips. “Want to have some fun?”
When a girl like Nadja Friess aims her green eyes at you, sitting on a bed no less, and asks if you’d like to have some fun, the correct answer, if you’re me at least, is emphatically: “huhghg?”
She fished in her backpack, came out with a bottle of Absinthe. The sun catching a flash of liquid inside the green tint of the bottle.
“Where did you get that?”
Nadja shrugged. “Who cares? What, do you have big plans tonight?” She nudged a dirty sock with her shoe. My face flushed bright. She laughed, then proceeded to pull two St. Joseph’s cups from the bag. She even had ice.
We took a drink. Well, she took a drink I nearly choked. But I got the hang of it, and soon we were both sort of sipping along, playing stupid games and would you rather? She moved to my bed, a space apart, but never in my wildest of dreams did I imagine Nadja Friess in my room, on my bed, playing drinking games, no less.
I made a joke and she cocked her head back when she laughed. When I really got her laughing, with my impression of Sister Roebuck, she’d snort, covering her mouth. It was a Nadja I’d never seen before.
By the time she poured out the third drink apiece, I’d forgotten about any such quarantine or pandemic. We were the only people on earth and that was just fine by me.
Her bun had slipped down to the left towards her ear. Her eyes heavy as she leaned in, her glasses slightly askew. Between soft breaths she asked, “So, you think we can get out of here?”
In a blink she was on her feet, remarkably sober. I went to stand but it didn’t happen. She peeked out of my third-floor window. “I think Dopey and Dumpy have gone to sleep, come on.”
With that, I was shuffling down the auxiliary stairs. The amber lights bending and curving at the edges, as Nadja hushed me until we go to the door, propped open with a brick.
We scattered to the wood line, where we hid in the brush, just out of sight from the tiny paved drive that weaved its way around the campus. After we passed the guard station, Nadja directed me to the arching holly bushes, and then disappeared.
She reappeared as quietly as she’d vanished. Glasses gone, hair down and swept to the side. She handed me her book bag. “Okay, thanks for everything. Just go back the way we came, okay?”
I only stared at her. She smiled, laughed, then kissed me on the cheek. “Thanks Neal.”
And then she darted off, headed for an Audi idling in the shadows. Its lights turned off.
When she was gone I fell onto a bench, feeling the chill of the night and wondering what happened.
At least she’d left me the bottle.