CW: Strong language
“Winter Blue Baker?” Professor Riley calls out from the front of a classroom lined by black tables and cold, plastic chairs.
There’s a whistle from the back of the class. Everyone turns, and the perpetrator grins wolfishly. “Crazy name,” he says.
A girl from the front of the room, ignoring the outburst, raises her hand and says, “Here.”
The students that border her gape for a moment, then the nuances of her name wear off as the professor continues roll call. Winter is used to this response after years of being surrounded by Alexandra’s and Sarah’s. She’d graduated into a more diverse community at college and was thankful for it.
“Next, I’d like for you to introduce yourselves to the class by telling us your name, your area of study, some likes and dislikes,” says the professor.
She smiles wanly, as if this were her least favorite activity, but nevertheless points at a girl in the front. They all go around telling one another superfluous information about themselves that will surely be forgotten immediately. Everyone adopts the same even, matter-of-fact tone as if they were interviewing for jobs.
When it’s Winter’s turn, she smiles and makes sure to speak with a bright inflection, “My name is Winter. I’m a sophomore. My area of study is English. I really enjoy writing and photography. I dislike winter and the cold.”
A few students chuckle at the end of her statement, understanding the irony. She happily waits for the next person to talk. This continues until the final student is left. It’s the boy who’d made a comment about her name.
“My name is Amir. My major is Education. I plan to become a high school history teacher. I like girls…” he pauses for dramatic effect and is lucky enough to receive a collective giggle “...and I dislike homework.”
Again, the same response is given from the majority of the students. Winter feels her face grow tight at the immature jokes, but doesn’t voice her distaste. Professor Riley seems to share the same sentiments, the older woman stands looking unamused by the display.
The class continues on with Professor Riley covering the syllabus. They’re expected to have a working film camera in their possession by next week. They can purchase film and photo paper at the college bookstore. She goes over the usual no more than two absences. Then she gives them an overview of the focus for each week, ranging from still life to portraiture.
Amir checks his phone to see that thirty-something minutes of their fifty-minute long class have gone by. He loves first day classes, they’re always the easiest because barely anyone has the material yet. Or, well, he doesn’t have the materials yet. Either way, professors tend to cover the expectations of students and the class directives. Smooth sailing.
“Does anyone know how the photographic paper works?” The professor asks, gauging the class’s general knowledge.
Winter immediately raises her hand. The professor points toward her. She answers, “it’s light-sensitive?”
Amir rolls his eyes at the back of Winter’s head. Then raises his hand and waits for the professor to call on him. The older woman raises a brow and points in his direction.
“I thought it was photosynthesis!”
A few people crack smiles, and even the professor looks slightly amused. From the front of the room, Winter can’t help a mild look of annoyance from passing across her features. It’s the same boy as before. He seems like an idiot, the class clown type. He’ll probably barely pass the class, she thinks.
“Very funny, Mr. Smith,” Professor Riley says, then continues with her line of questioning.
Amir is unsurprised to see Winter, sitting prim and proper, raise her hand for almost every question. She seems like the type to have purchased and read the entire book before the first-day of class. Amir wouldn’t be surprised if she had no sense of humor either. She’s probably stuck up, he thinks.
It’s pitch black.
Winter sets down her plastic canister with its special light-blocking lid to the side. She’s in one of the closets the department calls a processing room. Here is where the film can safely be extracted from its original container and transferred over to the one that will be used for processing. Before her is the canister, with the reel inside that she will have to blindly feed the film into. Beside that is a pair of scissors to cut the film off of its original reel. In her left hand is the original film, pulled from the camera after winding it safely back into the receptacle.
She reaches for the scissors but a sudden flood of light pushes her hand too far and the metal clatters to the ground.
“Shut the door!” She yells.
The door is slammed shut. Winter immediately notices that whoever it was that opened the door is still in the room with her. They crowd in behind her, the small space leaving very little room.
Taking a calming breath, Winter says, “You could have ruined my film.”
“Whoops,” replies a familiar male voice.
It’s been five weeks since the semester began. Despite Winter’s best efforts to ignore one Amir Smith, he always seems to have a quip ready to say in class. She never finds him funny, just immature. So, of course, it would be Amir who nearly ruined her assignment for this week. She rolls her eyes, then remembers the fallen scissors.
“Help me out, I dropped the scissors.”
Amir snorts, “Are you trying to trick me?”
“And do what? Kill you?”
“Oh my god,” Amir shuffles from behind her, making more room, “You’re still salty about the name thing aren’t you?”
“What? Just get the scissors.”
There’s some bumbling on his part and at one point Winter feels hands on her shoes, then a small aha, before Amir straightens and says, “This what you’re looking for?”
“I can’t see.”
“That’s the joke.”
“You’re not funny,” she pats the shelf, “put them here.”
“You’re right. I’m not. I’m socially awkward. Thanks for reminding me.”
He half hugs her from behind, searching for the shelf with his long arms. He deposits the scissors and leans back once more.
Winter carefully feels for them, “You seem to be doing fine now.”
“Actually, my butt crack is sweating. I’m so nervous being in here right now.”
The metal feels cool to the touch, “That’s…not something I ever needed to know. Why are you still here?”
She can imagine his nonchalant shrug in the moment of silence before he says, “You said I nearly ruined your film. Can’t leave now.”
It takes an immense amount of concentration to not roll her eyes. Instead, she carefully uses the scissors to help rip the film container open. Amir has gone silent and Winter feels the air between them as if it were a physical presence.
“Well, at least make small talk.”
He chuckles, a rather high-pitched sound, “Nervous, remember?”
“Right. Okay, Amir, how’s your assignment coming along?”
“Well, I came here to put my film in this here canister,” he shakes it lightly, “but you beat me to prime real estate.”
With the film exposed now, she carefully pulls it free. It dangles down toward the floor and continues to grow until at last, she reaches the end. She hums in response to Amir, then picks the scissors back up and carefully snips the film away from the container.
“Who did you choose for portraits?” She asks.
“Oh,” she picks up the reel from the open canister beside her, “a mama's boy?”
“You don’t seem the type, to be honest. You kind of have a bad boy persona going.”
“Is this about the name thing?” Amir says while laughing.
Amir laughs so hard, she can feel his body shake from behind. He says, “I was just surprised. Not every day you meet someone named after a season.”
Winter carefully feeds the film into the plastic reel. She’s still new to the process and takes it slow, as to not bend the film and ruin her pictures. After another moment of concentration, she pauses, “No, I suppose not.”
“Actually, you’re pretty cool.”
“Well, yeah. I thought you were stuck up after the first class.”
She snorts, “and I thought you were an idiot.”
She smiles despite herself. For a moment she thinks of answering kindly, telling him that he’s pretty nice. Then she remembers that she’s stuck in the processing room with him. And not by her own volition. “Oh, I still think you’re an idiot. Now you’re just a different caliber of idiot. You’re harmless.”
“Harmless? I could attack you with the scissors right now. I know where they are!”
“Too late, I already know about your swamp ass.”
“All the more reason!”
She pauses. She’s nearing the end of the film and can feel the few inches left. She decides to relent and be honest.
“Actually,” she starts, “you’re different from what I thought as well.”
Hooking the end of the film in place, she places the reel back in the canister. Then she locates the lid and carefully spins it into place. Finished.
“I just thought you were a bit of an imbecile, but now I think you’re kind of funny.”
She turns around. Amir must sense her movement because he straightens up and the distance between them grows until he no longer brushes against her.
“I’m way more than kind of funny,” he says.
“Accept the compliment.”
Winter reaches for the door, nearly stumbling over his feet. Then she finds the handle and twists. Light floods the doorway and leaves them both nearly blinded. When the array of vibrant colors fades from her eyes, Winter sees Amir smiling in her direction.
He tips his head down, “Accepted.”