His: Monday

Rufus got up early, refreshed from a night of solid sleep and ready to head to the computer lab. There were no texts from Penn, who was probably sleeping off the fun from Sunday evening. 

The campus was deserted. No trouble finding a parking space, no trouble starting work. He intended to spend the day in the computer lab, evaluating various statistical analysis software and comparing it to what the university already had. Hopefully, he would find something that would work well for a variety of different fields, like one program would work for business and academia. The university wanted to save money so a one-size-fits-all system would be idea. Rufus had his doubts. 

He spent the morning evaluating various programs, but finding a system that would work well for a variety of disciplines seemed daunting. A program that was optimal for business might be inadequate for scientific research. He was frustrated and had a headache. He checked his phone. He read and answered Ellowyne’s texts but there were no messages from Penn. So Rufus called him. 

“Dude!! What do you want to do today?” 

Penn sounded groggy. “Huh? Rufus?”

“Let’s do something today. Something that will get the blood rushing! Something that we can tell our grandchildren about,” Rufus exclaimed.

“Okay,” Penn replied. “I’ll make a couple of phone calls and see what we can do. Now you’re up for anything, right?”

Fear grasped Rufus’ heart as he realized he just agreed to whatever Penn might suggest. Penn had a penchant for talking him into activities any sane man would avoid. But he promised. And if he managed to get himself mangled or killed, he wouldn’t have to think about the computer project.

About an hour later, Penn texted Rufus. “I’ll be at your place in 15 minutes. Wear old clothes, maybe some cargo pants so you don’t lose your wallet or phone.” 

Rufus swore he heard someone whisper, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

Sure enough, Penn showed up on time, dressed in old clothes and heavy boots. Rufus donned his old Doc Martens and asked Penn what they were going to do.

Penn excitedly replied, “We’re going bungee jumping!”

Hers: Sunday

Lizette stretched her arms and legs and yawned. She got out of her beach chair and relished the sensation of warm, white sand squishing between her brown toes. She talked with Amber and Prudence, who were sunning themselves. She also visited with Ellowyne, who was slathered with sunscreen and lounging under an umbrella. Lizette leisurely sipped her Bahama Mama while she and Ellowyne, who was savoring a rum punch, talked. 

“I could get used to this,” Lizette stated. “Beautiful weather, gorgeous scenery,  handsome guys, and amazing food and drinks!”

“I feel so relaxed,” Ellowyne shared. “It’s like there is no stress, no pressure. No ennui!”

“No ennui? Maybe you should move here!” exclaimed Lizette. “Then we can all visit you!”

Ellowyne laughed. “You’d have to visit me in a shack, because that’s all the real estate I could afford.”

“It was very generous for Amber’s family to pay for our vacation. We would have to save for months, maybe more than a year, to afford something like this,” Lizette stated. 

Ellowyne replied, “We need to do something to thank the Stanhopes for this. We should talk to Pru for some ideas.”

Lizette nodded in agreement. Then she heard her stomach rumble. “I could use some lunch. Want to go?”

“Oh, yes. I want shrimp tacos. And maybe some fruit, too. Let’s ask Amber and Pru if they want something to eat.”

Amber summoned one of the waiters at the resort to get some lunch for her and her friends. As they happily munched shrimp and fish tacos, ceviche, and seared scallops, Amber asked them what they wanted to do for the rest of the day. Pru found out that there were volleyball games on the beach, so she decided to join  a team. Lizette, who wasn’t as athletic as Prudence, opted to play volleyball, too, and went with her in search of a team. Amber and Ellowyne agreed to bask on the beach, Amber in the sun to work on a tan, and Ellowyne in the shade to avoid getting one. Ellowyne’s mother loved the sun and slathered all sorts of oil on her skin before taking sunbaths. When indoor tanning became popular, she bought a unit so she could be bronzed all year long. When she died from malignant melanoma, her tanning bed was thrown out, and Ellowyne began using sunscreen religiously. Her friends were aware of that, but being young and seemingly invulnerable, they didn’t always heed her advice. The only one who listened was Rufus, who was busy indoors with computers, robots, LEGOs, and handyman work. He asked her once why she eschewed the sun and he thought her answers were sad but understandable, and he frequently joined her in indoor pursuits, ostensibly to preserve his “nerd pallor”.

Ellowyne wondered what he was doing. It was around noon in San Francisco and, after nineteen hours, twenty hours at the theater, he was probably sleeping. She took some pictures at the beach to send to him and gathered some shells to give him. She planned to write a long, loving poem to text to him, but she needed to tell Amber to roll over, lest she got sunburned. Amber was snoozing so peacefully that Ellowyne decided to take a nap, too. 

After the volleyball nets were done, Prudence and Lizette joined Ellowyne and Amber. They were jubilant because their team won all of their games. 

“We won,” Lizette squealed. “Every game! And it was all due to Prudence!”

Prudence wasn’t a vain person, and compliments often embarrassed her. But when it came to athletic prowess, Pru soaked up every accolade. “It was a team effort,” she declared. “Aw, heck, the best thing they did was to take Liz and me in!” 

“You should have seen Pru. She spiked, served, set, and bumped effortlessly. She made more points than anyone else,” Lizette added.

“You scored several times,” Pru reminded her.

“But only because you bumped and set the ball. Most of the time, you set me up to score. You’re an amazing player!”

“And hungry!” Prudence exclaimed. “Let’s eat!”

The women freshened up then went to the restaurant to feast on rock lobster, conch salad, Bahamian jerk chicken, and Bahamian lamb curry. For dessert, they enjoyed guava duff, a sweet, steamed pudding that called for fresh guava, cooked until soft and rolled with dough into a spiral. The delicious treat was slathered in a rum-butter sauce. 

After they ate, they went to the nightclub associated with their hotel. The music was loud, and the club was crowded. Ellowyne would have preferred to stay in the hotel and read, but the other girls wanted to party. She sat at a table in the corner, and watched her friends danced. Men quickly gravitated toward Amber and she was rarely without a dance partner that evening. Lizette, who was usually so shy, was flirting with various men, and also danced for most of the night. Even Prudence, who claimed she wasn’t interested in romance, was approached by a number of men and rarely sat out a dance. Men flirted with Ellowyne, too, but she rebuffed their overtures. She really loved Rufus and didn’t see the point of dancing with anyone else. 

The club closed down around 3:00 or 4:00 AM. Ellowyne had gone back to the hotel room around midnight in order to get a good night’s sleep. She wasn’t sure when Amber, Pru, or Lizette got back but she was sure they might regret having that much fun in the morning. 

His: Sunday

After a mighty struggle with the sugar and caffeine in his system, Rufus fell asleep at last. His dreams were strange; Ellowyne, battle robots, and black Labrador puppies danced around his subconscious. Nevertheless, he slept well and felt refreshed when he awakened around 5:00 PM. He showered, skipped shaving, and turned on his phone. There were a couple of texts from Ellowyne, along with pictures on the beach. He answered her texts right away. And there were a dozen texts from Penn, most of them asking what he wanted to do that day. Rufus figured he wouldn’t have time to get to the computer lab—and he was hungry—so he hoped Penn might want to do something. 

“Dude! Where have you been?” Penn asked. “I’ve sent you text after text…”

“I know,” Rufus answered. “I needed my beauty sleep. So do you have plans for the rest of today?”

“Welp,” Penn commented glumly. “I got tired of waiting for you so I worked on my paper.”

“Good for you! Sounds like you could use a night off. What do you want to do?” 

“Hmm. You know there’s a new Tex-Mex restaurant, Sombrero Cowboy. I hear they make a mean Margarita and the best chimichangas around,” Penn suggested.

Rufus nodded his head. “Okay, I’m going to get a rideshare, probably a Lyft. The driver will pick me up in ten minutes and I’ll call before we get to your place.”

There was a 45-minute wait at Sombrero Cowboy, so the guys sat at the bar and ordered Margaritas, which were every bit as flavorful as Penn had heard. Rufus was so glad he ordered a rideshare.

The restaurant was so busy that service, while excellent, was slow. The men didn’t mind because they could have more Margaritas. Fortunately, the food was well worth the wait. From nachos to chimichangas to rice and beans to decadent deep-fried ice cream, everything they ate was delicious. 

As they were walking out of the dining area, Penn saw a mechanical bull in the bar. Rufus cocked an eyebrow and said, “If you think we should do this after eating and drinking so much, I’m not going to clean up after you!” The guys got into their rideshare and then were taken home. Rufus warned, “Tomorrow, we need to get serious. I have to get into the computer lab and you have got to work on your paper. I don’t want to have this project hanging over my head when Ellowyne comes home. And you want to get done before you see Amber again.”

Penn looked at his best friend, and his jaw nearly hit the floor. How did Rufus know?

Spring Break: His


Rufus was blissfully asleep. He had a great time at the Stanhope’s barbecue and kissing Ellowyne goodbye. He was going to miss her but he was glad she got the chance to go somewhere exotic for spring break. He had fun afterwards with Penn at Tequila Mockingbird, everyone’s favorite Mexican restaurant. He got in around 2:00 AM and hoped to sleep at least until noon and head out to the computer lab that afternoon. A statistics major, he relished the task of evaluating the new software. However, it was time-consuming and he was getting by on no more than six hours of sleep each night since the project began. Hopefully he would finish during spring break and his schedule would revert to normal. And although he didn’t want to admit it, he looked forward to spending time in the computer lab without any distractions, especially one as alluring as Ellowyne. 

Suddenly, he was jolted awake when his phone rang. He had a special ringtone assigned to Penn: Batman’s Joker maniacally laughing. He ignored the phone twice, but by the third call, he knew Penn wouldn’t stop calling. When Rufus finally answered, Penn said,  “Dude! It’s 9:00! In the morning! We can’t spend spring break sleeping!”

“What do you want to do?” Rufus asked while stifling a yawn. Actually, sleeping through spring break sounded like a great idea! However, he didn’t want Penn to think he was an indolent weenie, so he planned to go along with whatever he suggested. Within reason.

“Get this! Batman movie marathon! Every Batman from Michael Keaton to Robert Pattinson,” Penn gushed. “It’s at the Cineplex 16, the one with the heated massage seats and food you can eat at the movie. Real food, like burgers and pizza! Beer, too! It starts at 10:00. I’ll pick you up in 15 minutes.”

“Uh, that’s seven movies, right?”

“Eight! Awesome, huh?” 

“Yeah, awesome.” Rufus stroked his unshaved face and decided that Batman was worth a little stubble. Besides, Ellowyne complained that his beard tickled the last time he skipped shaving for a few days. He yawned again. Maybe he could snooze a little during the George Clooney Batman film. 

But a nap was not to be had. Penn kept elbowing Rufus whenever something interesting was on the screen. It didn’t matter if it was Michael Keaton’s Batmobile or Val Kilmer’s bat-suit or Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight.  Penn made sure that his BFF didn’t miss anything. During intermission, Rufus texted Ellowyne and apologized because he probably wouldn’t text her again until another break in the movies.  The guys got burritos and Penn got a beer, and Rufus opted for a vile drink that Amber used to drink when she was doing child pageants: a concoction of Mountain Dew and Red Bull that she called Go-Go juice. 

As they were headed back to their seats, Penn noticed a sign on the poster for the movie marathon. “Hey!” Penn said. “There’s something special at the end of the movies for everyone who watches all of them. Let’s do it!”

“So far we’ve seen, what, the first three movies?” Rufus asked while waiting for his burrito to cool a little. 

“Yup! Next up is the George Clooney movie!”

Rufus groaned. “That movie sucks.”

“Old chum, you need to see Batman and Robin from a different perspective. You know the 1966 TV show? This movie captures the campiness and kitsch of the show. Does it measure up to some of the other films? No. But watch it with an attitude of pure silliness. You can thank me later.”

As much as Rufus hated to admit it, he found the movie amusing as he watched it from Penn’s perspective. They got up, stretched their legs, and got some more food. 

The next three movies were enjoyable. Each of the guys had seen them previously but it was still fun. And then it came time for the last movie. Rufus noticed that it ran for almost three hours, and realized they had been in the theater for fifteen. He tried to doze just a little but Penn was right there, making comments about the villain du jour, who was the best Joker, and Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne. 

After the last scheduled movie, the theater manager thanked everyone for coming and announced that the special treat was The LEGO Batman Movie, and each person in attendance would receive one limited-edition LEGO minifigure from the film. Rufus got the elusive Disco Batman and Penn gave him the equally rare Disco Joker, but he was too exhausted to be excited. 

The marathon ended almost nineteen hours after it began. Incredibly, Penn still had stamina and was wakeful and alert. Then again, he was used to keeping erratic hours as an Army medic and a student nurse. Penn drove his friend home, and Rufus stumbled into the house. He splashed his face with water, brushed his teeth, and crawled into bed. He read some texts from Ellowyne and texted her back. He told her that he loved her, that he got some rare LEGO minifigures, and he would text or call her later. 

He closed his eyes but, after drinking so much Go-Go juice, Rufus couldn’t sleep.

Spring Break: Hers


At 4:00 AM, Amber went to the guest rooms. “Wake up! Wake up! Come on ladies! Wake up!!”

Prudence, Ellowyne, and Lizette groaned. Why get up so early? 

“It will give you plenty of time to shower, dry your hair, and put on some makeup. Marisol is making a wonderful breakfast and she will serve it at 5:00 AM sharp. You do not want to miss her sourdough waffles,” Amber stated. “Besides, you can sleep on the plane.”

Once they were ready, Pru, Liz, and Ellowyne dragged themselves to the breakfast table. They greeted the Stanhopes and perked up when they saw the delicious food Marisol had prepared. Her waffles alone were worth getting up so early. She put a variety of fresh fruits on the table and made mimosas. Marisol even baked some cookies, granola, and muffins to take on their trip. 

After breakfast, the Stanhopes ushered the women into their limousine, and they all rode to the airport. They were staying at the same resort to be there in case anyone needed them but vowed to not intrude on the girls or interfere with their fun. Once they were settled in and the plane was cleared for takeoff, Prudence and Lizette dozed off in their seats, leaving Amber and Ellowyne awake to talk. 

Amber asked, “You doing okay, Ellowyne? You’re so quiet—much quieter than usual.”

“I guess I miss Rufus,” Ellowyne admitted. “I wish he was with us but he’s helping his advisor with that statistics software. It’s what he wants to do and it should help him get admitted to graduate school. His advisor thinks he could do a PhD. So I hope he gets a lot done over break. Maybe his schedule might be somewhat normal when he’s finished.”

“You know what?” Amber whispered. “I wish Penn was here.”

Ellowyne’s mouth was agape. “Are you and Penn dating?”

“Please don’t tell Pru or Liz, but we’re seeing each other casually. We just started talking one day, after we’d all gone out for coffee and cupcakes. Then we went to a movie and a game and started hanging out. I know Liz and Pru are interested in him, too, and neither of us wants to hurt anyone’s feelings. So we’re keeping it on the down-low for now. We can’t see each other that often because he’s so busy with school. He has a full load of classes and clinicals and he has to keep up his GPA or he could get expelled from the program. If he gets more than 3 C’s, he’s out.”

“Ohmygosh,” Ellowyne said. “That kind of pressure would have to be intense.”

Amber nodded. “It’s crazy. And the worst thing is that Penn procrastinates. He does his work at the very last minute. Maybe he gets an adrenaline rush. I mean, he’s used to intense situations. When he was in the Army, he was on alert all the time. It could be the middle of the night when he’d get called in to triage patients or take care of them in a makeshift hospital. When he was finished with his tours of duty—I think he had been deployed three, maybe four times—he thought about re-enlisting but his chaplain talked him out of it. The chaplain said that Penn was becoming a combat junkie and needed to take some time to be a civilian. The Army would be there if and when he decided to make it his career. The chaplain wrote one of the letters of recommendation for Penn when he decided to go to nursing school. You know, I think the chaplain was right. Penn is a thrill-seeker and enjoys things that most cautious souls would avoid.”

“Do you remember that time we all of us went to Disneyland? Penn was the first one in line for Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain railroad, and Splash Mountain,” Ellowyne commented. “And when he was done with a ride, he’d get in line to go again. Rufus did Space Mountain and that was enough for him.” 

“Hmmm. I recall that you didn’t ride very many rides. You stayed behind with Rufus.” Amber asked, “Were the two of you making out while everyone else was on the rides?”

Ellowyne grinned. “I never kiss and tell. But back to Penn! You know how he tries to convince Rufus to do stuff with him, even though Rufus is cautious and not all that interested in physical activity.” 

Amber smirked, then snickered. “I guess that would depend on what the physical activity was!” 

Ellowyne blushed and chuckled.

Amber went on. “I wonder what the guys will do when we’re away. Penn’s supposed to work on his paper, but he’ll probably wait until Friday to do it.”

“Rufus wants to wrap up the work he’s doing with his advisor. I hope Penn doesn’t distract him too much,” Ellowyne replied.

Eventually Amber and Ellowyne got drowsy and leaned back in their seats to take catnaps without cats. 

Spring Break

This story is rooted in my headcanon. Amber is still a spoiled rich girl but she has grown to become a real friend to everyone in Ellowyne’s circle. Everyone is a junior at San Francisco State University but only Penn and Rufus’ majors are relevant. Penn is a nursing student and Rufus is majoring in statistics. Ellowyne and Rufus are finally dating. The rating for this story is T.

Their spirits were high as Lizette, Prudence, and Amber were saying goodbye to Rufus and Penn before they left for an all-inclusive spring break in the Bahamas, paid for by Amber’s father. Mr. Stanhope’s generosity didn’t end with that because he was flying them there on his private plane. Ellowyne was also going on the trip, but she seemed rather despondent in spite of the festive mood at the Stanhope’s pre-spring break barbecue. Amber was oblivious to Ellowyne’s mood because she was busy hosting her friends. Lizette thought that it might be her ennui rearing its ugly head but Prudence knew the real reason. It would be the longest time Ellowyne will be away from Rufus since they started dating. Ellowyne wished that he and Penn were going as well. They were invited but regretfully declined. Penn needed to finish a paper for his epidemiology class and Rufus was assisting his academic advisor evaluate new statistical analysis software the university was considering purchasing.

The barbecue ended early because Amber’s father wanted to leave at sunrise. Pru, Ellowyne, and Lizette were staying overnight at the Stanhope’s mansion so the girls wouldn’t have to drive there in the morning and have to wait if one of them was late. After the party, the lads decided to get some cerveza and nachos at their favorite Mexican restaurant and were out until 1:30 AM. 

The Lonesome Loser

This story is based on the official Ellowyne canon in which Ello, Pru, Lizette, and Amber share the same birthday, October 31. Ellowyne hosted a party to which Amber was not invited. A new friend named Penn joined the party. He is mentoring Freddy, who had a dangerous preoccupation with setting fires. Ellowyne’s grandmother insisted that Penn stay for the party and she gave Rufus and him masks to wear. They barely donned their masks when Amber crashed the party. She was dressed in a risqué version of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, complete with a short blue gingham jumper, a low-cut blouse, and sparkly red stiletto heels. Amber then grabbed one of the masked men and kissed him aggressively, thinking he was Rufus. When Penn removed his mask, Amber slapped him for taking advantage of her. She then stormed out the front door of Ellowyne’s house and walked right into a slightly squishy pumpkin. She kicked the pumpkin aside and everyone at the party laughed at the spectacle Amber made of herself.

The Lonesome Loser

After Amber left the party humiliated and disgraced, Ellowyne, Lizette, and Pru turned their attention to this new guy. As they girls gushed over Penn, Rufus quietly slipped out of the house. He got into his decrepit red Subaru, a car held together by dozens of bumper stickers, sheer faith, and Rufus’ knack for fixing almost anything that was broken. Anything, that is, but his own breaking heart.

He looked into the rearview mirror and started berating himself. “God, you’re such a dumbass. Ellowyne was never yours. You were too shy, too scared, and too stupid to tell her how you felt and now she’s crushing on some guy she’s just met. He’s gonna fall in love with her—who wouldn’t? She’s beautiful, intelligent, and sweet. They’re gonna end up together.”

Rufus sat in the darkness of his car and thought carefully what to do next. Putting his key in the ignition, he asked himself, “Wait a minute. What’s so special about this guy Penn anyway?” Then looked into the rear view mirror again and frowned. “He’s handsome. He’s already done with college and has a great job, probably a great apartment, too. He’s everything I’m not. How could I ever compete?”

Find out what Rufus does when he’s confronted with the reality that Ellowyne may have found another guy! Please feel free to say in the comments section which ending you prefer.

Ending One

Although Ellowyne had just met Penn, it was clear to Rufus that she was interested. She never looked at him the way she looked at Penn. Blinking back the hot tears welling up in his eyes, Rufus got in his car, plugged in his phone and headed home. From the time he left the party to the time he pulled into his driveway, Rufus tortured himself by listening to love songs that reminded him of Ellowyne, from Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing to Led Zeppelin’s All of My Love. Breakup songs like Love HurtsLove Stinks and Lonesome Loser gave voice to his feelings of loss and despair. When he heard a familiar tune by Cee Lo Green, he sang along. “I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I’m like ‘Fu—‘“

The sound of tapping on his car window interrupted Rufus’ private sing-along. It was his mother, Mary Sue. “We saw you sitting in your car so long. Honey, are you okay?”

“I don’t know, Mom. I feel like someone has reached into my chest, pulled out my heart, and stomped on it.”

“Ellowyne? “

“Yeah.” Rufus could no longer fight his tears. Mary Sue embraced and consoled her son and together they walked into the house.

Janet, Rufus’ other mom, hugged him, too. She offered up comfort, cocoa, and freshly baked chocolate cookies as they all sat around the kitchen table.

Rufus began to tell them with Ellowyne and how she reacted to Penn. “I feel like an idiot. I’ve never told her how I feel and now she seems to be into this new guy. I can’t compete with him. He’s already out on his own and he’s got a great job. He’s confident and knows the right things to say. ” Rufus shrugged. “And he’s handsome. Of course Ellowyne was attracted to him.”

“First of all, you’ll have a great job when you graduate,” Mary Sue pointed out. “You’ve been accepted at Cal Tech and MIT for grad school and when you finish, you’re going to have a great career as an engineer.”

“You’re smart and you’re funny. And, not being biased since you’re my son, you are one of the kindest people either of us has known,” Janet added.

“And we both think you’re handsome!”

Rufus smiled weakly. “I guess instead of having a face only a mother can love, I have a face that only TWO mothers can love.”

Mary Sue stroked Rufus’ hand. “Sweetie, listen to us. If Ellowyne hasn’t seen what an amazing man that you are, she isn’t worth your time. I know it hurts, but someone is going to figure out what a great guy you are.”

When his moms went to bed, Rufus grabbed his laptop and a few more cookies. He then sat in the chaise lounge in the living room to check his email. One was from MIT. He had been awarded a prestigious fellowship in engineering. He read the email again and he shouted so loudly that he awakened Janet and Mary Sue. “You aren’t going to believe this! I’m getting a full ride at MIT!”

Suddenly, it didn’t matter to Rufus anymore that Ellowyne flirted with Penn. For once, he decided to do what was right for him and not build his life around someone who couldn’t reciprocate his love. Goodbye, Ellowyne. Hello, MIT.

Ending Two

Although Ellowyne had just met Penn, it was clear to Rufus that she was interested. She never looked at him the way she looked at Penn. Blinking back the hot tears welling up in his eyes, Rufus plugged in his smartphone and sat in his car, feeling too numb to drive home. He tortured himself by listening to love songs that reminded him of Ellowyne like Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing to Led Zeppelin’s All of My Love. Breakup songs like Love HurtsLove Stinks and Lonesome Loser gave voice to his feelings of loss and despair. When he heard a familiar tune by Cee Lo Green, he sang along. “I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I’m like ‘Fu—‘“

The sound of tapping on his car window interrupted Rufus’ private sing-along. It was Lizette. “Hey. What are you doing out here? “ she asked.

Rufus sighed. “Just listening to some tunes. I didn’t want to be in there, not with Ello throwing herself at Penn.”

Lizette nodded. “Yeah, total flirt alert. Hey, are you okay?”

“Not really. It sucks to see Ell throw herself at this douche when I’ve been here for her all along”.

“I dunno.” Lizette said as she climbed into the passenger seat of Rufus’ red Subaru. “Maybe it’s because Penn is a novelty, someone new in her life”.

“Or maybe it’s a matter of familiarity breeds contempt”.

Rufus poured out his heart. He told Lizette how he fell in love with Ello the first time they met back in middle school. He confessed that, over the course of the past several years, he brought her flowers, candy, stuffed animals, and even a vintage snow globe.”

“I remembered that! She obsessed over it, asking herself—and the rest of us—what it meant.” Lizette gently stroked Rufus’ hand. “You know, Ello is not the most observant person. I think she’s a fool for not even noticing the sweet little gestures you’ve made over the years.” Lizette got closer to Rufus, twirled hear hair and looked into Rufus’ eyes. “It’s a shame she friend zoned you all this time. You really have a lot to offer a woman.”

Rufus furrowed his eyebrows. “Are you kidding me?”

“You’re kind, sweet, and funny. You’re a total brainiac. And you have a gentle face and beautiful eyes.”


“Yes! Ellowyne is clueless. One day someone, maybe one of her closest friends will figure out wow amazing you really are.

Rufus smiled weakly. “You really think so?”

“I know so.”

“Hey, thanks, Liz. I’m glad we had this talk. I’m not going to give up on Ellowyne.  I have more work to do at her house and maybe I’ll bring her some chocolate truffles.”

Lizette got out of Rufus’ car, shook her head and rolled her eyes. Ellowyne was not the only one who was clueless.

Ending Three

Although Ellowyne had just met Penn, it was clear to Rufus that she was interested. She never looked at him the way she looked at Penn. Blinking back the hot tears welling up in his eyes, Rufus plugged in his smartphone and sat in his car, feeling too numb to drive home. He tortured himself by listening to love songs that reminded him of Ellowyne like Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing to Led Zeppelin’s All of My Love. Breakup songs like Love HurtsLove Stinks and Lonesome Loser gave voice to his feelings of loss and despair. When he heard a familiar tune by Cee Lo Green, he sang along. “I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I’m like ‘Fu—‘“

The sound of tapping on his car window interrupted Rufus’ private sing-along. It was Prudence. “Hey, why did you leave the party?”

“It got kinda weird watching Ellowyne flirt with Penn.”

“I thought so. You were giving off a dull yellow aura, which means you’re jealous. I can give you some green apatite or green aventurine to help you .”

“Hey Pru,” Rufus said. “I appreciate your help but I need to be alone right now.”

“But if we get your chakras in balance—“

“Thank you, Pru but really, no.”

Pru, the last of their friends to leave the party, got into her Mini-Coop and drove away. She was only a few blocks away when she realized she left her phone at Ellowyne’s house. She noticed that Rufus’ car was still there but Rufus wasn’t in it. Quietly she opened the door and retrieved her phone. To her utter shock, she heard Ellowyne and Rufus fighting in the kitchen.

“What the hell, Ellowyne? I was standing right there!”

“God, you are so jealous”, Ellowyne retorted. “I would never have agreed to this if I knew how jealous you are.”

“I’ve told you that you can date other guys. I just don’t like you blatantly throwing yourself at someone when I’m around.”

“You can date other women…”

“When do I have time for that?”

“Oh my God, Rufus. Are you going to blather on about how engineering is such a tough major while my English lit major isn’t?”

“We’ve had this fight before. I’m sorry I said anything.”

Prudence stood by Ellowyne’s front door, torn between slipping quietly through the front door and staying to hear the argument. She decided to continue eavesdropping.

Rufus spoke first. “I’m not sure about our relationship. It’s worked for me but lately it’s been more difficult than ever. You know that I love you…”

“And I love you, too, but as a friend…”

“Don’t patronize me. You’ve strung me along. I hoped our little arrangement would bring us together as a real couple.”

“But we agreed to not get emotionally involved”.

“No. You agreed, Ellowyne. I didn’t. Do you know what you are? You’re a commitmentphobe. You’re afraid of getting involved.”

“Isn’t what we have good enough for you? We’re friends—“

“That’s the point. We’re FRIENDS with benefits. You’re not being my friend when you flirt with some new guy while I’m standing right there!”

“I think you need to leave, Rufus. This is ridiculous.”

“Fine. But when I go out the front door, our friendship is over.”

Prudence hurried out the door before Rufus could see her. Back in her car, she wasn’t sure what startled her the most: Ellowyne and Rufus being friends with benefits or the intensity of their argument.

No sooner had Pru gotten into her car when she got a text from Ellowyne. “I need to talk to someone. I might have made the biggest mistake of my life.”

Before she could answer, Pru received a text from Rufus. “Hey girl. I just did something stupid and now I think Ellowyne hates me.”

Prudence sighed. She was close friends with both of them and she didn’t want to take sides. Before she drove away, she turned on her car radio. One of her favorite stations played oldies. 

       Clowns to the left of me, jokes to the right

       Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

Indeed, Prudence thought. Indeed.

Ending Four

Although Ellowyne had just met Penn, it was clear to Rufus that she was interested. She never looked at him the way she looked at Penn. Blinking back the hot tears welling up in his eyes, Rufus plugged in his smart phone and sat in his car, feeling too numb to drive home. He tortured himself by listening to love songs that reminded him of Ellowyne like Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing to Led Zeppelin’s All of My Love. Breakup songs like Love HurtsLove Stinks, and Lonesome Loser gave voice to his feelings of loss and despair. When he heard a familiar tune by Cee Lo Green, he sang along. “I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I’m like ‘Fu—‘“

The sound of tapping on his car window interrupted Rufus’ private sing-along. It was Ellowyne. “Hey, what are you doing out here?”

“Um, I was just getting my sweatshirt. Let’s go back inside.”

Rufus wanted to dislike Penn but he found him to be smart and funny. He also thought Penn looked familiar but he couldn’t remember where he might have seen him. They exchanged phone numbers and Instagram user names and added each other as friends on Facebook. Penn asked Rufus if they could get together to have coffee or some craft beer. Rufus agreed and they made plans to go meet the next day. It would be the first time in years in which he could hang out with someone other than his engineering school buddies.

The next day, Rufus met Penn at the latter’s favorite dive bar for burgers and craft brew. Penn ordered some poutine, a Canadian concoction made with fries, gravy, and squeaky cheese curds. Rufus thought they sounded strange and was surprised at how delicious they were.

But that wasn’t the only surprise of the day. As the guys devoured their food, Penn leaned across the table and told Rufus he thought he was quite attractive. Rufus was startled and nearly choked on his craft beer. “Uh—I’m straight.”

Penn was crestfallen. “I saw you this summer at Pride.”

“That’s where I’ve seen you,” Rufus said. “I march every year with PFLAG. I have two moms.”

“Oh, damn. I’m sorry. I’ve made such an ass of myself.”

“Hey To tell you the truth, I’m flattered. I’d like to be friends.”

“Sure. I’d like that. Hey, do you think Ellowyne, Pru, and Lizette would be okay knowing I’m gay?”

“Of course they would. But you might want to get to know them a bit better than telling them straight away.”

“Straight away?” Penn laughed so hard that beer almost came out of his nose. The two new friends agreed to get together for Korean food in a couple of days.

As Rufus got into his car, he got a text from Ellowyne “How was your man date?”

“Gr8!,” he texted back. And it WAS a great day. Not only did Rufus make a new friend, he also found out that his chief rival for Ellowyne’s affections simply wasn’t interested in her. He smirked at his reflection in the rear view mirror. “And you were so worried,” he said smugly to himself.

Ending Five

Although Ellowyne had just met Penn, it was clear to Rufus that she was interested. She never looked at him the way she looked at Penn. Blinking back the hot tears welling up in his eyes, Rufus plugged in his smart phone and sat in his car, feeling too numb to drive home. He tortured himself by listening to love songs that reminded him of Ellowyne like Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing to Led Zeppelin’s All of My Love. Breakup songs like Love HurtsLove Stinks, and Lonesome Loser gave voice to his feelings of loss and despair. When he heard a familiar tune by Cee Lo Green, he sang along. “I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I’m like ‘Fu—‘“

Rufus stopped singing and turned off his smart phone. “Man up,” he said to his reflection in the rear view mirror. .“If Penn can make Ellowyne happy, then good for him. For both of them. It’s ridiculous to sit out here and sulk.”

When Rufus walked into Ellowyne’s house, the other partygoers, including Penn, greeted him warmly. Rufus poured a glass of punch and made a toast. “To friendship! After all, friendship is magic!”

Penn’s eyes widened in astonishment. “Are you a brony?”

“Yeah. A bunch of us in my cohort started watching it at the math and stats building as a way to ratchet down our stress,” Rufus answered.

One chuckled. “We did that, too! I had to take a course on linear equations and it just about killed me and the rest of the class. After class, all of us were so brain dead we needed something to relieve our stress. And the day of the course final, we all wore My Little Pony t-shirts, watched a couple of episodes, and then we did a bar crawl!

Everyone laughed except Rufus, who was dumbstruck. “By any chance, to you go to Berkeley? I think I’ve seen you on in the student lounge at Evans Hall. We’ve got sofas, snacks, and My Little Pony 24/7.”

“The Geek Cave!” Penn smiled broadly. “I’m getting my master’s in social work. About six months of classwork and my thesis left to do.”

“Awesome! I’m in my third year. Double major—mechanical engineering and math and stats for engineering.”

“You must be some kind of brainiac! I wish I had known you before taking that stats class.”

Wide-eyed, Prudence whispered to Ello and Lizette. “I think we’re witnessing the birth of a bromance!”

And Prudence was right. The guys exchanged cell phone numbers, Instagram user names, and added each other as Facebook friends. Soon they were hanging out regularly, studying together, playing video games, and watching whatever sporting events as long as they were in season. Rufus helped Penn understand nonlinear equations to help with his thesis. In return, Penn introduced Rufus to craft beer, poutine, and bibimbap, and gave him the confidence to finally tell Ellowyne how he felt about her. Of course Penn thought that Ello was attractive but he wasn’t going to poach his best friend’s crush. In time, Rufus introduced Penn to the girl he eventually married, one of the only girls in his engineering program. And of course Rufus married Ellowyne when they finished college, with Penn as Best Man,