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In the Spring of 2018, on a still, pale blue day, Karen Cosgrove nestled down in a comfortable leather armchair in the sunroom facing the window that looked out over the garden. The hydrangeas growing along the side fence would be covered in fat bunches of blue mauve flowers in a couple of weeks. They made a spectacular show against the tall white fence when they were in bloom, but right now they were rich with dark green leaves, the bushes tall as a child. They were one of Karen’s favourite flowers and Martin had planted them for her five years ago when they first moved into this house.


Martin was playing golf with his usual Saturday group and Karen had the place, and the day, to herself.


She and Martin usually sat out in the garden for their morning coffee, but it was Saturday and, because of the noise of neighbours’ lawn mowers and whipper-snippers, it was more pleasant inside: the spacious and well-designed house was beautifully silent when all the doors were closed. The neighbours did their lawns on the week-

end but Martin preferred to do theirs on a Thursday so it would be looking its best by Saturday and Karen could enjoy it on what he considered her “day off.”


On days like this, she would occasionally sit with her morning cup of coffee between her hands and ruminate on her life, mulling over thoughts and memories, daydreaming, wondering what her life would have been like had she not chosen the path she did, all those years ago. But this morning, she was thinking about the unsettling incident yesterday afternoon that had unleashed a flood of memories. She had pushed them to the back of her mind then—she didn’t want to risk being interrupted or disturbed while wallowing in nostalgia, and she certainly didn’t want Martin asking her what she was thinking about when her mind was a million miles away. She knew she would have the time today to sit and recall her memories in full; for her mind to sink back in time to that glorious summer when she was young, and life held so much promise.


The final exams at high school were not all that difficult for Paul and it was no surprise when he topped the school in every subject and achieved a Tertiary Entrance Ranking of 99.8 percent. 
He was eighteen years old and didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. His years at school had given his life purpose, a routine, a rhythm, but ever since school had finished, that purpose, that routine, that rhythm no longer applied and he’d felt a bit lost, didn’t know what to do with himself other than run. As much as he thought about it, tried to analyse his feelings about the future, he didn’t seem to be able to decide what he wanted to do as far as a career went. His mother and father were keen for him to do Medicine or Dentistry but neither profession interested him. Math had always been straightforward and uncomplicated for him at school, so he took the easy way out and enrolled in Science and Mathematics at the University of Melbourne. He figured that would give him a couple of years to work out what he really wanted to do. 
A few months later, as chance would have it, Paul found himself sitting next to the same guy at several lectures. After this had happened three or four times and the other fellow had still not spoken to him other than to nod hello, Paul sensed a kindred spirit and introduced himself. He leaned a bit closer to the other boy and said, “Hi, I’m Paul McElhone,” and extended his hand.
“Oh. Hi. I’m Tom Watson.” They shook hands as the lecturer entered the hall and the room fell silent except for the shuffling of papers and books.
Later, the lecture over, students began packing up, chatting amongst themselves, some forming into groups as they drifted out of the lecture room. It had been the last lecture of the day and you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief.
Tom looked over at Paul who was sitting quietly, desk cleared, bag packed, thinking. 
“Did you get all that?” Tom asked. “You hardly seemed to make any notes.” 
“Yeah. I thought it was straightforward. Made sense to me. Until he did that last calculation on the board. I don’t reckon that was correct. What did you think of it?”
Tom looked downcast. “He’d lost me long before that.” Then, after a slight hesitation: “Um, would you like to get a drink at the Prince Alfred? You could explain your version of that calculation.”
Beers in hand, they found a seat at a small table in the pub and Paul explained what was wrong with the calculation. Tom nodded, but it was obvious he didn’t really get it. It was times like this when Tom wondered why he had ever taken Science and Mathematics. He was more of a practical, hands-on sort of guy, but he’d dithered about for so long trying to decide what to do, this course was the only one that had a couple of vacancies left. Once high school was over and he’d passed those final exams (not exactly with flying colours, more like low-flying pastels), he’d had trouble working out what to do with his life. His father tried to convince him that it wasn’t all that important to plan his entire future at this point in time and that it didn’t really matter what subjects he took in the first year; it would work itself out for him over time and it would eventually become clear to him where his future lay. 
One thing he did know was that he doubted very much that Paul was correct about the calculation. He was quite sure the lecturer knew more about calculus than Paul did. 
They continued to discuss the course and the lecturers. On their third beer, Paul commented on Tom’s accent and asked him where he was from.  
“I was born and raised in California. My dad is an executive with Hewlett-Packard, the computer company. He was transferred to Sydney three years ago, so I finished my high school education at Sydney Boy’s High. Then he was transferred to Melbourne late last year. I intend to go back to Palo Alto when I’ve finished my  


course and do something in IT—programming or hardware; I haven’t decided yet. How about you? What are you going to do?”


Paul thought about this for a moment. He wasn’t good at answering questions quickly. He liked to think before he spoke. His mind ticked over while he formed his reply in his head before he replied: “I don’t really know. I enrolled in Science and Maths because I don’t have to study too hard and to give myself time to work out what I want to do. My parents would like me to do Medicine or Dentistry, but neither of them is for me. I’m hoping to come across something that lights my fire while I’m here at Uni.”
A little later, after another pause in the conversation, and on their fourth beer, Paul said, “We’ve got the afternoon off tomorrow; think I’ll go for a run. Do you run?”
“God no,” exclaimed Tom in horror. “I’m not into sport.”
Tom was tall and thin and wore the same black sweater and black jeans to Uni every day. He had a pasty pallor and thick black eyebrows and his longish dark hair was always dishevelled. He was good looking in a dark and brooding sort of way—always looked like he needed a shave, and yet, somehow, he managed to look elegant. Perhaps it was the long scarf he always wore, casually draped around his neck as if he’d grabbed it and thrown it on as he rushed out the door on his way to Uni. Or maybe it was the many rings on his long, slender fingers. 
“So, what do you do, then?” asked Paul, grinning at Tom’s reply.
“I play guitar. And keyboard. And drums. I’m quite good.” 
“I’m quite good at running!” said Paul, and they both smiled. 
Tom went to the bar and returned with their fifth beers. Neither boy was good at conversation, but by this time, the beers had loosened them up and the words flowed more easily. 
“You got a girlfriend?” asked Tom tentatively.
“No.” Pause. “Don’t get me wrong, I like girls, but they scare me a bit. You never know what they’re thinking, what they want you to do or say. I’m not much of a talker and I get tongue tied when I try and chat up a female. I end up feeling like an idiot. Easier not to even try. How about you?”
“Not at the moment. Used to have, but she dumped me for the bass player. I play guitar with a couple of guys. We’ve played a few gigs at pubs around town and there are always plenty of eager girls there, so I guess I’ll find another one sooner or later.”
“Let me know where you’re playing next time. I like pub bands,” said Paul. 
More silence, followed by more small talk, then eventually Paul stood and picked up his briefcase. “I think I’ll call it a night and get the train home.”
Tom collected his things, and as the two boys left the hotel, they shook hands and agreed to meet for a drink again. 
They were similar in many ways—both introverts who enjoyed their own company, each trying to work out their place in the world, where they fitted in the grand scheme of things. One thing was certain—neither one would be joining the debating team anytime soon.
At the following week’s lecture on calculus, and early in the lecture, the professor made an announcement: “Oh, by the way, one of the figures in one of the calculations last week was incorrect. This is what it should have read,” and he proceeded to write up the corrected calculation on the board. Exactly as Paul had said it should be.
Tom glanced at Paul in wonder and thought to himself: Hmmm, I may have underestimated this guy 

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