Petra Barros lived in my dorm. The second floor was all women; first and third, men. She stopped in the doorway one day, introduced herself to me and my roommate, and just started talking. She wasn't a beauty but she was all right, and it was fun talking to her.

"Well, I've taken up enough of your time," she said. "I don't want to wear out my welcome."

"Stop by anytime," I said.

"Oh, don't say that. You'll never get rid of me."

Later, she invited me down to her room to see some photographs she had in an album. She said I would be surprised and I was, though I tried not to show it. The pictures were of her--taken about 18 months earlier.

"I bet you can't believe I ever looked that good," she said.

What was I supposed to say to that? She had put on some weight in the interim. I mean, you could still tell it was her in the photographs, but the difference was dramatic.

"They're beautiful pictures," I said.

And they were, taken in a rose garden with Petra wearing a thin cotton dress that showed off her brown shoulders.

"My boyfriend took them," she said. "We broke up two weeks later."

The next time I saw Petra I was in the student union building, checking my empty mailbox. I turned around and there she was.

"I have this friend, an exchange student at the high school," she said. "She's from Argentina. Very pretty. Would you like to go out with her?"

I had been thinking Petra might be interested in me so the question threw me. Was it a test?

"I don't get it," I said.

"She's lonely. I told her I'd find her a date."

"Why me?"

"You wouldn't regret it. Danielle is the kind of girl any guy would go for--long hair, nice figure, pretty smile. What have you got to lose?"

"Okay. Sure."

"There's just one catch."

"What's that?"

"Now you have to find a date for me."

Friday night, we all pilled into my rusted two-tone pickup and went to see a movie--something stupid and forgettable--then drove across town to Geno's, where we shared a giant pepperoni pizza. It was me and Danielle, Petra and my roommate John, who was there as a favor to me. He didn't really like Petra all that much, but she didn't seem to care. She just wanted her friend to have a good time.

Danielle was indeed very pretty in a little cotton dress that seemed oddly familiar to me, but she hardly said anything all night. Her English was surprisingly limited. I kept wondering what I was doing there. She was too young. She lived too far away. I supposed that we could have some fun together, but it was all a little surreal somehow.

At the end of the evening, I walked Danielle to the door of her sponsors' two-story Colonial while Petra and John waited in the pickup.

"Did you kiss her?" Petra wanted to know.

I shook my head and she seemed very disappointed.

About the author:

Al Riske has worked as a reporter, editor, copywriter, and ghostwriter. His short stories have appeared in Hobart, Blue Mesa Review, and the Beloit Fiction Journal.