Like a Boss - Annabelle Costa


Sixteen Years Earlier

Have you ever met somebody you hated instantly?

For me, that somebody was Lucas Thayer. Excuse me—I mean, Lucas Thayer the Third.

Luke and I met during our first semester at Harvard University. Yes, that’s a real university, not just a fake college featured in movies like Good Will Hunting and Legally Blonde. People really go there and get an actual education. Or at least, I was there to get an actual education.

Let me set the scene:

It was my very first class at Harvard. The course was expository writing, which consisted of a small discussion group of twelve students. The actual subject of the course was “The Interpretation of Short Stories,” and the course was all about dissecting and analyzing the classic short stories of English literature. I was incredibly excited to discuss the works of Raymond Carver and Edgar Allan Poe.

As a straight-A student in high school, I was nerdishly, embarrassingly overprepared. For the first class, I brought three different kinds of notebooks: one for sort of important notes, one for really important notes, and one to incorporate the two sets of notes into a single master set of notes. And don’t get me started on my set of pens. And highlighters! Every color meant something different. If you’re interested, I can give you a master key—I’m sure I still have it somewhere.

Luke, of course, strode in without so much as a pencil.

I noticed him right away. It was hard not to—he was one of the most handsome boys I had ever seen in real life. He was annoyingly handsome. His features were just a little too perfect, his blond hair just a little too sun-streaked. And he had a freaking chin cleft. And not just a chin cleft. A perfect chin cleft—not too deep, just enough to give his face some character.

If you looked in a catalog of Harvard students, someone who looked like him would be front and center. The poster child of the all-American boy. The kid who got in, not because he spent his weekends in high school studying rather than going to parties, but because his father went to Harvard and so did his father’s father and his father’s father and so forth. And they all donated a ton of money.

Five seconds after laying eyes on Luke Thayer, I knew everything there was to know about him.

We started the expository writing class with a game to get to know each other. We went around the room and introduced ourselves, and gave three facts about ourselves—two were true and one was false. Then everyone had to guess which was which.

“My name is Ellie Jensen,” I said, when it was my turn. I offered my three “facts”: “I was born with six fingers on each hand and had the extra two removed when I was a baby. I have never read any of the works of William Shakespeare. And I’ve never left the United States.”

Everybody was looking me over, trying to size me up. It wasn’t hard. From my frizzy hair to my hopelessly unfashionable T-shirt and shapeless jeans, it was clear that I wasn’t one of the kids who got into Harvard on the legacy of my father and my father’s father and my father’s father’s father going here.

One kid piped up, “Does that even include Shakespeare’s sonnets?”

“Yes,” I said, because that was one of the true ones. In a true testament to the public schools of New Jersey, I somehow made it through fifteen years of schooling without once being asked to read anything by the Great Bard. Harvard would change that.

“It must be the extra-finger thing,” another kid said, craning his neck to get a better look at my hands.

I glanced up at Luke, who was smiling smugly in my direction. About five seconds after laying eyes on me, he thought he knew everything there was to know about me.

“I bet she’s been out of the country at some point,” he said in that aggressively confident voice I grew to know well over the semester. “Everyone’s at least been to Canada.”

And that was the moment I started hating Luke Thayer. Because the jerk was absolutely right. I’d been out of the country just once and it was during a drive to Canada.

The class voted and mostly thought that I had been born with ten fingers. When I held up my hands to show off my tiny scars, my roommate Delia cried out, “Ew!”

And then it was Luke’s turn to speak. I noticed everyone’s eyes