Sometimes Lyra had the most uncanny sense of timing.
Rosario had indeed been in the campus library all morning. Her first semester grades hadn't been as bad as she'd feared – she was front of the pack in Biochem, trailing behind in Foundations of Clinical and Anatomy, which put her about in the middle overall – but the drop in her GPA had been enough to raise eyebrows in the body funding her scholarship, which had led to an excruciating conversation in the office of an overly earnest financial aid lady named Isla, who'd wanted to know how things were at home and whether family was becoming a distraction and how Rosario was fitting in at Columbia among other things that were none of her damn business.
She'd smoothed things over, but the takeaway was clear: she couldn't afford another semester like the last one. Middle of the pack wasn't gonna cut it. So, on the days she wasn't working, she studied. She set herself up in the campus library and she drilled herself on all the areas where she'd fallen down in her marks, powering through old exam papers fuelled mostly by stubborn determination and caffeine.
Rosario had stubbornness and determination to burn, but her caffeine reserves were non-infinite. As it happened, she had just come to the blurry realisation that she'd been reading the same sentence for the last five minutes when her phone had buzzed with Lyra's message.
Definitely time for a caffeine hit. She had no idea what Lyra meant by all-caps THEORIES, but she knew for a fact that whatever they were, they were gonna be way more exciting than the workings of the human respiratory system.
She made it to the cafe first, and had been sitting there for all of a minute when her phone lit up again. Lyra, she thought, probably running late, probably due to some crazy series of coincidences – but no.
Rosario had tried at least a dozen times to explain to her mom that just because her phone had a camera, didn't mean she had to make every call a video call. But why would I make a voice call when I could see your beautiful face as well? her mom had asked good-humouredly.
Rosario had rolled her eyes. We live together! You see my face all the time!
Not as much as I'd like to. She'd said it with a smile, but Rosario hadn't missed the wistful edge to the words. Her mom worked long hours, had for as long as Rosario remembered, and at the end of the work day she'd slump through the door with an aching back and swollen ankles, and as much as she tried to hold her daughters in her focus, she'd crash at the first opportunity.
Rosario had stopped sassing her mom about the video chats after that.
She swiped the phone and Ma's face appeared on the screen, wisps of dark curls already escaping her ponytail. "Hi baby."
"Hey Ma, wassup?"
What was up was that Abuela's friend Altagracia had a sick granddaughter and couldn't host cards night, and Abuela had offered to host it in her stead, which was fine, but it was tonight and Ma was working till seven, and she didn't want Rosario to do anything! but would she mind—?
"Making sure the place isn't a total disaster?" Rosario guessed. "Making sure Chicky eats something with a vegetable in it?"
A weary mix of gratitude and guilt spread across her mother's face. "I'm sorry, honey. I know today's your study day."
A flash of red curls caught Rosario's eye through the window of the cafe. "It's fine, Ma. I'm actually taking a break, I'm having coffee with Lyra."
"Lyra's there with you? Well, get her over here, let her say hey!"
Rosario rolled her eyes fondly. "Hold on a sec, she's just coming in the door."