Page 6 of Eight Dates

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But his mother had regretted it deeply, and the next year—after they moved—they were promptly put into a Jewish school and forgot all about the big, beardy man who loved cookies and coal or…whatever.

Ben rolled his eyes and passed a hand down his face. “Yeah. So, Aaron decided he was tired of seeing me wallow in my own misery and decided to set me up on eight blind dates.”

“That’s…uh. Great?” Micah tried.

Ben burst into a small, tense laugh. “One word for it, I guess. The others are things I probably shouldn’t say on campus with students nearby.”

“Guarantee you they’ve said worse. To my face,” he added with a grimace.

Ben couldn’t deny that. “Anyway, I’m humoring him. It’s probably going to ruin what little self-esteem I’ve managed to get back over the last two years, but hey, isn’t that what we do for family?”

“I’m so confused,” Micah told him cautiously. “Can’t you just say no?”

He could, and he hadn’t hesitated to do that in the past. But for some reason, this time, he couldn’t. Maybe the loneliness was getting to him. Maybe he was just getting old and losing his mind.

Maybe he didn’t want to see forty-five as some pathetic, single loser.

“Aww. You’ll never be pathetic,” Micah said.

Ben sat back in horror when he realized he’d said all of that aloud. “Well, anyway,” he said, clapping his hands together, “that’s my life right now. Did you need something?”

Micah’s eyes widened. “Oh. Yeah, I was hoping you could cover my Greek 101 next Tuesday. Jake’s got a little thing, and I need to be there for him.”

“A thing?” Ben asked.

Micah waved him off. “Knee replacement.”

Ben almost choked on his own tongue. Micah’s husband was nowhere near old enough to need surgery like that. “What the hell? That’s not a little thing. And isn’t he, like, thirty?”

“It’s a genetic condition. He has no cartilage in his knees, and he can’t take the pain anymore.”

“That’s not a little thing,” Ben repeated, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Micah, you are my best friend. I’ll cover whatever classes I can so you can be there for your husband while he has his entire knee replaced. And I’ll bring him some soup later, okay? My mom’s chicken and dumplings.”

Micah looked both mortified and pleased. “You really don’t need to.”

“Get out of my office,” Ben ordered, waving his hand. “Go call your husband, and the two of you decide realistically what you need so he can recover, and you can be there for him.”

Micah flushed harder, but he nodded and hopped up. Heading for the door, he paused with his hand on the frame. “Hey. If you need some backup from this whole blind date thing, you can count on me. You know that, right?”

Ben sat back and looked at his friend. “Yeah. Of course I do.”

Micah smiled, then tapped the side of the wall before showing himself out, leaving Ben to the rest of his cleanup before he had to stand in front of a class full of nineteen-year-olds who would love nothing more than to see him looking like an absolute fool.

* * *

“Uhhhhhhh. Professor Weiss?”

Ben did his best to smile, but he had no idea why these kids always had to preface his title with a longuhhh. “Miss Campbell?”

“Do you have a menorah?”

“Like, here?” he asked, glancing behind him like a moron.

“No. I mean at home. You do, like, the menorah thingie at home, right?”

He had no idea how any of this was related to Simon bar Kokhba, but he still rested his hip against the side of his desk and offered her his attention. “I actually have one in my office because I never leave campus until well after sunset. But yes. I do the menorah thingie.”

A couple of the students laughed, but she ignored them. “So…who gives you presents?”