“Tch. Pancakes. Waste of time. Where’s the cheese? How are students meant to get their daily recommended amount of cheese from pancakes…?” “I may be an elder, buddy, but that doesn’t mean I’m deaf. And there’s no such thing as a daily recommended amount of cheese! Have you even been to cookery and nutritional college?!” “… I would if I could…” “Exactly. So go sit down and wait for some pancakes!”
“But you know what I mean, right? The golden tinge of freshly toasted grilled cheese sandwiches… How could pancakes ever compare? It’s like stages of humanity! First we invented fire, then bread, then cheese and then, miraculously, some genius thought to put all three together! Nothing can compare to the cheesy goodness!” “Look. No offense dude, but you seem kind of obsessed? I’ve been here a while, so I’ll give you some advice – at least try to act normal until you’ve made some friends, okay? Then, once they bring up the subject, then you go on like a crazy person.”
“Oh cartoon-y sandwich, you’ll be my friend, won’t you? You understand what I’m talking about…” Birch Ryman had always been a bit of an outcast. As a boy it was because he was interested in ‘girly’ cooking, then one day he tried grilled cheese and somehow… his whole life and world view changed and people thought he was even weirder. He’d come to university to help perfect his cooking and find some like-minded souls, but apparently there just weren’t that many grilled cheese sims in the world. The best he could ever hope for was some friends who were unusually nice. That or settling for his painting of Mr Cheesums. But he’d listen to the llama man (what a hypocrite!) and tone it down, at least for a while…
*My Gouda! This could prevent me burning a sandwich ever again!* “Hey, what are you reading that’s so fascinating? My psychology textbook is so dull I think I might actually die of boredom…” “Oh, I- Um- Uh- It’s- It’s just a, uh-” “Looks like a cookery book. What course are you doing?” “Well, philosophy, but I thought I’d do some, you know, extra-curricular reading, stop myself burning toast and everything, heh-heh...” “I should probably do that too. I expect I could even manage to set a bowl of cereal on fire!”
“Oh, well, I could help you out a bit there, you know, if you want. Sometimes there’s nothing worse than having prepared the perfect sandwich – or whatever – and then burning it until you can’t even taste the cheese and I’ve got quite a bit of experience in that whole area.” “Hey yeah, sure, that sounds like a good idea. I’m pretty much doomed if I ever move out of the dorm otherwise. Maybe I’ll meet you down in the kitchen later?” “Y- yeah, that would be great. We better wait until the cafeteria lady’s gone though, I don’t think she likes me very much…” “Sure, see you later then.”
“Oh! Wait-! Um, what did you say your name was again?” “Oh, right – Carla. Carla Lewis. You?” “Birch Ryman.” They stood in silence for a little while as Birch had fallen into staring at her. She was very, very pretty… “Uh, Birch? You okay?” “What? I- Um, yeah. I was just thinking that I, uh, really like your hat. It suits you well. And matches your dress. Really good. Um, anyway, I’ll see you later!”
Birch didn’t manage to get much done before he met Carla after the cafeteria lady left, he kept finding himself way too distracted. Carla’s hat and dress were the same shade of brown as the toasted bread on a perfectly toasted sandwich…She was like the warm, gooey cheese between them – and everyone knew that was the best bit. “So that’s as much as I’ve uncovered about how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. I think there are still alterations I need to make, but it’s better than most.” Carla didn’t say much, but she seemed to be enjoying herself and learning. Birch was a bit worried that she was laughing at him inside, but she didn’t seem to be mocking him, so that was good, right?
With the realisation that he was spending as much of his time thinking about Carla as he did grilled cheese, came the knowledge that Birch liked Carla and he liked her a lot. Then came the worry. Okay, she liked grilled cheese a bit as a kind of food, but she probably still wouldn’t understand his real love for it and therefore might also not understand if he gained some weight through said love. Birch had never been overly fond of exercise – it took valuable time away from both learning to and actually cooking – but desperate times called for desperate measures. Women liked fit men (all the celebrity culture told him so!), so Carla would like him more if he had a six pack. Therefore he would get a six pack, even if it meant only eating 3 grilled cheese sandwiches a day!
“Hey, Birch? … You’ve had your first kiss already, right?” “Well, yeah…”* “And now you’re getting another girl… How do you tell a girl you like her and get her to like you too?” “Well, you can’t make her like you, but you can get her on her own and tell her and see if she feels the same way. Girls appreciate honesty. Just see how she feels, Simon.” “Yeah… Thanks mate.” *(Mystery Sim had understood his love of cheese, but then sadly moved away suddenly with no way to contact her. It had been a very painful time in Birch’s teenage life. Little did Birch know that Mystery was a bisexual hermaphrodite who was also first-kissing everybody else. C’est la vie.)
“…Have I seen you somewhere before?” “Uh, I don’t think so… I only came here a week ago.” “I don’t know… I get the feeling that you should be quite dim. And marry into an elven family. Not ringing any bells at all?” “I’m 18 – of course I’ve never been married! What’s your problem, dude?” “I- I don’t know…. You just look really familiar. Um, maybe you just look like a TV celebrity or something, heh-heh?” “Well, I have been told I’m handsome, so yeah… Yeah, that sounds about right!” Birch had to stop weird-ing people out…
Carla wouldn’t be weirded out by Birch. Carla understood him in her perfection… “Hey Carla, all that sitting hunched over in psychology lectures must be causing some serious back tension… Want a massage?” Carla laughed and blushed a little, but accepted Birch’s offer anyway. Having kneaded dough to create the perfect bread for his sandwiches, Birch had developed what he hoped was the perfect massage technique, though he’d never had the opportunity to try it out on a girl before. But he couldn’t mess this up now – Carla might be his only chance to find a woman who could stand him and his habits!
“Wooooow… That was amazing, Birch! It’s like all the tension’s gone completely… How many girls did you have to massage before you learnt to do that?” Birch may not have been adept socially, but he saw the potential trap in that question. Just as well he didn’t have to lie, but he might omit the bread bit… “Actually I’ve never massaged anyone before, you’re the first one…” “Really?” “Really.” There was a strong atmosphere between them…
Which Birch promptly ruined by suggesting a game of red hands. He didn’t know how to deal with romantic situations and was, to be honest, a little bit terrified. Still, Carla didn’t look put out and the game ended up being quite fun. Surely another opportunity would turn up later? He couldn’t have blown it forever just like that, could he?
The next morning (not actually morning, but since when did students sleep at night?) Birch was feeling good. Confident. He even managed to successfully conjure a perfect grilled cheese sandwich purely by the power of his mind. That had to be a good sign. Today would be the day he made his feelings clear. He practically swallowed the sandwich whole and headed up to Carla’s room.
As he entered he realised she wasn’t alone – she’d been talking to Simon. Their conversation had stopped immediately with Simon blushing and Carla looking unconcerned. Simon liked Carla! But from the looks of it, he hadn’t gotten around to telling her yet. Birch had to get in there first! It was his only chance at love! “Oh, hey Carla. I was just wondering if you wanted to come and have a late-night meal with me…” “Ah, I would, but I seriously have to go finish this psychology essay at the library. Sorry. But hey, maybe another day after the deadline? Bye guys! We can talk later, right Simon?”
Carla left to go to the library, but neither of the boys did. Who knew when she’d be back, and whoever she ran into first might be the one who would win her heart… “Don’t you have a desk of your own to work on?” “Don’t you have a bed of your own to read on?” “Look, I know what you’re trying to do and I saw her first!” “No you didn’t, I met her before you did!” “Well she’d choose me over you any day anyway!” “Yeah, well we’ll just see about that!”
Carla spent all night at the library however, so eventually both boys gave up waiting before it descended into a physical fight. Birch decided to go and play some chess while it was still warm outside. He was soon joined by some blonde girl. “Heeeey Birch, how’s it going? I hear you can give an amazing massage, how about you show me your skills some time…?” Birch was almost to flustered to speak. No girl ever flirted with him! And he liked Carla anyway… “Oh, uh, I think it’s about to rain! Big, grey, heavy clouds coming over from, um, behind you, I’d better go! Bye!” And he practically ran away.
Carla: *Unfathomable swoon* Simon: *Creepy stare* Random blonde dormie: *Grumble: I will get some action by the end of the year!* Although Carla did seem to like Birch a lot, she also appeared to inexplicably find Simon attractive. As far as most of the other dormies were concerned, this provided good enough grounds for somebody to committed or, if not that, some other kind of action of intervention to save them from themselves.
Birch was more than happy to be the one to save her from herself. Having watched several romantic movies in preparation for finally making his big move, he had honed a few more irresistible techniques to help his cause. Carla may not have known how much effort had gone into them, but seemed to appreciate them nonetheless. “Oh Birch, I hadn’t been certain you felt the same way…” “Mmmm…” Her skin was warm like a freshly toasted sandwich…
And the talking stopped for a considerable time. Well, for them at least. For the rest of the dormies gossip spread like wildfire, but that’s what you get when you kiss at the bottom of the only stairs in the building, in everybody’s way and view. But it was also generally considered quite sweet, though Simon probably wouldn’t have agreed.
Eventually they broke apart and agreed that they had other things to do, even if they didn’t want to, Carla seeming very flustered. Needless to say, neither of them got very much work done.
Being slightly slower in the social interaction part of his brain, Birch only realised how very much he cared about Carla when they’d parted ways. Still, he wasn’t certain she felt the same way yet, so he’d just spend all night and tomorrow thinking about her instead.
“So you’re, like, in love with her?” “Mmhmm” Birch tried to ignore this girl. If it hadn’t been for Carla he might have been glad of female attention, but he couldn’t get this girl to leave him alone, she kept turning up. “But, like, guys are never in love-love. You’re telling me that if some attractive, maybe blonde girl came to you, looking for some action with no strings attached, you’d still not-” “Oh, would you look at the time! I’m late for lectures! Better run!” What was wrong with girls today?!
Still, one was always perfect. “I guess I just find it kind of frustrating, you know. I mean everyone seems to need a degree nowadays, but, to be honest, all I really want is somebody to settle down with for the rest of my life. Kids would be great and more money tends to be better than less, but really I could get everything I want without spending three more years getting a degree that I might not even use.”
“Hey, if you don’t need a degree and you’re not enjoying university that much then-” “I don’t mean I’m not enjoying it! I’m enjoying being with you, of course I am, but…” “But I don’t need a degree either. I mean I can spend this time improving my cooking, but if I drop out I could continue to learn while actually getting experience in the culinary career and earning money and stuff. And I wouldn’t have to do all these essays and lectures and term papers and that.”
“I don’t want to be the reason for you doing something you might regret later though, Birch…” “Regret?! Are you crazy? Look, I don’t know about you, but I’ve already found my somebody to settle down with forever and that’s all I need to not regret anything I do.” That and grilled cheese sandwiches, he added mentally.
Carla blushed and smiled happily, while Birch wondered when he learnt how to stop putting his foot in his mouth and say romantic things. “Well, we’re near the end of the year so we might as well finish that and we’ll still have a little time to think things over.” But she still looked very pleased over what Birch had said.Of course, he couldn’t help himself… “You know, pancakes aren’t that good for you, do you want me to make you a sandwich?”
“Do you have to keep following me?” “Oh come on, we’re friends aren’t we?” Blonde Girl asked with a hurt and innocent look that Birch was sure was fake. “I suppose so…” “… You ever hear of something called ‘friends with benefits’?” “Argh!”
Birch wasn’t the only one with ‘friend’ issues… Simon: *Look how pretty she is. And she’s nice to me. Nobody else is nice to me. She should be with me, not that stupid cheese-obsessed Birch. I’d be a much better boyfriend.* “Simon…? Are you stood behind me staring at me again?” “Oh, hi Carla!”
“Look Simon, you’re a really nice and sweet guy and I’m really glad that we’re friends- best friends even. And we should stay best friends, without any of the kinds of complications that might ruin such a wonderful, wonderful friendship. Please tell me you understand what I’m saying here.”
“Yeah, being best friends is great. But I could do so much more for you, Carla! I could be the best boyfriend ever in the history of the world! I’d never cheat on you and we’d have the cutest, black-haired babies!” “Simon, I have a boyfriend. I love Birch and as much as I care about you, I don’t feel anywhere near the same way for you, you have to let me go. Find another girl, there are plenty more around, and she can like you like I like Birch. “But…” Random ginger guy: “Can I stalk you too?”
“Hey Carla! Simon.” Birch barely concealed the threat in his voice, but stopped glaring when he saw the disapproving look on Carla’s face. “I just finished my final exam! How’d you like to go out for a meal downtown?” “Oh, but I just had an omelette- Hang on, why are you all dressed up?” “The food’s not really the important part, now come on, let’s go!”
“Get this beautiful, wonderful woman whatsoever she desires!” “Birch! …I guess I’ll skip straight to some dessert with a slice of cake please.” “And for you sir?” “Oh, just a glass of water, I ate earlier. And some champagne!” “I ate earlier too!” “Yes, but I couldn’t bear to eat a grilled cheese sandwich I didn’t make when I always have one to hand and you deserve all the cake you ever want!”
“What are you up to, Birch? You could have at least let me dress up smartly too…” “Well as I shall explain in the toast: a toast to the most wonderful woman who looks absolutely amazing regardless of what she’s wearing – andprobablyevenmorewhenshe’snotwearinganything – and is probably the only person who could bear to put up with me like she does!” “Birch…”
“Oh look, I have a velvety box in my jacket pocket for some reason…” “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god…”
“Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod!” “Carla Lewis, will you make me the luckiest guy on the whole of campus and be my wife forever and ever?” “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod YES!”
“Now what was that you were suggesting about us sitting around for three whole more years before we settle down to start a family…?” “Are you sure you’re not going to regret it later, Birch?” “Look at you! How could I ever regret anything when I’m engaged to Carla Lewis?!”
Very little more was said that evening, except for the increasing grumbling of one Miss Crumplebottom.
Birch headed back to the dorm to organise his dropping out of university, but Carla was too excited to go home and sleep, so decided to – somewhat unwisely – try that odd contraption in the corner downstairs. Luckily she sustained no permanent damage and Birch wouldn’t have minded if she had.
“Yes, you can take your further education and stick it up your-”And thus Birch finished his education earlier than scheduled. “I don’t care if I can’t get an amazing job, I’m in LOVE, something you stuffy lecturers wouldn’t understand! … Oh yeah, sure, whatever. When was this, the middle ages? … Pfft, I’m leaving anyway.” The university wasn’t happy and he definitely wasn’t going to be able to return after that conversation…
And so, still in a kind of formal wear, similar to though less fashionable than his last outfit, Birch left to start his adult life, which was a slightly alarming thought, but soothed by the knowledge that he’d soon be joined by Carla. And he’d be free from judgemental cafeteria ladies to grill as many cheese sandwiches as he wanted.
Speaking of which, first things first: Just a brief rubbing of his hands…
And he was in heaven. “Oh Grilled Cheese Sandwiches… I can’t deny that I love Carla, but you’re my other true love…”
Having indulged in one pleasure, it was time to regain his other. “Carla! You have to get over here right away! You need to see our house, it’s amazing!”
A short time later… “Hang on, you said we had a hou-” Carla’s uncovering of Birch blatant lie was quickly silenced. “I thought you might come quicker, I couldn’t bear to be without you a second longer than I had to!” “Oh Birch…” “Move in now please, kay thanks?”
Despite her annoyance at the lie, Carla couldn’t leave Birch to look after himself alone in a field. Even if she had been annoyed enough to go back to university, she’d be bombarded with Simon wanting to know if she’d broken up with Birch so he could have a chance with her. Not worth the hassle, regardless. “Turn around Birch, I don’t know what outfit I’m going to be wearing and would rather nobody else has to see if possible…”
“Oh dear…” “Can I look yet, hon?” “Um, no, hang on, I must have something more appropriate to wear…” “Wait, you’re wearing something inappropriate? Let me see!” “If you want to have a wife you’ll keep that head turned, mister!”
A brief search through her wardrobe later, Carla was dressed in an outfit she felt comfortable wearing in public. “I wanted to see the inappropriate outfit… It’s not like this suit suits me…” “I looked like a female spy from a Bond movie.” “What? I would have wanted to see that! I could be James Bond in this outfit too… We could have ‘interrogated’ each other and everything…” “Oh Birch, you’re so silly… Now I believe we were going to get married?”