Robert's eyes widened and Aaron was tempted to laugh. He had the same reaction the first time Keeley bragged about her boyfriend's accomplishments.
"That…wow. That's a lot of languages for someone your age."
He shrugged. His parents enrolled him in language lessons before he was even in elementary school.
"Language acquisition is easier the younger you are. I'm working on Portuguese and Italian as well since they share similar components to Spanish and French but I wouldn't call myself fluent."
"Showoff," Keeley coughed so faintly her father didn't hear it but Aaron certainly did.
He frowned, displeased. What was her problem? She shoved the garlic bread into the oven with some force and crossed her arms tightly as she joined them at the table.
He tried changing the subject. "So, what's for dinner? It smells delicious."
"Lasagna," Robert said helpfully. "My late wife's recipe. Her mother was Italian and taught her everything she knew, which she passed onto Keeley, so we eat a lot of Italian food around here."
"I love Italian food."
Keeley narrowed her eyes at him. "I would have thought lasagna would be too simple for you."
"Keeley," her father warned. "Be nice."
"I am nice! He's the one that isn't nice," she mumbled under her breath.
Aaron silently gnashed his teeth. He heard that too. What on earth had he done to make her hate him so much?
He'd been perfectly kind to her in this life. Well, sort of. He lost his head a few times after she kept ignoring him but she started it! Her hatred predated anything he did.
"It's fine, Mr. Hall," he lied. "I'm sure Keeley is just tired. Midterms are almost upon us after all."
Midterms…after midterms the seating chart would be changed again and he would lose yet another opportunity to be close to her.
This wasn't a problem before because by the time the change happened, the two of them were hanging out at lunch and on the weekends. He had to find a way to convince the teacher to keep them next to each other.
"Oh look, the lasagna is ready," Keeley said quickly once the oven beeped. "We need to wait a bit before cutting it so it won't fall apart though."
"I didn't realize you were such a proficient cook," Aaron commented though it wasn't true.
Keeley cooked for him plenty of times while they were dating. He'd had her lasagna before and it was delicious. His parents hired a chef as a wedding present though so she stopped cooking for them early in their marriage.
"She sort of has to be since I only know how to make breakfast food," Robert chuckled. "Eggs and pancakes are about all I can do."
"Nothing wrong with that. I can't cook at all."
"Have fun living off of ramen and toast in college," she snorted. "Money shouldn't stop you from learning how to feed yourself. Food is a basic human need."
"Harvard has meal plans; I'll be fine."
He couldn't help but wonder why her comment sounded personal, like she was bitter about something she experienced firsthand.
"NYU has meal plans too but I'm still going to cook for my dad on the weekends. Nothing beats a home-cooked meal." She turned toward her father. "You better remember to eat right when I'm not around."
He smiled and tugged at her ponytail affectionately. "I have lived on my own before, you know."
The garlic bread timer went off and once the pan was out she deemed the lasagna fit to cut.
Everyone dug in with different emotions. Keeley was clearly disgruntled. Her father was oblivious to the storm brewing next to him and ate happily. Aaron, who hadn't enjoyed his love's cooking for decades, was quite satisfied though annoyance lingered at her blatant hostility.
He ate two slices of lasagna and three pieces of garlic bread before getting full and wished he could take some home with him even though his family employed a renowned personal chef. Who knew when she would cook for him again?
"Thank you for the delightful meal," he directed at Keeley, who wouldn't meet his eyes.
"You're welcome," she said begrudgingly. "I have a lot of homework to do though and I know you do too so you better go."
"It was nice meeting you," Robert said with a smile. "Feel free to visit us again."
Keeley's face flooded with panic and Aaron felt his heart rip in half. She really didn't want him there at all.
"It was nice meeting you too," he said softly. "See you tomorrow, Keeley."
"Yeah, see ya. And…thanks for the scrapbooking stuff."
"You're welcome. Let me know how it goes."
She nodded before practically shoving him out the door and locking it behind her. She couldn't wait to get rid of him.
He cursed and kicked the inside of the elevator on his way down to the parking garage. Keeley felt further away from him the closer he tried to get.
He wanted to seize her in his arms, kiss her senseless, and get her to remember that she loved him but if he did that, she would never speak to him again.
As it was, he considered himself lucky every time she spoke more than a few words to him. Pathetic.
It vaguely crossed his mind that if Keeley knew everything he did to her in his past life, her actions would be explained perfectly but he brushed that aside. It was unbelievable enough that he got a second chance.
The statistical probability of both of them being reborn back into the same general timeline was less than one in a billion. There had to be another reason she was so afraid of him. Something easily explainable.
Aaron tried thinking back. Had they met somehow before they were desk mates? Did Lacy do something to make her like this?
There hadn't been any funny rumors floating around since the first day he saw Keeley again and couldn't control his impulse to be near her, ending up following her around.
He should have been more subtle but it took everything in him not to crush her to his chest and never let her go that day. It was the first time he saw her up close since she died so he wasn't thinking as rationally as he should have been.