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Chapter 1

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I was about to make a huge mistake.

This wouldn't be the first time it happened, nor would it be the last. I knew all the reasons why I shouldn't—­ the painful consequences were so familiar to me. But that didn't stop me.

I closed my eyes, silently counted to three, and took a long, deep breath.

Then I took a giant bite of the cheesiest veggie lasagna they served once a week in the campus cafeteria.

"Ungghh..." I sighed lustily, savoring the creamy, salty, addicting flavor of cheese in my mouth. The softness of the noodles. It was my reward for being such a good citizen this week, and I deserved—­

"Why are you doing this to yourself?"

My eyes snapped open. My best friend Tala, all four feet eleven inches of her, stood in front of me with a look of disappointment but no surprise on her pretty face. She placed her books on the table, dumped her bag on the floor, pulled out a chair, and sat.

I shot her a mischievous grin and took another bite. 

"You're lactose intolerant," she pointed out uselessly, watching me chew in ecstasy.

I licked the warm cheese on my lips, took another bite, and moaned. "I had a crappy morning at work today. I owe myself this cheesy perfection."

"I know you're happy now," she continued. She opened her bag and fished out a pink square Tupperware with pictures of cute cats all over it. The scent of spices filled the air as she opened her lunch box. "But remember what happened in Professor Balajadia's seminar last time?"

I made a face. "I took the pills."

She shook her head, pulled out a folded paper towel from her bag, and unwrapped it. It was her spoon and fork. Even though she had immigrated to Canada ten years ago, she'd grown up in the Philippines, where they usually use both utensils. "You know they don't work on you."

I glared at her. "You're ruining my moment here. And aren't you going to microwave that?" I pointed at her lunch with my fork. It was rice and adobo today.

She gave me an embarrassed look. "And get sued? No thanks."

I rolled my eyes. To show how much I loved her, I hit pause on my romantic date with the lasagna and grabbed her lunch box, heading straight to the microwave. Bonus: there were only three people in line.

Tala's mom always prepared lunches for her, and it was usually rice and meat. When heated up in the microwave, the smell was so pungent it filled the room. The first time she used the microwave in the campus cafeteria, people complained about the smell of her food clinging to their clothes, so she never did it again.

Well, this was the cafeteria. Where else would she heat up her food? Under the sun? People would just have to deal.

I met Tala our freshman year in college. We were in the same accounting class. One of the girls in the class said something nasty about Tala being overweight, and I reacted accordingly. Two years later, we're still friends, so the friendship must be real. She's one of the best people on planet Earth.

When it was my turn, I put her food in the microwave for two minutes. Thirty seconds later, the overpowering smell of spices and meat filled the air. I could hear grumbles from people behind me, and I glared at them defiantly, daring them to say something.

When they didn't, I turned around and stared at the microwave's timer screen. When it hit two seconds, I jerked it open like my life depended on it. I hated the beep it made when it hit zero.

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