MidReal Story

Unforeseen Allure: Academic Rivals' Unexpected Connection

Scenario: 2 academic rivals who hate each other to core and humiliate each other but suddenly the female protagonist goes quiet and the male lead tries to find the reason about her change on behavior
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2 academic rivals who hate each other to core and humiliate each other but suddenly the female protagonist goes quiet and the male lead tries to find the reason about her change on behavior
I have a rival.
His name is James Bennett, and he’s the bane of my existence.
We’re both students at the prestigious University of Cambridge, and we’re both in the same year.
We’re both studying for a degree in English Literature.
And we’re both fiercely competitive.
Our rivalry is the stuff of legend.
It’s what everyone talks about when they talk about us.
It’s what everyone expects when they see us together.
It’s what everyone loves to watch when we’re in the same room together, which is often, because we have a lot of classes together.
James is my intellectual equal, and I hate him for it.
He’s tall and broad-shouldered and handsome, with tousled brown hair and piercing blue eyes that make my heart race every time I look at him, which is often, because I can’t seem to stop looking at him whenever he’s around.
James and I hate each other.
There’s no other way to put it.
No way to sugarcoat it.
No way to pretend otherwise.
We despise each other.
And that mutual hatred is what drives our rivalry.
It’s what fuels our competition.
It’s what makes us strive to outdo one another at every turn.
That, and the fact that we’re both incredibly ambitious, with our eyes set on the same prize: the First Class Honours degree we need to secure to pursue our dream of becoming professional literary critics or professors of English Literature at the most prestigious universities in the world.
I’ll stop at nothing to get that degree.
I’ll do anything to win it.
Even if it means going head-to-head with James Bennett, my academic nemesis and rival, in front of an audience of our peers, who seem to take great pleasure in watching us fight like cats and dogs whenever we’re in the same room together.
They gather around us, their faces alight with glee as they wait for us to go for each other’s throats.
But we never do.
We never will.
Because, well…
James is too much of a gentleman to hit me.
Or at least he says he is.
And I’m too much of a lady to hit him back.
Or at least I say I am.
So instead of fighting like cats and dogs, we argue like a couple of old married farts.
We bicker over books, and plays, and poems, and everything in between.
We clash over characters and plots and themes and critical theory.
We squabble over subplots, and narrative devices, and the authorial voice.
He says up when I say down.
He says left when I say right.
He says black when I say white.
He says yes when I say no.
He says no when I say yes.
He says never when I say always.
He says always when I say never.
He says right when I say wrong.
He says wrong when I say right.
He says never when I say always.
He says always when I say never.
He says no when I say yes.
He says yes when I say no.
It drives me mad.
It drives him mad too, but not in quite the same way it drives me mad.
Because James likes to argue for the sake of arguing.
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James rubs his forehead again and shakes his head before he leans back in his chair and looks down at me dismissively.
It’s hard to tell what he really enjoys; winding me up so much that I want to bash his head against the wall or the sound of his own voice when he talks about topics he’s passionate about—like literature—or being proved right all the time or appearing cleverer than everyone else in the room or pissing me off so much I can barely string a sentence together when I try to argue with him or all of the above.
“Because my essay has an argument that actually makes sense,” he says, the smugness in his voice making me want to punch him—“It’s not based on a flawed premise.”
Oh God, I hate him so much!
I try not to think about how much I hate him when he settles beside me at the back of the lecture theatre a few minutes after I’ve taken my seat at my usual desk and chair, but it’s hard not to think about how much I hate him when he looks at me with those piercing blue eyes of his and smirks a slow, lazy smile that makes my stomach flip over on itself as he says in that low drawl of his, “Do you really think that Virginia Woolf intended her readers to interpret the relationship between Lily Briscoe and Mrs Ramsay as that of a mother-daughter when they’re clearly two women who are both mourning the loss of their husband or father-figure?”
I narrow my eyes at him and say, “How can it have a premise when there’s no author?The author is dead.”
“Yes.” I nod once, curtly, my lips pressed into a tight line as I narrow my eyes at him over the top of my reading glasses.
James laughs and shakes his head.
A smile tugs at his lips, and he shakes his head in disbelief as though he can’t quite fathom how stupid I am for not seeing what is so clearly apparent to him—what is so clearly apparent to everyone else in the room if they’re paying attention to what I’ve just said instead of focusing on our argument with rapt attention.
His hair falls into his eyes again, making me want to reach out and brush it away so I can see more clearly—and making me want to slap myself for thinking such stupid thoughts about someone who I hate.
“The author isn’t dead,” he says, grinning at me as though this is all some joke that I don’t understand—“The author is very much alive.”
“You really are something else, you know that?”
he says, rubbing his forehead with those long fingers of his before he runs a hand through his tousled brown hair, making it even messier than it was before as he continues to smirk down at me with that condescending look on his face that makes me want to slap it off him—“You’re either completely mad or totally stupid, but either way you’re wrong.”
“But their work isn’t,” I say, narrowing my eyes at him.
I frown at him.
He sighs and rubs his forehead again before he leans forward over the table and says, “Let’s just agree to disagree.”
“But I’m right,” I insist.
His smile widens into a grin, and I scowl at him, incensed by his arrogance, his insolence, his stupidity.
He laughs condescendingly and shakes his head.
“I’m not wrong,” I say, shaking my head as I push my reading glasses up the bridge of my nose, irritated by the way he looks at me with his head cocked to one side and his eyes fixed on mine, as though he’s trying to get a read on me—“I’m right.”
“I’ll see you on Tuesday,” he says, standing up and shouldering his bag—“If you’re lucky then maybe I’ll be able to teach you something about literature.”
He sighs and shakes his head, exasperated by my stubbornness, and says, “I can see that there’s no point arguing with you when you’re like this, but just know that I’m right—and that you’re wrong.”
I roll my eyes, fed up with his childishness, and say, “If that’s how you feel then why don’t you write your essay that way and see if your tutor agrees with you?”
The way he looks at me, with those dark brown eyes that are almost black, makes me want to gag—and makes me want to burst into flames as I wonder what it is that he thinks he can teach me about literature when I’m clearly better at it than he is.
But then he says, “You look good with your hair up,” and I forget how to breathe, let alone talk, as I watch him walk away.
I scowl at the door through which he disappeared and wonder what on earth is wrong with me, because it shouldn’t matter what James Bennett thinks of my appearance.
It doesn’t matter what he thinks of me—he doesn’t matter.
And yet I can still feel my cheeks burning with embarrassment at the thought that he was looking at me and assessing me even though I know that there is nothing wrong with wearing my hair up and that there is nothing wrong with the way I look.
He was just trying to irritate me, to get a rise out of me, to get under my skin—as though he knows exactly what I’m thinking even though I haven’t said a word.
He was just trying to wind me up.
But it worked, and that makes me even more annoyed with myself than I am with him.
I shake my head to try and clear it before I stand up, pick up my bag, and walk out of the library—with my hair still up in a messy bun that I don’t care about and with my cheeks still burning even though I know that there is no reason that they should be.
I’ll show him, I think angrily as I make my way back to my room.
I’ll show him on Tuesday how wrong he is.
I’ll prove him wrong.
I’ll prove that his argument doesn’t make sense without an author because it doesn’t—and I’ll prove that he’s an idiot for thinking otherwise.
I pull out my laptop and start to write my counter-argument from the notes that I made last night.
I make sure to include quotations from the text to prove my point, and I make sure to cite all my sources properly.