Before: Part 2: During – Chapter: 2

To this day, he can still remember the way vanilla filled the small dorm room the first time he was alone with her. Her hair was soaked, she had a towel wrapped around her curvy body, and it was the first time he paid attention to the way her chest flushed when she was mad. He would see her mad again, so damn mad, more times than he could count, but he would never, ever, forget the way she tried to be polite to him at first. He took her politeness as pride. Another stubborn girl who pretends to be a woman, he thought. The strange girl kept on being as patient as she could. For no reason at all. She didn’t owe him anything, she still doesn’t, and he can only hope to see her mad at him again and again, for the rest of his life.

He grasps for the memories of those days now, as he sits alone, trapped by his own mistakes. These memories of his anger, of her anger, are a few of the only things that kept him afloat after she left him.

The first day of the fall semester is always the absolute best for people-watching. So many fucking idiots running around like chickens with their heads cut off, so many girls dressed in their favorite outfits in a desperate attempt to gain attention from men.

It’s the same cycle every year at every college across the globe. Washington Central University just happens to be where I’m condemned to attend. I like it enough; it’s easy, and my professors cut me a lot of slack. Despite my lack of giving an actual fuck, I’m pretty decent academically. If I “applied myself more,” I could be even better, but I don’t have the time or the energy to waste obsessing over grades or plans or anything that could be obsessed over. I’m not as stupid as the professors always assume I’ll be. I can miss an entire week of class and still ace an exam. I’ve learned that as long as I can do that, they’ll leave me be.

The front of the Student Union is the prime location for the show. Sitting here watching all the parents in tears has to be my favorite part. It’s amusing to me because my mum couldn’t seem to get rid of me quick enough, and some of the parents here act like their damn arms are getting cut off when their children—adult children, might I remind you—are off to college. They should be happy, not sobbing like annoying children, that their kids are actually doing something with their lives. If they took a walk around my old neighborhood, they would kiss the ground of Washington Central University for giving their child a chance in the world.

A woman with huge fake tits and bleached hair hugs her puny, plaid-shirt-wearing son, and I’m full on grinning as he starts to cry into his mum’s shoulder. Fucking pussy. His dad is standing back, away from the pathetic sight, checking his expensive watch, waiting for his son and wife to stop their blubbering.

I can’t imagine how that would feel, having my parents obsess over me. My mum cared enough, when she wasn’t working from sunup to sundown, leaving me to fend for myself as she made up for my shitbag father’s lack of common sense. She tried to make up for it the best she could, but one can only do so much when so much has already been lost. And I fought her help. Every step of the way. I wouldn’t accept it then and still won’t accept it now. Not from her, not from anyone.

“Hey, man.” Nate sits down across from me at the picnic table and pulls a cigarette from his pocket. “What’s the plan for the night?” he asks as his fingers flick over the lighter.

I shrug and pull my phone from my pocket to check the time. “I don’t know; we’re meeting Steph in her room.”

As he smokes, Nate annoys me into agreeing to walk to Steph’s dorm from the Student Union. It’s not a far walk, fifteen minutes or so, but I’d much rather drive than push through the masses of eager pupils decked out in their college best.

By the time we reach the dorms, Nate is going on about the party this weekend. It’s always the same every single weekend. What’s there to be excited about?

Everything is always the same for me. Same group of friends, same amount of sex, same parties, same old shit, different day.

I’m about to barge into the room when Nate reminds me, “We should knock. Remember how pissed she was last time?”

I laugh to myself. Yeah, I do remember that day. It was last semester, and I walked into Steph’s dorm room without knocking. I found her on her knees in front of some asshole. I call him an asshole because… well, because he was wearing flip-flops. A man-child in flip-flops is automatically an asshole in my book. He was embarrassed, and Steph was pissed. As he snuck out, she threw just about every item she owned in the direction of my head.

It made my entire week to see her so horrified. To this day, I give her shit about it.

I finally stop laughing at the memory when I hear her yell for us to come inside.

And when I do, I’m greeted by the sight of a blond guy in a cardigan standing in the middle of Steph’s room. Steph is standing between Nate and me, looking at the newcomers with amusement dancing in her eyes. It takes me a moment to notice a tense-looking woman and younger girl with them. The woman is hot… my eyes take her body in: tall frame, long blond hair, decent tits.

“Hey, you Steph’s roomie?” Nate says, and I finally get a good look at the girl.

She’s decent enough: pouty lips, long blond hair. That’s about all I can tell, because the chick is wearing clothes that are three times her size. I notice the way her skirt literally touches the floor, and cringe inwardly. Just from a glance, I can tell college is not going to be fun for this girl.

Case in point: she’s staring down at her feet, nervous as hell. What’s wrong with her?

“Um… yes. My name is Tessa,” she mumbles. Her voice is quiet, obnoxiously so.

I look over at Steph, who smiles a slick smile and sits down on her bed, never taking her eyes off the girl.

Nate responds with a smile, always the friendlier of the two of us. “I’m Nate. Don’t look so nervous.”

I don’t see the point in small talk, especially with this little mouse. She’s staring at Nate wide-eyed, and he reaches out to touch her shoulder.

“You’ll love it here,” he adds.

He’s full of shit.

Steph’s roommate looks terrified as her eyes rake over the band posters hanging on the wall. This girl couldn’t have been a worse match for her. She’s quiet, timid, scared of the world, apparently. She’s lucky I’m feeling nice today; otherwise I would have made her even more uncomfortable.

“I’m ready, guys,” Steph says, popping up from the bed. She pushes her purse thing up onto her shoulder and walks toward the door. The blond boy—likely her roommate’s brother—is staring at me, and I glare in his direction.

“See you around, Tessa.” Nate waves goodbye to the girl, and I notice her staring at me. Her eyes move from my eyebrow ring to the loop in my lip and back and forth between both of my arms. Then I notice the woman and that dude are doing the same thing.

What? You all’ve never seen tattoos before? I want to ask, but I get the feeling her mum isn’t as nice as the rack she sports, so I may as well behave. For now.

The moment we step into the hallway, we hear the woman shriek, “You’re getting a new dorm!”

Steph bursts into laughter, and Nate and I join in as we walk down the hall.


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