“This is bullshit. You’re my roommate. How can we be in different groups?”
I was panicking a little as Allison relayed the information she’d gathered after she’d checked the rosters for the freshman orientation groups.
“Don’t shoot the messenger. I just checked the lists.” She held her hands up with a shit-eating grin on her face.
I envied her confidence and effortless style. She always looked put together and had flowing light brown hair and wide-set deep brown eyes.
My mousey color of golden-brown lay stick-straight down my back.
“I hate meeting strangers,” I whined. I was friendly enough, but my anxiety got the best of me in awkward situations. Meeting new people was always a worrying event for me.
“Then it’s going to be a long few months for you,” she laughed. “That’s all the beginning of college is, lots of peopling with strangers.”
“Ugh. Don’t remind me. Can’t I just hide in here for freshman orientation?”
“Afraid not, my friend. The paperwork said if you don’t participate they call your parents.”
I wasn’t sure how she was so relaxed about this. What if my group was full of idiots? Even worse, what if my group was full of vain idiots?
“Fuckers,” I muttered, and she started laughing again.
“It can’t be that bad. The groups are co-ed. You might meet some cute guys,” she shrugged.
“That’s the last thing I need.” I was just trying to survive going to college. Adding romantic entanglements to that was a lot.
“Nothing wrong with finding a first-week hookup.” She winked as she did a little hip thrust.
“Yeah, that’d be a no.” I shook my head as I cringed. “Hard pass.”
“You’re not a…,” she gasped.
My cheeks turned pink as she looked me over.
“Oh my god. You are!” she practically shouted, and my cheeks went nuclear.
“Shut up!” It was embarrassing enough to be one of the last virgins in my graduating class. I didn’t need my roommate teasing me as well.
It just wasn’t something I was interested in or had been allowed to explore. All my friends were guys I’d known my whole life. I didn’t see most of them like that.
“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with it. Just don’t hold onto that V-card too tightly. You might miss out on enjoying yourself.”
“I’m good. But thanks.” I laughed nervously.
“If you need me to help pick out a guy…” She trailed off with a wink. I did not need my roommate to be my pimp.
I picked up my pillow and chucked it at her head while she laughed at my expense.
“Shut up, you whore,” I laughed as she caught the pillow before it hit her.
“You’re just jealous.” She laughed even harder as she threw it back at me.
“Moving on,” I sighed as I tucked it under my chin, “is your group leader male or female?”
“Mine is female. Stephanie something… She’s a junior.”
“Nice last name,” I giggled.
“I wasn’t paying attention. I just found my group number and yours, then got out of there.” Ali shrugged. “Yours is named Cale.”
“Like the salad?” I frowned. What kind of person named their kid after a type of lettuce?
“Spelled with a C. But you should use that to make fun of him,” she giggled.
“Ugh. I hope he isn’t a douche.” If I had to spend a week with him in charge, I hoped he would be at least halfway normal.
“Just relax. This week is supposed to be fun. You gotta lighten up a little.”
“Easy for you to say.” I rolled my eyes. “You could make friends with a cardboard box.”
“Fake it till you make it, baby. You think I like not knowing anyone?”
She made a nervous face. “It’s awkward as fuck. But I still do it. You’ll never get to know anyone if you don’t put yourself out there.”
I contemplated what she was telling me. I could fake being social for a week…right?
I could do this…maybe. Probably
My phone pinged with a text message, and I smiled as I looked down at it.
A hand waved in front of my face, and I looked up from texting.
“Maybe you don’t need my help.” Allison smirked as she nodded at my phone.
“Who has that smile plastered to your face?” she asked as her grin grew broader.
“What are you talking about?” I frowned, not realizing I’d been smiling. It was just Davis.
“Who are you texting?”
“Davis.” I shrugged.
“You didn’t tell me you had a boyfriend,” she teased.
“What? No…no, no, no. He’s not my boyfriend. I mean, he’s a boy, and he’s my friend, but no. Nothing romantic is going on here,” I denied.
“Do you have a picture of this ‘friend’?”
I pulled up his Instagram and flashed her a pic I’d taken of him for my senior year photography assignment. It was black-and-white and showed his curly dark hair falling slightly over one eye.
His light blue eyes were in direct focus and popped against the blurry background of the photo.
A smattering of freckles was visible along the bridge of his nose and softly dusting his cheeks until they met his angled jawline.
“He’s cute.” She nodded. “You sure there aren’t any feelings there?”
There had been once. Davis was on the receiving end of a pretty substantial unrequited crush in middle school. But I’d never told him how I felt. Those feelings had since faded.
But I did have to admit the boyish good looks he’d always had developed into something quite attractive.
“No.” I shook my head. “He’s my best friend.”
“Not you too,” I groaned as I sat back dramatically.
“So other people think you two are into each other?”
“We’re not talking about this. This subject is closed. Done. Finished,” I insisted. There had been rumors last year, but Davis was not into me, not even a little bit. I would have known.
“Fine. Fine. I’ll let it go.” Ali grinned as she tried to peek at my phone screen. “For now.”
She climbed up into her loft and propped her feet onto a pillow, pulling out a bottle of nail polish. “You don’t mind, do you? The smell drove my dad nuts. I always had to go out on the back porch.”
“No, it’s fine. Got any other colors?”
She nodded toward a case on her desk, and I grabbed a bottle of pale pink and shook it against my palm a few times.
“Nope.” She shook her head at me. “No boring shit. Get the bright purple out.”
“Geez. Are you always this demanding?”
“Yes,” she laughed as she meticulously painted her toes. “Now do what I say.”
Not wanting to piss off my new friend this early into the relationship, I obeyed and settled into my folding plush chair with my feet perched on the edge.
“So do I get to meet this Davis guy sometime this week?” she asked as she continued to look at the progress she was making on her toes.
I shook my head. “No. He goes to a private engineering school a few hours away. He’s got football camp this week.”
“Wait? So that hottie is a jock too?”
I’d never really thought of him that way. He’d been in my friend group, which consisted of the funny, smart kids in our high school. He’d never been friends with the actual jocks.
“Kinda. I guess. He’s a running back. But his school is small and for, like, geniuses, so I guess the pickings for a football team are slim.”
“Still, you better watch it. It sounds like he will be popular if that school is full of dorks. Cute and athletic might be hard to come by. I bet he has a girlfriend within the week.”
I felt a tightness in my chest at her words, not quite ready to lose my friend to a new romantic entanglement.
It was hard enough to do the long-distance friend thing. Being so far away from him seemed foreign to me.
I screwed the lid back on the polish and texted him back.
My face flamed. He’d always been one to make suggestive comments to be funny, but it felt different now.
“Stop smiling,” Allison teased, “or I might think you like him.”
I glared at her and set my phone down. She was right. I needed to focus on where I was and who I was with. Davis was still my friend, but we’d both have to get used to being apart.
“Why did I agree to let you pick out my clothes?” I whined as I tried to pull down the denim, barely covering my thighs.
“Because you love me, and you’re my new life-sized Barbie.”
“These shorts show butt cheek.” Turning as I looked in the mirror, my eyes widened as I saw how much of my flesh they left exposed.
“Hey, you told me I had to pick something from your clothes. These were in your clothes. Don’t blame me ’cause you only bought half the shorts.”
“I hate you.” I tried to look intimidating as I narrowed my eyes at her, but she only shrugged, an amused smile on her face.
“No you don’t.”
“Why aren’t you wearing shorts that go up to your ass?” Pointing toward her much more appropriate-length shorts, I felt a surge of jealousy.
“Because I have no problem flirting with strangers,” she shrugged.
“Ugh. Not this again. I don’t think these are sending the right message.”
“Just go with it. Remember, our goal this week is to have fun and meet new people,” she insisted.
I sighed and twisted in the mirror. The shorts were short, but they weren’t indecent. And I guess I did have an excellent package to show off. “Fine. Whatever. Let’s do this.”
“That’s the spirit,” she cheered as she smacked me on the exposed skin of my thigh.
“Hey! You’re going to leave a handprint,” I laughed as I swatted at her while she danced backward toward the door, out of my reach.
“Some guys would think that’s hot.”
“Oh my god. You’re obsessed.” I rolled my eyes.
She flipped me off over her shoulder and strutted down the hallway toward the staircase.
Thankfully, we lived on the fourth floor, so it wouldn’t be too horrible to take the stairs during the year. The elevators were always packed, since some people were still moving in.
“All right, my group is meeting in the field between the dorms. You’re supposed to be near the trees on the back side of the dorm.”
“Group three?” I asked, verifying the intel she’d given me earlier.
“Yup. Have fun,” she sang. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
“Pretty sure that’s not going to be a problem,” I muttered under my breath.
I headed down the front steps and turned onto the sidewalk that led toward the back of the dorm. There were benches underneath a small group of trees, where I could see some people already waiting.
As I got closer, I noticed an obvious upperclassman sitting on a bench with a large poster board emblazoned with the number three leaning against the front of it.
He looked up just as I stepped off the concrete path and stepped onto the grass.
“Whoa,” I breathed out as I looked over at him. He had light green eyes framed by dark lashes and high cheekbones, with a golden hue to his skin from being out in the sun.
Sandy-blondish brown hair sat in gentle waves, neatly combed against the sides of his head. He had a strong jawline and defined shoulders, a polo shirt hugging the lean muscle underneath.
I smiled at his beat-up converse that seemed in direct contrast to his khaki shorts.
He pushed a single finger up against the bridge of his glasses and shot a tentative smile in my direction as I approached.
My pulse picked up as I stepped closer, and I caught his eyes lingering on the hem of my shorts. I fought the urge to pull them down as I returned his smile and headed in his direction.
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