Friday morning, my alarm went off at six thirty. I extracted my arm from my covers and turned it off.
“What time is it?” Gina mumbled.
“Did they call after I fell asleep?” she asked sleepily.
I sighed. “No.”
“I thought you said they usually call on Thursday night.”
“That’s what I heard,” I said. “But maybe they didn’t want to wake anyone up.” It was a thin excuse, but I couldn’t think of any other reason why they hadn’t called me. Well, I could think of one other reason, but I didn’t want to dwell on it.
“Are we having breakfast with Kendall?” Gina asked.
She yawned daintily and then blinked her eyes to clear them.
“Do you want to shower first?” I asked.
She shook her head. Then she rolled over, her warm breasts pressing against my chest. “I’ll just shower after breakfast,” she said, “back in my room.”
I nodded half-heartedly. I didn’t really care about taking a shower, but I knew I needed to. In reality, I was disappointed that I hadn’t heard from the Sigma Chis. Why hadn’t they called? I ran through scenarios in my mind, but I kept returning to one. Finally, I shook my head in growing disappointment and then started to get out of bed.
“Paul,” Gina said, stopping me with a gesture, “I’m sure they’ll call.”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Seriously,” she said. “They probably just wanted to wait till morning.”
“I guess,” I said.
“Do you want me to take your mind off it before you shower?” she asked. “It’s okay if you don’t want me to. I mean, I just thought…”
“I dunno,” I answered with a shrug.
“It’ll help you relax,” she said. As she put her hands on my chest, she looked at me earnestly, her eyes soft and full of love. “They’ll call,” she said with conviction.
“But everyone told me that if I got a bid, they’d call on Thursday night,” I said.
“I know,” she whispered. “They probably had trouble with the phones or something. They’ll call. But right now, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“But what if I don’t get a bid?”
“You will,” she said with unshakable certainty. Then she smiled and caressed my chest. “Just relax,” she said softly.
As she disappeared under the sheet, I laced my fingers behind my head and stared at the ceiling. I was still brooding over not getting a call as she started to suck me.
At first, my mind wasn’t really in it. Gina could tell, but she didn’t let that discourage her. Finally, I decided to stop worrying and simply enjoy the blowjob she was giving me. When I did, she quickened her pace, her head bobbing up and down as I ran my fingers through her hair.
After several long, pressure-building minutes, I clutched at the sheets and erupted. Gina moaned when the first spurt hit the back of her throat, but she didn’t take her lips off me. As my orgasm subsided, she continued nursing my deflating cock. Then she let it slip from her lips and crawled up my body.
“Better?” she asked, her eyes full of concern.
“Better,” I agreed. Then I cupped her face and smiled. “I love you,” I said.
“I love you too. And I don’t like it when you’re worried.”
“They’ll call,” she said. “Don’t worry.”
“I won’t.” Much, I thought sourly.
“Do you want me to shower with you?”
“I thought you were going to shower after breakfast,” I said.
“I was. But I thought you might want the company. You know, someone to wash your back.”
“That’d be nice,” I said softly. “Thanks.”
“Are you getting football tickets?” Kendall asked me during breakfast. “It’s the first home game.”
I nodded. “Trip and I were gonna go to the UC after Design class.”
“Okay,” she said. “Do you mind if I give you our cards so you can get all the tickets together?”
“No problem,” I said.
“Vivian gave me hers too,” she added as she reached for her purse, “so you can get one for Drew.”
“Isn’t Vivian going to the game?” I asked.
“She’s in the marching band,” Kendall said.
“You’re such a goof,” Gina said to me. Then she grinned at Kendall. “But he’s our goof.”
“How many tickets are we getting?” I asked.
“Well, you, me, and Gina,” Kendall said, beginning to count on her fingers.
“I can’t go with you all,” Gina interrupted. “Sorry. I want to, but… tomorrow is when I officially pledge Chi O—”
Somehow, Kendall managed to keep her expression neutral.
“—and then we’re supposed to help with the sorority’s pre-game party,” Gina finished.
“Are you sure?” Kendall asked.
“Yeah, sorry,” Gina said. “I really wanna go with you all, but… I just can’t.”
“We’ll miss you.”
“You’ll have fun, I’m sure,” Gina said.
“So I guess it’s just you, me, Drew, and Abby,” Kendall said.
“Trip and the guys from across the hall wanted to go with us,” I added. If Trip’s not doing something with the Sigma Chis, I thought petulantly.
“Okay,” Kendall said. Then she turned to Gina. “Are you sure you can’t go?”
I don’t know why, but I suddenly got the impression that Kendall wasn’t exactly upset that Gina couldn’t go to the game with us.
“No, I can’t,” Gina said. “Sorry.”
“Okay,” Kendall said lightly. “We’ll miss you.”
With that, she handed over three Activity Cards and I pocketed them.
After breakfast, Gina went back to her dorm, while Kendall and I headed toward the Hill and our classes.
“I can’t believe Gina’s actually going to pledge a sorority,” Kendall said as we climbed the steps.
“She’s looking forward to it. And she’s already made one friend,” I said, thinking of the Nordic-looking blonde, Regan.
“Who’s probably another sterling example of everything that’s wrong with sororities.”
“I dunno. She seemed pretty nice to me.”
“I’m just glad you didn’t join a fraternity,” she said.
I felt a knot in my stomach at my growing certainty that I wasn’t going to get a call from Sigma Chi. Surprisingly, Kendall didn’t pick up on my dejection.
“I’m sure some of those guys are okay,” she continued, “but the majority are… are… assholes.”
I looked at her in frank amazement.
“Yes,” she said heatedly, “you heard me. They’re assholes.”
I thought the Sigma Chis were pretty cool, I thought morosely. Why hadn’t they called? Was it something I did? Or said? Had they just pretended to like me? Was Kendall right? Deep in my heart, I knew she wasn’t, but the question still nagged at me.
“You’re not like them,” she said.
“What about Gina?” I asked pointedly, my melancholy turning to irritation. “Is she like them?”
“I didn’t say she was,” Kendall said hastily.
“But you thought it.”
She paused for a moment, defiant. Then she nodded guiltily.
“She’s not like that,” I said softly. “Gina’s a good person. She’s just lonely here. And you said it yourself, she’s out of her comfort zone. She’s finding a new one. So what if it’s with a sorority?”
“But Paul, you don’t understand what they’re like.”
“I understand what Bridget and Toni are like,” I said. “And they’re really nice girls. Are they the only two exceptions among hundreds of sorority girls?”
“Then if they’re not, aren’t there probably others like them?” When she reluctantly nodded, I continued. “And if there are, then it’s possible for Gina to be a good person and be in a sorority?” I asked. Before Kendall could answer, I pulled her close. “This is one of your blind spots,” I said softly. “When you get emotional, you don’t always see things as clearly as you normally do. You know that.”
She sniffled and wiped her cheek as she nodded.
“Gina’s still the same person; she still loves us both.”
“I know,” Kendall said softly.
With my thumbs, I wiped away her tears and tilted her face up. Then, inexplicably, I chuckled.
“What?” she asked, sounding wounded.
“Sorry,” I quickly explained, “I was just thinking how beautiful you are, even when you’re crying.”
She gifted me with a wan smile.
Once again, I wiped away her tears and looked at her seriously. “Listen,” I said, “I don’t know what Big Mistake Guy did—and I don’t think I wanna know, since I’d probably find him and beat the shit out of him—but all frat guys aren’t like that.”
“And all sorority girls aren’t shallow bitches.”
“This is important to Gina, so it should be important to us. After all, we’re probably her best friends in the world right now. Okay?”
“Okay,” she said. Then she sniffled and smiled, her eyes glistening with unshed tears.
“Now,” I said softly, “are you ready for class? Or do you wanna skip it?”
“I can’t,” she said. “I want to, but I’ve got to go. If my grades slip, I’ll lose my scholarship.”
“One class isn’t going to kill you,” I said.
“I know, but you’ve got Calculus, and I really should go to O. Chem. I’ve got to learn this stuff for medical school.”
“Thanks for not getting angry with me.”
“I wouldn’t get angry with you,” I said with a soft chuckle. “Not over something like this.” Then I looked at her and smiled. “Life’s too short to worry about the little things,” I said. “And I’ll tell you a secret,” I added as seriously as I could. When she looked up, I continued. “They’re all little things.” I don’t know if I believed that or not, but it sounded good when I said it. Good advice, Trip, I thought with a mental nod of thanks.
“I guess,” she said.
“I love you so much,” she said quietly.
“And I love you too. But we’d better get to class. We’re already late.”
She wiped her eyes and nodded.
Then I pulled her tight and kissed her tenderly.
“I love you,” I whispered.
“I love you too. Bye.”
“How’d it go last night?” Trip asked before Professor Joska arrived in class.
“With Gina. You had to meet her, right?”
“Yeah,” I said. “We just hung out.”
“Cool. A bunch of the guys at the party asked about you, though.”
At that, I perked up. Maybe the Sigma Chis had asked Trip to offer me a bid. I knew it was a long shot, but I still had my hopes.
“Uh-huh,” he said. “They wanted to know why you left so early. So I told ’em you had to meet your girlfriend.”
I nodded absently, my hopes of getting a bid dashed again. Then I looked up in shock. Had he said “girlfriend”? Did he suspect that Kendall and Gina were both my girlfriends? Did he know? What if he did? Would he tell anyone? Would he…?
“Yeah, sorry,” he said. “I didn’t think Kendall would mind. I didn’t mention any names, though, so if anyone asks, you can just tell ’em you were meeting her. Cool?”
A wave of relief washed over me as I nodded.
“So,” he asked, “did they offer you a bid?”
“Me neither,” he said, reading me perfectly. “I think they could tell that I wasn’t really interested.”
But I was, I thought morosely.
“They’re cool guys, though.”
Before Trip could say anything else, however, Professor Joska entered the room and we immediately grew quiet.
“Mr. Hughes,” Joska said with deceptive calm.
I straightened in my desk and my eyes narrowed.
“Give me two examples of iconic design paradigms.”
For a moment, I panicked. Then I squared my shoulders and lifted my chin—I knew this. “Igloos and teepees,” I said. On tenterhooks, I waited for him to find fault with my answer.
“You read your assignment, I see,” he said.
“Then tell me what you know about iconic design.”
“It builds upon pragmatic design,” I ventured.
“And it copies successful designs to produce a building that serves the purpose just as well as a pragmatic one,” I said with growing confidence. I was mostly parroting what I’d read, but he seemed to be satisfied with my answer.
“Keep going,” he prompted.
“Successful pragmatic designs become a template for the creation of new buildings.”
“The design becomes the accepted form for other buildings which serve the same purpose.”
“Correct,” he said.
I felt a surge of defiant pride.
“Mr. Fekete,” Joska said, turning his attention away from me. “Give me two examples of modern iconic designs.”
“Um…,” Fekete said.
“Too slow,” Joska said after a moment. “You didn’t read your assignment. Were you not paying attention during Wednesday’s class?” he asked. “Mr. Hughes obviously was. Why weren’t you?” Not surprisingly, he reached into his briefcase and pulled out a Late Drop slip. “Since Mr. Hughes might not be needing this, perhaps you’d like me to sign one for you?”
“‘Um’? You’re not sure?”
“No, you’re not sure? Or no, you don’t want a late drop? Which is it, Mr. Fekete?” Joska asked with almost comical intensity.
“No, I don’t want a late drop,” Fekete said at last.
“Then you’d better start doing your reading. I don’t assign it for my health, although God help me if I ever enter a building designed by you.”
Then Joska turned to the blackboard, picked up a piece of chalk, and started sketching. As he did, he talked about modern iconic buildings.
I glanced at Trip and he gave me a thumbs-up. I don’t know why, but his approval meant more to me than Joska’s.
With that, I took out my notebook and started copying the sketches.
I was still upset about not getting a call from the Sigma Chis, but my day was already getting better.
“Okay,” I said as Trip and I walked out of class, “we’re off to get football tickets, right?”
“I’ve got Kendall and her roommate’s Activity Card, and another one for Kendall’s brother. Have you got Luke and Jeff’s?”
“Luke got a bid from the Fijis,” Trip said.
“Yeah, I figured.”
“So he’s going to the game with a couple of them,” he said. Then he laughed. “And Jeff just about flipped out when the Sigma Nus called him last night.”
I stopped in my tracks and stared at Trip, flabbergasted. After a moment, I shook my head in disbelief. “Jeff got a bid?”
“Yeah,” Trip said. “Can you believe it?”
Jeff?! And not me?! I wailed silently.
“He was pretty freaked out. He was happy, though. He was dancing up and down in the foyer when he got the call.”
“There ain’t no justice!” I spat, quoting one of my favorite authors.
“Dude,” Trip said, surprising me with his intensity. “Are you a Larry Niven fan?”
“What’s that got to do with me not getting a call from Sigma Chi?”
“Nothing,” he said. “But I didn’t know you read Sci-Fi.” Then he shook his head and grinned wistfully. “Lori used to tease me about reading ‘all those nerdy books.’ Man, I didn’t know you read Sci-Fi.”
“Lori?” I asked, more confused than ever. As soon as I said the name, however, Trip grew sober.
“An old girlfriend,” he said, his eyes dim.
“Don’t worry about it. I just don’t wanna talk about… her.”
“Anyway,” he said, returning the conversation to its original subject, “who else do you read?”
For a moment, I wondered what happened with his ex-girlfriend, but I didn’t want to be rude and dwell on it. “Heinlein,” I said. “I guess he’s probably my favorite.”
“Yeah, he’s good.”
“Right now I’m reading Frank Herbert.”
“How about Fred Saberhagen?”
I shook my head.
“Oh, dude, you don’t know what you’re missing,” he said, affecting a brighter mood. “His Berserker books are really cool. They’re about these sentient machines, called the Berserkers, duh, and…”
While we walked toward the University Center, I let Trip do most of the talking. I guess I was curious about why his mood had changed so suddenly, and why he avoided the subject of his ex-girlfriend. As angry as I’d once been with Amy, I didn’t become melancholy when she came up in conversation. Granted, she didn’t come up in conversation very often, but I didn’t harbor any regrets about breaking up with her.
As Trip talked about Sci-Fi books—with more enthusiasm than I really thought the subject warranted—I got the distinct impression that he was using the topic to stave off thinking about Lori. Had she become pregnant? Had she cheated on him with another guy? Had she dumped him for another guy?
Eventually, Trip and I got the football tickets and headed back to the dorm. When he didn’t want to hang out, I didn’t push the issue. I guess he was thinking about Lori after all. So we said goodbye in the hallway and made plans for the next day.
Sunday afternoon, I decided to work out in my room. Billy was out, working on the sets for his play, so I had the room to myself. I locked the door, stripped off my clothes, and stood in front of the mirror, looking at myself from every angle. Even though I didn’t look any bigger, I was still worried about gaining weight.
As I stared at myself in the mirror, I flexed my muscles. Then I struck a pose, arms up and curled, my chest puffed out and my lats flared. My arms and shoulders had gotten bigger over the years, but my stomach still had some fat on it. I wanted to see the washboard abs that bodybuilders displayed.
Still nude, I struck another bodybuilder pose, clasping my hands in front of me as I flexed my arms, shoulders, and traps. Then I turned and clenched my abs, my face turning red with the effort. My legs and buttocks had always been muscular, but they still looked a little chunky. I’d need to work on them as well, to get rid of the excess body fat.
For a warm-up, I started off doing sit-ups. After a hundred, I switched to push-ups and did a hundred of those as well. Then I switched back to sit-ups, determined to get rid of the thin layer of fat on my stomach. Since I didn’t have a proper bench for doing presses, I finished with another hundred push-ups.
Then I sprang up, a sheen of sweat coating my naked body. From under my bed, I retrieved my curling bar. As I watched myself in the mirror, I started thinking about Kendall. She said she liked my personality more than my body, but I wanted to look good for her—and good didn’t include pudgy.
As I thought about her, I started getting an erection. I guess maybe I’m crazy, but I liked the way I looked as I pumped the weights while my dick stood ramrod straight. Then I thought about Kendall sucking my cock, on her knees, worshiping my shaft and trying to swallow me whole.
All the while, I continued lifting. I did palm-up curls, palm-down curls, lifts, presses, and more. I was in a kind of trance, simply pumping the heavy bar and thinking about sex with Kendall. My body tingled all over as I closed my eyes and imagined her bent over in front of me. I imagined the line of her waist as it flared to her hips. Then I pictured my cock as I buried it in her ass.
Before I knew it, my arms were shaking from the effort and I felt like I was ready to come. I dropped the bar with a clang and reached for my dick. Two or three quick strokes and I spurted over the sink, splattering the mirror with droplets of pearly semen. Then I groaned softly as a tremendous rush of ecstasy washed over me, drowning out all other sensations.
When my orgasm finally subsided, I looked down and blinked incoherently. Slowly, ever so slowly, my eyes focused. My body tingled all over, and I didn’t care that I had semen all over my hand. I didn’t care that one of my spurts had missed my toothbrush by mere inches. I didn’t care that the mirror, sink, and carpet were flecked with droplets of come. I didn’t even care that someone was knocking on my door.
Wait! Someone’s knocking on my door?!
In a panic, I reached for something to clean myself with.
“Who is it?” I asked, trying to put off opening the door.
“It’s Trip and Luke,” Trip said. “Is it a bad time?”
“Um… no! I was just working out… wait a sec… lemme finish this set… um… hold on…”
Frantically, I reached for my underwear and hastily wiped the cooling sperm from my hand. Then I tossed the sticky garment in the corner, hoping that the guys wouldn’t notice it. Finally, I looked down at my nude body and then cast about for something to wear. My workout shorts were nowhere to be found, so I snatched my khaki shorts from the floor. When I put them on, I realized that I hadn’t cleaned my sperm-covered cock.
Forget about it! I thought. Then I stuffed my slick penis into my shorts and zipped them.
When I finally answered the door, Trip and Luke must have thought I was a madman. Fortunately, I think they attributed my heaving chest and sweaty skin to my workout (although that was partly the cause). I don’t know what they made of the wild look in my eyes.
“What’s up?” Trip asked.
“Nothing much,” I said as calmly as I could.
“Can we come in for a sec?” he asked.
After a moment’s hesitation—and panic—I couldn’t think of a good excuse to keep them in the foyer. “C’mon in,” I said at last. Then I leaned against the vanity, hoping to hide the pearly signs of my orgasm.
“D’you always work out in your room?” Trip asked. “Why not go down to the Bubble? Or HPER?”
“I’ve got my weights here,” I said with affected nonchalance. Besides, I can work out in the nude and then jerk off afterward, I thought sardonically.
“I need to start working out,” Luke said. “To keep the ladies happy.” Then he glanced at me. “How much do you bench?”
“About three twenty.”
“Dit mon pas come même!” he blurted.
“Huh?” Trip and I said at the same time.
“Three twenty?” Luke asked, ignoring the question.
“Give or take,” I said. “It’s been a while since I maxed out. Why?”
Luke turned to Trip. “How much can you bench?”
“Two twenty,” Trip said. “Maybe two thirty.”
“I max out at two forty,” Luke said. “Two forty. And that’s a lot of weight.”
“Well, look at him,” Trip said. “If you had a chest like that, you could probably lift three hundred and twenty pounds too.”
“No kidding,” Luke said with a whistle. Then he looked at me and laughed.
“What?” I asked defensively.
“I was just asking ’cause I wanted to know if you’d be able to spot for me,” he explained. “Ha! I hope I’ll be able to spot for you.”
“So I guess this means you wanna start working out together?” I asked.
“Well, yeah. What’d you think I wanted to do, watch you get all hot and sweaty for fun? Although…,” he said with a goofy grin.
“You’re so bad, Luke,” Trip said.
“Mais,” Luke said. “I’ve got a reputation to uphold.” Then he turned serious. “You wanna work out with us?” he asked Trip.
“Sure. Why not? When’s a good time?”
For a few minutes, we discussed our schedules. Since none of us had classes on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons, we decided to work out on those days. We also added Saturday afternoons, so we’d have a balanced three-day regimen (chest and arms; shoulders and back; abs, sides, and legs).
“Anyway,” Trip said to me after we settled the workout schedule, “we wanted to see if you wanted to go get some pizza. You up for it?”
“Sure,” I said. “D’you mind if I invite Kendall?”
“Does she have a friend?” Luke asked. “Maybe a twin sister?”
“Her roommate’s cute,” I said.
“Abby?” Trip asked.
“She is cute,” he said to Luke.
“Does she have a boyfriend?” Luke asked.
I shook my head. “I don’t think so.”
“Cool,” Luke said. “Invite her too.”
“Hold on,” I said to him, “I thought you were after the waitress at the pizza place.”
“Yeah,” he said nonchalantly, “she’s got the hots for me too.”
“Man, you’re unbelievable,” Trip said, shaking his head.
“You know,” Luke said with a cocky grin, “that’s what she said.”
Trip and I merely looked at each other and laughed.
“C’mon over when you get cleaned up,” Trip said, still chuckling.
As I ushered them out the door, Luke froze. In a moment of panic, I wondered if he’d noticed the semen spots on the mirror. Or if he’d seen something else to tip him off to what I’d been doing before they arrived. He turned slowly, and my stomach knotted.
“What?” I asked, trying to keep my voice steady. In my mind, I made up excuses for the splatters on the counter and mirror. Unfortunately, “I was just cleaning it, and it went off,” was the best I could come up with.
“You’ve got a TV,” Luke accused.
What?! “No, I don’t,” I said, reflexively defending myself.
“Then what’s that?” he asked, pointing to my computer.
“What do you mean? That’s my computer.”
“Then what’s the TV-looking thing sitting on your desk?” he asked.
“That’s a TV,” Trip said to him, grinning wryly. “Don’t you know anything?”
“Yeah,” I said, “I guess it is a TV. But I never thought of it that way. I mean, it just came with the computer. What’s the big deal?”
“Dallas,” Luke said.
Trip and I looked at each other in confusion.
“Huh?” Trip finally asked.
“Dallas,” Luke repeated. “You know, Dallas. Who shot J.R.? Southfork? Dallas?”
“Yeah,” Trip said, “I know the show. But what about it?”
“You mean you don’t watch Dallas?”
Trip shook his head. When Luke looked at me for support, I shrugged and shook my head as well.
“You don’t watch Dallas?” Luke asked in disbelief. “Friday nights? CBS? Ten o’clock, nine central? What’ve you been doing on Friday nights?”
“Having a life?” I ventured.
“Going on dates,” Trip added, grinning at me sidelong.
“Dude,” Luke said, “girls are cool and all, but it’s Dallas.”
“I guess,” I said.
“Trust me,” he said, “you’ll love it. You’ll be here, right? Friday night?”
“You wanna watch it over here?” I asked, trying not to sound sarcastic.
“Mais, yes. I don’t care what you all are gonna do, but I’m gonna be right here on Friday nights. Just leave me the keys if you wanna go out.”
“I guess I don’t have much choice,” I said. Then Trip and I grinned at each other.
“Nope,” Luke said. “Otherwise, I’d have to go to South Carrick—” the TV lounge for both Carrick dorms was in the South Carrick lobby, “—and watch it with a bunch of girls.”
“I thought you liked girls,” Trip teased.
“Oh, I do,” Luke replied. “But not while I’m watching Dallas. They talk too much, and they want you to actually pay attention to them instead of the TV.”
Once again, Trip and I laughed at Luke’s enthusiasm.
“Okay,” Trip said, still chuckling. “It’s settled. Unless Paul has some major objection…?”
I shook my head.
“Then we’ll be here on Friday nights,” Trip concluded.
“At ten o’clock,” Luke said seriously, “nine central.”
“At ten o’clock, nine central,” Trip echoed just as solemnly.
“I don’t think you’re taking this seriously,” Luke accused.
“I’m taking this as seriously as I should,” Trip said with a laugh. “Now let’s get out of here and let Paul take a shower.”
As they left, I heaved a sigh of relief. Apparently, neither of them had noticed the drops of come on the counter and mirror. I took a washcloth, wet it, and cleaned up my mess.
When I went to take off my shorts, I discovered that the semen on the head of my dick had dried and glued my sensitive skin to the fabric. I grimaced in pain as I pried myself free. Still wincing, I wrapped a towel around my waist, grabbed my shower basket, and headed for the foyer.
At least I won’t need to jerk off in the shower, I thought with a wry grin.
Later that evening, I got back to my room just as the phone started ringing.
“May I please speak to Paul?” asked the voice on the other end of the line.
“This is he.”
“Oh, I didn’t recognize your voice. How are you?”
“I’m fine, thanks. Um… who is this?” I asked. It wasn’t Kendall, and it certainly wasn’t Gina.
“Oh, sorry. It’s Susan.”
“Hi!” I gushed. Then I looked at my suitemates’ flag-draped door and decided to take the conversation into my room. “Hold on a second,” I said. “I just got in, lemme unlock my door.”
“Sure,” she said.
I fished out my keys and reached for the doorknob. Unfortunately, it was already open, which meant…
“Hey, Billy,” I said. Super.
“Hey, Paul,” he said as he looked up from his books.
“Hold on a sec,” I said to Susan. Then I looked back at Billy. “I’ll talk in the foyer.”
Back in the suite’s entryway, I looked around for someplace to talk with some privacy. The only place was the bathroom. It seemed weird, but I dragged the phone cord along and then shut the door behind me.
“Hey,” I said into the phone. “How’re you?” Unfortunately, the bathroom echoed, and I was positive that not only Billy, but T.J., Glen, and the rest of the floor could probably hear my conversation. “Um… wait just a sec,” I said to Susan, forestalling her reply. Then I decided to head into the hallway. It wouldn’t echo, and while I wouldn’t have any privacy, I was at the end of the hall, so I could see anyone long before they could actually overhear me. “Hi,” I said at last, sinking to the floor with my back to the cool cinderblocks of the wall.
“What was that all about?” Susan asked.
“Sorry. My roommate’s home, and so are my suitemates. I didn’t want to talk in my room, and the bathroom echoed, so I came out into the hall.”
“Anyway, here I am. Hey, where are you? You’re not in Knoxville, are you?”
“No,” she said, laughing. “I’m still in Austin, at Doug’s house.”
“Don’t sound so depressed,” she playfully chided. “That’s why I’m calling.”
“I’m flying out of here on Friday, and I wanted to fly into Knoxville and spend the weekend.”
“Mmm hmm, the 25th. If it’s okay with you all, I’d like to take you, Gina, and Kendall to dinner that night. And then perhaps we could go to the football game on Saturday, if it’s a home game.”
“I think it is,” I said. “We’re playing Auburn.”
“Does that sound okay?”
“Okay? It sounds great!” Then I chuckled at myself.
“What’s so funny?” she asked.
“I sound like Tony the Tiger,” I said.
“No you don’t,” she said. “You sound like a good friend who’s happy to see me. A lady could get used to that.”
“So,” she asked, “how’s school? Did you get my card?”
“I got it, thanks. School’s okay, I guess. I mean, it’s school. My architecture classes are cool, except for one professor who hates me. I think he hates everyone, but he seems to have it in for me personally.”
“Oh, I’m sure he doesn’t hate you.”
“Well,” I admitted, “he might not hate me, but he sure finds enough things to criticize me about. And he doesn’t do the same thing to anyone else.”
As we talked, I lost track of time. I don’t know why, but talking to Susan always relaxed me. I guess it was because she was a good listener.
I told her about my other classes: Professor Tow and his wisecracks, Professor Feller and her give-away grades, Professor Dubois and her monotone lectures, and the others. But mostly, I talked about Professor Joska. I don’t know why I let the man get under my skin, but he obviously did.
When I finally got off the subject of Joska and his hostility toward me, I told Susan about my life with Kendall and Gina, and the complications of being together outside of camp. I told her about Gina’s excitement at joining Chi Omega, and my disappointment at not getting a bid from Sigma Chi. I told her about eating breakfast every morning with Kendall, and hanging out with Trip and Luke. I even told her about the brunette and her blonde friend, from my Art History class.
“Don’t you have enough adventure in your life already?” Susan asked with a chuckle. “You’re already checking out other girls?”
Even though she couldn’t see me, I shrugged. “There’s just something about this girl,” I said, referring to the brunette. “The blonde is just as cute, but… I dunno… there’s just something about the brunette. I mean, I don’t even know her name.”
“Why haven’t you introduced yourself?”
“I’ve tried. But there’s always some reason I don’t.” Then I felt my face heat at the memory of getting tongue-tied in front of the girls.
“It sounds like you’ve got a crush.”
“I don’t have a crush,” I said defensively. Then, “Much.”
On the other end of the phone, Susan laughed brightly.
“Welcome to the real world of complex relationships,” she said, gentle humor coloring her tone. “Even though you already have two girlfriends, you’re still looking for someone else.”
“I’m not looking for someone else. I’m just… well… I can’t explain it.”
“You don’t have to,” she said. “I’m just teasing you.”
“Yeah, well,” I grumbled without rancor, “you’re always teasing me.”
“But you give me such wonderful opportunities!”
“You don’t have to take ’em,” I said.
“What would be the fun in that?”
“I dunno,” I said, shrugging again.
“I’m sorry, Paul,” she said with genuine contrition. “I know you aren’t looking for anyone else. But that doesn’t mean you’re not interested in this girl in your Art History class.”
“There are two of them,” I said, thinking of the blonde’s bright blue eyes and warm smile.
“But it sounds like the brunette’s flirting with you.”
“You’re a handsome young man.”
“But I’ve already got two girlfriends.”
“They don’t know that. And that doesn’t mean you can’t look, Paul,” she said gently. “Acting on your desires is an entirely different matter, but looking never hurt anyone. It’s the feelings and emotions behind the looking that you should be careful about.”
I nodded to myself. “Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, I’m not in love with this girl or anything. Heck, I don’t even know her name. But yeah, I see what you mean.”
“I knew you would.”
At that moment, the suite door opened and T.J. stuck his head out. First, he looked to the left. Then he followed the phone cord and glanced to the right, at me.
“Hey, Loverboy,” he said without heat.
“Sorry,” I said, covering the mouthpiece. “I’m on long distance with my… um… with my aunt. Do you need to use the phone?”
“Yeah, but it’s not important,” he said. “Take all the time you want. Just lemme know when you’re off. Okay?”
“Sure,” I said.
With that, he smiled and closed the door.
“I’m back,” I said as I uncovered the mouthpiece.
“Do you need to go?” Susan asked.
“Yeah, in a few minutes. He was cool about it, but my suitemate needs to use the phone.”
“That’s okay,” she said. “Doug and his girlfriend are taking me out to a movie in a little while, so I’d probably better get ready. Do you have a pen?”
“Yeah,” I said, standing up. “Lemme get one.” I walked back into my room, dragging the long phone cord with me, and then sat down at my desk. “Go ahead,” I said into the phone.
As Susan gave me her flight information, I wrote it down. Not only had she already made the reservations, but she had booked a room at the Radisson as well.
“Okay,” I said, “We’ll meet you at the gate, and then chauffeur you around in the Jeep. How’s that sound?”
“Actually,” she said a bit diffidently, “I was just going to rent a limo.”
“What? A limo? Why?”
“Two reasons, actually. One, I don’t think I can get all of my luggage in your Jeep, especially with four of us …”
“Good point,” I said. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
“And two, I don’t want to worry about renting a car while I’m there, especially for only a couple of days. Besides, it’ll be fun to ride in a limo, won’t it?”
“So I’ve already made the reservations with the limousine company,” she said. Then she gave me the name and phone number. “You can call them and make arrangements for them to pick you up for the trip to the airport.”
“I’ve already told them to expect your call.”
“You did all this before you even talked to me?” I asked, a little surprised.
“I was hoping you’d want to see me,” she said. Then I could almost hear her blushing. “And I guess I got a little excited about seeing you,” she said softly.
It was my turn to chuckle.
“Well,” she said, pretending exasperation, “you can’t blame an old girl for getting her hopes up.”
“You’re not old,” I said. Then I remembered that Billy was in the room.
She could tell by my sudden change in demeanor that I was trying to protect our secret, so she turned businesslike. “Do you have all the information?” she asked. “Flight? Hotel? Limo?”
“Uh-huh,” I said, glancing at my notepad. “I’ve got it. We’ll see you Friday, at the airport.”
“Paul?” she said softly.
“I miss you.”
I felt my face heat as I surreptitiously glanced at Billy. His nose was still buried in his textbooks, and he looked like he was trying not to eavesdrop, but it was a small room. Finally, I decided to throw caution to the wind. “I miss you too,” I said.
“And I love you,” she said.
For that, I decided to step into the hall. “I love you too,” I said softly.
“Oh,” she said suddenly, her tone changing. “I almost forgot.”
“What?” I asked, anxious all of a sudden.
“Call your mother,” she chided.
“Did she tell you to say that?” I asked.
“No. But when I called her to get your phone number, she said you hadn’t called her in almost two weeks. What kind of son are you?” she asked, half teasing, half serious.
“Sorry,” I said. “I’ll call her.”
“Good. And tell her you love her. She’s worried about you, but don’t tell her I told you that. I’ll get in trouble.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said, teasing her in return.
“Good,” she said, her tone conveying the smile that distance hid. “Now, let your suitemate use the phone. But then call your mother,” she admonished again.
“Okay, I will.”
“I know you will,” she said. “She’s proud of you, Paul. But she misses you too.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll call.”
“Okay. Then I’ll see you and the girls on Friday. Bye.”
“Goodbye,” I said. Then I opened the suite door and hung up the phone. “I’m off the phone,” I said with a knock on T.J.’s door.
“Thanks, dude,” he said as the door swung open. He must’ve been waiting right next to it.
It’s a good thing I went back in the hall, I thought.
“I won’t be long. Then you can call your other girlfriends.”
“You know, T.J.—”
“Dude, I’m just kiddin’.”
“Whatever,” I said. Then I walked into my room and swung the door shut.
Five minutes later, T.J. knocked on my door. “I’m off the phone, Loverboy.”
I bristled at what was becoming his regular nickname for me.
“It’s all yours,” he finished.
Fortunately, he was back in his room by the time I reached the foyer. (I don’t know if it was fortunate for me, or fortunate for him, though.)
Erin answered the phone when I called—collect, of course. She accepted the charges and then greeted me warmly. For a few minutes, we talked about school—both hers and mine—and then she yelled for Mom.
Mom and I talked for longer than I thought possible. I told her some of the same things I’d told Susan, but not all of them. Mostly, I talked about my classes and some of the other students. I told her about my roommate fiasco and about Rush Week.
“Gina was real nice about it when I didn’t get a bid from Sigma Chi,” I said. “I mean, I could tell she was upset, but she was mostly mad at them for not calling me.”
“She really cares about you,” Mom said.
“Yeah, I know. I guess I sometimes forget how compassionate she can be.”
“Anyway, I’m still kind of upset about not getting a bid, but I guess it’s probably for the best.”
She agreed, and then tactfully changed the subject. She told me about life at home, but I already had a disconnected feeling about events in Atlanta. It was like they were happening to someone else’s family. It’s not that I didn’t care, but it didn’t really affect me. I think it made my mom feel good to tell me about them, though, as if I were still living at home.
Unfortunately, my dad wasn’t home, so I couldn’t talk to him as well. He had a layover in Orlando, but Mom promised to give him an update when she talked to him later that evening (he called her every night when he was out of town).
After a little more small talk, I told her I loved her and hung up.
Then I dialed Kendall’s number and told her about Susan’s impending visit. Her parents were driving the Winnebago to Knoxville for the football game, and she was sure that they’d love to have Susan join them for the game-day festivities.
Finally, I called Gina to let her know. She was almost as excited as Kendall (albeit for different reasons, probably). We talked for a little while, but I got the feeling that she was being circumspect about something. For a moment, I was puzzled. Then I realized that she wasn’t telling me about her sorority activities, so I wouldn’t feel bad about Sigma Chi.
I mentally thanked her as we talked about other things for fifteen minutes. Finally, we each had homework to do, so we said goodbye and hung up.
Tuesday, in Art History class, I purposefully sat in the back of the auditorium. The brunette and her blonde friend showed up just as Professor Dubois began her lecture. With a grin, the brunette sat next to me.
Once again, I had to fight not to be distracted by her perfume. And whenever I glanced at her, she met my gaze and smiled.
When class was over, I was determined to introduce myself. For a moment, I mentally rehearsed what I wanted to say. The brunette and I stood up at the same time, and I turned to her. Our eyes met and…
“Hi,” I said, extending my hand. “I’m—”
“Tall, dark, and mysterious,” she said, interrupting me. Then, surprisingly, she shook my hand.
“No… I mean… I’m… um… that’s not what I mean… I’m—”
“Tongue-tied,” she said.
“That’s okay,” she added with a wry grin. “You’re still cute.”
With that, the blonde smiled in apology. Then she rolled her eyes at her friend’s antics. “Come on,” she said to the brunette.
“Bye, Mysterious,” the brunette said to me.
“Sorry,” the blonde said. “She’s high-strung.”
“But cute,” I said, finally finding my wits. How dumb was that? I mentally groaned.
“Bye,” the blonde said, tugging her friend toward the door.
I didn’t trust myself to say anything wittier than “duh,” so I merely waved. When they were finally out of sight, I shook my head to clear it. “You’ve got to get a grip, Paul,” I muttered to myself.
Later that afternoon, my friends and I worked out together at the Sports Bubble. Trip and Luke had invited Jeff along as well, so there were four of us.
It felt good to work out with my usual amount of weight, but I also realized that I’d lost some of my edge. A cushy summer spent vacationing had taken its toll. I couldn’t bench-press three hundred and twenty pounds anymore, but I did manage to lift two eighty, which was still respectable. I vowed to keep pushing myself, however.
Since Tuesday was our chest and arms day, I also did a bunch of curls and triceps presses. And each time I had to wait for the other guys to finish with a machine, I did push-ups to keep my heart rate up. By the time we finished our workout, my arms were like rubber bands, but I felt as if I had all the energy in the world.
“Hey, y’all,” Luke said as we walked back to the dorm, “I saw this thing on the bulletin board about intramural football.”
“Yeah,” Trip chimed in. “I saw that too. Are you all up for it?”
“Mais, yes,” Luke said.
“What about you?” Trip asked, turning to me.
“I guess,” I said. “Although I’ve never really played football. I mean, just Saturday afternoon games with friends. Nothing serious.”
“Don’t worry, it’s easy,” Luke said. “With your size and strength, we’ll just give you the ball and let you run through the other team.”
“Is it tackle football?” Jeff asked.
“Why?” Luke asked. “Are you afraid?”
“No way,” Jeff said defiantly. “I just don’t wanna get my glasses broken or nothin’.”
“Actually,” Trip said, “I think it’s flag football.”
“That sucks,” Luke said.
Trip shrugged. “It’s still football,” he said.
“Lemme guess,” I said to him. “You played football too? Baseball in the summer, football in the fall, and basketball in the winter. What do they play in the spring?”
“Soccer,” Jeff said.
“Soccer?” Luke scoffed. “That’s not a sport.”
“It is too, you hairy fuck,” Jeff shot back.
“It’s a bunch of guys running around on a field,” Luke said.
“Oh yeah? Then what’s football, a bunch of dumb guys running around on a field?”
Predictably, Jeff was quicker than Luke, and he took off running before the big blonde Cajun could pounce.
“To answer your question,” Trip said nonchalantly, as our friends raced ahead of us, “no, I didn’t play football in high school. I played all through elementary and middle school, though. I quit when— Well, I quit when my life got a lot more complicated.” For a moment, he turned melancholy. Then he shook it off and tried to smile. “It’s easy,” he said. “You’ll do fine.”
I wanted to ask about his sudden change in mood, but I could tell that he didn’t want to talk about it. “What about Jeff?” I asked instead.
Jeff seemed to be terminally uncoordinated when it came to basketball, and I wondered how he’d fare at football.
“I don’t think he’s gonna be Roger Staubach anytime soon, but he’ll do fine,” Trip said with a laugh, his good spirits returning as he banished whatever thought had upset him. Then he glanced into the distance. “As long as Luke doesn’t catch him, that is.”
At that moment, Jeff turned to race up the stairs to the Presidential Complex. By then, he was already fifteen yards ahead of Luke.
“And I don’t think that’s gonna happen any time soon,” Trip finished with a chuckle. “Now c’mon, let’s go.”
With that, he playfully shoved me and then took off running. After a moment’s hesitation, I sprinted after him.
I got to Design class a little early on Wednesday. Samantha and Trip were talking as I sat down.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“We’ve got a project coming up,” Samantha said. Then she whipped out her calendar and showed me a big red “X” by October 2.
“What’s the project?” I asked, fishing in my backpack for the class syllabus.
“It’s an individual project, but we have to critique each other’s drawings. It’s called ‘Your Home,’” Samantha said before I could find the paper. “Whatever that means.”
“So we were kinda wondering about it,” Trip said. “Maybe Joska will tell us about it today.”
Samantha nodded gravely.
“Maybe we’ll get to actually design something,” I said peevishly. “All this reading is killing me. And the first two projects were piddling. I mean, basic design methods? Boring. And the last project? I can already draw with perspective,” I said. “This is all just simple stuff.”
Trip looked sidelong at Samantha—who had struggled with the perspective drawings—and then cautioned me with a glare.
“Seriously,” I said, “I can do this stuff in my sleep.”
“I was thinking the same thing,” Professor Joska said as he entered the room.
With a sinking feeling, I realized that I’d spoken louder than I intended to. Worse, Joska was looking at me.
“Because judging by your most recent drawings, Mr. Hughes,” he continued, “that’s what you were doing… sleeping.”
My face heated, a combination of anger and embarrassment.
Joska opened his briefcase and withdrew a sheaf of papers. “Come get your drawings when I call your name,” he said to the class at large. “Miss Fisher…”
With each student who retrieved their drawings, Joska made disparaging remarks. The better ones were “shoddy” or “barely adequate,” but they ranged all the way to “a four-year-old could do better” and “you’d better learn to say ‘would you like fries with that?’ Mr. Fekete.”
When Joska called my name, I clenched my fists and walked to the front of the class.
“Try drawing when you’re awake, Mr. Hughes,” he said as I reached for the paper.
It took every ounce of willpower I possessed not to snatch it from him and storm back to my desk. Joska had circled several details on the drawing and written “sloppy.” At the bottom, he’d written “Haphazard and somnambulant, Mr. Hughes. You’ll have to do better than this.”
“Somnambulant”? I thought. What the fuck does that mean?
Without even a pause to let us to wallow in our misery, Joska turned to the blackboard after he finished passing out the drawings.
“Your next project is your home,” he said, writing the words as he spoke. “Please try to stay awake for it, Mr. Hughes.”
I muttered something my mother wouldn’t have approved of.
“Relax,” Trip whispered as he leaned toward me. “He’s just baiting you.”
When I turned and glared daggers at him, he returned the look with a lot more sangfroid than I thought possible.
“Remember,” he continued, sotto voce, “life’s too short to worry about the little things.”
“This isn’t little,” I grated.
“Yes, it is. Trust me.”
“He’s not picking on you.”
“Mr. Hughes,” Joska said, turning from the board. “I’m not going to compete with you and Mr. Whitman.”
Trip and I immediately shut our mouths and faced forward.
“We’re sorry, sir,” Trip said. “It won’t happen again.”
Joska leveled his steely gaze at me, looking for agreement.
I gritted my teeth and held my head defiantly still. I was tired of him humiliating me, and I wasn’t going to take it anymore.
“Little things,” Trip hissed out of the corner of his mouth.
Joska arched an eyebrow.
Fuck you, Joska, I thought venomously.
Trip cleared his throat, his meaning clear.
As the tableau drew out, Joska merely stared at me, implacable.
I was so furious—and determined to be defiant—that I wasn’t even thinking about the consequences of my actions.
“He’s sorry, sir,” Trip said. “It won’t happen again.” Then he glared at me and tried to get me to nod by force of will alone.
I turned and his eyes implored me. Then I returned my gaze to Joska. I knew I’d hate myself for it, but I nodded.
“Mr. Hughes, you owe your continued presence in this class to Mr. Whitman,” Professor Joska said after a tense moment’s silence. “I hope you appreciate that.”
I felt my face pull into a grim smile, which never touched my eyes.
Joska decided not to make further issue of it, and turned to the blackboard. Even though I was still fuming, common sense began to pervade my dark thoughts and I took out my notebook.
As we left the classroom, Trip and I walked in nerve-racking silence.
“What the fuck were you thinking?” he asked as soon as we were more or less alone. “You almost got yourself kicked out of class—or worse—over nothing.”
“It’s not nothing.”
“It is nothing! So you got your feelings hurt. Dude, when are you gonna learn that it’s not personal?”
“With you, or with Joska?” I snarled.
Trip looked like I’d slapped him.
“Sorry,” I muttered.
“It’s not personal with Joska,” he said softly.
And with you? I thought, my anger cooling.
“Joska just picks on you to see if you’ll break. It’s not ’cause he hates you or anything. Don’t you get that?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You can’t have any personal attachment to your work in architecture,” he said, his tone reasonable. “Joska’s just trying to toughen us up.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” I said. “He’s not picking on you.”
“Do you think he wouldn’t’ve tossed me out of class too?” he asked.
Reluctantly, I agreed.
“Paul, listen, I had a baseball coach just like him. He was always criticizing something about my game, and I was one of his best players. During practice and before games, I don’t think he ever had anything positive to say about my swing, my fielding, or anything else.”
“At first, when I played well, I told myself I was doing it just to show him that I could, you know? And do you know what he’d say to me when I did?”
I shook my head.
“‘It’s not good enough, Trip.’”
“That sucks, man,” I said.
“No it doesn’t. Don’t you get it? When I stopped trying to piss him off, I started listening to what he was saying, and I started seeing problems with my game. He wasn’t picking on me, he was picking on my game. But I’m not the game. It’s the same with architecture. You’re not the design. Listen to Joska’s criticism, and you’ll start to see what he’s talking about.”
“What was he talking about today?” I asked sullenly. Then I mimicked Joska’s sibilant accent, “‘Try drawing when you’re awake, Mr. Hughes.’”
“Dude, look at your drawing. Seriously. Take it out.”
I fished the half-crumpled paper out of my backpack. It was a drawing of the A&A building—as assigned—from about two hundred feet away.
“Is that the best work you’ve ever done?” Trip asked.
After a tense moment’s reflection, I shook my head.
Trip pointed to where Joska had written “haphazard.” Then he looked at me earnestly. “How long did it take you to draw this?” he asked.
“About twenty minutes. Why?”
“Dude, it took me an hour and a half to do the same drawing.”
“Look at your drawing, man,” he said sincerely. “Even I can tell that it’s not perfect,” he added, pointing to the areas Joska had circled. “And I’m not Joska.”
“Yeah, I guess it is a little haphazard,” I grudgingly admitted.
“Haphazard buildings collapse,” Trip said gravely.
I hadn’t thought about it in those terms.
“Exactly,” he said, reading the shock on my face. “If it’ll make you feel any better, Joska didn’t have anything better to say about my drawing. Here, see for yourself,” he said. Then he handed me his sketch.
Joska had written “Crude and amateurish, Mr. Whitman. This looks as if it were drawn by a toddler with crayons. You need to develop an eye for the soul of a building.”
“This doesn’t piss you off?” I asked Trip.
He shook his head. “I’m a first year architecture student, for cryin’ out loud. I’ve been in class for a grand total of three weeks. What the heck do I know about ‘the soul of a building’? I mean, compared to Joska, we’re total amateurs. Yeah, he’s a prick, but he’s also a prick with a lot more experience than either of us.”
I handed him the drawing and we resumed walking.
“Seriously, man,” he said, “he’s baiting you. He wants you to react, so he can slap you down and make an example out of you. Don’t give him the satisfaction.”
“Easier said than done,” I half-growled.
“I know,” he said. “But you’ve gotta keep your cool and relax. Save your anger for something that really matters, like the war in Afghanistan, or the dumbass Libyans. When Joska tells you something, it’s not about you, it’s about your work. You’re not your drawings,” he said emphatically. “They’re just lines on paper.”
“I guess,” I said. Intellectually, I knew he was right. But that still didn’t cool the simmering anger I felt about Joska and how he treated me. It just wasn’t fair. Why did he have to pick on me?!
“Hey,” Trip asked, changing the subject as I grew sullen, “you wanna go throw the football around? It’ll take your mind off Joska. Luke and I wanted to get some guys together and practice for intramural football.”
“I guess,” I said with a shrug.
“Luke even talked to your suitemates,” he added. “They want to play too. The little guy, T.J., was a safety in high school. And the big guy, Glen, played DE.”
“Oh, sorry, defensive end. T.J. said he’s really good.”
“As big as Glen is,” I said, “I believe it.”
For the rest of the walk back to Carrick, we talked about football. Trip had played quarterback when he was younger, which didn’t surprise me a bit. He was also pretty excited to have T.J. and Glen playing for our floor’s team, T.J.’s grating personality notwithstanding.
With Luke as cornerback and T.J. as safety, the other team would have a hard time passing the ball. And with Glen up front, no one was likely to get through to harass Trip. He also insisted that I’d make a good halfback, even though I didn’t have any real experience.
“What’s Jeff gonna play?” I asked.
“With his speed, I definitely want him at wide receiver.”
“He can barely catch a basketball,” I scoffed. “And it’s big and round. Now you want him to catch a football?”
Trip laughed. “Yeah, I know, not likely. But if he does catch it, man, no one’s gonna be able to catch him.”
“You got that right. Anyway,” I said as we reached our rooms, “lemme change clothes and I’ll be right over.”
“All right, I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
“Hey, Loverboy,” T.J. called as soon as I entered the foyer.
“A girl called for you. Gina? Yeah, Gina,” he said as he appeared in his doorway. “She sounded pretty excited. She wanted to know if you could meet her in her lobby at four thirty.”
I looked at my watch. It was a little after two, and Gina wouldn’t be out of class until three fifty. “Thanks,” I said distractedly.
“Are you comin’ to football practice with us?” T.J. asked.
I nodded as I unlocked my door.
“Cool. Them guys from across the hall said you were. We’re gonna have a good ol’ team,” he said excitedly. “Except for Four-eyes.”
“Who?” I asked, turning. As I stared at T.J., I felt my face darkening.
“Dude, I’m just kiddin’. What’s his name? Jeff? Yeah, Jeff. The guy who’s pledging Sigma Nerd. Say, that reminds me. Me and Glen are pledging ΚΑ. Did you pledge Sigma Chi?”
My guts wrenched. “I decided not to,” I lied. I guess I didn’t want to deal with T.J.’s biting sympathy if I told him the truth.
“Well, that was dumb,” he said. “Just kiddin’.”
“Thanks for giving me Gina’s message,” I said. Then I stepped into my room and shut the door, effectively ending the conversation.
After I changed clothes, I headed across the hall to Trip and Luke’s room. A few minutes later, Jeff came over. After T.J. and Glen joined us, we headed toward the elevator. Luke had managed to recruit several other guys from our floor, none of whom I recognized. Two of them had played football in high school, but the rest were neophytes, like me.
I was still brooding over Joska and his derision, but Trip asked Luke to tell some Boudreaux and Thibodeaux jokes, and it was hard to maintain my dour attitude in the face of Luke’s humor.
When I looked up, Trip smiled tentatively and mouthed, “Little things,” as he shook his head.
“Okay,” I mouthed in reply.
With that, we sorted ourselves out and started passing the ball around. At least Trip was right, it was a distraction.
“Hey,” I said to Gina as I met her in the South Carrick lobby. “Sorry I’m late. We were playing football.”
“That’s okay,” she said as she stood on tiptoe and kissed me. Then, “Can we go up to your room?”
“We’ll have to sneak up the stairs,” I said.
“That’s okay. Is your roommate there?”
I shrugged. “Why?”
Her eyes flashed and she waggled her eyebrows. “I thought maybe we could take a shower together,” she ventured.
“Sounds good to me.”
Up in my room, Billy was just leaving as we arrived. His eyes widened when he saw Gina.
“I know it’s not visitation,” I said, hoping to head off trouble.
“It’s cool,” he said. “I won’t tell anyone.” Then he looked at Gina again. “Is this your girlfriend?” he asked.
With a bit of surprise, I realized that Billy hadn’t met Kendall or Gina. I started to nod, but then suddenly stopped. Had I told him that Gina was my girlfriend? Or Kendall?
“Kendall, right?” Billy said as he held out his hand.
Well, I thought wryly, that answers that question.
“Actually, I’m Gina,” she said smoothly, as she shook his hand. “Paul and I are best friends.”
“Oh, cool. Nice to meet you, Gina,” he said. Then he looked at me. “I’m heading out to work on the set. We’re doing Dracula,” he added as an aside to Gina. “Seeya.”
“Seeya,” Gina and I said at the same time.
“He seems pretty cool,” Gina said as the door closed behind him.
Then we stepped into my room and I started stripping off my sweaty, grass-stained clothes. After Gina got undressed, we wrapped towels around ourselves and headed for the shower. At first, I thought Gina wanted to fool around, but she was quiet and introspective, so we simply washed each other. When we dried off, we headed back to my room and I locked the door behind us.
Billy and I need to come up with a system to warn each other if one of us has a girl in the room, I thought. Then I chuckled softly, reminded of a similar story my dad had told me.
With her towel wrapped around her waist, Gina stood in front of the mirror and combed her ebony hair. She was still quiet, and even seemed pensive. I stood behind her and used the comb when she handed it to me.
“Um… Paul?” she said hesitantly.
When I heard her tone, I held her gaze in the mirror. “Yeah?”
“I think I may have screwed up.”
“I didn’t mean to,” she said, turning to face me, tears welling up. “It just happened.”
“What just happened?” I asked. “Calm down and tell me.”
“I know we’re supposed to talk to each other if we want to fool around with someone else. Alone, I mean. And I know I should’ve talked to you first, but it all happened so fast.”
What was she saying, that she had sex with another guy? Was he in one of her classes? Was he a fraternity guy? As a mixture of anger and fear washed over me, my skin prickled and I suddenly felt a chill. I’ll beat the shit out of him, whoever he is, I vowed as my breathing quickened and my heartbeat raced.
“I didn’t mean to do it,” she said. “You’ve got to believe me.”
While I tried to get control over my wild emotions, she continued.
“I mean, one minute, Regan and I were just talking,” she said. “And the next—”
“Wait a minute. You and Regan?”
Tearfully, she nodded.
In spite of myself, I laughed. It was mostly the release of tension, but I also had to laugh at myself for thinking that Gina would ever cheat on me with another guy. She just wasn’t like that.
“What’s so funny?” she asked, blinking to clear her eyes.
“Sorry,” I said. I didn’t want to tell her what I’d actually been thinking, so I quickly came up with an alternate explanation. “I guess I already knew about you and Regan.”
“You did? And you’re not angry?”
I shook my head. It’s difficult to explain, but if Gina had sex with another girl, I knew it was just fun. But if another guy came inside her—and I didn’t know about it—it would be like another guy marking my territory. That would bother me. It was a double standard, I know, but at least I realized that it was.
“I thought you might’ve known,” she said. “That night when you walked with us to Panhellenic.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I was so scared to tell you. I won’t do it again if you don’t want me to. I mean, I was just so lonely. I hardly get to see you anymore, and most of the time when I do, Kendall’s there too.”
I pulled her close and she tilted her head up for a kiss. “It’s okay,” I said when we broke the kiss. “I understand. What happened?” I asked. I’m ashamed to say that I already had some fairly steamy images parading through my head.
“At first, I didn’t think Regan liked girls,” Gina said. “But God, she does.”
I nodded for her to go on.
“It was the second night of Rush, and I was really feeling lonely,” she said. “Regan actually lives down the hall from me, so we were hanging out in her room, since Faith the goody-two-shoes kept trying to get us to go to church with her. Did you know that she actually wanted to live in the Virgin Vault?”
“No, Faith. God, she’s such a priss. I hate holier-than-thou Christians, and she’s the worst. Anyway, I don’t wanna talk about her right now.”
“Okay,” I said, a little shocked by her vehemence. I’d spoken to Faith on the phone several times, and she always seemed polite, if a little prim. But just as Gina had never met my roommate, I’d never met hers. I guess our schedules conflicted more than I’d previously thought.
“But it was kind of a surprise,” Gina continued. “I mean, I was upset about not seeing you, and Regan was sitting beside me with her arm around me. The next thing I knew, we were kissing. I mean really kissing, with tongues and everything.”
I felt my penis twitch, but I tried to concentrate on Gina’s story.
“I guess she could tell that I like girls too. Anyway, we lay back on her bed and kept kissing. While we did, she teased me with her fingers. The next thing I knew, we were both naked and she was between my legs. God, Paul, she’s so sexy. And she really loves my shaved pussy.”
“I love it too,” I said.
“No, you don’t understand. She likes just the lips shaved. She said I look really good with the hair on top. But that was later. Anyway, after she got me off, I wanted to go down on her. She was so hot and wet, Paul. God! I think I could’ve eaten her for hours.”
At that point, I shifted to relieve some of the pressure on my dick. The towel wasn’t as constricting as my underwear would’ve been, but it still wasn’t comfortable.
“And oh my God, Paul, she has the coolest dildo. It has this harness, like a jock strap. Only, instead of a cup, it holds this big pink rubber dick. I swear, it was bigger than yours.”
When Gina said that, I almost choked on my tongue. I’d heard of strap-ons, but I’d never known anyone who’d used one (Susan probably had, though we hadn’t talked about it).
“She put it on and fucked me silly. I mean, it was totally cool, having her do it while I played with her nipples at the same time.”
“No kidding,” I said, my imagination running wild.
“Yeah,” she said, nodding. “But the dildo couldn’t come. That’s the only problem with it. I mean, I really like sucking you—and feeling you inside me—but I love it when you come in my mouth. You know?”
“Speaking of which,” she said, “if you’re not angry…” With a devilish gleam in her eye, she reached down and loosened the towel around my waist. It fell to the floor as she sank to her knees. “God, I’ve been wanting to do this all day,” she said when she grasped my hard-on.
In the mirror, I watched as her head bobbed back and forth. I put my hands on her wet, slick hair and directed her motions. Then I looked down and watched as she fellated me, her lips and tongue driving me wild.
I had jerked off in the shower that morning, of course, but listening to Gina’s story had gotten me really worked up. So I knew it wouldn’t be long before I came. Sure enough, I reached the point of no return a few minutes later. Gina sensed it and quickened her pace. When I erupted, she greedily swallowed my seed.
Finally, she let my cock slip from her lips. Then she wiped the corners of her mouth and smiled up at me, her dark eyes sparkling.
“Thank you,” she said, her eyes closed. “Tasting you always relaxes me. And I needed that.”
“Me too,” I said.
With that, she wrapped her arms around my legs and hugged me, her breasts pressing against my thighs. “I’m sorry,” she said after a moment. “I know I should’ve told you about Regan sooner, but I was scared that you’d get angry.”
“I’m not angry,” I said. “I’m a little surprised, but not angry.”
“Good,” she said, running her hands over my bare ass. Then she stood up and gave me a smoldering look. “I told Regan all about you,” she said. “She thinks you’re really sexy. And she’s given me some cool ideas about stuff you and I can do together.”
“Such as… it’s a surprise.”
“And I’ve got to buy something first. So we were hoping…”
“Regan and I were hoping you’d go with us tonight,” she said.
“This store that sells vibrators and stuff. I need to get a replacement for Pinky—” her vibrator from high school, which she had passed on to Leah, “—and… your surprise, of course. Regan said the store’s pretty sleazy, though. So we don’t want to go alone. But then maybe afterward…”
“Maybe we could come back here,” she said softly. Then she gripped my hips and pulled herself close. “Please say yes, Paul. This is really important to me. Please.”
“Sure,” I said. “It sounds like fun.”
“Oh, Paul,” she gushed as she stood on tiptoe and wrapped her arms around my neck. “Thank you. I love you so much.”
“I love you too,” I said, as I mulled over the idea of having sex with both Gina and Regan. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the possible results of shopping for sex toys with two girls, who would probably be tempted to try them out as soon as they could.
At first, I was a little piqued that Gina would simply expect me to have sex with Regan. I wasn’t some sex machine she could simply use for her own pleasure. But as I thought about it, my irritation turned to intrigue. Regan was very cute, and she had a sexy body, with high, firm breasts that I imagined bouncing as I pumped into her. Ultimately, I decided that after the lousy day I’d had, a little mindless sex was exactly what I wanted.
I pictured dark-skinned Gina next to the Nordic Regan, both of them kneeling before me, worshiping my cock. Then I imagined them on their hands and knees, their asses in the air, inviting. Dozens of different images swirled through my imagination, each of them more arousing than the last.
After we got dressed, Gina called Regan. We met her in the South Carrick lobby a few minutes later.
“He said yes,” Gina excitedly told the blonde. “And then maybe afterward, we could…”
“Really?” Regan asked, arching an eyebrow.
As Gina nodded, I suddenly got the feeling that there was a lot more going on than I realized.
“So he’s cool with it?” Regan asked.
I’m right here, I thought peevishly.
“Absolutely,” Gina said.
“Are you sure?” Regan asked.
Gina looked at me, smiled, and then nodded to her friend.
“Okay,” Regan said. Then she withdrew a small mirror from her purse. “Do you want to… um… freshen our makeup before we go?” she asked Gina.
At first, Gina started to refuse. Then Regan gave her a meaningful look and she suddenly changed her mind.
As the two girls headed toward the lobby bathroom, I furrowed my brow. Gina wasn’t wearing makeup, I thought. She rarely wore much, but she’d washed off what she had been wearing when we showered together.
When the girls returned from the bathroom, Gina looped her arm through mine and we headed out.
“Let’s take Paul’s car,” Regan said. “I don’t feel like driving.”
“That’s cool,” I said, all thoughts of Gina’s makeup forgotten. “This way, ladies.”
After a fifteen-minute drive, we pulled up to a nondescript building. Oddly enough, it looked like any other store, albeit with no windows. From the outside, nothing gave away its purpose. Even the sign by the road simply proclaimed “Magazines, Books, and Novelties.” Fortunately, the parking lot was empty, so we wouldn’t have to deal with furtive looks from other customers.
“Are you sure this is the place?” I asked.
“I’m sure,” Regan said. Then she looked at Gina, her eyes alight. “Are you ready?”
Gina nodded, her expression just as excited.
When we entered, a thick-jowled man glanced up, his eyes dull and bored. He was reading the newspaper and listlessly smoking a cigarette. He also looked like he hadn’t showered or shaved in a couple of days. As the door shut behind us, he leered at each of the girls in turn and then stuck his nose back in his newspaper.
The store was dingy and dark, just like I’d imagined. But instead of being titillating, it reminded me of a shabby newsstand. As I looked around, I had to stifle a chuckle—the racks in this newsstand were full of magazines like Swank, Screw, and Juggs, as well as others that I hadn’t seen before. In addition, there were racks of Swedish Erotica slicks and hard-core paperbacks.
Instead of shelves of candy and gum—as a newsstand would have—the back wall was lined with vibrators, dildos, and more things than I knew what to do with. Another wall held a rack of boxes that I didn’t recognize. After a second look, I realized that they were videotapes.
“Isn’t it cool?” Gina whispered, her eyes fixed on the wall-to-wall sex toys.
Even though I nodded, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. The toys, magazines, and videos didn’t bother me, but I didn’t want to touch anything in the entire place. I’m usually not squeamish, but the store was definitely too seedy for my tastes.
“Let’s go check out the vibrators,” Regan said to Gina, keeping her voice pitched low. “You said you want a smooth one, right?”
Gina nodded and the two girls made a beeline for the back wall.
I’d never seen so many sex toys in my life. Old Bernie Kestrel’s armoire of bondage was tame compared to the expanse in front of me. The wall displays held vibrators in a myriad of colors: pink, blue, red, white, gold, purple, and more. They ranged in size from a little bigger than my thumb to the size of a large flashlight.
Dildos in all shapes and colors lined the wall next to the vibrators. The boxes were decorated with busty women who sported faux-orgasmic expressions. Some of the dildos were smooth, others were ridged, and still others were almost lifelike. Others had knobs, bulbs, or ticklers. I even spotted a few with harnesses like Gina had described.
Past the dildos were rings, sleeve-things, little egg-shaped devices, and more. Beyond them were pasties, clips, cuffs, and a few other things that would’ve been right at home in Mr. Kestrel’s secret bedroom.
“Oh my God, Paul,” Gina whispered, her eyes aglow. “Isn’t this so cool?”
“God, I love toys,” Regan said, her expression just as rapt as Gina’s.
I glanced at the guy behind the counter, but he was still reading his newspaper. I thought he’d been staring at us, but…
I wanted to tell Gina to just pick out a vibrator so we could leave, but I decided against it. If she was enjoying herself, the least I could do was let her.
“I want one bigger than Pinky,” she mused, her eyes roaming over the cellophane-windowed boxes. “Not so big that I get all loose for you, though,” she said, glancing at me distractedly.
“I like this one,” Regan said, holding up a box with a blue vibrator. It was about an inch in diameter and seven inches long. “Although it’s kinda small,” she added.
“It’s nice, I guess,” Gina said. “But it’s too skinny.”
“How about this one?” Regan asked, holding up a box with a red one, which was about an inch and a half in diameter, and just as long as the first one. It was called “The Pleasure Rocket.”
“Perfect,” Gina said. “What kind of batteries does it take?”
“‘Requires two C batteries,’” Regan said, reading the box.
“Cool,” Gina said. “We’ll have to stop at K-Mart and get some batteries,” she added with a glance at me.
“Oh, don’t worry about them,” Regan said. “I’ve got a bunch in my room.”
I marveled at how matter-of-factly the two girls talked about vibrators and batteries. I couldn’t imagine getting together with any of my friends and talking about the details of jerking off. Sure, we joked about doing it, but no one shared details. Ever.
Once again, I looked up at the counter and actually caught the guy staring at us. He gazed at me with flat, yellow eyes and then returned his attention to his newspaper.
“Hey, cool,” Regan said, moving toward the dildos. “I’ve been wanting one of these.”
The box she reached for was hot pink, and contained something called “The Passion Python.” I almost laughed out loud when I saw the name. Then my eyes nearly bugged out when I saw what was in the box. It was about eighteen inches long, at least an inch and a half thick, and had a narrow penis-like glans at each end.
“It’s a double-headed dildo,” Regan said as she showed it to Gina.
“What’s it for?” Gina asked, her eyes going wide. “Never mind,” she added. “I think I figured it out.”
“Mmm hmm,” Regan practically purred.
Cool, I thought. Gina’s got her vibrator, Regan’s got her double-headed Passion Python thing, now let’s go! Even though the guy at the desk tried to act as if he were reading his newspaper, I could tell that he was staring at us out of the corner of his eye. He gave me the creeps almost as much as the atmosphere of the store.
“What about that one?” Gina asked, still browsing.
“Which one?” Regan asked.
“The big black dildo, up there,” Gina said as she stood on tiptoe and pointed. “That looks really cool.”
“Ew, gross,” Regan half-squealed. “Don’t be disgusting.”
“What?” Gina asked, genuinely perplexed.
Gina was a smart girl, but I don’t think she was prepared for that reaction, especially from one of her friends.
“I don’t believe in bestiality,” Regan said, her face a mask of distaste. Then she glanced at me for support.
I returned her look with a flinty stare.
“Whatever,” Regan said. Then she turned to Gina. “Did you still wanna get… you know… that thing… for Paul?”
“What thing?” Gina asked. “Oh, that thing. Yeah.” Distracted by the mention of her surprise for me, she moved next to me. “Are you ready for your surprise?” she asked.
“I guess,” I said, trying to hide my impatience.
“I think you’ll like it,” Regan said.
“And I know I will,” Gina added with a smoldering look.
With that, the two girls pulled me toward the section beyond the dildos. As we got closer to the bondage stuff, I began to hesitate, but Gina and Regan stopped in front of a selection of rings.
“What’re these things?” I asked.
“They’re cock rings,” Regan said.
“It goes around your dick and balls,” Regan said. “It helps you stay hard.”
“Not that you need any help in that department,” Gina added hastily.
“So I’ve heard,” Regan said. Then she moistened her lips and arched an eyebrow.
“Regan’s boyfriend uses one,” Gina said. “He says it feels great.”
“Speaking of which,” I said. Then I turned to Regan. “Where is your boyfriend?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t care,” the blonde girl said. “And he’s not my boyfriend anymore.” Then she practically snarled. “He’s got some Delta Gamma bitch he’s screwing. I swear, those girls go down faster than their anchor.”
“But I don’t want to talk about it,” she finished icily.
“Sorry,” I said.
“Will you help me pick out a cock ring for Paul?” Gina asked, smoothly diverting the blonde’s attention.
“I guess,” Regan said with an affected smile.
“Hold on a second,” I said. “I don’t know if I really need something like this.”
“Paul, please,” Gina begged.
The guy at the desk looked up and smirked at me.
“Okay,” I said. “Just pick one and let’s get out of here.”
“This is the one Rod has,” Regan said, pointing to a black ring with six nubs spaced around its circumference. “And he’s probably fucking that little tramp with it now.”
“Sounds good to me,” I said. “The ring, I mean,” I added hastily.
“God,” Regan said, “I need a bu— I mean, I need to freshen my makeup.” Then she turned to Gina. “Do you want to go with me?”
“Sure,” Gina said immediately.
With that, Regan handed me the box with the double-headed dildo. Then she dug through her purse and thrust a handful of cash at me. Gina barely had time to hand me her boxed vibrator as Regan practically dragged her away.
“What’s up with all this makeup business?” I wondered aloud. Then I looked up to see the guy at the counter chuckling at me. As the girls disappeared into the women’s restroom—I was surprised that the place actually had restrooms—I picked up the cock ring that Gina had dropped.
“Well, well, well,” the guy said as I approached the counter. “That’s some hot cooze you got there,” he added, nodding toward the closing restroom door. His breath smelled of stale cigarettes and beer. “You ballin’ both ’em?”
“I guess,” I said vaguely.
“I seen blondie in here before, but with some other guy,” he said as he started ringing up our selections. “She likes them big dildos too, don’t she?”
“That’ll be thirty-eight fifty,” he said as the cash register beeped.
What?! Thirty-eight dollars for some plastic and rubber?! I glanced at the money Regan had handed me—fifteen dollars. Then I dug through my pockets and came up with another twelve. I was already embarrassed enough, and I didn’t want the guy to realize that I didn’t have the money.
“Do you take checks?” I asked lamely.
He snorted and then shook his head.
“Hold on a second,” I said. Then I headed for the women’s restroom.
“Just a minute,” Regan said when I tapped on the door.
I heard some shuffling and then the door flew open.
“What is it?” Regan asked. From behind her, Gina glanced at me, her eyes wide (and a little wild).
“Um, Gina,” I asked, “how much cash do you have on you. I mean, I’ve got the money,” I said, “but they don’t take checks.”
“Here,” Regan said before Gina could answer. Then the blonde reached into her purse and shoved two ten-dollar bills at me.
Before I could even say thanks, she shut the door in my face. The guy at the counter just laughed when I returned.
“Here,” I said, handing him forty dollars. After he made change, I stuffed the remainder of the money into my pocket, grabbed the plain brown bag, and headed straight for the bathroom door. It opened as I drew near. Gina and Regan practically tumbled out, giggling and wild.
“Let’s get out of here,” Regan said. “I’m horny.” Then she giggled again and grabbed Gina’s wrist.
From the counter, the guy laughed obnoxiously, his sweat-stained shirt heaving as he did. Without a backward glance, I followed the girls outside.
“God, that was fun,” Regan said. Then her eyes darted to Gina. “Hey, d’you wanna do something totally cool?”
“Sure,” Gina quickly agreed.
“Take off your panties,” the blonde said.
Even though we were in public, Gina didn’t hesitate to lift her skirt, hook her thumbs in her underwear, and slide them over her dark legs. I tried to catch a glimpse of Regan’s pussy as she did the same, but I couldn’t see a thing.
“C’mon,” Regan said, laughing. Then she and Gina raced back to the store’s entrance. The blonde pushed open the door and threw her panties inside. “Have fun, you fat fuck,” she shouted with a laugh. Gina immediately followed suit, flinging her panties into the building. With that, they sprinted back to the Jeep. “Let’s go,” Regan shouted. “C’mon, hurry before he comes out.”
“Or calls the cops,” I mumbled to myself as we all piled into the Jeep.
When we peeled out of the parking lot, I looked in my rearview mirror, but the building’s door never opened.
“God, that was fun,” Regan said as she stuck her head between the seats. A moment later, she reached forward and grabbed the bag from the store. “I can’t wait to get back to my room to try this thing out,” she said as she extracted the box with the double-headed dildo.
Even though neither of the girls had said anything about the three of us getting together, I was pretty sure that it was a foregone conclusion. After all, I knew Gina, and this was her pattern. So as I drove back to campus, I once again imagined the girls—one dark and exotic, the other blonde and lithe—on their knees before me.
“Can you just drop us at the dorm before you park your car?” Regan asked, intruding upon my fantasy.
When I darted a glance at Gina, she shrugged apologetically.
“We’d really appreciate it,” Regan added.
“Sure,” I said after a moment’s reluctance.
“Thanks so much,” she said.
A few moments later, I pulled up to the Carrick breezeway. Gina got out of the Jeep and tilted the passenger seat forward. Regan put her double dildo back in the bag and then pulled out my cock ring. With a negligent toss, she dropped it in my lap.
“Thanks for the ride,” Regan said.
At that point, I began to realize that whatever Regan had planned, I wasn’t invited.
“D’you wanna meet me in the North Carrick lobby?” I pointedly asked Gina.
She looked at me like a deer caught in the headlights.
“Are you coming?” Regan asked from behind Gina.
Gina turned back to look at me, her eyes pleading.
“I’ll be back in about ten minutes,” I said firmly.
“Earth to pledge Gina,” Regan called.
As I watched, Gina’s willpower crumbled. At the same time, I felt a surge of rage boil from somewhere deep within me.
“Can we do it another night?” Gina asked me.
“Fine,” I grated.
Without waiting for her to say anything else, I put the Jeep into gear, mashed the accelerator, and let out the clutch. The wheels chirped as the vehicle surged forward. The passenger door flapped, because it hadn’t been latched. As I went around the curve and headed back to Andy Holt Avenue, the door swung open and then slapped shut again. I didn’t care.
Back in my room, I called Kendall’s apartment, intent on meeting her to slake my lust.
“I’m sorry, Paul,” Vivian said. “She and Abby are in the library studying. Do you want to leave a message?”
“Fuck,” I spat. Then I hung up. I felt a momentary pang of guilt about abruptly ending the call—Vivian certainly hadn’t done anything to deserve that kind of treatment—but I quickly shrugged it off.
“What’s the matter, Loverboy?” T.J. mocked as he came out of his room.
“Don’t fucking start with me, Tracy,” I said.
In a flash, he was in my face, all 140 pounds of him. “Don’t you ever fuckin’ call me that,” he raged, his face turning red.
Instead of answering, he shoved me.
I shoved him in return and he staggered into the wall.
Then he launched himself across the foyer and hit me in the stomach. He knocked the wind out of me, but I immediately sprawled—a classic wrestling move—and landed atop him. Then I pulled his arm into a chicken-wing and got an elbow in the face for my trouble. As he fought to get free, I wrenched his arm upward.
I was just about to slug him when someone jerked me to my feet. It took me a moment to realize that Glen was practically holding me in the air. I didn’t care. With reckless abandon, I decided to fight him next, if it came to that. As T.J. started to get up, I tried to get loose from Glen’s vise-like grip. Incredibly, Glen grabbed T.J. as well. Then the big brute looked at me calmly.
“We don’t want no trouble,” he apologized, the first words I’d ever heard him say.
“Lemme go, Glen,” T.J. said as he reached for me. “I’ll fuckin’ kill him.”
“Fuck you, runt,” I snarled at T.J.
“Leave it be,” Glen said to me, his expression adamantine.
With that, he let me go.
“Go on,” he said, nodding to my room.
“God dammit, Glen,” T.J. raged. “He fuckin’ started it.”
At another implacable nod from Glen, I backed toward my door, adrenaline still singing through my veins. It took me three tries before I got the key in the lock. By then, Glen had dragged a kicking and cursing T.J. back into their room. At a word from Glen, T.J.’s caterwauling abruptly stopped.
I shut my door and locked it.
Then I started trembling as the adrenaline wore off.
“Fuck this,” I said to the world in general.