ArrangedBy: Sara Wolf
“Hey! What’s the rush?” He shouts after me. My face is nine temperatures, all of them boiling. “You forgot this!”
I pivot – there, in his long fingers, are my purple t-rex underwear. I dropped them from my dirty clothes bundle. This guy’s smirk as I stride up tells me he thinks I’m a five-year-old dinosaur-obsessed boy. Or a freak. Or both.
“Pervert,” I snap and grab the underwear back, careful not to touch his hand or look any lower than his neck.
He quirks a dark brow. “You were the one who tackled me.”
“I didn’t tackle anyone! Pervert!” I rush back to my room.
“Did that fall break your head and that’s the only insult you remember?”
I slam my door and lock it. I’ll definitely switch with Selena’s body, now, since embarrassment is burning this one alive. The first time I even touch a guy in college besides the occasional paper-passing and crowd-shove, it has to be accidentally, and with some player coming out of another girl’s room. Naked. I called him pervert like a tongue-tied idiot – I couldn’t say something normal or chill like other girls. Oh, no. That’d be too easy.
Nothing about college, I’m starting to learn, is easy.
The next morning, I find Selena passed out on the floor, an empty bottle of vodka in her manicured hand. Her makeup’s smeared and her hair’s a rat’s nest. I sigh and drag her into bed, take off her heels, throw the bottle away, and pull the blankets up to her chin. She snores and rolls over. It looks like someone had fun last night, at least.
Last night. I push the embarrassing incident out of my mind and get dressed in a soft gray sweater and worn jeans. The campus is silent. Birds chirp among the palm trees and a warm breeze teases my hair. The cafeteria is practically empty this time of morning.
“Morning, Rose!” Jen, one of the part-time cafeteria workers from my Lit class, waves a pair of tongs at me. Her pixie-cut red hair and multiple ear piercings are bright against the dull walls. I smile and choose a chocolate éclair.
“Hey, Jen. How was band practice?”
Jen’s in a post-punk impressionist metal-goth band. Or something like that. All I know is there’s lots of screaming and eyeliner and smelly dudes.
“Sweet, as always. Giselle sung really good. We’ll ace Battle of the Bands in L.A.”
“You guys got in?”
“Hell yeah! All thanks to me and my skills.” She mimes playing an air guitar. “You should come watch us play sometime. The finals are in two months, but we’ve got some gigs lined up in town.”
“Remember me when you get famous,” I tease. Jen laughs and tosses me a banana.
“Potassium for the braniac.”
“Thanks.” I head to a table. The morning sun is warm on my cheeks as I bite into the pastry. The eclairs here are good. Not as good as Bistro Miel’s, the bakery where I work, but pretty good. I don’t make the eclairs, but I man the register and get to watch Pierre make extravagant cakes and tarts. It’s my dream to open up a bakery like his, and to get as good as he is with pastries. It’s why I’m a business major, with a culinary minor.
The cafeteria doors bang open and a group of guys stride through and ladle their trays with oatmeal and bacon. They elbow each other, clothes slightly disheveled and obviously excited about something. They settle at the table in front of me. Jen, freed from duty by the lack of customers, slides into my table.
“Swim team.” She jerks her head at the boys. “Always up at the ass-crack of dawn.”
I recognize one of them; dark hair, hazel eyes – emerald green ringed with gold. A confident, easy smile. It’s the guy I crashed into. His gaze catches on mine and all the blood drains from my face.
“Oh no,” I whisper.
“Does Lee know you?” Jen asks.
“Lee Montenegro. That tall guy. New transfer student from some fancy college in Spain. Word is his family owns a purebred horse ranch in the countryside or some shit. Not super rich, but rich enough to buy his way into UCLA.” Jen snorts. “Doesn’t have to work for it like you or me. Not surprised he joined the water-ballerinas. He looks like the fruity type.”
Lee. That’s his name. I unpeel my banana and take a huge bite, trying to coat my stomach with food. I focus on my éclair. I’m focused so hard I don’t notice someone walking over until Jen snickers.
“Sup, pretty boy? How was gay morning sex with your buddies?”
“Jen,” Lee grins, teeth white against his tan skin. “You get lovelier every day.”
“Not gonna call me a dirty dyke like the rest of your jock buddies? Consider me impressed.”
“I only insult boring people,” He laughs. “And you’re the farthest thing from boring.”
Jen flushes a little, but doesn’t lose her sarcastic edge. “Gee, thanks.”
Lee’s laugh dies as he looks at me. “You look a lot different when you aren’t red in the face and screaming ‘perv’.”
“You look a lot different without the Care Bears clutched to your crotch,” I say. Why am I being an ass? Just play it cool, Rose. Think cool like ice, Antarctica, James Dean’s smirk, Beyonce’s hair. Jen’s expression grows amused. Lee clears his throat.