Walking Disaster

By: Jamie McGuire

As the women argued back and forth, I noticed Abby rush in. She practically threw herself into a front-row desk just before the bell rang.

Before I took a second to ask myself why, I grabbed my paper and popped my pen in my mouth, and then jogged down the steps, sliding into the desk next to her.

The look on Abby’s face surpassed amusing, and for a reason I couldn’t explain, it caused adrenaline to rush through my body—the kind that I used to experience before a fight.

“Good. You can take notes for me.”

She was utterly disgusted, and that only pleased me more. Most girls bored me outta my gourd, but this girl was intriguing. Entertaining, even. I didn’t faze her, at least not in a positive way. My very presence seemed to make her want to puke, and I found that strangely endearing.

The urge came over me to find out if it was really hate she felt for me, or if she was just a hard-ass. I leaned in close. “I’m sorry . . . did I offend you in some way?”

Her eyes softened before she shook her head. She didn’t hate me. She just wanted to hate me. I was way ahead of her. If she wanted to play, I could play.

“Then what is your problem?”

She seemed embarrassed to say what came next. “I’m not sleeping with you. You should give up, now.”

Oh yeah. This was going to be fun. “I haven’t asked you to sleep with me . . . have I?” I let my eyes drift to the ceiling, as if I had to think about it. “Why don’t you come over with America tonight?”

Abby’s lip turned up, as if she’d smelled something rotten.

“I won’t even flirt with you, I swear.”

“I’ll think about it.”

I tried not to smile too much and give myself away. She wasn’t going to roll over like the vultures above. I glanced behind me, and they were all glaring at the back of Abby’s head. They knew it as well as I did. Abby was different, and I was going to have to work for this one. For once.

Three doodles of potential tattoos, and two dozen 3-D boxes later, class dismissed. I slid through the halls before anyone could stop me. I made good time, but Abby had somehow ended up outside, a good twenty yards ahead of me.

I’ll be damned. She was trying to avoid me. I quickened my pace until I was next to her. “Have you thought about it?”

“Travis!” A girl said, playing with her hair. Abby kept going, leaving me stuck listening to this girl’s irritating babble.

“Sorry, uh . . .”

“Heather.”

“Sorry, Heather . . . I’m . . . I’ve gotta go.”

She wrapped her arms around me. I patted her backside, shrugged out of her grasp, and kept walking, wondering who she was.

Before I could figure out who Heather was, Abby’s long, tan legs came into view. I popped a Marlboro into my mouth and jogged to her side. “Where was I? Oh yeah . . . you were thinking.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Have you thought about coming over?”

“If I say yes, will you quit following me?”

I pretended to mull it over, and then nodded. “Yes.”

“Then I’ll come over.”

Bullshit. She wasn’t that easy. “When?”

“Tonight. I’ll come over tonight.”

I stopped midstep. She was up to something. I hadn’t anticipated her going on the offensive. “Sweet,” I said, playing off my surprise. “See you then, Pidge.”

She walked away without looking back, not the least bit affected by the conversation. She disappeared behind other students making their own way to class.

Shepley’s white ball cap came into view. He was in no hurry to get to our computer class. My eyebrows pressed together. I hated that class. Who doesn’t know how to work a fucking computer anymore?

I joined Shepley and America as they merged into the flow of students on the main walkway. She giggled and watched him yap at me with stars in her eyes. America was no vulture. She was hot, yeah, but she could have a conversation without saying like after every word, and she was pretty funny at times. What I liked most about her is she wouldn’t come to the apartment for several weeks after their first date, and even after they watched a movie all snuggled up at the apartment, she went back to her dorm room.

I had a feeling the probationary period before Shepley could bag her was about to end, though.

“Hey, Mare,” I said, nodding.

“How’s it going, Trav?” she asked. She acknowledged me with a friendly smile, but then her eyes were right back on Shepley.

He was one of the lucky ones. Girls like that didn’t come along very often.

“This is me,” America said, gesturing to her dorm around the corner. She wrapped her arms around Shepley’s neck and kissed him. He gripped her shirt on each side and pulled her close before letting her go.

America waved one last time at both of us, and then joined her friend Finch at the front entrance.

“You’re falling for her, aren’t you?” I asked, punching Shepley in the arm.

He shoved me. “None of your business, dick.”

“Does she have a sister?”

“She’s an only child. Leave her friends alone, too, Trav. I mean it.”

Shepley’s last words were unnecessary. His eyes were a billboard for his emotions and thoughts most of the time, and he was clearly serious—maybe even a little desperate. He wasn’t just falling for her. He was in love.

“You mean Abby.”

He frowned. “I mean any of her friends. Even Finch. Just stay away.”

“Cousin!” I said, hooking my elbow around his neck. “Are you in love? You’re making me all misty-eyed!”

“Shut up,” Shepley grumbled. “Just promise me you’ll stay away from her friends.”

I grinned. “I promise nothing.”

CHAPTER TWO

Backfire

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” SHEPLEY ASKED. HE STOOD IN the middle of the room, a pair of sneakers in one hand, a dirty pair of underwear in the other.

“Uh, cleaning?” I asked, shoving shot glasses into the dishwasher.

“I see that. But . . . why?”

I smiled, my back turned to Shepley. He was going to kick my ass. “I’m expecting company.”

“So?”

“The pigeon.”

“Huh?”

“Abby, Shep. I invited Abby.”

“Dude, no. No! Don’t fuck this up for me, man. Please don’t.”

I turned, crossing my arms across my chest. “I tried, Shep. I did. But, I don’t know.” I shrugged. “There’s something about her. I couldn’t help myself.”

Shepley’s jaw worked under his skin, and then he stomped into his room, slamming the door behind him.

I finished loading the dishwasher, and then circled the couch to make sure I hadn’t missed any visible empty condom wrappers. That was never fun to explain.

The fact that I had bagged a good portion of beautiful coeds at this school was no secret, but I didn’t see a reason to remind them when they came to my apartment. It was all about presentation.

Pigeon, though. It would take far more than false advertising to bag her on my couch. At this point, the strategy was to take her one step at a time. If I focused on the end result, the process could easily be fucked up. She noticed things. She was farther from naive than I was; light-years away. This operation was nothing less than precarious.

I was in my bedroom sorting dirty laundry when I heard the front door open. Shepley usually listened for America’s car to pull in so he could greet her at the door.

Pussy.

Murmuring, and then the closing of Shepley’s door was my signal. I walked into the front room, and there she sat: glasses, her hair all piled on top of her head, and what might have been pajamas. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d been molding in the bottom of her laundry hamper.

It was so hard not to bust into laughter. Never once had a female come to my apartment dressed like that. My front door had seen jean skirts, dresses, even a see-through tube dress over a string bikini. A handful of times, spackled-on makeup and glitter lotion. Never pajamas.

Her appearance immediately explained why she’d so easily agreed to come over. She was going to try to nauseate me into leaving her alone. If she didn’t look absolutely sexy like that, it might have worked, but her skin was impeccable, and the lack of makeup and the frames of her glasses just made her eye color stand out even more.

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