Walking Disaster

By: Jamie McGuire

I had notoriously been a piece of shit to every girl with whom I’d had a private conversation over the age of sixteen—since I was fifteen. Our story might have been typical: Bad boy falls for good girl, but Abby was no princess. She was hiding something. Maybe that was our connection: whatever it was that she had left behind.

I pulled into the apartment parking lot and climbed off the bike. So much for thinking better on the Harley. Everything I’d just unraveled in my head made no fucking sense. I was just trying to justify my weird obsession with her.

Suddenly in a very bad mood, I slammed the door behind me and sat on the couch, and became even more pissed off when I couldn’t find the remote right away.

Black plastic landed beside me as Shepley passed to sit in the recliner. I picked up the remote and pointed it at the TV, turning it on.

“Why do you take the remote to your bedroom? You just have to bring it back in here,” I snapped.

“I don’t know, man, it’s just habit. What’s your problem?”

“I don’t know,” I grumbled, flipping on the TV. I pressed the mute button. “Abby Abernathy.”

Shepley’s eyebrow pushed up. “What about her?”

“She gets under my skin. I think I just need to bag her and get it over with.”

Shepley eyed me for a while, unsure. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate you not fucking up my life with your newfound restraint, but you’ve never needed my permission before . . . unless . . . don’t tell me you finally give a shit about someone.”

“Don’t be a dick.”

Shepley couldn’t contain his grin. “You care about her. I guess it just took a girl refusing to sleeping with you for more than a twenty-four-hour period.”

“Laura made me wait a week.”

“Abby won’t give you the time of day, though?”

“She just wants to be friends. I guess I’m lucky she doesn’t treat me like a leper.”

After an awkward silence, Shepley nodded. “You’re scared.”

“Of what?” I asked with a dubious smirk.

“Rejection. Mad Dog is one of us after all.”

My eye twitched. “You know I fucking hate that, Shep.”

Shepley smiled. “I know. Almost as much as you hate the way you feel right now.”

“You’re not making me feel any better.”

“So you like her and you’re scared. Now what?”

“Nothing. It just sucks that I finally found the girl worth having and she’s too good for me.”

Shepley tried to stifle a laugh. It was irritating that he was so amused about my predicament. He straightened his smile and then said, “Why don’t you let her make that decision for herself?”

“Because I care about her just enough to want to make it for he r.”

Shepley stretched and then stood, his bare feet dragging across the carpet. “You want a beer?”

“Yeah. Let’s drink to friendship.”

“So you’re going to keep hanging out with her? Why? That sounds like torture to me.”

I thought about it for a minute. It did sound like torture, but not as bad as just watching her from afar. “I don’t want her to end up with me . . . or any other dick.”

“You mean or anyone else. Dude, that’s nuts.”

“Get my fuckin’ beer and shut up.”

Shepley shrugged. Unlike Chris Jenks, Shepley knew when to shut up.

CHAPTER FOUR

Distracted

THE DECISION WAS CRAZY, BUT FREEING. THE NEXT DAY I walked into the cafeteria, and without a second thought, sat in the empty seat across from Abby. Being around her was natural and easy, and other than having to put up with the prodding eyes of the general student population, and even some professors, she seemed to like having me around.

“We studying today or what?”

“We are,” she said, unfazed.

The only negative about hanging out with her as friends was the more time I spent with her, the more I liked her. It was harder to forget the color and shape of her eyes, and the way her lotion smelled on her skin. I also noticed more about her, like how long her legs were, and the colors she wore most often. I even got a pretty good handle on which week I shouldn’t give her any extra shit, which fortunately for Shepley, was the same week not to fuck with America. That way, we had three weeks to not be on guard instead of two, and we could give each other fair warning.

Even at her worst, Abby wasn’t fussy like most girls. The only thing that seemed to affect her was the occasional questions about our relationship, but as long as I took care of it, she got over it pretty fast.

As more time passed, people speculated less. We ate lunch together on most days, and on the nights when we studied, I’d take her out to dinner. Shepley and America invited us to a movie once. It was never awkward, never a question of whether we were more than friends. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, especially since my decision not to pursue her in that way didn’t stop me from fantasizing about making her moan on my couch—until one night I was watching her and America poke and tickle each other at the apartment and I imagined Abby in my bed.

She needed to get outta my head.

The only cure was to stop thinking about her long enough to land my next conquest.

A few days later, a familiar face caught my eye. I’d seen her before with Janet Littleton. Lucy was fairly hot, never missed a chance to show off her cleavage, and very vocal about hating my guts. Fortunately it took me thirty minutes and a tentative invite to the Red to get her home. I’d barely shut the front door before she was removing my clothes. So much for the deep well of hatred she had harbored toward me since last year. She left with a smile on her face and disappointment in her eyes.

I still had Abby on my mind.

Not even postorgasm fatigue was going to cure it, and I felt something new: guilt.

The next day, I rushed to history class and slid into the desk next to Abby. She already had out her laptop and book, barely acknowledging my presence when I sat down.

The classroom was darker than usual; the clouds outside robbed the room of the natural light that usually poured in through the windows. I nudged her elbow, but she wasn’t as receptive as usual, so I snatched her pencil out of her hand and began doodling in the margins. Tattoos, mostly, but I scrawled her name in cool letters. She peeked over at me with an appreciative smile.

I leaned over and whispered in her ear. “You wanna grab lunch off campus today?”

I can’t, she mouthed.

I scribbled in her book.

Y?

Because I have to make use of my meal plan.

Bullshit.

Seriously.

I wanted to argue but was running out of room on the page. Fine. Another mystery meal. Can’t wait.

She giggled, and I enjoyed that on-top-of-the-world feeling I experienced whenever I made her smile. A few more doodles and a legit drawing of a dragon later, Chaney dismissed class.

I tossed Abby’s pencil in her backpack as she packed away the rest of her things, and then we walked to the cafeteria.

We didn’t get as many stares as we had in the past. The student populace had grown accustomed to seeing us together on a regular basis. When we went through the line, we made small talk about the new history paper Chaney had assigned. Abby ran her meal card and then made her way to the table. I immediately noticed one thing missing from her tray: the can of OJ she picked up every day.

I scanned the line of husky, no-nonsense servers who stood behind the buffet. Once the stern-looking woman behind the register came into view, I knew I’d found my target.

“Hey, Miss . . . uh . . . Miss . . .”

The cafeteria lady sized me up once before deciding I was going to cause her trouble, as most women did right before I made their thighs tingle.

“Armstrong,” she said in a gruff voice.

I tried to subdue my disgust as the thought of her thighs appeared in the dark corners of my mind.

I flashed my most charming smile. “That’s lovely. I was wondering, because you seem like the boss here . . . No OJ today?”

“There’s some in the back. I’ve been too busy to bring any more to the front.”

I nodded. “You’re always running your ass off. They should give you a raise. No one else works as hard as you do. We all notice.”

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