“Hey, we just passed Brandon’s dorm,” I said, craning my neck as Krystal drove too fast down Woodward Ave.
“Oh cool, he’s really close.” Krystal turned around from the front seat. “Just think, if you don’t like the frat guys at this party, you can come hang out with Brandon.”
“I think I’d like that better anyway,” I mumbled. This whole trip was a bad idea. The last time I’d been exposed to alcohol hadn’t ended well. I could just imagine how much alcohol would be flowing at a college frat party.
“Dylan promised there would be lots of cool guys at this party,” Kat said, not taking her eyes off the road. The guy Kat had met on the ski slopes at Boyne Highlands was cute and did seem to have some pretty hot friends, if his Instagram profile was any indication. “Unless you’re still holding out for Brandon?”
“You never know. Maybe we’ll end up married someday.” I stuck my chin in the air.
“Your babies would be beautiful, that’s for sure,” Krystal said.
I sighed, and a smile pulled at the corner of my lips. “For sure.”
“Here we are,” Kat said, slowing down the car.
“Oh my gosh, is this a front yard? Or a parking lot?” I marveled at the sheer number of cars.
“Each one of those cars represents at least one hot guy.” Krystal rubbed her hands together in anticipation. “Hey, maybe Dylan’s friend Justin will be there.”
“I’m pretty sure he will be,” Kat said. “They’re in the same fraternity.” She pulled into a makeshift parking spot and pulled down the vanity mirror.
“That was a fun night…” Krystal pulled down the mirror on the passenger side of the car.
“That was a fun weekend,” Kat said, then giggled.
“You guys are disgusting.” I rolled my eyes remembering the stories they’d told after Christmas break. They’d gone a little crazy with some college guys and didn’t seem to have any shame about their behavior. “That’s all you think about anymore.”
“Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” Krystal reached over to offer her twin a fist bump, then they both opened their car doors.
“I’m not trying it until I’m older, thank-you-very-much.” I climbed out of the backseat and followed them toward the house. “And in love. And not a one-night stand.”
“That was two nights,” Kat hid behind a fake cough. “At least we’re still talking. Krystal didn’t even give Justin her phone number.”
“He didn’t ask.” Krystal tugged at her too-short miniskirt and bounced up the stairs to the majestic house that was once a stately home but was now a somewhat well-maintained frat house.
Kat held back, typing on her cell phone. “He says he’s coming to the door.”
As if on cue, the large door swung open and a stereotypical clean-cut rich kid stood in the doorway. He grabbed Krystal around the waist and pulled her close. “Hi, Kat, glad you made it.”
I snickered at his mistake and Kat cleared her throat from down in the yard. “Dylan, that is my twin sister, Krystal.”
“Hi, Krystal.” Dylan pulled her a little closer. “You look just like my girlfriend.” His voice was slurred. Great. This night was starting off on a high note.
Speaking of high notes, an unmistakable sweet smoke hung in the air wafting out of the frat house. Oh, heck no! “Hey guys, I think I’m going to walk over and see what Brandon’s up to tonight.”
Kat was already up the stairs and Dylan now had one arm around each twin’s waist. Great. I didn’t even want to know. Krystal barely looked back and called out to me, “Say hi to Brandon for us!”
“I will…” I spoke into the dark, the now-closed door muffling the loud music and snuffing out the smoke. Whatever.
The knock on my door startled me. It was Saturday night and I wasn’t expecting anyone. My roommate had gone to the bar with some friends, but I really wanted to get a little studying done and go to bed at a decent hour.
“Sammy? What are you doing in Big Rapids?”
“It’s good to see you too.” She was shivering and not dressed for the snow that was clinging to her hair and lightweight jacket. “Can I come in?”
“Yeah, yeah, sure, sorry. I’m just surprised to see you.”
“The twins are at a frat party and I didn’t want to be there, so I walked over here.”
“All the way from Woodward?” I asked. “In the snow?”
“It wasn’t snowing when I left.” Her teeth were chattering.
“Here, let me get you a towel and some dry clothes.” I hurried around to find something, picked a towel off the floor and sniffed it, then threw it toward the hamper. I rummaged through the tiny linen closet and finally found a large hand towel. I tossed it to her. “Here, this will have to do for now.”
“Thanks.” She smelled it and didn’t wrinkle her nose, so it couldn’t have been too bad. She pulled a scrunchie out of her sloppy wet ponytail and folded the towel around her wet hair, squeezing and patting, trying to catch the drips. I was momentarily distracted.
Clothes. Gotta find clothes. I pulled my mind together and opened drawers to find something comfortable. I settled on the sweatpants I usually wore to bed, and a semi-clean hoodie. I thrust them into her arms. “The bathroom’s over there.”
“Are these dirty?” She raised her eyebrows.
“Do you care?”
“Not really,” she mumbled. “They’re warm and dry.”
“My sentiment exactly,” I said, watching her stumble toward the bathroom. “Have you been drinking?” I called after her.
She turned back around, her jaw dropped. “What do you think?”
“I think… you learned that lesson already.” What a stupid thing for me to ask. If last summer’s experience with that guy at the fair hadn’t steered her clear of alcohol for the rest of her life, nothing would.
She didn’t say another word after rolling her eyes and pulling the door shut behind her.
I looked at my very messy dorm room and scrambled around pulling socks and underwear from various corners, removing my books and notebooks and pens from where I’d been studying on my bed, stacking them neatly on the corner of my desk, and straightening the bed covers.
Finally, I gave up and found a mug with a stain in the bottom and a packet of cocoa. Water. In the bathroom. I was going to have to wait until she was done in there.
Woah. Total distraction seeing her walk out of the bathroom in my sweats and hoodie. When did she get so hot? It was my turn to pull my jaw off the floor. I shook off my stupor and held out the mug and cocoa packet. “Want some hot chocolate?”
“Sure.” She reached for the mug but looked down into the empty cup then back up at me.
“Oh, yeah, I still need to cook it.” I grabbed the mug back from her and hurried into the bathroom to clean it as best I could without dish soap, then filled it with cold water and came back out to my dorm room and shoved the mug into the microwave.
I found her sitting at my desk, thumbing through the stack of textbooks. She looked up at me. “Are you an accounting major?”
“Business management,” I said. I shuffled my feet, not sure what to do or say while waiting for her cocoa. “It requires a lot of accounting.”
“Gee, you can come manage our records at the bed and breakfast.” She didn’t really sound like she was joking.
The microwave beeped, freeing me from having to come up with an appropriate response to her statement. I stepped over to the little table where we kept a variety of condiments, napkins, and snacks.
I found a plastic spoon that was probably clean, maybe, and stirred the cocoa packet into the hot water. I sloshed some of the partially-mixed-in powder and water onto the table and grabbed a napkin to wipe it up. Still holding a napkin under the mug, I carried it over and placed it on the desk in front of her.
“Thanks.” She stirred a little more then blew on a spoonful and took a sip.
I wasn’t sure what else to do so I sat on the edge of my bed. “So, what are the twins doing tonight?”
“I’m not sure I really want to know, but it involves a boy named Dylan and a house full of hot guys.”
“Yeah, I probably don’t want to know either.” I shuddered, then looked up at her. “You didn’t want to meet any hot guys?”
“I don’t need to meet any new guys.”
I chuckled nervously, her pointed answer was not lost on me. I rubbed my hands up and down my jeans, willing them to stop sweating. It was just from holding the mug of cocoa. That’s why they were sweating.
“Thank you,” Sammy whispered.
“For letting me come in and get warm, and for the hot cocoa.” She held up the mug and took another sip.
“You’re welcome anytime.” Did my voice get husky? Ugh. Hopefully she didn’t notice. I didn’t want her to think I was trying to make a move on her. I wasn’t… was I? I shook off the thought. I was doing a lot of that tonight.
“I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” she asked.
“I was just finishing up studying and was going to go to bed early.”
“Early on a Saturday night?” She raised her eyebrows.
“I’m not much of a partier. You know that.”
“Do you mind if I stay with you?” Was she serious?
“Uh…” I stammered with an answer.
“I can call the twins and drag them out of there.” She backpedaled. “I’d have to drive home since they’ve probably been drinking, and I almost got a contact buzz just standing on the porch of the frat house.”
“No, I mean, yes. I’d love for you to stay with me.” What the heck did I just agree to? Stay the night? I looked around at my messy room, at the only other bed, my roommate’s, at my own small twin bed that barely fit me, much less a guest.
Then there was the matter of what to wear to bed. She was wearing my sweats. In order for me to sleep in my usual clothes I would have to literally get her out of her pants, or my pants, or whatever. That was not acceptable. It wasn’t happening. I’d just leave my jeans on. I could handle that.
Sammy set the mug on my desk and crawled past me to lay her head on my pillow. She was beautiful, her wet hair splayed out across the bed. I hesitated then cautiously maneuvered to prop myself against the headboard.
She pulled herself up so that her head was lying on my chest instead of the pillow. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. I can’t do this. I willed my body to not respond to having a girl in my bed and practically on top of me. This is just Sammy. No big deal. I can handle this.
“You make a good pillow.” She arched her head up so that she could look at me. It would have been so easy to lean forward and kiss her.
No! I inwardly screamed at myself. I will not do this to Sammy. I’m not sure I’d ever been in bed with a girl and not had it end with our clothes on the floor. It had been a long time. I wasn’t sure if that made the situation easier or more difficult.
I knew what I was missing.
Sammy deserved better than this. She deserved a wedding dress and a cake, and dancing with the lights low surrounded by her friends and family. That was a long time from now. I needed to control my hormones or find a new girlfriend.
Oh my gosh, she is not my girlfriend. She’s just Sammy. My friend. We’re just friends. We’re just friends. We’re just friends. We’re just friends. I repeated it over and over until I dozed off with her in my arms.
“We’re just friends,” I heard Brandon whisper.
The fog that comes from waking up in a strange bed pulled at my mind as I heard Brandon talking to someone. Another guy. His roommate?
“You should have put a sock on the door handle or something,” the friend whispered back, his words slurring.
“It’s not like that, man. This is Sammy. We’re just friends. She’s like a sister to me.”
“She sure don’t look like your sister all sprawled across your bed and practically on top of you.”
“She just fell asleep that way,” Brandon said. “She needed a place to crash because her friends got drunk and couldn’t drive home.”
“Do you want me to crash someplace else?” the roommate asked.
“Nah, man. You’re cool. Sleep it off. She’ll be gone in the morning.”
I heard the bathroom door shut almost all the way, and a guy I’d never met before peeing loudly. He even farted once. I almost gagged. Men were gross. The toilet flushed but I didn’t hear him wash his hands. Double gross.
He stumbled back into the bedroom, stubbing his toe on the chair I’d left in the middle of the room. Oops. He swore then flopped onto his bed. He was snoring almost immediately.
After a few minutes I settled back into a comfortable position in Brandon’s arms and felt him kiss my forehead.
Just friends? Like a sister? Whatever. Like he said, I’d be gone in the morning.
A few hours later my phone vibrated. The twins.
“Where are you?” I answered, groggy from sleep.
“We need you to drive us home.” Kat giggled. Or was it Krystal? “We drank a little bit of alcohol.”
“Shh, don’t tell her that,” the other twin slurred.
“I’m too tired to drive right now.” I yawned and pulled Brandon a little closer. “Go sleep in your car or something and I’ll meet you there in a few hours.”
“You can sleep here,” some guy in the background said. “We have plenty of room.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you do,” I grumbled, then with a little more strength in my voice. “See, you can sleep there with your… boyfriends. I’ll come find you in the morning.”
“Okay, Sammy.” One of the twins giggled again and the line went dead.
I tucked the phone in the pouch of Brandon’s hoodie, laid my head back on his chest and felt his arms wrap around me again.
I slept long enough that Brandon was already showered and dressed before my eyes opened. I stretched and rolled over.
“Good morning,” Brandon whispered then pointed over to the side of the room where his roommate was flopped onto his stomach, one arm falling off the side of the bed. He was dead to the world. I didn’t know what Brandon was worried about.
“Did my clothes dry?” My voice was hoarse from sleep. I sat up and pulled the covers off.
“I think so. They’re hanging up in the bathroom. You can change in there.”
As if I’d planned to change in here. I climbed out of his bed and headed for the bathroom, which now smelled of whatever soap or bodywash or cologne Brandon wore. The moist air wrapped me in his scent and I wished I could stay in that room for the rest of the day.
I changed back into my clothes and held his sweatshirt to my face for just a moment, eyes closed, inhaling his essence, memorizing it. It would be months before I’d see him again. Torture.
When I left the bathroom, Brandon was waiting by the door with his keys in hand and jacket on. “I’ll drive you back over to the frat house and help you find the twins.”
“Oh, man. Thank you.” I hadn’t even thought about the fact that I’d have to knock on the door of that intimidating house and try to find someone who knew where two adorable blonde girls had slept the night before. It would be like a crap shoot. Ugh.
We walked to his car in silence. I didn’t want to tell him I’d heard his conversation with his roommate in the middle of the night, so I didn’t say anything.
Within a half hour we’d found the girls and had them safely in the little VW Bug, their eyes hooded, and hair mussed. We only had to stop twice for one or the other of them to puke on the side of the road. Great trip. I rolled my eyes and pulled back onto the expressway.
Running To You
Click here to read the next chapter in my work-in-progress!