Chapter 4 – After

Chapter 4 – After

Um . . . Where is Steph?” I try to sound authoritative, but my voice comes out as more of a squeak. My hands are clenched around the soft fabric of my towel and my eyes keep darting down to make sure it’s actually covering my naked body.

The boy looks at me, the corners of his mouth lifting slightly, but doesn’t say a word.

“Did you hear me? I asked you where Steph is,” I repeat, trying to be slightly more polite this time.

The expression on his face magnifies and he finally mumbles, “I don’t know,” and turns on the small flat screen on Steph’s dresser. What is he even doing in here? Doesn’t he have his own room? I bite my tongue, trying to keep my rude comments to myself.

“Okay? Well, could you like . . . leave or something so I can get dressed?” He hasn’t even noticed I’m in a towel. Or maybe he has but it doesn’t impress him.

“Don’t flatter yourself, it’s not like I’m going to look at you,” he scoffs and rolls over, his hands covering his face. He has a thick English accent that I didn’t notice at first. Probably because he was too rude to actually speak to me yesterday.

Unsure how I should respond to his rude remark, I huff and walk to my dresser. Maybe he isn’t straight, maybe that’s what he meant by “it’s not like I’m going to look.” Either that or he finds me unattractive. I hastily put on a bra and panties, followed by a plain white shirt and khaki shorts.

“Are you done yet?” he asks, snapping the last bit of patience I held.

“Could you be any more disrespectful? I did nothing to you. What is your problem?!” I shout, much louder than I had wanted to, but by the surprised look on his face, my words had the intended effect.

He silently stares at me for a moment. And while I await for his apology . . . he bursts into laughter. His laugh is deep and would be an almost lovely sound if he didn’t come off so unpleasant. Dimples indent both of his cheeks as he continues on, and I feel like a complete idiot, unsure what to do or say. I don’t usually like conflict and this boy seems like the last person I should start a fight with.

The door opens and Steph bursts in.

“Sorry I’m late. I have a hell of a hangover,” she says dramatically, and her eyes dart back and forth between the two of us. “Sorry, Tess, I forgot to tell you Hardin would be coming by.” She shrugs apologetically.

I would like to think me and Steph could make our living arrangement work, maybe even build some sort of a friendship, but with her choice of friends and late nights, I’m just not sure anymore.

“Your boyfriend is rude.” The words tumble out before I can stop them.

Steph looks over at the boy. And then they both burst into laughter. What is it with people laughing at me? It’s getting really annoying.

“Hardin Scott is not my boyfriend!” she spits out, nearly choking. Calming down, she turns and scowls at this Hardin. “What did you say to her?” Then, looking back at me: “Hardin has a . . . a unique way of conversing.”

Lovely, so basically what she is saying is that Hardin is, simply, at his core, a rude person. The English boy shrugs and changes the channel with the remote in his hand.

“There is a party tonight; you should come with us, Tessa,” she says. So now it’s my turn to laugh.

“Parties aren’t really my thing. Plus I have to go to get some things for my desk and walls.” I look at Hardin, who, of course, is acting as if neither of us is in the room with him.

“C’mon . . . it’s just one party! You’re in college now, just one party won’t hurt,” she begs. “Wait, how are you getting to the store? I thought you didn’t have a car?”

“I was going to take the bus. And besides, I can’t go to a party—I don’t even know anyone,” I say, and Hardin laughs again—a subtle acknowledgment that he’ll pay just enough attention to mock me. “I was going to read and Skype with Noah.”

“You don’t want to take the bus on a Saturday! They’re way too packed.

Hardin can drop you on the way to his place . . . right, Hardin? And you’ll know me at the party. Just come . . . please?” She presses her hands together in a dramatic plea.

I’ve only known her for a day; should I trust her? My mother’s warning about parties goes through my head. Steph seems quite sweet, from the small interaction that I’ve had with her. But a party?

“I don’t know . . . and, no, I don’t want Hardin to drive me to the store,” I say. Hardin rolls over across Steph’s bed with an amused expression. “Oh no! I was really looking forward to hanging out with you,” he dryly replies, his voice so full of sarcasm that I want to throw a book at his curly head. “Come on, Steph, you know this girl isn’t going to show at the party,” he says, laughing; his accent is so thick. The curious side of me, which I admit is quite large, is desperate to ask him where he is from. The competitive side of me wants to

prove that smug face of his wrong.

“Actually, yeah, I’ll come,” I say with as sweet a smile as I can manage. “It sounds like it might be fun.”

Hardin shakes his head in disbelief and Steph squeals before wrapping her arms around me in a tight hug.

“Yay! We’ll have so much fun!” she shrieks. And a big part of me is practically praying that she’ll be right.

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