Chapter 9 – After

Chapter 9 – After

Finally, after pointing around and yelling “Steph!” like ten times at Nate, the music drops into a quieter song and he nods and starts to laugh. His hand moves up into the air and he points into the next room. He is really a sweet guy—why does he hang out with Hardin?

As I turn to where he indicated, all I hear is my own gasp as I spot her. She, along with two other girls, are dancing on a table in the living room. A drunk guy climbs up and joins them, his hands gripping her hips. I expect her to swat his hands off but she just smiles and pushes her bottom against him. Okay.

“They’re just dancing, Tessa,” Nate says and gives a quick chuckle at my uneasy expression.

But they aren’t just dancing; they’re groping and grinding against each other. “Yeah . . . I know.” I shrug, even though it isn’t as casual to me. I’ve never

danced that way, not even with Noah, and we have been dating two years. Noah! I reach into my purse and check my messages from him.

You there Tess? Hello? You okay?

Tessa? Should I call your mom? I’m getting worried.

I dial him as fast as my fingers will allow, praying that he hasn’t called my mother yet. He doesn’t pick up, but I text him assuring him that I’m okay and there is no need for him to call my mother. She will lose it if she thinks something happened to me on my first weekend of college.

“Heyyyy . . . Tessa!” Steph slurs and leans her head on my shoulder. “You having fun yet, roomie?” She giggles, obviously heavily intoxicated. “I think . . . I need . . . the room is starting to spend, Tess . . . I mean spin,” she says, laughing, and her body lurches forward.

“She is going to get sick,” I tell Nate. He nods and lifts her into his arms, draping her body over his shoulder.

“Follow me,” he instructs and heads upstairs. He opens a door halfway down the hall, finding a bathroom quickly, of course. Right as he places her on the floor by the toilet, she begins to vomit. I look away but grab her red hair and gently hold it back away from her face.

Finally, after more vomit than I can handle seeing, she stops and Nate hands me a towel. “Let’s get her to the room across the hall and lay her on the bed. She is going to need to sleep it off,” he says. I nod, but what I’m really thinking is that I can’t leave her here alone, passed out. “You can stay in there, too,” he says, seeming to read my mind.

Together we get her up off the floor and help her walk across the hall and into a dark bedroom. We gently lay a groaning Steph onto the bed and Nate quickly takes off, telling me he’ll check in on us later. I sit down on the bed next to Steph and make sure her head is comfortable.

Sober, with a drunk girl beside me and a party raging all around, I feel like I’ve hit a new low. I turn on a lamp and look around the room, my eyes immediately going to the bookshelves that cover one of the walls. Since this perks my mood up, I go over to it and scan through the titles. Whoever owns this collection is impressive; there are many classics, a whole range of different types of books, including all of my favorites. Spying Wuthering Heights, I pull it off the shelf. It’s in bad shape, the binding giving away how many times it’s been opened.

I’m so lost in Emily Brontë’s words that I don’t even notice the change in light when the door opens, or the presence of a third person in the space.

“Why the hell are you in my room?” an angry voice booms from behind me. I know that accent by now.


“I asked you what the hell you’re doing in my room,” he repeats, just as harshly as the first time. I turn to see his long legs pulling him toward me and he snatches the book from my hand and tosses it back onto the shelf.

My mind is whirling. I thought the party couldn’t get any worse, but here I am, caught in Hardin’s personal place. He rudely clears his throat and waves his hand in front of my face.

“Nate told me to bring Steph in here . . .” My voice is soft, barely audible. He takes a step closer and lets out a deep breath. I gesture to his bed, causing his eyes to follow my hand. “She drank too much and Nate said—”

“I heard you the first time.” He runs his hand through his messy hair, clearly upset. Why does he care so much if we are in his room? Wait . . .

“You are a part of this fraternity?” I ask him. It’s impossible to hide the shock in my voice. Hardin is far from what I imagined a frat boy to be like.

“Yeah, so?” he answers and takes yet another step closer. The space between us is less than two feet, and when I try to inch away from him my back hits the bookcase. “Does that surprise you, Theresa?”

“Stop calling me Theresa.” He has me cornered.

“That’s your name, isn’t it?” He smirks, his mood slightly lightening.

I sigh and turn away from him, basically facing into the wall of books. I have no idea where I’m going, but I need to get away from Hardin before I slap him. Or cry. It has been a long day, so I will most likely cry before slapping him. And what a sight that would be.

I turn and push past him.

“She can’t stay in here,” he says as I pass. When I turn around he has the small ring in his lip between his teeth. What made him decide to put a hole in his lip and eyebrow? That had to be painful . . . though the one piece does accent just how full and round his lips are.

“Why not? I thought you guys were friends?”

“We are,” he says, “but no one stays in my room.” His arms cross over his chest, and for the first time since I met him, I can make out the shape of one of his tattoos. It’s a flower, printed in the middle of his covered forearm. Hardin, with a flower tattoo? The black and gray design resembles a rose from this distance, but there is something surrounding the flower that takes the beauty from it, adding darkness to the delicate form.

Feeling brave and annoyed, I let out a laugh. “Oh . . . I see. So only girls who make out with you can come into your room?” As the words leave my mouth his smile grows.

“That wasn’t my room. But if you’re trying to say you want to make out with me, sorry, you’re not my type,” he says. I’m not sure why but his words hurt my feelings. Hardin is far from my type, but I would never actually say that to him.

“You are . . . you are . . .” I can’t find the words to express my annoyance toward him. The music through the wall is like an itching sensation. I’m embarrassed, annoyed, and exhausted from the party. Arguing with him isn’t worth it. “Well . . . then you take her to another room, and I’ll find a way back to the dorms,” I say and head for the door.

As I go through it and slam it shut behind me, even through the noise of the party, I hear Hardin’s mocking “Good night, Theresa.”

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