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I had no idea that she would decide she wanted to spend her first year at college single. I was devastated. As I walk to work, I check my phone, like I do about fifty times a day. However, so far the only messages from my mom have been pictures of the amazing things she whips up in the kitchen.

Not emergencies, but, man, I miss her cooking. The streets are mobbed as I make my way to work. I laugh to myself when a teenage boy holds up a giant iPad to take a selfie. I will never understand this impulse. When the crosswalk starts flashing its red countdown, I turn up the volume on my headphones.

Out here I pretty much wear headphones all day. The city is so much louder than I had anticipated, and I find it helpful to have something that blocks out some of the noise and at least colors those sounds that get in with something I like. I even wear the headphones while working—in one ear at least, so I can still hear the coffee orders shouted to me. On top of his Draco resemblance, he happens to be a little rude sometimes. He acts like the coffee shop is named after a club rather than coffee grounds.

I find it all pretty off-putting. But brushing it off, I head into the back and tie my yellow apron around my waist and check my phone. When she looks up at me, she smiles a quick greeting, then returns her eyes to the bag. I barely catch it and then it nearly slips from my hands, but I grab it tightly.

Posey follows me out to the floor and waits by the cash register. I like taking orders the most because I would rather talk to people than burn my fingers on that espresso machine, like I do every shift. Two girls approach the counter chatting loudly. One of the voices strikes me, and I look over at them to see Dakota. And she would look just as good. She always does. It makes me nervous, my hands shaking, and I find myself poking at the computer screen for absolutely no reason.

Her friend Maggy sees me first. She taps Dakota on her shoulder, and my ex turns to me, a big smile on her face. Her body is coated in a light layer of sweat, and her black curls are wild in a bun on her head.

She was? Maggy waves, too. I go into automatic mode, grabbing two plastic cups and shoving them into the ice bin with a smooth scooping motion, then pulling up the pitcher of premade coffee and pouring it into the cups.

Dakota is watching me. I can sense her eyes on me, making me feel quite awkward. I completely understood when she ended our three-year relationship. She was in New York City with new friends and new surroundings. He lifts their hands in the air, and with a big smile she twirls in front of him. Fortunately, no one seems to notice except Posey, who tries her best to hide her smile.

That cute noise. Dakota made my grandma so happy when she laughed at the cheesy singing fish plastered to a fake wooden plank. Wanting to make this whole situation less awkward, I hand her the two coffees with a smile and tell her I hope to see her again soon. Before she can answer, I smile again and go into the back room, turning the sound up on my headphones. I go back out to the floor and find Posey rolling her eyes at Aiden as he shows off his milk-steaming skills to her.

The way a cloud of steam floats in front of his white-blond hair makes him look even weirder to me. I freeze and look toward Aiden, who is oblivious, lost in his own apparently glorious world. Posey nods, grabbing a metal cup to rinse. I follow her to the sink, and she turns on the hose. These were things I noticed on her third day of training, when I suppose my interest flared up for a moment. She would be insane to date a Slytherin.

Reaching between us, I grab a pistachio mint cookie and offer it to her. She smiles, taking it from my hand and eating half of it before I even manage to get the lid back on the canister. Not just your ordinary macchiato, though; I add three pumps of hazelnut and one shot of banana-flavored syrup.

I made it by accident one day, mixing up the vanilla and banana bottles, but my random concoction has become my favorite drink. The first few weeks of my sophomore year are completely different from my freshman year. Timothy, a guy in my Social Studies class, is cool. He was wearing a Thunderbirds jersey on the second day of the semester and we struck up a conversation over my hometown hockey team.

after by anna todd pdf

My life is pretty uneventful. I take the subway across the bridge to campus, back home to Brooklyn, walk to work, walk home from work.

I like my job and my classes this semester. I like living in a somewhat cool part of Brooklyn and I like my new college. Sure, it could be better, I know, but everything in my life is okay: No complications, no obligations aside from being a good son and friend. I had kept the doors open longer than usual for a group of women talking about divorce and babies. At a quarter after nine, they left, their table covered in napkins, cold half-drunk coffee, and half-eaten pastries.

I spent so much time closing. I begin playing that elementary-school game of holding my breath in thirty-second increments to pass the time. The shop is silent, except for the buzzing of the ice machine in the back room. Before leaving, I glance around the shop one last time. My schedule alternates between closing with Aiden and closing with Posey. Posey offered to stay with me, but I overheard her talking about having trouble finding a sitter for her sister.

I lock the safe and turn on the security system before I close and lock the door behind me.

I like being close to the water, and for some reason, the river makes me feel some sort of detachment from the hustle of the city. Despite its proximity, Brooklyn is nothing like Manhattan. A group of four—two women and two men—walks past as I lock up and step out onto the sidewalk. I watch as the two couples split into handholding pairs. I watch them as I follow in their wake.

The Browns fan is louder than the rest of the bunch and has an obnoxiously deep voice to boot. I cross the street to get away from them and call my mom to check on her. She wants me to be happy, and going to New York to be with Dakota made me happy.

Well, it was supposed to. My move was supposed to be the glue that would keep our fraying relationship together. I never tried to control her or tell her what to do.

Since the day the spunky girl with the noodles for hair moved in next door, I knew there was something special about her. Something so special and real, and I never, ever wanted to hide that. How could I? Why would I? For the entire five years we were together, I treasured her strength and tried to give her everything she needed. When she was afraid to move from Saginaw, Michigan, to the Big Apple, I found a way to calm her fear.

After Anna Todd

I constantly reminded her of her very good reasons for wanting to go to NYC: With blistered toes and bleeding feet, she rehearsed day and night. Excellent grades came easier to her than they did to me, and she always had a job when we were teens.

Once I turned sixteen and got my license, she let her dad pawn her bicycle for extra cash and I gladly drove her. And yet, in her family life I suppose freedom was something Dakota never felt like she had. Her dad tried to keep her and her brother, Carter, prisoner in their redbrick house. When she got to New York, she saw a new type of living. She realized that she had never truly lived.

I thought I would come to New York and share an apartment with her.

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I had assumed that every morning I would wake up to her legs wrapped around mine, the sweet smell of her hair in my face. I thought we would make memories while learning the ways of the city together. We were supposed to take strolls through parks and pretend to understand the art hanging in fancy museums. I expected so much when I started planning my move here.

I expected it to be the beginning of my future, not the end of my past. To her credit, she saw things coming, saw her feelings for what they were, and broke up with me before I moved out here. Rather than try to fake it for some time before it blew up in both of our faces, she was honest with me. Still, by the time she finally ended things, I was too invested in the move to change my mind.

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I had already transferred schools and put a deposit on an apartment. I would like to settle somewhere quiet, with a big yard and sunlight that makes everything gorgeous and browns my skin. It helps that Tessa moved here with me. Tessa Young was the first friend I made at Washington Central University, and she sort of ended up being the only one I had up until I left.

She was the first and only friend I made in Washington, and vice versa. Her freshman year was rough. She fell in love and got her heart broken almost simultaneously.

I was in a weird place, between my stepbrother, who I was trying to build a relationship with, and my best friend, Tessa, whose wounds came from the same man. I opened my door to Tessa the moment she asked and I would do it again. I like my place as the friend, the nice guy. When everything went down in Michigan, I wanted to suffer alone.

I had to let her bleed and I was forced to sit back and watch as her world was ripped apart by a tragedy that I tried my damnedest to prevent.

She was my bandage and I was her net. That can of worms is closed. Sealed with super glue, and buried under nine feet of cement. I shove my key into the door and gently kick the box inside.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my classes begin later than the rest of the week. Another simple luxury. I unbutton my jeans and push them down my legs. I even kick them off, letting them flop to the floor.

I even leave them there. After a second thought, I pick up my pants, shirt, socks, and boxers from the floor and carry them into my room, where I toss them on the floor to clean up later. I need a shower. The handle to the shower in my only bathroom sticks almost every time I turn it on. It takes at least one minute for the water to wend its way through the pipes. Tessa even tried to fix it herself a few times.

At all. I laugh at the memory of her soaked body and how mad she was when the water burst from the pipe. The metal handle went flying across the bathroom, putting a small hole in the drywall. A few weeks later, it broke again when she turned the shower on and ended up yanking the flimsy handle off the wall.

The result was her getting sprayed in the face with ice-cold water. She screamed like a banshee and ran out of the bathroom like she was on fire. As I listen to the water moving through the lines and take a quick piss, my mind drifts through the day, how fast my classes seemed to go by, how surprised I was when Dakota and Maggy came into Grind.

I wonder if Dakota felt awkward and like she was forcing conversation with me, or if she barely notices the tension anymore? I miss her sometimes.

Hell, I really fucking miss her. When she moved to New York, she started becoming distant. I could tell something was off, but I kept hoping it would get better. Still, with every phone conversation we had, I felt her slipping away from me more and more. Sometimes I would just sit and stare at my phone, hoping that she would call back and want to hear about my day.

Just ask one question or give me more than a quick, two-minute rundown of her day. I hoped that maybe she was just adjusting to her new life. Maybe she was going through a phase, I thought. I wanted her to get the full experience of her new life and make new friends. I just wanted to be a part of her life like I always had been. I wanted her to throw herself into her dance academy; I knew how important this was for her.

I tried to be as supportive as I possibly could, even as she began to carve me out of her life. I played the role of supportive boyfriend as her schedule became fuller and fuller. I had always played that role well, ever since we were kids.

I stayed patient and ever so understanding. Dakota spent her life fighting and I had managed to be one of the few positive forces in her life, and I want to keep it that way. I was frustrated, and in a way, I still am. I missed hearing about her day. I wanted to listen to her brag about how well she did in class.

She was always the first person I went to with anything. That began to change after I met Tessa and started getting closer to my stepbrother, Hardin, but still, I missed her. I jump back out and adjust the water. I connect my phone to the iDock and turn on my sports podcast before I get back into the shower. I try to pay attention to who they are complaining about, but the sound keeps cutting in and out, so I reach out and shut it off.

My phone falls from the dock and lands in the sink. I reach over and get it out before my usual luck kicks in and an invisible house elf turns on the water.

Having a house elf, preferably Dobby or his clone, would be ideal. Harry Potter was one lucky kid. This bathroom is way too small for another body, elf or not. The warm water works at my back as I continue to torture myself and think about Dakota. She looked so good today, so damn sexy in those shorts and sports bra. Growing up, I was the chubby kid. My hefty build was often the topic of conversation in the crowded hallways of my high school.

Maybe it sounds so damn stupid and childish now, but it bothered the crap out of me when the meatheads would walk behind me chanting it. That was only one of the many flames of the hell that was high school.

The more I try to remember about our encounter at Grind, the more my brain screws with the memories and jumbles them. I never could. Even when we were young, she always had secrets. It was appealing then, mysterious and exciting. I stare at the seaweed-green shower tiles and think about all of the things that I should have said and done during those five minutes.

I stare at the wall, remembering her standing in front of me earlier today. I wish I could have read the pages behind her almond eyes, or found some words hidden beneath her full lips. Those lips. They are plump, and the perfect shade of soft petal pink. We were only sixteen when we messed around for the first time. It was our two-month anniversary, and she had just adopted a puppy for me. We would feed the little gray fur ball the best food from the little pet shop down the street.

It worked for a while, until he grew too big for my small bedroom. After two months of captivity, I had to tell my mom about the dog. After some tears and protestations, Dakota finally agreed. To ease the pain, we geeked out and watched all of the Lord of the Rings movies.

We binge-drank Starbucks Frappuccinos and complained about paying five dollars a cup. We ate Twizzlers and peanut butter cups until our stomachs hurt, and I drew circles on her cheeks with my fingertips, the way she always liked, until she fell asleep on my lap.

I woke up to her warm mouth and her lips tight around my cock. I was surprised, half-awake, and aroused as hell watching her take me between her lips, down her warm throat. She said she had wanted to try it for a while but was nervous. She worked her mouth around me perfectly, making me come with an embarrassing quickness. She learned that she really liked to please me this way, and she started doing it almost every time we hung out.

I liked it, of course. Hell, who am I kidding? I loved it. It was nothing compared to her mouth, then, later, her soft, wet pussy.

I missed everything about her, including the intimacy we shared. I look down at my cock hanging, the hot water running over it. I wrap one hand around the base, teasing my own tip with my thumb the way Dakota used to with her tongue. In my head, Dakota is on her knees in front of my old bed in Washington.

Her curly hair was lighter before and her body was just starting to really tighten up from all of her dancing. She looked so good, she always has, but as we grew up, she just kept getting hotter and hotter. Her mouth is moving faster now. My body begins to tingle, from my toes to my spine. I lean my back against the cool tile of the shower wall and one of my feet slips and I step sideways, losing my footing. Click, click, click. The damn thing gives way, tearing at each plastic ring.

It falls, taking me with it. I yell again and my knee hits the edge of the tiny tub as I fall backward, slamming hard against the porcelain and getting hot water shooting into my face. The door bursts open, startling me, so I let go and smack my head against the bottom of the tub. Before I can cover myself, I see Tessa, whose hands are flying around like a hippogriff. Her eyes dart over my naked body and she covers her eyes. I reach for the ripped curtain and pull it over my naked body.

Could this get any worse? I look at both girls and nod, trying to catch my breath. My cheeks are on fire and I would rather disappear into a pile of dog shit than be curled up in the bathtub, naked, with one leg hanging over the edge. I push my free arm down onto the wet floor of the tub and try to pull myself up. Sophia pushes past Tessa and grabs hold of my arm to help me. Someone kill me. She quickly tucks her brown hair behind her ears and uses both hands to pull me up. Please kill me.

I try to keep the curtain covering my inappropriate bits, but it falls just as I stand up. I reach down and grab it again, just as nonchalantly as I can manage.

Anyone listening out there? I look away from her, but I can still feel her eyes on me. I try to focus on the toe of her shoes: Could I be any more embarrassed?

This entire ordeal would be hysterical if it were happening to someone else. I shake my head. The worst way to make someone feel less embarrassed is to tell them not to be embarrassed. Tessa looks at me with concern and is about to say something when a loud beeping noise pierces the air, making me flinch. She smiles and her finger touches the center of my stomach, just above my belly button, with long, black nails. I like the way they look, touching me.

Dakota never has long nails because of dance. She complained about it often, but she loves dance more than nail art, so natural nails it is. Her fingers draw along the bottom of my stomach, just above where the curtain is covering enough for my cock not to show. The trail of hair from my belly button down to my groin seems to be entertaining her as she brushes the tip of her index finger over it.

Did she say something? Ah, yes, she did. What does she mean by that? I nearly busted my ass in the bathroom while jerking off and was found naked on the shower floor. I look at her, at the reflection of her dark hair in the foggy mirror. I clear my throat and continue: Her eyes are warm and her finger is still touching me, slowly tracing and teasing.

Before I have to decide, she pulls away with a smile. I turn from her with flushed cheeks and wipe my hand across the mirror. She stands still, her back against the towel rack. I stare at my reflection and wince when my finger touches a small but deep cut just above my eye. I apply as much pressure as I can stand to get the bleeding to stop. With Sophia still in the bathroom, should I be making conversation with her or something? Is this the norm for young, single people?

I hardly know anything about her. I met her back in Washington briefly, when her family moved in near my mom and Ken.

It sounds like a lot when I list it out, but all of those things are superficial, nothing more. Oh yeah, she just graduated from culinary school and works at the same restaurant as Tessa.

And now I can add that she likes to touch naked, wet stomachs. I look away from the mirror and back at her. She nods, giving me a toothy smile. The corners of her eyes crinkle up and her lips look incredibly plump, especially when she licks over them with her tongue. Wet lips and those eyes. She knows it. I know it. Obama knows it.

Not complaining, just confused. Did I really just do that? I look away quickly, horrified that my stupid brain would have me do such a dumb thing. She steps toward me, closing the admittedly small gap between us with one stride. My body reacts and I retreat, my lower back resting against the sink. The word cute stings a little coming from someone who oozes sex appeal.

No woman has ever fantasized about me or called me sexy. She raises her finger to the tip of my nose, and taps it. Without a word, she leaves the bathroom and walks into the hallway. I rub my hand over my face, wanting to erase the last five minutes. Of course this would happen to me. I pull them on and grab the wet clothes to take into my room. My dark hair is drying now; only the roots are still wet. Her vanilla lotion is a little greasy, but it smells good and I always forget to buy my own.

Tessa bought Frozen-themed Band-Aids.

It just keeps getting better. And somehow, thinking of him reminds me I have a shift tomorrow morning. Which means I need to get up early tomorrow so I can run, so I toss my clothes into the laundry basket in the hall and walk to the kitchen to get some water and say good night to the girls. You know, try to reestablish some normalcy. A nothing-to-see-here moment to end the night on.

Tessa is sitting on the couch with her feet propped up on a pillow and Nora is lying on the rug with a pillow under her head and my yellow-and-maroon Gryffindor house blanket wrapping her up like a burrito. I glance at the TV: Cupcake Wars. The usual. These women watch nothing but the Food Network and the teen dramas on Freeform.

Admittedly, I do like some of those shows. The one about the teenage demon-hunters is my favorite. That, and the foster-family one. A woman with curly black hair is frozen on the screen, mouth wide open and hands in the air. Nora pulls the pillow from under her head and tosses it at her. And Tess smiles, actually nearly laughing before catching herself. She has a great laugh. Inside the fridge, rows of bottles are lined up perfectly.

Yes, Tessa even organizes our fridge, and it turns out that we have a lot to offer a thirsty soul other than water. How can you say that, Sophia? It suits her. Nora-not-Sophia shrugs her shoulders. To be honest, before, I was too busy concentrating on my exposed skin to really notice hers. Is she flirting with me? Dakota always teased me about being clueless when it came to the advances of women. I like to think of it as uncontaminated, not inexperienced.

If I were hip to all the possible advances, I would probably turn into one of those guys who are obsessed with how women perceive them. I would question everything I said or did. I might even become one of the dudes who soak their hair with gel, spiking the ends like that guy from the Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives show Tessa and Nora watched last night.

Besides, I would rather not compete with the millions of perfect men out there and would instead keep my books on my shelves and maybe get lucky enough to find a woman who likes them, too. Not having any blue Gatorade, I try to tempt her with my favorite, the red one. She examines it, raises a brow, and shakes her head. I stay quiet.

My mind curiously wonders what other opinions she has. Are there any other sugar-saturated drinks that she holds unnecessary grudges against? I find myself wanting to know. I usually read people so well. But instead of cracking the code of romance, I grab my water from the fridge, go into my room, and finish my essay, then go to bed.

I went to bed around one and woke up at six. How many hours do doctors recommend again? Which, yeah, is a lot. Tessa has learned all this, too, right along with me, although we differ in one maybe-significant way: I give less of my money to the homeless I see on my way to school and back. Tessa, for her part, gives away half of her tip earnings on the walk home. I understand the hope Tessa feels when she hands a homeless man a five-dollar bill. She truly believes he will buy food with it or something else he needs.

Maybe she has the better idea here, but I know a lot of her attitude comes from her personal connection with the homeless. They got to know each other a little bit before he succumbed to his addictions and died a little less than a year ago.

It was really hard for her, and I think helping these strangers heals a small part of that open wound. I think she sees her small mission as some kind of redemption for her failed relationship with her father, and even with Hardin, who is one of the most difficult people I know. Luckily, I see a large B painted on the wall. Down here, I instruct when my mother begins to turn the opposite way.

B22, my mother huffs. Her heels are outrageously high for the amount of walking we endure. At the end of a long hallway, I slide the key into the old wooden door, and when it creaks open my mother lets out a loud gasp. The room is small, with two single beds and two desks. Hey, she says, offering a smile, a smile that I find quite intriguing, much to my surprise.

Hey, Tessa, nice to meet you. Welcome to WCU, where the dorms are tiny and the parties are huge. The crimson-haired girl grins wider. Her head falls back into a fit of laughter as she takes in the three horrified expressions in front of her. Steph walks over, closing the gap between us, and wraps her thin arms around my body.

Come in! The door opens and two boys walk inside before she finishes her greeting.

Boys inside the female dorms on the first day? Maybe Washington Central was a bad decision. Or perhaps I could have found a way to screen my roommate first? The poor woman looks like she might pass out any moment. His blond hair is styled straight up and there are sections of brown peeking through. His arms are scattered with tattoos and the earrings in his ear are the size of a nickel. My name is Tessa, I manage to say.

His expression is warm and inviting despite his harsh appearance. My eyes shift to the tall brown-haired boy leaning against the wall. His hair is a mop of thick waves on his head, pushed back off his forehead, and he has metal in his eyebrow and lip.

My focus moves down his black T-shirt to his arms, which are also covered in tattoos; not an inch of untouched skin is seen. I expect him to introduce himself the way that his friend did, but he stays quiet, rolling his eyes in annoyance and pulling a cell phone from the pocket of his tight black jeans.

See you around, Tessa, Nate says and the three of them exit the room. I let out a long breath. Calling the last few minutes uncomfortable would be an understatement. I sigh. I do my best to hide my nerves. Absolutely not.

We are going to switch now. Her clean appearance clashes with the anger in her face; her long blond hair is flipped to one shoulder, yet every curl is still perfectly intact. You will not room with someone who allows men in like that—those punks, at that! I look into her gray eyes, then to Noah. Please, I beg.

And how humiliating it would feel. Fine, she spits out, much to my surprise. In her usual style, a quick hug and kiss, she exits the dorm room, informing Noah that she will wait for him in the car. I inhale his cologne, the one I bought him two Christmases in a row, and sigh. I wish you were here this year.

My mother used to tease me growing up, claiming that a man grows an inch for every lie he tells. Noah brushes his lips across mine. Noah laughs and breaks away from me. Your mom. He kisses me on the cheek and hurries out the door, yelling, Call you tonight!

Left alone, I think about his hasty exit for just a moment and then begin to unpack my bags. Shortly, half my clothes are neatly folded and stored in one of the small dressers; the remainder are hung neatly in my closet. I cringe at the sheer amount of leather and animal print filling the other closet.

Feeling the beginnings of exhaustion from the day, I lie across the bed. I have a feeling she will be gone a lot, or, worse, she may have company over too often. So far college is neither what I had dreamed of nor expected. Tomorrow will be better. It has to be. I want to try to find a group of like-minded people I can talk to. I plan for a trip off campus tomorrow to get some more things for my dorm room. The sooner I get one, the better.

With thoughts of schedules, red-haired girls, and unfriendly men covered in tattoos, I drift to sleep with my planner still in hand. Maybe one of the two boys that she was with was her boyfriend? For her sake, I hope it was the blond one. Grabbing my toiletry bag, I make my way to the shower room.

I can already tell that one of my least favorite things about dorm life is going to be the shower situation—I wish each of the rooms had their own bathrooms. But when I reach the door, sure enough, there are two stick figures printed on the sign, one male and one female.

Spotting an open shower stall, I skirt through the half-naked boys and girls quickly, pull the curtain closed tight, and undress, then hang my clothes on the rack outside by blindly poking one hand out of the curtain.

The shower stall is tiny, lined with a small rack to hang my clothes on while I shower and barely enough room to stretch my arms in front of me.

I find my mind drifting to Noah and my life back home. Distracted, I turn around and my elbow knocks into the rack, knocking my clothes to the wet floor. The shower pours onto them, completely soaking them.

I groan to myself, hastily cutting the water off and wrapping my towel around myself. I grab my pile of heavy, soaked clothes and rush down the hall, desperately hoping no one sees me. I reach my room and shove the key in, instantly relaxing when I push the door closed behind me.

Where is Steph? Did you hear me? I asked you where Steph is, I repeat, trying to be slightly more polite this time. What is he even doing in here? I bite my tongue, trying to keep my rude comments to myself. Well, could you like. 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.

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? I did nothing to you. He smiles a bright, perfectly lined smile as he stands. He pulls me into a tight hug and I close my mouth when I catch his excessive cologne. Yeah, sometimes he overdoes it a bit with that.

I give him an equally bright smile, trying to hide my nerves, and pull my dirty blond hair into a ponytail.

Honey, we can wait a couple minutes while you fix your hair, my mother says quietly. I should have curled it the way she likes anyhow, as a little goodbye gift. With a quick kiss on my cheek he disappears from the room, bags in hand, and my mother follows him. Round two of styling my hair ends with a better result than the first, and I brush a lint roller over my gray dress one last time.

As I go outside and walk to the car packed up with my things, the butterflies in my stomach dance around, making me slightly relieved that I have a two-hour drive to make them disappear. I have no idea what college will be like, and, unexpectedly, the question that keeps dominating my thoughts is: Will I make any friends? But really I was mostly in a daze of planning and obsessing. Hundreds of people, parents hugging and kissing their children goodbye, clusters of freshmen dressed head to toe in WCU gear, and a few stragglers, lost and confused, fill the area.

The size of the campus is intimidating, but hopefully after a few weeks I will feel at home. My mother insists that she and Noah accompany me to freshman orientation.

My mother manages to hold a smile on her face the entire three hours and Noah listens intently, the same way that I do. I would like to see your dorm room before we head out. Her eyes scan the old building, full of disapproval. She has a way of finding the worst in things. Noah smiles, lightening the mood, and my mother perks up. My only daughter, a college student, living on her own. Noah follows behind us, carrying my bags as we navigate through the corridors. Luckily, I see a large B painted on the wall.

Down here, I instruct when my mother begins to turn the opposite way. B22, my mother huffs. Her heels are outrageously high for the amount of walking we endure. At the end of a long hallway, I slide the key into the old wooden door, and when it creaks open my mother lets out a loud gasp. The room is small, with two single beds and two desks.

Hey, she says, offering a smile, a smile that I find quite intriguing, much to my surprise. Hey, Tessa, nice to meet you. Welcome to WCU, where the dorms are tiny and the parties are huge. The crimson-haired girl grins wider. Her head falls back into a fit of laughter as she takes in the three horrified expressions in front of her. Steph walks over, closing the gap between us, and wraps her thin arms around my body. Come in! The door opens and two boys walk inside before she finishes her greeting.

Boys inside the female dorms on the first day? Maybe Washington Central was a bad decision. Or perhaps I could have found a way to screen my roommate first? The poor woman looks like she might pass out any moment. His blond hair is styled straight up and there are sections of brown peeking through. His arms are scattered with tattoos and the earrings in his ear are the size of a nickel. My name is Tessa, I manage to say.

His expression is warm and inviting despite his harsh appearance. My eyes shift to the tall brown-haired boy leaning against the wall. His hair is a mop of thick waves on his head, pushed back off his forehead, and he has metal in his eyebrow and lip. My focus moves down his black T-shirt to his arms, which are also covered in tattoos; not an inch of untouched skin is seen.

I expect him to introduce himself the way that his friend did, but he stays quiet, rolling his eyes in annoyance and pulling a cell phone from the pocket of his tight black jeans. See you around, Tessa, Nate says and the three of them exit the room. I let out a long breath.

Calling the last few minutes uncomfortable would be an understatement. I sigh. I do my best to hide my nerves. Absolutely not. We are going to switch now. Her clean appearance clashes with the anger in her face; her long blond hair is flipped to one shoulder, yet every curl is still perfectly intact. You will not room with someone who allows men in like that—those punks, at that! I look into her gray eyes, then to Noah. Please, I beg. And how humiliating it would feel.

Fine, she spits out, much to my surprise. In her usual style, a quick hug and kiss, she exits the dorm room, informing Noah that she will wait for him in the car. I inhale his cologne, the one I bought him two Christmases in a row, and sigh. I wish you were here this year. My mother used to tease me growing up, claiming that a man grows an inch for every lie he tells.

Noah brushes his lips across mine. Noah laughs and breaks away from me. Your mom. He kisses me on the cheek and hurries out the door, yelling, Call you tonight! Left alone, I think about his hasty exit for just a moment and then begin to unpack my bags. Shortly, half my clothes are neatly folded and stored in one of the small dressers; the remainder are hung neatly in my closet.

I cringe at the sheer amount of leather and animal print filling the other closet. Feeling the beginnings of exhaustion from the day, I lie across the bed. I have a feeling she will be gone a lot, or, worse, she may have company over too often. So far college is neither what I had dreamed of nor expected.

Tomorrow will be better. It has to be. I want to try to find a group of like-minded people I can talk to. I plan for a trip off campus tomorrow to get some more things for my dorm room. The sooner I get one, the better. With thoughts of schedules, red-haired girls, and unfriendly men covered in tattoos, I drift to sleep with my planner still in hand.

Maybe one of the two boys that she was with was her boyfriend? For her sake, I hope it was the blond one. Grabbing my toiletry bag, I make my way to the shower room.

I can already tell that one of my least favorite things about dorm life is going to be the shower situation—I wish each of the rooms had their own bathrooms.The maroon material is soft but sturdy, the same material business suits are made of. The second drawer is filled with T-shirts, most of them with words printed on the front. You are. I was surprised, half-awake, and aroused as hell watching her take me between her lips, down her warm throat.

I rub my hand over my face, wanting to erase the last five minutes. We ate Twizzlers and peanut butter cups until our stomachs hurt, and I drew circles on her cheeks with my fingertips, the way she always liked, until she fell asleep on my lap. The dress barely reaches the tops of her thighs and she keeps tugging the material up to reveal more leg, then back down to reveal more cleavage. I clear my throat and continue: I recently made the best purchase of my life and got one of those machines that play sounds of the sea, the rain forest, the night desert, and the only setting that I actually use: See you around, Tessa, Nate says and the three of them exit the room.

HECTOR from Alaska
Browse my other articles. I have a variety of hobbies, like kart racing. I fancy reading comics jealously.