Damn. Another pothole. Don’t professional drivers take courses in smooth driving? My father had hired the man to get me to my destination smoothly, with no problems along the way.
I will not be tipping him.
The slick Cadillac cruises along the road, maneuvering between the congested New York City lanes. I stare out the window from my seat in the back as my head bobbles on my neck when the driver collides with yet another hole.
Well what was one more bumpy ride? Derek and I sure hadn’t had an easy journey getting to this day. Quite frankly, it had been hell.
Fairfield University. Home of the Stags. A Jesuit university located near the Long Island Sound in Fairfield, Connecticut I selected following a long and arduous college hunt. The deciding factors? They have a great English program, adorable street signs, and even the name is a giant FU to my father.
My roommate, Anne, threw back her head and howled at that one.
“No way, seriously?”
“Seriously,” I replied over the commotion. I slid passed a wiry boy with glasses trying to make his way to the Student Science Association table at the outdoor student activities fair. Initially, Anne and I had not wanted to go, concerned that it would be like the mother ship for dorky freshmen, a title we did not want to stick on ourselves during our first week of college. A few of our hall-mates convinced us to check it out with them and we agreed on the grounds that staying inside the dorm on such a beautiful day would have been sinful.
“You’re a riot,” Anne told me, pausing at the Anime Club table. Oh no, was she one of those people? Whatever, we’d gotten along impeccably so far. Everyone had his or her quirks.
“I have to be a riot to survive in my house,” I said as we continued perusing. “My dad’s a lunatic.”
“I’m sure he’s not that bad.”
“He is. Do you mind if I stop here and join the newspaper?”
“Go for it.”
I added my name to the sign-up list and then stopped with Anne as she joined an enormous crowd waiting for the chance to snag a time to audition for the Glee Club. Man we had less in common than I thought.
“So why was this school as slap in the face for your dad?” she inquired when she’d grabbed a slot.
I smirked remembering the look on my father’s face when I informed him of my decision.
“He went to Sacred Heart.”
“Oh, you’re bad,” she said, grinning. “So basically you picked here because it’s the arch rival of his alma mater.”
“He must have wanted to die.”
“I wanted to die when we were touring Sacred Heart and he wouldn’t shut up about his sixth sense telling him that it was the school for me.”
“He wasn’t joking?”
Anne pursed her lips and cleared her throat. “Let’s see what else they have, hm?”
“It’s okay, you can laugh. Everyone at Sacred Heart did.”
“No, no, I’m over it. Could you maybe do me a favor though?”
“Could you use your sixth sense and tell me which club is calling to you?”
“Now who’s being bad?” I said with mock scorn. I turned on my heel stomped away from her.
“Oh my god! I’m so sorry!” I said to the guy on whose foot I had just stomped.
“Those heels should be illegal, they’re practically a weapon.”
“I’m really sorry. I was just trying to make a point to my friend over there.” I waved my hand in Anne’s direction and found her doubled over with laughter.
“I’m thinking friends over,” I said.
“Whatever,” she replied flippantly. He’s cute, she mouthed to me before whirling around to join another club. When would she study with all her extracurriculars crammed into her day?
Giving my full attention to my victim, I noticed Anne was absolutely, one hundred percent correct. He was more than cute in fact, downright handsome. He stood a full head taller than I with very broad shoulders. I had no doubt he could effortlessly lift and throw me across the lawn if he were so inclined to take his revenge. His black hair was cut stylishly but neatly, emphasizing his sharp facial features. I wondered which of us had more freckles. It was a close battle, yet after a few minutes of contemplating, I concluded I had him beat.
“What’s with the uniform?” I asked to cover the fact that I was silently admiring his physique. “Are you in the Army?”
“Not a chance. I don’t do guns.”
“It’s not all guns. It’s early mornings too.”
“Yeah, you’re barking up the wrong tree here.”
Ok. Now what? We stood there, awkwardly staring at each other like middle schoolers who only associated because their mothers were friends but in reality had very little in common. I felt gangly an uncoordinated. What a way to meet someone, by stepping on him. He must think I couldn’t control my own limbs. And now that I had nothing to say … I was both a pubic menace and dumb on top of it.
“Sooo,” I said dragging out the word while my brain desperately searched for a topic of conversation, “if you’re in the Army, how come you’re not tough enough to handle a woman’s shoe?”
“Well, I wasn’t exactly expecting an ambush in Connecticut. You definitely took advantage of the element of surprise.”
“That’s me. All about tactics.” I could hear everyone who knew anything about me laughing. I barely thought through what I should have for breakfast.
He snorted, his baby blue eyes sparkling. My insides turned over.
“I’m calling your bluff.”
I laughed and shrugged. “At least I’m not scared of a shoe.”
“I think any man would be on my side with this one. Besides one time I saw this CSI show where a crazy woman killed her husband with a stiletto.”
“Maybe that’s why I don’t have a boyfriend. My shoes scare any potential wimps away.”
Or maybe I didn’t have a boyfriend because Joe used to …
No, Candace. Don’t go there.
He crossed his arms over his chest and raised an eyebrow. Oh no. Maybe that last comment would soon produce an undesired pick up line. I wasn’t ready for the dating scene yet.
“No boyfriend, huh? Maybe you’re better at tactics than I thought.”
“You knew I have a soft spot for redheads and, being single and sensing that I myself am also single, mutilated my foot on purpose.”
I blushed and gathered my hair into a ponytail to keep his soft spot in check. This ROTC boy might have a soft spot for redheads, but I had no desire to acquire another boyfriend after the disaster that had been my last relationship. Unexpected pain slammed my stomach like his fists used to. I shook my head. Why wasn’t I over this?
“Don’t flatter yourself. There were no tactics employed, I can assure you.”
“So I shouldn’t ask you out right now?”
He scratched his chin and looked at me through those sky blue orbs long enough to shake my convictions. All men weren’t sleazeballs; I knew that on some level. Besides, this was college, the time for reinventing yourself and trying new things. Why not step out of my comfort zone and give this nice, handsome, older man a chance? There was the odd chance that I he wouldn’t make me cry every night. He might be a gentleman. He might.
One of his friends, also in uniform, saw him talking to me, sauntered over to us, and clapped him on the shoulder. “Atta boy, Derek! Make me proud.”
Well. That was why he would not be receiving the benefit of the doubt. He, being a man, handsome or no, was only after one thing. There were no gentlemen left in the world.
“Cool your jets, soldier. Gotta try harder than that. I’ll see you around.”
With that, I walked back to Anne.
Copyright Rosemary Lauryn. All rights reserved.