It was for a college position. I had a feeling they wouldn’t be too picky, or I was hoping.
With that task checked off my to-do list, after that, I got ready for bed. Hearing a couple thuds in the wall and loud voices, I opted for falling asleep with my headphones on and my music blasting.
Let’s face it, at this rate I’d be deaf by the end of this semester.
“You worked at Reever’s Market?”
The Quail moved fast, calling me the next day and scheduling a job interview. I was sitting in the empty bar, an hour before it was open and luckily right smack in the break between two of my classes. I had exactly forty minutes for my early lunch, but I used my meal plan to fill up on breakfast for the day so I could take this interview.
I was allowed one meal per day, which I was now kicking myself. I should be taking advantage of what I was paying for over the weekend, too. I’d forgotten that it was for seven days a week, not five.
Note to self: become one with the freshman.
The guy, he introduced himself as Joe, who had called and met me this morning was bald, with a round face, dimples in his cheeks, and a solid, athletic build. He was maybe five feet nine, but I was emphasizing the solid part. His biceps bulged as he held his notes in his hands as he moved them closer to the tabletop.
Had they called and checked up on me? I listed the manager as my reference, but I knew that manager wasn’t working there anymore. She’d liked me, said I was a good bagger for the week I’d been there.
Hell. Would she even remember me?
I took the job when I was first starting my teenage work career, and my hours had been low because it was during the time period where it was before you could legally even work. But once I hit sixteen, I got a full-time job at the local nursing home. My skills at turning down beds and collecting laundry had come in handy when my mom had her stint in the hospice facility years later.
“You know that’s the same place that Stone Reeves’ parents own, right?”
Understanding flooded me.
He was almost glaring at me, and I got it then. He thought I was lying, that I put that on purpose. If only he’d known it was the other way around.
I sat up straighter, feeling my entire back and neck muscles tighten. “I wasn’t aware you knew that.”
“He’s a football god here in town. I’m a dude. I’m an athlete, too. You think I wouldn’t know that?” His eyes turned cold and he put his notes down. “Are you lying on the application to get this job?”
I sucked in my breath. The preposterousness of that whole statement.
Lying? Me? Maybe over-exaggerated, but full-out lying… Okay. I did. Well. I bent the truth, a lot. But I had enough truth on my side to murmur and not feel bad about it, “To be honest, I was hoping you wouldn’t know they’re the owners.”
His eyes got dark, then I saw the hope starting to light up.
“I see what you’re thinking, and I have to stop you before you even get started.”
His eyes went flat and his mouth turned down.
“I never met Stone. I know of him, how could you not going to our school together? But he was always in football camps and he was a different year than me.” I was hoping he wouldn’t do the math. Stone got drafted by Texas as soon as he could, which was a year ago. And if this guy was decent with numbers, he’d connect that I was younger than Stone. It wasn’t hard, but I hadn’t put that I was a transfer junior on the application. I pushed on, “And I don’t really know his parents. I gave you the number for my manager. She’s the one I worked with the most. She’d remember me. Stone—” Shit! I caught myself. “Mr. and Mrs. Reeves wouldn’t even remember me, but I did work there.”
He stared at me, long and hard.
I didn’t move. I was afraid if I did, he’d either not buy my story or call my bluff. I didn’t want to deal with the fallout of that, but after another thirty seconds of both of us sitting frozen in place, he nodded and looked back down to his notes.
“Okay. I got ya.”
I exhaled so sharply that I had to quickly suck it right back in. Gah! What would he think then? It’d be obvious I was holding my breath.
He looked back up and I coughed, smoothing a hand over my hair. I was fine here. Nothing to see.
His eyes passed over me, and I was glad to report he’d lost all interest. His tone was even monotone now, “Tell me more about your job experience. Starting with your most current job.”
Well, that was easy. If it was ever a question if I was a good worker or not, I always aced it. Just had to get in the door first, compliments of my over-exaggeration skillz.
“YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!”
The screaming jerked me upright. I’d been awake, lying in bed and reading about population dynamics of Asteroidea. Eavesdropping was bad. So was gossip. Overhearing roommate drama, bad move. I was going anyway. Easing my door open, the basement was dark. Lisa’s door was closed, though that didn’t tell me if she was in the house or not. She was still avoiding me like the plague, but I moved through the game room, closer to the stairs.
“Wyatt! OMG! Don’t!”
It was Mia screaming.
“What is going on?!”
That was Nicole, so she was home, and she was annoyed.
“Nothing. It’s nothing!” Feet stomped over my head, they were coming close to the kitchen doorway.
The basement door must’ve been left open, or I wouldn’t be able to hear so well. Lisa must’ve been up there because no one else would come down here.
“Hey! What the hell.”
“It’s nothing.” A more calmer Wyatt, but he was restraining himself.
I could almost imagine him gritting his teeth.
“It’s not nothing!”
And I could imagine Mia tossing her hair, throwing her hand to her hip.
“My God. Calm down. You guys were fine a minute ago.”
“That was before he—” Silence. I didn’t know what she was doing, but I could hear her huffing. “—started lecturing me on reaching out to Char, but he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Guys are different. There’s no beef. They all fight and get over it—”
“Not completely,” a low mutter from Wyatt, but still calm. I was giving him props for that. “We compartmentalize more. Will I probably need to see this dude again in the future? If yes, get over it. If no, then throw a punch. Or throw a punch no matter the answer. Sometimes that’s just more fun, but you never know. Some guys lately are weasels—”
“Right. You don’t care about what I’m saying.” He sighed, now I heard his irritation. “What a surprise. Nothing new there.”
“What does that mean?”
And judging by how snippy her tone turned, I could imagine her crossing her arms over her chest. Maybe a defiant tilt of her chin to complete the look?
“Mia.” He was trying to smooth things over, but I heard the creak of a foot above. He was going toward her. His voice was calm, almost too calm. I couldn’t have remained calm like him in that situation. “You are hurt by your friend. Char left you, she left everyone, and all I’m saying—”
“What?! That I’m being a bitch?!”
“Christ’s sake.” He snapped back, “You ARE!”
I heard an audible gasp. Mia’s? Nicole’s? It was the name game.
“Wyatt. Dude. Maybe—”
“No! She’s being a bitch, and instead of picking up the fucking phone and chewing out the friend she should be chewing out, I’ve had to listen to her all fucking week talk shit about someone she doesn’t even know.”
A sick laugh from Mia. “Yeah. Right. I don’t need to know the reject roommate to know a few things about her. She’s—”
My heart sank. She was talking about me. This whole thing was about me. What the hell?
“YOU DON’T KNOW HER!”
My heart picked back up at Wyatt’s roar.
He kept on, “You don’t know her! You have no idea if she’s nice or mean or poor or anything. You have no clue, except it’s obvious she’s quiet because you never know if she’s here and she’s fucking desperate. Why the hell would someone stay in the situation with you and Lisa actively hating her unless she had nowhere else to go.” A pause. “And she’s not heard eighty percent of the bullshit you’ve been spewing about her.”
“WHY IS THIS YOUR PROBLEM?!”
“BECAUSE I DON’T WANT A HATEFUL FUCKING MEAN GIRLFRIEND!”
Wyatt’s stock just skyrocketed to me. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t heard him. But hearing Mia had remained on the Hate New Roommate Train wasn’t a surprise to me. Just confirmed everything I’d been feeling, and to think I almost considered trying again with them.
“She ditched Nicole and the group,” Mia was still trying, but she was losing some of her momentum. “What kind of person does that? I mean, that’s so mean and rude and disrespectful. Nicole didn’t have to invite her at all in the first place.”
“Yeah. You know, it was kind of shitty what she did, but put yourself in her shoes. She told Savannah she had driven across the nation to come here. She told Savannah she didn’t know anyone else in town. You are a bitch to her within two seconds of stepping inside this new place. You’re surrounded by all your friends. She’s alone. She was set up by Char, too, and yeah, that was an insanely bitchy move on Char’s part, but it’s Char. Then, what I hear is that Lisa was a bitch to her. Sorry, but I’d probably ditch, too, because you never know when the tide is going to turn.”