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She stepped out of the way, pointing ahead. “You get your own bathroom.” She knocked on the door to her left. “This is the furnace room/water heater room/your closet.” She swept it open and there was a hanging rod put up. A lovely closet. Sort of.

“But…” She shut that door, and there was one last one (I was hoping) behind her. She opened it and I was looking up at a set of stairs. “You have your own entrance and exit as promised, and just beyond that door, down the fence line, is a parking spot that’s all yours. Nicole, one of the roommates you didn’t meet, her uncle owns this house. We’ve been living here every year since after our first semester freshman year. And Char leaving, it struck a chord. She never told us she wasn’t coming back until she called last night.”

“Last night?”

Was that my voice? That high-pitched squeak?

She nodded, her eyes heavy. “Yeah. And she informed us she got us a new roommate, a Dusty (we shouldn’t make fun of her name because she seems lovely), and we were supposed to forward all her bills. Seems she decided to spend a semester abroad with a boyfriend none of us knew about.”

I gulped. “I applied to come here two weeks ago.”

She grimaced. “When’d you meet Char?”

Oh. Lovely. Again, so sarcastic here.

“I didn’t. I answered an ad.”

Her eyes bulged out. “An ad?” Her voice was squeaking like mine.

I nodded. This wasn’t good. This so wasn’t good.

“I didn’t know I was walking into this.”

Savannah clasped her arms over herself, hugging the ends of her elbows. “Us either. And Lisa and Mia’s reactions, Char was the closest to them. They’re not mad at you. They don’t know you. They’re mad at Char. You get it.”

I did. I placed my box down, sitting on the edge of the bed. “Look. I don’t know anyone else here. I’m transferring into my junior year. I get that you guys don’t want me here, but I’m here. I’m good for the rent and I already paid Char for the first month’s rent.”

Her mouth clamped shut and her cheeks got red.

Oh no.

“Tell me she forwarded that to you guys?”

“She didn’t. No.”

No. Nope. I couldn’t speak. “So I paid…”

I trailed off at her look, again.

“Char never sent us money. She lied to you. My guess, she kept the money.”

Oh, now I was mad at Char, too.

I groaned. It was just my luck. Fuck’s sake. Again.

“Um.” Savannah edged toward the door. “So, yeah. You’ll have to pay again. And I’ll, uh, I’ll leave you to it. I’ll get your key, too.” She paused, looking down. “Sorry about Char being a bitch, and a thief.”

Sorry. Right. That wasn’t super helpful for this month’s rent.

Another roar sounded from above, and we could hear them yelling out, “INTERCEPTION! YES!”

She gave me an uneasy grin, pointing upwards. “Feel free to come and hang out. We’ve got lots of pizza and beer.”

Then she beat it. I was fairly certain I saw her kicking up dust behind her, pun so not intended there. She couldn’t get out of here fast enough. And to a degree, I got it. I understood it. I felt for her, but she left, shutting that door, and I let out the biggest sigh in my life. Or the second longest sigh in my life. But I guess it was better than tears.

Here I was. At a school I’ve never toured. In a house I’ve never seen. Living with people I’ve never met. In a state that I never thought I’d even visit.


My phone beeped at that moment.

Gail: You should look up Stone since you’re there. I saw his mother in the supermarket, told her you were in the same city now. She didn’t seem too keen, but I bet Stone would love to hear from you.

And, oh yeah.

Did I mention that I knew Stone Reeves? Personally.

No? Well, it didn’t matter.

I hated him even more than I hated Char at this moment.

Chapter Two

It was a long evening, followed by an even longer night.

Learning the way from my own entrance to my car, I pulled to the back where my parking spot was. The walk was slightly shorter, and noting how big this football party was, I was surprised I’d even gotten that spot. The backyard had people spilling out of it, but not as many. Two smaller circles and the same thing as the front yard. No one paid me a bit of attention.

That wasn’t true. A few guys watched me. One started to come over to help, but Mia, the Gazelle Mean Girl, grabbed his arm and shook her head in a quick and savage motion. He resigned himself to sitting at their picnic table and just watching me. Every time I went back and forth, he took a drink. I noticed the whole table did that, too.


I’d been turned into a drinking game.

That was the only time Mean Gazelle had smiled for real. She was enjoying my humiliation.

Whatever. I trudged back and forth, shouldering my boxes and bags. I didn’t have a ton of stuff, but enough that it took five different trips, and once I was done, I eyed the shower and the bed. I was torn, but my stomach growled.

The coffee had been my breakfast and lunch, and I knew myself. If I took a shower, or lay down, I wouldn’t want to get up till way later, and then I’d have a whole day go by without eating. Sighing, I washed up a tiny bit, then grabbed my purse and headed out to grab some food.

There was a fast food place a few blocks away, so I loaded up. I’d have to find a grocery store tomorrow, and get real food, but until then, I had two chicken sandwiches to tide me over.

After that, with their cheering and booing upstairs, I settled in.

I showered. I ate. I made my bed.

I began to unpack, and then around ten that night, I sat at my desk, hearing blissful silence above.

Well, that was following a bunch of yelling, feet stomping, doors opening and closing, then voices outside, and car doors shutting.

They had left the building.

What’d I do? Remain in my bedroom like a good little unwanted thing. It felt wrong going upstairs and checking out the rest of the house when I knew at least two of the girls didn’t want me here, so I pulled out my school map and planned my day for tomorrow.

It was the first day of classes, and I was registered, but I still needed to go and do all the extra stuff like get my picture taken for my I.D. Actually, get the I.D. Set up a meal plan since they were requiring one because of my late acceptance. Get my books at the store. Find the library, that was the most important. And then just walk the campus, find where all my classes were going to be.

Since I was switching to marine biology, I was excited for the lab portion of the classes. I did the prerequisites at the community college near where I grew up, so those were all done and aced, but I knew it would be harder at this level. I was still surprised I’d gotten into Texas C&B, but I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

I was here. I was doing it.

I’d always wanted to be a marine biologist since I was little, and this was the right time to pursue it. My other career choices fell away. Counseling. A language interpreter. A speech pathologist. They hadn’t been the ones I really wanted, and life was short. I’d learned that a few times by now, so I was embracing it with both hands, but leaving my feet firmly planted on the ground.

Tired, but feeling an odd contentment, I crawled into bed at midnight.



“Fuck,” someone yelled.

More feet shuffling above.

I could hear the laughter.

They were back. I was guessing they’d gone to a party or the nearest bar.

Rolling over in bed, pulling my sheet up around me, my fan pointed right on me, I waited and hoped. Maybe they’d eat, do whatever drunk people did, and then go to bed.

Boom, boom, boom!

They turned on music. Loud bass pounded through the floorboards. I could almost hear them rattling, so I rolled over and did what any girl in my place would do. I muffled a scream into my pillow. It was a full-body scream, too. Even my toes got into it, twitching. I needed sleep. Like bad. Like I would get sick if I went too many nights in a row without a full eight hours, and let’s not get into why I wasn’t getting my sleep. That tied into the whole reason I came to Texas, but I know people would say they could survive off four hours a night. Yes. I could, too, but not five nights in a row. I was on night six.

I. Needed. My. Sleep.

But really, what was I actually going to do? I was the interloper here. I’d have to endure, and I did. Until four in the morning. And even after that, the music was lowered but it was still a soft beat until finally, I drifted off to sleep. I swear, I went to sleep dreaming about Stone throwing his football down on my head each time, and it corresponded with the techno music blaring through my alarm clock.

My alarm clock.

It was going off.

And waking, realizing that particular dream had been a nasty one, I sat up and I was in pain. A supersonic nap would be needed later on. Pronto. Stat. Don’t get me started. I was feeling a bit punchy here.

After showering and dressing, the phone started in. It was Gail. Again.

This time I accepted and knew this would take a while. I sat down. I needed to preserve my energy here.

“Hi, Gail.”

“Sweetie!” Her voice was loud, and she was forcing a Southern accent. I didn’t know why. She wasn’t Southern. Never had been. “How ahr y’all?”