Page 13 of Before (After 5)

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“Hey, you Steph’s roomie?” Nate says, and I finally get a good look at the girl.

She’s decent enough: pouty lips, long blond hair. That’s about all I can tell, because the chick is wearing clothes that are three times her size. I notice the way her skirt literally touches the floor, and cringe inwardly. Just from a glance, I can tell college is not going to be fun for this girl.

Case in point: she’s staring down at her feet, nervous as hell. What’s wrong with her?

“Um . . . yes. My name is Tessa,” she mumbles. Her voice is quiet, obnoxiously so.

I look over at Steph, who smiles a slick smile and sits down on her bed, never taking her eyes off the girl.

Nate responds with a smile, always the friendlier of the two of us. “I’m Nate. Don’t look so nervous.”

I don’t see the point in small talk, especially with this little mouse. She’s staring at Nate wide-eyed, and he reaches out to touch her shoulder.

“You’ll love it here,” he adds.

He’s full of shit.

Steph’s roommate looks terrified as her eyes rake over the band posters hanging on the wall. This girl couldn’t have been a worse match for her. She’s quiet, timid, scared of the world, apparently. She’s lucky I’m feeling nice today; otherwise I would have made her even more uncomfortable.

“I’m ready, guys,” Steph says, popping up from the bed. She pushes her purse thing up onto her shoulder and walks toward the door. The blond boy—likely her roommate’s brother—is staring at me, and I glare in his direction.

“See you around, Tessa.” Nate waves goodbye to the girl, and I notice her staring at me. Her eyes move from my eyebrow ring to the loop in my lip and back and forth between both of my arms. Then I notice the woman and that dude are doing the same thing.

What? You all’ve never seen tattoos before? I want to ask, but I get the feeling her mum isn’t as nice as the rack she sports, so I may as well behave. For now.

The moment we step into the hallway, we hear the woman shriek, “You’re getting a new dorm!”

Steph bursts into laughter, and Nate and I join in as we walk down the hall.


The next morning I don’t feel like going to my first class, so I head to Steph’s room instead. She’s probably still asleep, but I’m bored and her dorm is closer to my next class than anyone else’s in the crew. I text her and tell her I’m on way, but I don’t wait for her reply.

The hallway of the old building is nearly empty, only a few frantic stragglers rushing by with their arms full of books. I knock, so as not to give Miss Prim a heart attack, and, hearing no reply, let myself in with the key Steph has given me.

To keep myself from falling asleep on Steph’s shitty mattress, I flip through the basic cable channels. Just as some stuffy “doctor” is giving marriage advice to two idiots, the door opens and Steph’s roommate rushes in. She’s wrapped in a wet towel, and her long, soaked hair is stuck to her face in an almost comical way. As her eyes widen with surprise, I turn the TV off and stare at the specimen before me.

“Um . . . Where is Steph?” she practically squeaks. She stares down at the floor, back to me, to the floor again.

I smile at her embarrassment and stay silent.

“Did you hear me? I asked you where Steph is.” Her voice is softer now, more polite.

My smile grows. “I don’t know.”

She’s squirming, and I suspect that with how hard she’s gripping the edges of her towel, she’ll shred the material. I turn the TV back on and sit up.

“Okay? Well, could you like . . . leave or something, so I can get dressed?”

Well, I’m not going to leave. Not when I just found the only comfortable position on this bed.

I roll over and cover my face with my hands to humor her. “Don’t flatter yourself—it’s not like I am going to look at you.”

She’s awfully full of herself to think that I would sit and stare at her.

Well . . . okay, I probably would, especially given that the towel she’s wearing is hugging her body in a damn nice way.

I hear her shuffling around, the sound of a bra fastening, and her breathing heavily. She’s nervous still, and I would love to see her face as she tries to put her clothes on as fast as she can. I would uncover my eyes just to annoy her, but I’m in a decent mood. Plus, I’m only going to see this girl a few times, so may as well keep it somewhat civil.

“Are you done yet?” I roll my eyes under my hands.

“Could you be any more disrespectful? I did nothing to you. What is your problem?” she yells.

The fuck? I hadn’t expected such a smartass mouth on such an innocent-looking girl. She’s trying hard to be patient with me, and I’m trying hard to make her explode. I can’t help but laugh.

As I stare at Steph’s pissed-off roommate, it feels odd laughing this way, this hard, but her expression is just fucking priceless. She’s so pissed.

The door shoots open, and Steph enters, dressed in last night’s clothes. “Sorry I’m late. I have a hell of a hangover,” she whines.

I roll my eyes again. Of course she has a hangover . . . when doesn’t she?

“Sorry, Tess, I forgot to tell you Hardin would be coming by.” She shrugs her shoulders. Like she gives a fuck.

“Your boyfriend is rude,” the blond girl snaps.

That does it for me, and I laugh again. Steph looks at me, brow raised at how much I’m laughing.

“Hardin Scott is not my boyfriend!” she exclaims—maybe a little too emphatically—and starts choking on laughter along with me.

We’ve fucked around before, but never dated.

I don’t date.

“What did you say to her?” Steph turns to me and puts her hands on her hips in a failed attempt to scold me. Then she turns to the girl. “Hardin has a . . . a unique way of conversing.”

Conversing? I’m not attempting to talk to either of them. I shrug my shoulders and go back to finding some mindless shit to watch.

“There’s a party tonight—you should come with us, Tessa,” I hear Steph say. Yeah, right, like this chick is going to go to a party? I pull my lip ring between my teeth to stop from laughing again. I stare straight ahead at the TV.

“Parties aren’t really my thing. Plus I have to go get some things for my desk and walls.”