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Trey 1:21 AM: Pick me up. Pls…now @5 qtr i druunk
She’d planned to get as much rest as possible leading up to the first day of classes, but it looked like another night of her boyfriend Trey partying too much and her coming to his rescue. It was his friend Nate’s 21st birthday and they had to go out and celebrate at exactly midnight.
When she didn’t respond immediately, her phone buzzed and glowed blue as a reminder: He needs you.
She closed her eyes, wishing she hadn’t seen the message, that her lids could erase the image with one swipe. She lay there, crafting a lie for the moment he asked her why she never showed up.
“What message?” she could ask. Or, “You know I don’t get a signal on my phone in the Village.”
Even under the cloud of druunk, Trey would spot her lie. He claimed the tip of her nose moved and her eyes went left automatically whenever she was dishonest.
The truth that she was still on edge after almost getting into a physical fight with her roommate Tala would not be a good enough reason.
In the two weeks since the girls began sharing the small space, they argued about any and every thing. The four white cinder block walls closed in tighter each day. Ciara’s sticky note requests for Tala to clean up her side of the room evolved into disagreements over a too-loud TV and three a.m. XXX phone conversations.
After the shouting match over Tala ‘borrowing’ printer paper without asking, their resident advisor Kym pulled together a Kumbayah session. No one expected for them to become best friends, but respect was required.
Today they pushed respect aside and each other around after Ciara confronted her about golden condom wrappers left behind on her futon like little medals of honor.
Kym broke up the battle before blood was drawn, but Ciara knew the war was not over. This was just the beginning. The fire flushing Tala’s face and her dark eyes solidified it—she had no intentions of making it work.
Ciara also knew that roommate drama would not be a valid reason for dismissing the love of her life.
For the past year she and Trey complained about their long-distance relationship—the high cell phone bills and weekend getaways that lasted as long as it took to get to each other.
Once I get there things will get better.
Once we’re together, it will all work out.
When the time finally came, life moved so fast and they were always passing each other.
She couldn’t not be there for Trey—even at 1:30 a.m.
Ciara squinted at her reflection in the full-body mirror hanging from the door. The gray Aurbor Grove University shorts and thin tank top she slept in would have to be good enough. She pulled the chestnut-brown strands stroking her shoulders into a messy bun.
Keys in hand, she stumbled on one of Tala’s wedge heels. “Shhhhoot…you’ve got to be kidding me.”
She picked up the purple and hot pink shoe, dangling it over the trash can—destroying the self-professed shoe freak’s beloved heels would take the war to another level and put Ciara on top.
Instead, she tossed it to Tala’s side of the room and it rolled into her black mini-fridge.
When she opened the door, the sliver of fluorescent light from the hallway cast a spotlight onto Tala’s empty bed, topped with a mound of clean and dirty clothes.
Ciara wasn’t surprised that she hadn’t returned. Outside of their fights, Tala was rarely there—usually hanging out late or staying at her parents’ house in Aurbor Grove.
Maybe she went home for good.
Ciara hoped she never came back—the peace of having the room to herself felt good.
* * *
It was a well-known fact that AGU was a party school, but it still surprised Ciara to see so many people filling the streets on a Wednesday night.
Downtown Aurbor Grove was a long island of bars and restaurants offering 24-7 happy hours and boutiques that didn’t fit within the average college student’s budget.
It sat between city government buildings and AGU’s administrative offices, blending in seamlessly.
After circling around the one-way streets, she finally found a parking space a few blocks away.
The shrill voices of students, loud music and the smell of hotdogs sizzling at the corner-stand reminded her of the state fair.
She fell in stride behind a group of girls, heels click-clacking up Main Street’s steep hill. They drunkenly shouted Go Wolves at random people. Their endless giggles and flirting with even drunker guys that asked them to kiss each other amused her.
The closer she got to the heart of Downtown, the stronger the stench of the paper mill mixed with beer and liquor invaded her nose.
Rihanna’s island-infused “Rude Boy” from Fifth Quarter and its neighbor’s classic rock demand to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” came together in an unintended mash-up. Not only did the two have vastly different playlists, but the sports bar theme of AGU helmets, green turf and rows of big-screen TVs stood out on the strip.
Trey and his friends huddled on the patio around a black, wrought iron table littered with empty beer bottles and plastic cups.
Shot glasses overflowing with amber tequila clinked together with a toast of Happy Birthday to Nate. The trio tossed their heads back and reacted to the aftermath at the same time.
Trey scrunched his face reddened by the summer heat that didn’t let up at night. His big Will Smith ears were especially full of color.
The lone girl raised her arms in a cheer and shimmied.
Nate took a long swig from his Miller High Life beer. “Man that burns!”
Ciara reached out and tugged on his shirt.
“Oh, hey baby, you came.” Trey’s hazel eyes were small slits.
“You texted me, remember?”
“Mm-hmm.” He danced and played with a thin red straw, working it in and out of the gap between his two front teeth. “Check me out.”
A blue blob stained the embroidered polo player on his gold Ralph Lauren shirt—evidence that so far it had been a real good night.
Ciara couldn’t figure out if the girl was with them or just passing by for the free alcohol.
In her own tequila-hazed world, she mimicked Rihanna’s winding and grinding.
Tendrils fell over her face, leaving only plump glossy lips. Hair and lips. She could have been the sister of the smoking piano man from John Bua’s print hanging on Ciara’s wall.
“We were about to walk back to campus,” he said.
“It looks like you guys are still celebrating.”
“Go hard or go home,” Nate yelled over the music. “We really just got here, so we had to make up for lost time.”
Trey jumped over the ledge and onto Ciara, making her stumble into a group of girls dancing on the sidewalk.
“My sweet CC.” He ran his palm down her broad forehead, cupping her high cheekbones.
“You are so good to me. I got the best girl, don’t I Nate?”
“Yep, you’re a real lucky dude.”
“Are you ready to go?” she asked, holding on to him.
“I guess we better call it a night.”
“I’ll help you get him to the car,” Nate said.
It took both of them to hoist him in the passenger seat.
“Thanks for making sure he didn’t end up arrested or in the drunk tank again.”
Nate lingered at her open driver’s door.
“Well, have a good night,” she yawned.
He stepped in the opening before she could close the door. “Hey, could you maybe give me and Maya a ride to Simpson Hall?”
“You and who?”
“Oh, I thought you knew her,” he mumbled, pointing a thumb over his shoulder. “She was at the bar with us.”
She watched Maya’s long, shapely legs move down the hill, curly Afro wild, her white mini-skirt swishing from side-to-side. Hair. Lips. Legs.
“We would walk but South campus is so far.”
“Sure. Get in.”
Trey flipped through the radio dial, finally landing on a station pounding out bass-filled party songs that he could rap along to.
“Don’t I know you from somewhere?” Maya slurred.
Her thick Southern accent made her sound sultry, instead of sloppy. It didn’t seem like a voice so husky was meant to come out of those lips.
“I don’t think so,” Ciara said, staring back in the rearview mirror.
“I guess you have one of them familiar faces.”
“Are ya’ll hungry?” Trey asked.
Ciara pointed to the dashboard. “No. It’s after two o’clock in the morning.”
“We could just pull up to Mickey D’s right quick. It’s open 24 hours.”
“That’s not the point. I’m tired.”
“Well, I’m starving. I need something to soak up all this liquor.”
“I wouldn’t mind having some fries, myself,” Nate said, rubbing his stomach.
Ciara took a deep breath, pressed down the words that popped up because she knew they would lead to another embarrassing argument.
She was tired of fighting.
She made an ugly, screeching U-turn on Main Street and headed towards the golden arches.
The long line crawled forward and by the time she made it to the intercom, Trey snored softly and she placed his usual order.
He didn’t wake up until Nate slammed the door.
“Appreciate the ride, CC.”
Trey leaned out the window. “Ya’ll have a good night.”
Ciara drove slowly around the drop-off circle.
“So that’s Maya?”
“Yes. That’s the Maya that went to Miami with us.”
They were both quiet at the abnormally long red light. Ciara watched the bright orange crosswalk timer count down, but the light still didn’t change.
“I didn’t know she was hanging out with you guys tonight.”
“I mean, she and Nate work together.” He dug for the french-fries at the bottom of the white bag. “It’s his choice to bring whoever he wants to celebrate his birthday.”
“But don’t you think it’s weird that a girl hangs out with ya’ll like that?”
Trey laughed, his mouth half-full. “I cannot believe you’re really gonna interrogate me right now.”
“Please don’t yell at me.”
“You’ve got to get over your insecurity issues,” he said, shaking his head.
“Don’t try to flip this on me. I’m not being insecure. I asked you a simple question.”
“No, you’re not just asking a question.”
She raised her voice an octave higher. “Why are you avoiding my question? That’s what I want to know.”
He pressed the unlock button and turned to her.
They were so close, yet so far apart.
“Trey come back!” Her plea hit his back as he strolled in the direction of Simpson Hall…and Maya.
Finally the light turned green.
“Wow, this book took me back to my college years! It was way more exciting and scandalous than my real time there but it was also accurate.”
“Sexy and Spellbinding!”
“The plot made me hold on because it was full of suspense and the climax was awesome.”
“The mystery surrounding Ciara and her roommate kept me on the edge of my seat.”
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