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    Jwolf
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The English Year - 4. Mister

"Shit... or get off the pot."

There’s a certain paranoia that comes with waking up out of a blackout.

‘Where the fuck am I?’ is usually the first thought to cross your mind. Sometimes you’re safely tucked away in your bed. If your friends are assholes, as mine proved to be on Monday morning, you wake up in the bed of a British man.

And you have no clue how you got there.

At that point, the questions come racing through much faster than the answers. Am I still drunk? How did I get here? What the fuck happened last night? Of course I’m still drunk. Where is my wallet? Did I do anything stupid? If I did, was it fun? Did I at least use a condom?

And the list goes on and on.

When I woke up on Monday morning and realized that my phone was on Pete’s charger, presumably because it had died at some point, I felt like I had hit rock bottom. I turned around and found that Pete was lying fast asleep next to me, curled up and facing away from me, one arm under his head and the other draped just inches away from me.

I crept out of his bed, my head spinning from a mixture of being drunk and being nauseous. I looked around, attempted to gather my bearings, and when I couldn’t, I sat back down. I pulled my phone off Pete’s charger and decided that back-texting myself would be a good start.

The text chain between Brian, Austin, Hutch, ‘Berto and myself started around 1 a.m. and was the best indication of how my night had gone.

From Austin: Corb, where the fuck are you?

From Corbin: Rivvvv 3. Wheres are yhou?

From Berto: Holy fuck, Batman.

From Austin: Are you alive?

From Brian: Me and Cat are sleeping. Take me off this chain.

From Austin: Turn your fuckking phone off!

From Corbin: whooooo is a sleeping? Iz sooooo erlzy.

From Hutch: What?

From Berto: Corb, we’re coming to get you.

From Corbin: Fuck that! Bitches.

From Brian: Honestly. No more fucking chains. Goodnight bastards.

From Hutch: So if we go pick Corb up against his will, is it bro-napping?

There was a lull in the correspondence. At around 3:15, I got a series of death threats from Hutch and Austin that went a little like this.

From Austin: If you don’t fucking come home right now, I will find you and kill you myself.

From Hutch: you better not be fucking dead. Why are you not in your room? Corb, this is not funny.

From Austin: Dude… what the fuck. Where are you?

From Corbin: I’m coming home bitches.

From Corbin: Wheress the house? It moved.

From Corbin: I’m nots commingn home. I’m gnna fuck a brit. Or not. ORRR will. OR not.

That was the end of my contribution to the chain and my last outgoing message. The brothers went back and forth for another couple of minutes trying to decide if they should come get me or not. The problem was, they didn’t know where I was. And from the looks of it, I didn’t either.

The big clue was a missed call from Peter at 2:13, a returned call to Peter at 2:14, and a text from Peter at 2:27 that simply said: Are you ready? Downstairs…

My investigation led me to three missed calls from Austin, one from Hutch, and two from Berto. At around 3 a.m., I got a text from Amanda asking if I’d made it home. Two minutes after that, I had a missed call. I talked to Amanda at some point between 3:42 and 3:44. What was said in those two minutes I’d never know; but I knew what I had to do, and anyone who’s ever been overserved knows how humiliating my next move was about to be.

“Hey, Mandy Moo,” I said five minutes later. I had rummaged around Pete’s room for my pants. I couldn’t find my shirt, so I naturally, I took one of his. I crept out of his room without so much as eliciting a stir from the Englishman.

“Hey there,” Amanda sounded as alert as someone who’d been up for hours. “How are you feeling?”

“Like death, warmed up,” I quoted. Just as I was creeping up the alley towards my house, I saw a group of freshmen, led by their dorm counselor and a classmate of mine cross down the hill where my alley bisected Jefferson Drive.

“And I just registered the year’s first walk of shame. They’re going to put me in a caution pamphlet.”

“Where’d you end up last night?”

“At Pete’s,” I confessed. “How’d I get there? What do you know? What did I do?”

“As far as I know, you didn’t do anything except throw up at River Three,” she began. I put my hand to my temple. This was the moment of truth. “Hutch and Austin drove out to get you. They put you in bed, and then when they came in to check on you, you’d left.”

“I left a note!” I remembered.

“Yeah,” she said. I could hear chatter in the background, and it sounded like she was in the commons. “You left a note. From what you told me last night when I called you, Pete asked you to go with him and some other exchange students to Waffle House. You snuck away from the brigade and went.”

“Oh,” I sighed, relieved. It could have been a lot worse than that. “Did I sound like I was having fun?”

“Yeah, I guess. You don’t remember our conversation at all, do you?” she asked as I made my way up the steps of the house.

“Are you even asking me that? I’m walking home with one shoe and no shirt. I have no concept of what time it is, and I feel like I’ve been hit in the head with a baseball bat. Of course I don’t remember our conversation.”

“Well, when I called, you told me that you’d gone to Waho with Pete and that you were going to try one more time to see if he liked you. You said that you were going to flirt with him at his apartment, and if he asked you to stay the night, you’d know. You sounded frustrated, Corb. You said you’d wish he’d either stop flirting with you or else make a move. Shit or…”

“Or get off the pot,” I finished. I remembered telling her those exact words. “That’s what I said.”

The paranoia surged back in a wave just then, as I opened the door to my bedroom.

“Wait, was he there for the conversation?” I asked. My room was a total train wreck.

“No,” she said. I sighed again. “You were in the bathroom. You told me you’d checked under every stall to make sure no one was listening.”

“I’m pretty sure Waffle House only has one stall.”

“Whatever,” she said. “Listen, I completely understood what you were saying and where you were coming from. You and Pete have this crazy dynamic.”

“So I’m not insane,” I said, sitting on my bed, and grasping for any form of validation. Now that the general public had seen how Pete and I were, I was convinced they’d agree with me. The guy was into the idea of getting into me. Whether he knew it yet or not was yet to be seen.

“No, you’re definitely still insane,” she chastised. “But you’re not wrong. I dunno. I don’t think he wants to date you or anything. I just think he’s more open with you than he is with anyone else. Including me, and that fool drank me out of house and home yesterday.”

“So I’m not wrong to go after him,” I said.

“Did he invite you to spend the night?”

“He must have,” I replied. “I spent the night.”

“Well then it doesn’t matter what advice I give you, does it?” It really didn’t. She didn’t even have to finish the thought, but she wouldn’t have been Amanda Price if she hadn’t. “You’re going to do what you want, Corbin.”

And she was right. I would proceed on, even if it meant doing so as delusional as ever. My plan the day before hadn’t worked in helping me move on, but it did work in bringing Pete in closer. He had been worked up about not getting to play fifty-five. He’d clearly been affected by seeing me with the Frosh. I’m not sure who broke down first, but it was now clear that we’d spent the majority of the night together… at least long enough for Amanda to get a read on the dysfunction junction that was our non-relationship.

And yet, we still hadn’t hooked up. I may have been blacked out last night, but I would have remembered a kiss. I would have known if I’d came at some point. And surely, I would have remembered if he’d fucked me.

I ran my fingers through my hair and decided to do what I always do when I’m riddled with the Morning Shame. I took a shower, got dressed, and decided to be productive.

I walked to the student center, stopped at the kiosk to email my advisor about a good meeting time. I knew she didn’t take on freshmen advisees, so I was sure she’d be free all week. I also replied to an email from Alexandria telling her I wouldn’t be able to see advertisers with her that day because of mandatory fraternity stuff. I knew she’d know I was bullshitting, especially if she’d been at River Three, but I didn’t care. I then proceeded into the student store to buy my books. Four hundred and eighty dollars later, I returned to the house with a stack full of books to face the firing squad.

“Do you plan on sleeping in your own bed at all this year?” Hutch asked, his sarcasm and snark being much too much for how my head felt.

“I do,” I replied quietly, walking past the guys configured in their usual spots in the Great Hall. The area smelled vaguely of Chinese food and I felt like I was about to vomit. “In fact, I plan on going to take a nap… in my bed… right now.”

“Are you not going to say anything?” Austin asked. I looked at him. “About last night?”

“Oh,” I stopped short of the stairs. “Thank you for picking me up. Thank you for worrying about me. And…” I trailed off.

“How about ‘I’m sorry for being a jackass’.”

I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d been a jackass. So what I’d left after they’d put me to bed… I was safe, I was with friends, and nothing had happened. They were the ones that had decided to freak out. But instead of getting hostile, I simply loosened my face.

“You guys, I really am sorry for being a jackass,” I said as sincerely as I could. I’m sure none of them bought it, but it still got them off my back and let me escape upstairs otherwise unscathed.

I fell asleep in my clothes almost immediately after hitting the sack. It was like the effort it had taken to walk to campus and buy those books had paralyzed me. What felt like an eternity later, I was woken up by a loud knock at my door.

“Hey, Corb, are you decent?” It was a girl’s voice. It took me minute to recognize it as Meghan Simpson’s voice from the girl’s volleyball team.

“Hey, Corb. It’s Meghan! Can I come in?” I sat up and rubbed my eyes. Meghan was one of the sweetest girls on campus. She was involved in everything, played a varsity sport, was a clutch Theta, and still found time to look cute.

“Yeah,” I croaked. “Come in.”

She waltzed in with a little girl of about 8 years old in tow. I looked from Megan to the girl, and then back again, utterly confused.

“Hi,” I greeted, more of a question than a statement.

“Hey,” she replied. “Glad to see you’re doing alright.”

“I’m great,” I faked through a pounding head and a dry mouth. “What’s up?”

“Well, Alyssa here wanted to meet you. She loved your message last night, and is really grateful that you’re taking one of her kittens off her hands.”

“A kitten,” I said slowly. “Off her hands… Hi Alyssa.”

“Hi Corbin,” the little girl lisped. “You sounded really funny on the phone message. But I knew what you were saying.”

“You did, did you?” I asked. “And what was that?”

“That you were sad that we couldn’t afford to take care of the kittens and we’d have to let them go. And that you would be proud to take one.”

I was shocked to the point of my jaw coming open and hanging there. When the fuck had that happened? When in the world had I left a message to a little girl saying I would adopt her cat? Why on earth would Meghan, who was supposed to be a friend of mine, allow this to happen?

“Well, that’s perfect then,” I said, forcing myself to smile. “Meghan, can we talk? In the hall?”

“Of course. Alyssa, doll, you stay right in here okay? And don’t touch any of Mr. Corbin’s things.”

“Okay,” the little girl sat down on my couch, and I briefly wondered what assortment of fraternity germs would seep through her skin on contact.

“What is going on?” I asked once we were out in the hall and the door was closed.

“Look, buddy, I tried to stop you from leaving the message.”

“You dialed the number!” I stopped just short of shouting.

“You told me to. You said that it wasn’t fair for strangers to get the kittens when you could provide a good home for one. And you wanted dibs before someone else snatched up all the cats.”

At one in the morning? Someone was going to snatch up all the cats at one in the morning? I thought. How drunk had I been that that was my reasoning?

“And you believed me? I live in the frat house for crying out loud! I cannot have a cat.” Meghan blinked.

“It’s done, Corb. You can’t tell that little girl that you were drunk and didn’t mean it. When I talked to her this morning, she was absolutely beaming at finding a good home for one of her kittens.”

“Meg, I can’t take a cat. Our house mom would kill me. The guys will kill me.”

“Corb…”

“No,” I said. I knew what she was about to do. It was what all girls did to get their way. Her lips turned downward and her eyes became more oval. I swallowed. I couldn’t take on a cat, no matter how much she guilt tripped me.

What had I been thinking last night? Was this my big attempt at getting laid? Did I think a frat cat would help me accomplish that?

And it was only when I searched my memory for a motive did it hit me. There was a reason I’d cornered Meghan Simpson. There was a reason I’d struck up this conversation, listened to her babble about her Big Sister volunteer program, listened to her tell me how her little sister needed to find a home for her impoverished cats.

“Oh shit, the mixer. What about the mixer?” I blurted out. “Did you talk to your social chair yet?”

“I did,” Meghan replied. “Right after we made our deal and you made the call. She said that if y’all send out a formal invite, hire outside security, and get her to co-sign all of the university documents, she’ll guarantee 70 percent attendance.”

That’s what it had been. I had traded a cat for a mixer. I had done this for the house. They wouldn’t care when they voted me out of dodge for harboring a cat, but still. In my drunkenness, I was still the social chair.

“The deal is set,” Meghan said. “And that little girl in there is excited to find a home for her kitten.”

My hands were tied. I shook my head and swallowed.

“Where’s the cat?” I resigned. Meghan smiled, gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and walked back into my room.

“The kitten is going to love living here!” Alyssa exclaimed. “Look at this view!”

I have to say, it was heartwarming to see how excited the little girl was to find a decent home for one of her kittens.

“Does this cat not have a name?”

“Not yet,” Alyssa said, much too perky for my liking. “We’re not sure if she’s a girl or a boy yet, so we haven’t named her. And she’s super tiny, so I’ve been calling it Tiny.”

“Well, where is this fabulous cat?” I asked, trying hard to remain pleasant.

“She’s downstairs with Hutch and Roberto,” Meghan said. “They said we should probably come up to you first.”

Good call, I thought. The two girls followed me down the stairs and out to the front porch, where Robbie and Hutch were bonding with the littlest cat I’d ever seen. He or she was clearly a runt. It’s eyes were barely open, and the kitten looked tired. Her fur was thin and black, with traces of grey and white. As I picked it up in one palm, I couldn’t help but think that the cat looked like an old man.

“Hi there, Mister,” I said, taken over by a natural sense of humanity. “I guess this is your new home.”

The cat meowed feebly and I brought it up to my shoulder. I looked at the guys.

“We have a cat,” I said meekly.

“That’s what it looks like, doesn’t it?” Roberto said, clearly less than amused.

“I’ll go get my keys,” Hutch added, clearly reading my mind. We needed to go get supplies, and I was about to ask him to take me.

We said bye to Alyssa and Meghan, who thanked me again for doing what I’d done. We shook on the deal one more time and they left, probably to surprise another unsuspecting idiot with another runt cat.

“I cannot believe you,” Berto started in as soon as we got in the care. The cat, who had been settled and calm on the porch, freaked out in the car for whatever reason. He wouldn’t stop meowing, and hissing, until finally I held it really tight on my chest, like a baby. I could feel it trying to claw me, but it’s claws were soft. The cat’s breathing intensified as Hutch drove towards Walmart until it eventually tapered off and returned to normal.

“It’s okay, Mister Kitty,” I repeated over and over, essentially ignoring Roberto.

“What were you thinking?” Berto asked.

“It’s okay, Mister Cat.”

“Clearly, he wasn’t thinking,” Hutch answered for me. “Did you see him last night? He would have agreed to adopt a baby in that state.”

“I blame Meghan for letting you have the cat, I really do,” Roberto said.

“Listen, ass—“ I moved my voice to a whisper so the cat wouldn’t hear me curse. “Listen assholes, I agreed to take the cat so that Theta would mix with us. Sue me. Kill me. It is what it is.”

“And now you have a cat,” Roberto couldn’t let it go. “Congratu-fucking-lations.”

I sighed deeply. As we walked around Walmart, collecting the necessary tools one needs for a cat—litter box, litter, food, treys, carpet cleaner, beer, etc—me calling the cat Mister Kitty began to stick. It didn’t matter that the cat could very well be a girl. By the time we made it home, Mister was its name.

The cat had another mild freak out as we walked back into to the house and up to my room. We made sure our house mom was nowhere to be found as we smuggled Mister up the steps. Twenty minutes later, the guys abandoned me with a sleeping cat and a stocked room.

To Pete: Did I really agree to adopt a cat last night?

I texted him because I had nothing else to do. I was tired, but with afternoon setting in, I knew I’d have to rally. The guys would be coming around to make plans soon, and I’d be expected to participate. I lied down, surfed the Internet for cat raising tips, and waited for Pete to text me back.

To Corbin: I think you said something about it at Waffle House. Which gave me intense shits this morning, by the way.

To Pete: That might have been the beer too…

I resisted texting him right away, and instead waited the standard three minutes before doing it. After I hit send, I waited. I watched my cat, and I waited.

To Corbin: What are you doing? How’d we end up last night?

To Pete: I slept at your place. I’m a wreck. I’m tired, and I’m thinking about having a beer to ease my head.

To Corbin: Does that really work? I think that’s verging on alcoholic.

He texted me almost immediately after I’d sent mine. I stood up and cracked open my fridge. I had a slice of pizza on a napkin, and about six beers I’d stolen from the 55 stash.

To Pete: The best way to detox is to retox.

I cracked open a beer and sat back down. Mister looked at me as I made a creak in the bed. I looked back at the cat, and actually said out loud: “Don’t judge me.”

To Corbin: Can I join? I’m bored, but I can’t muster the energy to accomplish anything.

To Pete: Come over.

I looked at my watch. It was just after two. Since I had woken up at Pete’s earlier that day, I had managed to buy my books, adopt a cat, and take a nap. If it all went to shit at that point, it would still be a remarkably productive day.

Pete knocked and let himself in about ten minutes later. He looked fresh and showered, if his eyes weren’t still a little bloodshot.

“Hey,” I said, faking the energy it took to greet him. I stood up from my bed and moved to the couch, where Mister had claimed the left arm rest corner as his own.

“Is this the pussy?” he asked. The question jolted me. I looked at him tower over me as he gazed down at my cat.

“Yeah,” I replied. “Mister, meet Pete.”

He picked her up gently. The cat barely stirred as he palmed her and sat down next to me. I watched the little kitty look around, lick it’s lips and then resume its nap, purring steadily in Pete’s hands.

“She’s so little,” he smiled. “Is it a boy or a girl?”

“I don’t know,” I yawned. I felt like that cat right then. Tired, and wanting a man to hold me.

“I think this cat is dehydrated. Or malnourished.”

“Yeah,” I replied. “And I’m pretty sure she has worms too. I’m taking her in to the vet tomorrow to get shots and find out what else is wrong.”

Pete nodded. I sipped my beer, already feeling the effects. My mind was clearer, my stomach less fussy, and my throat was rehydrated, making my day-long croak resemble an actual voice.

“Want one?” I asked, pointing at my beer. Before he answered, I stood up and glided to the fridge.

“I shouldn’t,” he said. “I’m taking it easy tonight.”

“Me too,” I said, handing him a cold one. “But it’ll help the hangover, trust me.”

I sat down and looked at him make the decision. Which he did. To drink. He popped open the can and took a sip. I could tell he was feeling the same way I was. A shower couldn’t hide the shame.

“So matriculation tomorrow,” he said. “What’s that like here?”

Upperclassmen matriculated on the Tuesday before classes started. Freshmen were walking the line as we spoke.

“Basically, you just register that you’re here. If you owe any money for tuition or whatever, they tell you then. You get your key card if you’ve lost it. You update your address, you reset all of your university passwords, and you get your schedule and meal plan details. Then everyone goes to buy books.”

He pointed at the sack right next to my couch which clearly had a ton of academic material in it.

“I already know my classes, so I bought my books today. Didn’t want to risk missing out on the cheap used versions.”

“Maybe I should do that,” he said. “But I’m not sure what classes they’ve given me.”

I shrugged. It really didn’t matter. It had been more about me wanting to feel accomplished for the day rather than getting a head start on the line. In actuality, waiting until after the first class was smart. That way, you could see how devoted the syllabus was to the reading and if anyone in the lecture hall was game enough to share. Oh well, I thought. If I needed to, I’d return them.

“You never answered my question last night,” Pete asked out of the blue. I turned to him, finished my beer and set it down on the coffee table.

“What question?”

“When we were about to go to sleep. I asked if you’d hooked up with the freshman you were talking to last night.”

I couldn’t remember him asking me that. Truthfully, I didn’t remember anything after the pre-party and the several shots that I took.

“Why’d you ask me that?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Why’d you ask me if I made out with McKenzie?”

Touché, I thought. Only, he knew exactly why I asked him that, and if he didn’t, he was as dumb as a box of hair.

“He seemed to like you,” Pete concluded.

“So you can pick up on romantic feelings?” I asked sarcastically. I was trying to dig myself out of the corner he’d put me in. What if I told the truth and he thought I was some sort of slut? What if it was a turnoff for him to see me going around with strangers? What if he was one of those guys that liked to get to know his sexual partners before he fucked them? And I’d messed up everything by being impatient.

“Just tell me…”

“Why do you want to know?” I teased, trying my damnest to keep my tone light and playful. He didn’t need to know I was trying to make him jealous. That defeated the purpose of making him jealous.

“I don’t really want to know,” he said. “I’m just curious. If you’re embarrassed, then no worries.”

His accent was dripping with reverse psychology and I wasn’t about to get turned around.

“Alright then,” I answered plainly. I stood up and pulled two more beers out of the fridge.

“You’re a little slut, then,” he said, taking my omission as a confession.

“No,” I replied, sitting down and propping my feet up. I noticed that my cat was fast asleep on Pete’s leg, going up and down as it breathed. It was a Kodak moment if I’d ever seen one.

“If you don’t tell me, I’ll assume you did, and I’ll assume you’re ashamed, so I’ll assume you’re a slut.”

“Hooking up with one freshman does not a slut make,” I said defensively, allowing him to turn me around. “If I did, in fact, hook up with the freshman.”

“The Freshman,” he emphasized. “Oh wow. He gets a ‘the’ in front of his name.”

Little did Pete know that he had one too.

“You’re the asshole,” I countered.

“I’m teasing,” he said. “You told me last night that you did hook up with him.”

I shot him a look.

“I did not.” My neck hurt from how quickly I’d turned to face him.

“You did so.”

“Fine then,” I stonewalled. “Then you already know.”

“You said you’d tell me what y’all did,” he continued. “But then you passed out.”

I shook my head. I knew he was lying. He had to have been. Why would I say that? Why would he ask that? Why would he have not taken advantage of me sleeping in his bed, holding a conversation? There were way more ‘why’s’ that I liked, but there was really no way around them.

“Why are you asking me all of this?” I asked, hoping he’d answer correctly.

‘Because I don’t want you hooking up with freshmen.’ That was the only answer that would suffice. If he was going to give me a hard time about spreading it, he’d have to offer me an alternative, or else it was none of his business.

“Because it’s no fair that you have a freshman. I want one too,” he replied. My stomach sank. I attributed it to the hangover, and took another drink of Natty Light.

“Then get one,” I said with more attitude that I had hoped.

“Help me get one,” he said, leaning close to me. I could tell he was trying to be funny, but I wasn’t in the mood. “Help me get a freshman.”

“You don’t want a freshman,” I said confidently. “They’re trouble, and apparently they’re obvious.”

“So you did hook up with him.”

I shot him another neck binding look.

“You just said…”

“I was lying,” he answered, laughing. “And you fell for it.”

“I hate you,” I said. I pushed his shoulder.

“You don’t.”

“I do,” I replied. “I fucking hate you.”

“Shh, no hatred in front of the child,” he looked down at the cat, which was now snuggling in the nook that Pete’s crossed legs created. Just below his crotch.

“Someone’s crotch has a fan,” I observed.

“It’s the most action I’ve gotten in a while now,” he smiled at me. No wonder he was so fucking weird. He was classic case of cute boy with no skills syndrome. He didn’t know how to close the deal. He could hold his own enough to get someone interested, but when it was time for him to make the move, he choked. He’d choked twice on me now, and not in a good way.

“We should get you laid then,” I said simply.

“With who?” We locked eyes. I stared at him, refusing to move first. He knew what I was implying. I knew that he knew what I was implying. There was no fucking way around it. And yet, we both chose to play the game.

“You’re right,” I joked. “It might be hard to find someone who’ll do you.”

“Oh, you’re a mean boy, Cady Heron.”

I laughed out loud.

“You did not just quote Mean Girls,” I said, laughing uncontrollably.

“I did,” he smiled. “Say crack again.”

The voice he used to mimic an American accent was priceless. The fact that he was quoting one of the gayest movies of all time was even better.

Now would have been the perfect time to pop the question. It’d be easy breezy.

‘So are you, or aren’t you? Are you gay? Or just really good at being European? What’s the status of your sexuality?’

But I didn’t. And I didn’t. In that moment, I decided I wouldn’t ask him, and the reason was complicated. It wasn’t that I didn’t desperately want to know. I did. I wanted a lifeline. But what I didn’t want was a rejection. I didn’t want his answer to ruin my hope. Without a definitive answer, I could still pursue someone in a way I hadn’t been compelled to do in over a year. I wanted to chase him. I was having fun doing so. And so I resolved to continue the flirt as long as it was enjoyable.

And it was. For the rest of the afternoon, we hung around making jokes and getting under each other’s skin. At one point, I confessed that I owned Mean Girls and we decided to go downstairs and watch it, leaving Mister upstairs to guard the beer fridge.

I can only imagine what Hutch and Haley thought when they walked into the TV room in the basement and saw two guys sharing a couch and a case, watching Mean Girls and cracking up like school children.

I spent that night hanging out with Pete and his international friends, all of whom couldn’t believe I’d survived last. I learned that the reason I went home with Peter is because his German friend and fellow exchange student insisted I not try to walk up the fraternity stairs.

“I thought you’d surely fall to your death,” the guy said as I tried to figure out how his dark features fit into my preconceived notions of what a German was supposed to look like. Light hair and blue eyes.

I also learned that night that Pete spoke fluent German, could understand French but couldn’t speak it, and was half Irish.

“My hair used to be strawberry blonde,” he confessed. “It’s gotten darker as I’ve gotten older.”

“Then the real question is this, Mr. Peterson,” I said in a creepy voice. “Does the carpet match the drapes?”

Of all the people in the room, only Pete and German James got it. And they cracked up accordingly.

“Wouldn’t you like to know, Mr. Corbin Crowley,” Pete replied in one of his many variations of an American accent. That one was him doing an American gay, which was decidedly English with a little bit of a lisp and extended vowels.

The night was casual and fun. I realized that in the group full of people I didn’t know, I stayed close to Pete the entire time. I wasn’t nervous around the folks at the International House, but I was more comfortable closer to the guy I’d come with. Even if we were yet to come together.

The only time it got awkward was when Pete challenged me to an arm wrestling competition.

“Oh, come on, Mr. Crowley,” he said, sitting down and taking the pose. “You know you want to.”

The girls that lived at the I-House egged me on. I took a sip of whatever sangria concoction the two girls from Spain had put together.

“I don’t arm wrestle,” I said with a smile.

“Sit down, Nancy, and take my hand,” Pete said aggressively. “Scared?”

“I’m scared I’ll beat you and you’ll never speak to me again.”

“Nothing will make that happen,” Pete said, almost earnestly. We locked eyes, and I realized we’d just had a moment in front of a room full of people. “Come on!”

“Okay, okay,” I replied. I sat down opposite him, put my arm up and locked into his. The feeling was electric. Competitive and electric.

Had I been playing with normal intensity, he would have won easily. Pete was a surprisingly strong guy. However, I wanted to make the moment last. The eye contact, the hand-to-hand contact. The electricity that flowed between us. So I looked at him, licked my lips, and bit my tongue. He licked his lips back at me, and I shook my head while cracking a smile.

“Ready, Mr. Crowley?”

“No,” I said. “Give me one…”

I shifted quickly and then applied pressure to his arm. He was caught off guard and I gained a few inches on him.

“Cheater!” he shouted. He managed to catch the force I’d applied just before he lost. I ground into my seat and put as much force on him as possible. We locked strength right in the middle, neither of us willing to give ground. He was stronger, I could tell. But I was determined.

“Give up,” I clenched.

“No, you,” he said. “I could sit like this all day.”

“Oh yeah?” I asked.

“Yessir.”

We went back and forth, exchanging advantages for a solid thirty seconds. I could tell he was getting fatigued by the light pink shade his cheeks were turning. When he realized that I wasn’t quite the Nancy he’d expected to beat, I saw him buck up and focus. And then he pulled out the big guns.

“You’re not going to win, Corbin,” he said to me, his voice soft but sinister. A second later, I felt his hand clench me just above the knee. Our eyes were still locked, and I watch him lick his lips and give me a dirty gaze. He slowly pushed his hand up my thigh, until…

“Whoa!” I said, backing up. A second later, he slammed my hand down onto table.

“Cheater!” I screamed.

“No way,” he replied, raising his arms and taking in the applause.

“Did no one else see that?” I asked.

“See what?” German James asked.

“That! He cheated!”

“Oh, you Americans are poor, poor losers,” Pete goaded. I shook my head.

“I can’t believe this.”

“Let’s rematch, if you think I cheated.”

“No!” I answered. “I’m not getting cheated and felt up twice in a row.” He laughed at me, and went in to the kitchen to get more sangria. I followed him, upset that’d he’d cheated, but not upset that he’d thrown down the sexual gauntlet.

It was moments like that that had me convinced I wasn’t wrong about Pete. I couldn’t be. There was no way I had imagined the look on his face. And if the guy was acting to win an arm wrestle, then he was good and I was screwed.

After hanging out at the I-House, Pete and I went back to my room so he could play with Mister. I watched him warm up to my cat, that I still wouldn’t fully trust until it was cleaned and medicated. Pete helped me locate a spot where the cat had clearly peed. He taught me a trick to training them.

“Look at the pee, Mister,” he said sternly. “No. Not okay. Not good, okay?” Then he carried Mister to the litter box and said: “This is where the pee pee and the poo poo goes.”

I tried hard not to laugh as he repeated it over and over, shoving my cat’s head into the carpet and then into the litter while I scrubbed the spot down and Febreezed. I used his trick for four days, and by that very Friday, my cat was potty trained. That’s all I want to say about cat pee, litter training, and any other sort of feline bodily function.

When we settled into my room, I poured us a couple of vodkas with Crystal Light and sat next to Pete on my couch. Mister was quick to settle in on his favorite spot… between Pete’s legs, right under his crotch. I looked down at the cat and laughed.

“What?” Pete looked at me like he was paranoid… like he had a huge zit on his face.

“Nothing, it’s just… my cat loves you… your crotch… your… whatever.”

“Your cat loves my package,” he said with a sexy eye. “What do you have to say about that?” I wanted to tell him that Mister wasn’t the only one that loved it.

“I think you’re full of yourself,” I said, reaching over and picking up the cat. I have to admit, I put my hands closer to his package than was necessary, but he didn’t move or seem to mind. I gently placed Mister onto my crotch, and we both watched as a second later, the cat looked up at me and then went back to sleep.

“You’re not special, sir,” I smiled.

“Whatever,” he leaned his head back and sighed. “So I guess this fantasy land ends soon, doesn’t it?”

“Basically,” I told him. “Are you ready to start school?”

“I’ve started so many schools so many times, I’m always ready.”

“Well there’s still a couple nights left,” I reminded him, turning my head and looking him in the eye. “There’s the Sigma Chi White Party tomorrow night. Technically, it’s invitation only before ten.”

“Are you taking your frosh, or can I tag along?”

I wanted to ask why he was so hung up on that. Why did it matter? Why did he feel the need to bring it up, yet again? He’s the one that had made out with McKenzie Sutton. He’s the one that wasn’t reciprocating my advances. I wasn’t going to punish myself because of his jealousy. Fuck that.

I was suddenly really annoyed with him, but I swallowed hard, and tried not to show it.

“You can come along if you want,” I replied evenly.

“Do you want me to?”

I turned to him again.

“Dude, in the last four days, have I said no to your company once?”

When the words left my mouth, I heard how bitchy they sounded. I also heard how pathetic they sounded. I’d known the guy for four days, and yet it felt like we’d been hanging out forever.

In retrospect, I realize four days isn’t that long. I’ve had oil changes that lasted longer than my relationship with Pete up until that point. And yet I had put this undue pressure on him to make a move. Maybe it would have been prudent to step back and ease things up. But I didn’t. I continued to fall, and like a ball tossed over the edge of a cliff, I continued to gain momentum.

“Alright then,” he said, turning to me. It was almost like we’d survived our first spat. It wasn’t a fight by any stretch of the imagination, but he’d gotten on my nerves for a brief stretch, and I’d overcome my feelings of annoyance by looking at his face.

“Do you like Old Dominion?” I asked him softly out of nowhere. I didn’t want the conversation to end, and I thought if there was too much of a lull between topics, he’d tell me he needed to go home.

“I’m starting to,” he replied. “You’re awesome, and I like Amanda a lot. It’s an interesting place.”

“And the girls are easy,” I kidded. He scowled at me for a split-second, and then shrugged his shoulder. I felt bad for bringing up his make-out again, and in typical fashion, it wasn’t until I’d said myself did I realize why he kept bringing up the frosh.

It wasn’t that I was jealous. It was because, up until then, making out with McKenzie, no matter how insignificant, was the only flaw I could pinpoint in a guy that I genuinely was starting to like. And I was obsessed with that flaw.

“The guys are too, it seems,” he responded.

“Fair enough.”

“But past all of that easiness,” he said, looking at me again. “Do people on this campus actually date?”

I pursed my lip upwards and thought for a second.

“I guess most people do,” I said. “After a while, they get it out of their systems. They kiss enough toads, and eventually, they get a prince.”

“How many toads have you kissed?” I cut my eyes at him. Slowly, I released my gaze and formed a smile.

“Nice try,” I said. “But if you must know, I guess it is possible to fall in love at OD. At least that’s what I preach in my column.”

“Have you?” he asked. It took me a second to dig out the meaning from his inflection. “Have you fallen in love before?”

I thought for a second. There were two guys I could say I’d fallen in love with, and none of them went to Old Dominion. One was a good friend of mine back home, a guy I’d known forever and who had always been my partner in crime. The love I had for him was almost so intense, it verged right back onto platonic.

The other was the cadet. Michael Loggerman.

“No,” I lied simply. Convincingly.

“Come on,” he said, turning his body towards me. We both had our heads tilted back onto the rest of the seat back. I shrugged. “There’s got to be someone.”

“Have you?” I asked.

“No sir,” he replied. “This isn’t about me. You’re in the hot seat.”

I took in a deep breath.

“I guess…” I hesitated. “There’s a guy that goes to VMI that I’ve been into for a couple years,” I confessed.

“VMI?”

“Virginia Military,” I explained. “It’s in Lexington, a couple of towns over.”

“And he’s in the military, this guy?”

“He’s training, or studying, or whatever they do there,” I replied. I wasn’t sure exactly what the curriculum was. All I knew was that the cadet wrestled, went to rugby matches, and strung me along.

“And he’s gay?”

“He’s… ambiguous,” I swallowed.

“You’ll have to explain.”

“The cadet and I have a weird and complicated relationship. I’m totally into him and he knows it,” I shrugged. “Actually, when I say it, it’s not that complicated.”

“Why don’t you go after him?”

“I have. I do. And we hook up every once in a while, when it’s convenient for him. And then I realize he’s an asshole and not worth it, and then he calls me and we rinse and repeat.”

“So if you all hook up, then he is gay.”

“He’s either gay or a good actor,” I said. I sat up and gently put Mister on the couch between Pete and I. I stood up and refilled my Solo cup. “When we’re together, just the two of us, he says there’s something different about me. He’ll say that he’s not gay, but there’s something about me that puts him on, you know?”

“Yeah…”

“And then we’ll do things. We’ll make out, we’ll touch each other. I’ll blow him, or what have you,” I confessed. I was spitting out words like a waterfall, probably edging myself closer and closer to the friend zone. “But there’s a line that he won’t cross, and I’ve tried to get him to a million times.”

I shrugged. Pete looked at me like I was a puppy with a missing leg.

“But you like this guy?”

“I liked him. I don’t know. I can’t explain it. I do… I like him alot. And if circumstances were different, I think we’d be together.”

“What circumstances?”

“If he were more open with himself, everything would be perfect.”

“And what if another guy comes along while you’re waiting for him to be open with himself?” Pete asked. That was the question of the ages.

“I think I’m mature and adjusted enough to forget about the cadet if an equal or greater option presented itself,” I deadpanned. I shot the words directly into Pete’s face. I couldn’t have been clearer in directing the meaning of the phrase.

“Then why wait?” he asked. “You deserve someone that makes you feel adequate.”

Pete could eclipse the cadet. Easily. I’d been on campus for four days, and I hadn’t even told the cadet I was back. I had been preoccupied from day one. In a way, even just the idea of Pete had cast a shadow on a guy I had hoped for for far too long.

And in an even bigger way, I was falling into the same trap. Pete was emotionally unavailable, and our last four nights together had made that perfectly clear. What was also clear was the fact that I didn’t care. I was content torturing myself around a guy I was falling hard for, unwilling to accept that nothing past friendship was going to happen. And why?

Because I was willing to tell myself the same lie about Pete that I’d said about the cadet for two years.

It was better to have him close, if not as close as I wanted, than to not have him at all.

Hey folks! Thanks so much for taking the time to read this story! I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Let me know what you think! Comments and questions are always welcome and encouraged (it's the only way to become a better writer).

Copyright © 2016 Jwolf; All Rights Reserved.
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Man. This was a train wreck of a chapter. The relationship is getting MORE complicated instead of going anywhere and it seems that they're started on a route to an unhealthy relationship.

 

I suppose that it's been almost a decade since my freshman year of college. I hope that explains why I really can't understand what the hell is going through Corbin's mind right now. That said, his actions are totally believable.

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The whole kitten thing was hilarious - from Corbin talking to the little girl, Pete doing the "potty" training right up to the comparative "croch comfort" test. lmaosmiley.gif Just too funny.

Corbin's revelation right at the end of the chapter was helpful, at least now I better understand why he's beating his head against a wall. Will this insight cause him to back off and save himself the frustration? I'm thinking not, even if the story plot needs him to continue the head banging.

Seeing that it's only chapter 4, I imagine Pete will continue to be the enigma he is for quite a while yet. When he asked Corbin if anyone at OD dated, I started thinking maybe he just wants to be "courted" but that seemed too simple given how obtuse he's been. Mind you, I think I warmed up to Pete a little bit here; not sure why.

Great chapter!! thumbsupsmileyanim.gifworshippy.gif

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Goodness Corbin, four days at school and you're already having quite the time. should be interesting to see how things turn out from here. Peter is not making things simple and he's throwing around mixed signals. hmmmm and the kitten lol that part was funny. oh Corbin mayhaps you shouldn't drink so much :P can't wait to see where this is going J

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On 09/03/2012 11:56 AM, Rebelghost85 said:
Man. This was a train wreck of a chapter. The relationship is getting MORE complicated instead of going anywhere and it seems that they're started on a route to an unhealthy relationship.

 

I suppose that it's been almost a decade since my freshman year of college. I hope that explains why I really can't understand what the hell is going through Corbin's mind right now. That said, his actions are totally believable.

hey rebel! Thanks for another solid review. One of the characteristics of my work has always been main characters who may make questionable decisions, but they're always believable and true to character. It's those kind of flaws than t I enjoy dissecting. Expect to see a little more of that from corvBon, although not for long I'm thinking. Thanks again!
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On 09/03/2012 12:32 PM, Conner said:
The whole kitten thing was hilarious - from Corbin talking to the little girl, Pete doing the "potty" training right up to the comparative "croch comfort" test. lmaosmiley.gif Just too funny.

Corbin's revelation right at the end of the chapter was helpful, at least now I better understand why he's beating his head against a wall. Will this insight cause him to back off and save himself the frustration? I'm thinking not, even if the story plot needs him to continue the head banging.

Seeing that it's only chapter 4, I imagine Pete will continue to be the enigma he is for quite a while yet. When he asked Corbin if anyone at OD dated, I started thinking maybe he just wants to be "courted" but that seemed too simple given how obtuse he's been. Mind you, I think I warmed up to Pete a little bit here; not sure why.

Great chapter!! thumbsupsmileyanim.gifworshippy.gif

Hey Conner! Good to hear from you! I always love your reviews. The ending of this chapter was supposed to set up part of Corbin's psyche/pattern with these guys. We'll meet the cadet soon... Glad you enjoyed the Kitten bit. Expect mister to factor in for a while :)
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On 09/04/2012 12:23 AM, Jammi said:
Goodness Corbin, four days at school and you're already having quite the time. should be interesting to see how things turn out from here. Peter is not making things simple and he's throwing around mixed signals. hmmmm and the kitten lol that part was funny. oh Corbin mayhaps you shouldn't drink so much :P can't wait to see where this is going J
Jammi! Thanks for the review! It has only been a few days, but we're going to start covering more time with each chapter. Glad you enjoyed the chapter?
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Grr, the tension is killing me. I've been in situations like Corb & Pete's, and all it does is make you pine for a guy like Pete even more... Of course, I really feel like smacking both of em for being just plain dumb. Thanks for another good chapter :D

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Those drunk text messages of Corbin had me cracking up! He's a pisser! Even when he's pissed! lol (get it, pissed as in drunk in British terms, lol, ok lame, sorry.)

 

He agreed to take a kitten! And the runt of the litter no less! Too funny! I loved the potty-training. For some reason I thought kittens/cats were ingrained to use the litterbox.

 

I see halfway thru the chapter Pete must have still been drunk b/c he was talking with a Southern drawl! lol Y'all.

 

So you could really cut the sexual tension between Corbin and Pete with a knife in this chapter. Just when you think they're gonna give in and start making out, they do a 180. lol The arm wrestling was funny; they both cheated.

 

But I could definitely see Corbin's point at the end. He's too afraid to confront Pete about his feelings for fear of rejection and he figures he'd rather have Pete as a good friend than not have any relationship with him. Makes sense.

 

I do think he needs to give it a bit more time though. They've only known each other four days after all. And maybe Pete was asking about the dating thing b/c HE wanted to ask Corbin out. But I think if that's true, he's gonna let Corbin stew for awhile; he doesn't want to seem too easy.

 

Another awesome chapter Jon! :)

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On 09/05/2012 05:47 AM, Houdinii said:
Grr, the tension is killing me. I've been in situations like Corb & Pete's, and all it does is make you pine for a guy like Pete even more... Of course, I really feel like smacking both of em for being just plain dumb. Thanks for another good chapter :D
Situations like this are always pretty awkward, aren't they? I'm finding that a lot f people have relatable experiences. I'm glad you're still enjoying the stru :)
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On 09/05/2012 06:08 AM, Lisa said:
Those drunk text messages of Corbin had me cracking up! He's a pisser! Even when he's pissed! lol (get it, pissed as in drunk in British terms, lol, ok lame, sorry.)

 

He agreed to take a kitten! And the runt of the litter no less! Too funny! I loved the potty-training. For some reason I thought kittens/cats were ingrained to use the litterbox.

 

I see halfway thru the chapter Pete must have still been drunk b/c he was talking with a Southern drawl! lol Y'all.

 

So you could really cut the sexual tension between Corbin and Pete with a knife in this chapter. Just when you think they're gonna give in and start making out, they do a 180. lol The arm wrestling was funny; they both cheated.

 

But I could definitely see Corbin's point at the end. He's too afraid to confront Pete about his feelings for fear of rejection and he figures he'd rather have Pete as a good friend than not have any relationship with him. Makes sense.

 

I do think he needs to give it a bit more time though. They've only known each other four days after all. And maybe Pete was asking about the dating thing b/c HE wanted to ask Corbin out. But I think if that's true, he's gonna let Corbin stew for awhile; he doesn't want to seem too easy.

 

Another awesome chapter Jon! :)

Hey! I'm glad you enjoyed the chapter! I thought the same thing about cats... Mine took a couple days to get it, but she did, thankfully. You're spot on about Corbin not wanting to feel rejected. And I think it only gets worse with mre buildup and time. Until next week :)
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Wow a really well written chapter. You hit the balance between the characters as they try to sort each other out, something you do so well both here and in your earlier stories. I suspect that Pete is considering a walk on the wild side with Corbin but is just unsure about the whole thing and if they do get together he doesn't want it to be just another hook up and to ruin their friendship. I look forward to seeing this dance evolve. Thanks for a wonderful chapter!

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On 09/05/2012 05:26 PM, Torontotop said:
Wow a really well written chapter. You hit the balance between the characters as they try to sort each other out, something you do so well both here and in your earlier stories. I suspect that Pete is considering a walk on the wild side with Corbin but is just unsure about the whole thing and if they do get together he doesn't want it to be just another hook up and to ruin their friendship. I look forward to seeing this dance evolve. Thanks for a wonderful chapter!
Thanks for the awesome review! I'm glad you're enjoying this tale :) I've never heard te back and froth called a dance... Loooove that description. More dancing to come.
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wow, how did I miss this chapter. It was so awesome and well written besides showing the bitchy side of Corbin. lol These guys are doing the dance of love like two pros, and you are capturing it in a perfect way. Thank youthumbsup.gif

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On 09/10/2012 08:03 AM, joann414 said:
wow, how did I miss this chapter. It was so awesome and well written besides showing the bitchy side of Corbin. lol These guys are doing the dance of love like two pros, and you are capturing it in a perfect way. Thank youthumbsup.gif
Wow. High praise. Thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it... Corbin does have his botchy side, and comes out in spades in chapter five... Can't wait to see what you think.
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A cat!? Wow. That strikes close to home. The metaphore is clear. Pete has a mind of his own. Just like cats. So pete, you are damned curious about Corbin's sex life love life. You scratching just like a cat. The question is, do i like you? The answer is no. My boy is not to be toyed with. Why dont you toy with someone other? Hey? The thing is, i really want you to toy with my boy. God im so confused. I think its time to bring Lee back for some sanity.

 

Next chapter

 

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On 10/18/2012 09:44 PM, LJH said:
A cat!? Wow. That strikes close to home. The metaphore is clear. Pete has a mind of his own. Just like cats. So pete, you are damned curious about Corbin's sex life love life. You scratching just like a cat. The question is, do i like you? The answer is no. My boy is not to be toyed with. Why dont you toy with someone other? Hey? The thing is, i really want you to toy with my boy. God im so confused. I think its time to bring Lee back for some sanity.

 

Next chapter

Lol. So I'm gathering that the back and forth is starting to frustrate you?. I love how you're protective of Corbin. We'll see if that lasts. On to the next :)
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On 04/17/2013 07:40 AM, pfox25 said:
such a good story. you're talented. thanks!!!

 

pfox

Wow. Thank you so much. I appreciate the compliment.
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The last part, well, it makes it clear that we are in for a Shakespearian level of drama/romance. Of course, love the metaphors. 🧐

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5 hours ago, jlee09 said:

The last part, well, it makes it clear that we are in for a Shakespearian level of drama/romance. Of course, love the metaphors. 🧐

It’s about to go down 🙂

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