by zoe elizabeth
1. The Laundry Room Encounter
I glanced casually over my shoulder, then to the floor, where a pool of dark blue detergent was creeping towards the tips my sandals. I hastily folded the t-shirt in my hand before snatching a stray towel from above the washers to help Bree mop up her mess.
"Thanks," she breathed as she began to herd the detergent into a smaller, more manageable patch. I took another towel to finish the job.
"What would you do without me, chica?"
Bree sighed. "Surely I would never get my laundry done, and I very well may have combusted within myself."
I chuckled. "Always with the melodrama."
She shrugged and tossed the detergent-rich towels into the nearest available washer. She tucked her hands on her hips at stared at the machine, squinting slightly as if it may give her the answer she was trying to find. Finally, she shook her head.
"I have to get some more quarters from the dorm," she announced. "I can't very well leave this shit for some other swamped freshman to take care of. Be right back."
With that, Bree scurried out of the sketchy laundry room and down the hall, leaving me alone to finish folding my stuff. I couldn't help but laugh as she fumbled with her lanyard and the door with her exit.
College had been a very interesting experience for me. Unexpectedly I had become the stubbornly independent woman I never knew existed within me. Though, laundry was my one weakness. I hated it, and I was pretty sure it hated me. Carrying my usually overflowing laundry basket down four flights of stairs to the basement laundry room was annoying as hell. Not to mention, there was always at least one creepy, soon-to-be frat guy there who would always give me pain for my Betty Boop pajamas. I was close to stabbing one of these gentlemen in the jugular with a wire-hanger-turned-shank once.
Luckily, Bree was there for me. She was just as begrudgingly lazy towards her laundry as I was, and after a few crew practices of sharing complaints about the dorm's laundry room, we became laundry buddies. Every Tuesday night at seven o'clock we'd meet in the shady room with exposed pipes and wires to get our shit washed.
And this was a pretty cool deal because we'd share detergent and swap buying the junk. It was also a great opportunity to talk about guys or Jack, the sporadic head coach of the crew program. She was also in a few of my classes (a fellow nursing major), so we could talk about class work if we so chose. Why we would: beyond me. Anyway, since we went and left together, Mr. Weirdo Zeta Alpha Guy (or whatever the fraternity name actually is) would be a bit more pressured to approach us.
It was laundry stress-free.
I smiled absentmindedly to myself as my stack of clean clothes accumulated. The pile was mostly t-shirts, greens (my high school's color) and blues (my new school's color) and just about any other color slapped one on top of the other. I felt rich.
A faint beeping tugged me away from my admiration of my collection of workout shirts. I glanced over my shoulder just in time to see the door swing open. In walked the man who had captured the attention of every freshman female rower on campus, the man of the year, a tall, skinny-muscular fellow who reeked gentleman from the tips of his brunette locks to the soles of his rubber Adidas sandals.
His name was Tom Clay, and he was the kind of guy who you looked at and just automatically assumed he went to a private school. It was in the way he carried himself, always keeping his shoulders back and up, with the traces of a little smirk always on his lips. And in fact, Tom Clay did go to private school, more specifically St. Peter's Preparatory Academy in Hammonton, New Jersey.
And at this point I would like to note that I do not know this because I am or was a crazy stalker of his. I was just fortunate enough to have known of him because St. Peter's was my school's rival.
He also happened to be dating a former teammate of mine, Josie Winters, who was a year younger than me.
Tom was whistling as he let the door shut behind him. He made a faint glance in my direction, but no greeting was exchanged between us. Understandable, considering we were never officially introduced. I only saw him at a regatta once hanging around Josie, and I made the mental connection.
Tom sat on top of one of the dryers on the other side of the laundry room, and I kept my head low as I finished folding my laundry, the little things that always drift to the bottom of the pile. I sighed quietly to myself, simply praying the electronic key pad would beep again, and Bree'd walk in jiggling her bag of quarters. Then the awkwardness would just disappear into the concrete walls.
Keeping my ears honed to any noise in the laundry room, I nearly shit myself when one of the dryers emitted a sudden shriek. My hip bumped the edge of the table I was using to fold my remaining garments, including my delicate unmentionables. I thought I had caught myself, until the table tipped, and my laundry basket full of perfectly folded clothes began to slide towards the floor. I stared in disbelief as it slid further and further away, and I had to make a decision whether or not to sacrifice my dignity by sprawling across the table to save my stupid laundry. But then as if in slow-motion, Tom lept and caught the edge of the basket as it skidded off the table.
"Whoa. Little jumpy, huh?"
Tom chuckled and gently pushed my hamper back across the table. I smiled politely, partly so he wouldn't see my stark embarrassment and partly so I wouldn't feel as goddamn awkward. I pulled the cuffs of my sweatshirt over my thumbs and shrugged.
"Uh, yeah. Just gave me a little start."
He smiled. I liked the way it looked on him.
"Yeah, sucks these things don't have a volume control or something."
I nodded in agreement as he opened the door to one of the dryers. I blinked to myself. Did we just have a conversation about a fucking cleaning appliance? Shit. Just turn back to the laundry, Mont. Refocus. Forget what has just transpired.
"You went to Ackler High, right?"
I looked back over my shoulder. Tom was back on top of his dryer folding his things. A quick, unobtrusive glance told me it was mainly gym shorts and t-shirts. Typical of a student athlete.
"Yeah. Graduated last year," I replied, looking back at him.
I didn't ask how he knew. Maybe he recognized me? I saw him at the graduation ceremony. I didn't know if I wanted to bring up the girlfriend. I'm sure if this conversation continued at all she'll come up on her own.
"Do you know Josephine Winters?" I couldn't help but grin to myself. Called it.
"Yeah, Josie. I was seven-seat on her boat last year."
And then a light bulb of complete recognition flashed across his face. He pointed at me. I smiled.
"Oh! Your name... Started with an 'M'... Mo-Mon-Monica?" His spluttering made his face redden slightly, making me chuckle.
He wrinkled his eyebrows. "How is that close?"
I shrugged. "You got the Mon."
We shared a laugh, and Tom haphazardly tossed a poorly folded shirt on his pile.
"So, Montgomery..." I wrinkled my nose when he enunciated my full name. It was awkward.
"Mont, please," I said.
He nodded. "And you can call me Tom."
I grinned. "K, Tom."
"I like it, Mont." I shook my head, picked at the hem of one of my shorts. "So you were seven-seat. You must have been some pretty tough shit."
I laughed. "Yeah, I guess. Tougher than that lightweight Josie of yours at least."
As soon as the statement slipped out of my mouth, I could visualize the stupidity in it. I clamped my mouth shut and stared at Tom with wide eyes. He looked taken aback for a good few seconds. I bit my tongue- quite literally- and looked away with reddened cheeks. Suddenly, I heard a deep laughter and looked back to see Tom with a full grin.
"Touche," he crooned.
I grinned bashfully and tossed my laundry with one hand. "I'm sorry. That was out of place. I have no disrespect for your girlfriend."
Okay. Itty bitty lie. Well, I didn't disrespect Josie, she just got on my nerves that's all. She was the youngest in her family, a family deeply rooted in successful rowers and she thought that entitled her to everything but the boat.
I hoped the lie didn't show on my face.
But I saw Tom's smile fall just a tiny fraction, barely noticeable. Sure, he was absolutely still smiling, but it didn't look as genuine as before. I thought for a moment I was just hallucinating, but it was certainly undeniable. Dammit. I knew I was never able to hold a good poker face.
We continued to stare at one another for a few moments, before I decided to turn away and relocate my laundry hamper. I fiddled with the detergent towels, and thankfully the keypad beeped again. A small gush of air blew into the room, followed by the faint jiggling of coins.
"Sorry, Mont. I forgot I had relocated my stash of quarters. Took me longer than expected."
"It's alright," I sighed.
Bree hummed as she individually popped the coins into the coin slot. I could still feel Tom sitting on the drying folding his cloths, his eyes examining Bree and me, possibly still smiling. I didn't want to chance turning around.
"You a'ight there, Mont?"
"Hm, 'cause I think you just let your lanyard slip into this load…"
I snapped to consciousness and yanked my ID out of the water. It was slightly damp. Great. Bree chuckled beside me as I blotted the water off the lanyard with a sports bra. I exhaled, trying to get myself to think of anything but the guy sitting on the dryer that Bree had yet to notice.
"See you around, Mont." I whipped around, my water-spotted bra still in my hands. Tom smirked as he carried his hamper full of clean clothes out of the laundry room. I grinned gracelessly and blushed at my bra. Bree chuckled beside me.
"What's that look about?"
I sighed and angrily threw my bra back into my hamper. "Nothing. It's nothing."
A/N: Hey guys! It's been awhile since I've posted anything on here so I'd really love to see a few comments to let me know what you think! Thanks for stopping by :)