I couldn't wait to get lost in it all. The freedom of not living with my parents, of being an official adult. College life had always intrigued me and excited me. It was like a blessing to actually be here.
The drive here had been horrendously long. And the process of unloading boxes and carrying them into my new dorm room had been completely tiresome as well. But thankfully my parents were now leaving after a long freshman move-in day.
I said my goodbyes to them in the parking lot, where we had finally finished emptying boxes from the car. My mom got tears in her eyes when I hugged her one last time.
"Mom... stop." I complained.
I guess it was just because I was her first born child, meaning I was the first to be heading off to college. She needed to realize that my little brother and sister would still be at home to keep her company. They were still in middle school. It'd be several years before she'd have to say goodbye to them.
"Just be safe, James." She demanded, pointing a finger in my face playfully. She sniffled and wiped away her tears, smiling.
I gave my dad a quick hug as well. He had that mischievous glint in his eye, like he knew what my intentions were this year. I was here to get a degree, of course. But I would be partying and having fun along the way. And I guess Dad knew that. But he smiled nonetheless. I guess he agreed that college wasn't just for studying. It was for having fun, too.
"Don't get too wild." He warned.
"I won't." I laughed, "I'll be safe, I promise." I looked at my mom as I said it.
I bade them one last quick goodbye and an eye-rolling I love you before they finally departed, my mother teary-eyed once again. I watched them drive away, and I waved as their car turned the corner.
I took a breath and realized that I was completely free to do whatever the hell I wanted. It was like being reborn. It was the start of a new life. I excitedly half-walked half-ran back to my dorm building. Nickerson Hall, the freshman dorm. I hadn't been to my room in a few hours, maybe my roommate had finally showed up. I hadn't met him yet, and I was excited to see who I would be living with for the next semester or two.
I'd heard from upperclassmen that you don't always befriend your roommates. For freshman year, sometimes they can simply be someone you live with. You aren't necessarily best friends by the time the semester is over. And then by sophomore year, you get to pick your roommates, so you can room with your real friends. But I was hopeful anyway. I wanted my roommate to become a good buddy of mine. I hoped those roommate surveys had actually worked. Hopefully we were somewhat compatible.
As I headed down the hall and into room 125, I was happy to see that my roommate had arrived. He was unloading a box full of clothes into the empty wardrobe that I hadn't claimed.
"Hey man!" I greeted, thrusting out my hand.
He turned and shook my hand warmly with a smile.
"You must be my new roommate." He said. His voice was friendly.
"Yeah, I'm James Radine."
"Ryan McMahon." He introduced himself.
I got a good look at him. Ryan was a skinny kid with somewhat pale skin. He was a bit shorter than me. His hair was blonde, but it had natural tints of red and brown. Or maybe it was just the lighting in this room. He had a bright white smile and dazzlingly perfect teeth. He seemed cool.
The two of us sorted out who would be using which bed, which desk, which wardrobe. We firmly established the outline of our room and I helped him unpack a few things. We signed the required roommate contract and turned it in to our RA, Lars. What a weird name for a person.
"So where you from, Ryan?" I asked as I unpacked my comforter and made my bed.
"About two hours away, in a really small town." He said, "Thank God I'm out of there."
I chuckled. "Not much to do out there?"
He laughed softly to himself, as if he knew something I didn't. "Yeah."
"Did your parents bring you to school, or did you drive here yourself?" I asked.
"They drove me." He said, "They left already."
"Freedom!" I shouted playfully.
He laughed. But once again it was to himself, as if he had a secret. His own personal inside joke.
I was about to ask him more about his parents, but he cut me off with, "What about you? Where are you from?"
"I'm from up north, actually. The drive down here was like eight hours." I groaned. Driving the length of California was never fun. I'd had to endure it several times as a kid, coming to visit family and such. But I had never gotten used to it.
"Brutal." Ryan commented, "Especially with your parents in the car. That's gotta be the worst."
I laughed a bit. "They're not so bad." I said, "I just got sick of them after 18 years."
"I hear ya." He said.
Ryan plopped down on his bed and took out his laptop. I wanted to ask him more questions to get to know him better. I wanted us to be good friends. He seemed like a nice enough guy, and I just wanted to get to know the person I would be living with for the next nine months. But it almost seemed like he was avoiding conversation with me. Or maybe I was just imagining things.
I left him alone for a while, not wanting to completely badger him with questions and annoy him.
I finished unpacking all my things instead. You'd think that two college guys wouldn't care about unpacking right away. But for some reason I just wanted to make my new dorm room feel like home. I loved being free of my parents and living the college life. So far, it was fantastic. All the freshman orientation meetings I'd been to today had been so much fun for me. I'd met several new people that seemed awesome. And now all I wanted to do was settle into my room.
Once I had finished setting everything up the way I liked it, Ryan closed his laptop and smiled at me. So maybe it was just in my head that he was avoiding me. Now he seemed like he wanted to get to know me.
"You got a girlfriend back home, James?" He asked me with an impish smirk on his face.
I laughed at the absurdity of that idea. I don't think I'd ever been in a relationship serious enough to last. Sure, I'd been with several girls. But to be completely honest, each relationship had been purely sexual.
"No." I laughed, "Definitely not."
"Why?" He asked.
"I don't know, man. I've just never been serious with a girl before, I guess."
"You mean, not serious enough to last through college?"
He nodded in understanding. He sat up, cross-legged on his bed.
"What about you?" I asked, "Got yourself a girl?"
He laughed embarrassedly and looked down at his hands. The skin on his cheekbones grew red instantly. "No..." He said, smiling, "No, I don't."
Why was he so embarrassed, I wondered? He was probably just lying. Or maybe he had just broken up with someone and was still sensitive about it. I felt a sudden bout of sympathy for him. I'd never had my heart broken, but I could still understand that it was hard.
"Aw, why not?" I asked carefully.
He laughed nervously again and refused to look at me.
"Actually... uh..." I didn't think it was possible but his cheeks got even redder.
"What?" I asked.
Well, I definitely hadn't expected that. Right away, I knew that I was fine with it. But it took me a moment to fully process the fact that I would be living with a gay guy for the next nine months. It still didn't bother me. It's not like it's his fault or anything. But it might be a tad embarrassing to change clothes in front of him. I prayed that there wouldn't be any awkwardness between us.
"Dude, that's okay." I said.
He looked up at me, the red in his cheeks fading a little bit. He seemed surprised at my reaction.
"Seriously?" He asked.
"Yeah, of course." I nodded. I could see why he would expect me to take it badly. Maybe people hadn't been very accepting of him in the past.
A relieved smile spread across his face.
"Dude, I was super worried that I was gonna be living with a homophobic asshole." He laughed, "Thank God you're not like that."
"Definitely not." I smiled.
"You have no idea..." He put a hand over his heart, as if he were out of breath, "I was so nervous about coming to school."
I felt bad for him. I never realized what a big deal it must be for gay people to come out of the closet. Especially coming to a brand new school like this...
"Don't be." I told him, "It's totally fine."
He smiled at me. Sure he's gay, but his smile was merely friendly and nothing more. Just because he likes dick doesn't mean he wants mine. That thought made me a bit more comfortable.
The rest of the night, the two of us were able to talk and hang out without any awkwardness. It was like we were able to be more honest with each other now that there were no secrets between us. Sure, we were just getting to know each other. But the elephant in the room had been discussed and now we were free to talk about anything.
I was still hopeful that Ryan and I would become good friends. His sexuality didn't have anything to do with it. We could still be close. I just couldn't talk to him about hot girls or anything. But that didn't bother me.
And so, my first semester of college began, with a somewhat unexpected start.
A/N: So there you have it. This is a brand new story, so bear with me. I don't know these characters very well just yet. But I'll get to know them, and so will you. :] This story is not going to be quite as meaningful as Wilson & Taylor. Maybe a bit more fluffy. But still fun to read! Reviews, please!
PS: The Wilson & Taylor sequel is gonna have to be put on hold for a while. I still don't know if I'm gonna end up doing one at all. We'll see.