Panties and Potted Plants
In thirty minutes I had a horticulture exam, and I was going to be late.
It didn't help that my roommate's boyfriend and his gang of male friends had weaseled their way into becoming permanent fixtures in our small rental home. Sure, it was nice when they'd occasionally fix a leaky faucet or take out the overflowing garbage, but it wasn't worth the 24/7 ESPN broadcasts and the chorus of cheers that always followed. Or how my Diet Cokes were always mysteriously disappearing and my favorite bath towel now smelt like Old Spice.
I'd pleaded with Harper to see what a disgusting brute her new boyfriend was, but she was starry eyed. So much so that she didn't even seem bothered that the remainder of his intermural soccer team had moved into our living room.
Fleeing from the bathroom to the sanctity of my bedroom, the one place the hoard of men seemed to know to stay out of, I sighed and pulled the door closed. It took more effort than it should have, but the old rickety wood frame was no longer a perfect fit. Either from swelling in the hot Texas heat for thirty years or from constant abuse from college tenants, I wasn't sure. But as the door finally clicked into place, I sighed and began to change out of my pajama pants and tank top.
Before dressing in a pair of jeans and a v-neck tee for my horticulture class, I grinned as I slid open my underwear drawer.
Harper once told me that she found lingerie degrading, and that she didn't understand the point of putting on a bunch of clothes when the point of the act was to take them all of.
Harper did not understand the power of lingerie.
There in my top dresser drawer was a pile of silk and lace - blacks and reds and flashy blues stared up at me - and while I assessed the expanse of options I'd collected over the years, my smile stretched in excitement.
Whenever I was dumped I didn't cry or take long, ice-cream binges the way my other female friends did. No, I hit Victoria's Secret and bought something slinky and sexy and wore it under my clothes until I felt good about myself again.
And while I was confident in my appearance, I always felt a boost of self-assurance whenever armed with my secret confidence weapon: sexy lingerie.
I settled on a lacy bra, where pops of pink could be seen through the black eyelets. Paired with black underwear adorned with pink bows tied on either hip, it wasn't my most elaborate set but it certainly wasn't the normal panties-and-bra combo.
It wasn't the most practical ensemble either, and while no one would ever see what was hidden beneath my jeans and burnt orange tee, the knowledge of it made me radiate self-confidence. I was impenetrable to the nasty stares my lab partner always shot me and any questions on the horticulture exam I didn't know.
Tossing on a pink satin robe, I pushed my shoulder against the ancient wooden door until it opened, and I returned to the tiny, square bathroom to curl the ends of my hair.
Being sure to slam the bathroom door back into its frame, I turned in one move and smiled at my reflection before picking up the already hot curling iron and making quick sweeps of my long, dark hair. It was only horticulture, so I didn't bother putting on makeup, and as I switched off Harper's curling iron and tamed a few stray locks of hair with my fingertips, I spun on my heel and turned the dark metal handle.
Sighing in frustration, I pulled a few more times before realizing that one of the corners of my pink robe had gotten lodged in the doorframe, making it even harder to open than usual.
With a low, breathy curse, I tugged at my robe while simultaneously yanking on the door handle. But to no avail. Giving the door a swift kick, I cursed as my bare toes made contact with the hard wood.
I was not going to fail my horticulture test because I was stuck in my small, cramped bathroom. If we'd paid more for rent, perhaps I could see complaining about the faulty doors, but as it was all I could do was bang my forearm against the door in hopes that Harper or one of the guys in our living room could help me out.
It wasn't too long before I heard a short chuckle on the other side of the door. My arm hair raised and my eyes narrowed. I'd recognize the mocking laughter of Troy Masterson any day. And I had a sneaking suspicion he was the culprit responsible for drinking my cokes and using my bath towels.
"Need some help in there?"
Sighing, I blew a stray lock of hair out of my eyes. "I'm stuck." I wouldn't admit to needing help, and certainly not help from Troy Masterson.
"You girls should really get these doors replaced."
"Hm, if only there were strong, capable men lying around the house to help with such things."
He chuckled once again before speaking up. "Move back, I'm going to see if I can get it open with my shoulder."
The bathroom was too small to take more than two steps away from the door, but even then the pink robe lodged in the doorframe wouldn't allow me much freedom.
A loud banging noise sounded on the other side of the door, followed by a stream of colorful curses from Troy's tongue. A grin inched across my features as I realized his first attempt at freeing me had been not only unsuccessful, but painful to boot. I'd been more forgiving if he'd fess up about using my things.
The second thump was louder, and as Troy's shoulder smacked the old wooden door, it flew open, taking my robe with it.
Suddenly my trick for self-confidence was making me blush, feeling exposed as Troy's eyes traveled deliberately over my scantily clad body.
"Thanks," I sniffed, pushing my shoulders back and trying to keep my embarrassment in check.
After moving up the length of my thighs, roaming the expanse of my bare stomach, and lingering far too long on my cleavage, Troy's eyes finally met mine.
"Christ Rachel," his face, usually so arrogant and sardonic, fell. "What are you wearing?"
"Underwear," I replied calmly, though I suspected he caught my hands shaking as I shrugged back into my robe, not bothering to tie up the front. "Thanks for the help."
And brushing past him, I disappeared down the hallway and into my room, being sure to leave it open a hair so as to not get stuck again. It was only ten minutes until horticulture, and it was about a twelve-minute bike ride.
Just as I was pulling on my jeans, my door opened and Troy stood in the entryway, his dark eyes on me and the confident tilt of his lips once again settling on his features. He was only three or so inches taller than me, but as he rested his hands on either side of my door and watched me I felt small in comparison.
Spinning on my heel, I narrowed my eyes. "Can I help you?"
I was conscious that my lacy, bowed bra was still exposed, and crossed my arms over my chest for good measure. Troy continued to smirk, but gave a small shrug of his shoulders.
"Where are you headed?"
"Class," I answered, avoiding eye contact as I slipped the V-neck collegiate tee over my head before sliding a pair of flats on my feet. "I have an exam in less than ten minutes, and I'm going to be late."
We lived fairly close to campus, but I couldn't afford to fork over the outrageous eight-hundred dollars for a parking permit. Hence the house Harper and I were renting that was literally falling apart around us. Between student loans and working retail, things were difficult enough to afford. Not to mention my penchant for expensive negligee…
I grabbed my spiral, pen already tucked neatly into its edge, and stuffed it in my purse. When I turned back to face Troy, I realized his eyes never left me.
"I'll drive you," he said, before stepping away and allowing me to pass.
I would have refused if it weren't for not wanting to be late for an exam. If we could avoid traffic the drive wouldn't be more than five minutes.
"Fine," I replied, as though I were the one doing him a favor, and passed through the living room avoiding Harper's questioning look and the six men sprawled across my sofas, sipping beer and watching a movie on a Friday afternoon.
Troy unlocked his black pickup, and as I slid inside I couldn't help scowling at the parking pass hanging from his rearview mirror. Between the fancy truck and the events of the day, it made my insides swell in anger.
As he pulled his truck from the curb, he shot me a funny look. "Did my rearview mirror do something to offend you?"
I frowned. "No. Just glaring at your parking pass."
He shrugged a shoulder as he switched lanes, moving towards the main road. "Oh. It came with my UDS. It's not really necessary when you live so close to campus, but it comes in handy."
At this, I blinked. "University Distinctive Scholarship?"
"What are you studying?" I found myself curious. I hadn't known Troy was a smart guy, and UDS' were full rides given for academics. In fact, I didn't know much of anything about Troy besides that he always looked amused and he smelt like Old Spice.
He replied, "Architecture. You?"
"Like potted plants?" He asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.
"More than just potted plants, but essentially, yes." We pulled onto a campus street, students crossing in front of his truck, slowing our journey. "It's the second right," I explained, and then, with a small smile, I continued, "I want to be a florist."
"So you go to the best school in Texas to study plants?"
"Yes," my eyes narrowed slightly at his insult. His tone wasn't mocking, exactly, but I'd heard similar. "I have a horticulture exam now, actually."
He laughed. "Do you always wear lingerie under your t-shirts for horticulture exams?"
A brief pause settled between us as I chewed thoughtfully on my lower lip before answering. "Yes."
"Hm." He took the second right, and glanced at me before turning his attention back to the road. "Some lucky guy also majoring in potted plants?"
"No," I rolled my eyes. "It's not about a guy. I just like feeling confident while taking tests." And giving speeches, meeting important people, going on dates… Any situation that called for a boost in self esteem.
He pulled in front of the building where my class was, and I glanced at the digital clock to see that I still had two minutes until class began. I could have hugged him, if it weren't Troy Masterson behind the wheel.
"Well, thanks for the ride," I said, before opening the passenger door and hopping out of his truck. I didn't bother to turn around as I disappeared inside the building. I was sure his eyes were still on me, the memory of what my underwear looked like now burned in his brain.
As I placed my test on the large stack, already containing more than half my peer's completed tests, I smiled faintly at my professor before slipping out into the hallway and releasing a large sigh.
I never knew how to feel after taking exams. It felt… okay, but I wasn't sure I'd aced it, though I hadn't bombed either. It was just that strange sense of completion, and as I resituated my purse further on my shoulder and felt the discomfort of lace digging into my skin, I smiled.
Even if no one knew it, I looked amazing.
My smile faltered, however, as I exited the building to find Troy leaning against the side of his dark pickup. His ankles were crossed casually as he sipped from a straw of a large McDonald's cup.
"Hey," he called as I approached. I blinked in confusion and his grin widened. "How'd it go?"
"Alright." I blinked again. "What are you doing?"
"Giving you a ride," he replied, moving to the driver's seat and getting inside. It was hot and the impractical undergarments beneath my casual clothing would be much pleasanter if I remained inside a nice, air-conditioned truck than enduring the long walk home. I didn't have my bike with me, after all.
Sighing, I opened the passenger door and slid inside. The moment I'd clicked my seatbelt in, Troy handed me a cup.
"I got you a Diet Coke."
Despite the gesture, my eyes narrowed. "So it was you."
He hid his smirk by taking another drink from his straw. My lips pressed into a thin line.
"You owe me more than just one large soda, bud."
But I grabbed the refreshing drink anyway and took a long pull from the straw.
"You have lots of flowers at your house," he said, suddenly. "I assume that was your doing?"
I nodded slowly. "Yeah."
"And the garden out back?"
"I like having plants around. It's good for you, and growing things makes me happy," I explained. While several guys knew why I wore lingerie under my clothes, none had ever bothered to comment on my garden. "It's why Harper and I have a house. I wanted a backyard."
"I like it. Reminds me of my mom. She always had fresh tomatoes and squash and shit."
Rolling my eyes at the last bit, I grinned. "Good to hear I remind you of your mother."
"Not you, Rach. The garden. You," his eyes studied me for a long moment, and I flushed under the heat of his heavy gaze, "are something else."
It wasn't until we pulled up onto the curb of my house that I realized what was in the back of Troy's pickup.
"You," I blinked but I couldn't contain the grin from inching across my features. There in the bed of his truck were three new doors. One for my room, one for Harper's, and, laughing, I realized one for the bathroom. "You are officially okay in my book, Troy."
He grinned at my words. "Not a problem. I don't want any of my friends to find you in any compromising positions."
"Oh?" I couldn't stop smiling. One of my brows arched in his direction. "Jealous?"
"A bit," he smirked. "And I can't promise you they'd be as gentlemanly as yours truly."
"I'm pretty sure a gentleman wouldn't follow a half-naked lady into her bedroom."
As he was unloading one of the doors, he shot me a look. "I'm pretty sure a lady doesn't own anything that looks like that," his eyes were once again staring at my chest. I rolled my eyes.
As I followed him up the walkway to the house, I chewed on my lower lip for a bit, watching as he propped one of the doors against the entryway.
"What do I owe you for the doors?"
"Unlimited access to your soda," he replied simply, turning back to grab the other two. I smiled as I watched him unload them, and shifted my weight to the balls of my feet. "And don't buy Diet next time."
"And use of my towel?"
"Nah," he grinned. "That I do for free."
Troy was able to convince the other guys to help install the doors, and as they worked Harper blinked at my side.
"What's gotten into him?"
I shrugged slightly. "I dazzled him with my wit?"
Harper shot me a skeptical glance before breaking out into laughter. "Oh Rachel, please tell me something's going on between you two."
It was my turn to look confused. Shaking my head, I assured her there was not.
"Hm," she shrugged. "Well whatever it is, I hope he keeps it up."
After the doors were installed, the boys fell back into their placed in front of the TV, Troy dropping onto the cushion to my right. I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from smiling as he popped the tab on one of my sodas.
Hours before it would have made my blood boil, but I simply shifted closer to him. It was strange how one short incident in my panties and one conversation about potted plants could change things.
Harper's boyfriend was flicking through channels while Harper and the guys sprawled across my living room discussed what they wanted to do this weekend. I turned my head and met Troy's eyes.
He was already looking at me.
"Can I take you out tonight?"
I shot him a playful smile. "You just want to see my underwear again."
"Yes," he nodded seriously. "I do."
"Okay," I replied, transfixed by the dark blues of his eyes. "But I don't put out on the first date."
He chuckled as he brushed a strand of hair away from my forehead. "I think I can wait."
"If we start dating, I want unlimited access to your parking pass, deal?"
His smirk widened. "Deal."
"And you?" I grinned as his eyes continued to roam across my face, as though memorizing every detail. "What do you want out of this?"
"Rach," he whispered, moving towards me so that his lips brushed just below my earlobe, "you are more than enough."
Blushing, I met Harper's eyes across the room. We'd kept our voices low, but she shot me a knowing look.
Biting my lip, I moved so that my back was flush against Troy's chest, and as we halfheartedly watched television with our friends his knuckles brushed the side of my hip and my head rested against his shoulder.
I could feel the lace of my bra each time I shifted. There was really something to say about the power of sexy lingerie, though part of me wondered if the rush of happiness had more to do with Troy than anything else.