He made her feel like she was constantly spinning – like a washing machine. Which was rather inconvenient, because he'd pulled her out of one once, and she'd rather not be reminded of that.
Just some fluff inspired by the Star-Crossed challenge over on ADoR. There's a link in my profile so you can better view the Laundry prompt I've chosen. I've also made it the cover for this story.
"Campus life is great," I mumbled beneath my breath, so beyond caring if someone overheard me talking to myself. Again. It was two in the morning anyway, so if anyone else was awake at this time and anywhere near the washing machines they were either drunk or crazy. I didn't mind being overheard by either. They probably wouldn't remember anyway.
Resting the weight of my over-stuffed laundry basket on my left hip, I made it down the last two stairs without falling flat on my face. Or backwards onto my butt. Either way, I was rather proud of myself and celebrated with a little dance as I entered the laundry room.
"Campus life is great," I said aloud, again, reminding myself that it did have its perks. Even if my dorm only have four working washing machines wasn't one of them.
I'd come down to do my laundry at 6:00 p.m. that evening, but they were all being used. Again at 8:45, and still no luck. When I'd come down at midnight to find a boy using all four machines simultaneously I almost lost my shit.
"It's important to separate your darks from your whites, your towels from your delicates," he'd said, glancing up from an anatomy textbook before promptly dismissing me.
The weight of my entire wardrobe was as heavy then as it was now, but thankfully at 2:00 a.m. the laundry room was wonderfully, blissfully empty.
I dropped the basket unceremoniously onto the linoleum floor and ignored Laundry Boy's advice in favor of dumping the contents - intimates, towels and jeans alike - into the first available washer. I'd never cared much for sorting.
When it was clear that the machine was too full to close, I grabbed half the clothes and stuffed them into a second machine. And then I stood there, stupidly, because my roll of quarters had been sitting atop the basket. Which meant it was currently at the bottom of the first machine.
I sighed. Making talking aloud to myself a habit, I mumbled, "Well, shit" before leaning over and rifling through the contents of the first laundry machine.
The roll of quarters was just within my grasp. I fingered the hard tube a couple times before it slipped further from grasp. Each inch it shifted away was another inch I had to lean further into the machine. The smell of my dirty laundry wasn't helping, and finally abandoning all hope – and, debatably, all sense – I kicked my legs up and dove, face first, into the machine.
"Aha!" I mumbled through the filter of dirty laundry the moment the roll of quarters was in my grasp. But when I attempted to shimmy back down from my place, face first in a dorm laundry machine which had serviced far too many of my peers' unmentionables, I couldn't. quite. get. out.
"Crap." I used my waist to try and flip out, but the pile of clothing kept me lodged inside. "No," I groaned. This was not how I pictured dying. Suffocating in a pile of soiled clothes. And towels. And panties. Crap. I should really think about sorting…
And then, in a stroke of genius, I took the roll of quarters and slammed them against the side of machine. Being sure to make as much noise as possible.
It took at least fourteen slams of metal coin against metal washing machine before someone came to my rescue.
"What the fuck are you doing?" a masculine voice growled. I couldn't see how close, but it sounded like he was in the laundry room. "You know it's two in the morning." The words were there, but it wasn't articulated as a question. No. He just sounded pissed. Rightly so. I'd more than likely woken him up.
"Uh… I need a hand," I replied. My voice muffled by all the laundry. "I'm stuck."
I shrugged, but my savoir couldn't see it since I was face-first in a washing machine. "As in… I can't get out."
There was silence. I wondered if my savior had abandoned me.
"I'm not drunk or crazy," I assured, only half-sure someone was still there. "I just dropped my quarters in the load and now I'm… well, I can't get out. Think you could lend a hand?"
A pair of footsteps approached, a pair of firm hands gripped my akimbo legs, and then I was being pulled, lifted and set feet-first on the ground.
With a sigh, I opened my eyes. "Thank you, I was—" All words died on my tongue.
My savior was flipping gorgeous. Dark hair, strong jaw, broad shoulders encased in a faded t-shirt. "Er. Thanks," I finished in a rush, hoping to keep my tangled thoughts from falling out of my mouth – all at once as I was prone to doing in a crunch.
My savoir cocked an inquisitive brow in my direction, took a step back and pointed to his own head of dark hair. "You've got underwear in your hair."
And then he was gone.
Alone, I removed the lacy blue thong from my head and bit my lip.
I definitely wasn't drunk. But there was a slight chance I was, maybe, a tad, crazy.
"Tell it again," my roommate said through a mouthful of cafeteria pancakes.
I lodged my fork into my pile of waffles and frowned. "No."
"Then just tell the part where he told you you had knickers in your hair." Beth flashed both rows of her teeth, a deviously sweet smile, before laughing again. "Hey, there's Adam. Adam! Sit! Freya has the most delightful story for you."
"I do not," I said to Beth. And then to Adam, I repeated, a bit nicer, "I don't."
But Beth was having none of it. "Freya fell into a washing machine last night, and when a cute guy came to her rescue she had panties in her hair!"
When put like that, it wasn't all that funny. Adam frowned in sympathy and set down with his breakfast tray. "I'm sorry, Freya."
"Thank you," I replied. And flashing Beth a look, I said, "See? That's how nice people react to embarrassing news."
"Oh you two are so boring." Then Beth was cutting her pancakes into perfect little triangles and being completely oblivious to the admiring gazes Adam was casting her.
The three of us had Engineering Ethics together at 9:10, so after breakfast we started the short trek across campus to the big stone building where our class was held. We took our seats at our usual table and Beth got out her pen and that day's crossword from the school's paper.
"4 Across," she mumbled for the third time. "Shakespearean foe. I'm an engineering major - how many Shakespearean villains should I be able to name?"
"Iago?" I offered.
"No," she grumbled. "Too short. I need a villain with seven letters."
"Are you sure it isn't Shakespeare's foe, and not a Shakespearean foe?" Adam asked, not looking up from his True Crime novel.
Beth and I shared a blink, to which Adam sighed. "Marlowe. Shakespeare's foe in life."
"Aha!" Beth exclaimed, cramming the letters into their little boxes. "Thanks a million Adam!"
I blinked. "Who's Marlowe?"
Adam shook his head. "Author of Faustus. And… gah, you girls are useless. Shakespeare is highly overrated, sure, but to not even know who Marlow is?"
"Overrated?" Beth rolled her eyes. I couldn't fight the grin tugging at my lips. One of their lover's quarrels was about to go down. I only wished I had popcorn. "How can you compare Doctor Faustus to Romeo and Juliet?"
"Romeo and Juliet?" Adam asked, sounding incredulous. "That's your go-to defense of Shakespeare's writing. At least go with one of his histories. They have substance."
Beth stiffened. "I love Romeo and Juliet. It's a beautiful play."
"I bet you find it romantic."
"It is romantic."
"It isn't romantic in the least. It's about reckless, idiotic teenagers."
"They were young, sure, but that doesn't make their love any less romantic."
Adam frowned. "Romeo was in love with Rosaline one day, and then Juliet the next. He only moves on to Juliet because she actually puts out. That isn't romantic."
"It was love at first sight. Sometimes people hit it off in the beginning. Other relationships take time to get it right. By the end of the play Romeo grows up so much because of his love, and he chooses death over not being able to live without his love. That's romantic, Adam, at any age. And the language is..." Beth sighed, at a loss for words. Clearly, she was no Shakespeare. "Perfect."
"Fine. But it doesn't change the fact that they knew one another for all of three days and ended up getting four other people killed." He shot me me a look, as though he'd given up on changing Beth's mind and thought he'd convince me instead. "There's nothing romantic about that. Irresponsible and selfish, sure. But the play's not the greatest love story of all time."
Beth opened her mouth but Adam cut her off with a teasing smile.
"Regardless, Marlowe doesn't get half the credit he deserves."
I watched them exchange a glance before Beth turned up her nose and moved onto the next clue in her crossword. "Marlowe's lame. Shakespeare is the greatest playwright for a reason. Capital of Peru… Lima. L-I-M-A."
Adam watched her with a lot of longing and I wanted to scream just get a room already! but instead I took a sip of coffee and got out my notes for the lecture.
After class, we filed out of class. Adam was listening as Beth gave a detailed recap of a show he wasn't the least bit interested in, and I checked my phone for texts.
When I glanced up from my cell, it was as though all the cells in my body froze.
And then I was leaping behind a recycle bin and crouching beside its green berth. Beth's voice came to a halt, and both she and Adam sent me twin looks.
"Are you mental?" Beth asked.
"Is he gone?"
Adam craned his neck. Subtlety wasn't one of his strong points. "Is who gone?"
"The guy in the grey sweatshirt."
"The cute guy in the grey sweatshirt?" Beth asked.
I sighed. So. Apparently he wasn't gone quite yet. I sunk further out of view. Adam frowned.
"Is that the guy who saw you with panties on your head?"
I leaned my forehead against the recycling can before remembering it was a public piece of property people threw their garbage in. Scrubbing my brow with my hand, I replied, "Yes."
Beth laughed and Adam bent down at my side.
"Were they sexy panties at least?"
"Then you have nothing to worry about." He winked. "Guys will look past all sorts of insanity for a glimpse at sexy underwear."
Friday night the three of us crowded into one of our small college town's bars. Pub, really. Lots of knotted pine and Guinness posters. The air smelled faintly of smoke, but it wasn't unbearable. Adam went to buy the first round, and I knew he'd need to drink extra. The moment he returned to our table, Beth announced,
"Let's find me a guy. I want to get laid tonight." Her words basically ripping out Adam's heart. He took a few swallows and I bit my lip. I should tell her. Really. But it'd never felt right, spilling Adam's secret. We'd been the best of friends for two years now, and it'd only serve to make things awkward. I couldn't afford to go get new friends this late in the game.
No. I'd just have to sit by and awkwardly let things work themselves out. Either Adam would get over his love affair with the oblivious nutcase, or Beth would wisen up and see what's been in front of her all this time.
"There're some cute guys over there," Beth continued. Her eyes were sparkling. I sighed and followed Adam's lead - taking a few too many eager swallows of beer. And then I dutifully followed my friend to the bar top. Beers were overpriced here, so if I had to make smalltalk to save a few bucks, so be it.
Beth twirled a lock of hair between her fingers and jutted her chest forward. It seemed an unnatural move. I tried but sure enough it looked as ridiculous and it felt.
"What are you doing?" she hissed.
"Nothing," I mumbled in reply. Then returned to normal. One of the men in the semicircle managed to peel his eyes away from Beth's chest long enough to order a round of drinks. When he handed me a pint glass, I sniffed the surface, took a sip and frowned.
I wasn't a big fan of IPA's. Neither was Beth, but she drank without complaint.
"I'm going to go hang out with Adam," I said, but my friend only nodded absently. When I took my seat at the table beside Adam, he sighed.
"She drunk yet?"
"No. Are you?"
"Working on it."
"It'd be a lot easier on all of us if you'd just nut-up and tell her how you feel."
Adam didn't reply. Just took another long chug from his glass and we sat in silence. A baseball game was playing on one of the television sets, and a group of men sat below - watching the screen intently.
"Somebody ought to tell them that baseball's not very exciting."
Adam snorted. "I don't think they'd appreciate your opinion."
I shrugged. Beth was still twirling her hair and sticking out her chest and drinking beer she didn't like. I turned my attention back to the guys watching baseball, then moved to another group of guys. They were playing darts and drinking and talking and laughing. I froze.
It was him. My hunky savoir from the dorm's laundry room. The one who thought I was probably a bit metal.
Adam frowned. "Everything okay Free?"
"Nope. It's that guy. The one who pulled me from the washing machine."
He glanced across the bar, looking for a familiar face. "The one who made you jump behind a trash can?"
"It was a recycling bin."
"The one that saw your panties?"
"You should go talk to him."
"No. No. I'd rather… Sit."
I watched him, though. I told myself it wasn't in a creepy stalker way, but it kind of was. He laughed with his friends, sipping beer and watching the others throw darts. He looked over and caught me staring. Lifting a single brow in my direction, he kept his eyes on me. Daring me to look away first. Not sure what else I could do, I lifted a brow in return. Keeping eye contact, I lifted my pint glass and took a sip. The taste of IPA assaulted my tongue and my face scrunched.
Then Gorgeous Savoir was headed in my direction and I looked to Adam.
"He's coming over."
Adam grinned as the stranger approached.
"Hi, I'm Adam," he said. "I hear you saved my friend Freya here from Death by Washer."
"I didn't have much of a choice. She was making so much noise I'm surprised she didn't wake the whole floor."
Adam grinned. "Freya tends to make a lot of noise."
"That sounds sexual, Adam," I replied. Neither guy seemed off-put. Adam took a sip of beer and said,
"I have no interest in hearing your bedroom noises."
"Such a charmer." And then to my savior, who was watching us without an ounce of amusement, I explained, "He's hopelessly in love with my best friend. Who is currently flirting with Mr. Popped Collar over there." Nodding my head in the direction of where Beth stood giving herself a hair tourniquet.
"Shit." Adam downed his beer.
"You should probably go intervene." I'd meant it to sound helpful, but it came out sounding pathetic.
Adam seemed to weigh those options for a long moment. I looked away from Twirling Hair Beth to Debating Adam to Scowling Savoir. I should probably learn his name. With little fanfare, Adam hopped off his barstool and started towards Beth. However, he stopped suddenly, sputtered a moment, and then turned the bar. A cardigan-wearing brunette was squinting at the bar taps, and when she turned to him an endearing blush dotted her cheeks. Adam said something to her, leaned against the wooden lip of the bar, and smiled his easy smile. He had no idea what that smile did to nice, unsuspecting women everywhere. Cardigan girl was a goner.
"He doesn't look that hung-up on your friend."
"He is. But that girl's cute. Who can blame him?"
"Hn." My savoir grunted. And then he took Adam's vacant chair. My spine straightened but I tried to keep my composure.
"Don't you have friends?" I asked. Then squinted. That came off wrong. Harsh. But…
He smirked. "Don't you?"
"They've seemed to abandoned me."
"Mine are playing darts." He nodded towards a group of guys crowding the dart board beneath one of the television sets.
"And you're no good?" I asked.
"I didn't say that."
"Well, you're not playing…"
"Are you good at darts?"
I shrugged. "I'm okay." Actually, I was more than just okay. There was a dartboard in my parent's garage back home that I spent countless hours practicing on. Beth and I had a little magnetic one that we played with when we drank at our dorm. Beth was terrible, so I'd never splurged for anything with a point. She'd just end up putting holes in the door. And the wall. And our guests, probably.
He got off his chair and started in the direction of his friends and the dart board. I watched him go, my mouth still open ready for a reply he hadn't hung around long enough to listen for. Then, with a shake of my head, I got up and grabbed my beer and followed the nameless savoir. My friends were too busy flirting with not one another.
And Handsome Savoir was, well, handsome.
"What's your name?"
"How about I tell if you if you beat me."
"And if you beat me?" I asked. It felt a bit like flirting. Which was strange. He did something funny to my insides. It felt like I was spinning.
"You'll buy me a drink."
It was a win-win, really. I needed a new beer anyhow.
Handsome Savoir picked up a red and black striped dart, squinted an eye and lobbed the dart with ease. He had good form. Solid, sure. It was quite sexy. The dart sailed in a straight path and landed two inches from the bright red center. Just outside the bulls-eye. He smirked, obviously pleased with himself.
I took a sip of my beer. Ugk. IPA's were the worst. Why was I still drinking that damn thing? Then I handed the glass to him, plucked a green-and-black dart and shot it towards the target. It landed just over an inch from the bulls-eye. I turned and shot him a coy smile.
He smirk didn't falter. "You said you weren't good."
"No. I said I was okay." I stretched on my toes and extended my hand. He handed over my beer while I cocked my head to one time. "Your name?"
"Well Jake," I said, trying out the name. It was nice. Fitting. "One more go. Loser buys drinks?"
He shook his head. "Fine."
We each took turns and, once more, I was the victor. I refrained from shouting like a spartan warrior. No reason to give him any more clues how insane I was.
Jake sighed. "I walked right into that one."
There it was again, the spinning sensation. And we hadn't even talked about what an idiot I'd been, getting underwear stuck in my hair and jumping behind recycle bins. Although, he didn't know about the second one.
Setting my half-empty beer on an empty table, I followed Jake to the bar. Jake asked what I wanted and I asked for a stout; he turned to order and I glanced around, only to find Beth standing at my right.
"Hey," she greeted. Her head turned each way before scrunching in confusion. "Where's Adam."
"Flirting with that girl in the cardigan." I gave a wave, a vague gesture to the other side of the bar and watched as her face contorted from confusion to anger to… surely that wasn't hurt. But perhaps. "Jealous?"
"No. No. I'm just…." She shrugged. "Maybe we should go."
I turned to Jake as he handed over my beer.
"Leaving?" he asked. He was probably drunk, because he didn't seem all that upset about my waking him up at two in the morning.
"In a bit." I smiled. "Thanks for the beer."
Bass thumped from 401B's room. The doors were open and the hallway was crowded with students. Some leaned against the wall, clutching red plastic cups as they attempted to hold conversations above the pounding music. Some people were weaving through the crowd, room hopping. Our floor was throwing an open-party, and every dorm was fair game. Even Daphne Delfree, who never opened her door even if you needed a hair tie and your roommate was entertaining gentleman callers. Tonight her door was wide open and she was passing out plastic necklaces like they were going out of style. A proud grin plastered to her usually scowling features.
Adam and Beth were dancing in Eric Albright's room, pretending they weren't hopelessly in love with one another. And I was here. In the hallway. Alone.
Though I did scan the floor for a familiar face. Jake lived on the first floor of the dorm, of course, but it seemed like the entire building was present.
And then I spotted him. Chatting with two guys I recognized from some of my engineering classes. When he looked in my direction, I smiled. The smile fell the moment I realized it was obvious I'd been staring at him. A week before we'd seen one another at a pub, but I'd had to leave because Beth - who'd spent the entire evening sticking out her chest for some douchey-looking assface - was jealous over Adam giving someone else his undivided attention. His attention was, obviously, reserved for Beth and Beth alone.
So I'd finished the delicious beer quickly - too quickly - and headed home. With only a a goodbye. Which was pathetic.
Shit. He was headed this way. There it was: The Spinning.
"Freya," Jake greeted.
"This your floor?"
I nodded. "Yep." Inclining my head towards the open door to our left, I added, "This is my room." Which would've been a come-on if it weren't for the floor party going on around us.
And then I was leading him towards mine and Beth's room. There were people hanging about. Thankfully no one was sitting on my bed. That would be… inconvenient. And gross. A floor party was a bad idea. Some stranger had his foamy beer on my desktop. One wrong move and he could spill it across its surface. I had my laptop locked in the cabinet, but that didn't mean I wanted to scrub a sticky work surface…
Jake's voice pulled my attention away from the desk. "You have a dart board in your room."
He only frowned, his eyes still on the little magnetic board. After a good bit of silence, he said, "I know you."
My features fell. What? "Uh, what?"
"You were in my thermodynamics class last year."
Huh. I had taken thermo last year, but I didn't recognize Jake from any of my classes. Thermo had been a fairly big lecture, 75-80 people, but surely I would've recognized someone like him. Jake was, well, good-looking. And decent.
Jake shrugged. "You're a girl. You stick out more in engineering classes."
Then he inclined his head towards the dart board. "Another round?"
"Sure. What does the winner get?"
"Is it always about gambling for you?"
"There's just not a lot of fun in playing without a little risk."
"Fine. If you win, it's a surprise."
"And if you beat me?"
He took a moment to decide. "If I win, it's up to you."
It wasn't much of a bet, but I grinned and quickly retrieved the magnetic darts and handed him the red set. I took the first black dart and tossed all three at the undersized board. One sailed slightly too far to the left, but the other two were almost dead on.
Jake took his turn, his movements careful as he wound his arm back and forth a few times. Each dart was tossed with careful finess, and each dart clustered around the middle of the target. Not one was skewed too far in any direction, and so he was the clear victor.
Crap. Was I supposed to come up with something? No idea was forthcoming. He couldn't even buy me a drink, since the beer from the keg was free.
Without waiting for me to come up with anything, Jake grabbed my hand and started leading me out of the room. Through the hallway, past the room that was making up a makeshift dance floor. I glanced inside, but I could not find any sign of Beth or Adam. Jake continued to pull me through the hallway, down the staircase and to the main floor.
For a moment, I thought he was leading me to his room and - even though it felt a bit cavemanish - I flushed with anticipation.
Instead, he pulled me into the laundry room.
Huh. It was empty. Apparently now was a good time to get some laundry in. Where were all the people? Oh. Probably enjoying the free booze available on my floor.
Jake looked at me, still having the uncanny ability to make me feel like I was spinning. A bit like one of the washing machines, which was inconvenient since it reminded me a bit of the first time we'd met. When he'd pulled me out of one.
"I recognized you here," he said, voice cutting into the humming silence of the laundry room. "You were the girl from thermo who snacked on peanut M&Ms and asked questions. Lots of questions."
Oh, yeah. I tended to ask too many questions in class. It drove Beth and Adam insane.
"Even though you woke me up that night, I wanted to do this."
Before i could ask what this was, Jake kissed me.
And, yeah, the spinning stopped. Everything stopped. And then his lips were firmer and my lips were parting and the spinning was back, faster and surer than ever before. I knew then that, when the word stopped spinning again, nothing would be the same again.
When Jake pulled away, I was positive I was blushing.
"Thanks for saving me that night," I said.
He smirked. "I didn't. But I'm glad you woke me up anyway."
"I had underwear in my hair."
His smirk tugged into a grin. "Yes. You did."
"Adam said guys will look past all sort of crazy for a glimpse at sexy underwear."
Jake laughed. It was a deep, pleasant chortle. Sent a jolt straight to my lady-bits. "Adam might be on to something. I thought you were crazy long before I pulled you out of a washing machine."
"But you wanted to see my panties?"
He kissed me again. When he pulled away, he confirmed, "Yes. I wanted to see your panties."