“Wait! Please, hold the door,” I screeched while running down the hall as the elevator doors began to close. The guy inside reached out his arm, covered in swirls of dark ink, and stuck his hand between the closing doors causing them to spring back open.
“Since you said please,” he replied with an eyebrow cocked, and I was taken aback by his slight accent that I couldn’t quite place, but it didn’t seem to match his rugged exterior.
“Thanks,” I muttered, out of breath, craning my neck to smile up at him in appreciation. “I should have yelled Hodor, right? I mean... that would have...” I shook my head, losing faith in my own joke halfway through my sentence. My voice was barely audible as I continued to ramble. “That was a Game of... never mind. It was stupid. You probably have no idea what I’m talking about, and now I’m talking to myself. Awesome.” The doors began to close, and I was forced to stand beside the stranger and wallow in my humiliation.
The corners of his lips turned up slightly in a grin, but he didn’t respond, and my gaze fell. The inked designs that covered the flesh of his arms disappeared under the short sleeve of his basic white t-shirt and reappeared out of the collar, running under the edge of his angular jaw. My eyes continued traveling upward past the small silver orb piercing the side of his nose to the crystal blue of his eyes, which were in sharp contrast of his thick brows that were the same color as his chestnut hair. It was shaved close on the sides with the hint of more ink underneath, but the top was a few inches long, parted on the side and combed back at an angle. I couldn’t look away, not only because he was incredibly hot, but because he looked like trouble. Had I had time to think before diving into this small space with him, I would have probably waited for the next one and conceded to being late.
The muffled sound of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto filled the awkward silence as if he’d come with his own mismatched theme music, and it took me a second to realize the sound was coming from my messenger bag.
“Sorry,” I muttered, not entirely sure what I was apologizing for as I pulled it out and clicked to answer the call.
“Did you hear?” Gigi asked, not bothering with a greeting.
“What?” I asked glancing up at the stranger, gripping the strap of my bag tighter.
“Some guy got in a fight and beat the hell out of like three people up on Dani’s floor. Everyone is talking about it. Did you remember to grab your pepper spray?”
“A fight?” My heart that was still thudding from my impromptu jogging was now beginning to accelerate further. He hadn’t looked like he’d been in a brawl, but I guess that could be because he’d been on the winning end.
He glanced down at me, raising his index finger to his lips, gesturing for me to keep his presence a secret but at the moment, all I could think about was how lucky his finger was to be pressed against his mouth.
“I haven’t heard anything.”
His hand dropped to his side, and he winked, sending butterflies into frantic flight inside of my stomach.
The dinging of the elevator bell jolted me from my deep scrutiny of the stranger, and the doors slid open. Two campus security guards stood on the other side, panting. He bolted between them, knocking one to the ground. I pressed my hands against the back wall of the elevator car trying to figure out what the hell had just happened. The guard that remained standing pulled the other to his feet, and they gave chase, screaming after him to stop.
I reluctantly stepped out of the confined space, glancing around to the few other students milling around the lobby area with their attention locked onto the smartphones, oblivious to the scene that had unfolded before them.
“Hello? Earth to Henley,” Gigi’s voice was laced with annoyance.
“It’s in my bag, but I haven’t talked to anyone. I stayed up studying until three in the morning for that bio quiz and now I’m late... as usual. Not that anyone would notice or care anyway.” I could almost hear her rolling her eyes.
“You’re rambling... what happened?”
“Nothing! I’m just running late. That’s all.”
“Before college is over, we need to get you a life. You’re missing out on the best parts. After school, it’s nothing but bills and disappointment.”
“We’ve talked about this. I have to go.”
“Wait! There is a dollar beer night tonight at Filly’s.”
“Not a chance,” I snapped. “Remember the last time I got drunk?”
“Yeah,” she laughed loudly into the phone, and I held it away from my ear for a few seconds until the cackling died down. “How could I forget? You told Molly to break up with Jacob because you were Team Edward. It was really embarrassing... for you.”
“Laugh it up, but Jacob did turn out to be a real dog. I called it.”
“You’re such a dork. Just think about it. You know I make questionable decisions when I’m wasted. Don’t make me fend off the beasts on my own. Have you already forgotten when I brought home that asshole and he threw up on your bed?”
“Yeah, thanks for bringing him to my room, by the way. Tanner appreciated the mess she had to clean while I was at my mom’s house.”
The phone was silent for a moment. “Shit, Henley. I’m sorry for bringing her up. How is she?”
“Her mom said she isn’t coping well with being back home.” I shook my head, ridding the thoughts of how close my roommate had come to losing her life at the hands of her boyfriend who’d driven drunk. He hadn’t been as lucky. “She misses John... and she hates herself for it.”
“Maybe we can do something for her. Send her a basket or something.”
“That'd be great. I couldn’t imagine having to start all over again.”
“Think about tonight.”
“I’ll consider it.” I rolled my eyes and ended the call before she could go on. I had absolutely no intention of going out with her tonight. I needed every waking moment I could spare to catch up on work I had missed while visiting back home. My mother had one of her episodes, refusing to bathe or eat for days, and I had to check her into the hospital so they would force her back on her medications. I spent the following week sorting out the mounting medical bills and filling her new prescriptions. We were all each other had in this world while my dad was gone, and when she needed me, I dropped everything to be by her side.