“How about a heads up next time you leave a party we went to together! I spent an hour frantically looking for you! There was a couple locked in a bedroom and I stood outside banging on the door thinking it might be you inside being date-raped by a jock!! I’ve never heard that much cussing in my life when the girl finally opened at the door and told me to shove off!”
Alanna waited patiently until Maria finished her tirade and then asked, “So did Terrence ask you out?”
Alanna assumed that he had and thought this question would assuage Maria. She was mistaken. Terrence had spent all night asking questions about Alanna until Maria finally excused herself and went to hang out with some of the other guys she knew there.
“No, he didn’t.”
They lapsed into an awkward silence for a few minutes. But Maria couldn’t hold a grudge against Alanna for long. She loved her like a sister and she knew Alanna wasn’t to blame for Maria’s failed romantic endeavour.
“So, Damon mentioned that he talked to you last night…”
Maria grinned as Alanna blushed scarlet and looked out the window. Alanna was still confused by the events of the previous evening. Her encounter with Damon had left her distinctly unsettled. He seemed like a nice person; mischievous, but nice. But every time she started to think that she remembered ….
Alanna resolved to avoid Damon from now on. She had good reason not to trust him and she wouldn’t let one cute, dimpled smile convince her otherwise.
“That was the first and last time we ever will.”
She said it with such conviction and with an edge to her voice that made Maria wonder for the hundredth time what and who had hurt Alanna in the past. Maria wisely kept her questions to herself but she was now determined to get to the bottom of this mystery.
If Alanna knew the silent promise Maria had just made, she would have transferred immediately. It was a secret Alanna hoped no one here would ever find out. It wasn’t so much that she was embarrassed as she couldn’t bear to be asked about it or the pity that followed the Q&A segment. That is what bothered her about Damon. He was a living, breathing reminder of that night. Alanna hated that his only crime was something he had no control over. She disliked him solely because of the colour of his skin. She was essentially a racist and that knowledge did not sit well with her. Worst of all, Damon looked a lot like Jim Sturgess, who was her sole celebrity crush before “the incident”. Alanna remembered wondering if he could sing like him as well while they were talking last night.
“We’re gonna be late if we don’t leave now, Lana.”
She grabbed her things and followed Maria out the door.
“So, Maria was all over you last night.”
“What? No, she wasn’t!”
“Terry, are you blind or just stupid? No girl spends hours at a party focused on just you and only you if she isn’t interested in you.”
Terrence smacked himself on the forehead.
“Well, if you’re right then she must really think I’m a jerk.”
“I spent the entire time grilling her about a friend of hers that I’m interested in. I feel like such an ass right now. And how do I even apologise- ‘Sorry, I spent all night talking about your friend when you were hoping I’d ask about you instead’? That won’t go over well…”
“Whoa! Slow down, slow down. She probably realises that you didn’t know she was into you. Either way you won’t know ’til you see her. So, calm down.”
“You’re right. Anyway, how was your night? Add a new conquest to your long list?”
“Not exactly. There is one girl who’s peaked my interest but she’s proving to be a real challenge. I can’t decide whether I find her stubbornness cute or annoying.”
Terrence laughed and said, “The old ‘denial makes you crave it more’ bit, huh?”
“Maybe. I’m not the in-it-for-the-chase type, but something about her makes me think she’d be worth a chase.”
“Hmmm. Who is this girl?”
“One of Maria’s friends actually- Alanna. Did Maria start a clique of hot girls or something?”- he smiled here- “ But, I have no idea how to get around this girl’s roadblock though. Any suggestions?”
Terrence almost came to a sudden halt. Alanna? It had to be Alanna?
Damon noticed the look on Terrence’s face and wondered what he’d said wrong.
“Ya, just some indigestion. Tell me more about Alanna.”
“Well, she’s the chick who tried to crack my shins on the first day of class. But I am really starting to think it’s less about hate and more about fear. I terrify her, and I don’t know why.”
“Are you sure you should push the issue then? Maybe you should just move on to someone else.”
“It’s more than just adding another notch to my belt. I can’t explain it but I want to break through that brick wall of hers. And you know me, I never really care about more than the sex. I think your little boy is growing up.”
Damon smiled and, for the first time, Terrence found it difficult to reciprocate. It was rare that they both liked the same girl. In the past, Terrence was usually the one to step aside and let Damon have the girl. And though he really wanted to not be good-old-selfless Terry for once, he knew that’d he do what he always did and let his feelings take backseat to those of his friend.
“ ‘If you want something you’ve never had before, then you need to do something you’ve never done before.’ ”
“Ammm… you wanna explain that one Confucius?”
“If you want your relationship with Alanna to be different from the ones you’ve had in the past, then your approach needs to be different.”
“You know, you’re smarter than you look.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha.”
Damon looked at his watch and started to jog towards the stadium.
“Hurry up, we’re gonna be late.”
Terrence matched his pace. They arrived at the stadium in no time, and owing to the fact that they were both athletes, they were huffing and puffing a lot less than Maria and Alanna who got there a few seconds later (Maria was an amazing sprinter but long distance running killed her). There was a moment of awkward silence as the latter pair didn’t so much arrive just after them, as literally “ran into them”. Thanks to Alanna’s natural ungainliness the four of them were now tangled in a heap in the parking lot just outside the main gate.
“Now I’ll have a nice bump on the head to match my still bruised shins,” Damon said with a smile.
Alanna looked as though she wanted to melt into the asphalt and tried to hide how red her cheeks were. Maria was unsuccessfully trying to hide a smile and the embarrassed look on Terrence’s face told Lana that he was in on the joke as well.
She was mortified.
Could this night get any worse?
As it turns out, yes, it could. Alanna tripped going up the stairs of the stadium, missed the railing and had to resort to using Damon’s buttocks to steady herself. This happened not once, but twice. Since Terry and Maria insisted on the four of them sitting together for the concert, Alanna was forced to listen to Damon introduce her to his friends as ‘his cheeky friend, Alanna’. More than once, she seriously contemplated giving him a black eye to go with the sundry bruises she had already given him.
“I hate you so much right now,” Alanna whispered to Maria.
“I can’t hear you,” Maria replied before turning back to Terrence.
Terry seemed a bit distracted but he was paying a lot more attention to her than he did at the party so Maria was enjoying herself. Terrence did his best to put Alanna out of his mind and found himself having fun with Maria. That didn’t stop him from noticing that the former seemed very uncomfortable and wondering what he could do to get that rarely seen smile on her face. Finally he asked Damon to help him get drinks for the quartet.
“You need to lay off with the teasing, man. Alanna looks really upset and it’s not gonna help you win her over.”
“It’s all in good fun. She’s fine.”
“I’m telling you she isn’t.”
“Why are you paying so much attention to my date anyway? Shouldn’t you be concentrating on the future Mrs. Duke.”
“Oh, ha ha. I am having a good time with her actually. She’s smart and funny. And, definitely easy on the eyes.”
They grabbed the popcorn and beer, and headed back to the girls. Maria had mentioned to Damon that Alanna liked her popcorn to be a mix of salt and sweet, so he’d gotten her a bag of half caramel, half buttersalt. Alanna looked surprised but pleased and actually smiled as she thanked him. But it was a brief respite and her face soon assumed its previous stoniness. Damon felt defeated. He’d tried being funny, gallant and thoughtful; and they each failed to hit the mark. He looked at Terrence who mouthed one word, “Apologise.”
“I’m sorry for teasing you earlier. You were probably more embarrassed than you let on and I shouldn’t have made you the butt of the joke. No pun intended.”
Alanna was taken aback. She didn’t peg him for the apologising kind. She stared at him wordlessly for a minute before she gathered her wits enough to thank him for his apology.
“How’s the popcorn?”
“Good. How’d you know I like this combination?”
“You’d be surprised at how much I know about you.”
“I doubt you’d trouble yourself to learn more than the basics.”
“Things and people worth knowing are worth a little trouble.”
Alanna rolled her eyes, “Do girls seriously fall for that line?”
“Who said it was a line?”
“Please, I know your kind. ‘I’ve never felt this way about a girl before. You make me want to be a better man.’ Or, ‘You’re the first person I think about when I wake up and the last person I think about before I go to sleep.’ Etcetera, etcetera.”
“Okay, what guy told you those gems? Poor kid needs to work on his game.”
For a minute, Alanna’s countenance clouded over. But just as quickly as the shadow had appeared, her scornful expression returned.
“Guys know better than to approach me with that kinda crap.”
“Oh ho. Somebody thinks a lot of herself.”
“If girls don’t think they deserve to be treated well, they’ll never be treated as though they do.”
Damon studied her for a minute. Usually that kind of soapbox talk irritated him but she said it in such a quiet, unsanctimonious way that it actually made him respect her a little more. He also knew, from observation, that despite her boast Alanna had no self-esteem to speak of. It was much an admonition for herself as it was an attempt to moralise.
“No snappy come back, Mr. Cunningham?”
“Hmmm. So you know my full name and that I look great in a speedo. What else did you find out about me?”
Alanna blushed as she realised that she could trurthfully list about twenty things including the habit he had of chewing on his pen when he was really engrossed in a lecture.
But she wisely kept that to herself, choosing to say instead,“That you think you’re God’s gift to women. I’ve heard you are a notorious ‘playa’ and have already slept with three-quarters of the female freshman population. I’m worried I’ll get an STI just sitting next to you.”
“Ouch. For your information, I always ‘rubber my ducky’ and I get tested every 3 months.”
“A conscientious man-whore is still a man-whore.”
“So, if I stopped sleeping around, would you give me a chance then?”
“Not likely. I …. don’t …I mean… I… No.”
“I have to ask- is it just me or any white guy that you have a problem dating.”
“It’s not just you.”
Alanna abruptly stood up.
“Thanks for the popcorn and I’m sorry about the butt-grabbing thing. I gotta go. Take care, Terrence. I’ll see ya later, Maria.” She walked quickly down the stands and out of the main gate.
Maria rounded on Damon, “What did you do?!!”
“I honestly have no idea.”
“Terrence, I’m sorry but I have to go check on her. I’ll call you tomorrow, ’k?”
Maria sprinted off after Alanna but by the time she got out the main gate, Alanna was nowhere in sight.