My mind blurred together throughout practice. It was like my body was stuck in auto-pilot and I couldn’t seem to shake it off. I was beyond exhausted and my body was protesting against every movement, every stance, every small wave of my arms. Nothing could penetrate through the wave of fatigue that had washed over me as soon as Sarah had begun yelling instructions. Something along the lines of required attire for this week or something another.
Even though we had neared the end, Sarah was still yelling, and it took little effort to let the noise drown out into the background. Finally, when her incessive bitching came to a halt, I sat down and put my head between my knees. My stomach had long since passed the growling of hunger and now simply protested against my lack of food by sending hunger pains throughout my stomach. I thought about throwing up, but little good it would do if there was nothing in there to begin with.
The hunger mixed with the heat of working out made my head spin in little circles. I kept my head down and breathed deeply in and out in an even pace. Once I had it under control, I took a swig from my water bottle and grabbed my phone out of my pocket. It had been buzzing most of practice. I had ignored it for the most part, except the buzzing had kept me grounded. Even if it was annoying.
I opened the direct line of messages between Aiden and I and watched as message after message popped up onto the screen. Between them and the missed calls, he was now reaching an all-time extreme. I scrolled down, not giving each individual message near enough attention, until I came to a picture he had sent. He was shirtless, lounging in what I presumed to be his bed, in just boxers and nothing else. He was sporting quite a large hard-on, but I was less than impressed. I wasn’t really the type to enjoy pictures.
“Oh my God. Who is that?” Elsie squealed from behind me. “Is that him? The ex-boyfriend?”
“Yeah.” I murmured.
“He must still be into you.” She giggled.
“I guess he didn’t get the message that we’re broken up.” I skimmed through some messages that only confirmed my conclusion.
“I don’t think I could break up with someone who looked like that.” Elsie added.
“I just wasn’t into him, okay?” My voice rose an entire pitch, highlighting the uncomfortable position I was in.
Elsie hadn’t heard me and still continued on, Ryker and Giovanni joining our little group. “I’m just saying, if I fucked someone nearly as gorgeous as that, I’d be tying him down and keeping him forever.”
My anxiety finally hit and I snapped a little. “Damn, Elsie, give a girl some space.”
She instantly quieted. “Oh, sorry, Jay. I didn’t mean...-”
“It’s fine.” I pinched the bridge of my nose. “I’m just crabby. I need food and sleep.”
Giovanni looked confused as hell, but Ryker had a knowing glint in the corner of his hardened stare, blank face be damned.
“I’m going to head out. It’s been a long day and I need to get out of these sweaty clothes.” I said a little more gently this time.
“Okay.” I couldn’t see it, but I could hear the heartbroken tone in Elsie’s voice and even though it tore me a little, I grabbed my stuff and started for the dorms.
About halfway there, Ryker caught up to me.
“Are you alright?” He asked softly.
“No. I think I might be sick. I didn’t get the best sleep last night either.”
“The pizza should be here soon.” He stated as we started upstairs. “You want to take a quick shower and then eat?”
“Sounds like a dream.” I half-smiled. God forgive me for a man that tries.
As promised, as soon as I came out of the bathroom, clouded by steam, the smell of pizza wafted to my nose. The headache that had formed as soon as we got home eased up a bit with the assurance of food. I tugged a little at the sweater I wore with yoga pants, making sure any and all of my tattoos were carefully covered. I sat on the couch, pulling my blanket up to cover my lap, when my phone started ringing. I looked at it, and instead of who I expected, Elsie’s name appeared on the screen.
“Oh, Jay. Hey. It’s Elsie. I’m so sorry for earlier. I wasn’t even thinking.” She poured.
“Elsie, it’s fine. Really.” I smiled as Ryker sat down next to me and handed me a slice of pepperoni off of his piece of pizza and I swallowed it without chewing. “I’m just an asshole when I need to eat.”
“So, we’re okay? You’re not mad at me?” She asked.
I paused, giving her a few seconds to sweat. “Of course, I’m not mad at you.”
I could hear her sigh of relief. “Okay, well, I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”
“Yes, now go to bed. Leo is probably tired too.” I laughed.
“Night, my guy.”
“She was really upset.” Ryker piped up after I tossed my phone back onto the table and stole a slice of pizza off his plate.
“I didn’t mean to make her worried. I wasn’t mad. I really didn’t feel well.” Each sentence was followed by a large bite and a rushed swallow.
“Slow down.” Ryker watched as I devoured my meal. “You might actually end up getting sick if you keep eating that fast.”
I stuck out my tongue and wiped my face on my sleeve. He reached forward and flicked the television on. I had very little interest in what we were watching, my stomach finally satisfied and the nausea had ebbed away. I yawned loudly and curled up deeper into my blanket. Ryker stayed next to me as we watched the pictures dance across the screen.
I couldn’t help when my eyes began to water and blur out, my head slowly rolling to the side of its own accord. In the space between awake and asleep, just on the edge, I felt Ryker’s breath on my cheek and a warm arm encircle my shoulders.
I was too tired to care and only snuggled in further. The warmth of spice swirled around me and the sounds of our apartment fell off into the distance.
The rest of the week fell into a routine and my body finally decided to catch up. I had dodged all of Aiden’s obsessive advances and tried to continue keeping on track as much as possible. Friday rolled around and I hadn’t seen much of Ryker since Tuesday morning when I woke up to him snoring lightly underneath me on our couch. At some point in the night, my usual nightmare had woken us both up. He had soothed me back into a dream-like state; he himself falling back to sleep as soon as I was calm again. His largeness had taken up most of the space on the cushions, so in my stupor, apparently, I had thought it appropriate to straddle his waist and curl up on his chest.
I had made a quick exit before his alarms went off and we would have that known awkward conversation about the night before. Since then, I had been doing everything in my power to avoid him. To avoid the slight humiliation that came with my poor actions. I didn’t even know the guy and I was sleeping on him like I would if I were his girlfriend. It was ridiculous. I was acting so beside myself and I needed space to clear my thoughts and actually process my actions.
He had a girlfriend. And I had been acting like a common hussy.
I yawned into my fist as I looked down at my phone. It had pinged, Sarah alerting everyone a reminder that they needed to wear their uniforms today for the pep rally later. I already had mine on, and it stuck against my skin uncomfortably. I ignored the other messages in turn. Aiden had already begun his storm of calls this early in the morning. I crossed my legs and brought my freshly brewed coffee to my lips, sitting neatly while I waited for Elsie to meet up with me. It was super early, but I had to beat Ryker’s alarms, and thankfully the bakery just down the road from the dorms opened earlier than I had anticipated.
Elsie finally trudged in and she looked like she hadn’t slept a wink.
“Good morning.” I said softly as she slumped down into the seat across from mine.
I nudged the twin coffee sitting next to mine across the table for her. “Morning.” She yawned.
“Do we really need to be up this early?” Her tone held a subtle whine to it.
I dwindled with the ends of my curls. “I still haven’t talked to him, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Well, could you?” She rubbed her eyes. “Because this is torture.”
“What should I say?” I asked, genuinely curious.
“I don’t know. ‘Hey, Ryker. I’m sorry I slept on you all night and sorry I’m just bringing it up now after avoiding you for so long. I think you’re really hot and maybe we can take it to the bed next time?’” Her eyes were sleepy, yet hopeful.
“Right.” I snorted.
“You can’t avoid him forever, Jay. He’s your roommate.” She yawned again, and I felt a little bad the second time around.
“Fine.” I gave in. “I’ll try to talk to him about it later.”
Later came sooner than I wanted it to when I reached home the next afternoon, Elsie finally having enough of my shenanigans. I knew Ryker would be there from the notifications I had received on my laptop while I was sitting next to Elsie on her couch. The cameras had held up their end of the bargain and hadn’t failed me yet. During the week, he was short one class each day and that always put him home before me. I had been hanging out on the front lawn studying and doing homework all week until I knew he would be heading to bed. It was easy to frame out my schedule to avoid him when I had a constant watch over our apartment. But the weekends were a little harder to dodge.
When I stepped inside, he paused just outside his door, phone in hand.
“Hey stranger.” His voice was huskier than normal.
“Hey.” I couldn’t meet his gaze.
“Where have you been all week?”
“Studying at the library.” Lie. Well, half lie.
He seemed to accept that excuse and moved into the kitchen. “Ready for tonight?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
“It’s going to be crowded tonight.” He scrolled through his phone.
Before I could move around him to reach for my water bottle, he already had it in his hand and stretched out his arm towards me. It was filled already and the words I wanted to say caught in my throat.
“Thanks, you know you don’t have...-” I started.
“Jaylyn, really. It’s not a big deal.” He said, shoving his phone into his pocket. “You ready to go?”
“Yeah.” And out the door we went.
He didn’t say much on the way to the field and for some reason it was bothering me. We kept in step next to each other and I kept stealing glances upwards to try to catch him looking at me. Each time, he was staring ahead, but something swam behind his eyes.
“So, about Monday night...” I started.
“Look, we don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. We can pretend it didn’t happen.” He shrugged one shoulder.
“But...” I racked my brain for something to say. “I don’t want to pretend it didn’t happen. It’s just that I don’t normally act that way. So, I guess, I’m trying to say I’m sorry.”
“What for?” He smirked and I had to resist the urge to smack him.
I rolled my eyes. “For sleeping on you.”
“Apology accepted.” His smirk widened. “But I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. What man would complain about a beautiful woman using him as her own personal body pillow?”
“Oh, shut up.” I tried to keep a smile from curving my lips and failed.
“But I know what you can apologize for.” His face straightened to a serious look.
“You left a huge puddle of drool right in the middle of my chest.” He laughed at the horrific look that dawned on my face. “I didn’t realize I was going to get an entire bath in my sleep.” He continued.
It took me a minute to realize he was teasing me and this time I didn’t resist and punched him square in the shoulder. “I did not drool on you, you ass!”
“How would you know?” He looked miffed, feigning hurt. “You just used me and then left first thing in the morning. First girl to leave me hanging as a one-night stand.”
“Oh, my fucking God, stop!” I shrieked, repeatedly punching his arm.
His laughter swirled around us and I couldn’t stop from joining him. His laughter was infectious and spread around like a disease. We were still laughing as we entered the hallway that connected our locker rooms and we stopped at the juncture where we were meant to split apart.
“So, I’ll see you after the game, right?” He looked down at me, and I tried to ignore how he slowly inched towards me.
“Yeah. After.” Burnt cinnamon caused my words to turn to mush. “Game. Yeah, after the game.”
“No more avoiding me?” He questioned, just a bit closer. He had seen right through my lie. Of course, he had.
“No.” I agreed.
He gave me one more look before he turned and entered his locker room and I was left standing there in a haze of spices.