April woke up early the following morning with a sinking feeling in her gut. She winced in pain as she swung her legs over the side of her bed. Her nose was throbbing and the searing pain reached right behind her eyes threatening to pull them right back into her head. She wrapped her robe tightly around her body and walked down the hall to the communal bathrooms. She gasped as she stared into her unfamiliar reflection in the mirror. Dark red circles had formed under her eyes and her nose was speckled with a patchwork of purple and red contusions. She gingerly ran her fingers over her bruised face and as she reached the bridge of her nose she couldn't help but exclaim into a series of profanities that she didn't even know she possessed in her vocabulary. Her nose was most likely broken after all.
She stepped into the shower cubicle, unwrapping herself from her robe. As she got under the hot water she winced again as her hand had brushed over her left thigh. There, just above her knee, another dark bruise had formed, hard under the skin. Another reminder of yesterday's accident. As she went over every detail of the brief moment she had spent alone with those eyes and those hands, her heart sank. She had embarrassed herself, she had cried, she had squealed and she had insulted him, laughed at him even. She let out a short laugh, which threatened to turn into a sob. God, she was such a loser. As much as she had tried to avoid thinking about him, falling for him like every other girl in her year, here she was beating herself up over how she acted around him after he had physically hurt her.
Stop it, she mentally chided herself. You're better than this Apes, better than all those other girls.
Except she wasn't. She was exactly like those other girls. It was already too late, this crush had taken hold of her and refused to let go.
A trip to the health center later that day confirmed Jackson's original diagnosis that her nose was in fact not broken. It was badly bruised however, and after some icing down and a hefty round of painkillers April felt somewhat ready to face the world again. She quickly scurried across campus hoping to avoid any of the other kids left behind by their families. As she slipped into the safety of her own room George rolled over and stretched her body sleepily before facing April.
"Holy crap" she croaked, sleep still evident in her voice.
"What the fuck happened to your face?"
Her initial look of horror seamlessly merged into one of amusement, and slight condensation, April was sure.
She was not about to reveal that she had had a physical encounter with her perfect roommate's perfect possible boyfriend so her brain scrambled for a plausible explanation.
"I-I ran into a big door at the cinema last night."
It was practically true, even though she now sounded like a domestic abuse victim putting a brave face on it.
"Brilliant!" George chuckled.
George had managed to convince April to come to the dining hall for lunch, despite her protests that she looked like a drunk boxer. It was hard to say no to George. She wanted George to like her, hell, she wanted to be George. At least April's now unfortunate face seemed to please her in a strange way. She also suspected George didn't like to be alone, and with all her perfect friends gone for the week April was basically her only choice. She also secretly hoped, though she had tried to suppress those thoughts as soon as they appeared in her head, that Jackson would be there. Once they were halfway through their salads, no dressing, he did in fact settle down at their table. He sat next to April, facing George. All the hairs on her body pricked up, her hands going clammy at the same time. She looked down at her lunch, licking her fork slowly, too afraid to look at him.
"Whoa, your face!"
He gently tugged her shoulder so she was forced to face him. She shrugged quickly and put her hand protectively over her nose, as if that would make her bruises invisible to him.
"April ran into a door at the cinema last night" George triumphantly explained.
"Right. A door" he repeated, raising one eyebrow into a question and stifling a grin by biting down on his lower lip.
April returned to her salad, leaving George and Jackson free to have a conversation without including her. She was surprised when they seemed to have little to say to each other. Mostly they seemed to be talking about their other friends. April said nothing for the rest of the meal and was relieved to be going back to her room to her textbooks.
She spent the next days hiding out in the library, only darting into the dining hall to meet George for lunch or dinner. Jackson was never there, and George never mentioned him. The dark red circles under her eyes were now a deep shade of purple with yellow and green patches at the edges. Her nose was dark blue. She had never felt less attractive her whole life, which was saying something. She had never been confident in her looks. Being surrounded by her more beautiful, more outgoing sisters had put serious dents in her self-confidence. She had been forced to wear braces for three agonizing years, whenever she caught the sun freckles would appear all over her face, and while her three sisters all had beautiful strawberry blonde hair, hers had always been fiery red. She sighed heavily as she closed her books and headed out the door. Hopefully her face would return to a more normal colour before the other students returned in a couple of days.
She pulled her parka closer to her body as she stepped out. It was already dark out and winter was in the air. There was an icy, biting wind she had not experienced at Hartwell yet, so she decided to cut through the athletic centre instead of walking round like she normally did. She had only been inside a handful of times, she was not a huge fan of sports and only engaged in them when she was required to. The place was massive, bigger than she remembered, and dimly lit. She walked down the corridor, slightly creeped out by the eerie silence. She hurried her steps as she reached the end of the corridor, confused for a second when faced with two doors a couple of feet apart. She chose one at random, picking the wrong one. She pushed open the heavy door only to find herself inside one of the basketball courts, sparsely lit, with a lone occupant.
Jackson. Sweaty, half-naked Jackson.
"S-sorry, got the wrong door" she turned to leave.
"Not doing too well with doors these days, are you?" he smirked, taking a few steps towards her.
She turned to face him, leaning back against the cool metal door, clutching her textbooks tightly to her chest.
"Guess not" she admitted, smiling briefly.
She felt his eyes on her again, boring into her, buring her with his gaze. She looked up, expecting him to be further away from her than he was, but he kept moving closer. He was making her really nervous, she was not used to being alone with boys, let alone sticky, shirtless boys with brilliant, searching eyes.
"I really am sorry about your nose" he offered, his voice low as he was now so close to her he could have whispered and she would have heard him perfectly.
Her words were stuck in her throat. She was frozen to the ground, paralysed by his presence. She swallowed hard as he moved even closer, dropping the basketball he had been holding. It bounced away from them, before slowly rolling away into a dark corner. His eyes never left hers. He finally reached her, one arm on the door behind her, one cupping her chin, tilting her face up towards him. He dropped his gaze to her lips, slowly licking his before pressing his mouth softly onto hers. He kissed her sweetly at first, but soon his mouth became hungrier, his tounge pushing in between her lips, greedily exploring her mouth. As he slowly pulled away, her hands were still clutching her textbooks. His eyes were on hers again, searching them for answers to unspoken questions. He pulled his hand away, stroking her cheek softly as he took a small step backwards.
April was gasping for air. Her head in turmoil, every nerve in her body on full alert.
"Um..." she managed.
"What about George?"
A look of confusion spread across his face, clearly not understanding.
She left the sentence hanging between them, asking the question again.
"My friend Tom's had a major crush on George since they were 7, she's off limits," he said simply, shrugging.
Not the fervent admission of feelings towards her or denial of them towards her roommate she had hoped for. Sensing that he'd not quite said the right thing he sighed in exasperation and stared hard at the floor between them. She finally managed to unlock her legs and slowly ready her body for movement again. He shifted slightly to the side to let her slip past him, and gave her a final searing stare before slowly backing away from her. She silently slipped out into the hall again, found the right door and stepped out into the cold air.