Chapter 1: I Don't Think We Got Off On the Right Footing
The guy in the denim jacket is cute.
He’s standing outside his door, fumbling with a set of keys that he took out from his back pocket. His back is turned towards me, but I already had a glimpse of his face when he looked back.
He could not have been much older than me, perhaps nineteen or twenty. He has tangled black hair and hazel eyes. High cheekbones, long, thick lashes, and a full mouth.
He’s fiddling with his keys, and when he finds the correct one, he inserts it in the lock and twists the doorknob to his place.
And his place is next to my place. Which means he’s my neighbour.
Oh, double hell.
I don’t think he notices me gaping at him like a silly school girl. It would probably be embarrassing if he actually did, considering I think I almost drooled on myself looking at him.
Yeah. I’m that pathetic.
No wonder my parents made me live with Cara even though their house is just fifteen minutes away from campus. Cara could probably teach me all the things I suck at like making my bed, buying groceries every weekend, or learn not to drool when you see a cute guy.
Okay, maybe the last part was not why my parents wanted me to be independent. “Where are the rest of your boxes?” A familiar voice startles me. I whirl back and see Cara, my best friend, staring at me. I open my mouth, but no words come out of it.
Cara lifts her eyebrows in confusion. I think she’s quite irritated, because we’ve been moving boxes containing all my things all morning. I feel fine, however, probably because I’m not the one running around in four inch heels up and down three flights of stairs.
“Alex? Hello? Did you just space out again?”
I shake my head and laugh to hide my embarrassment. “Sorry. Um.. they’re at the back of my trunk. I got two more boxes left. I can go get it later.”
“Nah it’s fine, I’ll go get it.” She places a few boxes on top of my pile. But before she leaves, she eyes me warily. I think she knows that I can’t stop staring at denim jacket guy.
Sighing, I set down the boxes I’ve been carrying, and fumble for my key. When I lift my face, the keys in my hand, my eyes found denim jacket guy. He seems to be staring at me.
He tilts his head and looks at me like he’s trying to figure me out. I don’t know what to do. I stare at the keys, and then to the boxes next to me, and then back to him.
He’s still looking at me.
Then, he smiles.
It’s a very nice smile, one that reaches his eyes. I notice he looks so much better when he smiles because his dimples show, and his hazel eyes glimmer. I think his smile completely seals the deal about me staying here, because there is absolutely no way I’m choosing to stay in the dorms.
I should probably stop looking at him. Tearing my gaze, I squat and lift the boxes with the key dangling around my index finger. I heave as the weight of the boxes press down on my arms, but I persevere, because I don’t want denim jacket guy to think I’m incapable of carrying things.
I can’t see him anymore because the boxes block my view, which is a good thing because I can’t get distracted. But due to my view getting blocked, I can’t see where I’m going and I end up tripping over the last few steps and falling face down onto the ground.
“Shit!” I curse.
The boxes fly everywhere. They topple over the stairs beside me, some already torn at the sides. Some flaps fly open upon landing, and all my clothes from the box tumble out from it. I try to get up, but when I do I feel a sharp pain on my right foot. I wince and fall back on the stairs, holding my foot like I’m cradling a baby.
“Oh my god, are you okay?” The denim jacket guy runs to me, concern written all over his face.
I groan in response.
“Shit,” He curses, kneeling next to me. He, too, does not know what to do about this. “Your foot.”
“It’s...” I press my foot down on the floor, and my eye twitches. “It’s fine.” I manage to croak out.
I could tell he wants to laugh, because his eyes hint of laughter. “Let me help you up.”
I take his offer, because I don’t think I could stand without falling again. He extends his hand and I take it, feeling the warmth that radiates from his skin. He slides his shoulder behind my back and I lean a little bit too near, brushing my chest against his.
He freezes his body, but then relaxes, and I’m relieved to know he doesn’t think I’m trying to make a pass at him by pressing my boobs against him.
I grab the railing for support and release a breath. “I’m so sorry,” I wheeze.
He laughs again and lowers his body to pick up the boxes. “You don’t have to be sorry. These things... happen.” He looks up and casts me a reassuring smile. I’m so grateful to him.
“I swear I’m not that much of a klutz”.” I say, trying to explain myself. “I mean, I used to be a waitress, so I’m usually good at carrying things.” I don’t know why I throw that information out. I guess I just wanted to justify my clumsiness.
The edges of his lips curve into a smile.
Then I add, “Sorry, I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Alex.”
He gives me two of the boxes, and picks up the rest of them. “Is it a nickname?”
“Yeah. Short for Alexandria.”
“Alexandria.” My name rolls off his tongue like silk. His lip curls. “I’m Nate. Short for Nathaniel.”
“Nice to meet you Nate.” I smile. “I just uhh.. moved here. “I mean, you can already tell, with the boxes and all that.”
Stating the obvious much, Alex?
He smiles. It’s genuine, and not forced. “It’s freshman day tomorrow at Boston College. I’m assuming you just enrolled there?”
I nod slowly. “You a freshman too?”
“Sophomore,” He pauses. Then adds, “You’re moving in with your sister?”
I take a second to register what he’s saying. Cara, my sister? “Cara’s not my sister,” I clarify. “Though I’m glad you think I look like her. Because she’s beautiful.”
His eyes twinkle when he looks at me. “You’re beautiful, too.”
My face turns fifty shades of red.
I try to think of something else to say when I realise Nate’s not doing anything. He’s staring at something on the stairs. I gasp. My undergarments are everywhere. All my laced bras are piled up on top of my underwear at the bottom of the stairs, and I mentally slap myself for being this stupid.
Stupid boxes. Stupid me.
“Oh my god,” I look down, trying to hide the major flush on my cheeks. He laughs and looks away, clearly embarrassed as well. “That was not supposed to happen.”
Limping, I quickly grab my undergarments and shove them in the empty box, along with all my clothes. I look at him, and he’s starts to chuckle at the mess I’ve made. Well, at least my stupidity makes him laugh. “I’m so embarrassed.”
“Nah, it’s fine,” Nate waves me off and starts to climb the steps with my boxes. “You need help with that box? Because I’m pretty sure you can’t lift that with one foot.”
“No, I can do this.” I attempt to limp up the stairs but all I managed is to jump and fall back to the ground.
What the hell is wrong with me? There’s a cute guy right in front of me and all I managed to do is make a complete fool out of myself.
He bursts out laughing.
“It’s not funny,” I say, but instead I start laughing along with him.
“I’m sorry, I can’t help it. It kind of is,” He sets the boxes aside and joins me, sitting beside me. “Let me see your foot.”
“Come on, Alex.” He nudges, and the way he says my name sounds like we’ve been friends for a really long time. Two fingers press under my chin, forcing my head up. His eyes framed with thick black lashes fix on mine. His fingers graze my skin, and... whoa.
“Let me see it.”
I sigh and give in, tearing my gaze from him. My foot ends up on his lap and he inspects it, pressing on certain parts of it. His thumb caresses my ankle, and I let out a soft gasp.
“I think your ankle is twisted,” He presses on it, and slowly circles his thumb around to massage it. “You’re going to need some medication and a bandage. I have them in my first aid kit back at my place. I’ll go fetch it for you.”
I look at him, my eyes widening. “Let me guess, you’re studying in the medical field.”
He turns to me and grins, “Yeah.”
“Hmmmm...” I murmur, “So, doctor, I don’t think we got off on right footing.”
He looks at my swollen right foot then back at me. “You think?” Our laughs echo the hallway.
Settling into a new place feels... weird.
I know, I know, it’s not exactly a new place. I’m still in Boston, less than 20 miles away from my parents’ house, and living with my best friend who’s been stuck with me since 10th grade. But going to college feels different for me. I’ve never been big on change, which is probably why Cara has been my one and only friend for three years now.
I just never liked new company. It’s always been Cara and I these few months, just like how it’s meant to be.
And I have a feeling that’s going to change real soon.
I watch silently as Nate moves in the last of the boxes into the apartment. I feel completely useless sitting on the kitchen island chair with my leg propped up, unable to help them. Those are my things they’re carrying, and it doesn’t seem fair to them that they have to carry it for me.
Cara reappears at the living room, her arms rested at her hips.
She’s wearing a loose tank top and a pair of pink shorts. Her blonde hair is tied into a loose bun, and strands of curls falling down the sides of her face, making her look stunning.
I’m kind of surprised Nate isn’t making googly eyes at my best friend by now. I’ve been watching him for a while now, and he never once glanced at her butt, or admired her long, tanned legs. He’s not like most guys I’ve met; most of them just want to get into Cara’s pants. Nate looks like he’d rather throw a brown paper bag over her and lecture her about the appropriate ways of clothing.
“Thanks so much for helping us, Nate.” She casts a warm smile at his direction.
Nate salutes. “It’s no problem, really.”
Breathing a sigh of relief, Cara walked towards the kitchen to get herself a drink. She takes a long look at the boxes piling on the floor. “Damn, Alex. You have a ton of stuff. Are you planning to keep a zoo in here?”
I shoot daggers at my best friend. “Hah. Very funny.”
“So what do all those boxes contain?” She opens the fridge door and grabs a carton of orange juice. In fact, that carton of orange juice is the only thing in the fridge. I make a mental note to myself to go grocery shopping with her sometime soon.
I pursed my lips. “Clothes, shoes, stationary... books....” There is a slight pause.
She whips her head back at me. “Books? Shit, Alex. How many of them?”
I keep silent. Nate notices the silence and walks over to us. He lifts his eyebrow in confusion. “What’s going on?”
Cara pours three glasses of orange juice and hands them to each of us. With her leg, she slides the nearest chair towards her and props herself on it, her face not pleasant at all. “She’s obsessed with books. I’m pretty sure all of those boxes contain them.”
Nate slides in next to me, and glances at me, smiling. “You’re a reader?”
I bite my lip. “Yeah. Sort of.”
Cara rolls her eyes. ”Sort of? She’s crazy. She probably has at least eight hundred books.”
I glare at her. Thanks for being such a good best friend, Cara. I’m trying to make a good impression on him, and in two seconds, you’re already trying to make him think I’m super weird.
Nate widens his eyes at Cara, then back at me. “Shit, is she serious? That many?”
I push back my chair. “Hey! In my defence, I only brought my favourites, and not like all of them.”
Cara passes a look at Nate. “She means she only left one book at home and brought the rest.”
I reach over and twat her with my finger. She yelps and pulls away from me, shooting me a what-the-fuck-did-you-just-do face.
A half grin appeared on Nate’s face when I did that. Glad he finds it humouring.
“I’d like to see them,” Nate says, his body turned towards me as he took a sip of his drink. My eyes lock with his, and I smile. “Your books. I’d like to see them if you’d let me.”
Nate’s interested... in seeing my books? That has got to be the weirdest combination ever. Guys and books? Weird. But guys in books? That’s a whole different story.
I adjust myself comfortably on the chair, putting my sprained leg over my other one. I just stare at the glass of orange juice, pouting. “They’re really boring. I don’t think you’d like them very much.”
Nate grins again. I think I’m starting to like his grins. “Honestly? I don’t really care. Your face sort of lights up the minute Cara talks about books, so I’m curious about them.”
My head falls and a smile creeps up my face.
He leans closer towards me, as if Cara isn’t two feet away, and murmurs, “And I’m curious about you too.”
I look up at him and meet his eyes. His eyes promise me of adventure and romance. I let his eyes consume me. “I’ll show them to you once I’m done placing them on my bookshelves.”
“Awesome.” He leans back and takes another sip of his drink, “By the way, this place is amazing. I can’t imagine furnishing my apartment like this.”
My eyes scan the place. I probably should not take credit for this. The living room is pretty awesome, thanks to Cara’s amazing home decorating skills.
Beige wallpaper surround the walls, creating an earthly atmosphere. A dark forrest green rug compliments the wooden floor, along with two huge sofas facing each other next to a small fireplace. The coffee table is basically a flat wooden chest, with a vase of flowers on top of it. It’s far different from how two normal eighteen-year old freshmen would actually decorate their places, which is exactly why Cara wanted it to be. She’s all about ‘daring to be different’ and ‘challenging the norm’ and all that kind of stuff.
“It’s all Cara,” I point out. “She’s a beast when it comes to furniture.”
“I would definitely like my place to look something like this too,” Nate says, pressing his finger on the edge of the glass. “But well, my roommates are dudes, and I don’t think they would appreciate this sort of... style.”
I lean closer, curious. “Roommates?” I didn’t think he had any roommates. Nate did seem like the person who enjoyed living alone. Then again, I’m probably not a good judge on people.
Nate leans back against the chair, crossing and uncrossing his legs, then smiles, “Yeah. Two of them. My best friend, Simon. He’s a major gamer. Doesn’t like to go out much. He usually just stays locked in his room, playing video games.” He pauses, swirling the liquid in the glass around, “My other roommate’s Daniel. I advise you girls steer clear of him. He’s a... womaniser. Lives and breathes on women.”
Daniel. Oh god. Could it be...?
Calm down, Alex. No reason to overreact. There are plenty of other people in the world with the name ‘Daniel’. It’s probably not the Daniel I’m thinking about anyway. No. I am not going to think about him. Not now.
I immediately diminish all thoughts about him, not wanting to dwell on it further. It’s no use thinking about him anyway. Forcing on a smile, I drift back into the conversation.
Cara pouts. “Well, there goes my plans on seducing my neighbours.” I make a choking sound at the back of my throat.
Nate joins in. “Simon probably wouldn’t give you the time of the day. Daniel probably would, but he would also give you herpes.” “Really? Herpes?” I ask, bewildered.
He looks at me. “Maybe. You don’t know where his junk’s been in.”
I make a disgusted face. He chuckles.
“Oh, crap.” Nate glances at me, and then at his watch. He looks at the time, then he bolts out of his chair as fast as lightning. “I gotta go. Simon’s got this gaming expo thing and I promised I’ll go with him. I’ll see you guys soon, alright?”
Cara and I nod. I feel kind of sad that he has to leave this soon, but I have a feeling I’m going to see him around again, and a lot.
Nate glances at me before he leaves. “See you around, Alex.”
I wave goodbye as he leaves our place and locks the door behind him. After he’s gone, I release a breath I did not realise I was holding. I finish the last of my orange juice and place the glass on the table. When I glance up, Cara’s giving me the look.
I stare at her in confusion. “What?”
She grins. It’s a mischievous one. “He’s cute.”
My eyes widen. “Nate?”
She takes my glass along with hers and places them in the sink. ”mmhmmm.”
I snort. “Okay.” Yeah, I was so not going to talk about Nate with Cara. I don’t really want to overthink anything.
“Okay.” She repeats after me, as if mocking me. She turns back and smile. ”Okay.” ”Okay." I say again, challenging her.
She smirks. “Maybe okay will be our always-”
“Shut up, Cara.” She laughs.
I shake my head. “I’m going to head back to my room. I should probably unpack the rest of my things.”
She turns on the tap and water comes pouring out. “Yeah, you go do that. And then, you’re going to tell me all about what happened when I spotted you getting cuddly with Nate on the staircase with your leg draped across his.”
I gasp. Shit, she saw that? Dammit. “I’m so not going into that with you.” I singsong.
Her lip curls. “Oh you so are.”
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