Chapter 4: Dom
There is one person though, who Christian introduces to me as Brad as he leads me into the living room. Brad has a lit cigarette between his lips, flat out breaking the no smoking rule. He notices Christian and I and sits up.
“New addition to the house?” he questions.
“Nah,” Christian shakes his head, removing his dripping coat. “Roommate’s preoccupied with a girl, if you know what I mean. Brad, this is Tommy.”
I stand awkwardly - introductions are not my strong suit. Brad takes a draw from his cigarette, contemplating me. I don’t mind if his first impression of me isn’t great because I don’t intend to come back here again. This is just a one-off.
“Welcome to the house,” he says, then gestures to his packet of cigarettes.
“No thanks. I don’t smoke.”
“Suit yourself, bro.” He stubs out his cigarette in the ashtray and gets up. “’Tian, I’m off. Got a lecture in fifteen. Megan is upstairs in your room.”
After Brad leaves, I look at Christian. “Girlfriend?”
He hums before wandering off to the kitchen. I follow aimlessly, dripping all over the floor as he wrings out the water from his t-shirt in the sink. He flicks down the kettle’s springboard switch, grabbing a mug from the row of hanging ones under the cabinet. I toss my empty coffee cup into the small recycling bin.
“Another coffee? Homemade this time, of course.”
Christian waits for an answer but I remain silent, taking in the large kitchen. “Another coffee it is,” he grabs another mug. “Do you take it weak or strong? You didn’t actually specify.”
He spoons in some instant coffee into his cup, eyes fixating on me and eyebrows raising when I don’t reply. My chest feels funny. I know that was simply a question concerning how I take my coffee, but I can’t help but think about whether there’s a certain underlying meaning to it or not.
Does he know? How could he? He’s only just met me. I’ve drilled it into my head that I can make it through college, but it’s moments like these when the anxiety creeps through my goddamn aorta and I hold my breath thinking, maybe they know, that makes me rethink how exactly capable I am of not surviving college.
“Who’s the snack?”
I groan when I pull a muscle in my neck at snapping my head around at the new voice. I identify the girl as Megan when she approaches Christian and pecks him on the lips.
“Uh...” I scout around in my brain for a proper reply to her compliment, but I come up with nothing. She’s just said that right in front of her boyfriend. “Doesn’t that bother you?” I ask Chrisitan.
“You are very good looking, bro.” He shrugs his shoulder, which earns a beat on his chest from Megan.
“Cut it out,” she says. “Dom’s in the house and you know how much of a homophobic prick he is.”
I discreetly gulp down the forming rock in my throat. I need to find either somewhere else to loiter when Aiden’s busy, or suck up the fact he will probably spend my entire college years ruining my life if I were to kick out his one-day stand, and then do exactly that; kick out the girl he’s got over in our dorm room right now. I can’t stay here.
“I was just saying,” Christian raises his hands defensively. “This is Megan, my girlfriend,” he tells me, “Megan, this is Tommy,” then turns back to the coffee. “Strong? Strong.” He chucks in a few spoons without a response from me.
“Baby, do you want me to get spare clothes?”
“Yeah, thanks, just for Tommy. I’ll change after I clean the mess in here. Stay outta the top drawer,” Christian warns.
“You need to get a lock for that thing,” is the last thing Megan says as she leaves the kitchen.
Christian slides the cup of coffee across the kitchen island’s surface to me, which I take. I blow at the ongoing steam whilst I watch him move around the kitchen and clear away the mess that’s gathered up, certainly from multiple meals. He speaks aimlessly about things I don’t really care about, barely offended when I don’t reply. Thank God he’s a talkative person because this would be uncomfortable, but he isn’t seeing much if I’m worthy. I can’t help but think I’m just here for the sake of it.
Megan drops off Christian’s clothes, leaving for a class. I only take them because the feeling of wet material on my skin is unpleasant, but nothing’s satisfying or great about wearing a stranger’s clothes.
“Just change here.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Uh... What? Underwear and all?”
“Bathroom’s around the corner,” he chuckles, throwing trash into the bin.
I leave, slightly scarred by his joke, and bump into someone turning the corner. They look pissed and steer me right back into the kitchen without saying a word to me.
“Addition to the house or just a stray?” he utters vexedly.
“A friend, Dom.” Christian finishes washing his hands, drying them off on a clean cloth. “Is that an issue?”
My gut twists when I realise who it is. The last thing on my mind is the fact Christian just called me a ‘friend’. I need to get out of this house for my own sanity and safety.
“Yeah, well, guess what, fuck-face? We don’t invite random people around unless I say so.” Yet Gemma’s invited me to a party exactly here...
“I’m just going to go,” I give a weak smile which feels more like a grimace.
I leave Christian’s clothes on the side and hurry back out into the rain, never stopping until I find myself under a shelter on a bench. Perhaps one day I’ll be willing enough to confront Aiden and tell him the dorm room is also mine? Commencing a fight, fuelling it up and making enemies - especially one I live with - is not in my best interest right now, so I choose the bench over that, and stay watching the miserable rain wet the concrete, my teeth clattering from the cold. I sort of miss home - I don’t know if it was worth leaving or not.
Homophobe number one: frat boy Dom.
I faintly hear the door knocking late in the night. I’m in too deep of a sleep to impel myself up and awake, and Aiden has been out since seven P.M. Certainly hasn’t come back, proven by the missing gorilla sounds of snoring. The door goes unanswered. Only when I hear fading footsteps is when I’m properly able to immerse myself back into my dream. I’m smothered by vivid images of revenge on the people who bullied me.
The next day I wake up to a note that has been slid under the door. There’s a phone number and a short ‘give me a ring when you can’, Christian’s name following after a hyphen. I debate on it in the shower, in the end deciding to ring him. He’ll find me at some point on campus to talk to him if I don’t now; I’d rather just get it over and done with. I dial his number.
“Hey, who’s this?”
“Hi,” I clear my throat. “Um, it’s Tommy.”
“I see you got my message,” he says. I feel his smile through the phone. “I wanted to apologise on behalf of Dom about yesterday, but you didn’t answer the door last night.”
“Yeah, ’cause it was like three A.M.”
“It was nine P.M.,” he laughs. “Anyway, I’m sorry for yesterday. There’s a reason why Dom is nicknamed Dom the Dick. You’re not a stray, not with Gemma’s developing crush on you. One IG post and you’ll be swarmed with competing thirsty girls.”
I’ll have to avoid an Instagram picture with Gemma then. That’s unnecessary attention that threatens to reveal my back-in-the-closet-because-I’m-afraid-to-get-bullied-again situation.
“You don’t have to say sorry. I don’t care. That’s not what bothered me.”
“Was there something else?”
My mouth opens and closes. I’ve just stuck a shovel in the grass and taken the first scoop of my grave by signalling there’s another reason why I left so fast, which is that I can’t afford to hang around a dickhead homophobe.
“Nothing bothered me, don’t worry. I hope I’m worthy of Gemma,” I change the subject. I hope the grimace on my face at the idea of romantically being with a girl isn’t heard in my voice.
“Hm...” he ponders. “I’d have to spend a little more time with you to answer that.”
“Uh, okay.” I try to brush off the awkwardness created by the thought of spending more time with him. “I’ve got to go.”
“No problem. D’you want me to drop by so we can walk to our philosophy lecture together?”
“Do I look incapable of going somewhere alone to you?” I curse internally at myself for being so rude. “Nevermind. See you at the lecture.”
I cut the call before he can fit in another word, and find myself going to the window, opening it up and staring out wretchedly. Staring is what lead me to meeting Christian, but I feel like it’s the only thing I can do to reassure myself that no one knows or senses my secret. If they did, they’d all be staring in this direction, right back at me.
I notice Christian stopping mid-walk across campus, a small frown on his face as he pulls his phone away from his ear.
It turns out the only person staring back at me right now is him.