Prevailing Love

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3. Lacking Substance

Raine Kahn

I’m insanely grateful when Georgia offers me a ride back to the dorms. I have no idea where I am or anything about this place, despite staying with Trish and David over winter break. I did no exploring of this place. I just moped around their basement in self pity and stuffed myself full with junk food and soda. The first couple of weeks with them were probably the worst, not that it was either of their faults. But I was basically living out of cardboard boxes while being disconnected from the world. I didn’t leave the house, I didn’t have a phone to contact anyone, and I was basically miserable. Finally, my new phone came in the mail it was probably one of the best days I had in a long time. It would’ve been a much simpler process to have my phone number changed instead of ordering a whole new cell phone altogether, but like usual he had to make things more difficult for me.

“Thank you for the ride Georgia,” She grins at me warmly.

“It’s no problem! I’ll probably see you around campus, so we can hang out soon or something, okay?” I nod my head and wave goodbye to her as she exits the parking lot. Georgia is a sophomore, so her dorm was located in a different building. On the way here she gave me a brief, explanation of the campus. The welcome center was located in Lucina Hall, located at the front of campus. I had been there earlier today getting my dorm room and transfer papers handled. She also mentioned the student center, a place to go if you’re interested in joining clubs or organizations, or just want a place to chill at and meet new people. The quad was another place to relax and a popular spot on campus. Everything else she mentioned was largely the different school buildings and dormitories. The thing about Ball State is it’s a humongous campus. Thousands of students attend here and they offer multiple majors and minors. If Georgia wasn’t kind enough to exchange numbers with me and help me locate my classes tomorrow I don’t know what I’d do.

Unlocking the door, I push my way into my room and listen to the lock click behind me. Unsurprisingly, Mimi isn’t here yet. I have a strong feeling that she and I won’t be the best of friends by the time this semester is over. Next school year I’ll more than likely request a new roommate if things don’t go well here with her. Feeling utterly exhausted, I flop down onto my mattress, groaning as the bedsprings dig harshly into my back. One of the many downsides of attending college: a shitty mattress that will leave you tossing and turning all night long. Exhaling a long sigh, I shift over and stare blankly at the wall as thought after thought rushes through my mind.

Anxiety has me tight in its embrace tonight, whispering about how I don’t belong here and how I can’t do this. Anxiety tells me that I’ll be miserable in my classes tomorrow. Anxiety tells me that I’m a failure and that I should just forget about getting my degree. My anxiety is showing me all these scenarios in which I fail or mess up, and anxiety drudges up every single mistake of my past. When I start to picture his face, that’s when I know that I have to put a stop to this.

My hand shoots out from the safe cocoon of blankets I’m smothered in, patting around blindly for my phone. When my fingers finally glide across its cold, rectangular surface, I pull it off the charger. Pressing the power button and groaning when I take a glance at the time, I plug in some headphones and search through my playlists. Content with my choice, I lay back and try to let the smooth rhythm of the impending song soothe me into a restless slumber.

When I woke up the next day, I was paralyzed with confusion and fear as my groggy mind tried desperately to recognize my surroundings. The smell of my aunt’s cooking was missing, and my stomach aches in protest while my tastebuds idly recall the greasy crunch of the bacon she’d pile high on my plate that I’d devour in seconds. My pillow didn’t smell like the lavender fabric softener she bought the last week I was there. Trish always rotated different scents of laundry soap like clockwork. She told me that when she was a kid, my grandmother always used a specific type of soap on their clothes, and when she passed away Trish has began searching for it. She has no idea what type of laundry soap her mother used, but the smell of it reminded her of her childhood.

“I’ll remember it when I smell it Raine, and I know I’m close to finding it. I’ve just got to keep looking,” She’d said to me one morning when I asked what’d she do if she never found it. I mentioned it might be easier just to give up on finding it altogether.

“You telling me to just give up girl? Where would we be in this world if people just quit doing something because it was too hard or it just seemed practical at the time? We wouldn’t be nowhere. I’ve committed myself to this, so I’m gonna see it through and I wanna see you do the same. If you put your mind to something, and work damn hard to achieve it, you can do anything in this life. Now go and get me your uncle’s clothes, I had to buy separate soap for the man because he hates lavender.” Her words that day put things into perspective for me. Yes, being at this college hadn’t been a part of my plans, and yes, it would be a lot easier to just give up now and hide away in my aunt and uncle’s basement, but that was the coward's way out and us Kahn’s were anything but cowards.

“Mimi? What’re you doing? What time is it?” I ask when I see her walking to her side of the room. I assume she must have woken me up when she came in the room. My eyes roam over her attire in confusion; she’s sporting a large black t-shirt that fell to her mid thighs. I’m half tempted to ask if she’s at least wearing shorts underneath, but I’m afraid of the answer. Lord knows where she’s been all night.

“It’s ten in the morning sweetheart.”

“You just got back? Did you spend the night at wherever the party was?” I ask in bafflement. She shoots me a rather annoyed glance, shrugging as she shuffles through her dresser drawers, grabbing out a pair of cotton shorts and yanking them up her pale legs.

“No. I ended up staying at a… erm friends place last night. But they never showed up until this morning.”

“Oh. Did they kick you out or something?” I ask, feeling curious. I mean, why else come back here in only a baggy top and a long coat? Not only was it impractical in most situations, but it’s also freezing cold outside.

“Let’s just say it wasn’t the happy reunion I had planned. Do you have any classes today?” As soon as she goes to lay down I’m up on my feet, stumbling around my cardboard boxes. Bending down, I start to search through a box filled to the brim with my clothes. If I wouldn’t have given into Mimi last night and attended that dreadful party, I’d probably have most of my stuff put away by now.

“Yeah, I do, at one.” I smirk victoriously as I tug out a cute top, then making my way unceremoniously to another box to begin the tedious task over again with my jeans.

“Oh. I can help you find your first class of the day if you want?” Surprised by her offer, I stop what I’m doing to glance at her. She’s currently sprawled out on her bed, blue hair just shy of sweeping across the floor. “Thanks for the offer, but I’ve already got someone to show me around. I’ve actually got to meet up with her around twelve, so I’m heading for a shower.” Giving up on my search, I grab a random pair of jeans and begin gathering everything I’d need for a shower. A cute top substituted for less than flattering pants, right? Going through the motions of showering and getting ready was quick mess of almost poking my eyeballs out with my mascara brush, flailing my legs around like a fish out of water when I tried to yank up my jeans that were a size too small, and cursing to the moon and back about forgetting to put my phone back on charge the night before. When I finally made it to Jamba Juice I was a good fifteen minutes late and Georgia was more than halfway done with her banana smoothie.

“Sorry I’m late! I’ve had an insane morning,” I slump down into the seat across from her, my brain feeling as if it’s short circuited within the past hour. Perhaps the heat from my straightener seeped into my skin, created an incision hole through my skull, and harmed the part of my brain that remembered the time I was supposed to meet Georgia. It’s very unlike me to be late for anything.

“It’s no problem, I thought you got lost honestly,” She laughs, quickly sweeping away my worries with a flick of her wrist, her manicured nails a purple blur before they return to her condensed glass.

“Are the smoothies good here?” I change the subject, glancing around the inside of the building that was bursting with color. The walls were painted a lime green and different promotional posters were posted everywhere. The Jamba Juice sign was a warm yellow with green letters and beneath it was where workers stood taking orders and creating smoothies from the assortment of fresh fruit proudly displayed for all to view. Tons of different fruits were stacked inside the display case, mangoes, apples, pears, bananas, the list was endless.

“Trust me, they’ll be the best smoothies you’ve ever tasted. Go order one, you won’t be disappointed,” Taking her word for it, I stand in line reading over the menu and prices as each person in front of me began steadily to move forward. When I finally reach the front of the line, I smile at the guy who was working and take notice of his dimpled smile as he asks me what I’d like.

“What do you recommend? Smoothie wise.”

“Personally, I like something sweet, so I’d probably tell you to order a strawberry whirl.”

“Something sweet does sound good.”

“Yeah it does,” I don’t miss the suggestive glance he gives me before relaying my order to his coworker who starts making my drink. After paying I step aside, impatiently waiting to get away from his lingering gaze. When he finally hands me my smoothie I’m ready to make my escape from this awkward situation, but before I can he’s putting a white slip of paper between my fingers. Turning around without a glance back, I look down at the messy scrawl of numbers on the paper. Is this guy serious? Crumbling up the paper and tossing it carelessly on the table before Georgia, I settle in my chair and take a sip of my smoothie. At least he’s good at choosing smoothies, not so much at flirting.

“Did you just get his number? He is so cute!” Georgia is grinning from ear to ear, her emerald eyes sparkling with excitement. “I know girls who come in here just to catch a glimpse of him. You should call him later!”

“Nah, I’m good. I’m not looking to date anyone.”

“Who said anything about dating him? I heard he’s a good hookup.” I nearly choke at her words, staring at her incredulously.

“How would you even know that Georgia?” She shrugs and smiles innocently, but I’m beginning to realize there’s nothing innocent about her.

“I know many things. But seriously, why not? He’s cute.” Sighing, I continue sipping my drink, quickly becoming addicted to its sweet taste. There’s a million and one reasons why dating or even just hooking up with a random guy is a bad idea for me. I’m far from ready to be with another guy or just sleeping with one. I’ve got so much baggage and trust issues from my last relationship to last a lifetime. Adding another guy into my life would further complicate things. Besides, I am determined to keep that promise I made to myself about staying away from guys while I was here.

“I just had a bad breakup, and I’m not interested in anything serious or casual. Besides, he was kind of creepy. Cute, yes, but he stared a lot and sucked at flirting.” We both laugh at that.

“That’s understandable. Trust me, you’ve got plenty of time to hook-up with college guys. This is a huge campus, and there’s tons of guys for the picking once you're ready.” We spend some more time talking before she walks me to class. Once we leave Jamba Juice and eventually arrive at my class, I thank Georgia profusely before we part ways. I’m a few minutes early, and the professor isn’t here yet. Finding a seat in the middle of the room, I set my belongings on the table in front of me and start organizing my papers.

There’s probably close to thirty people in this class and everyone is talking animatedly and obviously knew one another at least a little bit, if not very well. When I overhear a group of girls talking about the infamous Shane Rikers, I find myself tuning into their conversation. After our weird encounter last night he’s been hanging out in the back of my mind, smirking in my subconscious and blowing a smoky haze throughout my thoughts.

“So, did anything happen between you and Shane last night? You have to tell me everything!” The blonde I remember seeing him with last night smirks, faking a coy expression.

“We made out a little. It was no big deal,” Her friendly apparently thought it was a huge deal because she slaps her arm. “Shay! What else? I know you guys did more than that!” Pretending to act bashful, the blonde rolls her eyes and nods to her friend.

“Okay, we hooked up. And it was damn good.” Her friend squeals in delight.

“I am so jealous! I’d kill for a night with Shane Rikers just to confirm the rumors for myself.”

“Well, from personal experience, I can tell you the rumors are more than true.” The professor walked in at that moment, and all chatter in the room ceased. The whole lesson was spent going over the syllabus and course work. Our professor explained what books and other reading material we’d need for the semester and gave a brief overview of the course material. He also mentioned our first project of the semester and how next class he’d assign us our partners. We’d learn more about what the project entailed next week. All he said was that it would be done entirely out of class.

When he finally dismissed us, I gather my stuff and exit the classroom. It was an easy day seeing as it’s the official start of the semester, and most of my classes will be a repeat of that one with going over the syllabus. I plan on stopping by my dorm to drop off my stuff and change into my workout clothes. Exercise became an outlet for me to curb my stress or anger. When things just kept getting worse and worse last year, I’d always find myself in the gym as a coping technique.

Entering the gym, I allow them to scan my student pass before making my way over to the treadmills. Throwing my hair up into a messy ponytail, I press quickstart on the machine and start increasing my speed little by little. My heart is thundering inside of my chest, each pound harder and faster than the next. I can feel the adrenaline liquefying throughout my veins, urging my muscles on. My chest is heaving up and down, my thoughts and worries escaping with every exhale. Thirty minutes later, I begin to cool down, slowing my pace until I come to an eventual stop. Panting, I swipe my hand against my sweat covered forehead, gushing down my water in a greedy haste as I attempt to catch my breath.

Wanting to work on my arms before I leave, I tread over to the machines that focus on your triceps. Setting my weight and seat preference, I sit down and begin to do my reps. I take the time to look around the gym, inspecting every patron. It was sparsely packed and plenty of machines were open everywhere. The tricep machine I was on was located right beside the lifts and weights. Hearing the repeated grunts of some guy lifting weights, my curious gaze flits over to them and my breath leaves my body.

Watching the strain of Shane’s muscles as he continued to lift without preamble, pushing his body to the max, there was a beauty in it. I don’t understand, after only being here a day, the infamousy of Shane and how he seems to be everywhere I go both figuratively and literally. His body is sinful and I am captivated by the way his jaw clenches and unclenches, little grunts escaping his baby pink lips. His hair is plastered to his forehead with sweat and his arms are pumping up and down with determination. I can’t look away from him, my own workout forgotten as my attention diverts to him completely.

When he suddenly stops, I’m not quick enough to glance away. His steel eyes catch me staring and his eyebrows furrow as he gives me a once over. I can feel my cheeks flame with embarrassment, not only from being caught staring, but for the fact that I probably look like a hot mess. I start to silently freak out when he stands and makes his way over to me.

“Do you have a staring problem lip gloss?” He leans against the wall beside me, the light from outside making his eyes appear a lighter shade. Making them appear more friendly than they really are.

“I have a name, you know.”

“I’m not very good at remembering names. Ask any girl on campus,” His cocky smile is almost my undoing.

“I think I’ve heard enough about you so far to last a lifetime. And it’s only my first official day here.”

“Want to learn more? You got any plans tonight?” I’m flabbergasted by his question and its underlying message and I start staring at him as if he’s a deranged lunatic.

“I have no interest in becoming another nameless female for you to notch on your belt. All of the gossip and rumors about you are far from worth that,” I spat, infuriated at the fact that he would even dare to try and ‘hang out’ with me after basically admitting that he’s such a fuck boy who can’t even remember the names of the girls he hooks up with. Georgia’s friend Keira was right. Shane had absolutely no substance, and apparently no morals either. Standing up, I gather my keys and water bottle, not bothering to give Shane another glance as I make a quick getaway.

He doesn’t say anything as I leave, and I’m glad. He won’t need to sleep with me before he forgot my name, because he’ll never have it to begin with. I’m making another promise to myself, and that’s to heed Georgia and her friend’s advice and stay the hell away from Shane Rikers.

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