“So, it’s over just like that?” I said before I could say another word, she hung up. For a few seconds, I pleaded my case even though she couldn’t hear it. So, I kind of have been stalking Mary, but that’s not the point. The point is, I’d been working my ass off, trying to get her to be with me. I wanted to win her heart, but even I knew that was far from possible. I mean, after all, I was a fucking loser, but I still was at the same college, and I still have every intention of making her mine. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to try and play the tough guy approach or the kind, tender type of guy. Either way, I was going to make Mary mine, even if it meant less than stand-up ways. Sure, I’ve always been seen as a stand-up guy. Whatever that means, I’ve also been known to play practical jokes and make inappropriate comments at inappropriate times. I think that’s what drew Mary to me. My bad boy nature might be appealing. Maybe I should stick with that? No, maybe I should turn the tables and make her want me. But how was I going to make Mary Southerland want little old me?
A woman comes racing through class, bumping straight into me. My books fell every which way. “Watch where the fuck you’re going!” I said and swooped to pick up my books.
“I’m sorry,” a soft voice said. “I’m just in a hurry, and–“
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “Happens to the best of us.”
“Thanks for being a good sport.” She tucked her bangs back behind her ear.
With my free hand, I waved. “Don’t worry about it. Really. I’m sorry I snapped at you.” I returned to my feet. “Got a name?”
“Oh”–the girl palmed her forehead–“where are my manners. I feel like I’m losing myself. This is a new school and… Shannon. My name is Shannon.”
I extended my hand. “Nice to meet you, Shannon.”
A grin tugged at the corner of her mouth, and she adjusted her glasses. “Nice to meet you, too?”
“Ben. My name is Ben.”
“Ben is a name I could get behind.” Shannon let out an awkward laugh. “Listen, if you’re not busy, would you want to get a coffee with me? I don’t know anyone around here and…”
“Of course,” I said.
“I mean, it’s no pressure.” Shannon waved. “No pressure at all.”
“I’d love to.” I smiled. “Ladies first.” I motioned.
We made our way across campus to a small coffee shop, where all the studying and mostly gossip took place. I’d been the subject of a few conversations at the Coffee Shop. We ordered, and I pulled a chair out for her to sit in. I sat across from her. I felt my nerves in my stomach. I wasn’t usually the shy type, but even I couldn’t understand what was happening.
“So, you come here often?” Shannon said, scanning the shop, then returning her eyes to mine. “It’s pretty nice.”
“Why’d you move here?” I said. “If I can ask. If not, tell me to shut up.”
Shannon reached across the table to touch my hand. “No, ask away. I moved her to get an undergraduate degree in general studies.”
“Haven’t picked a major yet?” I shook my finger at her.
Shannon held her hands in the air. “You got me. I’m not sure what I want to do. I keep going back and forth between a high school English teacher and a psychologist.”
I opened and closed my hands. “Both are good fields.” The barista delivered our drinks, but I felt too nervous for caffeine. But I couldn’t show this person I was intimidated by her. It would be the end of my self-esteem to do so. From the corner of my eye, I caught Mary passing through a crowd. Our eyes caught, and she swung her bangs over her eyes and gave me a tight-lipped smile. She gave Shannon a once-over and continued down the path to her next class.
Shannon raised her hand and pointed in the general direction. Mary appeared. “Do you know her? She’s not your girlfriend, is she?” Shannon almost pushed herself up to leave.
I reached. “No, relax. I’m single. She was just some…some girl I knew.”
“Look, I’m not looking to still someone’s man or anything like that. I just wanted some new friends.” But the look in her eyes told me she wanted to be more than friends. I gazed into her eyes and stroked her hand.
“Whatever we had, it’s over now.” I lowered my chin and locked eyes with her.
“And her name is?”
“It’s not important.”
“I could have a class with her.”
“Mary.” I raked my fingers through my hair. “Her name is Mary.”
“Mary Southerland?” Shannon raised a brow.
I nodded and took a sip of coffee, returning the steam cup to the table. “Don’t tell me you know her?” I laughed.
“She used to be my best friend. As kids, we’d sleepover at each other’s house and–“
“Did she put you up to this?” I said. “Asking me on a date only to let me down or turn an advance away?”
“No”–Shannon shook her head–“We haven’t been on good terms since high school.”
“That was two years ago. Don’t you want to get over it?”
“With Mary?” Shannon raised a sly brow.
“Right.” I nodded and laughed hard. “Mary isn’t the most forgiving person in the world.”
“She stole my boyfriend, and I’ve never gotten over it. Granted, Mary was drunk when it happened.”
“Sounds like something Mary would do.” We both giggled. “So, what made you come to Central Washington University?”
“I’ve got family nearby and–“
“You want to get out of here?” I said. I wasn’t much into her small talk. I didn’t really care about why she was her or what she wanted to study. I just wanted to see her naked body against mine. That might be a little too much information, but it’s true nonetheless.
Shannon glanced at her watch. “I’ve got a good hour until class starts, so sure.” We finished our expressos and made our way through the unevenly lit corridor to my dorm. I shook with anxiety, but my depression receded when her sparkling eyes danced with a joke. We continued the stairs to my room. I unlocked it and hit the lights, and blood rushed my face. Mary was standing there wearing lingerie, holding a butcher’s knife.
My mouth hung open. I spun around. “We got to get out of here!”
Shannon locked the door. “Got somewhere to be?”
“You mean, you guys planned this?”
“You’re not as slick as you think you are.”
“Tie his hands and bound his legs together.” Shannon clasped my hands behind my back.
“What are going to do with me?” I struggled. “You won’t get away with this, you know?”
“Oh, yeah?” Mary said. “Watch us.”
“Was this some kind of sick test?”
“When I told you to stop calling me, I meant it. I didn’t mean call me 29 times.”
“Besides,” Shannon said, “who calls someone 29 times and not make the 30th?”
I folded my lips under my teeth and blushed hard. “It’s not what you think.”
“It never is,” Mary said. “It’s never your fault.”
“Look, I won’t call you again. I promise.”
“It’s a little too late for that.” Mary laughed.
I slammed my eyes tight. “After I’m done torturing you for about ten years–“
“I already admitted I was wrong.”
“Not good enough.”
“I’ll kiss your feet. I’ll do anything.” I waved my hands.
“Too late,” Mary said.
Mary raised the knife above her head, and I lowered my chin.
“No, please!” I said. “I–“
“I what?” Shannon motioned.
“I won’t call you again.”
“Promise?” Mary said. She placed the knife in the small of her back and lit a cigarette. “That was easy. Now, lose my number.”
“You guys are fucking insane.” I motioned.
“Remember to lose my phone number,” Mary said as they slipped through the door.