We were both nineteen when we first officially met. She was skinny and always wore hoodies that were a-little-too-big and I just came to school in plain white t’s. She was overlooked, I was the nice guy. She read books, I chilled in the library because I just liked the scent of them.
One day, I was walking through the dorms opposite to mine to drop off a friend’s jacket that was left in my car the other night. Upon making my way back toward the exit, I passed a door, slightly cracked and left untouched unlike most of the other girls in that dorm had done with theirs. No whiteboard with a name inked on it with a hot pink dry-erase marker, no stickers, no decor hanging from the doorknob with some cheesy line along the lines of “Currently dreaming, please do NOT come in.” Not even a “Do Not Disturb” sign.
From the inside, I heard light sobbing, high pitched and soft like a songbird slowly dying in the street. I don’t know why I did, but I stopped and peeked inside out of a random bout of concern and compassion. There was a girl sitting by herself in the dorm, crying hard into the palms of her hands. She glanced up for a moment at the ceiling, similar to the way people seek the sky to question God at the sight of tragedy. Though most of the other dorms were occupied by two girls, the other bed and the other side of the room was completely bare and dormant. I pursed my lips in hesitation before rapping lightly on the door with my fist.
“Excuse me,” my voice cracked, “I heard you crying from out here… um, are you alright?”
“Um, yeah…” She quickly swiped the sleeve of her hoodie underneath both eyes and smoothed out her hair, clearly startled. I saw her kick the bottom drawer of her dresser shut through the slit in the doorway before she made her way to the door.
“Can I help you?”
I recognized her face quickly. She was in my four o’clock Tuesday/Thursday English class.
“I don’t mean to sound creepy but I kind of overheard you crying on the way out… I just wanted to make sure you’re alright?”
“Oh… I’m fine.”
I didn’t believe her for one second.
“You’re in my English class.” Smooth. “Uh, wanna grab a coffee or something?”
“I don’t drink coffee.” She shifts her weight to her other leg uncomfortably.
“…but I do like tea?” She offers a shy and polite smile.
“Boba, maybe?” Unless she doesn’t like boba. I’m horrible at this and she can tell, but at least I tried.
“Sure.” She smiles at me again. “Just let me grab my keys.”
She walks back into her dorm, closing the door only slightly and for a split second I’m wondering if she’s going to change in front of me as she grabs a piece of garment off of the drawer. I hear a jingling of keys as she swipes them off of her desk on the way back to the door. I notice she’s only in a sweater and leggings. She quickly slips on a pair of short boots before reappearing in the doorway. Not exactly the thirty minute wait I was expecting.
Boba dates slowly turned into study dates, study dates turned into movie nights. You catch my drift.
The more I got to know her, the more I started to like her, naturally. Her name was Kayla. She was cute in the petite Asian girl kind of way and didn’t doll herself up like the girls at my school that I was used to. Always came to class a few minutes early and the type to stay after to ask a few questions about the latest assignment. Before I knew it, she’d become my personal tutor.
I made her my girlfriend after a few months. It was a mediocre relationship, but nothing negative at all—trips to the mall and the movies, high school style. I carried her books to class and she swung by my dorm occasionally with onion rings or french friends and my favorite boba.
One day, she invited me into her dorm.
Not exactly in the I’m-totally-gonna-get-it-in way, but in the I’ve-been-seeing-this-girl-for-a-few-months-now-and-this-is-the-first-time-she’s-ever-invited-me-in type of way.
The first thing I noticed was that her dorm was still fairly barren, save the card I bought her for Valentine’s Day sitting on her nightstand, her laptop on top of a stack of textbooks and a small piggy bank sitting on the corner of her desk. The other side of her dorm had an extra bed but that part of the room was still bare. She’d already explained to me that the lack of estrogen at our school had blessed her with a room to herself. She kept that side of the room neat, though, just in case another girl was sent her way.
Before we headed out on a dinner date, she told me to wait in her room while she freshened up in the bathroom down the hall. She turned on her iHome for me before leaving.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes, sit tight!” She kissed my cheek and left the room.
Lauryn Hill’s voice trickled in from the speakers. I smiled.
Fifteen minutes of twiddling my thumbs and gazing around her minimalist type of room passed before I noticed something sticking out of the bottom drawer of her nightstand.
I noticed this for two reasons:
One, because she’d always made sure all of her drawers were closed and her room was kept tidy before she’d left the room each time we had gone out.
Two, because the item was so odd and seemed so misplaced that it stuck out like a sore thumb.
It was a rope.
I pinched it between my thumb and forefinger and gingerly pulled it out, feeling kind of awkward and guilty like I shouldn’t be going through her stuff and as if I was handling her underwear. A good five feet of rope came out of the small opening of the drawer before it got stuck. I glanced at the door before opening it just wide enough to be able to pull the entire thing out.
Before I could register what it was, I noticed a perfect knot tied to the end of the rope. It had gotten caught in the drawer slit prior to opening it wide enough because it was too large in circumference to allow it to slip through.
A knot perfectly loose enough to tighten the snare at the end, yet tight enough not to give and unwind.
Horrified, I threw the rope back into the drawer and kicked it shut, standing up. It all made sense now.
The day I had caught her crying, she wasn’t staring at the ceiling. She was staring at the ancient ceiling fan, replacement long overdue, rusted to the surface.
Just then, she walked back into the room, her face alight with a sweet smile before settling on the horror on my face. Her eyes wandered to my feet, unintentionally guarding the drawer behind my ankle, shut but about two inches of the rope sticking out of the corner.
She sighed and took my hand, seating herself on the bed.
“Why?” I asked accusingly, not bothering to sit beside her where she’d motioned me to sit. “Why haven’t you gotten rid of this?”
“A reminder,” she breathed. Her eyes glossed over, but she never took them away from mine. “I have more reasons to live than I do to ever use it.”
The silence was unbearable. I know I had only known her for a few months, but even if it was just a token of regret that she’d decided to keep, I was still confused.
Breaking the silence, she took a deep breath. “You changed my mind.”
“How?” My tone of voice gave away my clear sense of disbelief.
“You smiled at me.”
tagged as fiction.
posted by caseybee
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- hi-trish said: You should join writing contests. You’re amazing at composing stories.
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