Part 1

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I can't do this today.

I paused, looking down at the mobile cupped carefully in my hands, curved up to hide the screen. I was in my room, alone. No one could see me, but I still felt like this was secret. Hesitating for a moment, I considered whether or not to send it. I pressed the button a moment later, sending the message off into the ether.

It was an old number. It was one I'd used in high school, before I'd had it changed. No one was using it anymore, so it's not as if sending stray thoughts via text would do any harm. It felt odd though, having it down in words, this moment of vulnerability.

I was just being silly now.

I put the phone away in the pocket of my hoodie and lay back on the tiny bed to stare at the ceiling of my little room in the university residence. It was approximately the size of a closet, but at least I didn't share my bedroom. It was bad enough sharing a kitchen and bathroom. I avoided the common room like the plague because my roommates were always in, playing video games or watching hockey.

My contemplation was interrupted by a loud cheer from the next room and I groaned. It looked as if they were in there now, at two in the morning. I really wanted to tell them to be quieter, but I could never bring myself to ask.

I sighed. It wasn't as if I was getting any sleep anyway.

I roused myself and shuffled into the kitchen, hoping that everyone in the common room would ignore me as I went past. It was Friday night, so I tried to be forgiving, and thankful that they hadn't started up on a Monday.

I chanced a glance through the window that joined the kitchen and common room. There were bottles of liquor lined up along it, most of which were mostly empty. Beyond that, the room itself was filled with people. Someone had nicked the couches from the residence lounge and brought in extra chairs. I recognized the girls from across the hallway and our neighbours from the next suite over. There were many more people that I didn't know on sight crammed into the tiny space.

I opened the fridge and heaved a sigh. The entire top shelf was filled with vodka coolers and various types of beer. Underneath it all, I had no idea where my leftovers from the previous night had ended up. Looked like I'd be snacking on crackers for the night.

"Oh, hey Spence."

I looked up, startled. I should have expected that someone would notice me, but hardly anyone ever did, so it was strange to me. This was different from high school. People actually talked to me sometimes, without being mean about it.

"Hi. Matt. I––" I coughed and blushed. "Good to see you. I mean, not good good. But good. You know. Um, you're looking..." Really damn fine, my mind supplied. "Good. Yeah."

It figured that I'd be caught by my hot roommate. I had two others, so why was it that the hot one always tried to talk to me? Most people would be pleased by this, I assumed, but whenever he started chatting, I felt like a complete dork. I'd wave my hands too much and ramble. Then I'd escape and hide, which always left me feeling like an utter idiot. None of them knew I was gay, and I wasn't keen on finding out how that conversation would go.

Matt raised his eyebrows as I stuttered to a halt, but grinned when I ducked my head in embarrassment. "It's nice to know you think so. What are you doing up?"

I remembered that I'd been about to go to sleep, and that I was wearing a faded pair of pyjama pants and an old t-shirt. Not partying material at all. "Just trying to find a snack. Not much in the way of food around here."

"Oh, right. Sorry about that." Matt rubbed a hand through his fine, pale hair. "You can have my pizza pockets if you want."

"That's okay, I don't need anything." I raised my hands in denial, at the same moment my stomach growled.

Matt laughed and went to open the refrigerator. He handed them to me, and then leaned against the kitchen counter, watching me as I found a plate and put them in the microwave. The life of a student wasn't at all glamourous.

"So, how are your studies going?" Matt asked, obviously making an attempt at small-talk.

"Not so bad, essays are almost all due, but you know how it goes."

"Write them the night before?"

"Three all-nighters in a row."

"Sleep is overrated anyway." Matt smiled. He'd once described himself to me as two-thirds ginger, I remembered. It was ridiculous, someone who was blond couldn't be ginger. But he'd insisted he had the pale complexion and the freckles and he only lacked the hair to go with it.

His freckles were golden. I adored them and he hated them.

The theme song to a recently popular British television program started up, and he pulled his phone out of his pocket. I went back to eating my snack while he looked at it.

"This is odd," he said with a frown. "I don't know this number."

"Oh?" I asked, not really wanting to hear about his numerous contacts. Everyone liked this guy, so it only stood to reason that someone had his phone number that he didn't know.

The only mystery to me was why he was in the kitchen with me when he could be out in the common room with everyone else.

"It must be a mistake," he said, and shrugged.

"I guess." A loud knock from the door to our suite tore my attention away from contemplation of a question I didn't care too much to ponder.

It was the R.A. She was one of two that had responsibility for our floor, but she seemed to like us in spite of the frequent rowdiness. She even liked me, and I was hardly more than a ghost flitting in between my room and my classes.

"Matt, are you having a party without inviting moi?" She gave him a mock glare and crossed her arms.

"That depends. Are you going to write us up?"

"No one's complained to me about the noise, so no. Ah, I see, you've taken my advice to heart and invited all your neighbours to avoid just that. Good on you."

"We take your advice very seriously. We have plastic cups and mix if you want to join us."

"Good, cause I brought rum."

"You could join too, if you wanted," Matt offered as he gave the R.A. a plastic cup. "We promise not to make you do any shots."

Behind him, Roommate#2 was sitting on Roommate#3's shoulders and was shotgunning a beer to the cheers of the rest of the room. The R.A. was taking tequila shots with the girls from across the hall and someone had opened a window and was smoking a joint next to it.

"That's alright. See you later."

I escaped back to my room. It wasn't that I didn't appreciate the effort my roommates put into trying to be nice to me. They frequently invited me to go to the pub with them, to watch a hockey game or come to a party. I just didn't do those things. They probably think I'm weird and that I don't like them. I just wasn't very good at dealing with loads of people. It was nothing against them personally.

Still, I'd appreciate it if they were quieter sometimes.

I fell asleep, lulled into darkness by several off-key voices singing an old pop song by a long-broken-up boy band.

I have a lot of secrets. I guess that's why I'm sending these to you. You're not real.

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