What exactly was the protocol for leaving tampons in a guy’s bathroom? A guy’s freakishly neat bathroom, at that? Well, it was half mine now, so the pristine state wasn’t going to last for long.
I opened and shut the cabinet door a few times, but the pink box stuck out like…well, a bright freaking pink box. Maybe I should have gotten a different box to put them in? Are you seriously debating tampon placement? I let the door stay shut and backed away from the cabinet slowly, like I’d planted evidence or something.
My makeup bag rested on the left side of the sink, but my lotions and army of haircare products I’d need to tame my unruly curls in the southern humidity consumed more than my allotted counter space and one of the newly emptied drawers. Yeah, it practically screamed girl in here.
Screw it, I lived here now, too, and so did my tampons…for all of twelve hours. I walked down the hall to my room, careful to tiptoe past my new roommate’s door, and made it through mine, directly across from it. Just because I was up at six forty-five a.m. didn’t mean he needed to be, and a rude wake-up wasn’t the first impression I wanted to make.
“Time to get up!” Ember sang before she swung into my room, one hand behind her back. Best friend or not, she looked way too happy for this early, glowing from the Alabama sun and things I didn’t want to know about with her boyfriend, Josh. The boyfriend I now quasi-lived with, along with his best friend, Jagger, and the other guy, whose name I could never remember. Three boys. One girl. Well, there were awkward situations and there was me. Ember glanced around at the half-unpacked boxes. “Whoa. Did you sleep at all?”
“A few hours.” Barely at all. “You’re going to wake those guys if you’re not quiet.”
“Please. Grayson got home sometime last night and all three of them went running a half hour ago. Why do you think I’m already so perky?” Her smile gave far more information than I wanted.
Grayson. That’s right. “They left already? They must be part ninja, because I didn’t hear a thing. And as for you two, ugh. I swear. Insane.” And enviable.
She laughed in response and handed me the bag she’d kept behind her back. “Welcome to Alabama!”
“You live in Tennessee.”
“Hey, as a part-time Alabamian…or whatever, I’m allowed to say welcome. Now take your present.” She shook the silver gift bag.
I took it, tossing the crimson tissue paper onto a discarded pile of boxes, then holding up the maroon V-neck tee that spelled out troy across the chest. A smile erupted on my face. “It’s perfect, and I love it!” It had been so long since I’d felt happy that I almost didn’t recognize the emotion.
“New start. New school. New shirt.” She grinned and pulled me into a hug. “I know you don’t start summer classes for another few weeks, but it seemed like a good day to give that to you.”
I gave her a squeeze before I let go. “Thank you. Seriously. If it wasn’t for you telling me to apply to Troy, or for Jagger offering to let me live here, or Josh helping me pack all that furniture…”
“That’s what we’re here for. Oh! I almost forgot.” She pulled a piece of paper from her pajama pants pocket. “Wi-Fi password. I know you have a Skype date with your mom. You ready for coffee?”
“Hell, yes. Is that even a question?”
“Never,” she answered, already headed down the hallway.
The apple reflected in my dresser mirror as I fired up my laptop. I connected to the Wi-Fi. “Flyboys. Of course,” I muttered with a laugh, and signed into Skype three minutes early.
She was already on.
The computer rang and I answered, Mom’s face coming into focus a few seconds later. She looked tired as she unzipped her multicam top and hung it over the back of her chair, leaving her in a tan T-shirt.
“Samantha, baby. How are you?” she asked with a wan smile. Her walls in Afghanistan were bare except for a framed picture of my high-school graduation.
“I’m good.” I propped my laptop against the dresser. “Halfway unpacked. How are you?”
“Long day here, but holding up just— What on earth are you wearing?”
I glanced down and back up at her. “Um…pajamas?” I had outfits that made these boxers and tank top look downright prudish.
“You cannot wear pajamas like that now that you live with men. Go buy some proper pajamas.”
“Or I could skip right to a bundling bag or a chastity belt, Mom.”
She gave me the look. “Don’t get smart. I’m only suggesting that you show a little less skin and a little more common sense.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I answered in song.
I sighed. “I’ll go today, Mom, but your whole theory is hugely antiquated.”
“Just make me feel better, okay? I’m already not too keen on the boy roommates, or you shipping off to the middle of nowhere Alabama to go to college.”
“Well, this college said yes, unlike the other twenty I’ve applied to.” My fingers stroked across the silver lettering on my new shirt.
“And whose fault is that?” she barked.
My eyes snapped to hers. “You don’t think I know? I’m doing everything I can to make up for what happened. I got into a real college like you demanded, I’m on my own, and I’m looking for a job today. I can’t go back and change last year.” I would if I could. Regret was a nauseating constant in my life. “If I pull good grades, I might have a chance of getting back into Colorado for spring term.” If I can face them.