Instructions: Read the short story and once you’re done (scroll to the end of the story) VOTE on whether this story should be turned into a novel or novella. And if you don’t think the author should keep going, we have a choice for that too.
“Hey girl!” Natasha, my designated summer best friend, plopped down on my roommate’s twin bed. She flung her large braids over her shoulder and crossed her legs.
“You know Toya don’t like you sitting on her bed,” I reminded.
“Girl, you know I don’t care nothing ‘bout what LaToya ‘don’t like.’ Let her say something then.” I repress a chuckle as I load my backpack.
“What’s up?” The summer internships we are participating in assigned us to professors in our majors for research projects. “I’m headed to the library.”
“I forgot you got that crazy lady,” Natasha makes a face and stood. “I’ll walk with you.”
“You still haven’t told me why you came by.”
“Oh yeah, I met a guy and he invited me to a party.”
I side-eyed her, “He must be fine.”
She shrugs, “He’s alright.”
I didn’t believe it for a second. “What time?” I ask.
“I don’t know, Brian said to swing by any time after nine. I’ll see if Erica and a few of the guys want to go.”
“Okay,” I said. “Might as well do something I can look back on and hope none of my future children do.” Natasha laughed, “Atta girl.”
The party was in full swing at the house a block away from the campus. Erica, Marcus, Robert, and Tameka complete our crew. “Dang, girl, you weren’t lying about this party!” Robert raised a high five which Natasha ignored.
“Boy please…get away from me.” She flicks her hand, “Go mingle.” “We need drinks.” I turn to Tasha, “You see your guy?” “There he is,” she waves at a very tall, very handsome man walking towards us. “Damn,” Tameka muttered. That was an understatement. “Tash,” a Beautiful tall man said, “Glad y’all came.”
“Hey Brian. Meet my girls, Tameka, Sherri and Erica, and that’s Marcus.” Tameka flirted, I waved, and Erica grunted. Marcus extended his hand.
“What’s everybody drinking?” Brian asks. “Whatever,” Tameka answered. While Brian and Marcus went to get the drinks, we danced until they return with vodka and shot glasses. Brian smiles and casually loops one long arm around Erica’s neck and the other around Natasha’s waist. “Follow me,” he said leading us to a table out back.
Marcus had decided to find Robert so it was just us girls. “Fellas, we’ve got company.” Brian interrupts a heated discussion between his friends. I meet eyes with one of them, glad I decided on cutoff shorts, a tank top, and a baseball cap, knowing the outfit would give effortless sex appeal. “Alcorn Braves huh?”
He’s cute. “What do you know about Alcorn?”
“It’s in the middle of nowhere.”
“True,” I sat next to him, “But the beauty of being in the middle of nowhere is you can scream as loud as you want.” He smiles, “Is that right?” I smile back “Yep.” He extends his hand, “Charles.” I accept. “Sherri.”
“You got two weeks left. Imma do something special for you.” I snuggle into the covers. Charles knows I’m awake even though I haven’t moved. Being his little spoon has become one of my favorite things. This is the first time I’ve seen him in a week and a half— preparing for the end-of-program activities and finishing my research paper left no time for anything else.
“What time is it?” “Nine thirty,” Charles answered, pulling me closer. “WHAT?” I sit up, “You didn’t go to class today?” “Nope.” I get out of bed and rush into the bathroom for a quick wash-up. “I’ve got a meeting at ten! Why didn’t you wake me up?” I was pissed and I can tell Charles is trying to maintain his cool. “You were exhausted.” I hear him say through the bathroom door.
“Chill, baby. Damn.” “Chill?! I will not ‘chill,’ having to see Dr. Dennis in the same clothes without my corrections.” “So call and tell her you’re sick.” This boy has lost his mind. Play sick? With Dr. Alice Dennis? Just working with her will do wonders for my resume. I pull on my jeans and try to shake the wrinkles out my shirt.
“Can you please get the iron?” I know I’m glaring. “What’s the big deal?” “She has Sonia Sanchez on speed dial.” Charles emits a humorless laugh. “Whatever. You mad when I should be mad at you.” I ignore him, brushing my hair into a bun. I see him in the mirror ironing the shirt. My anger fades.
This arrangement is supposed to be casual. He wouldn’t alter his lifestyle and I wouldn’t let it interfere with my research. Yet here we were, acting like a couple. “What are you talking about, I didn’t do anything.” “Exactly.” When I don’t say anything he continues, “You fell asleep.” I turn to look at him, “So?”
“In the middle of me going down on you.” No. We finished. Didn’t we? I’m having trouble remembering. Charles put on a movie. We started making out. I remember…kissing. That’s it. “We didn’t have sex,” I say. “Clearly.” Sex was my primary purpose with Charles. He’s good at it. But he is good at other things that I shouldn’t know or care about.
I’m falling for him and it’s infuriating. He hands me the shirt and I put it on and leave. Halfway back to campus, I wonder if I overreacted. When Brian’s car pulls next to me and slows down, I am relieved. At least I don’t have to walk in this heat. “Get in.” Dammit! Charles: the last person I want to see. It’s a quiet ride.
He stops in front of the Fine Arts building and I mumbled a thank you before getting out the car. After my meeting, I head to the library. I will focus all of my energy on this paper.
“I knew I’d find you here.” “Hey, Tash, what’s up?” “You tell me.” She sat down. “You and Chucky break up?” “Only couples break up.” I’m avoiding Charles—not easy with the same friends—using research as my excuse. Natasha sucked her teeth in response. “I keep telling y’all, Dr.—” “Dennis is an academic genius.” Natasha mimicked.
“We know. You don’t have to marry him, just talk.” I sigh. My boyfriend of three years and I both agreed that whatever happens, this summer happens. Developing feelings for the fling is not a part of the plan. When Natasha said she’d let Charles know where I am, I don’t object. I’m startled awake by Charles gently nudging me, breathless and drenched in rain.
“What’s wrong?” He smiled, “Nothing. I just needed to see you.” “Oh.” What else can I say? “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m sorr—” I start. “You don’t have anything to apologize for. I set crazy expectations without even thinking about how you feel.” I look at him except this time I don’t fight that jumble of nerves in the pit of my stomach exploding into fireworks.
Pop goes heart. “Can you leave now?” Charles asks. “Of course.” I gather my things. The rain was still falling. “Where to?” Charles smiled, “You’ll see.” He grabs my bag putting on his shoulder and takes my hand. I didn’t pull away. I’ll face this head-on and pick up the pieces later.
He retrieved a giant umbrella from near the service desk. “Sorry, we have to walk.” We continue in a comfortable silence. Charles holds me close under the umbrella. “We’re almost there.” He says. After a while, he stops at a gazebo. He leads me up the tiny steps and my heart catches in my throat. Flowers were everywhere and in the middle was a picnic. It was beautiful.
Tears fill my eyes. “Hey…I didn’t mean for you to cry.” I hug him tight. “It’s perfect.” I sniff. “I know we’ve been in a weird place,” he says, “but I didn’t want you to leave like that.” I break our embrace. He wraps his arms around my waist as I lean into him. “I had to call in a favor, so I’m glad you like it.” “I love it.” Then it hits me…I love him.
He kisses my neck then pulls me to the ground and opens the basket. I giggled. “What’s in there?” “You’ll just have to have a seat and find out.” We sit opposite each other as I watched Charles place food on small plates. I regret avoiding him and losing precious time. Or maybe I was just trying to avoid the inevitable.
Charles looks at me, “What are you thinking?” “Just wishing I wasn’t so stubborn. We only have two days, then…” I didn’t want to say it would be over. “Then back to normal, huh?” I nod. He holds my hand, our fingers intertwined. I look up to meet his gaze and I know. Everything I am feeling, he is feeling. We fell in love like summer rain: gradually then all of a sudden…intense, cleansing, and beautiful.
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