5 TAKING THE BUS
"Uh ... where is Steph?" I try to sound self conscious, but my voice is more of a squeak. I claw my fingers into the soft terry cloth of the towel and check if it really covers my naked body. The guy looks at me. Pulls the corners of the mouth a bit high, but does not say a word. "Did you hear me? I asked where Steph is."
I'm trying to ring a bit more polite this time. His smile widens, and finally he mumbles, "I do not know." Then he turns on the small flat screen TV on Steph's cupboard. 'What's he doing here? Does not he have his own room? ' But I bite my tongue. Could you ... go out or something so I can get dressed? " It does not seem to have struck me that I'm wrapped in a towel. Or maybe he just does not care.
"Now do not imagine that I want to watch you," he sneers, turning on his side and closing his eyes. I had not noticed his strong British accent so far.
Probably because he still did not think it necessary to talk to me. Since I'm unsure how to respond to his brazen comment, I'm just snorting angrily and go over to my dresser. Maybe he is gay. What would explain his statement with not looking. Either that, or he does not find me attractive. I put on my briefs and bra in a hurry, followed by a simple white blouse and khaki shorts. "Do you have it soon?", He wants to know. That's enough for me.
"Could you maybe be a little more rude, I did not hurt you, what's your problem ?!", I stammer a lot louder than intended, but measured by his surprised expression my words have the desired effect. For a moment he stares at me silently. And while I'm still waiting for his apology .... he starts to laugh. His laughter is deep and would be nice if he did not come across so unnaturally. Deep dimples appear in his cheeks. I feel like a complete idiot and have no idea what to do or say. I usually avoid conflicts, and this guy seems to be the last person I should start a fight with.
The door opens and Steph storms in. "I'm sorry I'm too sad, I have such a terrible hangover," she announces theatrically as her gaze wanders back and forth between them. "Sorry, Tess, I forgot to tell you that Hardin is still passing by." She shrugs apologetically. I had hoped that Steph and I would get together, maybe even become friends, but I'm not so sure about the friends and the long nights.
"Your friend is really brazen." The words are out before I can stop myself. Steph looks over at the guy. Then they both start laughing. 'Why are everyone making fun of me?' This is getting really annoying. "Hardin Scott is not my friend, so not like that!" Steph is almost choking with laughter. When she calms down, she looks hard at this Hardin.
"What did you say to her?" Then to me: "Hardin has one, let's say, unusual way of communicating." Ah, wonderful. That means as much as: Hardin is by nature outrageous. The Englishman shrugs and zaps on another channel. "There's a party tonight, so you should come along, Tessa," says Steph. Now it's my turn to laugh. "Parties are not my cup of tea, and I still have to get things for my desk and walls here."
I look over at Hardin, who of course pretends we are not there. "Well, come on ... it's just a single evening, you're in college now - there's no party going to do much harm," she tries to persuade me. "But wait, how are you going to get into the city, I thought you did not have a car?" Besides, I can not come with you - I do not know anybody. "
Whereupon Hardin laughs softly again. So he's following our conversation at least to the extent that he can make fun of me. "I wanted to read and skype with Noah."
"Taking the bus on Saturdays is not a good idea, it's way too crowded, Hardin can take you home when he goes home ... or, Hardin, and tonight you know me, come on, come on. ... You're welcome!" Dramatically, she folds her hands. I just know her one day. Should I trust her? My mother's warning about parties shoots through my head. Steph is actually very nice, even if I have experienced it only briefly. But a party?
"I do not know ... and, no, I do not want Hardin driving me to shop," I answer. This seems to amuse Hardin very much as he rolls back and forth on Steph's bed and says dryly: "Oh no, I was so looking forward to it." His tone is so sarcastic that I'd love to get a book on his curly head. "Goodbye, Steph, the little one is not coming today," he says with a laugh.
His accent is so unmistakable that the curious part of me - admittedly quite tall - would have liked to ask Hardin where he came from. Another part of me would like to prove to that complacent guy that he's wrong. "Although, why not, I'm in," I say as sweetly as possible. "Sounds like it could be funny." While Hardin shakes his head in disbelief, Steph hugs me and squeals with joy. "It's going to be cool!", She says.
I hope she is right.