I never planned on college, but with a GI bill burning a hole in my back pocket, Uncle Sam’s blessing, and nothing better to do, here I was. Well, that along with Mom’s encouragement and my brother’s insistence I’d enjoy myself.
I didn’t exactly fit in—a twenty-four-year-old freshman in a small college town trying to obtain a degree in English Lit, the only subject I didn’t suck at in high school. At one time, higher education was on my radar, but I planned on a Big Ten school and being a part of the football program…a big part. But life happens, choices were made, and detours taken so here I am.
I never expected to end up in this Martha Stewart version of a bachelor pad that belonged in the glossy pages of the kind of catalog I wouldn’t wrap fish in, let alone read. Hayden owned the condo. Well, at least his parent’s did. Hayden, roommate number one, who I referred to as “spoiled rich boy.” Not just in my head, but aloud, too. The crazy thing was, he identified himself that way. I liked that about him. Noah, roommate number two, was more like me—a working stiff trying to get a leg up in the world. Then there was Gage, roommate number three, who mostly kept to himself.
I usually jogged outside, but the rain had changed my plans today. Rain fucked with my joints and caused my scars to sting. I ran on Hayden’s treadmill instead, listening as he jabbered on about parties, girls and well…party girls while he lifted weights. As usual, he switched gears as smoothly as my manual clunker.
“C’mon Hutch, I scored an extra ticket.”
“Richie Rich, do you peg me as the type of dude who wants to attend a dance recital?”
He placed another weight onto his bar. “I want people to be there for my sister. My parents can’t make it. Not a lot of people go to these events, especially when it’s competing with a campus football game.”
I never thought of Hayden as the kind of guy that looked out for others. Still, I had no desire to go. She wasn’t my sister, after all. In fact, I’d planned on hanging out with some other buddies tonight. It was gonna be a rager with Jose Cuervo supplying the drinks, Jimi Hendrix providing the tunes, and Albert Camus’ The Stranger bringing in the entertainment portion of the evening. I’m not an alcoholic, but lonely and numb were two sides of the same coin. Lately, I’d grown very close to ole Jose.
“There will be hot girls there,” Hayden added, wiggling his brows.
“I’m not interested in girls.”
My reflexes ran slower these days. Hayden titled his head to the side, a flicker of understanding or rather misunderstanding forming on his features. “Oh, sorry man. I didn’t realize you were gay.”
“I’m not gay,” I said, an octave too loud. “I’m just not interested in girls right now.”
“It’s cool man. You don’t have to hide.”
I sighed and revved up the speed on the mill, searching the room for my phone. “I have plans tonight.”
“Oh yeah, with who?”
With three dudes.
I stopped the treadmill to readjust. “Can you hand me the lube?” I asked, gesturing toward the tube on the table beside Hayden.
Okay…so that sounded gay.
Hayden tossed it to me. I sat on the workout bench and applied a generous amount where I felt the limb tightening on me. The front of my shirt was drenched in sweat, thanks to the ten-mile run, but I still had another five to reach my goal.
“I watch you stay in every night while everyone else is having a good time. We’re in college, G.I. Joe. You need to get out there sometime.”
Hayden didn’t fool me. Obviously, he didn’t want to go alone, and he’d already run through his gamut of friends until my name popped up. In truth, I should go. I owed Hayden a lot. If I wasn’t living here, I’d be uncomfortable as hell, cramped in a tiny dorm room. Plus, there were some very nice amenities at Casa Richie Rich. Every creature comfort a man could want. I may only be twenty-four, but my mental age had me wondering if I should apply for social security benefits.
I thought about it. Why the hell not? At least I’d have something to tell Colton when he came to visit. He often ribbed me about my self-imposed exile from society.
“Yeah, okay. What time?”
Hayden, blinked a few times before staring at me as if waiting for a punch line. If he didn’t quit being so annoying, he might just get a punch right to the gut.
“Don’t push it.”
He nodded. “Seven. I’ll leave your ticket at Will Call.”