I was finally here.
I couldn’t believe that I was back on campus. Not that this was the same university as two years ago, but the fact that I was back at university was something I still couldn’t believe was happening.
New Year. New course. New me.
Taking a mid-study gap year was great, but it was time I figured out what I was doing with my life. And after everything that happened back home, I needed to get out of town. The last two months had been hard on everyone, and I knew leaving was the only way my parents would actually be able to live again.
I needed a fresh start.
Lucky for me, Rosehaven University had still been accepting enrolments in mid-December, and they still had dorm rooms available. While I still didn’t really know what I was doing, their English Literature course sounding interesting.
Scanning my keycard, I opened the door to Pine House, my new home for the next year. Pulling my suitcase behind me and readjusting my hold on the box under my arm, I made my way down the hall of rooms. Ahead, I could see the living space, voices filtering down to me as I got closer.
“After the debacle with Spinner last year, we’ve had to change the score system a little,” came a female voice.
“Trust Spinner to ruin everything in his final year,” groaned a male voice.
“Yeah, he’s not even here. Why do we need to change the rules?”
“Because Spinner went crazy with the system! You know he nearly got us all into trouble. We are lucky we didn’t get kicked out and he’s lucky he even graduated.” The female replied in an annoyed tone.
Now I was curious. I had no idea who these people were or what they were organising, but it sounded interesting. All I knew about the people I would be living with was that they were all seniors. Pine House was a seniors-only house, but I had managed to get into the last room. Even though I was considered a junior by the university in regards to my education, I was the same age as everyone here.
I reached the end of the hall and paused, looking around the living space. It was made up of a sitting area with three large couches and a large TV, a long dining table, and a large kitchen. A hall, like the one I had just walked down, continued on the other side with more rooms, of which was mine.
“Okay, so there are only three people not in the Game, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them part of the Game. Of course, that’s worth five points, but only half if you’re both playing.” The female spoke again.
I turned to the lounge area to see everyone sitting around with their eyes on a girl in front of large poster, a table drawn up on it. Everyone was fixed on the poster, some taking notes on their phones. I studied the poster, wondering what ‘game’ they were playing.
“Three points for anyone who manages to get into a relationship this year, which is probably unlikely for some of you,” she smirked, her eyes landing on a short guy with black hair.
“That’s a bit harsh Peggy,” he grinned.
“Prove me wrong then Steve.”
“Why would I do that?” he smirked, “I’m playing to win, not get married.”
“My point exactly,” she rolled her eyes, returning to her poster, “And of course, the top score is ten points...”
“Which I doubt any of you guys will be able to get,” smirked one of the guys, the same to have complained about the new rules.
Now I was intrigued. I stepped forward so that I could read the poster better. Reading down the list, I realised what ‘game’ they were playing.
“Oh come on Drew, you’ve never managed to get that far. What makes this year any different?” asked the guy sitting next to him.
“Because Jeremy, I’ve already know two girls who will be up for it,” Drew replied, his facing beaming with confidence.
“Before you all get into a fight about who is going to do what, don’t forget that you can only score if you’re responsible. We don’t need a repeat of what Spinner did last year.” Peggy cut in, sensing the guys about to get into an argument.
“Yeah, let’s not have the cops involved this time,” sighed Jeremy.
Sex. They were playing a game with sex. I should have been angry at them, but the more I looked at the poster and their score system, the less it bothered me. They had strict rules so no one got hurt, and the wildest thing was a threesome. The other tasks where pretty standard – what base you got to, whether it was a one-night-stand, hooking up with someone from the form, being in a relationship, and a few about where you did it. We were in university; this was just a regular week for some of them. And after everything that happened back home, I wasn’t one the pass judgment on these people.
“Wanna join the fun?”
I pulled my eyes off the poster to see everyone turning to look at me. Drew had a smile on his face, one that definitely got a lot of girls in trouble.
“As much fun as it sounds, I think I’ll pass,” I replied, grabbing my suitcase and heading towards my room.
As I reached the hall, a hand grabbed my shoulder.
“You must be the junior who managed to get into Pine,” he smiled, holing out his hand, “lucky you. I’m Drew.”
“Natalie,” I replied, shaking his hand.
“It’s a shame you’re noting joining the Game, Natalie. I reckon you’d score pretty well,” he said with a smirk, his eyes travelling down my body.
He didn’t seem to care that he was being obvious. I could tell he was cocky and I was sure he thought he could get any girl he wanted with a simple smile and wink. He may have been good looking, but I wasn’t planning on falling any attempts he made.
“You seem so sure you’re going to win.” I said as his eyes met mine again.
“Well, I won last year. It was only by default since Spinner was disqualified at the last minute, but a wins a win.”
“Spinner sounds like he made the Game interesting,” I replied, grabbing my suitcase handle.
“Interesting is one way to put it,” he smiled, grabbing the box I was holding under my arm, “here, let me take this for you. You’re in room five right?”
“Yes, how did you know?” I asked as we walked down the hall.
“Like I said, you’re the junior who managed to get into Pine. Besides, it’s the only room still empty. We all arrived yesterday.”
We reached my room and I grabbed my key card, scanning it to open the door. Stepping into the room that would be mine for the next ten months, I took a deep breath.
“You don’t seem like any of the other juniors I’ve seen around,” said Drew, eyeing me curiously as he dropped the box on my bed, “how old are you?”
“Then why aren’t you a senior like the rest of us?” he asked, sounding surprised.
“Because I took a gap-year after my first year and then decided to change courses to come here, so now I have to start at the bottom.” I replied, sitting down on my bed.
“Fair enough,” he turned to leave the room, “I’ll leave you to unpack. Come down and meet everyone when you’re done.”
Drew smiled and winked as he pulled the door closed behind him. I could tell he was certainly going to make my time here very interesting indeed.
Thank god she wasn’t technically a junior. Peggy didn’t want us playing the Game if a junior was living in the house. We’d manage to convince her otherwise, but she was still worried. I couldn’t blame her, after the crap Spinner nearly got us all in last year, we didn’t want to risk anything in our final year.
“Okay, you can stop worrying now Peggs. She may be a junior, but she’s twenty-one like the rest of us,” I announced as I dropped back on the couch.
Peggy let out a sigh.
“Besides, she didn’t seem too worried about the Game, so I think we’ll be right.”
“Let the Game begin then!” Peggy declared, taking down the poster, “We will do a score check in two months.”
Most people got up to leave, and Steve stretched out on the couch.
“So what’d you think of the new girl?” asked Steve as he put his hands behind his head.
“Steve, she’s been here for five minuted. Let her unpack before you try and shag her for five points.” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Who said anything about shagging her?” he smirked.
“Your mouth might not have said anything, but that hungry look in your eyes says something different.”
I couldn’t talk, I was thinking the same thing. Natalie was gorgeous, and I wasn’t going to deny that I wanted to see how far I could get with her. But we didn’t know anything about her and I wasn’t about make things awkward for the whole house.
“Fine, she’s got a banging bod and I wouldn’t mind knowing what’s under those clothes. Doesn’t mean I’m going there though. You know what happened last year with Holly. She had to move out after hooking up with Spinner in the first week?”
“Yeah but Spinner was an arse to her afterwards.” Jeremy pointed out.
Spinner was a year older than us and had graduated last year. He created the game back in his first year, mainly to brag about how much action he got. Last year, he decided to step things up a bit and take risks, adding some insane tasks to the score system. No one with half a brain would attempt what he did just to earn some points. With more people playing the Game, he was desperate to do anything to win. He was literally the only person who really cared about winning; everyone was just in it for the fun.
By the end of the year, Spinner had hooked up with almost every girl on campus. This would have been a legendary feat if he then hadn’t been caught fooling around with one of the lecturers in one of the lecture rooms. He was nearly expelled and we were so close to being found out. Luckily, Spinner hadn’t ratted us out, but Peggy swore she wouldn’t risk our graduating this year to play. But with Spinner gone and the rest of us smart enough to stick to the rules and not chase after everything with a pulse, we knew we have to play one last time.
“He may have been an arse, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to try and hook up with a house mate in the first week,” Steve said.
“So you’ll try and get with Natalie in the second week them?” teased Jeremy.
“I don’t think Steve is my type,” came a voice from the hall.
Our heads shot round to see Natalie walking into the living area. Without her bags and boxes I could now really take her all in. Her long brown hair swayed as she walked, and her sundress hit just above her knee, showing off her long legs.
Steve’s face was bright red and I held back a laugh.
“Sorry to interrupt,” she smiled, taking a seat on the empty couch, “but since you were talking about me, I felt like it was okay to butt in/”
We were amusing her, thank god. She had seemed okay with the Game when she arrived, but that didn’t mean she was okay with complete strangers talking about trying to sleep with her.
“So if Steve isn’t your type, who is?” asked Jeremy with a grin.
“Hmm, let me think,” she paused, pretending to think, “Maybe someone who isn’t after a measly five points.”
Her tone pleased me. She was more interested in watching us play the Game than being part of it. It also meant she wasn’t going to be an easy catch for anyone.
“Ouch!” cried Steve, dramatically holding his hand to his heart.
Natalie’s face lit up as she giggled. It was cute. Damn, this girl was going to make it hard for all the guys this year.
“Natalie, this is Steve and Jeremy.” I said, and both gave her a small wave, “Sorry about Steve, he doesn’t always think with the right head.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she smiled, “it’s not the worst thing I’ve heard since my arrival.”
“True,” said Steve, sitting up and pointing at me, “she’s already heard you talking about that threesome you’re never going to get.”
“So, apart from this Game, what do you all do for fun around here?” Natalie asked.
“Well, this is a university, meaning we do study occasionally,” I replied sarcastically.
“So that’s how universities work!” she shot back with a smile.
I couldn’t get over how relaxed Natalie was around us. It was as if she’d known us for years. In no time at all, we were all laughing and joking about nothing in particular, and I introduced her to some of our other housemates. We’d all known each other for the last three years, and Natalie seemed to fit in really well.
Steve and Natalie were now dramatically making a scene, and I surprised me to see how easy Natalie played along. Steve was studying acting and would always turn the simplest conversation into a drama. We were all used to it, but anyone just meeting Steve had trouble putting up with it.
If Natalie could match Steve’s crazy dramatic acting, then she was someone I was excited to get to know.
Peggy plopped down next to me.
“I see Steve’s finally made a new friend,” she said to me.
“Yeah, it’s about time.” I joked.
“And by that look in your eyes, you’ve found someone new to play with,” she whispered in my ear, causing my smile to drop. I turned to face her.
“Yeah, me and every other guy here Peggs. But I’m not going there,” I shot back at her in a whisper, looking back at Steve and Natalie, who were now consoling each other while they fake cried, “At least not yet anyway.”
“That’s not the look I’m talking about Drew. In the last two hours, I’ve seen the same look in her eyes. It’s time you got over what happened junior year.” She said, patting me on the back as she got up and went to the kitchen.
I stared at Natalie and Steve, who had now broken out into a fit of laughter after their dramatic little scene. Jeremy, who was still sitting next to me, leaned in.
“Peggy’s right. You threw yourself into the Game last year, maybe this year you should actually try moving on from it. It’s been two years.”
“We don’t know Natalie, Jeremy.” I sighed.
“No, but just because you don’t know her, doesn’t mean you can’t get to know her. Not every girl is going to be like Jess.”
It always came back to junior year.
“Doesn’t matter, I’m not going there either way.” I said, getting up and going to my room.
This is not how I wanted to start my final year. Natalie had only been here a few hours and she was already under my skin.
Once Drew had left, Steve and Jeremy started watching some TV show about cars, so I decided to head back to my room to finish unpacking the last of my things. I hadn’t brought much with me, but with a large shopping centre literally across the street from the university, I knew I’d have my room filled with stuff in no time.
From what I’d seen of Pine House so far, I knew I was going to enjoy my year. The dorm housed twelve people – six guys and six girls. So far I had met Drew, Steve, Jeremy, Peggy, Bethy and Pete, and they all seemed really nice. They were also glad to know that while I may have been considered a junior by the university, I was the same age as all of them. I guess they had been worried when they found out a junior infiltrated their sacred senior space.
When I had put away the last of my clothes, I stood in the middle of my room and looked around. It was smaller than my room at home, but it had everything I needed – a bed, desk, wardrobe, bar fridge, and a small bookshelf. I already had a few posters on my wall – one from The Chainsmokers tour last year, and another from The Script’s 2014 tour – plus had several book the shelf.
It already felt like home. But then again, anything would have felt like home after how home had felt these last two months.
“Knock knock,” came a voice at the door, dragging me from my thoughts.
“Hey,” said Drew awkwardly as I opened the door to let him in.
All the confidence that had been oozing from him earlier was gone. He had seemed upset when he had gone to his room, and I wondered what he and Jeremy had been talking about.
“I like what you’ve done with the place,” he grinned, taking a seat on my desk chair.
“Um, thanks,” I said, looking around my room.
“So since is the first night we are all here, we are having a family dinner sort of thing. We usually have one a month, and tonight is pizza night. We order a lot of pizza from the Dominoes down the street. Just wondering what sort you’d like?”
“Yum, sounds great,” I replied, taking a seat at the end of my bed, “I can’t go past a BBQ meat lovers.”
A smile stretched across his face. “Neither can I.”
As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t help it – I could get lost in smile all day. His grey eyes were like nothing I had even seen, and his smile was infectious. Not to mention his messy brown hair, which seemed to have a life of its own.
I blushed, realising I was staring, and that he was noticing.
“So, is that all?” I asked, clearing my throat as I ducked my head, hoping he couldn’t see my pink cheeks.
He chuckled and I look back up to see him smiling at me. Once again, he was freely checking me out. Yep, he was definitely a player and not someone I wanted to get involved with. I was here for a fresh start, not to make the same mistake again.
When his eyes met mine, his smile dropped.
“Yeah, that’s all,” he said, quickly getting up and crossing the room, “I’ll put your order on the list. See you at dinner.”
That was weird. And as much as I wanted to know why he had changed so suddenly, it wasn’t really my place to ask.
I sat at my desk, turning on my laptop. As I waited for it to log in, I pulled out my phone.
Of course there were no messages from home. Not even asking if I had arrived safely. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt.
All moved in, in case you care.
My finger lingered over the send button. Getting this message wouldn’t make them happy, but I was over caring. If they couldn’t put their feelings aside for five minutes to bother checking on my safety after a two hour drive, then I didn’t care if the message didn’t go over too well.
I spent five minutes checking my emails and scrolling through Facebook. As usual, there was nothing of interest. I really should unfriend some of these people, but then that would make stalking them more difficult.
I started catching up on my YouTube subscriptions when a small knock came from the door.
I barely had a chance to see who it was before they pushed me back into the room, shutting the door as they pushed me against it. Their body caged me in before my eyes managed to see what was happening.
Drew’s face was inches from mine, his breathing fast. I should have been scared, but his eyes showed me confusion and pain. His eyes studied me, taking in every tiny detail of my face. He stared into my eyes, clearing looking for something in them.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered.
He was the one clearly conflicted about something and yet here he was asking me what was wrong.
“I could ask you the same question.”
He slowly pulled back, running his hands through his hair and letting out a sigh. I stood watching as he turned to look out my window, unsure what to say.
As I opened my mouth to ask again, he turned back and planted his lips on mine. They started out hungry, his tongue slipping into my mouth, before becoming softer. And just as quickly as it started, he pulled back.
“I’m sorry,” he said, pulling open the door and leaving me standing there, short of breath and heart pounding in my chest.
I had no idea what had just happened, but I knew I didn’t need this at the moment. I already had my own issues to deal with and I didn’t want to get caught up in someone else’s drama. This year was my fresh start and right now, I could see myself falling back into the drama that I’d left at home.