In Too Hard (Freshman Roommates Trilogy, Book 3) (3 page)

BOOK: In Too Hard (Freshman Roommates Trilogy, Book 3)
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“No. No plans to go home. The pay for doing the testing over the holidays is too good to pass up.” I turned to face him. I could see on his face he knew the other reason I wouldn’t be going home for break.

That I never wanted to go home again. Yeah, he’d definitely read between the lines.

Damn, why’d I have to be so forthcoming in my papers? But, just as
Gangster’s Folly
had for Montrose, the assignments for his class had all seemed to pour out of me.

Maybe I should have edited a bit more, though.

“Well, if you want to get started with my project over the break, you’re welcome to. I’ll be different places over the break. I’m going to New York for a few days, to a wedding, then skiing.”

“Yes, I’d like to start working on it. But, you know, you don’t have to be around for it.”

He nodded. “And self-sufficient. I knew you were the right choice, Ms. O’Brien. Why don’t you stop by my office tomorrow? I’ll be there all day. I’ll get you a key and show you the first boxes and get you started.”

“Great,” I said, unable to tamp down the smile of excitement that burst forth.

He seemed a little startled, almost took a step back. “I’m really excited about this. Like you said, a great big jigsaw puzzle.” I hoped that took anything off my smile that might have unnerved him.
No sir, it has nothing to do with the fact that I’ll get to work so closely with you for five whole months!

He stepped aside and motioned for me to lead the way out the door, which I did.

I started to turn right, and he left, and we both stopped. “So, I’ll see you tomorrow, then?” he asked.

“Yes. It’ll probably be around eleven. I have one last final that should be done around then.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” He started to turn away, then stopped and looked at me again with a question in his eyes.

“What?” I asked.

“Now that I’m no longer your instructor, do you mind if I drop the Ms. O’Brien thing?”

“No. God, no. Not at all.”

He chuckled. Man, he looked so…edible when he smiled.
 

“Great. See you tomorrow, Syd.” My name sounded good coming from that mouth.

“Okay…”

“Billy,” he said, with a pointed look.

“Okay, Billy,” I said.

Yeah, my name from his mouth was good. But saying his name, to him? Even better.

 

 

Chapter Three

 

 

I
walked to the admin building after leaving Snyder Hall, where, apparently, I now had a second job.

Ten thousand dollars! It was probably the amount that would be stuffed in most of these Bribury students’ stockings next week, but to me it was a fortune.

I started calculating how much it would take for me to get a place here for the summer and take some classes. Maybe Lily would want to stay and room together now that she and Lucas were completely solid. I hadn’t been around them much, but she and Lucas seemed like they would not easily be separated for the summer.

He was an okay guy, and made Lily happy, but she could have done so much better.

Here we were in a sea of future movers and shakers—learning to become that ourselves—and she goes and falls in love with a townie janitor.

Whatever. If she was happy…

I just knew I was done with townies of any kind. Been there, done that. I wanted to belong to the world that these kids came from.

Maybe a little too desperately.

After the first week or so of classes, I had overheard two of the girls calling me a poser. Jane had come to my defense (none of them had seen me), which was kind of unusual because I think Jane had thought that about me herself.

We kind of came to a truce after that, Jane and I. On paper, we were nothing alike—she coming from a very prominent family (sort of), having been raised knowing that she’d be taken care of financially (with a few strings), and being an only child (well, she wasn’t quite, but was raised as one).

But when you scratched the surface, Jane and I had a lot more in common than most would think.

We both had fractious relationships with our fathers (okay, at least she knew who her father was), we both felt out of place at Bribury (though she hid it better than I did), and we both could go toe-to-toe with anyone who wronged one of our own (though Jane would do it with her savage wit and I’d just call upon my Queens-born badass self).

Maybe Jane would want to stay here this summer too and the three of us could save money and find a cheap place off campus together. I knew Jane wanted to go home for the summer about as much as I did.

I checked in with my boss, Mrs. Otterbein, at the office of Administrative Affairs and got my schedule for the coming three weeks.

Score.

While my fellow students would be out binge drinking with their prep school posses, I would be clocking about thirty hours a week for the next three weeks.

I’d be able to buy gifts for the boys and send them home.

The feelings of guilt swamped me, as they did any time I thought of my younger half-siblings.

And, as I did all those other times, I pushed the feelings away, deep down, and thought about something pleasant.

Like ten thousand dollars buying me my freedom. At least for the summer.

When I got back to the dorm, Lily and Jane had already left for break. We’d known we would probably crisscross today and so we’d said our goodbyes last night, drinking from a bottle of champagne that Lily had supplied. (A perk of having an of-age boyfriend.)

We’d even done this silly thing that Lily had suggested—yeah, it wouldn’t have come from Jane or me—where we each wrote down a sentence that started with “This time next year, I will…”

It was kind of hokey, but we couldn’t say no to Lily. She’d said, “No bullshit like ‘I’ll be ten pounds lighter’ or anything. Dig deep, ladies.”

It felt kind of like a natural extension of the paper for Montrose’s class that we’d each written. Who we were today, and I supposed, who we wanted to be in a year.

We’d made jokes about it, but the room had turned quiet as we’d all filled out our paper and sealed them up in individual envelopes, writing our names on the front.

Lily was the keeper of all three and said we’d open them next New Year’s Eve, or as close as possible when we’d all be together.

We’d easily killed the bottle of champagne, then Lily and Jane had gone back to their room to start packing.

I’d seen postings on Instagram about the different parties around campus, and could have gone to one of them, but had stayed in.

Now, as I entered my room, even though I always had my own space, I could feel the emptiness of the suite.

I passed through the bathroom, Lily and Jane’s stuff gone, the vanity looking a bit bereft and bare.

Their room was weird—the personal things on the walls and desktop were still there. Things like posters and framed photos. Their beds were made (which was not the norm for Jane, but was for Lily). But there were gaping holes in their closets from clothes they’d taken home. And their desks had spaces where their laptops usually were, and where they charged all their stuff.

I checked the lock on their door, then went back to my room, leaving the door on the connecting bathroom unlocked.

I threw my coat on the back of my desk chair, then saw a small gift-wrapped package on my pillow.

Oh, great. We’d agreed not to exchange gifts. I wasn’t sure if that was a pity move on Jane and Lily’s part, so as to spare me the expense, or if they just didn’t want to bother during finals.

I had adhered to our agreement, but it looked like Lily hadn’t. Crap. I hated feeling like a charity case.

My issue, I knew, but…still. It was bad enough to feel it every time I pulled a shift at the admin building, as part of the work-study program.

But the present wasn’t from Lily, it was from Jane. I unwrapped it slowly, knowing it would be the only Christmas gift I received.

My mother had clearly stated that there would be no money for a gift for me since I’d been selfish enough to leave and force her to find childcare for Duncan and Liam, which I’d done after school.

It was meant to make me feel guilty—and it had. But it also gave me a moment of delicious spite, knowing my mother would have to step up and take the place I’d been holding down for her for the past five years.

To hell with Christmas presents. It wasn’t like she ever gave me much anyway.

Inside the small box was a silver medallion on a thin, beautiful silver chain. I held it up, letting it twist this way and that as the chain unraveled. It was some kind of symbol with rounded squares and ovals intertwined and a kind of loopy thing in the middle. It was different, and pretty, but not at all delicate.

I pulled out the card Jane had shoved at the bottom of the box. The handwriting was strong and bold—like Jane herself.

It’s the Celtic symbol for strength. You’ve got it, babe, let people know it. Plus, your name is O’Brien, you should be rockin’ some Celtic stuff.

Weird. Jane and I had started off rocky, but had come to get along well. Throughout the whole semester, we’d never had any really deep talks, though. Certainly none about our inner strength.

I put the necklace on and looked at myself in the mirror. I had carefully transformed myself to look like nearly every other girl on campus. Straightened long hair, worn either down like I had it now, or up in a sloppy bun. Subtle makeup, so it didn’t look like I was trying. A North Face jacket, now hanging on the back of my chair. A hoodie, Lulus and Uggs.
 

A true Bribury Basic.

I took my hoodie off, throwing it on my bed, so I could see the pendant against my skin. I had on a low-vee, long-sleeved tee in fuchsia and the silver chain and pendant seemed to almost glow against my skin. Darker—
much
—than my mother’s other children, I certainly didn’t look like someone with the name O’Brien.

But, there were a lot of other ethnic-looking students here at Bribury. In fact, looks-wise, I stood out way more in my Irish Catholic neighborhood of Woodside, than I did here.

So, ethnic looking, yes…but which ethnicity? My mom would never answer any questions about my father, so I wasn’t sure if I was half Hispanic, Italian, Middle-Eastern, or what.

I guessed it didn’t matter, but it would have been cool to know my roots.

I ran a hand under the chain, lifting it off my skin so it caught the light from my desk lamp. I didn’t know what kind of message Jane was trying to send, but I did like the necklace. I hadn’t seen any girls at Bribury wearing anything like it, and that kind of made me nervous to wear it.

But then I thought about Jane taking the time to pick this out because, for some reason, she wanted me to know she thought I was strong, and I decided it would be something I’d wear. Often. Maybe always.

I grabbed my phone out of my backpack, unpacking my other stuff too. The term paper from Montrose’s class came out in my last handful and I placed it on the desk in front of me.

In a way, it was another present to open—to read all of his comments. Especially now that I knew he so diligently read these papers. He must, if he’d remembered so many details about me from previous papers.

I rubbed my hand along the front page, but before I indulged myself I texted Jane.

Thanks for the necklace. It’s beautiful, and I love it.

Glad you liked it.

We said no gifts!

I know. I hadn’t planned on it, but I saw this and thought of you
.

I wanted to ask her why. What about the Celtic symbol of strength said “Syd” to her? Other than the Irish thing.

Instead, I just typed,
Thanks again. Are you home yet?

Home. Hell. Whatever. Yeah, I’m here.

I smiled, thinking about Jane having to go home for Christmas and then standing in her half sister’s wedding the week after.

And again I thought how lucky I was that Bribury was installing their new front end system over break, allowing me to not only make some extra money, but also have an excuse not to go home.

This is going to feel like the longest break ever
, Jane texted.

I would be spending part of mine in Billy Montrose’s office going through the notes of his next great novel.

To me, the break couldn’t last long enough.

 

 

Chapter Four

 

 

M
y last final went okay. Probably not four-point good, but good enough to keep my GPA in the range needed to keep my scholarship.

I made my way to Montrose’s office in Snyder Hall.

He opened the door after I knocked, and stepped back, waving me in.

I took a couple of steps into his office and stopped.

“I know. It’s bad, right?” he said, indicating the plethora of boxes lined and stacked…well, all over the place. Some were large, like the kind apples were shipped in. Some others were shoebox size.

BOOK: In Too Hard (Freshman Roommates Trilogy, Book 3)
5.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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