Will knew exactly what he was doing. It was his study group, he set the tempo of the conversation, he set the homework, and he dictated when they would retire for the evening. It had not escaped his attention that Laila's boyfriend was always waiting for her after their study group. It had not escaped his attention that the second the meat-head showed up, Laila's attention was instantly diverted and lost from whatever it was he was saying. It also had not escaped his attention that Laila found him intriguing. She listened to whatever Will had to say with an attentive eye, agreeing with a nod of her head, challenging his ideas with a confident roll of her eyes. By cutting their session short, nearly in half if he had been keeping track, he knew Laila's boyfriend wouldn't be outside thus allowing him to have her complete attention for at least half an hour.
He dismissed the class of freshman and waited by his desk for Laila to put her books into her bag and pull out her phone, no doubt texting her boyfriend to let him know she was done for the day. He slowly made his way to the door, making sure he would be walking out just ahead of her.
"Great discussion today," he heard her say to him as they walked into the crisp afternoon.
Will smiled to himself as he turned to look at her. She was so cute in her jeans and pink hooded sweatshirt, her blonde hair pulled into a high pony tail and her book bag slung over her shoulder.
"You didn't participate as much as you normally do," he commented, trying to sound like a concerned and observant student teacher.
Laila's face sank and she looked at the ground between them. "I know. I've had a lot on my mind lately."
"School work getting to you?"
Laila shrugged her shoulders but looked up at him. "Yeah, I guess."
Will smiled sympathetically and gestured toward the path that led to her dorm room. They walked side by side in silence for a few steps before he spoke again. "If you need help with anything, you can always come to me. I was a freshman not too long ago, you know."
Laila laughed. "What's it been? Eight years now?"
"Very funny," Will laughed with her. He liked that she was comfortable with him. He liked that she was able to flirt with him. "But seriously, if you need help, I'm always here."
"Thanks," she said lightly. "But I'm sure that you have enough to worry about right now, Mr. Editor in Chief."
Will smirked. He loved that title. He loved that Laila called him that but only wished it were in a more intimate, private setting.
"I always have time for my favorite student," he told her, his voice teasing but his words completely serious.
"Favorite?" She laughed out loud. "You aren't allowed to pick favorites!"
"I'm not allowed to show favoritism," he corrected her. "But picking a favorite always happens. It's a natural reaction to teaching."
Laila smiled but didn't question him further. She knew why she was his favorite, he had told her the first day they met. Her interest and fascination with English Literature made their student-teacher relationship effortless and had created a friendship as well. He was a great mentor, a wonderful resource for her to have if she ever needed it.
"Do you have any plans for this weekend?" She heard him asking.
"Not really. My boyfriend and I were planning on visiting his parents this Sunday."
Will sighed. Laila would casually mention her boyfriend every now and then as if she was trying to warn Will to stay away from her. He knew this wasn't the real reason, she was smart, brilliant actually, but didn't seem that perceptive. She had yet to realize Will's true motives behind all the extra attention he paid her and the walks they regularly took after class.
"How long have you been with your boyfriend?"
"Almost a year." She smiled blissfully while answering him.
"And you both got into Yale. How fortunate."
"We didn't plan our futures around each other, if that's what you're getting at," Laila explained. "I transferred schools my senior year so I would have a better chance of getting in here. His parent's are alumni and we both had every intention of going to Yale before we met."
"And what if he hadn't gotten in?"
Laila shrugged. "We could have gone to Stanford, I guess."
"You would have given up your dream of Yale for this guy?"
Laila laughed at this. "I don't know. It was never a question of him not getting in. His dad plays golf with the dean of admissions."
"Oh," Will answered, now understanding why someone as seemingly stupid as Laila's boyfriend had been accepted to one of the best schools in the country.
"But I think if it came down to it, he would have given it up for me."
"Yes, but I wouldn't have let him," Laila smiled up at Will. "He belongs here and would have been miserable in California."
"But you belong here as well," Will observed.
"I'd like to think I do," Laila laughed to herself.
"Well, I'm glad you're here," Will said, almost under his breath but loud enough so Laila could hear him. He saw her blush and look down at her feet.
"Thanks for walking me back," she said, turning to him as they reached her door. "I'll see you on Monday, I guess."
Will nodded and looked down at the petite blonde in front of him. Her violet eyes were mesmerizing and he knew he wasn't ready to say goodbye to her for the weekend.
"Do you think I could come in and use your bathroom?"
"Oh," Laila looked surprised at the question and Will suddenly realized how unattractive his request had sounded. "Sure."
He cursed himself as she turned around and unlocked her door. The inside of her dorm was familiar to him. He had lived in one just down the hall his freshman year. He quickly looked around once he was inside, trying to determine which of the four room's was Laila's. He quickly recognized it with the lavender bedspread and the stack of books on the nightstand. The room screamed Laila's name and he quickly walked toward it with a huge smile on his face.
"This is your room, isn't it?" He asked with a grin.
"Yes," Laila answered quickly, stepping around him and closing the door. "The bathroom's over there." She nodded in the opposite direction.
"Come on," Will taunted. "Let me see it."
But Laila smiled and shook her head. "A girl's room is a private place."
Will knew this much to be true. In that room is where Laila slept, where she dressed, where she laughed on the phone with her friends, where she considered her most intimate thoughts. He wondered if she ever thought about him while she was in there. The thought of Laila daydreaming about him nearly set him on fire and he had to quickly think about something else to distract himself.
"It was my turn to clean the bathroom so I can assure you it's spotless."
Will raised one eyebrow at her but smiled and turned toward the bathroom. Laila waited until he had closed the door and then retrieved her phone from her bag. She had two missed text messages, one from Sterling saying he was on his way over and the second from Piper.
Alistair is taking me roller skating…random??? First kiss was amazing J
Laila smiled and was about to write her back when she heard a door open. Luanne appeared in the common room with a curious look on her face.
"Is someone here?"
"Uh, yeah. My friend Will is in the bathroom."
"Why?" Luanne's hands were on her hips.
"I guess he had to go…"
But just then Will stepped out of the bathroom and Laila watched as Luanne's face went from annoyance to pure hatred.
"You?" Luanne glared at Will. "What are you doing here?"
"Um, I…" Will seemed to be at a loss for words and Luanne didn't give him time to think of an explanation.
"What the hell is he doing here?" Luanne practically screamed, pointing at Will but glaring at Laila.
"He had to use the bathroom," Laila said defensively, not understand why Luanne was throwing such a fit.
"And you thought it would be okay to let him just come in here and do as he pleased?"
Laila stared at her in disbelief and complete embarrassment. Poor Will, he must be so confused. "Yes, I thought it would be okay if he came in, for two minutes, and used our bathroom. I'll clean it again if that is what you're so upset about."
"That is not what this is about!" Luanne could feel her face become red as her anger rose. She couldn't believe he was standing in her dorm room. That horrible man who had turned her away, humiliated her, and nearly crushed her dream of writing for the newspaper, was standing only feet away from her, smirking as if he found this situation amusing.
"I don't know what you want me to say," Laila was still baffled. "He was just using the bathroom and then he was going to leave."
"Does your boyfriend know you invite other men into your dorm room?" Luanne didn't even know where that question came from. If it had been any other male student, she wouldn't have given him a second thought. But the fact that William Alexander had invaded her private space had her almost hysterical.
Laila took a deep breath and looked away from her roommate. Will was glancing between the two girls, clearly amused at what was taking place. "Will, maybe you should go. I apologize for my roommate. She tends to overreact."
Luanne couldn't believe what she had just heard. Overreact? Laila didn't even know the meaning of the word and yet she was accusing her of it in front of the editor of the newspaper. She would never forgive Laila for this.
"No worries," Will said with a slight smile. "I'll see you Monday." He walked casually around the two girls and toward the door, seeming more amused at the situation than disturbed or offended by it.
Laila and Luanne were still glaring at each other long after the door had closed. Neither of them knew what to say to the other. Once Will had gone, Luanne knew she had acted poorly. She had lost her composure, something she hated doing. But Laila shouldn't have mocked her in front of him. She didn't deserve that.
"I'm not going to apologize," she told Laila.
"I wouldn't expect you to."
"Just don't, Luanne. Don't lecture me because I really can't handle it right now."
"Laila?" Both heads turned toward the door as Sterling let himself in.
"Oh, great," Luanne said with a sarcastic undertone that made Laila cringe. "Another one."
Laila's eyes and fists were squeezed shut as she waited for her anger to subside. Never before had someone been able to get under her skin the way Luanne did. Everything about the girl was insulting, the way she stared at Laila with pity whenever she used her inhaler, the way she shook her head at Laila's choice of apparel or accessories, the way she could fly off the handlebars of sanity without any notice.
Laila opened her eyes as a thought crossed her mind. She smiled playfully at Sterling and motioned for him to follow her to her room. "I'm so glad you are here," she told him in a seductive voice. "See you later, Luanne." And with that, she closed the door to her room, completely prepared to break at least one of Luanne's rules.