"So, what are you doing this evening?"
Laila sighed and tried not to look at Will. He had found her after class - a class she didn't have with him - and offered to walk her home. Maybe it was everything that had happened with Sterling that had tainted her vision of him. Or maybe she was just opening her eyes. Maybe he had changed. Whatever the reason, she could barely stand to be around him now. Of course, that feeling was rather new, so she didn't dwell too much on the rationale. "I'm going to see Nikki's final for her drama class."
"Oh." Will made a face and looked rather annoyed. "What are you doing after?"
"I don't know. Maybe studying. Finals are next week."
"Are you nervous?" He gave her a playful nudge and Laila forced a smile, moving her book bag to her other shoulder so something would be in between them.
"Not really. Tests don't bother me too much."
After Laila had come back from New York, she had kept Will at a distance. Sterling had abruptly stopped calling the Sunday she returned, leaving her to believe he just needed some time to think things through, as did she, but she still felt guilty every time she spoke to Will. She had to see him in class, that was a given, but for nearly two weeks she had turned down his request to walk her home. Finally, after too many afternoons of leaving class only to be disappointed by Sterling's absence, she gave in and allowed Will to accompany her back to her dorm room. She made a point never to let him inside and had, until very recently, refused his offer of dinner.
But finally she caved. Sterling wasn't calling and she couldn't bring herself to dial his number. What could she say to him at this point? Would he listen if she told him she was sorry, that she thought about him constantly? He wouldn't want to hear that, not after so much time had passed. So she gave in to Will, who, in his ever persistent attempts, could raise her mood even if it was just the slightest bit.
But dinner had been a mistake. A huge mistake. Will had, even after Laila had assured him numerous times they were going as friends, started to talk about their future. What they would be doing after he graduated, how they would stay together when he moved to New York. And despite Laila's best efforts to kindly let him down, she ended up bluntly stating that a relationship was out of the question.
But Will hadn't been thwarted. He had promised her he would wait until she was ready, that he wouldn't even see other girls just to prove to her that he really did care. Laila wished he had been seeing other girls. Another girl may have been able to put up with his mindless chatter and his endless questions.
"Are you doing anything this weekend? I thought maybe we could take a trip to Boston."
"Just studying and spending time with my roommates," Laila answered quickly. She actually had plans to attend a party with Piper and Alistair, but she wasn't about to tell Will that.
"Maybe some other time then."
"I don't think so, Will," she said softly and looked straight ahead of her.
Will didn't understand what was wrong with this girl. He had been showing her every attention since she had broken up with her boyfriend. He had been her shoulder to cry on, someone who could make her laugh even when she was at her worst. He could distract her with books and talks about fictional characters. But ever since their date things had gone downhill.
She had finally accepted his invitation to dinner and he had taken her out to his favorite restaurant. She had looked absolutely stunning in her black dress with leggings and a sweater. Her violet eyes hadn't look half as sad as they normally did but something in her seemed to turn off right after their appetizers. Hadn't he been charming and complimented her? Didn't girls like to hear men talk about their future together, to see a show of commitment? Laila seemed to reject all of that and by the time he dropped her off that night, he wasn't even sure he wanted to attempt a goodnight kiss. He did, of course, and was casually dismissed by a turn of her head, a claim that she wasn't ready and that she only wanted to be friends. Friends. What a fucking tease, Will thought to himself. And now she wouldn't even look at him.
Luanne wasn't doing anything to help his situation either. Since Laila's ex was no longer calling her or writing her pathetic letters, there wasn't much the chubby redhead could do, only talk him up whenever Laila would bother to listen. And she had befriended Gavin, someone who was stupid enough to actually help her in her attempts to write for the paper. It killed William to admit that she was actually good. Her first article caused quite a buzz around campus and he was nearly forced by the advisor to let her write another.
"Thanks for walking me home," Laila started to say as they neared her dorm room but was cut off by a loud voice.
Both heads turned and Will saw a tall girl walking toward them.
"Hey, Nikki," Laila said with a smile. So this must be the fourth roommate, Will thought, annoyed that they had been interrupted. "Nik, this is my friend, Will."
"We're dating, actually," Will said to the roommate, extending his hand.
"We're friends," Laila clarified quickly and Will shot her a glare which wasn't noticed.
"Right," Nikki said awkwardly, quickly shaking Will's hand. "Laila, I need your advice about something. Will, you don't mind if I steal her away, do you?"
"Of course he doesn't," Laila answered for him, linking her arm with Nikki's and leading her toward their dorm. "I'll see you tomorrow in class," she called over her shoulder
"I'm looking forward to it," he said with a smile that hid his disappointment. Truth be told, Will was livid. He couldn't understand what he had done wrong and what he could do to fix it. Fuming with frustration, Will stomped home, throwing open his door and startling his roommate.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Gavin asked, what now seemed like a common greeting between the two.
"She's such a fucking cock tease," Will hissed at him.
Gavin laughed at his so-called friend. "Why? Because she won't go out with you?"
"Yes. That is exactly why! I had her, right before her boyfriend broke up with her, I could tell that she wanted me. And now, after she's used me to make her feel better, she's barely speaking to me."
"Do you feel used?"
"Yes," Will mumbled.
Gavin laughed again. "Good. Because that is exactly how you make everyone else feel. What did you do to that poor girl to get her boyfriend to break up with her anyway? Think about how bad she must feel."
"It doesn't matter what I did. It was for the best."
"It's clearly worked out in your favor."
Gavin's sarcasm was tugging on Will's last nerve. "Whatever. There are other ways to get what I want."
The apartment fell silent as both men contemplated what had just been said.
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing," Will rolled his eyes. He didn't even know what it meant. All he knew was that he hated to lose and he felt as if he was losing Laila.
"Don't do anything stupid, Will."
"When is the last time I have been anything but clever?" Will finally smiled but Gavin's face remained serious.
"When's the last time you have been this desperate?"
"Fuck you. I'm not desperate."
"You're not desperate?" Gavin rolled his eyes. "You have desperation written all over your face! You are so crazy for this girl, it has made you blind to your own ambition. Do you even remember why you started pursuing her in the first place?"
"Yes. Of course I do."
"Why, then? What were the reasons?"
"She was smart and gorgeous. There was just that look to her."
"That's great. But don't you think there are plenty of other smart and pretty girls here at Yale?"
"Not like her," Will disagreed with him.
"Bullshit. You need to wise up and realize that you were in it for the chase. She had a boyfriend and was a challenge and you couldn't help yourself."
Will smiled to himself. "Maybe."
"Please listen to me," Gavin pleaded. "You've lost. She broke up with her boyfriend but she still doesn't want you. Give it up."
"You'll end up doing something you regret."
The smile left Will's face and was replaced by a frown. "You don't know that."
"Desperate people always do stupid shit," Gavin said with absolute certainty. If he had to hear Will complain about Laila once more, he believed he may explode. His roommate had a one track mind, it was as if he was completely incapable of thinking about anything else. If he wasn't with her, he was plotting ways to get near her, walking by her apartment time and time again, hoping to catch her on her way to class or the cafeteria. It was sick.
"I'm not desperate," Will insisted and walked out of the room, always having to give the last word. Gavin rolled his eyes and returned to his book.
Laila closed the door behind her and a shiver ran down her spine. She knew she would eventually have to tell Will she didn't want to see him anymore, on friendly terms or any other. He couldn't seem to get the hint, no matter how obvious she was making it.
"So that's Will?" Nikki asked, throwing her bag on the couch and flopping down next to it.
"That's Will," Laila confirmed.
"And tell me again why you are friends with him?"
"He used to be nice and funny and smart. But now he's just…I don't know…"
"Yes! Exactly. Annoying and creepy and he can't take a hint."
"That's what all guys are: annoying and creepy," Nikki informed her. "You should really look into dating girls."
Laila laughed and sat down across from her. "I'm seriously starting to consider it."
"Don't get my hopes up!" Nikki laughed at her own joke.
Laila blushed and quickly changed the subject. "Aren't you supposed to be getting ready for tonight?"
"Ugh. Yes." Nikki's face was suddenly distorted into disgust.
"What's that face for?"
"Oh," Laila said, unsure of what to say next. "Is that what you needed my advice on or were you just trying to get me away from him?"
"I was, actually, just trying to get you away from him." Nikki could tell from nearly a block away how uncomfortable Laila had been with him. "But, since you offered, can I ask you a question?"
"Sure," Laila answered, not really sure she could give good advice.
"So, let's say that you liked this girl and you knew she liked you back but she didn't want to admit it, what would you do?"
"Um, I guess I would try to talk to her about it."
"What if she didn't want to talk?" Nikki asked quickly, almost as if she were waiting for it.
"Maybe she just needs time to figure stuff out."
"So, you wouldn't just walk up to her and kiss her in front of a big group of people so that she has to admit her feelings?"
"No. I wouldn't do that." Laila shook her head, unable to imagine herself kissing another girl in private or in public.
"But that could be kind of romantic, right? I mean, some chicks would dig that?" Nikki seemed determined to get the answer she wanted.
"I suppose it depends on what kind of girl she is."
Finally Nikki smiled and crossed her arms over her chest proudly. "I think she's the type of girl who would like it."
"You've got it bad, don't you?" Laila teased her roommate.
But Nikki didn't even try to deny it. "So bad. I don't know what's wrong with me."
Laila smiled and stood up. "Well, I'm going to get ready. Piper and Luanne should be back any second so do you want to get something to eat before the show?"
"More like something to drink. I'm so nervous."
"Nervous for the show or nervous to see the girl?"
Nikki's face twisted again but this time in frustration. "This is why I never talk to straight girls about my problems. You make such a big deal out of everything!"
Laila laughed and Nikki had to smile. "But you're in love!" She made kissing sounds and then ran away as Nikki started to glare.
"You'll break my heart if you fall for someone else, Nik," Laila called over her shoulder as she disappeared into her room.
Nikki finally laughed. "You couldn't handle a girl like me, Laila!"
She heard Laila laughing from inside her room and grinned to herself. Laila had come a long way in the few short weeks she had been without Sterling. At first, none of the roommates knew if she was going to survive. She barely ate, she barely spoke to any of them though she was quite determined not to let her sorrow show. She held her head high and covered her red eyes and cheeks with makeup and sunglasses.
But now she was finally able to smile again, finally able to laugh at herself. Nikki knew her tiny roommate still had some recovering to do, but she had faith in her. Laila was stronger than she looked.
A/N: Okay, so some people have been asking for character pics :) I honestly haven't even looked for any so if you have any suggestions, please let me know! I'd love to post some for you :) The next chapter will be up on Sunday! Laila and Sterling, together, in the same chapter...