A small gasp escaped Laila’s lips as she watched her boyfriend kiss another girl. Sterling wasn’t pulling away. Why wasn’t he stopping? The blonde had her fingers in his hair, her body pressed against his and he wasn’t pulling away. Tears flooded Laila’s eyes and she turned to run out the door only to collide with a familiar face.
“Laila!” Will smiled down at her. “When you said you were going to a party, I didn’t know you meant this one!”
“I have to leave,” she managed to say and pushed passed him. She could feel her legs carrying her out the door but she wasn’t sure how they were managing to move. Stumbling, she felt two strong hands wrap around her waist and help her find her bearings. She looked up at the man who was holding her, knowing the face didn’t belong to the person she wanted to see.
“Come on,” Will said softly. “I’ll help you home.”
But Laila broke down completely. “How could he do this to me?” She sobbed as she collapsed into his arms.
“Shhh, let’s just get you out of here.” Will slipped his arm around her waist and held her upright as he began to walk slowly down the street. With each step he could feel her struggling more and more and he wasn’t at all opposed to the idea of Laila needing him. Her thin frame fit so perfectly against his that he couldn’t help but pretend that they were walking back to her dorm room under different circumstances.
“Thank you,” he heard her whisper, pulling him from his daydream.
“For taking me home.”
“Do you want to tell me what happened?” But Will, of course, already knew what had happened. He had been hiding in the corner with Brittany, careful not to let Laila see him, when Sterling and his brother walked in. Will had been surprised, to say the least, to see the twins and was worried he wouldn’t be able to tell the two apart. But the boys instantly separated, one moving toward Laila and her roommates, the other making a beeline for the keg. Once one brother had kissed Piper on the cheek, Will directed Brittany toward the other and watched in amazement as she worked her magic.
“It’s over,” Laila said quietly.
“You and your boyfriend?”
“Yes. He doesn’t want me anymore.”
“Then he’s a fool.”
Laila didn’t say anything, but stood up a little straighter and lifted some of her weight from Will’s arm. They walked in silence the rest of the way to her dorm room and Will waited as she found her keys in her purse.
“Thank you again for walking me home. I’m sorry if I took you away from the party.”
“Don’t mention it,” Will said, his hand reaching out to touch her cheek. Her eyes, although incredibly sad, were such a brilliant shade of violet that he was momentarily lost in them. “I hate to see you upset.”
“I should be better on Monday,” she promised him.
“Can I see you tomorrow? Just to make sure you’re all right?”
“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” Laila looked away from him to the ground between their feet.
“You didn’t do anything wrong, you know?” Will said, lifting her face by her chin.
“Yes I did,” she whispered though her voice was completely certain.
Will smiled at her. “That feeling will pass.”
Laila gave him a halfhearted smile but allowed his hand to stay on her face. Slowly, so as not to startle her, Will let his fingers stroke her jaw and meander down to her neck. His eyes focused on her lips as his head bent toward hers but she stopped him just seconds before he was able to kiss her.
“Will, don’t.” She pushed at his chest and turned around.
“I’m sorry,” he was quick to apologize and put a hand on her shoulder to stop her. “You’re upset and I shouldn’t have done that.”
Laila paused and then nodded her head, refusing to look at him. “Goodnight, Will.” She pushed through her door and closed it quickly behind her. Sterling had been right all along. Will wanted her as more than a friend and everything, all of his past actions, all of their conversations, and especially his attraction suddenly became completely obvious. As her new reality set in, Laila’s head was flooded with doubt and questions and she started shaking as the feelings overwhelmed her.
“Jesus!” She heard Nikki say from across the room. “Are you okay?”
“I need my inhaler,” Laila whispered, her throat about to close completely.
She opened her eyes and watched as Nikki ran to her room and retrieved her inhaler from her nightstand. Laila pressed it to her lips and waited until she could breathe properly.
“Thank you,” she smiled at her roommate.
Nikki was looking at her as if she were a ghost. “What happened?”
Laila glanced around her dorm room. So much had happened she didn’t know where to start. Everything around her was familiar but she felt as if she didn’t belong anywhere. She felt as if she needed to run away.
“Sterling and I…we…” but she didn’t know who to continue and she looked back at her roommate. Nikki was standing over her with a worried expression, a duffel bag slung over her shoulder. “Are you going somewhere?”
Nikki’s dark eyes looked nearly black as she stared down at her. “I’m driving home for the weekend.”
“To New York?”
“Yup. Are you sure you don’t want to sit down?”
“Why so late?”
“My car was in the shop but I didn’t want to wait ‘till tomorrow. Why don’t you drink some water or something?”
“Can I go with you?”
“To New York?”
Laila was nodding her head and smiling, clearly stuck with a brilliant idea.
“I guess,” Nikki said with a shrug of her shoulders. She wanted to help Laila, because clearly the girl needed some help, but a ride to the city didn’t seem like the best solution. Nevertheless, Laila appeared taken with the idea and skipped off to her room, her mood almost instantly changed. Nikki only had to wait a few confused moments before Laila reappeared, her bag packed and her clothes changed.
“I’m ready.” Laila smiled and held up a box of thin mint cookies. “For the road,” she explained and Nikki had to laugh.
“A girl after my own heart.” She held the door for Laila and then locked it behind her. Whatever had Laila in such a mess just moments ago would most likely come up on their ride to New York and Nikki didn’t want her roommate to be left alone when the feelings returned. Laila seemed so fragile in every way, it wasn’t a mystery to Nikki why Sterling felt such a need to protect her. The poor girl was probably completely lost without him and looking to whomever was in sight for guidance. Thank God Nikki had been in the apartment instead of Luanne, she thought. She could have returned from New York to find even more motivational quotes taped to the mini fridge and two roommates who alphabetized the books and magazines in their room.
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