Laila was waiting in the common room with Luanne and Piper. She stared at her two roommates as she shifted awkwardly on the plastic couch, causing the entire piece to grown and crinkle under the slight weight. Piper smiled and tried to suppress a giggle. Luanne rolled her eyes and checked her watch.
“This is so disrespectful,” Laila heard Luanne say to herself, her accent getting thicker as her annoyance mounted.
“Maybe she forgot,” Piper offered, trying to be helpful.
“I told her about the meeting two hours ago. People don’t forget that quickly unless they want to forget,” Luanne said quickly.
Piper sighed and glanced at Laila who was staring at Luanne with an irritated expression. Piper had to hold back another giggle. The curious blonde with the violet eyes was going to be a great friend and an ideal roommate. On the surface and to the core, she could tell Laila was nothing but kindness and generosity. But she could also tell Laila was eager to break out of her shell. The likes of Luanne and her imposed dorm room dominance probably had her agitated and she certainly didn’t have a very good poker face.
Piper rested her head against the back of her chair and counted the seconds in her head. Luckily, she only made it to 39 when she heard the door open and heavy footsteps walking into the room.
“Roommates!” Nikki’s voice was powerful yet lighthearted and instantly made Piper smile. She looked up and saw her fourth roommate standing before them, her short black hair chopped unevenly at her shoulders, her bangs covering one eye. Piper was tall by all considerations for a girl. At 5 foot 9, she towered over Laila and Luanne, but Nikki gave her a run for her money. Her tall stature and her overwhelming confidence gave her an imposing demeanor which she relished.
“You must be the fourth roommate,” Nikki’s wide smile flashed itself as she looked at Laila. Finally, Laila smiled again and stood up to shake her hand.
“Nikki,” the tall girl took her hand. “Wow. You’ve got purple eyes.”
Laila blushed and nodded, grinning slightly.
“No,” Laila smiled at Nikki’s inquiring face.
“That’s kinda hot.” Nikki smiled again and then sat down dramatically beside her. “So, house meeting. You called it, you start it,” she directed her command at Luanne who was glaring at her with contempt.
Quickly, Luanne pulled herself together, trying to move past her annoyance. She sat up straight and put her hands on the manila folder in her lap. “First, I would like to thank everyone for coming and extend my appreciation for those who showed up on time.”
Nikki snorted a laugh but Luanne continued. “There are now four of us living here and I know we all come from different backgrounds and have different expectations of this school. To maximize our potential, I thought we should come to an agreement on how we are going to share this space so we all benefit from it. But first, we should get to know each other.” The girl smiled at her three roommates who were all staring at her like she was crazy.
“I’ll go first,” she offered. “I’m Luanne Clark and I’m from Birmingham, Alabama. I’m majoring in Political Science and Journalism and will one day be a political correspondent for the New York Times.”
She smiled proudly and watched the faces of her roommates go blank. “Piper, why don’t you go next,” she suggested.
“Right. I’m Piper Collins from Seattle. I row with the crew team.”
“What are you majoring in?”
“Undecided,” Piper answered quickly then turned to Laila who was looking nervous.
“Hi. I’m Laila Roberts from San Francisco. Um, I’m also undecided.”
“Then tell us something interesting about yourself,” Luanne persisted.
“I have asthma.”
Nikki and Piper burst into laughter but Luanne looked horrified. “You poor thing.”
Laila smiled and shrugged, elbowing Nikki who was still laughing beside her.
“Right, my turn. I’m Nikki Peterson and grew up in Manhattan. That’s in New York City. I am majoring in Drama and I hate politics,” she said with a grin at Luanne.
Her upper lip grew stiff as she tried to ignore the jab from her most volatile roommate. In Luanne’s mind, sitting in this room with these three girls, was an unpleasant necessity. She had known them for all of 8 hours and was already anticipating the confrontations. Nikki, who clearly needed psychiatric help, wasn’t worth her time or energy. The girl wouldn’t listen to a thing she had to say during this meeting and most likely do everything in her power to break all the rules they would lay out. Laila was too quiet for Luanne’s liking. Her shy expression and her small features made her look mischievous, like she was always hiding something. Piper was the only one Luanne could relate to. Though she didn’t seem very motivated, she did have obligations with the crew team which at least made her responsible.
Luanne took a deep breath. “Okay, I now have a few rules I would like to propose. First, a cleaning wheel.”
“A what?” Nikki’s voice was abrasive.
“A cleaning wheel,” Luanne repeated herself and pulled a paper collage out of her folder. “An organized way of keeping track of what chores need to be done. We can put it on the wall by the door so we are all reminded of our duties before we leave every morning.”
Luanne watched as Laila blinked and Nikki rolled her eyes.
“There’s something for three of us to do every week. Cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming the common room, and collecting the mail. Any objections?”
Piper shook her head and Laila followed suit. Nikki rolled her eyes again but didn’t object.
“Great,” Luanne considered it a small victory. She pulled out another collage from her folder. “Next, I have a code of conduct that I think we should follow at all times. Really, there are just a few items I'd like to highlight. One, no smoking or drinking anywhere in the dorm rooms. Two, clean up after yourself. Three, be respectful of your roommates. This includes the quiet hours from 10 pm to 7 am and handling all disagreements in a peaceful and honorable manner.” She paused to check for understanding. Laila was staring at her in disbelief. Piper was staring at her feet. Nikki was staring at the ceiling.
“The last thing I want to discuss, and this is something I feel very strongly about, is visitors in the dorm room. I personally don’t mind if you have friends over, as long as you and your guests are following the aforementioned code of conduct, but I do mind if you let boys spend the night. I really don’t care what you do on your own time, if you have questionable morals or if you respect yourself, however, I do not believe in pre-marital intercourse of any kind and won’t tolerate it in my dorm room.”
“Luanne, I think that’s a little extreme,” Piper was the first to speak. “I mean, we all have our own rooms.”
“Yes,” Luanne nodded. “And the walls are very thin.”
Laila spoke next. “Just because my boyfriend spends the night, doesn’t mean we are going to…”
“I’m sorry, but this is the one thing I won’t negotiate on,” Luanne interrupted her.
Laila glanced at Piper for support but her roommate’s look of defeat matched her own. “Whatever. Sterling has his own place. I doubt he’d want to stay here anyway.”
“Well, I have no problem with it,” Nikki chimed in. All three heads turned toward her in disbelief. Of anyone, Luanne thought, Nikki would have argued the most with her last rule. “No boys spending the night. I can live with that.”
“Great,” Luanne clapped cheerfully. “Does anyone have anything else to say?”
“I think you’ve done a great job here, Luanne,” Nikki said, standing up and walking toward the door, a smile on her face. “See you girls later!”
Laila kept quiet until Nikki had left and then slowly turned back to Luanne and gave a week smile. “So, I guess that’s it.”
“Thank you girls so much for being so being here. I really feel confident the four of us will have a great year together.”
“Right,” Piper said quietly, standing up and moving toward the bathroom. “Well, I’m going to get ready for dinner.”
She walked out of the room, leaving Laila and Luanne to contemplate each other. Laila stared curiously at the southern belle who was carefully organizing her notes and charts in the manila folder. She had never encountered someone so uptight. The way her neck and mouth tensed as she spoke, the way Luanne clamped her knees together when she felt threatened, the way her jaw clenched when she said something she knew to be unpleasant – it was amazing she attempted any human interaction at all.
“So, you have asthma?” Laila heard her ask.
“It hasn’t been that bad lately,” she answered honestly.
“I have high blood pressure.”
“That must be difficult.”
“It’s been getting worse lately,” Luanne admitted and Laila wasn’t surprised.
All Laila could do was nod sympathetically. She really had nothing to say to this girl. After an awkward silence, Luanne stood up and glanced down at Laila.
“You do have purple eyes, don’t you?”
“They’re violet, really.”
“That’s kind of weird,” Luanne said and then quickly walked away.
Laila sighed and stood up, the plastic seat beneath her sticking to the back of her legs. She was reprimanding herself for not standing up to Luanne, but knew that arguing with the girl was pointless. Hopefully Luanne would relax after a few weeks with the other girls and, if she was unrelenting, at least Nikki was there to entertain them all.
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