Reagan sat at the end of her own bed, folding her arms. “Have you been going to class?”
“Class is different,” Cath said. “There’s something to focus on. It’s still bad, but it’s tolerable.”
“Are you on drugs?”
“Maybe you should be.…”
Cath pushed her fists into her bed. “This isn’t any of your business. You don’t even know me.”
“This,” Reagan said. “This is why I didn’t want a freshman roommate.”
“Why do you even care? Am I bothering you?”
“We’re going to dinner right now.”
“No. We’re not.”
“Get your student ID.”
“I’m not going to dinner with you. You don’t even like me.”
“I like you fine,” Reagan said.
“This is ridiculous.”
“Jesus Christ, aren’t you hungry?”
Cath was squeezing her fists so hard, her knuckles were going white.
She thought about chicken-fried steak. And scalloped potatoes. And strawberry-rhubarb pie. And wondered whether the Pound dining hall had an ice cream machine like Selleck did.
And she thought about winning. About how she was letting this win, whatever this was—the crazy inside of her. Cath, zero. Crazy, one million.
She leaned over, compressing the knot in her stomach.
Then she stood up with as much dignity as she could scavenge and put on her Vans.
“I have been eating real food…,” she muttered. “I eat lunch at Selleck with my sister.”
Reagan opened the door. “Then why don’t you eat here?”
“Because I waited too long. I built up a block about it. It’s hard to explain.…”
“Seriously, why aren’t you on drugs?”
Cath walked past her out of the room. “Are you a licensed psychiatrist? Or do you just play one on TV?”
“I’m on drugs,” Reagan said. “They’re a beautiful thing.”
* * *
There was no awkward moment in the dining hall, no standing at the doorway with a tray, trying to decide on the most innocuous place to sit.
Reagan sat at the first half-empty table she came across. She didn’t even nod to the other people sitting there.
“Aren’t you going to be late for work?” Cath asked.
“I’m going out. But I was gonna eat dinner here first anyway. We pay for all these meals; may as well eat them.”
Cath’s tray had a plate of baked macaroni and two bowls of Brussels sprouts. She was ravenous.
Reagan took a big bite of pasta salad. Her long hair fell over her shoulders. It was a dozen shades of red and gold, none of them quite natural. “Do you really think that I don’t like you?” she asked with her mouth full.
Cath swallowed. She and Reagan had never had a conversation before today, never mind a serious one. “Um … I get the feeling that you don’t want a roommate.”
“I don’t want a roommate.” Reagan frowned. She frowned as much as Levi smiled. “But that has nothing to do with you.”
“Why live in the dorms, then? You’re not a freshman, right? I didn’t think upperclassmen lived on campus.”
“I have to,” Reagan said. “It’s part of my scholarship. I was supposed to get my own room this year—I was on the list—but all the residence halls are over capacity.”
“Sorry,” Cath said.
“It’s not your fault.”
“I didn’t want a roommate either,” Cath said. “I mean … I thought I was going to live with my sister.”
“You have a sister who goes here?”
“Why is that weird?” Cath asked.
“It just is. It’s creepy. Like having a doppelgänger. Are you identical?”
“Ew.” Reagan shuddered melodramatically.
“It’s not creepy,” Cath said. “What is wrong with you?”
Reagan grimaced and shuddered again. “So why aren’t you living with your sister?”
“She wanted to meet new people,” Cath said.
“You make it sound like she broke up with you.”
Cath speared another Brussels sprout. “She lives in Schramm,” she said to her tray. When she looked up, Reagan was scowling at her.
“You’re making me feel sorry for you again,” Reagan said.
Cath turned her fork on Reagan. “Don’t feel sorry for me. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me.”
“I can’t help it,” Reagan said. “You’re really pathetic.”
“I am not.”
“You are. You don’t have any friends, your sister dumped you, you’re a freaky eater … And you’ve got some weird thing about Simon Snow.”
“I object to every single thing you just said.”
Reagan chewed. And frowned. She was wearing dark red lipstick.
“I have lots of friends,” Cath said.
“I never see them.”
“I just got here. Most of my friends went to other schools. Or they’re online.”
“Internet friends don’t count.”
Reagan shrugged disdainfully.
“And I don’t have a weird thing with Simon Snow,” Cath said. “I’m just really active in the fandom.”
“What the f**k is ‘the fandom’?”
“You wouldn’t understand,” Cath sighed, wishing she hadn’t used that word, knowing that if she tried to explain herself any further, it would just make it worse. Reagan wouldn’t believe—or understand—that Cath wasn’t just a Simon fan. She was one of the fans. A first-name-only fan with fans of her own.
If she told Reagan that her Simon fics regularly got twenty thousand hits … Reagan would just laugh at her.
Plus, saying all that out loud would make Cath feel like a complete a**hole.
“You’ve got Simon Snow heads on your desk,” Reagan said.
“Those are commemorative busts.”
“I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.”
“I don’t want to be your friend,” Cath said as sternly as she could. “I like that we’re not friends.”
“Me, too,” Reagan said. “I’m sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.”
Welcome to FanFixx.net—where the story never ends.
We are a volunteer-run archive and forum, accepting quality fiction from all fandoms. Volunteer or make a donation here. Set up a FanFixx.net author profile here. You must be 13 years old or older to submit or comment at FanFixx.net.
—FanFixx.net homepage welcome message, retrieved July 1, 2011
“Please don’t make me sit in the hall,” Levi said.
Cath stepped over his legs to get to her door. “I have to study.”
“Reagan’s running late, and I’ve already been sitting here half an hour.” His voice dropped to a whisper: “Your neighbor with the pink Ugg boots keeps coming out to talk to me. Have mercy.”
Cath frowned at him.
“I won’t bother you,” he said. “I’ll just wait quietly for Reagan.”
She rolled her eyes and walked in, leaving the door open behind her.
“I can see why you and Reagan hit it off.” He got up to follow her. “You can both be extremely brusque sometimes.”
“We didn’t hit it off.”
“That’s not what I heard.… Hey, now that you’re eating in the dining hall, can I eat your protein bars?”
“You were already eating my protein bars,” Cath said indignantly, sitting at her desk and opening her laptop.
“I felt bad about doing it behind your back.”
“But aren’t you happier now?” He sat at the end of her bed and leaned against the wall, crossing his long legs at the ankles. “You look better nourished already.”
“Um, thank you?”
He grinned. “Can I have a protein bar?”
Levi leaned over and reached under the bed. “The Blueberry Bliss are my favorite.…”
Cath actually was happier now. (Not that she was going to admit that to Levi.) So far, being Reagan’s charity case didn’t require much—just going down to the dining hall together and helping Reagan ridicule everyone who walked by their table.
Reagan liked to sit next to the kitchen door, right where the buffet line dumped into the dining room. She called it parade seating, and no one was spared. “Look,” she’d said last night, “it’s Gimpy. How do you think he broke his leg?”
Cath looked up at the guy, a dangerously hip-looking character with shaggy hair and oversized glasses. “Probably tripped over his beard.”
“Ha!” Reagan said. “His girlfriend is carrying his tray. Just look at her—that is one shiny unicorn. Do you think they actually met in an American Apparel ad?”
“I’m pretty sure they met in New York City, but it took them five years to get here.”
“Oh, Wolf Girl at three o’clock,” Reagan said excitedly.
“Is she wearing her clip-on tail?”
“I don’t know, wait for it.… No. Damn.”
“I kinda like her tail.” Cath smiled fondly at the chubby girl with dyed black hair.
“If God put me into your life to keep you from wearing a f**king tail,” Reagan said, “I accept the assignment.”
As far as Reagan was concerned, Cath was already problematically weird. “It’s bad enough that you have homemade Simon Snow posters,” Reagan had said last night while she was getting ready for bed. “Do you have to have g*y homemade Simon Snow posters?”
Cath had looked up at the drawing over her desk of Simon and Baz holding hands. “Leave them alone,” she said. “They’re in love.”
“Pretty sure I don’t remember that from the books.”
“When I write them,” Cath said, “they’re in love.”
“What do you mean when you write them?” Reagan stopped, pulling her T-shirt down over her head. “No, you know what? Never mind. I don’t want to know. It’s already hard enough to make eye contact with you.”
Levi was right, they must be hitting it off, because now when Reagan said stuff like that, it made Cath want to laugh. If Reagan missed dinner, Cath would go down to the dining hall anyway and sit at their table. Then, when Reagan came back to the room later—if Reagan came back to the room later—Cath would tell her everything she’d missed.
“Soccer Sandals finally talked to Venezuelan Lindsay Lohan,” Cath would say.
“Thank God,” Reagan would answer, flopping down onto her bed. “The sexual tension was killing me.”
Cath wasn’t sure where Reagan went on the nights when she didn’t come back to the dorms. Maybe to Levi’s. Cath looked over at Levi now.…
Still sitting on Cath’s bed, eating what must be his second Blueberry Bliss bar. He was wearing black jeans and a black T-shirt. Maybe Levi worked at the Olive Garden, too.
“Are you a waiter?” she asked.
“Do you work at the Lancôme counter?”
He laughed. “What?”
“I’m trying to figure out why you wear all black sometimes.”
“Maybe I’m really gothy and dark”—he smiled—“but only on certain days.” Cath couldn’t imagine Levi ever being gothy and dark; he had the smilingest face she’d ever seen. He smiled all the way from his chin to his receding hairline. His forehead wrinkled up, his eyes twinkled. Even his ears got into the action—they twitched, like a dog’s.
“Or maybe I work at Starbucks,” he said.
She snorted. “Really?”
“Really,” he said, still smiling. “Someday you’ll need health insurance, and you won’t think working at Starbucks is funny.”
Levi and Reagan were always doing that to Cath—reminding her how young and naïve she was. Reagan was only two years older than Cath. She wasn’t even old enough to drink yet. Not legally. (Not that it mattered on campus; there was booze everywhere. Wren already had a fake ID. “You can borrow it,” she’d told Cath. “Say you got hair extensions.”)
Cath wondered how old Levi was. He looked old enough to drink, but maybe that was just his hair.…
It’s not that Levi was bald. Or anywhere near bald. (Yet.)
But his hairline came to a peak on his forehead, then retreated, dramatically, above his temples. And instead of letting his hair hang down or forward, to minimize it—or instead of giving up and wearing it really short, like most guys would—Levi swept it straight up and back in a sloppy blond wave. And he was always messing with it, drawing even more attention to his wide, lined forehead. He was doing it now.
“What are you working on?” he asked, pushing his fingers through his hair and scrubbing at the back of his head.
“Studying in silence,” she said.
* * *
Cath had only posted one chapter of Carry On, Simon this week, and it was half as long as usual.
She usually posted something to her FanFixx page every night—if not a full chapter, at least a blog entry.
The comments on her page all week had been friendly.… “How are you?” “Just checking in.” “Can’t wait for the next post!” “Gah! I need my daily Baz.” But to Cath, they felt like demands.
She used to read and respond to every comment on her stories—comments were like gold stars, like May Day bouquets—but ever since Carry On, Simon took off last year, it had all gotten too big for Cath to manage. She went from getting around five hundred hits per chapter to five thousand. Regularly.