Girls Like Boys

Travis Laughlin

“Did you text Ramsy?” he asked as he pulled out onto the street below. He cut up right through traffic and headed to the road that curved around around campus, rather than taking the shortcut through the middle that we both knew would be packed with cars and people. Murphy’s was on our left when we got stopped at the street light a block down.

“Yeah, but she hasn’t answered. I’ll just run up and see if she’s there,” I suggested. “That way you don’t have to park in the lot.”

Travis nodded, chin dipping as he rounded the corner onto our street. He pulled up in front of Tutwiler and I climbed out, taking my backpack with me so I could deposit it upstairs. The building housed almost a thousand girls on twelve floors total. The main floor held the community living room, a small market and eatery, and the laundry rooms. Every time I came through there were dozens of other people too.

The elevators were on the left and I made a beeline to them. Someone had already pressed the button, so the doors opened quickly and we piled in. “What floor?” a girl asked, poised by the buttons.

“Three.” I smiled politely and backed up against the wall. There were two others as well. Most likely a couple by the way she held his hand and leaned into him like they were sharing secrets. I slid past them when the elevator opened onto my floor.

“Cody!” Kiera called my name from the common room as I passed. I slowed down and turned in towards her. She and Natalie sat together on one of the couches.

“Hey, what’s up?” I greeted, walking over. “Do you know if Ramsy’s here?”

Natalie grinned. She turned around so she was sitting backwards on the couch, facing me. “I heard you had a guy in your room all last night,” she said, surprising the hell out of me. “You better not let Tegan find out.”

“How do you even know that?” I questioned.

Kiera answered for her, “Ramsy told us. We won’t tell Tegan, but you should be careful. Guys are really only allowed to sleep over on the weekends.”

I filed that information away for later use. Somehow I’d missed the part about there being rules for boys. It made sense though. No one wanted to have a guy walk in on them in the bathroom. Keeping it to weekends only made it predictable. “Thanks for letting me know,” I replied. “Is Ramsy here though? I’m going out for dinner and need to find her.”

“I think she’s still in your room,” Kiera spoke. “She came in a little while ago. But really, did you meet that guy at the party last weekend?”

“No,” I said offhandedly, confusing myself with the details, “I have to go. I’ll talk to you later though. He won’t be here tonight, I promise.”

“It’s Friday!” Natalie said as I walked away, “He’s actually allowed to be here tonight.”

I chuckled and nodded. “See you two later.”

Our door was unlocked when I tried it. I’d already pulled my keys out, but I stuffed them back into the water bottle pocket as I pushed the door open. I paused instantly, face to face with my sister and someone I hadn’t met. He was sitting down so I couldn’t gauge his height, but he had wide shoulders, almost brown hair, and an expression on surprise on his face.

I kicked the door shut when I walked in. “I texted you,” I told Ramsy, eyeing her cell phone. It was sitting right on her desk, face up and everything.

She nodded, grabbing for it. “I heard it, but I figured it was Harper or something. She wanted to go to the movies tonight.” Ram stood up, splicing the space between me and her friend with her body. “Luke, this is Cody. Cody, Luke.”

He stood up. He wasn’t as tall as Travis, but that just meant he wasn’t 6”3. He was a good deal taller than Ram and me. “I’d heard there was a twin,” he greeted, reaching his hand out to shake. “It’s nice to meet you.”

I awkwardly doubled back to shake his hand. “You too,” I replied. I tossed my backpack down onto my bed and moved closer to the end of Ram’s so I could see out of the window. “Travis is parked downstairs. We’re going to Murphy’s if you want to come, Ramsy.”

She turned expectantly towards Luke. “Do you want to go out for pizza?” she asked, criss-crossing her fingers together in front of her. “Have you been to Murphy’s yet? They’re pretty good. It’s kind of where Cody and Travis met.” She looked back to me, a silent conversation that pointed out it’d been exactly one week since we first saw Travis there.

The blonde glanced between us. “Who’s Travis?”

Ramsy answered easily. “Cody’s not-boyfriend. They practically do everything together lately. He’s the one that drove me to Poli Sci today.”

Luke was broader than Travis in a lot of ways and he looked oversized standing in the center of our room. He clasped his hands together, visualizing his thought process. “If it’s fine with you guys,” he said finally, turning his eyes to me. I couldn’t see the color. I shrugged.

“I’m sure Travis won’t care,” I replied. “Just wipe your feet before you get in the car.” I turned around and fished my wallet and keys out of my bag. I was still wearing my joggers which meant pockets big enough to hold both those items and my phone.

“She’s joking,” Ramsy explained behind me. I could hear them moving, most likely getting their shoes on and getting their stuff. She took her hair down from its ponytail so we wouldn’t match so much.

Luke spoke softer, only to Ramsy. “Should I take my backpack or..?” he trailed off. I picked the shorts that Travis slept in up from the floor and tossed them into the laundry basket sticking out of my closet.

“You can leave it,” Ram answered. “Travis will probably come back here after so you can come back up and get it when we get back.”

“Lets go,” I pushed, echoing Ram’s words from this morning. “He’s going to get a ticket if he stays parked down there too long.”

I heard Ramsy’s keys slide off the table as she grabbed them. “They can’t give people parking tickets when they’re in their cars,” she rebutted, following me through the doorway. “All he has to do is put the car in ‘drive’ and go around the block.”

“That’s not the point,” I argued. I texted Travis to let him know we were bringing a stray along for the ride. When we stepped outside, he was parked in the same spot I left him. I crossed the front walk and opened up the passenger’s seat, throwing myself inside without a word to my sister.

Travis turned around between the seats to meet Luke, who was sitting directly behind him. Ramsy did a quick round of introductions. “I hope you don’t mind that I’m tagging along,” Luke said uncertainly. “Ramsy said that pizza is good, so it’s kind of hard to pass up an invitation.”

“Yeah, it is,” Travis agreed, “and it’s fine, don’t worry about it. I invited a couple people too, so it’ll be a party.” His eyes skimmed mine as he turned around to drive. If he saw the questions in my expression, he didn’t offer any answers.

The ride over was quick, but Travis still found a way to be annoying. He banked hard on a left turn, sending me sliding into the door. I made a point to hit the door lock as obviously as possible, shooting him a look as we straightened out.

“You could drive like a normal person, y’know,” I shot, glancing back behind us as he slid effortlessly into the other lane.

He grinned at me and then caught my sister’s eye in the rearview mirror. “Cody’s got a date next weekend,” he said, simpering. It was a kill shot and we both knew it.

Ram reached forward around the seat immediately and grabbed my shoulders. “What?” she sputtered, surprised. “Who asked you out?” She moved so she could see me between the two front seats. When I looked back, I caught Lukas’s easy smile. I sighed.

“It’s not a date,” I refuted, brushing her hands off of me. “I’m just hanging out with a friend from class.”

“What’re you doing together?” she questioned quickly. Her hair fell down around her shoulder as she leaned closer to Luke to get a better look at me. The blonde strands skimmed against his legs, but he didn’t seem to care. “You’ve got to let me meet this boy. What class is he from?” She looked at Travis, gaze flickering to him like he might answer the question for me. “Did you meet him in Psych?”

“We’re just getting something to eat,” I said defensively. “Calm down, Ramsy. He’s from my English class. His name is Jack. And we’re just friends.”

“He’s taking you out to dinner,” she pointed out obnoxiously. “That doesn’t sound like ‘just friends’ to me. How did he ask you?”

I glowered at Travis, becoming more angry when I saw the amused smirk on his lips. He shrugged innocently and diverted his attention back to the road to avoid this conversation. “He asked me to hangout with him,” I told her. “After class. Said we should get something to eat and go to his dorm on Saturday.”

“It sounds like he likes you,” Ram said, practically singing the words. She didn’t explain. She sat back in her seat like her diagnosis was complete. It was her easy belief that annoyed me the most.

“If a girl asked me to hangout neither of you would think it’s a date,” I recoiled, annoyed by them. “It’s possible to be friends. Travis and I get dinner together all the time.”

“That’s because you and Travis are you and Travis,” she deadpanned, “but this is you and a cute boy from your class.” Travis cut across traffic and rounded the parking lot to the side of the building. Murphy’s was understandably busy tonight and through the front glass windows I could see hordes of college students, new and old alike.

“I didn’t say he was cute,” I said while Travis spoke defensively.

“I’m a cute boy," he said.

Ramsy grinned, fingers squeezing my arm while Travis slipped the car into a spot near the corner of the lot. “And I’m starving,” she said, excitement bubbling up in the tone of her voice. We shuffled out, tripping over tired limbs.

Travis came around the car to my side, meeting me near the trunk to walk up with me. Ram and Luke walked ahead of us, poised together. Her hand was on his arm, leading him to the bright building across the pavement. Travis was surprisingly quiet.

“Who’d you invite?” I asked.

“My cousin and Benji,” he replied. “You met Benji already though.” His hunter eyes met mine. “At the party. In the bathroom.”

It came back to me in a rush. “You’re friends with that half-naked guy from Theta Chi?” I sounded more disgusted than I really was. It was mostly shock coloring my tone. I imagined Travis’s real friends differently. Now the image of the curly headed boy with his pants unbuttoned in the back bathroom wouldn’t fade away. I peered through the glass front facade to try to catch a glimpse of him.

“Benji’s not all bad,” Travis answered, smiling as he defended his friend. “He’s actually a pretty good guy once you get to know him.”

I shrugged. Ram was already at the door, holding it open for the two of us to catch up with them. I answered Travis as I stepped inside. “As long as his pants stay on, you can invite whoever you want.”

Travis saw his friends across the bar before any of us even had time to log the faces around us. He laughed and yelled out to them, hurrying over through the crowd.

I watched from the door as he threw his arms around another boy, brown hair tinted copper to make auburn. They looked alike, even from here, same brow bone with deep set eyes, narrow noses, and cupid’s bows just above pink mouths. They were almost exactly the same height, offset by their friend, Benji, who was shorter and broader and louder.

Travis looked back for us, grinning without thought, and motioned for me to hurry up and go to him. Ram plastered a smile to her face and took my arm, speaking words to Luke that I didn’t care to hear.

“Have you met them both?” Ram asked easily, dragging me around the corner of the bar to that side of the room.

“The brown haired one is Benji,” I explained, watching the three of them talk about something and point at tables. “The other one is Travis’s cousin.”

“The other one is cute,” Ram answered, playful. “You should look into that.” Luckily we were close enough that I didn’t have time to reply. We stopped just behind Travis. The space between the bar and the tables wasn’t big enough to accommodate us all in a row, so we made a semi-circle around Travis.

He quieted his friends, talking over them to get them to stop talking. They turned their attention to the three of us, waiting expectantly for introductions. “This is Cody, Ramsy, and her friend Luke,” Travis said. “Code, you remember Benji. And this is Leo Reign, my cousin.”

The name rung bells that I couldn’t place, but I brushed it off. Travis had probably mentioned him at least once to me. I plastered a smile to my face, trying to pretend I wasn’t bad at meeting new people.

Benji grinned, glancing between me and my sister. “I’m going to try to remember what you’re both wearing so I can remember your names, but next time you’ll have to remind me.”

Ram rolled her eyes. It was his amused tone of voice that set her off. “Don’t try too hard,” she said, widening the gap between them. “You might use up the rest of your alcohol-impaired brain cells.”

Leo, who’d been silent until now, cracked a smile. “That’s what we thought two years ago,” he said, “but surprisingly, they just keep regenerating before he goes completely comatose.”

Benji pressed his palm into his heart. “You’ve wounded me, Ryan. Why don’t you take your charming wit to that side of the bar and insult other people.”

Travis shook his head. “We don’t have time for that. I’m starving, Cody’s starving, we need to eat food. We had to sit through a two hour psych class with absolutely no sustenance.”

I balked at him. “Travis, we ate an hour before that class. You weren’t dying.” I slid my arms over my chest.

“I’m a growing boy.” He shrugged. “One hour is one hour too long.” His arm went around my shoulders and he pulled me into him obnoxiously. He turned us around and lead the way over to the booths on the far side of the restaurant.

The group came with and we piled into the curved bench. Travis and I ended up directly in the middle. Ram was on my side, Luke on hers. Benji sat next to Travis and Leo capped us off. A waitress brought us menus almost immediately.

“Can I get you started with any appetizers?” she asked, smiling with teeth.

“Fries,” I answered immediately, shooting Travis a pointed look.

He rolled his eyes. “Fries,” he confirmed.

“Just one order?”

Travis looked to me. I shook my head. “I want my own fries,” I said, reaching to take the of the menus from my sister.

Travis nodded, grabbing them from me. “Just bring us like three orders. If she eats them all, I’ll get more.”

I jammed him in the side as the woman politely agreed with him. He bit out a curse under his breath and glared at me, passing laminated menus down the line.

“I’ll be back with those as soon as they’re up. Can you get you all any drinks in the meantime?” She went around the booth and wrote down our beverages before she left, deviating to drop our order off with the cook.

Travis’s arm was on the booth behind me. He leaned into my shoulder, eyes trained on my menu. “For a pizza place, they have really great burgers,” he commented, reaching to turn the page.

I smacked his hand away. “You have your own menu,” I said, pointing out the fact that the thing was literally right in front of him. “And anyway, I want pizza. You put the idea into my head after class and it stuck there.”

I looked up, moving my attention from Travis’s annoying habits when Leo spoke. He directed his question across the table, mostly to Ramsy and Luke, but I was included too. “Are you all freshman?” he asked, seeming to already know that fact about me. “How do you like Bama so far?”

“It’s been great,” Ram replied. “I wasn’t really expecting anything coming in, so it was a pretty easy transition. I thought I’d miss home more than I actually do, so that helped.”

Leo nodded. “I think that’s the hard part for a lot of freshmen.”

Travis’s fingers landed on my shoulder, pressing lightly into my t’shirt. Until now, I’d almost forgotten that he’d overheard my conversation with Charlie yesterday. “Are you a junior too?” I asked, leaning my elbows on the menu, on the table, so I could see past Travis to him. So I could change the subject. “Are you all juniors?”

“Yeah. Trav and I are like eleven days apart,” he told me, shooting a fleeting smile at his cousin. “He’s like the brother I never wanted.”

Travis laughed, pulling his arm back to his lap. “You could’ve had mine,” he retorted. “It's not like it wouldn't changed things much.”

Leo nodded, seemingly in agreement.

I got pulled into a conversation with Luke and Ramsy. Mostly because I wanted to know how they met and what he was doing in our room earlier today. “Weren’t you just saying, last night, that Travis and I hangout in the room too much?” I questioned.

Ram was less than amused with my line of questioning. “Yeah, Code, but Luke was going to leave eventually. Unlike Travis whose clothes are starting to accumulate.”

“There’s only like one shirt and a pair of shorts,” I downplayed, “and maybe a hoodie if we’re counting.”

“You two barely ever leave the room. If there was a magic food supply, I doubt you’d ever get out.” She smiled at me because she thought she was right. “Anyway, Luke and I were going to go to this cafe place we heard about, but we couldn’t find it. It’s in the Student Center somewhere.”

Luke nodded, jumping into the conversation. “That place is a maze,” he said. “We walked around for twenty minutes and still had no idea.”

“So we just decided to hangout in the dorm,” she concluded.

Travis knocked in my arm as his way of getting my attention. I hadn’t realized that their side of the table was quiet, but they were all apparently waiting on us. “What?” I asked.

“I’m probably just going to get a burger. What’re you getting?” he questioned.

The menu was folded up, closed in front of me. Ramsy hadn’t even opened hers. We got the same kind of pizza practically every time we ate out somewhere. “We’re going to split a mac and cheese pizza,” I answered.

Travis was surprised. "You two are going to split an entire large pizza?" He flipped the pages in my menu and pointed at the picture on the third page. “It’s huge.”

"That's an inch big picture," I retorted, "and yeah, we are, as long as they can throw some mac and cheese on a pizza, we’re going to eat it.” I yanked the menu away from him and piled it on top of Ram's.

"You also ordered fries,” he argued. "There's no way the two of you are going to be able to eat all of that.”

"Well they don't make specialty pizzas any smaller, so we'll eat it. And if we don't, we'll put it in this fancy thing called a to-go box and take it back to our dorm where we'll stick it in the mini fridge until we're hungry again. Which, guess what, will probably be tomorrow morning."

Travis stared at me, eyebrows raised, waiting for me to continue.

"Problem solved," I concluded.

Ram grinned and pressed her palms together, tangling her fingers together. “It’s really delicious. You should try some, Travis.”

Leo tried to stifle it as he laughed, but Travis caught him anyway. Leo blinked his green eyes at his cousin. "Trav, don’t rain on their macaroni pizza parade.”

“Shut up,” Travis laughed, “They can get whatever they want. I was just pointing out the obvious.”

“You’re supposed to always be on your girlfriend’s side,” Benji answered, his tone taunting. “Not that you would know that since you’ve never had an actual girl that liked you enough to want to be around for longer than a night. If you need any more tips, Trav, you let me know.”

“Why don’t you go back to screwing my cast-offs in bathrooms, Benji,” Travis retorted.

“And I'm not his girlfriend," I added simply. “So next time you want to piss him off, try to get your facts straight.” I smiled politely, dangerously, and turned my eyes back to Travis.

He wasn’t really angry with Benji. It was obvious that they said and did that kind of shit to each other regularly. He tossed a balled up napkin at the boy and couldn’t hide his smile. He looked to me so Leo and Benji wouldn’t see his good mood.

The waitress came back with our drinks and fries, setting the cups and plates out in their rightful spots. I reached for the plate in the middle and slid it towards me, unable to control my excitement. The ketchup came in glass bottles and the waitress set two on our table. Travis took one and opened it, pouring some out in the spot I’d designated for it.

After the woman took our orders, Benji jostled Leo. The auburn headed boy stared at him. “Ryan, move, man, I’ve got to pee.”

He slid out of the booth and let Benji go. The boy disappeared into a back hallway. My eyes settled back on Travis’s cousin. “Why does he call you that?” I questioned.

“‘Ryan’ is my middle name,” he said easily. “My mom’s name is really similar to mine, so when I was a kid people just started calling me ‘Ryan’ so it wouldn’t be so confusing. I switched back to Leo when I got older, but old habits are hard to break.” His gaze flickered to Travis.

“What about you two?”

Ramsy leaned forward slightly. “What about us?”

“Where are you from?” He ate a fry and watched us curiously, waiting for our response.

“Indiana,” Ram told him. “We grew up like twenty-five minutes outside of Terre Haute, which is where Indiana State is, if you’ve heard of it.”

Leo nodded. “Yeah, definitely. Was it the football that brought you down here?”

“Oh come off it,” Travis cut in immediately, surprising us both. “Don’t be so conceded, Ryan. You didn’t hang the sun, you know. You run a ball around a field and get knocked down a lot.”

“You’re on the team?” Ram asked quickly, waving her hand at Travis to shut him up.

Travis smacked her away, indignant. “He’s the freaking quarterback,” he muttered. “Thinks he’s god’s gift to Earth too. And it doesn’t help his ego that the entire university warships the ground he’s walks on.”

Leo chuckled. “Like you’re not the exact same way in your own circles,” he replied. “Just because my hobbies are school sponsored doesn’t mean they’re any lamer than yours.”

“That’s exactly what it means,” Travis rebutted. “You and I both know you used to have a lot more fun before college football.”

Leo smiled conspiratorially.
♠ ♠ ♠
I really thought I had this posted already! I'm so sorry, guys! Please let know what you think. :)