Girls Like Boys


Jack called my name from the couch, causing me to look up from the fridge and angle to see the TV. The boys’ laughter drowned out the sound, but I saw the end of something as it flashed off the screen.

“What was that?” I asked as I stepped around the table and back into the living room. I dropped back into my spot between Jack and Will and focused my attention on the TV as though I’d see a replay.

“Some kid jumped off the roof of a house onto a trampoline and landed with his feet between the springs,” Tristan said, offering me an amused smile from the other couch.

I pulled my attention away from the screen as the show came to an end. “I don’t know why you guys like watching that so much,” I said, rifling around to find my phone. I pushed Jack over so I could reach in between the couch cushions.

The dark haired boy slid farther out of the way. “What are you doing?” he asked, giving me a look as I climbed back to my feet and disturbed their level of comfort.

“I can’t find my phone,” I said, glancing between the two boys on either side of me. “I need to know what time it is.” I reached down along the back of the couch, sighing in annoyance when the little machine wasn’t there.

Jack, sighing as well, got up from his spot and pulled his own phone out of his pocket. “It’s six thirty four,” he said, showing me the screen before sliding it back into his jeans. “Do you need to leave or something?”

Will got up from his spot and started helping me look. I moved to Jack’s spot and rifled through that side, although I doubted it managed to work its way to that side of the couch. “I have to meet Ramsy pretty soon,” I told the boy as I looked. “We’re picking up Benji from work.”

“So you’re going to stop hanging out with us so that you can go hangout with Travis,” Jack commented, leaning against the arm of the couch as I put the cushions back into place. Will did the same, smiling apologetically since he hadn’t found the phone either.

“You sound like a jealous asshole,” Caleb said between mouthfuls of chips. He shot Jack a pointed look and I turned my attention to the affronted boy.

“He’s not wrong,” I said to Jack, noting his irritated expression and the glare he shot at his roommate.

Jack shook his head. “I just don’t understand why you’re always running out to go meet Travis, or to pick Travis’s friends up, or to spend the night at Travis’s house. It’s not normal, Cody.”

“First of all,” I said as I pivoted to face him. Will stood a couple feet behind me, and the other two boys sat on the couch behind him. “They’re not ‘Travis’s friends.’ I met them through Travis, yes, but they’re my friends too. And second, you can’t just tell me that my friendship with Trav is abnormal every time you’re jealous of him, Jack. It’s annoying.”

The boys stifled ‘oohs’ and laughter when Jack’s expression darkened in their direction. When he looked back to me, his features softened the slightest bit. “I don’t mean to say it like that,” he said, “but it sucks that you’re always leaving.”

“It’s not like I’m running away to get married or something,” I commented. “I’m just going to watch Travis’s race. I’ll see you in class on Monday.”

Caleb got up and caught my attention as he bunched up the empty chip bag and darted around to the garbage can in the kitchen.

“He’s racing tonight?” Will asked me, intrigued.

I turned my back on Jack and faced his roommates. “Yeah.” I nodded.

Jack stepped over so that he was near my side instead of behind me. Caleb came back, completing the circle. He reached across the gap and handed me my phone. “It was on the counter,” he said easily.

“Ramsy’s going too?” Jack asked, barely giving me time to thank Caleb.

“Yeah, she finally got tired of being ‘the face of the resistance,’ I think,” I said, shaking my head at my sister’s resolve as I put my phone safely in my pocket. “It’s been over a month since I told her and she’s finally starting to realize that I haven’t been injured or in-trouble yet.”

“That’s a big ‘yet’,” Jack said.

I shot him a look. “I knew she was going to cave when she stopped threatening to call and tell Charlie every five minutes.”

I crossed between the boys and headed to Jack and Tristan’s room to get my shoes. The room was the same as ever, although maybe a little messier since Jack and I had spent most of the afternoon on the couch in here eating and watching dumb movies on his computer.

When Tristan came home from work, we moved into the living room where the other two boys were and spent the rest of the evening making stupid jokes and mildly paying attention to whatever came on the TV.

Jack followed me into his room and shut the door behind him, ultimately separating us from his roommates. I sat down on the couch to put my shoes on and Jack stood near the doorway, watching me without a word.

After I got one shoe laced, I sighed and looked up to the brunette. “What, Jack?” I asked, sitting back and folding my arms over my chest. “What else do you want to say?”

“Nothing,” he answered annoyingly. “I just don’t like that my girlfriend is leaving, in the dark, alone, to go meet up with a bunch of guys who are taking you to do illegal stuff.”

I shot him a glare. “I’m not your girlfriend and I make my own decisions. They’re not ‘taking me’ anywhere. In fact, I’m driving to Travis’s, so I’m taking them.”

“You know what I mean,” he said in a rush, coming to sit next to me. “It feels like you’re my girlfriend, Cody. And you’re really close to getting yourself in a lot of trouble. I get that you and Travis are friends, but you don’t have to go to his races. What if it gets broken up by the police? What’re you going to do then?”

“Travis can handle it,” I answered. “I don’t drive my own car there, so they can’t run my plates if that happens. I’ll just hop in with Travis and we’ll be gone. You and I both know that it would be nearly impossible to catch him.”

“I swear to God that you think Travis hung the moon,” Jack said in frustration. “You’re just so naive sometimes, Cody. You think that Travis can handle everything. One of these days you’re going to find out how wrong you are and you’re going to get yourself and Ramsy into trouble.”

“I’m leaving now,” I said as I got up. I grabbed my jacket from his bunk and slipped it on, putting my phone into the zippered pocket.

“Can I at least come with this time?” Jack asked, standing up. “Ramsy’s going.”

“Travis likes Ramsy,” I reminded him.

“I don’t like him either,” Jack said, walking towards the door with me. “But at least I’ll be there if something goes wrong.”

I sighed and turned back, facing away from the door and toward him. “And you’ll do what, Jack? Carry me on your back as you run away? There’s nothing you can do for me if something like that happens. You have no idea where the race is, no idea where to go if the race gets broken up, and no car to get away.

“I’ll be with Travis, who has and knows all of those things and who cares about me just as much as you do. And, on top of that, he’ll stick me with Leo and Shay while he and Benji are racing, who, by the way, have been to races before and know how to handle a bad situation. So no, Jack, I don’t need you there to look after me.”

I brushed past him and opened the bedroom door. Tristan, Caleb, and Will tried to look like they hadn’t heard anything, but it was obvious that they were just trying to stay out of it. Jack and I were notorious for ending our nights with fights about Travis. It had almost become an expected part of the evening.

“Tris, thanks for dinner,” I said, weaving through the living room and the mess. “I can stay and help clean up real quick. I don’t want t run out.”

Tristan shook his head as he got up. He was the tallest of the roommates and the oldest. A year older than everybody else, the junior had dark hair shaved short, dark eyes, and wore a black and gray striped sweatshirt more than not.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said, stepping over Caleb’s legs as he made his way over. “I’ll walk you out. Did you drive?”

I shook my head. “No, but it’s a quick walk back.”

Tristan glanced over my head and I figured Jack had made his way out of the bedroom. The dark eyed boy shook his head at my words. “I’ll drive you,” he said, turning back. “Just let me get my shoes and keys.”

“You don’t have to do that,” I answered, although he was already slipping past Jack and back in their bedroom. I turned my attention to Jack, who was still looking at me. “I’ll see you on Monday,” I said, bored of fighting with him about the same things.

Jack nodded. “I’ll walk you downstairs.” He turned and told Tristan that we’d meet him downstairs.

Tristan agreed from the bedroom and Jack stepped away. He already had shoes on, so he led the way to the door. I called quick goodbyes to Caleb and Will and followed Jack down the small, narrow hallway to the door. We stepped out into the wider hall and headed toward the elevators.

“I’m really sick of you acting like a jerk,” I said as we waited for the elevator to come. “I’m not your girlfriend, Jack. And I’m not going to be. We’re friends and that’s all, so you need to stop acting like you have a right to be upset about what I do when I’m not with you.”

Jack turned to me when we stepped into the elevator. “Are you ‘friends’ with Travis the way you’re ‘friends’ with me?” He put his hands into the pockets of his jacket and looked away.

“Are you asking me if I’ve kissed Travis?” I asked rhetorically, letting a bit of anger slip into my voice. “Or if I hangout in his room and watch movies? What about if I eat dinner at his house? Hangout with his friends? Are all of those things going to make you act like a dick?”

I clicked the first floor button a few more times, wanting it to hurry up and let us out so that I could leave. Despite the fact that I had to wait for Tristan, I could still separate myself from Jack. After another moment of silence, I spoke.

“It’s not my job to make you feel better about my relationship with Travis,” I said in irritation. “When I hangout with you, Jack, I’m not promising you anything. I’ve told you that we’re never going to be anything, and yet you still act like I’ll change my mind.”

We stepped out of the elevator and Jack frowned, peering down at me. “I kissed you, Cody, and you never said anything about it. All you’ve said is that we’re ‘friends.’ How is that fair? You know that I like you.”

“I’ve told you that I don’t like you like that,” I said, pausing in the doorway of his building as I watched his feelings get hurt. “What else am I supposed to do to convince you, Jack? Stop being your friend? I like hanging out with you and I like your friends. I don’t want to completely cut you out of my life because you have a crush on me that you can’t get over.”

Jack nodded slowly, holding onto the glass door that led outside. After a moment, he closed his eyes briefly and then looked back to me. “Okay,” he said, “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to push you about liking me back or about Travis, but it sucks that you know how I feel about you and yet you’re always talking about Travis like he’s the greatest thing on earth.”

“He’s my best friend,” I sighed. “Why should I pretend that he isn’t?” I stepped out from the doorway and into the grass of the front yard. Jack’s expression was complicated.

Tristan darted out through the door that Jack held open. He jangled his keys and glanced between Jack and I. “You ready to go, Cody? It’s almost seven.”

I nodded quickly. Ram and I needed to pick Benji up in an hour and I still needed to change and get ready. Tristan came to my side and led me down the street to his car. We veered off the sidewalk and cut across the grass. He rounded the front end to the driver’s side and unlocked it.

“Are you alright?” he asked after he started the car. He left it in park and shifted to face me the best he could. “I know that Jack puts a lot of his issues on you. We’ve tried to tell him to knock it off, but I guess he hasn’t caught up yet.”

I nodded and buckled my seatbelt. “I’m fine,” I said, looking up to him and meeting his brown eyes. “I just want him to get over it so that we can move on from his crap and just be friends. It drives me insane that he wants to find about Travis all the time. There’s literally nothing to fight about.”

Tristan nodded too. “He’ll figure that out. Or he’ll realize that you’re not going to keep coming around if he keeps bothering you like this. Which would suck, because then I wouldn’t get to hangout with you either.” Tristan smiled and laughed a bit.

I laughed too. “Like I told Jack, I don’t hangout with Benji, Ryan, and the others just because they’re Travis’s friends. The same goes with you guys. You can always invite me over yourself.”

Tristan rolled his eyes as he pulled away from the curb. “God forbid that Jack think I was trying to monopolize you,” he said, shaking his head as he turned around. “He really needs to work on his jealousy issues.”

“I don’t care about his jealousy issues,” I muttered, grabbing for the cell phone that Tristan had tossed into the cup holder. “I can be friends with whoever I want. I didn’t come all the way to Alabama to have another guy try to control my social life.”

Tristan did a double take. “Where are you from?” He raised his eyebrows when he noticed his phone in my hand. I held it up, showing him the lock screen so he could type in his password.

“Indiana,” I answered as he unlocked the phone and glanced back to see me open the up the contacts page. I created a new one and typed in my own information. I sent a text to myself from his phone. “What’s your last name?” I asked as I put the iPhone back where I got it and fished mine out.

“Upchurch,” he said, “and that’s cool. I’m from Wisconsin originally.”

I typed his name in with his number and saved it to my contacts. I grinned at the fact that the was from somewhere else too. Mostly everybody I hungout with was born and raised near here. There were a lot of students from other places, but somehow I ended up with the Alabama groups.

Tristan and I talked about him for the duration of the quick ride over to Tutwiler. He’d been in Alabama over three years now and barely went back. The last time he’d been home was for a couple weeks over the summer.

“I lived with some friends this summer,” he said as he pulled into my street. “I literally would’ve done anything not to have to live back home for three months. It’s like your entire life stops when the semester ends.”

“Your parents weren’t mad that you didn’t come home?” I asked, reaching to unbuckle my seatbelt as we got closer to my building.

Tristan shrugged. “There wasn’t really much they could do about it. I signed up for summer classes so I’d have an excuse to stay here that was more than ‘I just really don’t want to come home,’ so they adjusted pretty quickly.”

I glanced at my dorm building and then back to Tristan. “My dad is pretty upset that we haven’t been home since we came here. I think he expected that we’d want to come home every couple of weeks, but Ramsy just told him that we’re not going to be there for Thanksgiving and it didn’t go well.”

Tristan grimaced. “Yeah, I remember my first year away. My mom was like that too. She wanted me home every chance she got. Holidays were pretty much excuses for her to drive down and pick me up the minute she could. When I got my own car, I was able to decide when to drive back. She was pretty pissed when she realized that it wasn’t going to be as much.”

I frowned, thinking of Charlie and how hard he took the separation. “Thanks for the ride,” I said, glancing at the clock on the dash. “Now I actually have time to change before I have to leave to get Benji.”

“It’s no problem,” Tristan answered, unlocking the doors automatically. “I’ll see you around. Let me know if you ever need a ride over.”

I thanked him again as I got out and watched as he pulled up the street and turned around. He waved as he passed, and I mimicked him before heading inside and taking the elevator to our floor. For a Saturday night, there were surprisingly a bunch of girls still in the dorms.

I made a small detour into the common room as I passed. Kiera and Natalie, the two freshman girls that Ramsy and I met our first night, were sitting together on the couch with my sister. On the floor in front of them were Tegan and a few others girls who I knew in passing.

Ramsy grinned when she saw me. “The socialite has returned,” she said obnoxiously, scooting over into Kiera to make room for me.

I dropped down into the space and let my head fall back against the couch.

“Hard night?” Ramsy asked, a hint of sarcasm in her voice.

I turned my head and shot her a glare. “Don’t even start with me,” I muttered, throwing my arm up to cover my eyes. “I’m seriously exhausted.”

Ram grabbed my arm and pulled it down. “We could just skip Travis’s thing tonight and stay home,” she suggested, trying to make eye-contact so she could gauge how serious I was.

I shook my head. “I already told Benji that I’d pick him up,” I explained, “and I want to go; I just don’t want to have to use my brain or think or argue with anybody else.”

Ram frowned. “You really should stop hanging out with him if he’s going to give you headaches and mentally exhaust you.”

Natalie, who was on my right, moved to sit on her knees. “Are you having issues with Travis?” she asked, frowning like my sister.

“No, it’s Jack,” Ram answered for me. “He’s the jealous sophomore that I told you about. He’s always on her case about hanging out with Travis.”

Kiera made a disgusted face. “Why do you hangout with him?”

“Because we’re friends,” I answered, sitting up. “And I just said that I don’t want to use my brain anymore tonight, so no more asking me questions. Literally, do I have to run away and make a whole new group of friends just so people will stop jumping down my throat?”

Ramsy held up her hands. “Whoa, Code, calm down. We’re sorry. We didn’t mean to interrogate you. We’re just worried about you.”

“I’m fine,” I said. “What time is it?”

“7:17,” Ramsy answered.

I sighed and pushed up from the couch. “We need to get ready,” I told my sister. “Benji’ll be done a little after eight and it’s like fifteen minutes to the mall. We’re supposed to be at Trav’s by nine.”

Ramsy grabbed my arm and used me to pull herself up. She said goodbyes to the girls and we headed off to our room. “Can you drop me at Harper’s dorm on the way home? She just lives in Parham. Her roommate went home, so she invited me to sleep over.”

I nodded. “I don’t know when we’ll be back though.”

Ram shrugged. “That’s fine. I told her that I had plans tonight. She’ll be there whenever.”