Girls Like Boys

Promises the World

I finished my finals on Monday, having only two that required an actual test. The first was at nine, an hour earlier than usual. Ramsy had left at seven-thirty in the morning to make it to her 8AM final and I crawled out of bed about the same time. I forced myself into the shower, dressed, and stopped to eat before heading across campus to my test. I texted Travis on my way, knowing that he was headed into a Mechanical Engineering final – his only test of the day.

When I made it to the classroom, Jack and Landon were already there in their usual spots. Jack straightened up when I slipped past and dropped down to the seat beside him.

“Hey,” he said, leaning closer. “Did you end up studying this weekend?”

I nodded slowly, looking to him. “Did you?”

He shook his head. “I figured that if you couldn’t teach it to me during our study session, then I’m just not going to know it.”

I frowned at him. “That’s stupid.”

He shrugged. “Too late now.”

When our professor came in, she tried to have us sit a seat apart each but quickly learned that there were too many people and not enough chairs. I ended up right back to Jack where I started. The test was multiple choice and short answer. It didn’t take me long, but even so, Jack finished minutes before me. The room was half-empty when I turned my test back to the first page and climbed up from my seat, stepping over people’s feet and book bags. I climbed down the stairs to the front of the room.

“Thanks,” I said to the professor. “Have a good break.”

She offered a polite smile and nodded. “You too, Cody.”

I deposited the test and the scantron sheet in their matching places and hiked back up the stairs, waving a subtle goodbye to Landon, who I wasn’t sure when I’d see again. The doors at the top of the lecture hall clanked shut behind me, and I felt relatively decent about the test and my grade in the class. It was officially the first college class I’d completed.

“Hey, you ready?” Jack asked, appearing from down the hall.

I nodded easily. “I’m not super hungry yet,” I said, looking up to his brown eyes. “Where do you want to go?” Idly, we headed down the stone steps toward campus rather than away. My palm brushed the rail as we stepped to the ground.

“The coffee shop in the student center?” Jack offered, motioning down the street from us.

I nodded and we took the short walk to the brown brick building at the end of the street. As we passed the library, my eyes landed on the three story poster of Ryan. The first time I’d seen the helmeted boy in uniform, I hadn’t know anything about him. His name, ‘Reign, pasted on the jersey and subsequently, on the side of the building, was a complete mystery to me. Now, I spent at least three nights a week trading jokes and taking turns mediating the group.

Down the street from the library, across the courtyard where the food truck sometimes sat, Jack and I stepped through the wide glass doors into the student center. Finals had completely thrown everybody’s schedules out the window so the place was filled with a mix of students, some studying and some reveling in the freedom of being done with the semester.

“When do you leave?” Jack asked from my side.

“Ramsy’s last final is Wednesday,” I said, “so probably Thursday morning. What about you?” We stopped in line at the small coffee shop tucked into the corner of the main room.

“My parents are picking me up around two tomorrow,” he said, shuffling forward a bit as the line moved.

I nodded slowly, following him a step closer to the counter. “How far away is your parents’ house from here?” I asked, folding my arms over my stomach.

He shrugged as he spoke, “About an hour south.” He refocused on me as we took another step forward. “Do you think you’ll be back at all over break?” he questioned.

I shook my head. “I doubt it,” I answered. “Charlie really wants us home.”

Jack frowned. “I guess six weeks doesn’t seem that long to him,” he said.

“I feel like once we get back home, he won’t let us leave again,” I said, partially joking, but still meaning it a bit. “I’ll have my phone though,” I offered. “We can text and everything.”

Jack smiled, laughing. “Yeah, we can Facetime and I can show you how my little brothers beat each other up on a regular basis.”

We stepped up to the counter and to the baristas our drink orders. As they turned to make them, I turned to Jack again. “How many siblings do you have?” I questioned.

He leaned against the counter. “Three,” he said. “Joshua is nine, Joel is seven, and Jada is four.”

I grinned at the alliteration. “Your parents really like J-names.”

Jack rolled his eyes. “Their names are John and Jessica,” he said, pointing out the trend. “I think they felt obligated.”

We took our drinks and relayed quick thank yous before finding an open table near the back of the room. Jack pulled out of his phone and leaned forward on his elbows, but I dragged one of my books out of my backpack and flipped it open to the page where I’d stuck the study guide.

Jack frowned. “What other test do you have today?”

“My other English class,” I said easily.

Jack’s frown deepened. “I didn’t know you were taking another one.”

I shrugged. “It’s at two,” I told him. “Usually I hang out with Travis in between classes and he drops me back off over there.”

I studied and Jack procrastinated for an hour and a half. The crowd of people around us kept changing as people came a went, but Jack and I operated in our corner of the room without much distraction. It wasn’t until 12:30 that I started shuffling all my papers into one disarrayed pile so that I could tuck them back into my textbook. Jack, who had study materials in front of him but hadn’t looked at them once, set his phone down.

“You want to meet up later?” he asked. “I could really use your motivation to study for my history test.”

I grinned and narrowed my eyes at him. “You could’ve been studying for that this whole time,” I said, nodding to the abandoned papers. I slipped my book into my backpack and zipped it up.

“I could’ve,” Jack agreed, “but I didn’t. So what do you say? My place, six? I’ll even make food.”

“Tristan left about an hour ago,” I said, grinning, “and I know you can’t cook.” I stood up from the table and slung my backpack over my shoulder, ignoring the slight surprised that crossed his face when I knew his roommates' schedule. “Plus, I can’t,” I added, gauging his expression. “I have plans with Travis and the guys tonight.”

“I won’t be able to see you for six weeks, and you're hanging out with them instead?” he asked, pretending to be outraged. “You've still got two days to spend with Travis. I leave tomorrow You need to prioritize better.”

I laughed and shook my head “Oh yeah, Jack, you’re right,” I said. “Right now I’m going to prioritize the test I have in twenty minutes. I’ll see you in January.”

Jack’s smile dampened. “Fine!” he called as I started to walk away, "but if you think I'm going to send you any pictures of my cute dog after this, you’re sorely mistaken!”

“Bye Jack,” I said back, shaking my head as I stepped out of the café. “Have a good break!”

My second and last final took a bit longer than the first. When I finally crawled out of the auditorium, half the students were still struggling through the test. Grateful to be done, I headed back home where I knew Ramsy was waiting. When I walked into the building, it was starting to clear out for break. There were students everywhere, carrying boxes, and backpacks, and laundry baskets to the cars parked on the curb.

I smiled as I stepped into the elevator and relayed my floor number to the girl near the buttons. When I got off on the third floor, I immediately grinned at the people huddled together.

“You’re leaving already?” I asked as I walked up, speaking to Natalie. The other girls – Jori, Kiera, and Ramsy – made room for me in the circle.

The girl nodded, long brown hair falling over her shoulder. “I’m done with my tests,” she said finally, “and my parents are downstairs. I’ll see you guys when we get back.”

“I’ll be back that Tuesday,” Kiera said eagerly, referring to the first day the residence halls opened up in January after break.

“Friday,” Jori said, and Natalie echoed her.

Ram and I both shrugged. “We’re not sure yet,” she said for us, “but we’ll definitely see you when we’re back.”

Ram and I walked back toward our room together when Natalie left. Jori went back to her room and Kiera settled in the common room, inviting us to join her if we wanted.

“I’ve got plans with Travis in a bit,” I said, but thanked her anyway.

“I’ll study out here,” Ramsy said, nodding. “Just let me get my stuff.”

We ducked into our bedroom, and I dashed for my phone charger. Ramsy started gathering notebooks and things from her desk, her eyes wandering over to me. “You should start packing if you’ve got nothing better to do,” she said.

I frowned at her. “I have plenty of things to do,” I said. “Travis is going to be here in like two hours..”

She nodded slowly. “I just know you,” she said. “You’re going to put it off until the last moment and then spend the entire break mad because you forgot something.”

I rolled my eyes. “Okay, Ramsy,” I said, reaching to pick up an abandoned notebook from beneath my desk. “I’ll start working on a list and you can check it before we leave.”

“That’s not a terrible idea,” she replied.

“Go study,” I said, waving her off. “I need to get ready.”

She smiled just a little bit. “Be careful tonight. Remember Halloween? You don’t know what those guys are going to get into.” She gathered her pile up in her arms and backed up to our bedroom door.

I laughed, remembering the holiday party we tagged along to. “I don’t think Benji is ever going to get that drunk again,” I said, shaking my head the memory of him trying to match people together based on their costumes. When drunk-Benji realized that there weren’t two of each kind, he practically broke down into tears at the thought of the ‘species’ dying out. “It’s been over a month,” I added, “and the guys still don’t let him live it down. They call him ‘Noah’ sometimes still.”

Ram tried to wear a serious face. “I thought ‘Benji’s Ark’ was a cute idea,” she said, grinning.

I shook my head at the memories. “Tonight definitely won’t be that crazy,” I said, fairly certain. “It’s at one of Ryan’s teammates’ apartments, so it should be pretty calm.”

“Hopefully,” Ramsy said. She offered a smile before backing out of the room and closing the door behind her. I moved to get my backpack. Done with the classes forever, I dumped the books and notebooks out of my bed and worked them in a neat pile. I tossed them onto the floor on the back left side of the closet to be forgotten about for good.

I grabbed a pair of shorts and a t’shirt for later. The plan was to sleep at Travis’s tonight so that I didn’t come back and wake Ram. I filled my backpack with all the necessities – clothes, toothbrush, hair brush, deodorant, etc., and dropped it to the floor.

I laid in my bed for a while, killing time and reveling in the freedom of free time and a room to myself. I could barely make out the sounds of the girls in the common room, but other than that it was almost radio silence. It was rare to get a moment of complete nothing. Between my friends, my homework, my sister, and my life here, there weren’t many down days.

After about forty-five minutes of sitting still and being lost in my own head, I pulled myself out and returned to reality, eager for a distraction. After about a half hour of enjoying the down-time, every thought reminded me that I was seventy-two hours from leaving Alabama behind for weeks.

I grabbed my phone from my bed and dialed Travis’s number. After a few rings, he answered, shuffling on the other end.

What, Cody?” he asked. “I know I’m not late.”

“No.” I shook my head. “I’m just wondering what you’re wearing tonight.”

“Don’t you have Ramsy for this?” he answered.

“She’s busy studying for a test,” I said. “By the way, how did yours go?”

“Horribly, but I’m just happy that it’s fucking over now. My grade was high enough to pull me through, so that’s all that really matters,” he spoke. “Wait, are you ready? I can just come get you now. You know I hate talking on the phone.”

“I’m back, but I need to get ready still,” I denied. “I don’t know what to wear because I don’t know anything about what’s going on tonight.”

I could practically hear Travis roll his eyes. “It’s just a kick-back, Cody,” he said. “I’m literally wearing jeans and a hoodie right now and I’m not wasting any energy picking out anything different. What you’re wearing is fine.”

“You don’t even know what I’m wearing.”

“That’s my point,” he retorted. “But I’m on my way now, so you better pick something.”

“Travis,” I complained, moving toward my closet. “You said five-thirty – I still have a half hour.”

“Well, I changed my mind, so you better get dressed quick. And if you don’t let me in, I’ll call Ramsy and annoy her until she does, so hurry up.” He ended the call abruptly, leaving me standing in my bedroom with my phone in my hand and a sweater in another.

Despite how frustrating Travis was on a 24-7 basis, I did what he said and changed as quickly as possible. I exchanged my John Paul II soccer hoodie for a beige-almost-gray sweater and a pair of ripped up dark-wash jeans. Travis came walking through the door just as I grabbed my shoes.

I stared at him in surprise, currently sitting on the floor.

“I went directly to Ramsy to avoid the hassle,” he said as he came in alone and jumped up onto her bed. He pointed to the shoes. “Those are cool. You’re ready to go then?”

I nodded, eyes drifting back to the high-top wedges. “Yes,” I said, tying them up. “You’re infuriating, you know.”

Travis grinned and nodded too. “I know,” he answered, “but in a couple of days you’ll have six weeks to miss me, so enjoy your Travis-time now.”

I grimaced. “Don’t call it that,” I demanded, climbing to my feet. The heels on the shoes made me a couple inches taller and I grinned at my reflection in the mirror next to the closet.

Travis rolled his eyes and got up. He put his hands on my shoulders from behind. “Yes, yes, Cody,” he said, turning me from the mirror. “You’re very cute, we know. Now get your things so we can go. Shay and Ben are in the car downstairs.”

I shrugged Travis’s hands off me. “I need to fix my hair,” I said, “but if you can grab my wallet from my side table and put it in my backpack, that would help hurry me along.”

Travis cast me a side-long look as he breezed past me go get my wallet. He popped it open, checked for my school and residence hall IDs, and then got to his knees on the carpet to zip it into my backpack.

“How much shit do you need for one night?” he asked, frowning at me in the mirror.

“Some of us don’t wear the same clothes during the day, to bed that night, and then again in the morning,” I retorted, “and anyway, it’s not even that much stuff. Stop being a baby.” I tightened my hair into a ponytail and stepped away from the mirror.

I held my hand out to take my bag from Travis, but he shook his head and slung it over his own shoulder. He double-checked that he had his stuff while I grabbed my phone and charger. I dragged Travis back to me and zipped my phone charger into one of the pockets of the backpack. He sighed obnoxiously and gave me a look over his shoulder.

“I’m ready,” I said, motioning him toward the door.

Travis and I headed out of the building, calling goodbyes to Ramsy as we passed the lounge. Like he said, Shay and Benji were waiting in the car downstairs, which was parked on the street despite the rules about it. Benji was in the front seat, so I hopped into the back with Shay. Travis followed me to the open backdoor and handed my backpack over before heading around to the driver’s side and climbing into the familiar BMW.

I glanced at both the boys. “You guys look nice,” I commented, smiling as Shay did. Benji threw a thank you back over his seat and then turned his attention to Travis for something. I set my backpack on the ground between mine and Shay’s feet.

Shay tucked a strand of hair behind his ear and shifted so that he was facing me. “How’d your tests go?” he asked easily, leaning back against the window.

I shrugged. “Hopefully okay. Yours?”

He nodded. “Really well, I think,” he answered. “Now I only have Wednesday and I’m one semester away from graduation.” He grinned at the thought and glanced up to the front as Travis spoke.

“When are you going to your parents’ again?” the dark-haired boy asked, eyes flashing back to us in the rear view mirror as he pulled out onto the busy street. There were people all over the place today, carrying things out to cars, meeting with parents, enjoying the end of the semester.

“The week before Christmas,” Shay said to Travis, straightening out.

“Where do you live?” I asked, surprised to hear that he was going home for some of the break.

Shay sighed. “I have my own apartment here,” he explained, “but my little sister is getting some college scholarship award in school, so my parents want me back for that and then I’m supposed to just stay for a few days over Christmas, I guess.”

I smiled as he spoke. “That’s kind of exciting for your sister,” I said, shaking my head at the boy.

He shook his head, somewhere between a nod and not, unwilling to admit to the fact. “I’m happy for her and I obviously don’t hate Christmas,” he said, “but I just don’t know why I have to be stuck up in a house with my entire family when I only live thirty minutes away.”

I grinned. “At least you’re not too far,” I said finally. “You can escape if it gets too bad.”

Shay smiled and reached out to touch my shoulder. “You’ll be back soon,” he said, pulling his hand back. “Six weeks will go really fast, honestly. It always does.”

Travis took a hard turn into the driveway of his house and I shot him a look as I slid against the door. He parked in the drive, rather than the garage, so I figured it was either full of cars or we were taking this one to the party later. I got out, grabbed my bag, and headed inside with the boys behind me. They detoured off when we entered the garage, talking about something with one of the cars parked there, and I continued on into the pit.

“Hey, Cody!”

“Hi, Cody.”

I looked up as my name echoed throughout the room, unsurprised to see the unofficial rest of Travis’s crew; Ryan, Erick, and Flynn.

“Hey guys,” I greeted, tossing my bag onto the floor near the door and heading over. “Are you coming with tonight?”

Erick nodded his dirty blonde head. “Yeah, we’re just trying to finish something up first,” he said, pointing a wrench back to the car.

I nodded easily as I walked to stand at his side, leaning back against the nearest car. “You guys are always just ‘finishing something up’,” I said, smiling.

“That’s because Travis always buys shitty ass cars and then hands them to us on orders of death if they’re not returned to their original, flawless state,” Flynn said, words getting louder as Travis and the others noisily came through the door.

Trav rolled his eyes at the boy. “You say that like you have something better to do,” he answered, sliding his arm over my shoulders as he came to my side, my backpack in his other hand. “Now stop poisoning Cody against me and either finish the car or get ready to go.”

Ryan, who was sitting in a chair on the other side of the car, frowned. “Nobody’s even going to be there until like ten,” he commented, eyeing Travis.

Trav nodded. “Food,” he said simply. He tugged me forward, nodding toward the stairs, and subsequently his bedroom. I went with him easily, leaving the guys downstairs to finish and clean up. I climbed the stairs in front of Travis and headed down the catwalk to his bedroom.

“Code, would you be okay if we sleep over at Brian’s tonight?” he asked as he came in behind me and kicked the door shut. He tossed my bag onto one of the chairs by the window.

I frowned. “I thought we were coming back here.”

Travis nodded. “Yeah, we might still, but I don’t know who’s going to want to drive tonight. I’m trying to convince someone to take it easy, but none of them have tests tomorrow, so they’re not very receptive to my suggestions.”

I grinned and climbed into his bed. “You know, Travis,” I said. “You could always be the DD.”

He shot me an incredulous look. “I did it last time!” he defended. “And at fucking Halloween – Do you know how hard it was to get Benji and Erick home? Benji was crying, for god’s sake.”

I laughed, shaking my head at his reaction. “That’s what friends do, Travis,” I answered, grinning. “But hey look, you’re obviously good at it. They’re both still alive.”

“I’m not being in charge of all five of them,” he said adamantly. “They’re going to have to decide between themselves. I’m looking out for you and Ryan, and that’s it.”

I grinned. “Ryan never even stays the whole time,” I reminded him.

Trav nodded. “Good, then more of my attention can be devoted to getting you back and not getting murdered by Ramsy.”

I shook my head at the dark-haired boy and stretched out in his bed, climbing underneath the covers as he climbed into the shower.

“I thought you weren’t even going to change your clothes!” I yelled after him as he disappeared into the little bathroom.

“I wasn’t going to,” he said from the room, “but then you showed up looking like that.” Travis closed the door and turned the water on, so I turned my attention to my phone while he got ready.