Girls Like Boys

Deep Breaths

Move-in morning was tense in the Carrigan hotel room. Ramsy woke me up earlier than usual, but Charlie was already awake and standing in the connecting doorway when I rolled over. I was gearing up for a heart attack up until I realized it was just my father and not someone coming to kill us. He smiled softly at the relieved expression on my face and then dipped back into his own room, leaving Ram and I to our morning routine.

She showered while I did absolutely nothing and then I showered while she got dressed. I tried to pick something that didn’t look too similar to what she was wearing. I didn’t want to have to deal with people mixing us up today. It always took new people awhile to remember who was who, and dressing differently would definitely help make a distinction.

While Ram pulled out another UA shirt that she’d ordered online this summer, I grabbed black skinny jeans and an old band t’shirt of Charlie’s that I’d cut the sleeves off of. I wore a crimson red bandeau underneath since the sides were slit all the way down to my hips. I hoped they’d consider the dash of color school spirit.

I tied my hair up again today, knowing it would be easier to carry things without all of it hanging in my face. Ram seemed to disregard that entire thought because she was already back in the bathroom scrunching her natural waves.

“It’s going to be really hot today,” she said when she came back out, eyeing the jeans.

I motioned to my makeshift tank top. “I’m good.”

Charlie knocked on the door about ten minutes later. I was poised in front of the dresser mirror, coating my lashes in mascara when he came through, eyes half closed at the thought that one of us might yell for him to get out at any minute. When he saw the coast was clear he stepped through completely.

“Ready in five?” he asked, glancing between the two of us.

“More like three,” Ram answered, grabbing the last of her things. She turned over to me and glanced at my face. “Cody’s done too.” She passed me and checked the bathroom for anything we might've left behind while I slid my makeup back into its bag.

“Yeah, I’m good,” I agreed, reaching to slip by satchel strap back over my head and stuff the smaller makeup pouch inside. “Lets get this show on the road.”

Ram grinned. “Roll Tide!”

Wesley laughed when he stepped through the door. “University of Alabama isn’t going to know what hit them.”

It was a very quick drive to our dorm, but took quite a bit of maneuvering. Overnight, they’d set up road blocks and had officers on each street. I hung our pass in the window, the color yellow telling the officers which dorm to direct us to. I turned around in my seat to make sure Wes and Ramsy had made it though and got a thumbs up from Ram.

I sucked in a deep breath as I tried to control my breathing. There were people absolutely everywhere. Out of UA’s sixteen residence halls, three of them were female only, and in a show of good faith towards Charlie, Ramsy and I had ended up in one.

When we finally found it, on the west side of campus, nestled in the middle of even more residence halls, they had us pull up along the side street in the back of the building and empty the cars. The minute we stepped out of the Camaro, there were instantly people at our side, asking our names and which room we were in. Upon seeing Ramsy and I near each other, they knew that both vehicles belonged to one room.

“I’m Bridgette, one of the Community Advisors in this building! What’re your names? Lets get you checked in and get those room keys in your hands.” She grinned brightly and led us over to a table just outside the building where two more students sat, dressed in crimson.

“Cody and Ramsy Carrigan,” I said for the both of us, surprising the female student into action. It only took a moment for her to sift through the piles and pull out little manilla folders and welcome packages.

“Welcome to UA!” she said as she handed them over, not asking which of us was who.

We swapped papers and headed back to Wes and Charlie, who were waiting with a crew of boys who were already unloading the car. “Which room, girls?” Charlie questioned, and it seemed like the guys were waiting on the answer too.

“305,” Ram spit out before I had the chance.

We each grabbed something and there was nothing left in either vehicle. Wes waited at the cars as Charlie accompanied us upstairs for the first time, piling into the small elevator with the volunteer guys and all our belongings.

“So first year?” one of the guys asked. He was holding onto the box that was filled with our shoes and looking straight at me. Ram bumped my arm and then just answered for us.

“Yeah. I’m Ramsy and this is Cody.”

“I definitely won’t forget that,” another guy spoke, smiling easily. “It’s not really what I was expecting.”

The doors opened and we piled out onto the third floor. In front of us there were a couple couches facing the elevators and a hallway on either side. We had no idea what direction our room was, but these guys seemed to, so we followed them to the right and down to the last door on the right.

We passed an entryway that opened into a lounge, which had a small kitchen, a couch and love seat poised in front of a TV, and three tables and sets of chairs. The walls were white-painted brick like the typical dorm, but it was all really nice and I was surprised.

Ramsy was thrilled that our room was right across from the bathroom. I let her do the honors of unlocking the door and letting us in. She couldn’t stop grinning as she pushed the door open.

The volunteers swarmed past us and set our things down before ducking back out into the hall. Ramsy made a point to follow them out and thank them. I let her be the polite one today and claimed the right side of the room as my own.

“Smaller than home,” Ram said when she came back in.

I snorted, grinning at her. “Just barely.”

Charlie went downstairs to help Wes park the cars in the closest lot and left Ram and I to ourselves. Since the room was pretty symmetrical, Ram didn’t have a problem with me claiming the right as my own, but I didn’t tell her that my side wouldn’t be seen when the door was open and hers would. I figured that she’d figure it out eventually.

That and we’d be keeping our door closed more when she did.

We could hear Wesley down the hall before we saw him and when he came in he grinned at us and wrapped his arms around us, pulling us together to him. “My little sisters are officially in college,” he said, and then mumbled, “hallelujah” under his breath. Ramsy pushed him away.

“What do you think, Charlie?” I asked, sitting down on the bare bed. We hadn’t brought any blankets with us, except for the throws we’d had since we were young. “Not bad, right?”

“I like that it’s all girls,” he said, raising his eyebrows at us. “Did you two pick that?”

“I told you we would focus on school,” Ram answered mightily, even though she’d definitely been against the idea at first. “No boys, Dad, just books.”

Wesley and I laughed. “That’s good,” Wes said. “You should print that on a poster and tack it up on the wall.” He grinned and dropped down onto Ramsy’s narrow twin bed.

“We should go to the store before it gets too late,” Charlie said. “You need to get quite a bit.”

“I told Code we should just bring the shit from home but she said it wouldn’t all fit.” She shot me a look that I countered with one of my own.

“No, I said we’d lose it on the highway if we tried to bring blankets and pillows and that kind of stuff. And plus, you would’ve brought our entire room if I let you.”

“It’s not like it wouldn’t of all fit in here,” she countered.

“Lets go,” Charlie said, motioning for the three of us to get up. “Stores are going to be busy.”

We walked down the street to the parking lot and climbed into the truck since it had more room. We let Charlie drive us to the closest Walmart. He had no idea where he was going, but luckily it wasn’t far enough away for us to get lost before we found it. Ram immediately zeroed in on the bedding section, going through patterns and colors like she had no idea what she wanted. The only thing we knew was that we were not matching.

Charlie had never been one to dress us in matching clothes or decorate our room a certain way. In fact, he left our picking out our clothes to Esther until we were old enough to do it ourselves (about seven) and we’d never really decorated our room. We just sort of lived in it and accumulated a bunch of stuff. So this was different for us. We’d never bought things together like this.

I went one way. Ram went another.

I ended up with a black bedspread and a couple of pillows and found Ram explaining to Charlie the importance of having lamps for both the nightstands and desks so that we could separate our studying light from our lounging light. It sounded like a crock of shit to me, but I found it funny that Charlie let it slide without even mentioning that fact to her.

Ramsy turned to me. “Which lamps do you like?” And then a second later she seemed to notice the black blankets and rolled her eyes. “Never mind, anything I get will go with that.”

Wes had somehow ended up with a cart and I looked at the things Ram had already gathered in the short time I was gone. An orange and yellow bedding set that was remnant of a tapestry, a decent sized rug, pillows, and two small storage ottomans. I dumped my stuff on top and waited for her to figure out which style of lamp she liked best.

After that we made a stop at the bathroom section and Charlie threw a couple bathrobes into cart while Ram picked out towels and soaps and hair products. I didn’t think that Charlie even noticed half of what she was stuffing into the cart, but he didn’t care much. Money was never a big issue for Charlie, and while he was never handing it out in wads, he never mentioned the price when it came to something we needed.

We left Charlie to check into something he swore we needed for the truck and headed to the school supplies aisle, stocking up on pens, notebooks, printer paper, pencils, and a few other miscellaneous items. Without the cart, we just stuffed them into the new backpacks that Ram had picked out for both of us.

We met back up at aisle nine.

“Got everything?” Charlie asked as Wes playfully rolled his eyes at us and leaned down on the cart.

“Yeah, I think so,” I said as we moved up, “and if not we can always come back since we have the truck and all, y’know.”

Charlie lingered, but nodded slowly, and then began to unload everything from the cart. Ram dumped her backpack out on the conveyer belt and quite a few things toppled to the ground, earning us a look from the cashier. I bent to pick them up without a word. Dad sent Wesley to get another cart.

Charlie didn’t flinch at the total when everything was scanned and bagged up. He was used to everything being double. He’d spent the last eighteen years paying double for everything and I loved him even more for never once complaining about all the crap we put him through. When we were walking out, back to the truck, I made a point to stay at his side.

Students were still unloading their cars at the service road to the building, so we managed to make it around to the front and park curbside. We left Wes with the car just in case someone came to yell at us, and quickly ran the new items upstairs. I was surprised when we stepped off the elevator and came face to face with another group of girls.

Ram stopped and I copied her. Charlie took the key from her fingers and continued down the hall to our room.

“Oh, hi!” One of the girls greeted. "Are you two moving in?" she asked, breaking the silence between us. The elevator closed behind us and the girls still lingered.

I nodded and Ram spoke out loud, always out-spoken. “Yeah, 305,” she said, offering a smile at the group of three. “What about you guys?”

“Yeah,” the first girl said again, nodding quickly. “I’m Olivia, this is my roommate, Tay. And this is Aubrey. She’s right next to us. We’re 313 and 312.” She pointed towards the left hallway.

“I’m Ramsy and this is Cody,” my sister introduced us both, shifting to get a better hold on her bags. “It’s really nice to meet you guys.”

“You too,” Taylor said, sounding genuinely excited about running into other girls. “Are you freshmen?”

“Yeah,” Ram answered, smiling. “You guys?”

“Sophomores,” Olivia answered for them. “We all actually met on this floor last year.”

Ram and I turned around as the elevator opened on our floor again. Wesley stepped out, knocking me forward with his shoulder as he stepped past with the last of ours shopping bags. “Truck’s back in the lot,” he said, barely noticing the girls near us. “I’ll point it out when we leave. Or else you might never find it again.”

“Thanks,” I said, speaking for the first time. “Charlie’s in the room.”

Wes spared a glance at the three girls and then flashed them a smile. He turned away from Ramsy and I and headed down the hall to the room that they’d now seen more of than we had.

“Who was that?” Olivia questioned, glancing the direction he’d gone.

“Wesley,” I said. “Our brother.”

“And ‘Charlie’?”

“Dad,” Ram answered for us.

“You call your dad by his first name?” Aubrey asked, not rudely, but just surprised by it.

“Yeah, it’s kind of our thing,” Ramsy explained, smiling at them. She side stepped and was suddenly pressing into my arm, pressing me towards the mouth of the hallway. “We’re gonna go finish unpacking, but we’ll definitely see you later, right?”

“Yeah, of course,” Tay spoke up. “There’s actually this party tonight. If ya’ll aren’t busy you’re welcome to come.” She grinned lopsidedly and it was adorably welcoming. “We’ll stop by around eight and see if you’re in,” she added then, reaching to press the button for the elevator again.

“That sounds great,” Ram said, grinning at the idea. “We’ll be here.”

The three of them stepped into the elevator as it opened for them, and Ram clustered to my side and practically pushed me down the hallway. “We’ve been here like three hours and already got invited to a party,” she said, wriggling her eyebrows back at me.

I burst into laughter and side stepped her as she leaned into my side. “You’re crazy,” I said, shaking my head at her. “Haven’t even been here a few hours and you’ve already got something up your sleeve.”

She laughed as she pushed into the room. I glanced at Charlie as he looked at us and then he went back to what he was doing. Which was putting the sheets on my bed. Ram’s was already made and Wes was laying on it. “This mattress pad isn’t bad,” he said, tucking his arms behind his head. “I mean, it’s not like my bed at home, but definitely better than before.”

I dropped the bags to the floor and stepped up to help Charlie finish with my sheets as Ram kicked Wes out of her bed. He pretended to be offended for about thirty seconds before his thoughts went somewhere else entirely. “So those girls live here too?” he asked, grinning back at me over this shoulder. “I’ll probably have to come visit you a few times a month.”

“You’re being a bad influence, Wes,” I warned, raising my eyebrows at him. “Who knows, maybe that behavior will convince Ramsy to start visiting the boys’ dorm, which is sadly all the way across the street.”

I stopped when it sounded like Charlie was about to choke on his own saliva. I sent Wes and Ram a worried look behind his back and neither of them had anything helpful to say about it. “Sorry, Charlie,” I mumbled, slightly embarrassed. “We’re just kidding.”

“I know. I’m fine,” he answered.

And then it felt, so quickly, like it was time for them to leave. And while I’d thought about it, and Ram and I had talked briefly about it, the actual moment still shocked me. The fact was that they would be eight hours from us when we’d hardly ever been more than a fifteen minute drive apart since the day we were born.

“You gonna be alright?” I asked my dad as we left the room to go downstairs, just the two of us. When he didn’t answer, I asked again, stopping so that he’d have to look at me. “Dad, come on. Tell me you’ll be okay without us.”

“I’m going to really miss you,” he said, wrapping his arms around my shoulders and pulling my head into his chest. “Truth is, I’m trying not to think about leaving you both behind right now, because I’m probably going to drag your asses back into the car and bring you right back home with me.”

“It’s not that far,” I answered, wrapping my arms around his waist, “and we’ll be home for Thanksgiving, and then a whole month for Christmas. And we’ll probably drive up for our birthday too, and maybe even Halloween if Ramsy doesn’t find us some theme party to crash, but still, we can come home all the time.”

“I know,” he said, crushing me tighter to him. “I just don’t know how I’m supposed to go home without you. I don’t know how I ever got on before you two were born.”

We were still on our floor, out near the elevators, and I couldn’t stand to let go of my dad. Charlie was and had been everything to me from the moment I was born. There was no one but Charlie, and now I had to make him leave us, when he hadn’t left our side our entire lives.

“I love you, Dad,” I said, hugging him tighter. “I’ll come home all the time, I swear.”

“Me too!”

And Ram was on us in a second, the three of us crushed together like we might not see each other again. I held Ramsy and Dad and we just stood there like idiots for a good few minutes before we dragged Wesley in and made it a Carrigan family hug.

“Promise me you’ll both be careful,” Charlie said as we walked them to the parking lot.

“We’ll be careful,” we said, our words talking over each other.

“And you’ll call me, even when you don’t want to.”

“All the time, Dad,” Ram answered, leaning into his side. “We’ll call you so much you’ll start ignoring us. You’re going to hear about every exam, every study session, every time someone forgets to flush the toilet or clean their hair out of the drain. You’re gonna know it all, Charlie.”


We got in the elevator and went downstairs. His arms stayed around us all the way to the parking lot.

He separated from us then, and Ram and I watched as he walked around to the truck and unlocked it with Ramsy’s key. He leaned in and pulled something out. Wes stood at our side, smiling when Charlie turned and came back to us, leaving the cab door open.

“Listen to me, if you need these, you use them,” he said seriously, pulling two boxes out of a bag. I recognized the image immediately and my jaw dropped.

Ram saw the look on my face and shifted to get a better look at what he was holding. “That’s not a gun, is it?” she asked, trying to figure it out from his words and my reaction.

“Tasers,” I clarified as he pulled one out of the box and showed it to us.

“I’m going to show you how to use these,” he said, setting the other one of the edge of the truck bed. He gave Wesley one look as the boy reached for it. Charlie's eyes darkened when Wesley picked it up and our brother put it back down just as fast. Charlie turned his attention back to us. “They’re dangerous,” he spoke, “but you shouldn’t hesitate to use it if someone’s attacking you.” He shallowed harshly, his dark eyes peering into our green ones.

“Dad, I don’t think we’re allowed to have that on campus,” I said quickly, glancing around to make sure no one saw him with it. “I mean, I think we could really get in trouble.”

“Keep it in your bag, the truck, just keep it where you can use it,” he answered. “I need to know that you two are capable of taking care of yourselves while you’re here. I’m really trying to trust you, but I can’t leave you empty handed.”

Ramsy frowned and then looked up at him, breaking the tension. “You bought these at Walmart?”

Charlie grinned for the first time in a few days. “No, I’ve had them since you told me about all this.” He motioned around us. This - the university. The eight hour distance between here and home. “I put them in the truck this morning in case I forgot about them.”

He took a few minutes to tell us how they worked and he was serious about us understanding. He told us that they were dangerous, that they were weapons, but that we strong and smart enough to handle them. Then he put it down with the other one and crushed our bones into his like he did when we were little.

“I love you both so much,” he spoke. “Please be careful.”

We wrapped ourselves around him, trying to suffocate all the worry out of him. And then it was time for them to go and Charlie put both the tasers back in the glovebox and locked the truck up, handing Ram her keys back. We walked them to the Camaro and stood there for another ten minutes as I hugged my brother and then my dad again, and then Wes once more.

“You two are going to do great,” Charlie said finally, leaning back against his car. “Don’t get too distracted by all this excitement. Work hard and make me proud, kiddos.” He kissed both our heads and then we watched him and Wes get in the car and pull out, leaving us on our own for the first time since the day we were born.

Ram grabbed my hand and slipped her fingers between mine, neither one of us looking away from the direction that they’d gone. “Are you breathing?” she asked quietly.

“Not well,” I answered.

She squeezed my hand. “Me neither.”
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Cody & Ramsy's floor: