1. The shower room was a bizarre compromise between having enough showers for the students, and making use of the limited space. They had hardly any privacy; the cubicles were barely passed acceptable and Jess couldn’t see how you would dress in the tiny space – or, indeed, how you would keep your clothes from getting wet while you were showering. It would have been a problem if not for number two.
2. The dorm was shared with boys. In itself, not a problem – far from it. However, they had a tendency to be quite distracting, and then inevitably they had feelings and Jessica had to break it off. It was all very messy. This was worse; they were universityboys. They were, hopefully, cooler, more experienced and, above all, more mature. Jessica eyed up a pair of boys giggling to themselves about… Ah. The address of the dorm; the Fanny Mackenzie Dorm (named after a donator), Dyke Lane. Did they know that a dyke was a dry stone wall? Probably not.
Scratch out the ‘more mature’, then.
“Is it to do with the bruise on your face, by any chance?” Jess asked, resting her head on her hand. Courtney touched her bruised cheek briefly.
“Surprisingly, no. This was when i walked into the corner of my shelf. That, in itself, is a problem – why the fuck do you put a shelf there?” She waved her hand dismissively. “Anyway, my massive problem is this: I did not pack my best heels. Now how am I going to tower over everyone and command the room? This is a disaster.” Courtney threw her hands up in exasperation and bounced onto the bed. “I’m doomed to live a year of mediocrity.”
Jessica burst out laughing. “Impossible.”
“No, you don’t understand. It’s alright for you!” Courtney claimed, watching her seriously. “You’re you.”
“Is this a compliment or an insult? I can’t quite tell.”
Courtney huffed and reached for the nail polish that Jess had just unpacked. She examined it curiously. “It’s a compliment, Jessica. You are perhaps one of the most individual, astonishing and independent peoiple I have ever met. Quite frankly, I would be surprised if the whole dorms wasn’t enamoured with you within the first week. Even the girls. Even the homophobic girls! Because it will be just my luck that we have a good handful here.”
“First, the correct grammar is ‘enamoured of’,” Jessica said primly. Courtney scoffed. “And second, are you trying to insinuate that I’m going to turn everyone gay?”
“Only the girls,” Courtney replied. “I mean, you turned me gay.”
“I know,” Courtney said solemnly. “It’s my everlasting hope that one day you will. Forsake the boys! They’re only a distraction.”
Jessica sighed. “Tell me about it.”
After unpacking, the girls wandered into the centre of campus. They shared their dorm with a handful of others, but they all seemed to be busy making their rooms. They admired the beauty of the park and then found themselves at the student’s union.
“Do you know what this means?” Courtney asked. “Free stuff! We’re students now, we have to take advantage of this. Hey, look, condoms. Shall we pick up some for you? Better to be safe, Jess.”
Jessica glared at her friend. “Why do I even put up with you?”
“Hey so long as everything is safe and consensual, I will respect your life decisions.”
“I just want some good sex without goddamn emotions involved!” Jessica moaned. “Why is that so difficult?”
“Because of the expectations that romantic comedies have forced upon us,” Courntey said solemnly.
“Well, they can go fuck themselves,” Jessica grumped.
“Generally what the boys get up to when you inevitably break their heart, yes.”
Jessica scoffed and swiped at her playfully. “Come on, get your free shit and then let’s stock up on some booze for freshers.”
“Intense hangovers and bad life choices, here I come!”
They arrived back by the time most students were gathered in the kitchen. Jessica excused herself to ring her mum like she had promised – the burden of being an only child seemed to be having an overprotective mother, and although her mother was on good turns with her ex husband, they had raised Jessica in separate lives.
“Yes, mum, I have all the necessities,” Jessica promised, eyeing up the bottle of cheap vodka. “Don’t worry about me.”
“No problem,” the girl grinned in a rough voice. “I feel like I should apologise in advance.” She gestured to her throat and nose. “Fresher’s flu.”
“That’s not a good way to start the week,” Jessica winced. “Jessica Hope.”
“What a sweet name!” the girl exclaimed, laughing at Jessica’s disgruntled look. “My name is Ashley Maclean, but Ash is preferred.”
“Well, Ash, I hope you’re up for some drinking games,” Jessica grinned, waving her pack of cards.
Ash, it turned out, was indeed up for some drinking games. She downed the King’s Cup when she picked up the fourth and final king in the circle of cards. By this point, it was a mixture of Jessica’s vodka coke, Courtney’s bad wine and a boy’s rum (Charlie? Connor? Cannelloni? Who knew). Ash added a healthy dollop of the gold cinnamon vodka and finished it before they could finish their song. She wasn’t even stumbling. Meanwhile, Jessica had lost horribly at the Uno drinking game when some asshole to her left started the stack ‘em rules. The three people between them all had the ‘pick up four’ cards and had smacked them down. Jessica, however, had none, so it fell to her to take sixteen sips – so she downed her drink.
The song she knew off by heart was chanted around her, “WHY WAS SHE BORN SO BEAUTIFUL, WY WAS SHE BORN AT ALL? SHE’S NO FUCKING USE TO ANYONE, SHE’S NO FUCKING USE AT ALL…. SEVEN, SIX, FIVE –“ A cheer went up when she slammed her empty glass down, and she worked on talking them away from UNO and instead play beer pong.
I am the beer pong champion!” she claimed, standing unsteadily at one end of the table. Her new friends either cheered her on or booed her, depending on where their loyalties lay. There were four girls, including her and Courtney, and three boys. Luckily, no one yet had attracted Courtney’s wrath by acting uncomfortable when she had lost at ‘never have I ever’ with the question “never have I ever been with two girls at once,” which had been asked by one of the boys giggling at the address. He and his mate hooted at her, and another boy rolled his eyes in exasperation.
“Wow, a lesbian in the wild!” he said, looking annoyed at the cheering pair. “Maybe we can convince her to sleep with us, because no other girls will!”
The girls had burst out laughing at that, and the pair of boys shrugged it off in good humour .
“Connor,” he replied. “You beat me at beer pong, remember?”
Jessica squinted up at him. “Everything is a blur,” she said uncertainly.
“Time for bed, then. Which room is yours?” When she didn’t answer, he turned to Courtney and asked the same question. She shouted out the answer and he nodded, helping Jessica up and to bed. She cuddled up under the covers. “Keep your room unlocked so I can check on you every so often, alright?”
Jessica mumbled an agreement and dropped off to sleep.
Jessica had been blessed with an iron stomach and a robustness to hangovers, so when she finally woke she didn’t feel half bad. She pulled herself out of bed blearily and wandered downstairs to see the mess – wow. She rescued her cards from the sticky table and set about getting some cereal. Hot on her heels was Connor, who whistled at the state of the place.
“Good thing my mum packed cleaning stuff, right?”
Jessica blinked up at him and smiled. “Thanks for putting me to bed. Did you see Courtney?”
“Last I heard she was trying to chat up Ash after learning that she’s bi. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum were already out of it, or I’m sure they would have been watching eagerly.” He rolled his eyes and bit into a cold pancake.
“What were their names? I missed them.”
“Mmm,” Jessica mumbled. “Whatcha studying?”
“Gender studies and Media. It’s a new course,” he explained. “You?”
“Biochemistry,” she said. “Though the first two years are more general science.”
“Science does my head in,” he said. “Coffee?”
“You are an angel sent from above,” Jessica groaned. “I think I have an introductory class at two.”
“Eh,” Connor shrugged. “No one goes to them. It’s first year; they don’t even take attendance.”
“Good,” she muttered.
By three, the kitchen was clean and the flat reunited. They organised to go to the fresher’s fayre together; today the clubs and societies were advertised, and Jessica wanted to have a look around. Sam and Brian (Jess preferred Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum) left the group, waltzing over to the sports clubs. The rest of the flat was happy to see them go. Connor, Ash and Courtney all wandered off in the direction of the LGBT stall, while Kelsey stuck with Jess.
Kelsey chatted amicably, filling the silence, and Jess tuned out. She talked about all the things Jessica wasn’t hugely interested in – celebrity gossip, boy bands, that sort of thing. While Jessica had no issues with chatting about them herself on occasion (like the drama with Sim Direction), she found that the topics could become a little inane over time. She looked over at the stalls. Volunteer society, gender equality society, book club, classical music society, chocolate appreciation society (yes please), manga and anime society… She wasn’t totally sure she wanted to join a society –
“Sure,” she said, and trailed after her happy new friend. She eyed the posters and half listened to their explanation to Kelsey. They danced differently each month, and organised flash mobs for charity every so often, among other things – and she signed up on a whim.
They ran into the other three and made their way back. Unfortunately, Sam and Brian found them and bounded over. “Hey, the captain of the football team has invited us to go to a party at the DRA building tonight. It’s the major fresher event each year. You guys want to go?”
They exchanged a look. Maybe Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum had their uses after all.
Maybe it would have been easier to sleep had she not sobered up on the walk back, but Jessica had the misfortune of sobering like a snap in cold weather, and the double misfortune of being directly under Kelsey’s bedroom. She figured this out when she had finally curled up in bed, eyes only slightly ringing from the loud music less than an hour ago, and heard what must have been Kelsey’s voice – or, rather, moans – and a second voice that was distinctly male.
Jessica groaned and tugged her pillow over her head. She’d heard about the notoriously bad uni walls and floors, but hadn’t contemplated it being this bad. Normally she could sleep through noise, but the added embarrassment of knowing Kelsey more intimately than she had banked on knowing her within a couple of days kept her awake – which of course made it worse.
Finally, she must have drifted off to sleep after watching the clock for hours.