( For his brother’s friend …. 😇 )
Written by:- Williams Kendall____✍🏽
🏈 CHAPTER TWO🏈
Pres£nt-day, Late August.
“Welcome Freshmen to the University of Southern California!” The deep red words were sprawled across the bright gold banner that hung on the dormitory entrance. My breath came slightly faster as I pulled my car up next to my dad’s truck and put it in park.
My mom was terrified for me to bring my car to the city since I only ever drove around our small town. But there was no way I could have come without it. Since getting my car on my 17th birthday I had become very dependant on it. It was my guaranteed escape route. Any time I was too awkward or anxious somewhere I always knew I could hop in my car, crank the stereo, and drive away from my problems.
I took a deep stabilizing breath, then unbuckled my seatbelt and climb£d out to meet my family. Mom, Dad, and Oliver were all here to help me move in. Dad popped my trunk as my mom ran off to the orientation table to grab my move-in package. As we waited for her to come back I looked around at the other families moving in their kids.
The student’s dorms were all clvstered together in the USC Village, which also had a gym, restaurants, and even a Trader Joe’s. My dad stared a little too long at all the young men milling around. My floor was all freshman girls, but the dorm buildings were co-ed.
I readjusted my backwards Chargers hat and started to org-nize my boxes. The slightly sticky feeling under my white t-shirt and jean shorts itched my skin. I was desperate to get inside quickly so I could unpack and get settled. Today was Saturday so I only had one full day before school started to obsessively check my textbooks and supplies to ensure that I was really ready.
My mom scurried back with all my paperwork and a shopping cart to fill with my stuff. All of my Tetris training had clearly been for this moment because I was able to get everything in the cart in one go. Well plus stacking Dad and Oliver’s arms full. My move-in package said I was in room 310 which I would share with one other roommate.
Oh god, my roommate… The email I received a month ago said her name is Madeline Probst. I had been too afraid to stalk her on social media but I knew that she was 18 too, and majored in Political Science. Whatever that actually meant.
My family and I stuffed into the elevator and I hit the 3rd-floor button while I tried to calm my nerves. I didn’t really want to meet my roommate for the first time as my family watched us. I knew they were worried about how I would do on my own and I didn’t need them to worry more if I didn’t click with Madeline.
The elevator door dinged open and I followed the signs left down the hall towards my room. I found the door with the large gold 310 on it and slowly opened it. Looking around it seemed like maybe Madeline wasn’t here yet.
When you first walked in the dorm there was a shared living area to the right with a small kitchen and an attached living room. The furniture was generic and stiff but still pretty nice. To the left was a closed door with a large A on it, and down the hall was a small bathroom and another room with a large B.
My paperwork said I was in room A so I went to that door and peeked inside. It was a small room, just enough space for a twin b£d against the wall, a closet, and a desk sitting in front of the window.
“Oh, baby this is great!” My mom exclaimed as she followed me inside. “We can put all your ph-otos on this wall here and even hang your white lights behind the b£d.”
“Well son, I think it’s safe to say we aren’t needed here anymore,” My dad said from the doorway as he and Oliver placed my stuff inside the room.
“That’s fine Archer just texted me that he’s on two-a-days right now but he’ll be done soon and he is meeting his parents. We can go meet them.” With that Oliver and my dad k-ssed my head and headed back out to the truck, leaving my mom and I to it.
We spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking and setting up my dorm. As much as I loved the men in my life I was glad I got to spend this time alone with my mom. Just as I had finished sticking the last picture to my gallery wall I turned around to see her sitting on my b£d looking forlorn.
“Mom?” I started to ask her what was wrong but my voice stirred something in her. As we made eye contact I saw the tears glazing her eyes and I froze. What had happened…
“Lotty… you’re going to be okay… right?” Her voice was thick with all of the emotion she tried to hold back. It was a sting right to the heart to see my mom this worried.
I guess I had always been the baby of the family. But it was never a role I minded much. It was always easier to let my family and friends coddle me a bit. It allowed me to avoid situations where I could get anxious or uncomfortable. As I looked at my mom’s deep stress lines I regretted ever letting her believe I couldn’t take care of myself. Now she would be four hours away worried about my well-being.
“Mom, I promise I’m going to be fine! Honestly, I think this will be good for me. I can become a bit more independent and learn to do things on my own.”
She gave me a weak smile, “I know baby. I just worry about you… you are such a sweet girl but I don’t want you getting w-rapped up into trouble that you can’t handle.” I moved across the room to sit down next to her on the b£d. My cheek rested against her shoulder as her hand went to my hair in a comforting manner.
“I know this is a big change for all of us… heck, I can’t pretend I’m not a little scared. But I promise I will be okay. I’m still me and I don’t plan on going all crazy or anything. And if I need anything I will call you straight away.”
“But we will be four hours away! What if you need something right then? What if your car breaks down on the freeway and…”
“Mom!” I cut her off before she could get too carried away. “Look if I really am in trouble I will figure it out. Plus I’m not necessarily alone. I might be able to make friends with my roommate. And if I really needed help…well I mean…I guess I could call Archer?” I internally cringed. Why on earth did I say that? I would never call him for help.
“Really?” A light flickered in my mom’s eyes, “Do you promise? Promise to call Archer if you really need help?”
Taking a deep breath I did the only thing I could; I crossed my f-ngers behind my back and said, “Yes mom, I promise I’ll call Archer.”
Thankfully, I was saved from anymore lying when my mom’s phone went off. I listened to the one-sided conversation as she agreed to some plans and let them know we were on our way. I looked at her expectantly when she hung up so she could fill me in.
“That was your brother, they met up with the Johnson’s and decided we could have a picnic for dinner. They are already there so they don’t feel like doing anything too formal.” I thoroughly agreed with the s£ntiment as I still hadn’t managed to shower and I did not think wearing cut-offs was appropriate for most restaurants. At least not if my father was pres£nt. I spritzed my chest with perfume and we left to walk to everyone.
They had settled at a field about a ten-minute walk from my dorm. I could already tell I’d be using this path often because it was beautiful. The pathways were lined with bright flowers, and the well-manicured grass stretched across the field where students were playing pick-up games.
As we approached, Mrs. Johnson and Annie were setting up a large blanket for us to sit on. A bit farther away Oliver, Archer, Dad, and Mr. Johnson stood and were having a bit of a tense conversation. I planned on leaving them alone but my dad caught my eye and called me over. As I saddled up next to him I could see Mr. Johnson giving his son a pointed look. But Archer glared off into the distance—ignoring everyone.
“There’s my baby girl!” My dad shouted a little too loudly as he w-rapped me in a hug and k-ssed my forehead. “How did the dorm set up go?”
“Great actually” I replied softly. “I haven’t met my roommate yet but Mom and I got everything done.” I was about to excuse myself to go help my mom when arms grabb£d me and pulled me back to trap me in a hug. I immediately knew it was Oliver.
“God… I still can’t believe baby Lotty is at college! Way to make me look like even more of a loser sis.”
Turning my head to mock glare at my brother I couldn’t help but giggle. His face was a mask of fake despair. “Excuse yourself,” I sassed back, “I am not a baby and you don’t need my help looking like a loser.” I immediately regretted my words when a mischievous grin played on Oliver’s face. Suddenly, I was thrown up and over his shoulder as he ran away from the group.
“Alright, Arch lets play pass! Only this time Lotty’s the ball!”
“Oliver no! Put me down!” I shrieked as he bounced around acting like he was about to drop me.
“Ollie don’t break your sister!” My mom called over lazily, but she was making no serious attempt to control her son. Thanks, mom… I fought back by using all of my strength to whack Oliver in the back. I really hoped that I was successfully unleashing my inner Hulk because being upside down was making me dizzy.
Obviously, I had, because Oliver set me back down on my feet with a loud laugh. All of the blood rushed from my head the second he let me go and I stumbled backwards. My head slammed into a very h-rd wall but before I could topple forward two warm hands grabb£d my wa-ist to steady me. I brought my hand up to my forehead and took a breath to settle my raddled brain. Once I could think clearly I realized that there was only one person who had been close enough to catch me. Archer.
I jumped away quickly to put distance between us and looked back to see him staring at me with a furrowed brow. What was his problem? It’s not like I fell into him on purpose. But of course, he’d probably assumed it was some ploy to get his attention. I straightened my shirt while I turned away from him and s£nt a final glare at Oliver. Then I walked back in the direction of the other ladies.
I was almost back to my mom when Oliver yell, “LOTTY HEADS!” I turned in time to see a football flying in the air towards me. I stumbled back just in time to have it whiz past my face. Unfortunately, my heel cl-ipped a h0le in the grass and I fell backward landing straight on my bum.
A tall boy with floppy blonde hair ran towards me with a worried frown sketched across his face. “Holy shit! Are you okay there Smalls?” He asked as he caught up to me. Concern shadowed his face as his eyes dropped down my body and back up. “Sorry, the ball got away from us.”
“Oh I’m fine thanks,” I said quietly as I let him grab my hand and pull me back to my feet.
“I’m Emmett by the way,” he said with an easy grin as he kept my hand hostage to give it a firm shake. I tried to keep the nerves out of my voice as I replied, “I’m Charlotte, it’s nice to meet you.”
Emmett looked like he was about to say something else but something over my shoulder caught his gaze and he decided not to. Instead, he just gave me one final nod and smile then ran off after his ball.
My mouth pulled down in a frown as I tried to figure out what I did to wreck such a small social interaction. Two shadows falling over me answered my question. I turned around to see Oliver and Archer standing shoulder to shoulder and glaring at Emmett as he ran away. Gosh, what has their p-nties in a twist…
“Are you okay Lotty? That idiot almost hit you.” Oliver glared h-rder at Emmett’s retreating back.
After assuring him that I was perfectly fine we walked back to our parents to have our picnic. The rest of the evening passed by nicely, with all of us lounging on the grass for a while before the Johnson’s left to get Archer settled in the house he shared with his teammates.
My family and I walked slowly back to the truck with my mom and dad both having one arm w-rapped around me. I tried to keep my emotions in check so that my family could leave in peace knowing that I was going to be okay. I don’t think anyone really trusted my brave face, but we were all able to say goodbye with little to no dramatics. Just long hugs and promises to text and call often.
I took a deep breath, standing in front of the dorms, as I watched my family drive away. I couldn’t help but feel like this was a momentous occasion. I was alone, independent—whether I liked it or not—and about to start a new chapter in my life.
BANG! I sh-ot straight out of b£d as a loud commotion sounded outside the door.
“Shit!” A woman’s voice cut through the walls making me curious. I opened the door and peaked out only to see a tall, slim, model of a girl bent over a box. It looked like it had been tipped over, with clothes splayed across the floor.
As she straightened to look at me I took in her appearance. She must have been almost six feet tall, with beautiful dark skin, bright red l-ips, and t¡ght curls that fell wildly around her shoulders. I couldn’t help but notice she was dressed better than I ever could imagine being—especially first thing in the morning. She had on t¡ght black leather leggings, a slightly sheer white button down, and black stilettos.
Feeling very inadequate, all I could manage to squeak out was, “Uhm… Madeline?” She responded with a sparkly white smile as she strode over to me and reached for my hand.
“Yeah sorry about the loud entrance! These damn boxes are not my friends. I kept hoping some h-ot guy might show up to help me but apparently college campuses are pretty quiet on Sunday mornings. Anyways! You must be Charlotte?”
I almost couldn’t reply I was so shocked by her overt confidence. Somehow I managed to stutter out a response as she went back to grabbing her boxes. She seemed very friendly but I still felt overwhelmed. Meeting new people was never easy for me and I had put so much pressure on myself not to make this girl hate me. I decided to go for a run to give her some space to move in, and if I am being honest I needed a little space too.
I went back into my room, sl-ipped on some nike shorts, an over-sized t-shirt and my runners. I rushed into the bathroom to throw water on my face and brush my teeth before saying bye to Madeline and leaving. I plugged my ear pods in as I stepped outside and stretched against a railing that ran down to trails.
Just as I was about to start my run the front doors flew open and a large group of guys came falling out. They were loud and rambunctious during the quiet morning so I stood aside and froze as they passed. They were all pushing each other and shouting back and forth as they made their way into the parking lot. More than a couple heads snapped in my direction and I averted my eyes as a chill ran down my spine. I never liked getting too much attention, especially when I was fresh out of b£d, with no makeup on, and a ratty old Chargers shirt.
Once they had passed, I shook off the discomfort and ran down the path that my mom and I had walked yesterday. My worries washed away as I pumped my arms h-rder, propelling myself forward. My lungs burned, but my head was finally clear.
I was so zoned out as I pushed myself further and further down the path that I didn’t realize someone else had joined me. I jumped as I looked up—a large man ran right next to me smirking down at me. The fright threw me off my balance and next thing I knew I was falling down onto the pavement. Pain burst through my knee as it slammed into the concrete and a whimper left my mouth when I attempted to catch myself with my hands.
“Shit Smalls! I am so sorry! f-ck… I really didn’t think you would get that scared.”
“Emmett?” I grumbled as I turned my music off. I looked up at the apologetic face of the guy I had met the day before. “What the heck… I thought someone was attacking me.”
He threw his head back and let out a loud barking laugh, “Uhm I don’t think people usually wait for you to notice them before they attack. Just a helpful hint for next time.” I started to stretch my leg to assess the damage and cringed at the sharp pain that sh-ot into my knee. “Shit girl… Do you need help back to your dorm? That looks painful.”
I didn’t think I had a choice but to accept help from Emmett. He seemed nice enough and there was no way I could walk all the way back alone. Nodding my head ‘yes’ I reached my hands out for him to grab. Instead Emmett reached one arm behind my back and the other under my knees and gently picked me up. A surprised squeak errupted from me that only further provided Emmett something to laugh at.
“Hey, I’ve always wanted to pull the Prince Charming act but I’ve never found a damsel in distress before.”
“Should I point out that I wouldn’t have been in distress if you hadn’t found me?”
“I’d really rather you didn’t.”
Smiling, I relaxed. “Well, alright then. I won’t.”
Being around Emmett was surprisingly easy, even given our close quarters. He kept his hands respectfully still and didn’t hold me too close to his body. He walked slowly down the path, chatting easily and pointing out buildings as we passed by. I contributed a small, “hmmm” or, “oh really” every once in a while and that seemed to satisfy him just fine.
As we rounded a corner I heard my name being called from a distance. I looked over Emmett’s shoulder and saw Archer running towards us shirtless, with a pair of red shorts hanging around his wa-ist and a scowl on his face. Emmett turned around as well and seemed to recognize Archer right away.
“Oh hey Johnson! How’s it going man?” Archer didn’t immediately respond and instead just stared back at Emmett with a raised eyebrow and down-turned l-ips. “Oh it’s Emmett? I’m the freshman wide receiver? We’ve been training together all summer…” The last s£ntence was muttered under his breath but I heard it and giggled at his sass.
Archer completely ignored everything Emmett said and instead turned to me, making way too much direct eye contact for my liking he asked, “Why is this guy carrying you?”
“Oh well… I fell when I was running,” I said weakly as I gestured to my scraped up and bruising knee. “Emmett offered to help me get back to my dorm.”
“Hand her over Rookie. I’ll take it from here.”
“Wait what?” Before I could give Archer a big ol’ no thank you he picked me up out of Emmett’s arms and settled me against his bare chest.
“Oh okay… If you’re good Smalls then I guess I’ll see you around?” I weighed my options. I tried to decide if I could handle being dramatic enough to make Archer give me back. Of course, I couldn’t. So instead, I gave Emmett a smile and a small wave as Archer spun around and started towards my dorm.
Archer kept shuffling and readjusting his hold on the back of my th-ighs while he strode confidently. My s£nses were thoroughly overwhelmed. his rough hands were so h-ot on my skin it felt like they would leave burn marks. His muscles rippled against my side as he walked, and a woodsy smell mixed with mint invaded my nose.
This was so far past any Archer-appropriate interaction I didn’t know how to act. I could only stare ahead and keep my face blank as we silently approached my building.
“Sooo… Do you think it was smart to go running alone when there was barely anyone around?” Archer’s voice shook me out of my thoughts. Did I think it was smart? Excuse yourself…
“Well I mean I was running on University property in broad daylight. So yeah I don’t exactly think it was dumb.”
“I’m just saying maybe you should stick to the gym or workout in your room or something.” He responded gruffly. I finally made eye contact as we exited the elevator, and a scowl overtook my face. It didn’t help that he stared back at me with a frown etched between his full brows like he was judging me.
“Well, I’m just saying maybe you could mind your own business. I’m not a child and I am perfectly capable of going running alone.”
“Yeah it’s not my business when I’m carrying your ass home,” He snipped back with an eye roll as we approached my door.
“You didn’t have to carry my… butt home actually because I was fine before you showed up and man handled me!” I must have raised my voice a little higher than I meant to because the door swung open and Madeline stood there staring at Archer and I.
“Jesus girl… I couldn’t find a man to carry my boxes but you found one to carry you? The world is not fair.” I gave her a small, forced laugh as Archer strode past her to put me down on the couch. I avoided his eye contact as he bent low to place me gently down on the cushion. Our faces were only a few inches apart before he straightened and stepped back against the wall.
Madeline ran into the bathroom yelling about a first aid kit so we were left alone. I didn’t get angry often but when I did, I had a h-rd time with the guilt afterwards. I couldn’t help but regret how loud my voice had gotten as I avoided his stare. I mean the guy was carrying me… But he was also treating me like a child! Making the decision to hold my resolve I looked up at him and tried my h-rdest to keep my face calm.
“You can go now I’m sure Madeline and I can handle it from here.”
He stared back at me for a moment as though he was considering his response to me. Ultimately though, he ran his eyes down my body to my knee as though he was confirming to himself that I was really fine. Then with a curt nod he turned around and walked out of the dorm.
“Alright girl! Roommate to the rescue! Oh dang… where did the h-ot boy go?” Madeline stopped briefly as she realized it was just us before pouting and moving to sit on the table across from me. Laying out the antiseptic and bandages she began to assess and treat my knee without me even technically asking for her help. I appreciated the easy relationship she seemed to be offering and I hoped we could actually get along this year.
“So who was the guy anyway? It seemed like you knew each other… Is it a friendly scenario?” The way she said friendly made me realize she meant something a little more intimate than friendship.
“Oh g-gosh no! That was Archer. He’s just my brother’s friend,” I exclaimed with a slight blush. There was no way I’d be getting friendly with Archer. Or anyone for that matter.
“Damn… All my brother’s friends are pimply little shits. I mean they’re also fourteen.” I laughed as she added wistfully, “God some people really do have it all. You get to see that guy on a regular basis?”
“No not at all. We barely see each other actually. He only helped me because I’m sure he feels some kind of loyalty to my family, but trust me he won’t be around again.”
“Hmmm whatever you say girl. Anyways I am exhausted from unpacking so I was going to order pizza and binge some Netflix. You down?” I got a little nervous at her offer. So far Madeline seemed really easy to talk to but could I handle a wh0le day? Once the food was ordered it would be rude to go to my room if I got uncomfortable.
C’mon Charlotte… put your big girl p-nties on. I realized in this moment, I needed to try. I needed to put myself out there and try to step out of my comfort zone. I mean I had only been here for a day and I already survived more social interactions than usual. I was on a freaking roll! So I took a deep breath, smiled, and offered to order the food on my app.
The rest of the afternoon was spent watching movies and chatting with Madeline. Our movie tastes seemed to be pretty compatible. We started with a cheesy rom-nce before moving on to a Disney movie and then ended the night watching doc-mentaries about serial killers. Madeline seemed to realize that I was a bit unsure about myself because she kept the conversations light. We talked about our majors and upcoming school events.
Apparently a lot of people were already talking about the Pep Rally before our first home game. Surprisingly, Madeline invited me to go with her right away. I assumed she would already have real friends to go with, but she called herself a, “Lone wolf” and insisted that she would stick by my side the wh0le time.
This was normally an event that I would refuse to go to, especially without Brit and Kayla as buffers next to me. But in the spirit of breaking out of my comfort zone I hesitantly agreed. I mean how bad could it be? There would be so many people there I’m sure I could float around in the background as usual.
Later that evening, I laid in b£d with w€t hair from my shower and texted my parents goodnight. Yes, I do know how lame I am thank you… I ended up enjoying my day with Madeline so much that I hadn’t really had time to stress that school started tomorrow.
To appease the powers that be I figured it was a good idea to s£nd out a prayer for a successful first day. Please let me make it to all of my classes on time, not get lost, and not get called on by any of my professors. My stomach swirled with nerves and excitement as I went to sleep mentally going over the map of campus that I had been memorizing for months now.
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