His words hit so close to home; she had to look away, aware her poker face was nonexistent. “Yeah, yeah, I would. “ Resting one hand on his arm, she leaned to his left for another peek. Lily’s back blocked most of her view of Cam, but the fact Lily and the car remained meant Cam had to be there too. A couple inches of blonde hair showed above Lily’s head.
“I need to go now.” Rocking to her toes, Stella planted an impulsive kiss on Mitch’s cheek. “You’re a good friend.”
Her fear turbo-boosted her feet, shooting her to the entrance. It didn’t stop her from hearing the muttered words. “I wish I knew what was going on.”
No, you wouldn’t want to know. Her hand pushed open the stairwell door. Hardly anyone ever used the stairs, even when it meant waiting minutes for the slow, often unreliable, elevator. Adrenalin coursed through her body pushing her up the stairs at a speed any other time would have astounded her. Her fingers pushed into her side trying to push out the muscle spasm. Her hard, raspy breathing echoed in the narrowed stairwell sounding a bit like a B horror movie. The metal banister grew moist under her sweaty hands. A large three loomed on the door ahead of her. Almost there.
A few more steps and she’d be in her room. Sanctuary. Well, of a sort, if her roommate wasn’t there. The thought had her sliding down the wall, landing on the cold concrete step. That sucked. Was there no safe place for her?
Sighing deeply, she leaned back against the wall, the railing pushing her head out at an uncomfortable angle. She couldn’t stay long in this position. In just a couple of minutes, after she mentally prepped, she’d go. Her roommate would either ignore her as usual or hit her with a barrage of nosey questions. Personally, her regular antisocial behavior would work in Stella’s favor.
Her fingers tangled in the full skirt of her sundress she’d donned with high hopes earlier. She’d hoped the malicious skanks would see her with Cam, proving they were an item. Now, Cam disappearing from her life and campus would solve a multitude of problems and improve her mental health in one fell swoop.
Why she ever fell for him puzzled her. Her hand gripped the banister as she pulled herself upright. Leah would listen to her and help her sort things out. After what her best friend had gone through, Cam’s machinations would seem like child’s play. Falling through time and battling a scorned lover determined to kill her and several others made Stella’s situation just college drama.
Leah would help. Maybe she could get Leah’s Nana to read her cards via the phone too. If she could get the entire Carpenter family behind her, then Cam’s crazy idea wouldn’t happen. The thought calmed her racing heart. It would all work out. She wasn’t sure how yet, but it would. Stella took a deep breath, mentally calming herself. When did she talk to her friend last?
A cursory check of the hallway revealed a couple girls walking away from her, giving her a clean shot to her room without talking to anyone. Good. Burnt popcorn aroma filled the hallway, crinkling her nose. When she first started school, she called Leah almost every other day. Even though Leah sounded happy whenever she answered, an awkwardness existed between the two of them.
Could be she interrupted her and Dylan? All she did was whine about college while Leah remained upbeat about her experiences. Leah stayed home and went to community college. Not much had changed in her life. No lame roommates or conniving men who pretended to be her boyfriend. After a while, they didn’t talk as much. A couple of times, Leah called when she was with Cam. She hadn’t answered, of course.
Her room door swung open, revealing her roommate in the process of leaving. “See you’re finally up. You were pixelated last night and never even heard me come into the room.”
Stella chose not to correct the assumption certain it would prolong her roommate’s departure. “Yeah.”
Stepping into the hall, her roommate made space for her to enter the room. Stella had her hand on the door to close it when her roommate spoke.
“The odd couple came by Joe Christian and Wanda Witch wanted me to tell you her cell number changed. She wrote it on the whiteboard.”
Stella’s roommate had tacked on the unflattering nicknames the first time Dylan and Leah visited. Their insistence on oversized emblems of their faith made it hard not to make wise cracks. Leah now sported a pentacle large enough to set off a metal detector, ironic considering she’d ridiculed the Jesus squad in high school for all their crosses. Then again, her boyfriend was part of the group. In their way, it could be a visual message that faiths could co-exist. Whatever it was, it made people remember them.
The white board near her bed served as her daily to-do list. It also tracked assignments and upcoming tests. Leah’s strong emphatic writing brought a sense of normalcy with it. Ignoring her departing roommate, she moved close to the board. Dylan and Leah could still be on campus. If she called now, they might return. That would be glorious. She could do without Dylan, but unlike most males, he knew when to keep his mouth shut or make himself scarce.
Her fingers danced over the phone keypad punching in the numbers. A couple of jabs on the send button resulted in nothing. Why wasn’t her phone working? Was it dead? The illuminated battery icon showed almost a full charge. It made no sense. She powered the phone off, and then on, hoping the action would make it work as it did with the computer.
Staring hard at the number, she slowly punched it in again, mouthing each numeral aloud. When she got to the end of the number, a sense of uneasiness assailed her. The last smeared number she thought was a three. It could have been an eight or a five. Next to, it was a tight, cramped memo. Don’t Wreck Yourself Again. Not Sure If I could take the Shock. ROTFL
It had to be her roommate or her slacker boyfriend’s writing. A closer inspection revealed the problem. There were only nine digits. Instead of the ten there should have been with the area code. Her idiot roommate erased one accidentally adding her sarcastic note. Damn it. She glared at the still open door. There was no Cece in sight.