Lily walked through the door into the cramped dorm room and saw Oliver, sitting on the futon and staring blankly at the television screen. The sportscasters were talking about the highly anticipated Superbowl game and how the Patriots choked in the last hour on a loop. From the look on Oliver’s face, Lily could tell it really wasn’t helping his current situation.
“You can sit down, y’know,” Oliver stated, not glancing away from the screen and taking a sip from an already empty beer bottle.
“You want me to turn this off?” Lily asked, shoving her hands in her pocket and rocking back and forth on the heels of her boots.
Oliver shook his head, still focused on the news he had already watched play out only a half hour before. She sat down next to him, crinkling her nose as the scent of stale beer wafted from his body.
His dark brown eyes finally pulled away from his tragedy and landed on her. “Did you watch it?” Oliver asked her. His voice was still monotonous, like all of his heart had been with the Patriots and with their loss, it had left him broken and numb.
Lily nodded, even though what she had seen was brief and short. Football had never been her favorite sport and it was never something she had understood. Lily’s dad had never been around much when she was growing up and she knew that was why she’d never really picked up how the sport was played.
“Why didn’t you come down and watch it with me?” he wondered aloud, his eyebrows furrowed together.
The thing was… Lily barely even knew Oliver. He was just this mysterious figure who had helped her out of a tough situation and kissed her one time. Except he wasn’t so mysterious because they texted each other constantly. She felt like she already really knew him, even though they had only met a few weeks ago. He had invited her to watch the games with him and his friends and she had chosen not to go out of embarrassment of her lack of knowledge of the game. She also knew she would be surrounded by boys she didn’t know, yelling at their team to meet their expectations as they put down beers and wings.
Ignoring his question, Lily changed the subject, “Tom Brady played alright though, didn’t he?” She honestly had no idea what she was talking about. The only connections she could make to the player were his good looks, his status as quarterback, and his marriage to Giselle Bundchen.
Going for another sip of his empty beer bottle, Oliver nodded dramatically, “Brady is a god. If I had to marry a guy, I’d totally go gay for him.”
And just like that, the idea of Oliver being difficult to figure out melted away and her body relaxed next to his.
Lily’s hand flew to her mouth as she giggled, “Oliver, how much have you had to drink?”
“Not enough. Sucks the Patriots lost. They were supposed to win,” his face returned to a grimace.
“I think you have had more than enough,” Lily laughed, taking the empty bottle he had been nursing and standing up to throw it in the trash can by the door.
“Why are your shoes still on? Take them off and stay a while,” Oliver asked, pointing at her boots. His eyes were so crinkled with concern only a little of his caramel irises were visible. As he shook his head, Oliver’s eyebrows crumpled together as if he thought Lily would pivot turn and walk out the door at any moment. He scooted himself onto the floor putting one leg on either side of her.
“Hold on, hold on,” Lily smiled, as she put his hands on his shoulders to steady herself as he started to tug on the leather soles. “Let me sit down.” She plunked herself down onto where he had just been sitting, his hands still firmly attached to her ankles.
He pulled off each boot, casting them carelessly behind him. “And now you can’t leave,” he told her, leaning forward with his lips puckered as if expecting a kiss.
Lily laughed, shaking her head. Although she did have a little crush on him, she knew she wasn’t about to kiss him right then.
He leaned back, his eyes fluttering open as he stared at her from the floor, “Lil, did you know that Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin?”
Lily examined his face, his lips a straight line, his eyes wide. Not being able to contain herself any longer, she began to laugh, her sides hurting. “Where did that come from?” she staggered out between each giggle.
Oliver’s expression was unchanging, unmoving, “I did a project on him in fifth grade.” He picked himself up from the ground and staggered over towards the bunk bed set up in the room. He hoisted himself onto his roommate’s desk and then lifted himself into the top bed.
Lily stopped laughing, confused as to whether she had offended him and why he had moved away from her. Rolling over onto his side towards Lily, he looked down at her one eye open. “Come up,” he told her, his voice almost a whisper as if he was about to fall asleep.
Lily peeled at the chipping maroon nail polish on her finger nails. In a matter of seconds, her mind began to whirlwind ideas of what she was supposed to do. Should she leave and make some excuse that her roommate needed her? Would he try to have sex with her if she went up there in his bed with him? Or was this really just innocent to him? Did he even like her? Biting the inside of her cheek, she stood up and walked over towards the desk. Since she was about a foot shorter than him, she used a chair to step onto the desk and realized there was no way she’d be able to make it from the desk to the top bunk.
About to turn around and decide that it was better off she wasn’t literally climbing into bed with him, she heard Oliver say, “Hold on.”
Lily looked back up towards Oliver again and saw him, waiting for her with his hand outstretched. His eyes looked red and sleepy, like he had been fighting off the sandman for some time. His lips were curled up on one side, something that could have been a smirk, but instead it seemed inviting, almost caring. She took his hand as he pulled her up into the bed and she laid down next to him, propping herself up with her elbow.
“Your hand was cold,” he stated matter-of-factly, which Lily returned with a raise of her eyebrows and a confused smile.
“Maybe your hands are too hot. Did you ever think of that, Ol?” she bantered back playfully.
Oliver sunk into his pillows, his eyes still closed and murmured back, “Well, if you’ll stop being so sassy, I’ll let you hold my hand and then they’ll be even, right?” He held his hand out towards her and she slipped hers into his. The warmth engulfed her hand. But Lily also felt the warmth travel up her hand and into her cheeks, coloring them pink. She pushed the feeling away, thankful his eyes were closed.
His eyes opened and he sat up, staring at her. She looked at his plaid sheets, counting the lines in the pattern, wondering if there was something on her face.
“Can I play with your hair?” Oliver asked, cutting the tension only Lily was feeling. She nodded and laughed at the absurdity, yet found herself thinking how cute it was he suggested it.
She leaned down, holding herself up on her elbows and resting her chin in her hands. He reached forward, beginning at the ends of the strands of her hair and combing them with his fingers. Sinking into his touch, she closed her eyes and laid her head down next to him as his fingertips massaged her scalp. “My cousin told me girls like it when you play with their hair,” he told her simply.
Lily giggled, “Never really thought about it, but it does feel nice.”
He pulled his hand away, returning it to rest on top of Lily’s. She rolled away from him, turning onto her side. She was nervous he would try to make a move now. Why was she lying next to this boy she barely knew?
Her thoughts were interrupted by, “Lil, will you sleep here? I don’t wanna be alone.”
The warmth she had felt earlier enveloped her chest as if she’d just eaten a whole bowl of her grandmother’s homemade chicken noodle soup. She pushed it away, irritated that it had returned.
“Oliver, I can’t. I have class early tomorrow morning and besides, you have Jack. He’ll be here,” she told him, her voice faltering as he shook his head with every word of her excuse.
He licked his lips, tightening his fingers around her palm and then said, “Just want you here.” Without thinking, she moved over and pulled the string from above the bed to shut the light off. She couldn’t see anything as she crawled back over towards him, but found his arm to be open waiting for her.
“You get inside, so you don’t fall off the bed. This way I’ll catch you,” he sleepily informed her through a yawn. She laid her head down on his shoulder and let her hand drop onto his chest. She felt his fingertips touch hers and she smiled.
Maybe Lily would be ready for him to catch her.