Brittany dropped her luggage casting a nervous glance around; the idea of sharing a dorm with another student was somewhat daunting. She liked… no she needed her own space. This was a nightmare. But this year her parents refused to pay for a studio; she was going to live with someone else and learn to share. She didn’t sharing as the problem; she didn’t think she had an issue with that. No it was the rest.
“Hey!” She startled. The brunette coming in was… well. “You must be Brittany.” She nodded. “I’m Theresa, you can call me Tess. I’m a sophomore in Theatre and Acting. You’re a sophomore too right? In what? Let me guess: literature or something?”
“Oh wow you’re a brain.” Not really. But she couldn’t speak. “So do you mind if I take this side of the room? No? Cool.”
It seemed she wouldn’t have to worry too much about conversations since Theresa obviously could hold one on her own. She emptied her suitcase in the chest of drawers. Once done, she picked up a book and settled on her bed.
“Oh come on! You’re not going to read today. Come.”
Tess wouldn’t hear her; she grabbed the book, took her hand. Before she knew what to say, her roommate was dragging her outside. All clubs and groups had a stand with stuff… she hadn’t really paid attention the previous year: she’d had her own place and she was fine spending nights at home. She never really liked crowds: people tended to be stupid in groups. Even at church the sheep mentality surprised her sometimes.
“Oh here they are. Let me introduce you to my friends.”
Oh no. More obnoxious and loud people.
“Hey y’all. This is my roommate. Brit. It’s cool right?”
“Brittany. Nice meeting you.”
“Brit, this is Nick, Kit, Mike and Jen. My crew. So Kit what were your holidays like?”
All of sudden, she was no longer the centre of Tess’s attention: a relief.
“Don’t worry about Tess.” One guy said. “She’s… a bubble of energy. She’s exhausting us all.”
“Hey Mike, shut up!” Tess laughed.
“But we love her.” This time it was Nick.
“Will you be coming with her to the party on Saturday?” Mike asked.
“Party? I don’t know. I have stuff…”
“Oh come on. You can’t have homework already. It’ll be fun.”
“Gee, Mike, you’re as bad as Tess when you do that. Brittany doesn’t even know us.”
It was overwhelming. Was it the kind of things her parents expected her to do? She’d never had many friends and she always found it difficult to relate. She’d struggled most of her life to create close relationship with people. Maybe because she was an only child.
“So what do you study Brittany?”
“Engineering, can you believe it? Freakin’ genius.” Tess interrupted, now obviously done with speaking about holidays.
“Tess, shut up. She can speak for herself.”
Tess looked her up and down: she certainly doubted that.
“Maybe… but the long sleeves, the conservative skirt. I’m seeing a shy Catholic girl who really needs us to help her loosen up and embrace her ginger naughtiness. Because everyone knows redhead are the naughtiest girls ever.”
Everyone laughed, as Brittany blushed crimson. A cold shiver ran through her body.
“How cute. Doesn’t she look like an angel?” Jen said.
“One who needs help clipping her wings.” Kit added with a mischievous smile.
Would they stop? She stepped back. Incapable of finding words to say that she had to go.
“Girls, you’re making her uncomfortable,” Nick said.
He took her hand; she trembled. She pulled it away.
“Hey, I’m sorry Brittany.”
She bit her lips.
“No that’s ok. I… I gotta go.”
She turned on her heels and left, trying really hard not to run, hearing Nick chide the others for teasing her.
She headed towards the library, going for the anime section and grabbed a few books. She read for a good 4 hours before she went back to her room. She needed a shower. She looked for the door but there was none. But… she couldn’t use a common shower, could she? Terrified she’d find someone else, she went. The entire time she kept peeking through the curtain; the merest sound made her startle. Thankfully she was alone. Thankfully too, Tess wasn’t at the dorm when she returned. She read some more then after saying her prayers, she turned off the lights.
As was common she had nightmares. That was one reason she wasn’t too keen on sharing a place with anyone. She could scream sometimes. And when it wasn’t nightmares it was dreams that left her confused. She didn’t remember a time when she didn’t have them. For a while, she deprived herself of sleep because she was so scared but that didn’t go too well either.
That night she had one of her recurring nightmares: people with no faces kept hurting her. She woke up panting when the first cigarette butt burned her skin. It had been a while since she last had that one. She needed some water.
“Hey you’re ok Brit?”
Tess was sitting in her bed her reading light on. She looked shocked.
“I’m sorry. Did I wake you?”
“Kind of. That was some nasty nightmare you were having.”
“What was happening?”
“I don’t really want to talk about it Tess.”
But Tess grabbed her wrist when she made for the door. She pushed the sleeve up; at the crook of her elbow a burn mark. From when she was stupid. There were a few.
“What’s that?” Tess asked.
“A dare with a friend.” Tess raised an eyebrow. “The one who could hold the cigarette to their skin the longest got to order the other one around for a week.”
“A dare, my ass.” She pulled on her T shirt, showing the mark at her collarbone. “I’ve just heard you plead and beg for almost 10 minutes Brittany. Who did this to you?”
Brittany didn’t understand.
“I did. It was a dare.”
“Right. Does anyone know?”
“They don’t know? That’s fucked up. They’ve never heard you scream? They’ve never seen you in a swimsuit? How can they not know?”
“What are you talking about? It’s a nightmare. I’ve had those forever. And…” she bit her lips. “It’s worse when I meet new people.”
Tess’s eyes widened as if she understood something. Maybe she realized she’d been pushy.
“You don’t even know. Wow. You need to see someone. A shrink or something.”
“Why? Look Tess. I don’t know what you’re thinking but I’m just going to have a glass of water and then I’ll get back to bed. I’m sorry I woke you up but you’re raving.”
Maybe she should ask her parents to rent a studio after all: Tess was crazy. Imagining stuff and all. Or maybe it was just because she was an actress. They needed to be in touch with vivid emotions maybe. Not like she knew about it. She didn’t know about big emotional outbursts herself, except in her dreams. Everyone said she was a pleasure to be with because of her always even temper.
In response to Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie writing prompt The Moon