Unexpected -- fiction by Greta Jungjohann
My heart jumped as pounding footsteps approached my open dorm door. Immediately I set down my shirt on the bed and turned to face my new roommate Rebbeca. Except, it wasn’t her.
“Catherine?” A tall girl with beautiful straight brown hair stood in the doorway. My heart began to beat even faster, but for a new reason. It took me a second to remember to swallow, and to shake off the initial shock that demanded me be still.
“Ara? Is the dorm number out there wrong? This- I don’t think this is my room.”
“I didn’t know you were going to school here. I thought you were destined for Harvard or something. I’m surprised to see you here,” I said slowly. The part about Havard was a joke, though as she broke eye contact I knew that she’d actually planned to go there. Typical Catherine.
“So,” she said with a final look around my dusty dorm room, “I’m going to leave now. Bye.”
My shirt was still waiting for me on the bed. I set it in one of the drawers that smelled of air freshener in the dresser that I had designated as mine. After that, I set my empty suit case aside and sat down on the navy blue bunk bed mattress. My bed was one of the last things I had left to set up, but I wanted to wait until Rebbeca was there so we could pick which bunk we wanted.
As I waited for her I checked my phone. We hadn’t spoken in about a day, and all of our conversations over text felt dry. I hoped that in person she would be more lively. She seemed different on her RooMeet profile. The pictures of her that I was scrolling through once again were of her smiling, painting, reading, hiking, on the beach; just doing fun things. I wanted someone like that desperately. Someone lively.
My scrolling was interrupted by footsteps in my doorway once again. I looked up, this time ready to make a new friend. But once again, I was disappointed. How typical. Once again, Catherine had appeared in my room. Then she spoke.
“Is this dorm 78? My roommate was going to be Elise - we decided that last year but then she found someone on RooMeet named Rebbeca and they both really wanted to switch. Elise told Rebbeca it’d be fine since I knew her roommate already and I probably wouldn’t mind. They planned the whole thing behind my back and didn’t tell me until today,” Catherine said. Her usual air of confidence had disappeared and left her vulnerable, but only in a way I could see as I’d known her for such a long time. But I too was now hurt, just as betrayed as she was.
“Oh,” was all I could say.
“So…” I watched as she walked further into the room and set her things apart from mine, and though there was no physical line a barrier could be felt between her things and mine, between her and me.
“I want to lay out some rules.”
“Our first rule,” she said as she pushed back her hair into a ponytail, “is that we will not talk to each other-”
“Unless it’s absolutely necessary. Got it.”
“Our second rule,” she continued, now with a slight glare, “is that we will not hang out. Ever. And the third rule is pretty easy; you are not allowed to like me.” This last rule made me mad. Why would I like her? All of the unease I’d felt around her since the day I’d come out rose up.
“What makes you think I’d ever like you?” I said aggressively, which caused her to turn red.
“That’s, that’s not how I meant it,” she said, still red. She brought her hand up to her face which I assume must have felt hot because she looked worried.
“I’m just messing with you,” I quickly added. Was I? Why did I say that? What just happened? All of these questions made me dizzy and sweaty. My heart was racing, pounding because of a warm feeling deep down. Anger, that’s what it was, I decided.
“Right,” she said. I studied her as she took her hair back down to let it hide her face. I knew she wouldn’t be able to stay like that for long though because she hated having hair in her face. Not long after she tucked a brown strand behind her ear and I knew I was right. I knew her well.
“Why are you staring at me?” she asked, probably more annoyed with the situation than with me.
“I’m sorry. Which bed do you want?” I had a lot of expectations here, and I knew that Catherine would want to pick which bed she got.
“Which one do you want?” That was unexpected. It caused my entire mind to stop and focus on her eyes. Those familiar blue eyes that looked at me with genuine wonder which grew to confusion, matching mine.
“Why are you looking at me like that? Which bed do you want?” I didn’t question why she was looking at me in order to notice that I was watching her.
“You’ve never let me pick something like that before.” My eyes were now on her hands which played with the hair tie on her wrist.
“I guess people can change,” she said. For a long time we just stood together in that silence until I pointed to one and she began to unpack. I followed her lead, just like I’d always done before.
Greta Jungjohann is a junior in Eugene Oregon who enjoys writing, playing music, and learning new languages. They had two poems published in Skipping Stones magazine when they were younger. Greta enjoys hanging out with friends and planning for their future which they hope will be full of great people to balance the challenging work.