Thirty-Nine: Blind

Alley
Three weeks later


Another year, another wonderful semester of schoolwork to look forward to. I sighed heavily as I pulled my car into a parking space at the university. It was too damn early in the morning to be out and about. I’d been dreading this semester for months after I scheduled classes, because one of my requirements for chemistry was offered only at 8:00 AM. Which meant that I had to get up at seven just to make it to class by eight. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to that three times a week.

I trudged to class, watching as my breath made thick foggy clouds in the air around my face. It was also too damn cold to be out hiking around like this. All I wanted was to be at home, in my nice warm bed, all curled up and dreaming… which was probably precisely what Taylor was doing at that very moment. I scowled inwardly.

I found my class, walked in and dropped into a seat in the middle of the room. Pulling out my pencil and notebook, I waited wearily for class to begin. I didn’t have to wait long. At exactly eight o’clock, a stern, older woman walked in. Well, maybe “marched” would have been a more appropriate term. She wore wire-rimmed glasses and her salt-and-pepper hair was pulled back tightly into a bun. I fought the urge to smirk. Another typical professor stereotype. Where in the hell did UK find these people?

“Good morning,” she barked at us. “This is Chemistry 407. My name is Dr. Nola Tanenbaum. You will call me Dr. Tanenbaum.”

What? Did she just say Tanenbaum? Oh, God, surely not….

“And before you ask, yes, my husband is the same Tanenbaum that teaches biology at this very university…”

“Kill me now,” I muttered. Why is it that the worst ones always come in pairs? I studied the woman.  “Shit, they even look alike, now that she mentions it…. Just like every old couple I know.”

“They do, don’t they?” snickered a guy on my left. “Damn, if this is an indication of how the rest of my classes are going to turn out, I think I may have to transfer!”

I looked over and smiled. “I’m with you there.”

He smiled back, and I found myself blushing. My fantastic social skills at work, yet again. I tried to look at him from the corner of my eye. Odd, but he looked very familiar to me. I chewed on a fingernail, racking my brain for any clue as to where I may have met him before. He was really cute. Come on, I thought. You never meet cute guys anyway, so surely you would remember this one.

“Hey,” he whispered. “You’re--”

“Let us begin,” Dr. Tanenbaum boomed. I smiled apologetically at the guy before facing forward and giving her all my attention. If she was anything like her husband, this was going to be one really shitty semester.

Fifty minutes crawled by, and we were dismissed. My next class was way across campus, so I prepared to hoof it in the short ten minute break. I turned and waved shyly at the guy before scampering out the door. He waved back and smiled.

The next two classes flew by, miraculously enough, and I eagerly drove home. It was only 11 o’clock. I doubted Taylor was even out of bed yet. Well, I was certainly going to fix that little problem when I got home. I had spent the last two hours plotting my revenge.

Fifteen minutes later, I was pulling into my driveway. I quietly slipped through the front door, hoping he hadn’t heard me or woken up. I crept up the stairs, grinning evilly. He was going to hate me so bad for this…

I walked down the hall and opened the closet where we kept our cleaning stuff. I pulled out the mop bucket and took it into Louise’s bathroom, since it wasn’t as close to my room. I turned the water on, and let it run until it was ice-cold. Oh, he was really going to hate me for this.

I filled the bucket up halfway. Lugging it down the hall, I had to stop before I entered my room and calm down so I wouldn’t laugh out loud. When I had composed myself, I nudged open the door and walked inside.

Taylor lay sprawled out on the bed, mouth partially open. One hand was lying above his head, the other by his side. He looked so peaceful, so angelic, actually, that I almost decided not to do it. Almost.

Grasping the bucket by the sides, I slid up to the edge and held it precariously over him. I silently counted to three, and then quickly tipped the contents onto his belly and face.

His scream could have woken the dead. I jumped back, clapping my hands gleefully and cackling with laughter.

“FUCK!!!!!!!” he shouted, squirming around and flailing his arms. “SON OF A BITCH!”

“Watch your mouth,” I said. “That offends me.”

He stopped flailing and turned on his side, wet hair clinging to his face, and wet shirt clinging to his chest. His eyes grew wide.

“You…” he growled. “Oh, you….

Suddenly I began having second thoughts.

“Gotta go,” I mumbled, sprinting towards the door. I wasn’t fast enough for Taylor’s surprisingly cat-like reflexes. His long arms wrapped around me like a straitjacket. He was behind me, his arms coming around me and crushing me against his chest. My arms were trapped at my sides. He was considerably taller, and no matter how hard I kicked, I couldn’t reach what I was aiming for.

He bent his head down beside mine. “You,” he breathed in my ear, “are so going to regret that.”

“You’re hurting me,” I whimpered, hoping to get a pity reaction. No such luck.

“No, I’m not,” he said pleasantly. I squirmed against him as he dragged me down the hall.

“What are you doing?” I screeched.

“You’ll see.”

Personally, I was surprised at his level of thinking after waking up so suddenly and early. I mean, hell, he already had a plan all thought out. It made me wonder if he had not been waiting for an opportunity for this all along.

We went into the bathroom. My eyes widened as I realized what he planned to do, and I screamed at the top of my lungs and fought even harder. He quickly reached out, turning on the shower and letting the cold water run.

“NO!! I’M SORRY, I’M SORRY… I’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN, I SWEAR…”

Taylor laughed, and I most certainly did not like the glee that so obviously showed in it. Lifting me up, he pulled us both into the shower until the freezing cold water was hitting me right in the face.

“My clothes!!!!!” I wailed. “My hair!”

“You don’t give a damn about either,” he replied, holding me tighter. “So stop whining. You brought this on yourself.”

“You’re getting wet, too!”

“I’m already wet. It doesn’t matter.”

“I’m cold,” I whined after what felt like an eternity.

“Alright, I guess you’ve been in here long enough.” He bent his head down again. “Say you’re sorry,” he cooed in my ear.

“I DID!!!!!!”

“Say it like you mean it, Alley Kat.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Hmmm…. That didn’t sound very sincere.”

“Taylor!!!!!!!” I tried to stomp on his toes.

“Oh…. No, that’s not good. I think that deserves another five minutes.” He dodged my stomps.

“I’M SORRY, DAMMIT!!!!!!!”

He laughed. “I guess I can take that. He let go of me and turned off the water. I leaped from the shower and stalked out into the hall and into my room.

“Allllleeeeeyyyyy,” he called after me in sing-song fashion. I slammed the door and locked it, and then looked around for some clean, dry clothes I could change into. Taylor banged on the door.

“Let me in,” he hollered. “I need to change, too, you know.”

“Go to hell,” I replied cheerfully, yanking off my soaking wet sweatshirt and pulling on an old t-shirt. I couldn’t find any shorts or sweats that were clean, so I began digging through Taylor’s things. I pulled out a pair of his boxers, peeled off my wet jeans, and slipped them on. I figured he owed me that much.

The knob began to rattle and then suddenly the door opened. He had picked the lock. I screamed and jumped back. “What are you doing?!”

He stared at me. “I’d like some dry clothes, if you don’t mind.” He walked over to his stuff before giving me a double-take. “Why are you wearing my underwear?”

“They’re just boxers. I don’t have any clean shorts.”

He rolled his eyes. “Maybe if you’d do laundry every once in a while…”

“Shut up.” I scowled at him.

“Awww…. Are you mad at me?” He walked towards me, a big silly smile on his face, and arms outstretched. No way. He was still soaked.

“Get away from me, freak,” I said, backing up slowly. The backs of my knees banged against the bed and I fell back… right onto the soaked mattress.

“Dammit!” I cried out, feeling the water seep through his boxers. I tried to roll off the bed, but Taylor was there. He pushed me back over and then leaped on me.

“I hate you,” I mumbled, sandwiched between Taylor and the mattress. My clothes were wet again.

“That hurts my feelings,” he said, but the smirk on his face said otherwise. “Besides, you asked for it.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered. Sighing, I stopped fighting him. He crawled over and lay next to me.

“How was school today?”

“Sucked. Completely, utterly sucked.” I rolled over to face him. “I hope you had a lovely morning here in bed.”

“I was, until a certain young woman who shall go nameless arrived home…”

“Young woman,” I laughed. “I’m still a teenager.”

“Well, ‘young girl’ just didn’t sound right, either.”

“True.” I rested on my side, studying him. “You hungry?”

He eyeballed me. “A little.”

“Will you fix me something?”

“Fix you something? After what you did to me?”

“You already got your revenge, mister. And I had to get up at the crack of dawn this morning and go to class while you snoozed. Plus, I’m getting tired of grilled cheese and frozen pizza.”

“If you’d learn to cook, maybe you wouldn’t have that problem.”

I sighed, exasperated, and scooted off the bed. “Fine. I’ll just go fix it myself.”

He mocked my sigh, getting up to follow me. “Alright, alright. I’ll make you something.”

I grinned. “Thanks, love,” I said in a British accent.

He gave me a sort of odd half-smile and scooted down the stairs. I decided not to change clothes again, and followed him.

“So, what are you fixing me?” I asked, sitting at the counter, watching as Taylor banged the pots and pans around.

“You’ll see,” he muttered, digging through one of the cabinets. “It’ll be a surprise.”

“I don’t like surprises.”

“Sure you do. You like me, don’t you?” He turned back to me and flashed a toothy grin.

I rolled my eyes. “That doesn’t even merit an answer.”

The front door banged open and footsteps shuffled through the hallway. “Hey, guys,” said Louise, juggling several bags on her arms.
“What’s going on?”

“Hey,” I said. I stood up and took some of the bags. “What’s in these?”

“School stuff. Notebooks, pencils, that shit.”

“Aah.” I nodded. “Taylor’s fixing me some lunch, you want anything?”

“Sure. What’s he making?”

“It’s a surprise,” Taylor said.

“Oooh,” she said, rolling her eyes at me. I snickered, then patted her on the arm.

“Just smile and nod,” I said. “He wouldn’t tell me, either.”

“Gotcha.” She paused in the doorway for a minute, first studying Taylor, and then me, a soft smile on her face. Then she turned and headed for the stairs. “Hey, Alley, why don’t you come help me for a second?”

“Help you with what?”

“Just get up here.”

“Alright.” I stood up, tapping the countertop several times. “I’ll be right back.”

I hopped up the stairs. Louise was in her room, starting to fold clothes.

“Yeah?” I said, standing in her doorway.

She looked up. “Why are your clothes wet?”

“Taylor,” I said. I didn’t think I needed any further explanation.

“Oooh,” she said again, fighting another smile. “And you’re wearing his boxers.”

“Yeah,” I said. “He messed up my other clothes, so…”

She murmured something underneath her breath, something I didn’t entirely catch, but I know I heard the word ‘couple’ in there somewhere.

“What?” I demanded. “What did you say?”

“Nothing. Help me with this.”

“You don’t need help. Why am I up here?”

She glanced at me.  “Taylor’s a nice guy, isn’t he?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Really nice. Handsome, too. Gorgeous.”

“I guess…” I replied slowly. This conversation was definitely taking an odd turn.

“Hmmm. He got a girlfriend?”

“Yeah. Some chick named Jennifer.”

She was silent for a second, before continuing. “Are they serious?”

“Why are you asking me this?”

“I’m just wondering.”

“Well… no, I don’t think so. At least that’s what he said.”

“That’s what I figured.”

“Oh, really?” I asked. She had piqued my curiosity. “Why are you so interested?”

She smiled at me, shaking her head. “No reason.”

No reason? For the past few weeks, since Louise had come to terms with the situation, she and Taylor had gotten along famously. Though he still spent most of his time with me, they occasionally went shopping together or out for ‘walks’. Not to mention the knowing looks they gave each other all the time. Apparently they thought I didn’t notice or something. I narrowed my eyes at her.

“You like him, don’t you?” I said.

“What?” She looked up at me, genuine confusion on her face.

“You heard me,” I said uncertainly. “You like him.” I picked at my fingernails. “Want me to put in a good word for you or something?”

Louise sighed loudly, throwing a shirt down. “Allison… sometimes I seriously wonder about you.”

“What?” I asked.

“Just nevermind.” She rolled her eyes and shooed me out of the room. “Go back downstairs.”

“No, tell me.” I planted myself on her bed.

“You are so hopelessly blind, Al. I don’t even know where to begin.”

She was confusing me more by the minute. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Hey, you two,” Taylor’s voice called up to us from the bottom of the stairs. “It’s ready.”

“OK,” I yelled back. I looked over at Louise. “Well?”

“Come on, let’s go eat. We can save this for another time.”

I protested. “But--”

“--another time,” she finished for me.

I sighed irritably. “Fine.” We headed downstairs together. “At least give me a hint. What’s this all about?”

Louise glanced back at me, her dark eyes shining. “Do you believe in fate?”

“Fate?” I repeated. “Like predestination? No.”

“Well, maybe you should. Taylor does.”

“What does that mean?”

“Figure it out,” she said as we entered the kitchen. “You’re supposed to be the smart one around here.”

“What took you two so long?” Taylor demanded. “I thought it was gonna get cold.” He motioned toward the large pan full of pasta
alfredo. My mouth watered with anticipation.

“My favorite,” I said with a grin as I sat down.

“I know.” He smiled back before sitting down next to me. He and Louise exchanged one of those ever-irritating glances. I ignored it and ate my pasta in silence.