"Well, that was an...interesting meal." Kevin wondered how much weight he'd lose this semester. Fortunately, he decided he liked Scott and the three had managed to keep conversation going well enough to keep his mind off the 'meatloaf.'
"Don't sweat it, desserts aren't bad 'round here." Scott smirked at Tony, who had chosen to make half a meal out of brownies and ice cream. "Want some dessert, big guy?" he joked.
"Sure!" he said cheerfully. Scott's eyes widened. "Kidding, kidding, I'm fine, thanks."
Kevin added, "None for me. My stomach's going on strike as it is." The iguana headed for the dessert bar.
Kevin's eyes were drawn to a table that was suddenly in clear view with Scott's face out of the way. Two attractive girls, one equinine, one canine, also seemed to be discussing the dubious merits of the comestibles. He stared harder. Perhaps this dorm wouldn't be so bad after all! He hated to think what this awful dorm food would to the horse's admirable figure...
Tony followed his friend's gaze to the table, suddenly finding himself transfixed by the horse. He tried not to watch, but he couldn't help it. Don't bother, she'll never be interested in you, an inner voice told him. He managed to avert his eyes.
"Hey, Tony, check out those girls over there."
"I saw them," the bull grunted bluntly.
"Yeah, but did you notice the one on the left givin' you the ol' once-over? Hubba-hubba!"
Tony cringed. He'd spent all but the last two years of his life grossly overweight--desserts always appealed too much to him--and he'd worked all the fat off and then some by taking up weightlifting. After being labeled the fat kid for so long, he didn't like being stared at now. And he still felt like a freak, only now the bulk of his gut had shifted up to his chest. "Yeah, well..."
The cat urged, "Go on, go over and talk to her."
"Yeah, right, what makes you think a cute girl like that isn't already going out with someone?"
"She's probably a freakin' freshman, had to dump her high-school boyfriend when she moved up here and now is on the rebound. Go for it!"
"No!" He knew Kevin was only trying to help, in the cat's own frank way, but he wasn't going to go along, not this time.
"C'mon, please? At least then she can introduce me to her friend..."
"Well, I saw you lookin'. You're interested."
Tony rubbed his forehead. "It's nothing."
If cajoling wouldn't work, maybe teasing would. "You want her so bad you can taste it."
"What're you two up to?" Scott grinned, seeming to appear out of nowhere, munching a cookie.
"NOTHING!!!" Tony's reply, heightened by surprise, garnered more than a few stares from the others in the cafeteria. He clamped a hand over his mouth.
Scott chuckled. "Checkin' out Miss Blonde-and-Legs-Up-To-Here, huh? Bet you're gonna see lots more of her in the future."
M-more of her? Oh, gosh, he'd been caught leering at her. Tony clambered to his feet, knocking his chair over in the process. He swept up his tray, much chagrined...stares, stares everywhere. "Whoops, gotta go unpack now, thanks for having lunch with us, Scott, see you 'round." He left almost as quickly as Mike had.
The reptile look justifiably confused. "What did I say? I just meant that those girls live on our floor--I think they're next door to you two."
That was news to Kevin. In Tony's book, that was almost as frightening. "Nothing. He probably just got indigestion and needs to get to a restroom. I'll see you later, okay?" He trailed after Tony, shaking his head. He'd let Tony find that out on his own...
Kevin managed to catch up with his friend outside their room. "You're hopeless, you know that?"
"The worst she can say is 'no,' right?"
"Look, I've heard them say no before, it's not the end of the world. Heck, I've heard it plenty of times, and I--wait, that didn't come out right." The cat paused. "Scratch that, what I mean is you've gotta at least consider it..."
Tony toyed listlessly with the uncooperative lock. "Sure. In about four years."
"But we'll have graduated by then, you know--oh. I get it. Jeez..."
"If you'll just...actually, if you'll just help me with this door..." He tugged harder, and finally the bolt clicked. He swung the door open, but it opened only halfway before halting with a bang. "How old is this dorm, anyway?" He shoved the door harder.
Kevin tried to speak...that bang sounded much like an individual on the other side of a door, not a stuck hinge. "Um..."
"No, I got it." Wham, wham, wham!
"Um..." Ooh, that had to smart.
"There!" The door opened all the way. Tony noticed a figure prone on the floor. "Hey, he must be our new roommate. Not the enthusiastic sort, it seems."
"I...think he's out cold."
"Oh. Oh! What happened?" Tony rushed to the guy's side.
"Look on the bright side. Maybe he *will* be one of those roommates who will never be around to do anything but sleep. We won't ever have to see much of him again." Kevin grimaced as he looked at the unconscious hawk, slung over Tony's shoulder. "Just as soon as we take him to the nurse..."
Minutes later, Tony fidgeted anxiously in the nurse's office. "It's not your fault," Kevin tried to reassure him.
The bull didn't respond, as the nurse reappeared at that moment. He jumped to his feet and rushed up to her. "Is he okay?"
She fixed him with a leveled...pitying?...gaze. "He's feeling 'fine' now, shall we say."
From the back room, a harsh voice barked with a Texan drawl, "Where is he? When I get my hands on him..."
She continued, "He's no worse for wear, no harm done, really..."
Tony listened to the trail of curses emitting from the door. "Can I have that statement in writing?"
The nurse tried to smile. "He'll be a bit cranky for awhile, but he'll be back to normal in no time."
"Cranky? Normal? Which is which?"
She opened her mouth, then changed her mind and hastened off, like a villiager running from the oncoming lava flow of a volcano.
Tony tried to stand firm as heavy footsteps approached, and the door swung open. The hawk indeed looked more lively. Livid was more like it. And he looked much tougher than he did while slumped on the floor...
"Which one of you neanderthals whacked me with the door?" His glance swung back and forth between the huge Tony and the undersized Kevin, and corrected himself under his breath, "Silly question."
"Hey!" Kevin said.
"Um....ah..." the bull began meekly. "Sorry if I didnt make the best first impression..."
"Looks like you made quite an impression on his beak," Kevin tried to lighten the situation. He was instead silenced by narrowed-eyed stares. "Kidding, kidding. Nevermind..." Then it hit him. "Hey, YOU'RE the temperamental guy we were warned about by...urgh, I wasn't supposed to say that, was I?"
Groan... "Does the word 'tact' mean anything to you?" Tony mumbled.
Kevin could almost feel the guy's stare burning a hole through his skull. "Heh..." he said.
The bird, whose name was revealed as Brad, stalked up the hall, his roommates trailing behind him discreetly.
"We're off to a good start, aren't we?" Kevin grumped. "A guy you can talk to, have dinner with, don't I seem to recall someone saying that?"
"So we didn't get on the right foot. So what? We'll be together for a year, we have to make the best of it. Let's try and cheer him up. Make conversation."
Tony tried to sound cheerful and called out, "So, uh...what's your major?"
"Law," was the terse response.
Kevin brightened. "Really? Did you hear the one about the lawyer who walked into a door, and sued the...ouch, oh, wait--"
Tony smote his forehead.
"Well, you SAID cheer him up."
Tony wondered if he'd have to make another visit to that nurse again, very soon...
Nonetheless, Brad seemed to relax somewhat in the silent walk back to the room. As he got to the door, he produced his key, and said, "The door opens best if you jiggle the key to the left first...see?" Click.
The bull felt the tension diffusing. "Okay, great, thanks."
With some difficulty, the hawk attempted to sound sociable. "So, I take it you two know each other?"
"Oh yeah, Kevin and I go back a long time...Kevin? Where'd he--"
The cat reappeared, a satisfied look on his face. "Scott's right, Mike IS fun to startle."
Tony sighed deeply. "Well, it's sure felt like a long time."
Brad rubbed his chin. "I see..."
"Hmm?" Kevin said.
A soft knock came at the door. "Excuse me..." A soft voice, light British tones.
"Come in!" Then Tony tensed up as the pretty horse from the cafeteria turned out to be the owner of the voice.
"I was just wondering if I could ask one of you a favor. We just need a little help moving the furniture. .."
"Nope, I've got a headache," Brad said.
Kevin stared at Tony, who was trying to appear inconspicuous. He strolled over and slapped his friend on the back. "Well, we seem to have a healthy-looking specimen here. Why don't you go and help out, pal?"
"I...uh...I have an...um...gastrointestinal problem...from the cafeteria..." Gee, not bad, that excuse wasn't far off the bat, either.
Kevin rolled his yes. Yeah. Gastrointestinal problem, all right; Tony had no guts. "Fine," he said in a martyred tone, placing the back of one hand against his forehead. "I'll go...even though I may get a hernia and be crippled for life, I'll..."
"Okay, okay," Tony sighed. He tried to smile at the girl winningly. "Shall we?"
She smiled very warmly at him. "Yes, let's..."
"You're Anthony, aren't you?"
Mind racing, Tony was yanked back to reality. She had a really nice tush. "Huh?"
"Well, everyone's names are posted on their dorm door this week. Durham's a bovine name. Are you Anthony Durham...?"
Anthony, Anthony...? Who was that? Oh, yes, that was him. But nobody called him that. Not really, anyway. The name annoyed him somehow. He remembered that nickname given to him when he was the neighborhood fat kid and...oh, she asked him a question, didn't she? He found himself nodding. Yes, Anthony.
"Right." She sounded pleased to have guessed correctly. "I'm Cindy, by the way."
Talk. Reply. C'mon. "Yeah. Cindy. Okay." Coherently! "Nice to meet you." Gosh, he sounded like an idiot.
She led him through their door. "Lisa, Anthony's going to help us move."
The auburn-haired canine, her companion from the cafeteria, turned out to be her roommate. She bounced to her feet. "Hi there!" she greeted him. "Thanks a million. We got the dressers and desks moved, but just we wanted the beds bunked to conserve space." She surveyed him, then winked mischeiviously at her roommate. "He's cute. You chose wisely, Cindy-san."
"Well, he is." She winked at him, too. "Almost as cute as that kangaroo down the hall..."
Tony shook his head. The canine was going to be quite a handful, he could tell. But she'd probably be easy to impress. He still hadn't acquired sufficient control of his tongue to bother making any conversation, so, in desperation, he was hoping he could resort to the one thing that seemed to get attention from the women even though he never purposedly used it to his advantage; his strength. He'd just lift that bed into place, and hopefully he'd gain enough confidence in that to untie his tongue. Yes, Cindy would be pleased to see him do it all by herself, and--
Cindy was also shaking her head. Then with a creak, she lifted one side of the bed. "Ready?"
He seemed to be doing a lot of gawking today. She raised the bed effortlessly; those (shapely) legs of hers had some serious power. This was not a woman to mess with...and so much for his plan. Oh well. He obligingly lifted his side of the bed. "Sure thing." The two easily lifted the bed into position.
"Now, let me get this lined up..." Cindy moved over to his side. She bent over, concentrating on aligning the posts. He was, however, distracted as he could feel her pressing gently against his side, though she did not appear to notice. She backed into him further. "Um, could you move it up a bit more, please? To the right...that's good, almost there....wait a second." She frowned. "It doesn't fit."
"You're kidding," he said. And he only just stopped himself from saying, Wow...that perfume!
"I wish I was. These useless old beds. I can't get the posts to match up."
Tony looked over. "Well, if I tried bending the right post out a bit, that should do it."
She smiled...he almost dropped the bed at the show of pearly whites. "Try it."
"That's it," she said, once again trying to line the bedposts up. Maybe he'd have a chance to impress her after all. He wasn't used to showing off, but provided it came naturally..."A bit more..."
Meanwhile, Lisa watched happily. "My, you work out, don't you?" She lightly squeezed one of his huge upper arms. He wished Cindy would pay him the same attention. "And where is the fat on this boy? Goodness. And lookit his--" She playfully pinched him in the butt.
The pinch justifiably startled Tony out of his wits. He yelled and jumped reflexively, and there was the creaking of strained metal. Cindy only just jumped out of the way as the bed crashed down. It popped precisely into position, but he jumped so hard he yanked one of the metal bars off the side.
"Sorry about that." Lisa observed the broken rod. "Whoooooaaa. Can you bend bars with your teeth?"
He ignored her and helped Cindy to her feet. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, thanks."
Tony was mortified. He'd broken a bed and nearly impaled one of his floormates in the process. What a day. He stuttered, "Sorry about this. Tell Danielle it's my fault." He thrust the loose bar into Lisa's hands and scurried out of the room.
"Shy type, isn't he? How sweet." Lisa smiled, not noticing Cindy staring hard at the retreating taurine...
From in his room, Tony heard an argument all the way in the hall. Brad's voice seemed to say, "Your momma's so ugly her blind dates are told about her great personality!"
Kevin retorted, "Your momma's so dumb she thinks Weight Watchers is a Roseanne fan club!"
From one headache to another. If he hadn't wanted to get out of sight so fast, he'd have waited outside before plunging in. Given Kevin's mischeivous streak, he knew he shouldn't have left the two of them alone in the room, they'd rip each other's throats out at this rate.
Switching gears quickly, Kevin smirked at his roommate and said, "That was quick. So, did you ask her out yet?" If looks could kill... "What happened?" He supposed it would be in bad taste to ask if Tony had put in a good word for him with Cindy's friend...
"Please don't ask."
"Your momma's so stupid she takes Reynold's to a rap concert!"
"Hey, hey, time out!" Kevin protested. "Come on, Tony, it can't be that bad..."
Cindy appeared at the door. "Oh, there you are! You ran out so fast, we didn't get a chance to show you the bar wasn't broken--it just fits right back on, good as new. And thanks very much for your trouble, Anthony." She smiled at him again.
Kevin had to elbow his friend.
"Y-you're welcome..." What was her name again??? "...Cindy. And say hi to Lisa, too."
"I will." She left, taking her million-dollar smile with her.
"Anthony?" Kevin said increduously. "'Anthony?'"
"NOBODY calls you Anthony."
Hands in pockets, he said, "Well..."
"Your great-aunt Gertrude doesn't even call you Anthony!"
"So what's your point?"
"You really like her, don't you?"
Caught off-guard, Tony fell silent. This was shaping up to be a strange year.
"Did I miss something?" Brad inquired.
Nobody answered. Kevin pondered. If Tony couldn't even tell her his correct name, he'd never be able to tell her anything else. "Look, you're going to have to see her almost everyday. If you can get used to that thought, surely you can ask her one simple question. Check that, you will be able to ask her."
The bull suddenly found the floor to be very interesting. "Maybe, maybe not."
"That sounds like a challenge to me." He watched his bud tune out and continue to analyze the carpeting. Oh, was he ever going to have to work on this. But hey, he had all semester for it!