Home > Damaged (Damaged #1)(10)

Damaged (Damaged #1)(10)
Author: H.M. Ward

Marshal is oblivious to relationship stuff. He never notices anything, otherwise it would worry me. He walks into the room and shoves two stacks of papers into the bookcase. “These are the two graduate classes that I teach. The rest are yours. I have to go get the other stacks. Be right back.” Marshal turns and leaves, not realizing that he interrupted anything.

I glance at the clock. It’s close to 8:00am. “I better get downstairs.”

“Go ahead,” Peter says, his voice too soft. “I’ll meet you there in a few minutes.”

I nod and grab my bag. I leave the room as quickly as possible. I don’t look back at Peter, but I feel his eyes on me as I walk away. Thoughts tumble through my brain like they’re falling down a flight of stairs. They just keep coming and I can’t make them stop. There’s no way I can deny how I feel about Peter, but there’s no way in hell I’m ever going to say anything. Getting rejected once is enough for me.

I walk down to the classroom, and then turn on the computers and other technology that is needed for the lesson. Everything comes online and flares to life, except for the microphone at the podium. I tap it, but it’s dead. Damn it. There’s a wire that runs through the bottom of the wood and goes into a port in the floor. I lie on my side and try to tuck my head under the podium into the tiny space between the wood and the floor. I wiggle my head under and see the socket. Reaching underneath, I fish my hand through cobwebs and dust hoping to God that a mutant rat from the science lab doesn’t suddenly appear and gnaw off my arm.

“You okay?” I hear Peter ask from above me. I didn’t realize he was standing there.

I don’t pull my head out to look at him. My fingers are so close to the wire. “I’m fine. The mic is out. I’m fixing the wire. One second.” I’m at an award angle, but I manage to get my fingers on the plug and push it back into the socket. The speakers make a hideous, deafeningly loud noise, and I hear everyone in the room moan in response. When I wiggle back out, Peter is standing above me with his hands over his ears.

“Weenie,” I say to him. I know he’s too close to the mic to say anything back.

Peter offers his hand and pulls me up. I dust myself off, trying to ignore how much I like the feel of his hands. A nervous jolt of excitement fills my body. Peter’s gaze rests on my figure as I walk back to my seat. I don’t turn back. It’s everything I can do to act as though I don’t know and don’t care that he’s looking.

It’s then that one of the guys in the first row starts clapping. He woos! and says, “Let’s hear it for the techie TA!” He claps loudly and everyone follows his lead. A crooked grin forms on my lips as I lean forward and look at him like he’s crazy. The guy holds his hands up and claps louder and gestures for me to stand. Shaking my head, I stand and bow, smiling as I wave to the class.

The guy—Mark—watches me until I sit down. I nod at him and he smiles back, beaming. He’s a year younger than me, and relationships are usually so far from my mind that I never noticed him before. Between the two, I suppose it was difficult for him to catch my attention. Mark’s grin is contagious. I lean back in my seat, smiling, and look up at the podium, when I see Peter’s face. His eyes are hard and the usual easy-going smile isn’t visible. The look slips away before I can blink. Mark didn’t notice. Hell, I’m not sure if I noticed it. What the hell was that?

Peter starts his lesson, and by the end of it, everyone is back in the groove of things. I wonder how long it will take for them to transition from Dr. Tadwick to Peter. They have different styles of teaching. I know from not only sitting in here, but because Peter is the professor in my once a week night class. , The thought makes me feel all twisted inside. When I reign in my drifting mind, Peter is dismissing the class. I stand and gather my things.

Peter walks over to me. “Thanks for taking care of the microphone. You saved me from a very sore throat. Talking loud enough for the entire room to hear all day would have severely sucked.”

“Well, that’s what I’m here for, to save the world from suckage.” I give him a half smile and start to walk toward the side door.

“Can you do 7:00am for one more day? After that, we should be caught up.” Peter’s eyes slip over my face as he asks, more gently this time than yesterday.

I nod, acting as though I don’t care, acting like it’s a job and nothing more. “Sure. See you then.


Millie is sitting on her bed, sorting through photocopies of reference books from the library. She’s been working on a term paper for the past few days. The abs of steel night was when she decided to take a break. You don’t want to be around Millie when she takes a break.

“Hey,” I say, walking in and sitting on the bed opposite her after my classes are done. Our room is decorated with the things Millie enjoys. Since she has more money than me, and I had no intention of decorating it, I let her. Everything is yellow and blue.

After our fallout the other day, I felt bad. I’m sure I was out of sorts. We patched things up later that night. My ego is still bruised, but I’m glad we’re not fighting anymore. She’s my best friend.

“Hey Sid,” she says back, not bothering to look up. Her fingers are racing across the paper, her eyes scanning the information. The bitch has a photographic memory. I’m super jealous. When she finishes, she looks up at me and smiles.

It feels like I fell off a cliff. “I know that look. What’d you do?” I ask her, as I yank my shoes off my feet.

“Nothing devious. Damn, Sidney. Can’t a girl do something nice and smile about it?”

“Maybe, but your little brain doesn’t work that way. Besides, I’ve seen that look enough times to know to run the other way when you give it to me, so let me make this easy on you. Whatever you did—whatever you were going to ask—the answer is no. Hell no. No way.” I flop back on my bed and stare at the ceiling.

Today was long. The 7:00am start makes it feel later than it is. I still have homework and need to grab dinner. It’s already getting late.

“But, Sidney, you didn’t even hear what it is. I know you’ll love it.”

“You always say that.”

“And you always love it.”

“No, I don’t. I’m just being polite.”

Millie snort laughs, because that’s a big fat lie. Polite comments and bluntness are two qualities that cannot coexist. I favor blunt. She knows. “As if that were possible.” She throws her head back and makes a whiny sound. “Please, please, please, please…”

I glance at her. “Are you serious?” Millie clasps her hands together under her chin and is still chanting please, please, please. “Are you going to stop?” She shakes her head and continues pleading. “At least tell me what it is.”

“Swing dance club. Please, please, please, please, please…” and she keeps on begging me and batting her huge eyes. Maybe that works on Brent, but I could care less.

“No,” I say, and pull my arm over my face. She doesn’t stop. I laugh at her and say, “Are you going to keep doing that?”

“Yes. Please, please, please…”

I love dancing, especially swing dancing. Between the music, the clothes, and the movement, I love it. There are few things that I can lose myself in. While I don’t get modern club dances, which look like people spasming, I do enjoy the old dances. There are moves, steps, and rhythms to get lost in. It takes skill, and when you find the right partner, it’s close to perfect. I haven’t danced in a long time, not since I left New Jersey.

Millie is still pleading. I let her whine for a few more minutes and then cave. “Fine, but you owe me.”

“You always say that.”

“Yeah, well, you owe me a ton.” She laughs and bounces up and down on her bed. “Where the hell did you find a swing dance club down here? I thought just about everything was country.”

Millie’s eyes slowly drift to the side. I sit up and prop myself onto my elbows and stare her down. She explains, “It’s not that kind of club.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s a club the school started. The student organization was trying to get it going last year, before the holidays, but we couldn’t get a teacher to sponsor us. Well, they finally found someone. And it starts tonight!” She claps her hands like she’s three and beams at me.

Oh my God, this is going to be lame. “A school club?” She nods. “Like chess team?”

“Like the awesome new swing dance club!” Millie is obviously excited.

I’m sorry that I said yes. A class full of newbs means I won’t get to dance much. We’ll be lucky to get past the basics.

Millie jumps up and runs across the room. “I found this dress at the mall. I can’t believe it.” She grabs a red dress from her closet and pulls it out. The bodice is fitted and it has a full circle skirt. It is perfect. “Now, I have to find saddle shoes!”

“T-straps would look cool with that too.” I can’t help it. I’m drooling. Millie hands me the dress, so I can admire it. Awh, crap. She’s sucking me in and I’m letting her. I glance up at her. “You’re evil, you know that right?”

Millie beams at me and nods, “You’re not going to regret this, Sidney. It’s going to be so much fun!”


Millie is wearing her new dress with a pair of heels. I’m wearing a black skirt and white blouse. It’s boring, but it’s the only thing I have that even comes close to swing clothes. The silky fabric swishes next to my thighs as we walk. The club was given use of the old gym. Old is literal. The gymnasium was constructed in 1919. It has no air conditioning, which is an issue in the heat. But Swing Dance Club is pretty low on the roster, in terms of getting a good room to use, so we were banished to sweat it out in the oldest building on campus. The façade is all brick and the inside smells of moldy socks.

Millie pulls open the door, and we walk through the darkened halls and find the gym. It’s much smaller than the new one. We go inside and see Brent. Millie runs over to him and throws her arms around his neck. He holds her tightly and spins her around. Her red skirt twirls as he does it and Millie laughs. I smile at them. She seems happy, which makes me happy. Despite Millie’s shortcomings, she’s a good friend.

I walk over when Brent puts her down. The club isn’t very big. There are less than a dozen kids standing around. From the looks of it, most of them are girls that like the idea of dressing up and dancing. The guys tagged along hoping to get lucky for being such good sports. Guys can be so dumb. Dancing, especially this kind of dancing, is a chance to get close to a girl. He can feel her whole body against his and it’s expected. Dancing is hot and heavy, all hands with racing hearts and ragged breathes.

As I’m thinking these thoughts, I start to feel goose bumps come up on my arms. I ignore the sensation, thinking about being held in someone’s arms and wish that I had someone that I wanted to hold…someone besides Peter. That’s when things get interesting.

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