UPSETTING THE EQUILIBRIUM

The apartment below the girls’ had been empty since the semester began.  Tina and LuAnn never gave it a second thought.  They completed their school work, participated in the social rituals of college life, watched their shows and, in general, enjoyed each other’s company.   Both girls were attractive, but in different ways.  Tina was tall and thin and had a luminous smile.  LuAnn was curvier, with curly hair and a mischievous twinkle in her expression.   Each girl garnered plenty of male attention, and occasionally conferred “benefits” on mere friends, but neither had a steady boyfriend.

The lack of a constant male presence was probably what secured Tina and LuAnn as long-term roommates.  This was their third year together.  There was no issue of rivalry or loneliness as often arises among girlfriends when one pairs off.  There was no issue of having a third person waking up regularly in the apartment.  When someone did stay over, as soon as he left, Tina and LuAnn usually broke into giggles.

“College boys are such babies,” said one.

“We run circles around them,” said the other.

“I can’t wait until we’re in the working world and find some real men.”

“That’s for sure!   Guys who make real money and drive nice cars.”

This situation prevailed until the day his presence was announced downstairs by the un-muffled sound of his pick-up truck.  The girls raced to the window to see what was causing the commotion.  Wafting cigarette smoke before him, a roughly handsome, highly tattooed, sandy-haired behemoth emerged from the cab holding a key to the downstairs apartment.   He tossed an empty beer can into the back of the truck as a sort of exclamation point to his arrival.  It clattered to a stop among several others.  His gas station attendant/landscaper charm fascinated the college girls like cat-nip piques the interest of a tabby, though they would not admit it.

“Ewwww,” said Tina.  “He’s disgusting.”

“What a loooooser,” said LuAnn.

Within a week or so, Tina needed some help with her bicycle pump.  She wandered downstairs.
“His name’s Jack,” she reported upon her return, moments later.  “He seems nice enough, but pretty dumb.”

“Really?” said LuAnn, feigning disinterest.  “I thought he’d be ‘Spike’ or ‘Rocky’ or something.”

“Well,” said Tina. “He looks strong enough to lift a car, so his name is about right.”

The girls snickered at her joke.  A few days later, when Tina was not home, LuAnn found herself in need of a ride to class.  Jack helped out.  Over the weekend, Tina purchased a new bikini and, while modeling it for LuAnn, found that she needed to walk down to her car to get something from the back seat.   Later that same day, LuAnn decided that someone besides Tina should try out her brownies before she brought them to a party.

“Did you see what Jack’s wearing today?” LuAnn asked, upon her return, appalled.

“Sure did,” said Tina.  “That tee shirt is four sizes too small.  It must be from when he was in seventh grade.”  She shook her head in disapproval, and added:  “That’s probably the last grade he completed.”

The girls laughed aloud together, eying each other carefully.

The following week, Tina barged into the apartment, outraged.  “His damned truck is taking up half of my space again!”

LuAnn glanced out the window.  “There’s still plenty of room,” she said.

Ignoring her, Tina declared:  “I’m going to go down and tell him off.”

LuAnn jumped to attention:  “Don’t do that.  He’ll get angry.”

Tina continued towards the door.  Radiating concern, LuAnn changed tracks:  “I’ll come with you.”

“That’s okay,” said, Tina, flying out the door and down the steps.  She called out over her shoulder:  “I’ll handle it myself.”

Tina was not back after fifteen minutes.  After twenty minutes, LuAnn sent a text.  There was no response.  LuAnn paced back and forth.  She strained to hear any sounds from below, but could not.  After thirty minutes, LuAnn called.  Still no answer.   LuAnn was deeply concerned.  She did not know what exactly she feared, but she convinced herself that it was necessary to rescue her roommate, her friend.   She virtually ran out the door and down the steps.  Emerging from the apartment at that moment, flushed with exertion, was Tina.  Her hair was mussed, her clothing askew.  She was smiling broadly.

“Are you okay?” asked LuAnn.  “You didn’t answer your phone.”

“Oh,” said Tina, blushing.  “My phone must be on vibrate.  I didn’t hear a thing.  Anyway,” she continued, “Jack and I are going to the beach.”

Behind her, Jack emerged, a cigarette dangling from his lips.  He smiled shyly.

“You and Jack?” sputtered LuAnn.

“Yes,” said Tina, nonchalant.  “Do you want to come?”

LuAnn sat stonily in the back seat of the truck while Jack and Tina snuggled up front.  A flood of emotions coursed through her mind ranging from shock and humiliation to remorse and recrimination, and back again.  To think, just the night before, she and Tina were speculating about their weddings and how they would be each other’s maid of honor.   Now, she was deciding if she would tell Tina she was defriending her on Facebook or just let her find out herself.

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