AnnMarie West. I’d sat in front of her for an entire semester and chick didn’t say two words to me. She didn’t say two words to anyone, though, if I recalled correctly, other than to her friend who sat next to her. Her friend called her AM, like the radio or the time. My first glance at AM last fall made me think that she’d look good in the morning with her hair spread out on my pillow and her long legs wrapped around my waist. AM’s hair looked like the color of a melted Hershey’s kiss, and, sitting close to her, I realized it smelled just about as good. Not chocolatey, though, but like a hard candy. Maybe lemon. It made me want to lick her neck to see how she’d taste.
I had winked at her once, to test out the temperature, but received a frightened glare in return. Or maybe it was a frozen look. Either way, it wasn’t an encouraging response. I wasn’t going to pursue someone who was afraid of me.
Over the course of the semester, though, her frightened look faded and sometimes I thought I caught a glimpse of interest. But if I’d smiled at her, she’d recoil. Frustrated, I gave up and went for the easier hookups.
But now she was in biology with me. What were the chances? It was like fate had dropped her in my lap and instinct told me I shouldn’t allow this chance to go by unwasted.
The female population had always been attentive to me, from old ladies to little babies and every age in between. The Randolph men were born with something that drew women in. Maybe “lured” was the better word, because we Randolphs rarely ended up being good for women. I tried to reduce the wreckage by limiting myself to women who were interested in short-term encounters. It meant that my liaisons were shallow, but no one got hurt. I should just leave AnnMarie alone. And I would’ve if she’d looked scared again, but fear wasn’t evident in any of her responses. Instead, she looked at me like I was a tasty treat and talked back like we were equals. I’m delicious, AnnMarie, take a bite.
Still juiced after a lackluster workout, I found myself pushing at her limits. It was the college version of dipping her pigtails into the inkwell or pushing her off the swing in hopes she’d chase me back.
AM spent this class, like the economics class of last semester, looking intently at the teacher, disregarding the TA’s attempts to catch her attention, and typing studiously into her laptop. I doodled on my paper and watched her the entire time. Her fingers flew over the keyboard, switching quickly between her IM chat screen and a note-taking application. There was a tiny muscle in her biceps that flexed when she clenched her fingers to release the tension built up through typing and from holding her body rigidly away from mine. I’d have offered to rub her tension away, but based on our earlier interaction, I guessed the offer wouldn’t be welcome.
I could hear the professor droning in the background but preferred reading AnnMarie’s recitation of the lecture.
Global disasters. Too far from anything interesting to die. Cells, molecules, plants. Disgusting lab things with THAT guy.
I know you’re watching me type but I’m not sharing my notes with you.
I snorted out loud. She had my number. And then I realized that the ball in the pit of my stomach that I hadn’t managed to work out this morning had dissolved. While watching AnnMarie, from sparring with her, even a little, I’d somehow, miraculously, calmed down. I closed my eyes and envisioned my failed fights this morning. Nope, still felt good.
At the end of class, AnnMarie pulled her phone out of her bag and set it on the table while she packed up her laptop and pen. Her phone lay forlornly on the side of the table, as if were waiting for me, so I seized the opportunity that had presented itself. Pressing the home button and accessing the dial pad, I entered my phone number and pressed send.
“What are you doing?” she asked, grabbing the phone out of my hands.
“You know, you should really use a passcode on your phone.” I chastised. “Anyone could use it.”
She looked at the screen. “What did you do?” Her voice rose, nearing the screechy, dog whistle octave.
“As your lab partner, I think we should exchange phone numbers.” I looked as placid and nonthreatening as possible, angling my body toward her but pulling my hands out of her space. She might bite my fingers off if they were too close to her mouth. I didn’t mind taking chances, but I wasn’t stupid. I also knew I needed to spend more time with her. If a man in a desert finds a pool of water, he doesn’t leave until he’s lapped that fucker dry.
“You could have asked me first,” she bit out.
“I could have, but you’d have said no.” My reasoned responses were only making her angrier, but she was trying to fight it back. She had a lot of control. I admired that. I possessed little myself. It was one of the many shitty things I inherited from my dad. Maybe biology would teach me how to excise the bad genes from the good ones. I think that’s what they teach in the molecular biology section.
“We can communicate via e-mail,” AnnMarie replied evenly. Her color was high, but she’d subdued the high notes in her voice.
In just fifty minutes, I’d learned several important things about AM. She had cute, tiny, girl muscles; she took great notes; she smelled good; and she had a great deal of self-control. And in no way was she afraid of me.
“Come on. No one uses e-mail but professors.” I nodded toward the front stage, which now held only an abandoned lectern and a desk. The good thing about us having this extended post-class discussion was that the aisles weren’t crowded and the TA had gotten fed up waiting for AnnMarie to break from the herd so he could inappropriately offer her private tutoring sessions.
“You look like you’re going to blow up. It’s a good thing class is over,” I added. Something perverse inside me wanted to needle her some more just to see how good her self-control really was.
Her eyebrows shot up, but instead of the expected high-pitched yelp, her voice got lower. “Oh my God,” she said in clipped, low tones. “It’s a good thing there are still people in here because, I swear, if we were alone, I would stab you through the eye with a pen.”
“You know, a lot of people say that they’d do those things, but I’ve found few can actually follow through.” I tried for contemplative but could feel my facial muscles moving into a grin, and probably an unrepentant one at that, because the more she talked, the more interested I became. She was actually turning me on. I might have to sit in the chair for a few minutes before I could walk out.
“Don’t test me,” she replied coolly, now completely in control, as if a moment ago she hadn’t threatened me with bodily harm. “You’re deliberately goading me, and I don’t understand why.”
I didn’t think “because it turns me on” was a good response. She was right, though; I was deliberately goading her and I felt a tiny twinge of guilt at using her to make myself feel better. But it was so small that I squashed it without remorse.
“Boundaries. Girls are always putting up boundaries.” I sighed dramatically.
“I can’t believe you’re my lab partner. Would you just stand up and let me out.” She threw her backpack over her shoulder and gestured for me to move, but I couldn’t. I had a little wood in my pants and I needed her to be about fifteen degrees less cute in order for me to be able to obey her commands.
“I’m feeling kind of hungry. Are you hungry?” I stalled for time.
“You have got to be kidding. Do you dye your hair? Has too much peroxide use damaged your brain function?” She shook her head. I was blond, and unlike many a fair-haired lass I’d spent time with, mine was all natural.
“So that’s a no? I couldn’t tell because I didn’t hear a no in those words.”
“Yeah, that’s a no,” she hissed at me. Then she leapt onto the table like a puma, jumped down, and hustled out of the classroom. My eyes followed her jean-clad ass all the way up the stairs and out of the classroom.
Pulling out my phone, I looked down at her number and tapped a button to add her as a contact. I thought I’d found a good way to spend my time before Thursday. Helping AnnMarie learn how to say “yes.”