“Come on,” Maria says, leaning against a music stand, sliding the roommate request form towards me. “Just go for it. What’s the worst they could do to us? Our college applications are out, our transcripts are printed. We’re both 18.”
“Point,” I admit, considering the form. For the moment we have the band-hall to ourselves. We’re two of the few people who come here during lunch after we finish eating. Much quieter than the cafeteria and much more private than the library. “You know they’ll never go for it though. Guy and a girl sharing a cabin? I feel like after the no-touching-good-behavior form we had to sign that’d be a stretch.”
She smiles, a trademark calculating smirk of hers that never fails to make my heart skip a beat. Then there’s those eyes. Bottomless chocolate brown wells framed by the black bangs of her pixie cut.
I shove those feelings down. I have a good friendship going with Maria, I’m not going to ruin it by turning bitter-nice-guy.
“That’s the thing,” she says, “I know for a fact there is an odd number of guys and girls going. Either they buy a whole extra cabin, or some guy and girl share. Might as well be us.”
Even if her latest scheme has me questioning if her interest is still platonic.
“Because the directors know we’re just friends?” I ask.
She nods, “Look, this conversation started because you admitted you ended up the awkward third wheel of your guy friends. They decided to room together and left you high and dry.”
“Bastards,” I agree.
“So,” she continues, “You might as well put my name down.”
I’m actually torn on whether I’d want this hair brained idea to work. Sure, odds are I’d get along with Maria better than whatever random schmuck I’ll end up with otherwise. Sure, there’s the enticement of sleeping in the same room as my extremely attractive female best friend, motivated by a mindless sex drive that is excited by the mere possibility something could happen.
That same excitement has me worried. I’d never forgive myself if I did something stupid.
Three nights is a long time to not do something stupid.
But it won’t work. Odd numbers of people or not, there’s no way. So, what’s the risk?
“Alright,” I say. “I’ll do it. Though you left out why you’re willing to throw away your chance to choose a roommate.”
Maria shrugs, “I’m in the same boat as you. Except the reason I can’t room with any of my friends is that they’re all swim team exclusives. They wouldn’t know where to fit in with this band nerd party even if they were invited.”
“Uh huh,” I say, ‘Which is only a problem because you can’t seem to get along with any of the hundred odd girls in the band program.”
She slugs me in the arm, but I’m smiling. At least half of our friendship is based on mutual teasing.
Maria frowns when I don’t even flinch, “I feel like hitting you has gotten less fun over the years.”
“I take harder shots than that at work all the time.”
She rolls her eyes, “Ah yes, Rick, the professional punching bag. They given you a raise yet? I would have thought a martial arts teaching assistant would get paid better.”
I shrug, “Anything that’s not food service is a win in my book. Not everyone can get paid to sit in a chair in a swim-suit all day.”
“You’re just jealous,” she teases, “Which is dumb. I’ve told you before, you could totally get a job as a lifeguard.”
“And I’ve told you before, I’m pretty sure you’re over-estimating how much a life-saving class at summer camp is worth.”
“Hmm,” she muses, “well, there’s a pool on the cruise ship, right? I’ll throw some kid into the deep end and we’ll see what you can do.”
She’s joking. Probably.
“Which reminds me,” she says, sliding into the chair next to me, “if we are going to be roommates, there’s something you should know.”
“I sleep in the nude.”
I give her a flat stare even as blood rushes to my cheeks, “You do not.”
She giggles, “Okay, fine, I don’t. But that blush is priceless.”
Such is life as Maria’s best friend.
At that moment the bell signaling the end of lunch does it’s best to give everyone in a mile radius a migraine.
Grateful for the excuse to point my blushing face elsewhere, I stand up and grab my backpack, “Everything about me is priceless.”
Maria snorts, “If you say so. Hey, Mr. Priceless, don’t forget your form.”
I swipe it up, “See you in macro-econ, nerd.”
The walk to my next class is perilous. I nearly collide with a half-dozen people as I turn my conversation with Maria over and over in my brain. We met around six months ago, the two of us unlucky seniors to move to this school last summer.
Coincidence of coincidences, we both play French Horn, so we spent a lot of time together getting the hang of a new school and a new marching band program.
We connected almost immediately, and it didn’t hurt on my end that she’s dangerously attractive. I asked her out pretty early on, after a couple late nights of texting. We went to a movie, got ice-cream, casino şirketleri did the talk in the car at her house afterwards for a solid hour. I asked if she’d want to go out again.
She said no.
She said she really hoped we could be friends though.
I swallowed my pride, said that would be dandy, and drove home without so much as a hug.
I never really got over the rejection, but I did learn to enjoy our friendship in spite of it. Her decision didn’t make sense to me, but I respected her enough as a person not to push. The teasing sometimes made our friendship frustrating, but I quickly decided I preferred being friends to nothing at all. Especially since, while I’d never admit it out loud, I love the attention.
Something about suggesting we sign up to share a room for seven nights, even if it probably wouldn’t work, felt like a crossed a line somewhere.
Or maybe it didn’t. Maybe all it means is she’s comfortable enough with me that for the teasing to stay entertaining she has to take it to another level. Which would be both heart-warming and frustrating.
Eventually departure day rolls around, though it would be more accurate to call it 2am-departure-crack-of-doom. We have eight hours of driving before we even get to the cruise ship. It’s something of a miracle I manage to park in the high school lot without running something over. At least the night air is cool.
The long lines of tour buses sit outside the band-hall, huge shadows illuminated only by their red tail lights, dozens of figures walking this way and that, storing suitcases and looking for friends.
I stagger into the band hall, still rubbing sleep from my eyes, dragging my suitcase behind me. Inside are dozens more students, milling about and gabbing. Between the noise and the bright lights, I’m already getting a headache.
The roommate assignments, and corresponding bus assignments are stapled up on the wall outside the directors’ offices.
By now I’m resigned to my fate. At least I’ll be sleeping most of the time I’m stuck with whatever rando I got assigned.
Hopefully they don’t snore. Or smell too bad.
Still half asleep I scan the lists, looking for the Gs.
Paired with a dash. Bus 3.
I blink, not comprehending.
Someone punches me in the arm.
“Maria,” I say, not bothering to look, “The hell does this mean?”
“Well,” she says, “turns out I was right about the odd numbers of guys and girls. And it turns out you were right about the directors not letting a guy and girl share a room-“
She punches me again, “Don’t get smart with me. The point is we both get our own rooms. And we’re seat-mates.”
That last bit sinks in like a hot rock dropped in a soup pot. My blood warms a few degrees and I’m not as interested in sleeping on the bus anymore.
Especially once I look over and see her too-small tank top with sports bra poking out at the edges and black short-shorts that show off almost the entirety of her bronze legs.
She smirks, “You in there, Rick?”
I groan inwardly, realizing I was staring. “Not fair. It’s too early. Sorry.” At least I wasn’t looking at her breasts.
“Mmhm,” she says. “Come on, Neanderthal.”
That would smart, except I find myself in agreement with her. I’ve got to get a hold of myself.
We retrieve our French Horns from the instrument lockers and put them on carts for the loading crew to put on the band truck, then make our way back outside to find our bus.
Inside the bus feels tight and claustrophobic. So many students pushing around, moving luggage, trying to get to their seats.
Before Maria can protest, I slip into the row of seats just behind the middle doors of the bus. Definitely so we’re close to an exit. Probably so we’re still a good distance from the chaperones sitting in the front.
“Window seat, ha!”
Maria scowls, but sits down next to me, sliding her bag under her chair, “You do realize you just conscripted yourself to be my head rest, right?”
It’s an old joke, one from numerous late-night bus rides back from football games. One that had never been followed through on.
I lean back, trying to get sense of how comfortable this seat will be six hours from now, “I’ll survive.”
An eternity later the buss finally starts moving and the lights dim. Maria pulls a blanket out of her bag and throws it over us.
Then she curls up on her seat, leaning her head against my shoulder.
That’s also new.
“Not a whole lot of cushioning on these bones,” she murmurs, “Would it kill you to eat a sandwich every now and again?”
The simple weight of her head on me, her nearness, sends a wave of want blossoming out from my chest.
I blame my lack of sleep.
One deep breath later I get out, “I’ll have you know I eat plenty of sandwiches.”
She sighs, “Look, this isn’t going to work. Scoot over. Turn your body and lean your right half against the window.”
Too casino firmaları curious to protest, I do as she instructs. Next thing I know she’s leaning back against my chest, her head under my chin.
Great. Now she can definitely hear my traitor heartbeat.
Maria pulls her blanket around, covering her neck and everything below my pecs. “Much better. You comfortable, big guy?”
I look out the window, trying to think about anything except for the heat of the girl next to me, the mango smell of her shampoo. “I’ll let you know if anything starts to fall asleep.”
“Excellent,” she says. “Wake me up when we get there.”
Which leaves me with no one to talk to. All around me the other band students either nod off or subsume into their headphones.
The first hour is not great. Under normal conditions I’d have fallen asleep immediately. Instead, my boxers have gotten much tighter. More than a little uncomfortable and not the best frame of mind for falling asleep.
I must fall asleep eventually though, because suddenly I come to, realizing my head has rolled and put my chin against my collarbone and my lips in Maria’s hair.
Also, one of her hands is resting halfway up my left thigh and my erection throbs with every heartbeat.
I’m wearing knee-length athletic shorts, but they’re loose. Loose enough that she’s pressed up the fabric and her palm is resting directly on my skin, her fingers five points of electric contact. Her blanket is still over us, blocking everything from view.
I lean back, getting my nose away from her hair so I can at least breath without being overwhelmed by her scent.
Maria sighs in her sleep, shifting her head against my chest.
I look around the bus, trying to see if anyone is watching us. It’s pitch black with only the occasional highway light.
I lean back and try to go back to sleep, but I can’t. Her hand shifts higher up my leg, maybe an inch from where my erection is trapped under my boxers.
My breath hitches, conflicting impulses storming in my brain. I’ve got to move her hand. Move it before I do something dumb. It doesn’t even occur to me she might have done this intentionally.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I reach around her with my left arm under the blanket.
Completely by accident my fingers graze her bare thigh.
She shifts against my chest, her hand catching mine and entwining our fingers, pressing it against the inside of her warm leg.
My mind goes blank, confusion and lust fighting to a stale mate. I don’t know what to do. I know what I want to do, but not what I should do. Our friendship aside, we could get in serious trouble with the school if we got caught doing this. Whatever it is exactly we are doing.
Her other hand slides up my leg the barest centimeter, pressing down the fabric of my boxers so it constricts my burning erection. She must be able to feel how close her hand is, feel the start of the bulge in the fabric.
“Maria,” I whisper, “you’re going to get us in trouble.”
“How so?” she whispers back, squeezing my hand, drawing it up her leg another inch.
I force a deep breath, “Because, I’m only human. If you keep teasing me like this, I might do something stupid.”
She turns her head towards me, bringing her lips closer to my ear, “What kind of stupid things might you do?”
My mouth goes dry.
“What if,” she continues, so quiet I almost can’t hear her, her warm breath sending a shiver over my ear, “I want you to do stupid things?”
My dick twitches in my shorts, straining against the fabric her hand has pressed down. My left hand squeezes hers back of its own volition, want seeping into everything, every part of my body screaming not to say anything else, to let the passion eating me alive take over. But I do:
“Then,” I breath, “I’d want to know what changed.”
Que instant mental kicking of myself. Forget long term emotional health, forget whatever game she’s playing, I want to pull her onto my lap and start ripping clothes off.
But I don’t. Even if we weren’t on a bus full of people, I care too much about our friendship to do something that rash. I have to make sure this isn’t some spur of the moment thing we are going to regret later.
Though if she moves her right hand any higher my self-control will probably vanish like ice dropped in boiling water.
For a minute she doesn’t say anything, the fingers of her right-hand tracing small circles on my leg, never quite touching my erection.
I realize I’m doing the same with my left, caressing the smooth skin of her inner thigh, feeling the cords of her muscles, inching the smallest bit higher.
“That’s fair,” she finally says, “there is a reason. But I’d rather tell you somewhere more private.”
The irony of her wanting more privacy to talk while her hand is less than a centimeter from my throbbing penis does not escape me.
“Tell you what,” she continues, “I’ll promise to tell you what changed güvenilir casino if you promise this isn’t it.”
“What isn’t it?”
“That we don’t stop here. That this, right now, isn’t it.” She squeezes my leg.
My vision swims red at her implication, “Alright. I’ll take that compromise.”
“Good,” she murmurs into my chest.
Around then the first glimmering rays of the rising sun peak through our window, shining on her glossy black hair. In that moment, Maria is so close and so beautiful I want to hold her and never let go.
Then she pulls away and it feels like something rips from my heart down to my balls. She settles into her seat, pulling the blanket away until only my lap is still covered.
Then she smiles her smirk, eyes dancing, mouthing something.
I shake my head, confused, “What?”
She mouths the sentence again, but I’m not any closer to understanding what she’s trying to say or why she won’t lean closer to whisper it.
When it’s clear I’m not following she rolls her eyes, and pulls out her phone, typing furiously.
My own phone buzzes. 1 new message.
Getting onto the cruise ship is an event.
Moving a couple hundred band nerds is never a smooth operation, and that’s without the couple thousand other passengers. It’s a lot of standing in lines and pulling luggage. During the whole thing it’s like there’s an itch all over my body, begging to touch Maria again. Hold her hand at the very least. Combine that with the creeping anxiety of being around so many people and I’m a tad irritable by the time I finally get on the ship.
The ship itself feels a lot like an upscale hotel. There’s a lot of wood paneling and polished brass, but the carpet is a multicolored swirling pattern, the kind obviously for making stains harder to notice.
My cabin is at the far end of a long hallway towards the back of the ship. All the cabins in this hall are occupied by pairs of band students, all guys. Except mine.
I unlock the door and push my way inside, dragging my suitcase behind me.
Not a lot space.
The cabin is maybe six feet across and twice that long, with a bunk bed set into the left-hand wall and a door to a bathroom on the right.
Not a lot of space, but even with my current sour mood I don’t feel like complaining. The school had to get a crazy good deal to make this trip even possible.
And I have the room to myself.
My thoughts turn to Maria. More specifically, what it would take to sneak her in here.
Just the thought sends a tightening sensation through my groin.
I swing my backpack off, trying to get control of myself. Just because Maria is suddenly interested doesn’t mean she’s that interested. It doesn’t mean we should risk getting caught in each other’s rooms.
Given that the tightening continues, I’m not really buying my own arguments.
Eager for a distraction I pull up the shade on the bottom to ceiling window on the far wall and discover to my delight that it is actually a sliding glass door.
“Score,” I breath, stepping out onto the small balcony. It’s not large, the small chair bolted to the deck takes up most of the space, but the immediate blast of spray and salt does a lot to cool both my arousal and irritability.
There are more small balconies to my left. Down the line a few other band guys step outside, checking out the view of the of the port.
My right-hand side is very different. It’s the back-right corner of the ship, with a wraparound balcony larger than my entire cabin. It occurs to me it wouldn’t be too difficult to get over to it. There’s a ledge a couple inches thick running between the balconies where two giant metal plates that make up the side of the ship meet, and there’s support beams beneath the balcony above that you could hang onto for balance. Probably a stupid idea for most people, it’s a least four stories down to the water, but I’ve done some parkour as part of my martial arts training. I could manage it if I wanted to. And get stuck outside the room of someone rich enough to afford that much space for my trouble.
“Hey, Rick!” a familiar voice calls.
“Maria?” I call, confused about where the voice is coming from.
I look up and see her head poking over the edge of the balcony directly above me, “Well, hello there.”
She grins, “Looks like they stuck both us lonesome folks at the end of our respective hallways. Want to meet up in the food court?”
“Sounds good-” I start to call out, but I’m cut off by a rather loud and annoying tone from a speaker in the roof of my cabin, followed by a crackly voice-
“Greetings passengers! On behalf of our captain, let me welcome you all aboard the Maiden of the Seas! We’ve just received word here on the command deck that the last passengers are aboard, and we have finished our resupply, so we’ll be casting off in the next few minutes. We welcome all passengers to join us on the weather deck to observe our departure. We also ask that everyone be ready for the mandatory emergency drill that we will conduct within twelve hours of leaving port. You can find instructions on a card on the inside of you cabin door. Please feel free to ask any of our crew for assistance if you have any questions.”