Chapter One

Chapter One
Perhaps We Should Consider a Change

Our story begins in a seemingly crowded apartment in the morning hours of a chilly January day. Unfortunately, even though our trusted characters are not morning people, our tale must be born.

An exasperated squeal in front of the only bathroom marks the birth of this wacky brainchild.

“CHRISTOPHER PARKER, GET THE FUCK OUT OF THAT SHOWER RIGHT THIS FUCKING INSTANT!” Samantha Dunne shouted at the top of her lungs, not caring if she awakened any of the neighbors. The only response she got was the hissing of the water from the shower head and Chris’s absurdly warbled and weak rendition of “That Lady.” A kick upon the door caused the hissing to cease. A short while later, Chris Parker appeared behind the half-open door, looking mockingly sheepish. Oh, if Samantha had been any madder, that towel around his lower body would be gone…

“Was there something you wanted, love?” he inquired in his otherwise charming British accent. At this moment, it only infuriated Samantha more. She just rolled her eyes and pushed him out of her way.

Before Chris could protest, the door slammed in his face.

Another door opened nearby, and Gretchen Thomas stuck her messy raven head out the door. She, too, didn’t look too happy about the noise. Chris just smiled at her and quickly disappeared into his bedroom before she could maim him.

Meanwhile, Gretchen groaned and trudged down the hall to the kitchen for an infusion of caffeine. It was still too early in the morning for her. She had graduated from high school the previous month and promptly decided that she was not going to college. It was a two-part decision, one part based on the reality that she had no use in college and the second based on the fact that she got so damned tired going to class. So she, in the interim, taught dance classes at the Sakura Art Center nearby, where most of her pupils could not read yet or were too old to read clearly.

Samantha, meanwhile, was in her third semester at Kaminari University where she only planned to get an associate degree in bookkeeping. Gretchen usually made fun of her for this but Samantha called her an uneducated high-school dropout and left it at that. It was all done in a joking manner, however, considering that Gretchen’s sisters were all geniuses (or so they said) and Gretchen was dubbed one by association, so none of them felt too bad about the good-natured raillery.

Gretchen found some coffee in the pantry and opted to brew some for her roommates. The smell rejuvenated her. The previous night’s sleep had been filled with bad dreams. Since Christmas had passed and the New Year had come, she felt unsettled. She figured that had been because Thanksgiving, the holiday that seemed to usher in the holiday season, had ended quite horribly. She glanced at the calendar on the side of the refrigerator. January 24th was circled ominously in red. She tore her eyes from it because she knew that she would think about her dear, misfortunate older sister—

“Heya Twinkle Toes!” Chris, now clad in jeans and a T-shirt, exclaimed as he clamored into the kitchen, breaking Gretchen from her thoughts. She blinked and shook her head.

“Sorry. ‘Morning Chris,” she greeted him, turning to the coffee maker so he couldn’t see her face. They had been pretty open about Gretchen’s family problems, but she didn’t feel like rehashing it out loud. She didn’t want to talk about it with Chris—at least not yet.

Chris, who ignored her despondency or, if he did notice, he pretended as if he didn’t, went to the refrigerator and extracted the butter, eggs, bacon, and bread. “I’m making something for breakfast. You want anything?”

Gretchen shook her head. “Nah. I’ll be okay.”

Chris smirked and pinched her side, which was very hard to do. “You need some fat on you, love,” he told her, trying not to tell her that she was a little too slender. “You would think that this time of year that everyone would be splitting their seams.”

Gretchen inhaled sharply and poured coffee into a mug that proclaimed, I’ve Got Ballet in My Blood! “I didn’t feel much like eating,” she told him.

Chris frowned. “But I thought your great-grandmother and your grandmother were—”

“It wasn’t very fun with them around,” Gretchen interrupted. She tried to smile, to make it a joke. “Besides, they’re both over fifty. How much fun can two old Catholic grannies be?”

“Not very fun, I suppose. But then again, what do I know about grandmothers? Mine hates me, I think.”

“Well, she doesn’t have a good reason to.”

“Yes, she does. My old man married a woman with Irish and English ancestors and it didn’t sit well with my Scottish grandmother.”

“Ah,” murmured Gretchen into her mug, feeling a little more awake. She also felt relieved that they had switched the focus. “And I guess the half-breed that they spawned was you.”

Chris rolled his eyes. “So eloquently put, Gretchen dear. You made me feel so much better about myself.”

“Anything I can do to help.” Sipping coffee, she figured she’d keep the conversation about him. “So how’s the exciting world of Kaminari University?”

Chris cracked eggs into a bowl and began to beat them. “Things are going swimmingly, my dear,” he replied, inspiring a chuckle from Gretchen. “No, really, things are going really well.”

“Even in your philosophy class?”

Chris chuckled. “Especially in my philosophy class. The guy puzzled me at first, but I like him. He’s energetic and extremely intelligent.”

“Uh huh,” Gretchen commented. “But what is he like, Chris?”

Chris shrugged. “I don’t know. You just have to be there.” He paused a moment. “It’s getting late. Don’t you think you should be going off to school or some thing?”

Gretchen shook her head, smiling. “Did you forget? I graduated last month. So I get to go back to bed after this if I want to.”

“Masochist. Hate you.”

“I hate you, too.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Don’t burn the bread.”

The corners of Chris’s mouth turned up and he found himself checking on the toast in the oven. Gretchen headed toward the door, but something was blocking her way out.

She uttered a strangled sound and nudged Chris.

Chris muttered, “What?” and looked up.

They both went pale.

Samantha was standing in the doorway, blue eyes shining with anger. Her normally blond hair was a deep pink color and clutched between her clenched fingers was a bottle of hair shampoo.

“House meeting, right now,” was all she could manage without swearing.

* * *

The room was completely silent.

Gretchen was standing in her robe, pacing anxiously. She glanced at Samantha, bit her lip, and resumed pacing. Chris sat across from Samantha on the loveseat. He had the grace to look sheepish. The last time they had a house meeting since they moved in together was when Chris turned Gretchen’s hair platinum blond. Gretchen responded by giving him a buzz cut.

“I thought I threw that bottle out,” Chris muttered. Sensing Samantha’s glaring blue-eyed gaze, he looked up sheepishly. “I’m sorry, Sam.”

“Sure, you are. And I look like fucking Cindy Crawford.” She growled. “This bullshit is never going to come out of my hair!”

Gretchen sighed and patted her cousin’s shoulder. “It’s going to come out, Sam,” she soothed, trying to keep her voice into heading into the dreaded mama-knows-child zone. Samantha would have balked if that happened.

“No,” Samantha snapped. “I’m sick of this. I’m sick of showering in cold water, I’m sick of falling into the toilet, and I am so damn sick of the Manchester United soccer team on the fucking television all the fucking time I could fucking scream!”

Gretchen recoiled in horror and took her hand back as if Samantha was carrying a deadly disease. She thought David Beckham was cute. “Sam, you don’t mean that!”

Samantha inhaled deeply and sighed, realizing that she had been way too sharp and way too hasty. Besides, she thought Beckham was worth a glance. “I’m sorry. That came out wrong. I have nothing against Manchester United.”

“You’re just frustrated right now. I mean, your hair is pink!”

Samantha glared at Gretchen. “Thanks for the 4-1-1, cousin, but I kind of already knew that.”

Chris, a bit on edge with the tension in the room, broke in. A part of him didn’t want Samantha to kill her younger cousin, but then again, it would take the heat off of him. No, he couldn’t do that. He was a man. He would take it.

“Break it up, you two,” Chris said gently. “There is obviously a bigger problem here than Sam’s hair follicles.”

“Well, whoop-dee-do!” Samantha cried sarcastically.

After that, they sat in silence for a moment. Samantha shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest, looking away. Gretchen drifted over to the armchair and sat down on the arm.

“The point is,” Gretchen told them, “is that this isn’t going to work out anymore.” She looked at Chris. “I think we should consider different living arrangements.”

“What!” Chris exclaimed. “Are you telling me that I have to move out?!”

“It would be an improvement,” Samantha muttered, not so softly.

“Samantha,” Gretchen scolded.

Samantha looked to Gretchen. “It’s the truth. You and I get along fine. I love Chris to death, but if I have to live with him one more minute, I’m going to take away his ability to procreate.”

Pause.

“Perhaps I’d better move out,” Chris, who figured he’d have children someday, commented.

* * *

Later on that day, Chris came out of Computer Lab #4 holding a newly printed sheet of paper. He had fifteen minutes before his last class and already he was stressed out.

Getting himself off of the lease that he, Samantha, and Gretchen had signed together would be a formality thanks to the legal stylings of a one Amber Bullock, Gretchen half-sister. Fortunately, there was an opening two floors above the place he had shared with the two Thomas cousins, but there was one big problem. He didn’t have the money to buy the place unless he got a roommate.

So that was what he was taking care of with the piece of paper in his hand. The advertisement proclaimed a two-bedroom apartment with lots of privacy and a view of Gracia Park that was to die for. Well, not to die for, but at least to have an incentive to pay money.

Chris walked to the Student Center and walked past girls gossiping and guys watching Sportscenter to the Community Board beside the help desk. Taking the pin out of a bunch of flyers heralding frat celebrations all over town, Chris posted his advertisement for the apartment opening and said a little prayer. Perhaps something would go his way today.

With that done, Chris ventured across campus to attend his philosophy class. He took his seat on the far right side of the room near the window. It wasn’t that he planned to space out. He knew that it was going to be interesting class.

Dr. Drew jauntily entered the room with his customary greeting: “What is philosophy?”

The class answered correctly, and Dr. Drew declared that he was in the right place. Afterwards, he took attendance in his comical manner. When that task was done, he implored them to take out their textbooks and turn to the chapter on the abortion debate.

Dr. Drew grinned at the newcomer and patted his back like he was an old friend. “Come on in and take a seat, son. Welcome to philosophy.”

The guy was slightly taller than Chris was. Beneath the baseball cap curly tufts of brown hair peeked out. He carried a navy blue backpack and as he sat down next to Chris, he noticed that it was filled with all kinds of other books. The guy opened up a notebook and revealed a white sheet of paper that looked very familiar…

When realization dawned, Chris Parker learned that Lady Luck was grinning down on him.

Fifty-five minutes later, class ended. Dr. Drew bid them goodbye. Everyone still wiped tears from their eyes from Dr. Drew’s simulation of two people getting it on and creating an illegitimate child, emphasizing the moral implications of the situation on all levels. Chris would have been shaking his head with mirth but he walked toward the new guy purposefully with the intent on starting a new phase of his life.

“Hello, mate,” Chris greeted the guy, falling into step beside him.

The guy looked to him. “Hey. You look familiar. You were in that philosophy class earlier weren’t you?”

“Yes, I was.” He held out his hand. “Chris Parker.”

The guy shook it. “Orlando Bloom. Is Dr. Drew always that…dynamic?”

Chris laughed, for that was the best way to put it. “If he isn’t, then there’s something wrong in the world.” Chris knew that the next part was very important, because his whole approach could make or break this transaction. So he paused for a moment, then asked, “So are you new to Gracia?”

“Oh yeah,” Orlando replied. “Just arrived two days ago.”

Chris hesitated a second for a group of girls passing them by. “Well, I know you’re not from Kansas from the sound of your accent.”

Orlando laughed at that. “No, I think Kansas is a far cry from where I came from, my friend.”

Hmm. He seemed pleasant enough so far, so Chris decided it was time to get to the meat of the matter. He would probably make a good roommate, but would he catch the bait? Not that he meant to con the guy, but sometimes, you needed a little help to make the right decision.

“Same here,” Chris responded. “I came here a few years ago, after my, eh, ex-roommate’s older sister suggested it.” He made sure that the phrase “ex-roommate” came out with a bit of heaviness. Orlando’s ears perked up, or seemed to. He was falling for it. Good.

“Oh, what happened between you and your roommate?”

Chris sighed as they walked down the steps outside the building to join the other stream of students on the walkway. “Well, they–”

“They?” Orlando’s eyebrows furrowed as he interjected.

“Eh, yeah. My ex-roommate and my other ex-roommate.”

“Wait.” Orlando stopped. “Let me get this straight. You had two roommates?”

“Um…yeah.” Oh hell. This could get confusing. “Do you have a while? This might take some time to explain.”

Orlando glanced at his watch but still looked bemused. “Yeah, I’m done with all my classes today. All I have to do is find a place to rest my head for tonight.”

Chris patted his shoulder. “You’re in luck, my friend. Come along. I’ll explain on the way there.” When Orlando appeared even more confused (poor Orlando…), Chris added, “On the way to my new apartment. And hopefully, it’ll be yours, too, but I promised an explanation. So I’m going to give one.”

So Orlando followed Chris to the student parking lot nearby while Chris told him the wacky story. After Chris had concluded his narrative, loosely explaining how and why he came to America and how he moved in with Gretchen and her cousin Samantha (not to mention the prank wars and the latest incident that incited this turn of events), Orlando sat there in silence.

Then his laughter filled the car.

“I almost cannot believe this,” Orlando admitted, “but I figure that you wouldn’t go to such lengths to lie.”

Chris chuckled. “I would never lie about something like that. The truth is so much more entertaining.”

“It usually is.” He shook his head with amusement. “I guess living with two women isn’t as glorious as a couple of blokes like you and me would think.”

“You guessed correctly,” Chris commented as he swung his car into an empty space next to Samantha’s white Jeep Wrangler. “It’s nothing short than Hell with a couple of nutters for females as roommates.” He snickered as Orlando gave him a strange look. “I’m just jesting, really. Sam and Gretchen aren’t that bad. They’re pretty cool–unless you really piss them off.”

“Glad to know,” Orlando muttered as Chris got out of the car. He soon followed, still feeling a bit dazed.

“Oh, and one more thing.”

Orlando looked at him sidelong as they entered the lobby of the apartment building. “What?”

“When you meet Sam, whatever you do, don’t say anything about her hair.”

* * *

Meanwhile, Samantha and Gretchen had convened in the living room of their apartment. They were trying to pack some of Chris’s stuff so that he could move out. Samantha was taping up boxes while Gretchen gently filled them. Samantha wore a black bandanna on her head to hide her hair as much as she could. It seemed that she was warming up to the idea of having pink hair, but she was still a little sensitive about it. Pink was not the best color in her opinion.

While packing Chris’s knickknacks, Gretchen sighed. Samantha looked to her. She noticed the look on her cousin’s face and sighed, too.

“Look, you had to admit, it was getting pretty crowded in here,” Samantha said.

“Yeah,” Gretchen agreed. “But I should have been the one to go. After all, he was here before me.”

Samantha raised an eyebrow. “I love Chris too, Gretch, but don’t you think you and I are more compatible?”

Gretchen considered that. Samantha had a point. After all, they had been friends for years, not to mention cousins since birth. It was a lucky fact that they were both women and very like-minded in most cases. But still…she hated that Chris was booted out. Well, he hadn’t been booted out exactly, but it seemed like that to Gretchen’s sensitive side. She exhaled once again and packed up Chris’s beloved Rolling Stones and Isley Brothers CDs as gently as she could.

“Gretchen,” Samantha began, the beginnings of a warning in her voice.

Gretchen hastily apologized and went back to packing. “I can’t help it.”

“Think of it this way. With the three of us living together, it would have happened sooner or later.”

“I know!” Gretchen groaned and abandoned the box, picking up her guitar instead. “But I still feel like an intruder. I came here last.”

“Chris understands, Gretchen,” Samantha assured her. “Besides, two women and a man living in one space is just asking for trouble. I can almost see one of us going through that atrocious embarrassment of discovered one another naked.” Samantha taped up a box. “Not to mention the noise we keep up when Meg and Mel come over.”

“Them girls are bloody nutters!” Gretchen exclaimed in a caricature of Chris’s voice as she fingered her guitar.

There was silence for a long moment. Samantha’s eyes joined with Gretchen’s, and suddenly Gretchen was strumming out a melody. Gretchen rushed to the tape recorder they kept for such occasions, and turned it on. Stomping her feet to keep the beat, Samantha began:

Them girls, them girls, them bad girls
Them girls, them girls, them bad girls
Now run, and lock the door

And Gretchen joined in:

Once upon a time
In a land not so far away
There was a story going ‘round
About nine girls who could make
A man’s blood run cold
Oh lord
With just one look
Forget those pretty eyes
They might take you by surprise

Clapping from the doorway made the girls pause. Samantha stood and turned off the tape recorder while Gretchen whirled around, looking shocked.

Chris stood in the doorway, amused and accompanied by a mysterious guy. Samantha shared a look with Gretchen, who shrugged.

“Chris, if you have a new boyfriend, you know to take that somewhere else,” Samantha joked, trying to fill the silence.

“Isn’t she funny?” Chris, who was happily heterosexual and had befriended a couple of homosexuals, commented to the guy who had yet to speak. Addressing Samantha, he responded, “No, Sam, this is not my boyfriend. This is my new roommate.”

“Oh?” Samantha sounded mildly shocked. She hadn’t expected him to find a roommate so fast. “Well, you certainly got lucky.”

Chris nodded proudly. “Damn right, I did. Ladies, I would like to introduce my new roommate to you. This handsome bloke is Orlando Bloom.”

 

*Dr. Drew is my interpretation of a philosophy professor I had the immense pleasure of having last semester. I’m not going to give a name (isn’t that illegal or something? Just kidding) but, if you know me and where I go to school, then you can guess who this guy is. And he’s not named Dr. Drew by accident. -_^

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