A Mix-Up of Shakespearean Proportions
It was no wonder that Chris, Jennifer, Gretchen, Samantha, Danie, and Orlando were all tired when they returned to the Tiger House at one in the morning. It had been an eventful enough night to warrant fatigue. And mental trauma.
Chris insisted upon helping Danie to her room but she wouldn’t let him, opting for Orlando’s help instead. While Jennifer fussed at him for not getting some rest, Orlando took Danie to her room.
Danie’s room was not quite what he expected. A young woman of her caliber would have men and beauty queens on her walls. And pink fluff on every surface. But Danie? No. She had Wonder Woman and female basketball players on her walls. And there was no pink in sight.
Danie lowered herself to her bed and collapsed onto her stomach. Confused, Orlando frantically looked around until he found the nightshirt she had been wearing that morning. He went to Danie to unzip her dress when she suddenly started crying.
Orlando moved his hand away. Danie pushed herself to a sitting position and stared at him with watery eyes. She took her nightshirt from him and hugged it to her as if it were gold.
“Please leave,” she whispered. The look in her large violet eyes was haunted. “I want to be alone.”
Orlando nodded, not wanting to argue. He walked slowly to the door and paused at the doorway. In his mind’s eye, he could still see Danie’s tearstained face, those sad eyes. He turned around and told her, “I don’t really know you. And you really don’t know me very well. But I listen really well. If you want to talk to someone about it, I’m all ears.”
Leaving Danie to chew on that, Orlando walked out and sought one of the other girls.
He heard the shower running and guessed one of them was in the shower. He spotted Gretchen coming out of her room looking as tired and weary as he felt. He noticed she also looked distracted. When she looked up and found him there, she jumped a little.
She laughed nervously. “Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t see you coming.” She frowned and placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry about tonight. Maybe we’ll try again sometime.”
“Sometime,” Orlando echoed. “Are you alright?”
“I…” She touched the back of her neck idly. “I need to talk to Sam about something. Are you heading off to bed?”
“Well yes—that is, if I can find which bed is mine…”
Gretchen pointed in the opposite direction of where she was going. “The extra bedroom is down that way. Just make yourself at home.”
Orlando, weary as Gretchen was, nodded and went in the direction of her finger. “Thanks, love. Good night.”
“Good night,” Gretchen echoed and continued down the hall.
His mind on sleep, Orlando turned and opened the door that Gretchen had gestured to. He stepped inside the calm darkness with a sigh. He was too tired to notice the smell of roses as he undressed, too fatigued to see that the bed was already occupied.
He crashed on the immediate left side of the bed and fell asleep instantly.
* * *
As Orlando was sleeping, Gretchen was perched on the end of Samantha’s bed. Samantha was at the bureau putting away some clothes. Gretchen bit her lower lip and Samantha sighed tiredly.
“I don’t know why you’re worrying,” Samantha remarked. “Max wasn’t mad about Danie. I’m sure he’ll let her back in next week.” When Gretchen’s expression indicated that she was thinking about something more serious than getting back in to SLL, the furrow in Samantha’s brow straightened.
“Danie,” Samantha murmured again, tone solemn.
“I think it may be time to tell Chris and Orlando what happened during Thanksgiving dinner,” Gretchen remarked soberly.
Samantha sighed tiredly again and sat next to her cousin in bed. “I don’t think Danie would want…”
“In her state, it might explain some things,” Gretchen continued. “I mean, she just didn’t let herself plastered in under thirty minutes. She was trying to drown her sorrows. And was probably trying to do it even before we got there.”
“But what happened is Danie’s place to tell. She might not like the idea of everyone knowing—especially two outsiders.”
Gretchen shook her head. “Chris and Orlando are not outsiders.”
“Orlando is, at least, for the moment,” Samantha amended. “I’m not quite sure she likes him. You know how she feels about Capricorns.”
“Maybe not at the moment,” Gretchen said, “but eventually she will. I know it.”
* * *
Author’s Note: Guys should always use the bathroom when they first wake up. Or else they’ll end up like Orlando at the end of this scene…
The next morning, the sun gently woke Orlando from his deep slumber. He turned in bed, half-asleep. He hadn’t moved since he had collapsed a few hours before so he hadn’t noticed the other form next to him. He thought it was a dream when he bumped into this solid form that was pulsing with life. It didn’t register in his sleeping brain what was really happening. Instead, he fancied himself in an amorous dream with a woman with soft, beautiful skin, long hair, and striking deep aqua eyes squinted just right…
He muttered in his sleep about the texture of her skin and how good she felt. There was probably the word baby in there somewhere.
Orlando’s reverie was shattered by the sound of a loud scream in his face.
He jumped up sharply as he came face-to-face with the dream woman with the deep aqua eyes—but now he saw that she had long, curly auburn hair that was so disheveled that it stuck up around her head and made her appear mentally instable.
They both faced each other, and the woman, not recognizing him, grabbed for something behind the headboard. Orlando glimpsed a baseball bat in her hands and fled for his life.
He heard a whoosh! as the wooden bat sliced the air over his head as he ducked. He stumbled for fear that the thick wood would crack his skull in one fell swoop.
Orlando fled down the stairs but the woman was fast, only a few feet behind him. Turning to glimpse her distance, he yelped (damn, she was so close!) and fell butt first the rest of the way down the stairs. Taking a Herculean leap, she was right there on solid ground with him, and he crawled away begging for his life.
Seeing an open doorway, he crawled toward it on his hands and knees. A moment later, he heard gasps and a female voice yell, “Hermana—stop!”
Everyone paused. Orlando looked up and saw the startled faces of Gretchen, Samantha, and Jennifer staring at him. Another blonde and a woman with black hair sat on the couch, startled expressions on their faces, too. Gretchen had been the one who had spoken. Hesitantly, she ventured over to Orlando and knelt down to him, eyes full of concern.
“Orlando—are you alright?” she asked. Orlando, embarrassed and overwhelmed, could only nod.
“What the hell is going on here?” the woman demanded, bat still in hand.
Orlando jumped at the sound of the woman’s voice and Gretchen tried to console him. Samantha answered, “Jessica, this is Orlando, Chris’s new roommate. The one Cassandra told you about…”
A few seconds passed.
“Oh!” exclaimed Jessica Thomas. She pushed some of the hair back that had fallen into her face. “Well, then.” She smiled sheepishly at Orlando. “Um, I suppose I owe you an apology. It isn’t everyday I wake up and find a strange man in my bed after a long shift at the hospital.” She held out a hand, forgetting that it had the bat in it. “No harm done?”
At Orlando’s wide-eyed stare, Gretchen grabbed Jessica’s other hand and Orlando’s and put them together. Gretchen helped him stand.
Jessica stared at him up and down, then into his face meaningfully. Gretchen frowned, wondering what Jessica was staring at…then she looked down.
“Um Orlando…” Her mother and aunt moved to see what was going on and Gretchen shifted in front of Orlando. “I think we’d better take you upstairs.”
Orlando was perplexed until he looked at his boxer shorts and realized that there was a huge problem. A protruding problem. He grabbed a throw pillow and excused himself hastily, anatomical declarations covered.
“Well,” Jessica retorted with raised brows. “Takes care of that question.”