Saturday 13 August 2016

Breaking the Rules - Chapter 1

Breaking the Rules: Ridgemont Univesity Short Read

Chapter 1
Connor stared out of the window of his dorm room, his face in a forlorn grimace. What had he gotten himself into?

The bed he was sitting on was hard and uncomfortable. He had already covered it in his dark blue sheet and duvet, trying to make the room feel more like home. But it wasn’t working. He felt terribly out of place. His stomach was in knots and his jaw was clenched with anxiety and frustration. This was not what he thought moving into a prestigious residence hall at Ridgemont University would be like.

Connor’s light blond hair glistened in the sunlight that was streaming through the window. His slightly bronzed skin, tanned from endless days at the beach over the summer break, already felt like it was starting to dull. His dark brown eyes and heavy eyebrows were straining in the bright sunlight. Connor pulled at the tight white sleeveless t-shirt that he was told to wear by the third-year students who were coordinating first-year activities. The shirts would be painted later that day, Connor was told. He felt exposed in the outfit. He wore his faded blue jeans and red sneakers, careful to keep his shoes away from his bedding as he sat on the bed in the corner of his dorm room. 

Through the window he could see the many guys of his residence hall bustling about, carrying their luggage to their rooms and blaring music on the quad. A few trees littered the quad that separated the various sections of Connor’s residence. The name of his residence, Initia Nova, was painted onto a colorful banner that hung over the front of the dining hall across the quad from Connor’s room, and a group of rowdy, shirtless guys were drinking just underneath the banner, their bulging muscles beaded with sweat from the hot summer sun. Connor had been looking forward to moving into the dorm and studying at Ridgemont all summer. He had hardly slept a wink over the past week, so excited to meet new people and to finally be free. 

Connor had always been someone who followed the rules. He wanted to be a good grandson to his grandmother, who had cared for Connor since he was a young boy growing up in Saldanha Bay. His grandmother was getting older, and the small fishing village they lived in on the West Coast was not really the place for people who were… different, like Connor was. But Connor had decided that when he got to Ridgemont, he would let loose. He had always been curious about trying new things and taking some risks in life, but he had never gathered up the nerve to do it. The most excitement he could manage to have when he was growing up was going to town bazaars after church on Sundays or spending afternoons in the park with his girlfriend.

Yes, Connor had a girlfriend all throughout high school. He cringed slightly as he thought of Emily. He had rather unceremoniously dumped her only a few days before coming to Ridgemont. Connor and Emily had met in church when they were only fourteen and had become inseparable almost instantly. Everyone had just assumed that they were dating, and eventually Connor and Emily were convinced of this fact as well. But Connor had always felt like something was missing. The most he could manage in the way of affection was kissing Emily on the cheek. He had always used the excuse that he was saving himself for marriage. But this wasn’t true at all. He saw Emily as a friend, nothing more, even though he tried to convince himself that he wanted to be her boyfriend. She was the quintessential small town good girl: brunette plaited hair, tall, plain looking, excellent grades, and of course she knew the Bible by heart. On paper, she was everything that Connor should have wanted. He was always in second place academically at their school, just behind Emily. But when Emily told him that she had received a scholarship to study at a university in Johannesburg, and that she wouldn’t be able to join Connor at Ridgemont, he internally gave a sigh of relief. Connor used this as his excuse to dump Emily. Long distance relationships never work out. We’ll only be delaying the inevitable. He wished that he could’ve told her what he really wanted, what he really desired…
Coming to Ridgemont would be Connor’s moment to find himself. He wanted to color outside of the lines for once in his life, and be a bit reckless. But his first morning at Ridgemont was nothing like he had anticipated.

There were so many people, all with different accents, different clothing styles and different ways of treating people. Connor had never been so overwhelmed before. He had tried to be friendly to everyone, but most people just clammed up or gave him strange looks, and some of the older students even laughed at him. A particularly rude guy even called Connor a “country-bumpkin.”  If this was the way city people acted, Connor wasn’t so sure that he was cut out for life at Ridgemont. 

He came to his room immediately after these initial encounters, carrying up all of his bags from his beaten-down old Mazda that he had parked in the front lot (more awkward stares and giggles). He just wanted to escape from it all for a while. 

Connor stared over at the empty bed across the room from where he was sitting. His roommate had not arrived yet. Connor felt the anxiety well up in him. Would his roommate be as unfriendly as many of the other people he had met that day?

Connor jumped suddenly when he heard a knock at his door. The roommate, perhaps? He looked over at his half-unpacked luggage and scurried to look like he had been busy unpacking. “Come in,” he called out as cheerfully as he could manage.

The door opened and Connor was almost floored by what he saw. There, standing in the doorway, was one of the most unbelievably gorgeous guys he had ever seen. Granted, there wasn’t much to look at on the West Coast, but Connor was still amazed at just how hot the guys of Ridgemont were. The guy standing in the door was wearing a tight black t-shirt, his arms bulging from the sleeves. His short crew cut hair was dark brown, and his eyes were a shade of olive brown that made Connor’s knees weak. The guy was taller than Connor and had an arresting square jawline that made him look like he belonged in the military. All Connor could manage to say was a muted, “Hello…”

The guy in the doorway smiled at Connor and reached out his hand. “Hi! You must be Connor,” he said, his smile disarmingly dazzling. “I’m Adam. I’m a second-year student here at Nova and I’ll be your mentor this term. Help you settle in to life at Ridgemont.” Connor shook Adam’s hand, the grip so firm it took Connor by surprise. 

“Nice to meet you,” Connor said lamely, wishing that he could be more articulate and suave around handsome guys. This was why he was so excited to come to Ridgemont; he wanted to see whether the feelings he was having towards guys meant something. And Adam was making those feelings fire up stronger than ever.

“Where are you from, Connor?” Adam asked, the olive eyes staring straight into Connor’s and the black t-shirt straining against his muscles as he moved into the room.
“I’m from Saldanha,” Connor said in his West Coast accent, rolling his r’s. “It’s my first time in Cape Town on my own. It’s still a bit scary for me.” As soon as the words crossed his lips, Connor wished that he hadn’t given so much away so quickly. How was he ever supposed to impress guys if he acted like a scared little boy?

Adam gave a slight giggle and walked over to Connor’s bed, sitting down. Connor was amazed at Adam’s confidence. Is this what city guys are like? Connor knew that he had to start being bolder so that he could fit in with the other Ridgemont guys. He walked back to his bed and sat down next to Adam.

“You’ll be fine. The guys here are a bit brattish at times. Most of them come from the top schools in the country and they’re used to getting what they want. But once they warm up to you, they’re like family. Trust me, you’ll get really close to these guys in no time. Soon you’ll be having all sorts of fun with them.”

All Connor wanted to do was get close to Adam. He had butterflies in his stomach already at the thought that Adam would be his mentor and that they would get to spend a lot of time together. Connor gathered up his courage and said, “If they’re as nice as you are, I think I’ll feel right at home.”

Adam smiled broadly, scratching at his short hair. “Well, I don’t know if I’m all that nice. I’ve had my problems at Ridgemont… Maybe a bit of advice: our resident head can be very strict if you break the rules. He’s a great guy, but just try and stay on his good side.”

Connor inched slightly closer to Adam, feeling his heartrate increasing. “What are the rules I should be following?”

Adam’s eyes narrowed. He gave a sly smile and raised his eyebrow. “You don’t look like a rule breaker to me. I’m not sure you need to worry about it at all.”

Connor tried to emulate Adam’s confidence, even though his heart felt like it was ready to burst out of his chest. “I might surprise you, Adam,” Connor said, leaning forward.

Adam laughed out loud, seeming uncomfortable with Connor’s sudden boldness. Connor’s cheeks flashed bright red. Had he gone too far? He wanted to have fun at Ridgemont and flirt with hot guys, but he didn’t want to scare Adam off. Adam seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and Connor hadn’t met anyone friendly so far at Ridgemont.

Adam stood up from the bed and moved towards the door. His eyes shifted nervously around the room, and he was no longer making eye contact with Connor. “We have a campus tour first thing tomorrow morning, Connor. You’ll get to meet a few more Nova guys. Don’t be late, okay? I’ll tell you all about the rules when I see you tomorrow. We meet in the quad at 8 a.m. sharp”

“Thanks, Adam,” Connor said, feeling dejected. “I won’t be late.” Connor felt a sinking sensation and was silently chastizing himself. Had he scared Adam away for good?

“Oh, and Connor,” Adam said, “it really was nice meeting you.” Adam gave a playful wink and flashed his brilliant white smile again, and Connor’s spirits lifted. Maybe Ridgemont had more to offer than he had initially thought.

Read the rest of the story on Kindle for FREE: