The first day on campus at Bethel University flew by. Audrey was busy with cross-country meetings and the team’s first practice. She plodded into her dorm room around seven o’clock, exhausted. She climbed onto the top bunk, relishing the peace and quiet.
Earlier that evening, she’d received a voicemail from Trevor. A warm feeling had washed over her body at the sound of his voice. Hey, how’s my favorite girl? You must be out running hundreds of miles or something. I had a few minutes to call you now, and then we have another meeting tonight. Give me a call if you get the time. I’ll probably crash around ten. He paused. You snuck out of Hastings before I had a chance to say goodbye. Another pause. Talk to you later. It would be meeting time right about now.
She tried hopelessly to get lost in a book. She finally closed her eyes, and her thoughts drifted to Trevor. She pictured him squeezed into a classroom chair that could barely accommodate his six-foot-four-inch frame, wearing a t-shirt that clung to his rippling biceps and chest muscles.
Most likely he was freshly showered after a day out on the field and his dark hair gelled into place … or maybe he didn’t have time to fix his hair so was hiding it under his maroon U of M baseball cap, worn backwards as he liked to do.
The door tore open, and Audrey’s roommate bounded in—a soccer player named Destiny Connors. She was a spitfire of a girl with two bright red French braids dangling behind her back. She plunked herself down on Audrey’s desk chair. So much for peace and quiet.
“I was wondering if you’re busy because I’m going to the beach with some friends, and I thought you might like to come along.” Somehow Destiny managed to speak at length without taking a breath.
“Um,” Audrey glanced down at her cell phone and thought about the possibility of missing another of Trevor’s calls. She really should talk to him. She decided she’d take her phone with her; she could easily talk to him on the beach. “Sure, that sounds fun.”
“Okay, great!” Destiny jumped up from the chair. “Oh, by the way, do you have a car? I saw you parking a car out in the cul-de-sac earlier and none of us has a car so it would be great if you could drive …”
Audrey held her book up to her face so Destiny wouldn’t be able to see that she was rolling her eyes. Why didn’t the girl just come out and say they needed a ride? Well, even if Destiny was using her for transportation, a night on the beach would beat sitting around waiting for a phone call any day.
“No problem. Let me get my swim suit on and I’ll meet you guys in the lounge.”
“That’s okay, I’m ready to go so I’ll help you get ready.” Destiny flung open the top drawer of Audrey’s dresser and proceeded to rifle through her more personal articles of clothing. “Is this where your suits are? I’ll help you pick one out. Do you wear bikinis—because I’m wearing a one-piece, but I think all the other girls are wearing bikinis. There’s gonna be guys there so if you’re gonna wear a bikini then I think I’ll put one on too, but I don’t want anybody to get the wrong idea about me the first time I meet them. First impressions are a big deal, ya know? Here, wear this one.” Destiny held up a navy blue one-piece Nike racing swim suit. Very conservative.
Dumbstruck, Audrey sat on her bed searching for what to say now that the girl had finally run out of words.
Destiny tossed the suit up onto Audrey’s bed and left the room with the same whirlwind with which she had entered, saying on her way out, “I guess I’ll use the bathroom quick before we go cause I’m not sure if there are restrooms on the beach and …” her voice trailed off.
Audrey dressed quickly, knowing the girl would soon blast through the door again, probably without much warning. The one-piece was a good selection as it covered the bruises on her hips. Before she’d have a chance to give any more thought to that party, she grabbed her car keys and headed out. Audrey smiled, thinking about her new roommate. The girl was just what Audrey needed. Destiny’s yammering would drown out all negative thoughts that would threaten to invade her new lease on life here at college. And if Destiny could dribble and shoot a soccer ball as fast as she could talk, Audrey imagined that she was a very decent soccer player.
Eight kids piled out of Audrey’s Toyota Camry at Lake Johanna. They had to sit on laps in order to squeeze everybody in. Apparently, most freshmen didn’t have the privilege of driving their own car. Audrey made a mental note to thank her dad for his generosity. Although dusk would soon be descending, the park was teeming with college students. A few were taking advantage of one of the last days of swimming for the summer while others loitered in the sandy area.
A beach volleyball game caught Audrey’s eye, and she and Destiny headed in that direction. Audrey didn’t recognize anybody from cross-country. Her teammates were probably smart enough to just lounge around for the evening to rest up for tomorrow’s practices. Tomorrow would take care of itself. She was here so she might as well have a good time. Plus, it would do her some good to keep her sore legs moving so they wouldn’t tighten up.
“Could anyone use a sub?” Destiny called out, as they kicked off their flip flops on the sand.
A tall blonde in a red bikini looked their way. “Sure, you can rotate in after the next point. I’m about to end this game.” She winked at them. Staying true to her word, she spiked the ball straight through the hands of an opposing player. “It’s all yours.” She sauntered over to a picnic table where she high-fived some friends.
Destiny’s mouth was agape. “Does Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings have a little sister?”
Audrey laughed. “I wouldn’t be surprised.” She stepped onto the court where the winning team was already setting up for a new game. Audrey took an open position in the front row while Destiny joined the team on the other side of the net. Audrey turned to the guy on her right. “I take it that girl plays college volleyball.” She motioned to the Kerri Walsh Jennings-looking blonde.
“Yeah, she’s pretty good. I’m glad she’s sitting this one out. She made the rest of us look bad.”
Audrey doubted that. This guy definitely had an athletic look. Chest muscles bulged from beneath his Bethel football T-shirt, and his defined biceps could only be the result of hours spent in a gym. “Well, you don’t have to worry about that anymore. I won’t be showing anybody up.”
He smiled. “That’s a relief. It can be tough on a guy’s ego.”
Audrey laughed. “I’ll try my best to make you look good.”
“Thanks. I appreciate that.”
It didn’t take long for Audrey’s team to run up the score even without the help of the blonde in the bikini. The guy with the biceps had definitely been humble when he said that girl made him look bad because he had more talent than the rest of the team put together.
The volleyball soon became difficult to see as the sky darkened, driving people to leave the game to cool off in the shallow waters of the lake. Audrey ran into the water, enjoying the feel of it cleansing the sweat and sand from her body. Closing her eyes, she lay back and floated, the cool water soothing her aching muscles.
“Hey,” a deep voice boomed.
Startled, Audrey flailed in the water as her feet struggled to find the sandy floor of the lake. She inadvertently splashed water into her mouth and proceeded to cough and sputter. Trying to regain control, she looked up to see the guy with the biceps grinning at her. He reached out and grabbed her arm to help steady her.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He didn’t even attempt to withhold his laughter. “I was just going to thank you for making me look good out there.”
Audrey held up her pointer finger. “I’ll be fine. Just give me a minute,” she managed between gasps for air.
He patted her on the back in exaggerated motions. His shirt was off now and through her bleary eyes she could see his sculpted six-pack. This guy definitely worked out. “Why so jumpy?”
He wouldn’t want to hear the honest answer to that question. It’s probably not good etiquette to admit you were raped recently when you’ve just met the person an hour ago. “I’m okay now, really. And by the way, you’re welcome.”
“Welcome for what?”
“For making you look good on the volleyball court. I missed all those shots on purpose.” She wiped water from her eyes.
“Yeah, thanks. My ego is back intact.” He reached out and caught a Frisbee whizzing past his head. “No, seriously, it was a good game.” He tossed the Frisbee back to his buddy several yards away.
“Yeah, we really rocked it out there.”
“So are you going to Bethel?”
“Yep, I’m a freshman.” She could finally talk without coughing up a lung. “You’re playing football for Bethel? I mean, I noticed you were wearing a Bethel football shirt.”
He smiled. “Uh huh.”
“Well, it was nice meeting you. I’m sure I’ll see you around.” She wasn’t in a chatty mood. Her heart was still racing from being scared nearly to death.
“See you.” He dove into the water, catching the Frisbee just before it would’ve splashed directly in front of Audrey.
A picture of Trevor diving on the football field to catch a pass suddenly came to mind. She’d seen him make that move too many times to count over the years. A lump formed in her throat as she thought of him and the distance their lives had created between them. A distance she’d furthered by avoiding him since Saturday night. Maybe he had called. She couldn’t stand one more minute without checking her phone.
Toweling off, she announced her departure. Her phone was in her car, beckoning to her. The same group of girls she had given rides to earlier piled back into her car, this time bringing with them wet sand that stuck to their feet and lake water that clung to their hair and clothes. But Audrey didn’t mind the mess; she no longer felt used by giving them a ride. She had a good time with these girls and now considered them to be friends.
“Hey Audrey,” Destiny said from beneath a fellow soccer player who was sitting on her lap. “I noticed Matt Cook flirting with you tonight. I think he likes you.”
“What are you talking about? Who’s Matt Cook?”
The other girls simultaneously let out a harmonious squeal at the mention of his name. Destiny looked at Audrey as if she had blasphemed. “Matt Cook is that tall, dark and handsome football player who was following you around like a puppy dog.”
“Oh, him.” Audrey shrugged. He wasn’t tall, dark, and handsome in the same way Trevor was—natural and unassuming. Matt carried himself in a way that suggested he thought he was someone extra special. Audrey wasn’t sure if he conveyed confidence or arrogance. He certainly did attract attention. But he wasn’t Audrey’s type. “Yeah, he’s a nice guy.”
Destiny pushed aside the girl on her lap to get a better view of Audrey, not noticing that in doing so she caused the girl to bump her head on the window. “He’s not just a nice guy, Audrey. He plays running back on the football team. He has his high school’s record for rushing yards.” Destiny leaned in closer, making eye contact with Audrey, as if saying something very important. “And he’s single.” She wiggled her ginger eyebrows.
Audrey laughed her comment off. “You can have him. I’m not interested.”
“Why not? Do you have a boyfriend?” one of the girls piped in.
Audrey thought of Trevor. “No.”
“Who do you keep texting? I see how you’re constantly checking your phone.”
Privacy was a thing of the past now that Destiny was her roommate. “Oh, that’s just a friend. Trevor Hayes.”
The girl on Destiny’s lap gasped. “Wide receiver for the Gophers? He’s your boyfriend?”
“No. He’s just a friend.”
Destiny sucked in a deep breath, signaling a long speech was imminent. “That’s good. My high school sweetheart was two years older than me and he went to the University of Wisconsin Madison. He never called or texted me so I kept texting him, like ten times a day, and you can’t tell me that he was never available to answer any of those texts so I got suspicious and drove out to Madison only to find out he was dating some Wisconsin cheese head. In my opinion, long distance relationships are a one-way street to disaster.”
Everyone was quiet in the car, not knowing how to respond to Destiny’s insensitive comment.
Destiny snatched Audrey’s phone from the cup holder and swiped the screen. “Let’s see if he called when we were at the beach.” She clicked buttons on Audrey’s phone, testing Audrey’s patience. “He sent you a text. It says, ‘Miss you. I hope you are having fun.’”
All the girls oohed and aahed, including Audrey. She parked her Camry in a spot behind the dorms.
Destiny dropped the phone back into the cup holder. “You’re so lucky. He sounds like a sweetie. I guess that means Matt is still on the market, right girls?” She looked at the other girls, and they all cheered.
Audrey rolled her eyes again, this time with her face turned to the window.
As they climbed out of the car, Destiny ducked her head back inside. “I’ll let Matt know you’re taken.”
“I told you we’re just friends.” Did she have to spell it out?
The girls climbed the stairs leading from the freshmen parking lot up to the residence halls. It had been a fun day, and Audrey couldn’t wait to tell Trevor all about it. He would get a kick out of hearing about Destiny, but she decided not to mention Matt. She didn’t want to hear about girls who were sure to be hitting on Trevor.
Back at the dorm, Audrey showered in the common bathroom where she was unable to find respite from Destiny’s constant chatter. Even the sound of the running water wasn’t enough to muffle her voice as she showered in the next stall. It wasn’t that Audrey disliked the girl. On the contrary, she found her quite amusing, but she simply felt exhausted from the day’s events. Listening to Destiny speak took more energy than Audrey could muster.
She retreated to her bed for the night, still not having connected with Trevor. She sent him one last text to tell him goodnight before laying her head on the pillow and closing her eyes for the night.
Sleep easily took her as she nestled under the covers. Her body ached more than ever before. She knew she’d pushed herself hard today. She’d pushed the pace on the team’s easy run. The more she hurt, the faster she ran. She was determined not to let what that creep did to her to take away from her running or any other aspect of her life. Playing volleyball with fatigued muscles wasn’t the best idea, but it helped to distract her from thoughts of that horrible party and thoughts of missing Trevor. She planned to take it easier tomorrow.
Her mind drifted back over the day’s events. Stepping into her dorm room for the first time, meeting the loquacious Destiny Connors. Running with her cross-country team. Playing volleyball and swimming lazily in the soothing water. Hey! Matt’s voice boomed in her mind. She felt hands grabbing at her waist, digging into her flesh.
Audrey screamed, her body bolting upright in bed. She looked around the room, reminding herself she was in bed. Safe.
“Audrey, are you okay?” Destiny hung her head down from the top bunk.
“I’m fine.” The quiver in her voice told a different story. “I had a nightmare.”
“Do you always have nightmares? Because I’m the kind of person who needs a lot of sleep.”
Audrey rolled out of bed and went into the hallway to get a drink of water at the fountain—and get away from Destiny. Hopefully the girl would be asleep by the time she came back. The hallway was quiet. Everyone else was sound asleep. She sat on the floor, leaning her back against the wall. She pulled her legs to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. The hallway was quiet. Lord, please help me to put that horrible night behind me. I shouldn’t have stayed at that party. I shouldn’t have tried beer. I’m sorry. I’ll never go to another party again. Please help me to forget it ever happened. In Jesus name, amen.
Read a chapter a day from Bittersweet Goodbye right here on this blog, beginning September 1st, 2019.