|Primary Characters:||Thomas, Pierre, Martial, Bertrand, Fatia|
|Warning:||m/m sex, some strong language|
|Description:||Pierre and Thomas fight, then Pierre bumps into Martial. Martial, as always, has an unsettling effect on Pierre. For a while, things seem to work out, but Martial is a very complicated person. Most of the students at the dorm end up getting hurt before the situation is resolved.|
“What’s the matter now?”
Fatia had returned to the room she shared with Julie and had found the girl lying face down on her bed, hugging a pillow, sobbing loudly.
Hearing her room mate’s voice, Julie began to frantically rub her eyes, making them red-edged and irritated instead, not to mention smearing the mascara all over her cheeks. She turned around and faced Fatia, a wary look in her eyes.
“What do you care?”
Fatia shrugged. She was exhausted after not only spending hours at the university attending lectures, but also rushing to her cleaning job at an office building downtown, and finally dragging herself back to her dorm, where her homework was waiting. This really wasn’t anything she cared to get into right now.
“Fine. If you say so.”
She sat down at her desk and unenthusiastically began to flip through the pages of the book she was supposed to read in preparation of tomorrow’s seminar. Smothering a yawn, she waited. It was only a matter of time before Julie started talking. The immature girl would be spilling out every detail of her trivial little problem and expect Fatia to take an interest and offer a suggestion on how to deal with it. Fatia really didn’t want to have to deal with that tonight.
To her surprise, Julie had retreated into a sullen silence. Good. That would let her have some peace. With a sigh Fatia settled down to her studying. After a while, Julie left, presumably to eat, then returned again and lay down on her bed with one of her textbooks. At least she was going to study too.
Much later, Fatia realized she was hungry. She’d had lunch on campus and her budget didn’t stretch much further than that. Some time in the afternoon she’d intended to have a snack, but now the whole evening had passed and she hadn’t remembered to go to the kitchen. Maybe it was time now. She rose and stretched, absently rubbing her eyes. If only she hadn’t been so tired.
“There’s some food left in the kitchen. Some of Bertrand’s unspeakable offal and – if you’d like to risk it – some of my veggie stuff.”
Fatia had to swallow to stop bile from rising in her throat. She hadn’t known she was that hungry. The thought of Bertrand’s food made her sick. Maybe Julie’s vegetarian meals would be more appetizing. Where Fatia came from they couldn’t afford all kinds of vegetables. Onions, bread, couscous, that was about it. She was surprised Julie was offering her own food to her. Especially after her earlier outburst.
“If you’re sure – I’d like to try your food.”
“Ok. It’s in the kitchen. The box has my name on it and today’s name. Mom always fixes such large helpings.”
Fatia went to the kitchen and poured herself some water from the tap. It tasted flat and stale, but there was nothing wrong with it. She knew Elodie often indulged herself with wine and the guys often brought beer. Personally, she could only afford a little orange juice in the mornings.
The sound of footsteps behind her made her look around. It was Bertrand. Fatia took great care not to smile too much. She didn’t want Bertrand to know how she felt about him. Or anyone else for that matter. He was such a boy. Nothing mature about him at all. He was always making eyes at any girl or woman passing by and Fatia was sure he would be happy with just about anyone of them. It was too humiliating to acknowledge she had feelings for someone like that.
Bertrand smiled amiably. Fatia was a really nice girl. And pretty too. He liked her a lot. It was just that she was so – stern. Always serious. For her everything seemed to be a solemn matter. In her life, there didn’t seem to be any room for laughter or fun. Was she really like that or – did she only act that way because of her background? Bertrand knew he’d never have the nerve to ask.
“Hi, Fatia. Are you drinking tap water? No, don’t do that. Here. Have some of my Evian. It’s much better.”
Fatia hesitated. It was one thing accepting gifts from Julie. Quite apart from the fact that Bertrand was a guy and might get ideas if she let him give her things, she was reluctant to place herself in debt to anyone. She helped Julie all the time, with homework, laundry, advice. That kid owed her a little in return. It wasn’t the same with Bertrand. At the same time, she was bargaining with herself. That bottle was already open. It would go stale if he didn’t have it himself. Rather than letting him pour it out, she could –
Bertrand wasn’t even waiting to hear her reply. He took a new glass from the cupboard and poured out at least half the bottle into it. Smiling, he handed her the glass.
“Go on. Get rid of that stuff.”
Fatia was tempted and in the end, she accepted the glass and had a few sips. Bertrand had been right. It was delicious.
“It’s nothing. I was going to leave it anyway and then it would be stale tomorrow. If you like it, I’m glad. I hate to see you drinking that stuff.”
He noticed that she was eating Julie’s food, but didn’t comment. Fatia decided to ask him what he was thinking. If he felt she was – sponging off her roommate, she’d have to reconsider. It wasn’t as if she really needed their charity.
“I decided to try some of Julie’s vegetarian food? Do you like vegetables?”
She expected him to say that he hated them. Most boys did, as far as she knew. Except possibly Thomas. He seemed to be a little different from the other boys.
“Yes. They’re ok. If only they weren’t so expensive. I’d buy more if I could afford to.”
“I know what you mean. Have you ever thought about getting a job?”
Bertrand looked embarrassed. He knew Fatia was struggling to put herself through university. Her parents couldn’t help her and as far as he knew, she was the first member of her family to ever go on to higher education.
His dad couldn’t help him very much either, so a job would really be useful. Unfortunately, he needed to focus fully on his studies. He wasn’t smart like his older siblings or Fatia. If his father found out he was working and failing at his studies, there would be hell to pay.
“No. I – need to study full time. This stuff is so hard and – I’m afraid I’ll fail if I spend too much time doing other things.”
Fatia nodded understandingly. All that science stuff was difficult. She just couldn’t see why Bertrand kept at it. He would be much better at something else. Maybe as a teacher or – she frowned in concentration as she thought of what he might do which would suit him better. He’d make a good cop too, she thought. Bertrand in a uniform – mm. Except it would be risky. He could get hurt, maybe even killed. She wouldn’t like that. No, being a teacher was dangerous enough.
“Why don’t you – transfer to another subject?”
“My dad wouldn’t like that.”
“Your dad? What about you? Isn’t there anything you’d rather do?”
“Yes. I’d like to study history and folklore and so on. Breton folklore. It’s so fascinating. When I read about that stuff, I can almost see how my ancestors lived. Maybe one of them was a druid and -”
He broke off, worried that Fatia would laugh at him. The other girls would, he was pretty sure of that and Pierre too. Most people seemed to think he was a real nerd. Just like his friends from school, back home. Most of the guys thought he was gay. Maybe the girls did too. That might explain why he was never having any luck. He sighed.
Fatia smiled. She never wanted to dwell on her own past. Where she came from, women were little more than possessions and men could treat them any way they liked. She knew that was only the beginning. All the horrible, depressing things that happened to women, children and animals, that she refused to think about. Bertrand’s Brittany might be a more civilized place, though she doubted it. She might not be a naive, bleeding heart feminist like Elodie, but she had no illusions it was much better anywhere else. Still, Bertrand’s enthusiasm was catching.
“That sounds really interesting. Like – a fantasy novel.”
She was hoping that wouldn’t sound condescending. Besides, Bertrand might know that she never wasted time on fiction. If she was going to get a degree and a job that would keep her out of the slums, she had to focus fully on her studies. She didn’t even know if Bertrand himself liked fantasy or if he liked to have his cultural heritage associated with simple entertainment literature.
His eyes lit up even more and he began to babble eagerly.
“Yes. Like in the real old stories too. That’s why I like to read all the folklore and myths I can find. You’d like it. There’s all that psychology hidden inside it. Traditional wisdom. The – archetypes? It teaches you about yourself and about society and nature and -”
“Archetypes? Yes. Really? That definitely sounds interesting. If I only had time, I’d like to learn more about that, but I can’t. Not until I have my degree.”
“Yes, of course. Otherwise, you could borrow some of my books. I’d love to let you see them.”
“Some day, ok? I’m looking forward to it. Oh, is that the time? I really need to get some sleep.”
She noticed that she hadn’t quite finished Julie’s food and without thinking, she handed the box to Bertrand.
“Here. Try some of it. I’m too tired.”
Bertrand watched her, a slightly surprised look on his face. Then he took the fork which was lying in the box and finished what little was left. It was actually quite good, but more than that, it felt – sexy somehow – to be sharing a meal with Fatia. Putting the same fork into his mouth. He imagined it tasted even better because she’d sucked on it.
His face flushed a little at the thought and he sternly told himself not to be a degenerate. Fatia would slap his face if she knew what he was thinking. The thought of that made him even more excited and confused and ashamed of himself he tossed the box and the fork into the sink and returned to his room.
Fatia returned to find that Julie was still sobbing into her pillow. At this hour. She was rapidly running out of patience with her silly little roommate.
“Ok, now this is getting tedious. What’s wrong? No, don’t give me any of that – ‘as if you care’ stuff. Tell me what it is and if there’s anything I can do, ok?”
“You’re just like the rest of them. The way you laughed at me and my boyfriend was so cruel. Did it ever occur to you that we’re people just like you and – Elodie and the rest of them? We have feelings too. If we’re so amusing, maybe I don’t belong here. I’m thinking about moving.”
Fatia’s anger died as quickly as it had flared. She knew they’d been really rude to Julie’s boyfriend. To her as well, since the guy hadn’t even noticed their reaction. It hadn’t been her intention to laugh like that. When the others had begun to giggle, she’d just been carried away. Julie was right. She and her boyfriend were human beings and deserved the same consideration as everyone else. Just because they obviously didn’t fit in with the majority of the students, didn’t mean it was right to ridicule them.
“You’re right. I’m sorry. It was just that when the others started, it was kind of – infectious. Don’t be sad, Julie. Ok. It was mean of us and – I’ll try not to do it again.”
There was a pause, in which Fatia could almost hear Julie’s brain working, then the girl sniffed and blew her nose.
“Ok. I forgive you, but the others still think we’re really ridiculous. It’s no use. I’ll never fit in. Maybe somewhere else, I’ll find some people I can get along better with. And in case you’re wondering. I broke up with him. There. I’ve said it. That makes me just as bad as the rest of you, doesn’t it?”
Fatia’s tired mind had to make a double take, before she grasped the meaning of Julie’s rambling speech.
“No, of course not. You’re growing apart. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Happens to everyone. And – don’t move. I’ll talk to Elodie and Thomas and – Bertrand. I’m sure they’ll understand that you were hurt and they’ll behave better in the future. Ok? I’d hate to see you running away from here, because of what we did.”
“Do you really want me to stay?”
Fatia considered. She didn’t want to lie. It wasn’t always possible to follow her conscience, but whenever she could, she tried to be truthful. How did she feel about her roommate? She knew they’d never be best friends. They were far too different for that. At the same time, she had become a little more fond of Julie in the time they’d spent together. The thought of her miserable over something she’d done made her feel bad about herself. She even thought she might miss her roommate if she left.
“Yes. I do. Please don’t move.”
“I’ll think about it. Aren’t you tired?”
“Yes. I’m exhausted.”
There was another pause, before Julie said the last words which were spoken that evening.
“I’m sorry I kept you awake.”
Fatia smiled. Julie was a sweet kid. At least she could be sometimes.