Holdout (Moo U # 3) by Jaqueline Snowe



1





Ryann





Beggars couldn’t be choosers. It would be fine. Probably. I chewed the inside of my cheek and traced the rim of my coffee mug, weighing my options of which one is worse. The smell of coffee filled my lungs as I took a deep breath, gazing around the café. The constant sound of happy chatter eased my mind a bit, and I leaned back onto the wooden chair.

The choice narrowed down to agreeing to this very detailed ad, or staying in the dorm with my live-on-the-edge roommate. The temptation of joining her on the wild side was too much, and with the scholarship being my lifeline to school, I couldn’t chance having it taken away. My purple nails made a small clacking sound on the wooden surface of the table, and the muscles around my neck pulsed with tension.

Another mess-up in the dorms meant losing the scholarship, which wouldn’t only defeat my dream of becoming a counselor, but it would leave me homeless. That wasn’t something I ever wanted to experience, and god, I could only imagine how my older brother Michael would react. He’d lose it, mess up his scholarship on the team, and try to take care of me.

Yeah, that could not happen.

I stared at the ad in front of me.

Searching for roommate who is:

Clean

No parties

Takes school seriously

Not a sports fan

Split rent

No noise

Can move in ASAP

I was clean-ish. I never let my milk dry up in cereal bowls, but I’d been known to leave a shirt on a chair. Still, that was an easy fix. No parties was a no-brainer, since they’d gotten me into trouble in the first place. I took school very seriously. So seriously, I was searching to get out of my bad dorm situation one week into the year when every lease and dorm was taken. So yeah, not a problem.

Not a sports fan. Hmm.

I sucked in a breath and took creative liberty with that one. I only watched hockey because my brother was a senior on the Moo U team. It wasn’t like I was a fan—hockey had been shoved in my face since birth and part of who we were as a family. Hockey. It was a way of life, ingrained in who we were. So, I technically wasn’t lying.

Moving in ASAP was the least of my problems. It would be impossible to find a place closer to campus than this three-story house. Every apartment was booked or already leased so I couldn’t be choosy. Getting out of the dorms was essential, and if I had to live in a closet for the year, so be it.

I’d shoved my stuff into two duffel bags after our RA did room checks, and I’d sweated so much I had pit stains on my red shirt. She didn’t find my roommate’s stash of weed or whiskey, but the sheer panic, no, terror causing my body to freeze wasn’t worth it. I refused to live like that all year. Not with my academic scholarship on the line. I already had a slap on the wrist from the year before, and one more incident would ensure I’d be out of school, alone, and without a plan.

Yeah, that’d devastate my brother.

With a quick stretch over my head, I tilted my neck to the right and left, getting two cracks in before I typed out my response.

Hey Daniel,

I’m in. Where do I send the deposit?

The email sent, making a whoosh sound, and I waited. If I could move in, get settled, and gain my ground, then I would tell Michael. Not a second before, because I didn’t need him playing the father card and trying to take care of me or freaking out. Either option was just as likely, and I needed my brother, not the parental role he tried to fill after we lost our parents.

My email pinged in less than a minute, and I took that as a good sign.

Ryan,

Here is my account. Once the payment is received, I’ll set the key under the doormat. I’ll be out this afternoon, but feel free to move in. Your bedroom is empty. Text me if you run into any issues.

D

Thank you, baby Jesus. I did it. I found a new place when there was nothing available and all without bothering Michael. I relaxed into the wooden chair. He needed to stop viewing me as helpless, and getting my own place would be the first step. Money would be tight until I could find a way to make a few dollars, but I had at least a month to worry about it.

The scholarship covered room and board in the dorms and classes—not off campus living, so this new arrangement meant I needed a job.

“Good news, huh?” My barista, Hannah, walked by with another glass of water. Our campus on the northeastern part of Vermont was beautiful, and the summer air breezed through the open windows. She owned the small café—Beans N Books-- attached to our school’s library. “Your smile is bordering on terrifying.”