The clock strikes 8am on the fourth day of Orientation Week at Queen’s University, and Casey can hear her roommate screaming in the hallway outside their door.
At least, Casey thinks it’s her roommate - admittedly she doesn’t know Dominique that well yet, but all she can hear is what sounds like french expletives piercing the air and well, so far, that’s very Dom.
“Tu me fucking niaise, James?” The voice says, “For real? Again? What are you even doing here, anyway?”
“Nice to see you too, Dom,” a male voice Casey does not know replies, “Glad to see your lungs are still in working order.”
“Je te jure je vais t’arracher les couilles à mains nues, ‘Nice to see you’!? I thought you were going to U of T! Last week you told me you were going to U of T!” Dom’s voice is getting louder and Casey’s beginning to think, actually, that she might need to go and interrupt. She has no idea who this James is, but Dom clearly knows him - and knows him well.
Casey gets to their door at the same time as Lottie, one of the other girls living on their floor, gets to hers further down the hall, “Is everything OK?” She asks, noticing Lottie looks a little shell-shocked. They’ve spent a lot of time together over the last few days, all trying to make friends with the people they'll be living closest to for at least the next year, and this is the quietest Casey has seen the girl yet.
Dom turns to the sound of Casey’s voice, “This is my cousin! James!” She announces with a flourish, glaring back at him. Casey sees Lottie visibly soften a little, calming down. She realises at this moment that although Lottie knows Dom has a boyfriend, and he goes to Queen’s too, she’s never met him. None of them have yet. Which is fine, but fear-inducing when someone is screaming at a boy you’ve clearly just slept with with that kind of familiarity.
“Hi?” Casey offers, glancing at everyone slowly. She’s not entirely sure how to diffuse the situation.
“I cannot believe you’ve done this again!” Dominique turns back to her cousin.
James looks at her a little cluelessly, “Have I gone to the same uni as you and not told you before?” He asks, “Because I’ll be honest this felt like a new one.”
Dom throws a slipper at him. Casey hadn’t even noticed her taking it off.
“Esti d’con,” she hisses, “Stop sleeping with people I live with! You promised! It just makes things awkward! T’as les compétences sociales d’un ver de terre!”
Dom storms back into their room after that. Luckily Casey manages to dodge out of the way so she isn’t barrelled over in the process. She gives this James a look that clearly says ‘please leave’ and, to be fair, the boy doesn’t need to be told twice.
Dom’s pacing their room with her phone in her hand ringing out on speaker when Casey comes back in, Lottie not far behind and holding Dom’s forgotten slipper in her hand.
The ringing has barely stopped when she practically screams into the phone, "James fucking slept with my dormmate! Again!"
"What…” A tired voice starts from the speaker on Dom’s phone, “What year is this? Where am I?"
"2008!” Dom confirms without missing a beat, “We’re at Queens! We’re at Queens and James is here. We’re at Queen’s and James is here and he slept with my dormmate."
“Did we know James was coming to Queens?” The voice asks in confusion.
“No. No we did not.”
“OK.” The voice is clearly now Awake, “OK, I’m coming over.”
“But.. we said we wouldn’t see each other during orientation!” Dom whines in the general direction of her phone, “We’re supposed to be meeting new people. Making friends!”
“So you’ve seen James but you won’t see me?”
“Christ-ian! Too soon!”
“I’ll be there in like five minutes, OK?” This Christian says calmly, “Ten tops. I’ll bring some of my floormates so you’re meeting new people too.” And then he hangs up the phone.
Dom grunts in frustration, stamping her foot a little for effect, before taking a breath and turning to Lottie, “Are you OK?” She asks, “Did he hurt you? Oh my god, please tell me it was consensual.”
Lottie barks out a laugh at that, “It was absolutely consensual, don’t worry about me. Are you OK?”
Dominique deflates a little, “James is a jerk.”
There’s silence in the room for a moment. A pause in the chaos. Lottie hands Dom her slipper back.
“I honestly didn’t talk to him that much,” she offers with a slight grimace, “But I’ll take your word for it.”
“So wait,” Casey starts, “Your cousin is at the same uni as you and he didn’t even tell you?” Now he’s gone she wants full clarity on the situation so she can throw all the details in his face if she ever sees him again, “Are you close?”
“We were! We grew up together. And went to the same boarding school our entire lives. And then last year he slept with one of my dormmates and broke her heart and I haven’t spoken to him since,” Dom sits down on the edge of her bed, almost in defeat, “He still should have told me though! He knew both Christian and I were coming here!”
Casey nods. She doesn’t know either of them well enough to know if it’s likely James tried to tell his cousin but couldn’t because (as she just admitted) she wasn’t talking to him… but also he definitely said something about not telling her, and even if he hadn’t… Dom is her roommate, and Casey knows where her loyalties lie at this point in the game.
“Yeah,” she agrees out loud, “He really should have.”
Lottie nods emphatically too.
Dom visibly takes a deep breath, hand rising up and down alongside her in a way that reminds Casey of some of the breathing exercises she’s done in dance warm-ups in the past.
“I’m sorry,” Lottie offers, “For what it’s worth.”
“Don’t be,” Dom says on an exhale, “I’m not mad about you sleeping together. Not really. I just wasn’t expecting to see him and it was another thing to get mad about.”
Lottie nods in understanding, “Still, it’s shit that it took you by surprise. And he’s done this before?”
“Yeah, that’s…” Casey starts, not really sure where she’s going with her point.
“It’s James, unfortunately,” Dom says with a harsh laugh, “He doesn’t think things through. Ever.” And then she looks up into the air with a sigh, “Look, not to like, unload family drama. But he’s been through a lot the last couple of years, and he’s lashed out. I just thought we were getting over that phase and he was growing up a bit? But I guess not.” Her eyes suddenly dart to Lottie, “Not that I think this is any reflection on you…”
“It’s fine!” Lottie laughs, “I’m not offended, I promise. He’s as much a notch on my bedpost as I am on his. It’s frosh, it was a bit of fun. Besides,” she adds in a conspiratorial whisper, “We were both absolutely wasted.”
Casey uses the pause in conversation to sit cross-legged on her bed, nodding at the other end of it towards Lottie, who gingerly also takes a seat.
“So…” Casey starts, eager to move the conversation on a little, “We get to meet Christian?”
“If that’s OK?” Dom queries, “Should I have asked?”
“No, you’re good,” Casey assures her, before adding, “I’m cool whenever, as long as it’s not like… all the time? I’ll let you know if it's getting to be, I promise. I’m intrigued to meet him actually.”
“I love that you came to uni together. It’s so romantic!” Lottie gushes, “You must have been dating a while?”
Dom blushes then in a way Casey hasn’t seen her do at all so far, “Erm, well, no. Not really. Six months? Ish? Us both being here is actually more of a coincidence than something we’d planned.”
“Really?” Casey asks as Lottie lights up.
“Oh! Love that! Totally fate!”
Dom gives Lottie a genuine smile, “Something like that, I guess.”
“I don’t know anyone else who goes here,” Lottie continues, “Everyone’s new for me.” She has this ability to say everything with such earnest joy that it immediately enamours everyone in the vicinity, and Casey hasn’t decided if that’s something she envies or just loves about Lottie herself.
Either way, it often makes her admit stuff she wasn’t planning to, at least not quite yet, “My step-brother comes here too.”
Dom turns to look at Casey, clearly wondering why this hasn’t come up before. They’ve talked about a lot - and even if Casey hasn’t met Christian yet she’s known about him since the day they moved in. Luckily, Dom isn’t the type to take offense. It’s more of a querying glance.
Lottie looks delighted by this news though. She actually starts clapping, lightly, “Oh! That’s so lovely too! Built-in support network close by! For both of you!”
“I guess so, yeah,” Casey agrees, because truly she hasn’t been letting herself think too much about Derek being here. Not yet. Not whilst she’s still trying to get used to her new surroundings, and he’s presumably trying to flirt his way around campus. Figure out the best way to get to the top of the food chain again. Become the big man in town. Walk right into her dorm room.. Wait. Wait, what!?
“Derek?” Casey stares at the figure before her in pure shock, “What are you doing here?”
Derek, who, to be fair, looks equally as perplexed by the turn of events, just points to the person Casey can only assume is Christian - given that Dominique has her head buried into his chest as she screams into it, “I came with him.”
“Hey, sorry about…” Christian starts when he notices everyone is looking at him, before giving an awkward pause, “James? I guess?”
There’s a muffle from his chest, but Casey can’t make out what is said.
“Bit harsh, Dom. He’s your cousin.”
Dom pops her head up again, taking a dramatic step away from her boyfriend, “He’s your best friend!”
Christian sticks his arms up defensively, but before he can say anything else another boy wraps his arms around his stomach from behind and hooks his chin on Christian’s shoulder, “What’s this, Phrase? Cheating on me already?”
Dom raises an eyebrow. Christian rolls his eyes. Derek laughs, but tries to hide it by turning it into a cough. Casey looks at Derek with pure confusion.
“This is Jasper,” Christian introduces him - mainly to Dom, but also to the room at large, “My roommate.”
Jasper smiles in a disarmingly charmful way, looking directly at Dom as he says, “Your boyfriend has the hottest bod I’ve ever seen. Please, tell me you utilise it to its full potential? I want to lick whipped cream out of his belly button.”
Dominique goes bright red. Casey’s eyes go wide. Lotties laughs, “Oh you’re fun. What are you doing later?” Which, to be fair, gets Jasper to step away from Christian.
“You get used to him,” Derek says, clearly enough for everyone to hear. Jasper gives him a practised wink. Derek turns to Casey then though, as if to give the couple in the room some semblance of privacy, “So.. erm… how’s frosh going?”
Casey just nods at him in return, “Good? I guess? I’m still.. getting used to things. Trying to find my place.”
He nods back at her with a lopsided half smile. There’s a beat of silence.
“What about you?” Casey asks in return, “Have you started practice yet?” She refuses to ask about any other potential activities.
“We got on the ice yesterday morning, yeah.” Derek confirms, “Just free skate though. Training starts next week.”
“I, for one,” Jasper interrupts, “Cannot wait to see these boys get sweaty out there.”
“Do you not play too?” Casey asks, because she was sure Derek applied for residence with other hockey players.
Jasper throws his head back in laughter, “God no. I’m like Bambi - can’t skate for shit.”
“It’s not just hockey players in our building,” Derek says, knowing exactly where Casey’s mind had gone.
“Oh,” is all she says in reply.
Dom’s voice cuts through the air then, “Food?” She’s looking much more like Casey is used to seeing her now: completely in control of her emotions, and in control of the situation around her. Importantly, she’s also now wearing shoes.
“There’s a diner just off campus?” Christian offers as he hands Dom her jacket, “I figure nobody’s had breakfast yet.”
Derek turns to Casey, asking if she’s OK with this without needing to use any words. She gives him a small nod. Maybe it’ll be nice.