Click. Click. Click. Reida marched through the boy's dormitory as best she could, silencing loud conversations and earning strange looks as she passed. She glanced at the room numbers as she walked by, stopping at 7B and pounding on the door with a crutch.
Reida immediately recognized the boy who recognized the door. She could've picked his gelled-back black hair in any line up.
"Crawford," she deadpanned.
Crawford, also known as Super Prep, was a classic old money snob who was also a stickler for rules- including rules of dress that only seemed apparent to him. Popped polos, pressed khakis, boat shoes- he lived by his dress code like it was the Code of Hammurabi. He was also called exclusively by his last name.
Crawford peered at her, a mildly disgusted look on his face.
"Reida. Did you get lost? These are the boy's dorms.'
"No- um. I'm looking for Landon. Bramsey."
"Oh. Him," Crawford rolled his eyes, "he's my roommate, unfortunately."
Reida raised her eyebrows and peeked over his shoulder, but Crawford either didn’t get the hint or misunderstood.
"It's been a week. A week. And I want to chew my leg off to escape, like those wolves. It's wolves that do that, right?"
Reida shrugged, barely concealing her impatience.
"He stays up all hours working on his crackpot conspiracies, has atrocious manners, and on top of it all he has this... hippie stink," he wrinkled his nose, and Reida chose that moment to interject.
"So... do you know where he is?"
"Out, I guess."
Reida bit her lip and gave him her fakest smile, backing away.
"Okay. Thanks- I guess."
She made her way down the hall on her crutches, only covering a few feet before smacking straight into someone.
"I'm sorry, I didn’t-"
Reida stopped short, taking in red hair and brown eyes. Normally, she would have been terrified, but anger made her braver than normal.
"You," she spat, narrowing her eyes.
The boy slowly lowered the strange fruit he was eating from his mouth.
"Why are you following me? What do you want!?," her voice raised an octave.
"Um- do I know you?," he gave her a look like a deer caught in the headlights.
"You tell me. You seemed to know me well enough to climb into my window"
His mouth fell open, and Reida felt her temper rise at the act he must have been putting on.
"W- what are you talking about?," he finally spluttered, "when was this?"
"Last week. And the night before that, by the way, is the reason I'm on these," she gestured with her crutches.
He looked behind her at Crawford in the doorway.
"I was in my room all last week. Ask Crawford- I never left the dorms!"
Reida turned to look at Crawford, who smirked, obviously amused.
"Actually, you did. You got up and left right after you 'fell asleep'"
Reida whipped back around to the boy with an accusing look.
"What? No. I didn’t!," he said loudly.
She stopped and looked around, noticing the looks they were getting.
"Can we just talk about this in your room or something?," she said.
"Absolutely not," Crawford said immediately.
"Sure, come on in," the boy ignored him and pushed open the door, earning himself a glare.
Reida walked in, waiting awkwardly for the boy to put away groceries she didn't realize he was holding. Crawford pushed past her to flop on the couch, a scowl on his face.
"We're going to get in trouble if someone finds out we let a girl in our room."
"That's only past ten," the boy reminded him, sitting down in a beanbag.
Reida suddenly remembered why she had come pounding on the door in the first place.
"Do you know when Landon will come back?"
The boy looked flabbergasted and Crawford barked out a laugh.
"I'm Landon," the boy said.
Reida paused a moment, then sighed.
"Why am I not surprised."
She pulled up a chair, pushing down her confusion.
"So why do you keep following me? Please don't lie."
"I don’t know how I can get you to believe me- I haven't. I mean, I guess I sleepwalk? But- did you say I talked to you?"
Reida chuckled ironically, "You called me Queen. And you knew my name. How?"
"Wait, what's your name?," Landon paused.
"Reida," she raised her brows, unamused.
"Hmm. No- doesn't ring a bell," he shook his head, oblivious to Reida's frustration.
All at once, she found herself tired and done with the situation. She clutched her head and sunk a bit in her chair.
"Okay," she said, "I honestly don’t know if you have memory loss, multiple personality disorder, or if this is some sick joke. I don't want to figure it out right now, so I'm going to leave, and you are going to stop stalking me."
Reida stood, battling her dizziness.
"Oh, and skeptics don't belong in our paper. I expect you to fix that article before it's due and hand it in to me."
Landon blinked and opened his mouth. She was out the door before he could piece together a response.
Reida's pride allowed her a few more steps before she slid down the wall outside the entrance. Her ankle was throbbing, and she couldn't put any weight on it- even with her crutches.
She took out her phone, thinking of calling Lucie for help. Then she thought better of it. Lucie would want her to explain why she was in the boy's dorm, and then would want to "talk" to Landon herself. Reida was too tired to handle that on top of the lingering effects of her concussion.
She sighed and leaned her head back, closing her eyes. She'd just wait it out until her ankle felt well enough to walk on- or until someone found her.
Reida had only rested a few minutes before she heard a door open and felt a jolt. She opened an eye- Landon had tripped over her crutches.
His eyes widened slightly.
"Why are you still here?," he stuttered. If she didn't know any better, Reida would think he was scared of her.
"Not exactly my choice," she pointed to her swollen ankle, a bit embarrassed.
"Oh. Oh! Do you, um, need some help?"
Reida nodded a bit hesitantly, and Landon gently pulled her to her feet. He half-supported, half-carried her, and started walking to the girl's dorm without a word.
She felt the sheer awkwardness of the situation, like her skin was too tight, and he seemed to feel the same.
"So, how did this happen again?," Landon broke the silence.
Reida sighed, not having the energy to be upset.
"Running from you. Stairs," she answered both weakly and matter-of-factly.
"Right," he said, drawing out the I.
She finally recognized the way he looked at her. Like she was the one who was insane.
"I'm not crazy- ask the nurse!," she burst out, feeling she had to defend herself.
She winced, hearing herself. Landon glanced away from her, perhaps to look for an escape.
They reached her dorm and she stopped him.
"I'm sorry. I don’t understand this either. Can you just- not chase me anymore? Starting now," she put a hand to her head.
He gave her a tight-lipped smile.
"Sure," he paused, "see you in Journalism."
"Yeah. I guess."
Landon left, and it was all Reida could do to dodge the furniture in her dorm and collapse on her bed. She pawed for the pain-killers on her dresser. Laying back against her headboard, Reida let out a long sigh, a chuckle riding on the end of it. She figured that she'd sighed most this past week than any other time of her life. Very angsty of her.
A text lit up her phone: Lucie was inviting her to dinner with a few of their other friends. Reida barely had the strength to type out a quick excuse that Lucie would see through even faster. Her encounter with Landon had left her completely drained. That, and the annoying left-over side effects of her cement face-plant.
What if Landon was telling the truth? Maybe she had imagined everything. But then again, where would that leave her? Hobbling around on crutches for a week, not to mention the concussion, all because she was running from her imagination.
Reida believed herself to be a reasonable person- she was always very grounded- why would that just suddenly change?
And what reason would Landon have for chasing her and sneaking in her windows- fun? Very risky things for a mere practical joke, she thought.
Reida decided that she would apologize to Landon as soon as she got a chance. There were too many cards stacked against her. Plus, Landon hadn't "visited" her since that night in the infirmary, when her concussion was fresh and she was disoriented.
Reida's eyes started to droop and she made peace with her predicament. It would be easier on everyone if she had just imagined everything.
Reida was dead asleep for the rest of the evening and most of the night. She usually wasn't a light sleeper, but something about the rustling in her room that night woke her up. She was instantly on guard, her heart beating loudly in her ears.
She had an uncanny feeling that someone else was in the room with her, but her eyes hadn't adjusted to the dark well enough to tell yet.
"Hello?," she whispered into the dark.
The figure stepped out of the shadows and was vaguely outlined by the moonlight shining through her open window.
"Qu- Reida." Landon said slowly, an unnatural look in his eye, "I just want to talk. Please listen before you do anything rash."
"Landon... why are you in my room?"
Reida pulled her sheets up to her chin, the hot burn of anger and dread rising in her stomach.
"Landon?" He paused his slow pursuit, "who's Landon?"
She steeled her jaw.
Something distant in Landon's face seemed to focus, and he stared at Reida intently.
"I cannot do that, Reida. I have to try to explain everything to you. I do not have a lot of time."
"Explain what?" She retorted, caught off-guard and stuttering, "That you're apparently two different people? Or why you keep barging in my room at night like a creep?"
Reida paused, sobering a bit.
"Or explain why you just lied to my face." She said softly. Her voice shook.
Landon fixed her with that unsettling gaze again, and she thought she saw anger there.
"I never lied to you, Reida. I am sorry that this has been difficult for you, and I know this is a lot to understand, but you have to believe me." He said.
"I don't have to do anything."
They both stopped and studied each other.
She relented after a moment. "I'm listening."
Landon looked her straight in the eyes.
"You are the Queen of Calloe."
"As far as I understand, you got lost while trying to find a way to save our kingdom. You must have some sort of memory loss."
She took a few deep breaths, searching Landon's face for any tell that he wasn't completely sincere.
"Get out of my room." She enunciated. Her voice shook with the angry tears that were pooling in her eyes, "Stop messing with me. Why do you keep doing this?"
Landon's eyes widened slightly as she wiped a hand across her face. He backed to the window.
"I didn't mean to upset you." He said stiffly.
He hopped on the sill and then was gone, just like Reida had remembered.
Reida immediately swung her legs over the side of her bed, wincing when her ankle throbbed in protest, and limped to the window. She bolted it, double-checked it, and abruptly sat down. She drew her knees to her chest.
Her mind worked fast, darting from solution to solution and discarding them just as fast. If she let her parents know what was going on, they would want her to come home. If she told Lucie, Lucie would most likely injure Landon somehow.
Finally, she did what any independent, stubborn college student would do- she grabbed her laptop and googled all her problems.