Chapter 83

“So, Alice and Mary, this is my roommate, Larry, but we all call him L-Ray, and his best friend, Steve. Steve doesn’t really have a nickname yet,” Bubbles said.

“And I cannot put into words how thankful I am for that,” Steve added.

“Just so I’m clear here, it’s Bubbles, L-Ray, and Steve?” Alice asked, a part of very much hoping she would be corrected.

“Unfortunately, yes,” L-Ray confirmed for her. “It’s nice to meet both of you.”

“Ditto,” Steve agreed.

While Bubbles looked more or less normal for a girl her age, L-Ray stood out significantly more. He wore a skintight purple shirt cut in a long V-neck, snug black jeans that left just a bit too little to the imagination, and purple sneakers. All of this was topped off by black hair with the tips dyed purple and a generous smearing of silver makeup all around his eyes. L-Ray looked even stranger when compared to Steve. Steve was wearing a simple polo, khakis, and sensible shoes. His hair was trimmed in a crew cut and he had the look of a man who definitely knew how to work out and eat right. Neither of the girls would have been surprised to learn he was enrolled in the ROTC program, which he was.

“It’s nice to meet you both as well,” Alice said. “I had a class with Nata- er... Bubbles last semester.”

“Forgive me, but I thought Bubbles said she was introducing us to her roommate,” Mary said.

“She is. I’m her roommate. Turns out Lander is pretty laid back about a co-ed arrangement as long as one of you is gay. I suspect there was a civil suit somewhere along the line,” L-Ray speculated.

“Oh, don’t be silly,” Bubbles said. “I bet they just want everyone to live with the people they have the most fun with. Ooooooh this year will be so awesome and we’ll have so much fun. I’ve already got some awesome plans for the next weekend-”

“That sounds wonderful, darling, but first would you grab us some bottled waters? Just put it on my tab at the bar,” L-Ray asked her.

“Sure thing!” With that Bubble scampered off to wait in a long line of patrons.

“Lovely girl, but I’ve found it’s best to distract her when meeting new people, or else nothing besides opening pleasantries get exchanged,” L-Ray explained once she was gone. “So what are your majors, what year are you, and Mary, can I just say I love your contacts? They go so well with your skin tone.”

“Thank you,” Mary said, not wanting to correct him. Things like her amber eyes or Vince’s hair were often hallmarks of people born with powers. The only blessing was that so many people wanted to be perceived as Supers that such cosmetic versions of these non-human features were almost commonplace, allowing the real ones a bit of room to blend in. There were some who believed this fashion trend had been instigated and kept buoyant by a conspiracy of Supers so they could at least halfway blend in. “I like your eye makeup.”

“Really? I felt like it was a bit over the top, but then again, I saw some guy walking around in here with all of his hair done up in silver, so at least I’m not the most garish one in the room,” L-ray said. “The truth is I prefer to dress a bit more subdued normally, but the makeup is the only part of my outfit that’s mandatory. Thus I figure it’s better to at least appear as if I was going for a specific look. But listen to me, rambling like Bubbles.”

“No, no, it’s interesting,” Alice said. “Why is the makeup mandatory, though?”

“He’s a Powered,” Steve answered for his friend. “He has to wear it pretty much all the time.”

“I’m afraid I still don’t get it,” Alice admitted.

“I have spontaneous x-ray vision,” L-Ray told her. “It just happens at random intervals. The makeup I wear is specially made with lead in it. That way when it kicks on, I can just close my eyes.”

“Right, because eyelids don’t stop x-rays on their own,” Alice said, comprehension dawning.

“And depending on how much you see though, that could be quite a horrifying sight,” Mary added on.

“Exactly,” Steve agreed with them.

“I must say, you’re taking this well. A lot of people get uncomfortable when they find out I’m a Powered,” L-Ray admitted.

Alice and Mary resisted the urge to exchange tell-tale glances. Barely, but they did.

“I guess we’re just open-minded,” Alice said with a slightly too-large grin.

“So it seems,” L-Ray concurred. “Anyway, I believe you were telling us about yourselves.”

*          *          *

“So ladies, which of you wants to take the first sashay around the floor with the dance master?” Nick asked.

“Pass,” Violet said.

“No, thank you,” Camille replied.

“Lose the shades and maybe we’ll talk,” Stella shot back.

“No dice, Toots, the shades can be considered welded into my face,” Nick said.

“Guess that means you’re back to asking some other lady is the she wants the pleasure of your company,” Vince chuckled. “I’m sure they’ll be more receptive to your charms.”

“As long as none of them has a Bible on hand,” Alex added.

“Wait, what now?” Thomas asked.

“Oh, we haven’t told you this story yet?” Alex asked in surprise. “Boy, it’s a good one.”

“Screw you guys. I’m getting a water at the bar and picking up some girl with self-esteem issues. You’ll see, next time your eyes fall on Nick Campbell it will be as a gorgeous woman swoons into his arms,” Nick declared, half walking, half storming off back inside.

“You think we were too mean?” Vince said, suddenly concerned.

“Nah, Nick loves having all eyes on him. Hell, sometimes I think he messes up with girls on purpose just for the stories. Trust me on this one, he’s feeling just fine,” Alex assured him.

Vince decided to take his word for it, because while Alex might not have Mary’s precision, he was more than capable of picking up on feelings.

“So, what now?” Hershel asked.

“Much as Nick can be a bit peculiar in his methods, I say we take his idea and go dance,” Violet said. “Thomas, would you care to start me off, for old times’ sake?”

“Of course,” Thomas replied with a gentlemanly nod of his head.

“No way I’m sitting that out,” Stella declared. “Hershel, your other persona seems to have some moves. Want to do a spin on the floor?”

“Sure, I guess so,” Hershel reluctantly agreed. He would have rather been dancing with Mary, but he didn’t see the strength of will to make that happen coming anytime soon. Besides, this seemed innocent enough.

“Only one girl left,” Alex pointed out. “Vince, if you don’t mind, can I steal her away?”

“Sure thing,” Vince replied. “I really don’t feel right dancing with someone besides my girlfriend anyway.”

“Um... well... I...” Camille said, hesitating. She really didn’t have any urge to go gyrate on the dance floor with some man she barely knew. Then again, the other option was staying here with Vince, possibly alone if Alex decided to search for another partner. As soon as that thought raced into her head, the decision was made.

“That sounds lovely.”

*          *          *

“-and that’s how I decided to major in geology,” L-Ray finished explaining.

“Eeeeeeeee!” Bubble squealed, dashing up to their cluster and passing out waters.

“Sweet heaven, I think my eardrum just killed itself,” Steve complained.

“Calm down, darling, what’s got you in such a tizzy?” L-Ray said, working with more patience than Alice believed she could have mustered under such auditory assault.

“OhmygodItotallysawthatguyandhewas-”

“Spaces, Bubbles. I need spaces between the words to understand them,” L-Ray instructed her.

Bubble took a few deep, rapid breaths and tried again. “You know that really cute guy I told you about that I see around campus who looks really cool and fun and all well I was up there getting the water and he got in line just a few people behind me and he’s still there and what should I do?”

“Well, that was better. No punctuation, but then I didn’t ask for any, so I’ve only got myself to blame,” L-Ray said. “Just go up and talk to him. You’re an adorable girl, I’m sure he’d love to meet and hit on you.”

“I don’t know, he’s really cute. I bet girls come up to him all the time and I bet I’m not as pretty by comparison,” Bubbles said uncertainly.

“Which guy is it?” Alice asked, trying to see through the throngs of people at the bar.

“He’s wearing a green shirt, jeans, and these awesome sunglasses,” Bubbles told her.

“Wait, sunglasses?” Sure enough, Nick was by the bar, a bottle of cold water pressed to his lips and the standard shades still in place. The next words out of Alice’s mouth were a prime example of how the tongue can rush forward before the brain’s diplomatic instincts have any chance to intervene.

“You have got to be fucking kidding me.”