Love Is Warming The Dorms At Foxbury This Autumn! But Will it Be Enough?
Autumn, Year 3
Claire tried to get her homework finished. The noise in the commons was getting louder and harder to tune out as she focused on the last few paragraphs. The most distracting voice of all was Tony’s. She could hear him by the computers, talking to Richard and Raúl and her concentration was slipping.
That evening, the group took a trip to the San Myshuno Arts Centre. Raúl arranged to meet Hayley there for a not-so-sneaky date. He was getting more and more daring when he was out with her; he was determined to get Jack Goldsmith off the scene completely.
“What are you doing with Hayley?” Ashley asked Raúl the following morning. “You do know she’s seeing someone, don’t you?”
“Yeah but probably not for much longer,” Raúl answered with a smirk.
Ashley rolled her eyes. “She’s using you, Raúl. She famous, what could she possibly see in you?”
“Something you wouldn’t understand, Ashley,” Raúl replied. “So why don’t you mind your own business, yeah? Go back to faking your little love affair with Tony, yeah?”
Claire was feeling low. She’d been working away at her assignments and felt like she was missing out on a lot of the University experience. It couldn’t all be about class work, could it? Raúl seemed to have plenty of fun and so did Richard and Tina. The others all seemed to enjoy themselves too.
Miserably, Claire left the fountain and started trudging back to the dorm.
She looked round to find Tony standing in the doorway of his room, hissing her name. He beckoned to her and, frowning slightly, she followed.
“Tony? Is everything okay?” she asked.
“It’s fine now.” He replied. “Look, Claire. I wanted to talk to you. Particularly without the others around.” Tony took a deep breath. “I didn’t want you thinking there was anything between me and Ashley,” he explained.
Claire’s frown deepened. “I didn’t…I hadn’t…there isn’t?”
Shaking his head, Tony reached out and touched Claire’s arm. “No, there isn’t. I know she’s saying there is but I don’t…feel anything for her.”
“Where are the others?” Claire’s breath was ragged.
“Studying, in Tina and Nicola’s room.”
Tony and Claire were in danger of getting carried away…
“I should have said something to you earlier, Claire. I wasn’t sure how you felt. You keep so much bottled up, it was difficult to know…”
“It’s okay!” Claire hugged Tony tightly. “Really, Tony. It’s okay!”
“You and Claire, eh?” Nick said as he hit the ball across the table. Tony and Nick had met up after classes at the commons and were embroiled in a match of table tennis. Nick was hoping that by bringing Claire up, it might distract his opponent.
“Nice try,” Tony replied as he hit the ball and it bounced smoothly past Nick. “And yeah. How did you know, anyway?”
“Erm, your bed is right by a window which overlooks the balcony,” Nick laughed. “I saw you both last night.”
Tony grinned sheepishly. “Ahh. Well, fair enough. Yeah, she’s lovely.”
“You going to make a go of it then?”
Tony nodded. “Yeah, I think so.”
“What about Ashley? She’ll go mad.”
“There’s nothing with me and Ashley. Except in her imagination.”
“You cheat!” Tina said, laughing.
Richard grinned. “How could I possibly cheat at table football?”
“You practice when I’m not around.” She grinned. “Hey, did you hear about Tony and Claire yesterday?”
“Yeah, I did. Good luck to them.”
Tina bit her lip. “Ricky, are you free tonight?”
Richard glanced up, panicked. “Erm. Not sure. I’ll let you know.”
“Hey, Ashley? Can I talk to you for a minute?” Claire asked gingerly. Ashley was out on the balcony, looking quite upset. Claire knew why; Ashley had been boasting for a few weeks about the passionate love affair she was having with Tony; the same Tony who seemed to know nothing about it. Claire wasn’t sure who to believe but since nobody had witnessed this affair and some of the times hadn’t matched up, Claire suspected Ashley had exaggerated.
Ashley glanced up. “Oh, it’s you. What do you want?”
“I wanted to see if you were okay.”
“No, I’m not as it happens. But then you already know that, don’t you?” Ashley snarled.
“Stay away from Tony.” Ashley warned.
“Ash, I really wanted to talk to you about that.”
Ashley impulsively picked up a drink from a nearby table and flung it at Claire. “Keep your stupid little nose out of my relationship with Tony. Clear? I love him and he loves me. We’re going to get married when we graduate…or didn’t he tell you that?” Smirking, Ashley stormed backed into the dorm. A few seconds later, Claire heard the lift doors close. Ashley had left the building.
“This is beautiful,” Tony said as he wrapped his arms round Claire later that evening. “Is everything okay?”
Claire sighed. “I don’t know. It’s Ashley.”
Tony nodded but didn’t let her go. “Go on.”
“Well, she’s talking like you two are serious. She mentioned you were going to get married and everything. She said you were in love with each other.”
Tony squeezed Claire. “I’ll be honest, we had a bit of a flirty thing at the start of term. We’d flirted a bit before the summer but it wasn’t serious. Just messing around, really. At least, I was. I didn’t know she was misunderstanding the situation then. I only realised that over the summer when she was texting constantly. When she started wanting to make plans, just the two of us, I realised what had happened. I tried to set her straight, let her down easy. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s worked.” Tony sighed. “I’m really sorry. We’re not off to a good start, are we?”
“Not your fault.” Claire bit her lip and turned to look at Tony. “So, just to be clear. Where do I stand?”
Tony smiled and touched her cheek. “Now you, I feel differently about. I really like you, Claire. I’d like to see where this could go. You’re fun to be around, everything you do makes me smile. And I love that you’re taking your studies seriously. I wish I was as academic and brainy as you.”
Claire reached up and kissed Tony.
The weekend couldn’t come soon enough for the students. It was promising to be a hot day in Oasis Springs, so the group took off for Sandy Acres to enjoy the new rides installed there. Raúl found himself hanging around on the bungee jump and Nicola enjoyed the sheer terror of riding her first rollercoaster!
Richard suggested they go bowling later that evening. He wanted to show off a bit and he was also hoping he and Tina could mend the rift between Claire and Ashley a little bit. Unfortunately, it made little difference.
But Richard did get his first strike and had to celebrate with a victory dance!