The next few days passed without incident. Samantha, Jewel, Amaya, and I successfully planned and acted out our little skit for the class, and possibly thanks to me taking a back seat most of the time Samantha overall managed to suppress her tsundere inclinations.
On Wednesday, I was a little slow to pack up my bag after Classic Lit and Mr. Kaczkowski caught me on my way out of the class. "Hey, Xavier, you're headed to lunch, right? Would you run these books over to the storage room?"
I was instantly on my guard. This smelled like a manga plot point just waiting to happen. Like I'd take the books only to discover Paula was already there on a similar errand and we'd somehow get locked in together. Or I'd be staggering down the hall and Jill would come rescue me by taking half the books, and we'd again get locked into the storage room together. Or I'd somehow get locked into the storage room, only to be rescued by Rachel. Basically, manga protagonists end up stuck in a lot of storage rooms. On the plus side, I had no idea what he was even talking about so maybe I could weasel out of this. "Storage room?"
"Yeah, it's the door in that little alcove right near the library. The librarian can let you in if it's locked."
Yeah, and then lock me in as soon as I turn my back. "Uh…"
"Aw, come on, Xavier, help me out. Consider it extra credit."
Ugh, lunch was a-wasting. "Alright, sure thing." I grabbed the stack of books, which indeed came up right to my chin, and headed for the door.
"Thanks, Xavier! I'll give you a freebie on the next quiz or something."
I'd rather he gave me a doorstop.
I navigated the crowded hallways in a bit of a funk, trying to balance my need for a speedy delivery with my desire to avoid playing 30-odd book pick-up. The library is on the first floor, kind of tucked in awkwardly near the offices in the central part of the building south of the cafeteria. As I turned into the stairwell, I happened to glance up toward the third floor, and there was Paula. Shit, I hadn't actually expected to have a random encounter with her. Thankfully, she was doing something on her phone as she walked and hadn't spotted me.
I hustled as fast as I could down to the first floor, and ducked into the bathroom that was immediately adjacent to the foot of the stairs.
"Whew, I think I made it," I said, mostly to myself.
The sounds of people peeing suddenly cut off, and I looked up to find a row of young men standing in front of urinals staring at me over their shoulders.
…I was still carrying a classroom's worth of Greek tragedies. Right.
Well, when in doubt, give a manly nod. Works every time. And with a quick sidestep, I managed not to knock the top book onto the floor!
"What the hell?" I heard, as I stepped cautiously out of the bathroom and speed-walked my heart out down the hall. Paula would hopefully have headed north toward our usual table at this point, so I should be in the clear.
"Whoa, Xavier!" I heard Jill call from somewhere behind me. "You want some help with that?"
"Nope, I'm all good! Save me a seat, will you?"
There was no way in hell I was setting foot in that storage room, because I was evidently some sort of prophet and I'd really rather not spend the next period locked in with a bunch of classic literature.
Well, why tempt fate? The storage room was right were Mr. Kaczkowski said, but I went straight to front desk in the library instead. "Mr. Kaczkowski sent these. He said they should go to the storage room?" I set the whole stack down on the counter with a solid thump.
The librarian grunted. "Leave 'em there. I'll put them away." Well that went better than I expected, although I could have sworn he grumbled something involving "Kaczkowski" and the phrase "lazy asshole" under his breath as I turned to go.
Guess I wasn't getting locked inside any storage rooms today!
I strode confidently out of the library, and practically ran straight into Samantha coming down the hall.
Ah, right. Of course that would happen.
"Xavier!" she exclaimed, stopping short. "What—I mean, not that I care, but what are you doing here anyway?"
"I'm heading to lunch." After running that short gauntlet, I was evidently in a weird mood, because I followed up by poking her in the forehead. "Doofus."
The look of apoplectic fury as Samantha spluttered prior to marching down the hall just in front of me was totally worth it.
As we passed the cafeteria, Samantha suddenly slowed. I followed her gaze and there were Amaya and Jewel eating lunch together. Amaya waved and Jewel smiled as Samantha dithered in place. What was this? Had a manga-style coincidence just triggered in my favor? Hell yes!
I gave Samantha a gentle push from behind. "Why not sit with them today?" She gave me a look like I'd just run over her pet dog and told her she should just bury him and get over it. "You can always sit with us tomorrow, if you really want."
"It's not like I—"
Right. I was talking to Samantha. Why was I trying to be supportive again? I poked her in the forehead a second time, rocking her back on her heels. "What is it a tsundere always has to hear before she can achieve happiness? Oh right. Be honest with yourself! You doofus." I gave her a final forehead poke for emphasis, and because her reactions were honestly hilarious.
As Samantha ramped up toward incandescent rage, I waved jauntily to the bemused Jewel and Amaya and headed on my way.
Samantha didn't eat with us for the rest of the week, sat with Amaya and Jewel in Japanese, and when she showed up to the improv meeting Thursday evening she spent the whole time alternately ignoring me and griping about Paula when Paula was onstage (and thus not near enough to retaliate).
Time would ultimately tell, but I was pretty sure that Samantha was on the road to rehabilitation.
One down, three to go.