Sleeping next to Strangers

Caroline’s roommate was awake. It was just one of those things she could sense, the other girls breathing wasn’t deep enough and the soft shifts of sheet and pillow were too deliberate. Caroline rolled over. “Paige?”

Paige shifted, messy brown braid falling over her shoulder. “Hmm?”

“Can’t sleep?” Caroline asked. The only illumination came from the red numbers of the digital clock.

“Just thinking.” Paige said softly. She bent her arm and rested her cheek in its crook so the two roommates faced each other over the spaces of their beds.

“What about?” Caroline smiled. The first week of college had been, as promised, a mix of exciting and terrifying new experiences. One of which was living with a complete stranger. They’d gotten on well so far but Caroline still didn’t know much about the doe-eyed girl who shared her tiny dorm room.

“I don’t know. Weird stuff.”

“Probably not that weird.” Caroline offered. Staying up late whispering to roommates was one of the college experiences she’d been assured. “Being away from home makes you think, what sort of weird?”

There was a long moment of silence before Paige spoke. “Are you sure you want to know?”

Caroline nodded emphatically, cheek sliding against her pillow. “We’re roommates.”

Another long pause. “I was wondering what it usually takes for someone to murder someone else.” Paige finally said.

Caroline frowned, sure she’d misheard the other girl. “What?”

“I told you it was weird.” Paige said.

Caroline could not quite see what her expression looked like in the dim crimson light. “Um… like how much money it would take?” The question was a half formed attempt to make sense of the odd answer.

Paige shrugged her shoulders, voice serene. “If money is what was needed. I was thinking how weird it is, that most people are murdered by people they know, that it’s normally not about money.”

“What is it usually about?” Caroline asked before she thought about it.

“Passion.” In the dark red of the dorm room her roommate’s eyed looked shone like pools of liquid.

“Um…yah.” Caroline swallowed. She kicked off her blanket suddenly feeling claustrophobic. This was not the bonding time she’d hoped for. “That is kind of strange I guess. Never thought about it.” She said finally, not keeping all the scorn from her voice.

Paige shrugged again and yawned. “I just thought it was odd. Remember to turn your hair straightener off tomorrow okay? You left it on this morning.” Paige turned around in bed settling into the blankets as if murder had not just been discussed.

Caroline was acutely aware of her own breathing as she stared at her roommate’s back.  She forced herself to turn around as well. Closing her eyes against the dark she wondered who exactly the university had paired her with.

Caroline lasted only a couple minutes like that, unable to quell the itch between her shoulder blades. She twisted back so that she had full view of her now slumbering roommate. Caroline let out a long breath, this was going to be a long semester.


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