A Short Story
By Rosalie Thorne
Edited by Kathryn Maurer
Samantha Claire Kyger, a beautiful woman of fashionable taste and fine virtues finishes folding her clothes and is getting ready to take her basket back to the dorm room when she spots something shiny on the floor. Smiling, she lowers herself to pick up the heads-up penny.
“A lucky penny, sweet,” Eric Benjamin Todd, a handsome man of eclectic interests and true of heart nods righteously as he lowers himself at the same time to pick it up off the laundry room floor.
The hands of the strangers collide and the two students look up at each other. Samantha and Eric both laugh.
Sam, with her long black ringlets and piercing blue eyes, offers a perfectly straight and pearly smile and tilts her head a little. “You can go ahead a take it. I can always find another.”
Sun-bleached shaggy haired Eric, with his strong jaw, tan and freckled skin, gives a charming - almost debonair - smile and holds his finger up quickly and with excitement. “Close your eyes; I know how to solve this.” She squints but does so, then after a moment he replies, “Okay, open them.”
When she looks down, she sees another penny heads-up next to the one they had both gone for. With a giggle she looks into Eric’s gray eyes, “Looks like it’s our lucky day then.”
Though only Eric knows, Samantha picks up the penny Eric had placed down and he picks up the original. They smile at each other and coincidentally walk out of the laundry room at the same time to head back to their dorms. As they exit the same door from the stairwell, Eric chuckles and holds the door open for Sam.
She smiles and blushes a little. When the door closes, she gathers her nerve to ask, “So what room are you in then? I’m in room 217.”
“Ah. I’m, uh - I’m just diagonal, in 214.”
Eric makes sure she gets in her room okay because it comes first and he sees out of the corner of his eye that she watches him enter his.
When the first week of classes finally pass and there are no more opportunities to drop or withdraw or switch classes, Eric and Samantha find out they have British Lit. together and no classes on Fridays (unlike both their roommates).
The first Friday of September finally arrives and there is a knock on Sam’s door. She opens it, thinking her roommate, Amanda, must have forgotten her key again. Instead, she is pleasantly surprised to see Eric on the other side.
“Hey Sammy, I’m having trouble with the assignment for Brit. Lit. Do you think you can help me?”
Eric watches Sammy’s face contort in slight disbelief and then almost as if she feels pity. “It’s only the third week, are you really having trouble?” But, she doesn’t give him time to answer. “Well, come on in then, real old English can be rather difficult.”
What is so adorable though, is that Eric can still see how she tries to hide her smile. After he ‘finally grasped’ the concept she is trying to re-teach him, Eric turns to her before he leaves. “Some friends of mine are hanging out in my room tonight to play some GameCube. We’re going to order some pizza too. You should come by, if you’re not busy, I mean.”
Sammy bites the corner of lip, smiles and nods. “Sure. Sounds fun. Just send me a text when you want me to head over.”
Video game night goes surprisingly well. The boys are genuinely pleased (and maybe even a little surprised) that Sammy knows what the fuck she’s doing with Sheik in Super Smash Bros Melee and do not underestimate her from that point on. Robby, Eric’s roommate who he’d known since middle school, pulls her aside while Eric and Dwight are in a death match, to ask for some homework help, as well - and this time, for real. (She helps him with no problem - his math class was the one she had taken Senior year of high school.)
Sometime past one o’clock in the AM, Samantha figures it’s best to head back to her room even though Mario Kart: Double Dash is in full swing, the snack bowls are still full, and there's plenty of soda left. Interrupting a very passionate conversation of Norse Runes and Mythology between Robby and Eric, she waves at Robby and Dwight who wave back and say goodnight. Sam went to wave to Eric, but he jumps off his bed and walks with her to the hall door.
“Here, I can walk you over. You never know what can happen in those few feet down the hall,” he winks.
“Oh yeah. It’s super scary,” Sam replies in a playful sarcastic way.
The next three Fridays go about the same. Samantha helps Eric with his Brit. Lit. (though it is becoming more and more obvious it’s just an excuse and their conversations easily diverge into other literature or what they’re binging on Netflix). After some alone time under that pretense, they switch rooms and play video games with junk food and soda to spare.
When the last Saturday in September arrives, Sam gets back from lunch and just as she turns her door to close it, Eric opens his with gusto. “Hey Sammy!” he almost yells down the hall.
She holds her door open with a smile, “Hey! What’s up? Missed you at lunch.”
He comes to her, leaving his door wide open, and shrugs “I do like my sleep.”
Sam leans to wave at Robby who was on the floor holding a controller. He only gives a nod back – understandable, given the intensity of his button smashing.
Eric leans up against the wall next to Sammy’s door in the very stereotypical cool-guy way. “We’re having a movie night tonight, if you wanna come. I told them you might be sick of us, but we can order Chinese food this time, or whatever you want, honestly - we’ll eat just about anything.” Eric watches Sammy’s dimples as she smiles.
She looks up at him shyly, though her smile widens, and nods quickly. “Sounds great! What movies?”
Robby’s voice is heard from down the hall and Eric just points over his shoulder: “Boondock Saints 1 and 2 and this movie called Timeline - or something, I don’t know - it’s time travel and Billy Connolly.”
“Oh! I love those movies. What time?”
Sammy always seems full of surprises, like when she showed her video game skill the first time. He stuttered a reply, “Um.. ho-how about six or so?”
“Cool. See you then!” And Sam gave a little wave before closing her door.
Sam and Eric were simultaneously ambushed by their roommates.
Robby looks at Eric. “When are you gonna ask her out, dude? She is obviously awesome and you’re gonna pay for her food a fourth time. You’ve never even done that for me.”
Amanda didn’t bring her eyes up from her nails that she was painting bright Barbie pink. “Another date then? Maybe you should try putting on makeup this time.”
Eric threw a pillow at Robby’s head as Sam went over to her desk without replying.
Movie night went awesomely, as anticipated by all. Robby and Dwight high-five Sammy when they hear her quoting lines from Boondock Saints and are totally in awe as she even pronounces the Latin correctly and filled them in on what it means.
She also ends up finishing Eric’s serving of pot-stickers and snorts with laughter when Dwight pats her on the back and starts teasing Eric about his picky eating. Eric, who has really eaten plenty, just wants to make sure Sammy feels full, feels comfortable. In all these weeks, he notices that she never really eats breakfast and her lunches are small. So, really, he wants to look out for her. (Though he doesn’t say anything of the sort, of course.)
When they put Timeline in the DVD player, everyone is getting quieter and comfortable, almost sluggish. Robby is on his bed while Dwight is sprawled onto the floor, and Eric with Samantha share space on his bed.
As the movie goes on though, Sam realizes that she actually hadn’t stayed up this late in a long time. She leans against her pillow and fights when her eyes want to close for longer than a blink. She is good at listening to movies, especially those she’s seen before. The lights in the dorm room are off anyway, so what did it really matter?
Eric looks down at Sammy, to ask her a question about the movie, and notices she had fallen asleep. Out of instinct, he unfolds his arms and opens the space between them so she can get more comfortable. Once she’s settled, he turns back to the movie, though he can’t help but smile as she snuggles against him, resting her head on his shoulder. With an ever so subtle movement of his hand, his thumb rubs against the Laundry Room Lucky Penny that sits in the corner of his pocket.
Samantha wakes when the fort is blowing up towards the end of the movie. She blushes as she realizes she had been sleeping on Eric and turns to sit up. She even leans forward, elbows on her bent knees to finish out the movie. She hides her face a bit by cupping her chin with her palm, and hops Eric won’t say anything. Sam also hopes that things were not going to get awkward between them.
(She likes their friendship, she likes that if something was developing, it was developing naturally at its own pace. All she can think about is her Laundry Room Lucky Penny that sits on her nightstand in her initials-engraved mini-jewelry box - slipped right into one of the dips in the cushion where a ring should go.)
When the movie is over, Dwight turns on the lights. Robby had fallen asleep on his bed and just rolls over towards the wall with a groan. Dwight says through a yawn that he’s headed back to his dorm and that he’d see ‘y’all’ later. As he leaves, Sam gathers her hoodie and the leftovers she had claimed earlier.
Her heart beating fast, thinking Eric is going to make fun of her for falling asleep, she heads towards the door without waiting for him. As she goes to open it, she hears a soft, low “Hold up,” behind her. She waits, but doesn’t turn around.
When Eric is standing behind Sammy, he opens the door for them and they start down the hall. He follows, like always, and says goodnight like every other weekend. There’s something different in the way she looks at him and before she says goodnight she both bites her lower lip and tucks free hair behind her ear. She smiles and says goodnight but then quickly goes into her room. As the door shuts, Eric’s heart drops; usually they spend at least ten minutes talking before she finally goes inside.
His fingers rub against both sides of his lucky penny as he walks down the hall. Maybe her quickness was a good thing? Or maybe it was as simple as her being so tired. She had slept through most of the movie…. But man… having her so close like that, and the way her little hand curled around the nape of his neck…. In his room, he brought the little copper coin out of his pocket and stares at the shiny face. “Com’on man… I’m trusting you,” he whispers softly.
The first weekend in October went well but both Sam and Eric felt like it was early September all over again. Neither of them made a move for a relationship so both held back and showed strictly friendship. There was even a point, just before Halloween, that Sam was actually so confused with Eric that she went to Amanda to ask for help.
Amanda’s advice was to dress slutty for Halloween and “grind on him”. Sam sighed, realizing it was a mistake to ask her roommate and she’d have to just let it all play out. Late one weekday night she holds her little silver jewelry box in her lap and lifts the shiny little copper coin closer. “Was it all in my head?” she asks to the empty dorm room.
Eric, who had been holding his luck penny from the laundry room in-between his fingers, was surprised when Samantha knocked on his door on Halloween. He figured her roommate had roped her into going to one of the countless parties on campus or maybe she was going to take the lack-of-roommate freedom to stay in and have some alone time and/or study. He’d imagined her all curled in bed with one of her oversized sweaters, her rose-gold headphones on, Netflix and Tumblr on screen - knowing that she hated when other students were rowdy. Without Sammy, he wasn’t really in the mood for much so he waved away Robby and Dwight, muttering they should go do whatever ‘cause there was no movie-night tonight. But here she was, holding a bowl of candy and a 2-liter of cherry cola.
Sam is pushing herself not to be so anti-social on Halloween this year, though she did avoid the parties. (Especially seeing her roommate in an outfit that barely covered anything, yet had a hood, that was supposed to be a ‘slutty wolf’.) With a new-found confidence that was rapidly fleeting, she shoves her Laundry Room Lucky Penny into her pocket and heads for movie night. Sam stands outside Eric’s room feeling pretty good, pretty proud. She is there and has the Halloween candy (to try and make up for the fact the boys always had the food), but is surprised to find that the DVD player isn’t out and Dwight and Robby aren’t fighting over the ‘good’ controller. Confused, she looks up at Eric. “No movie night tonight?”
His long-lashed eyes blink a few times and then his shoulders drop, “Um. Robby and Dwight are out, but... we can... if you don’t mind it just being you and me,” he said though it came out more like a question.
Eric watches Sammy’s dimples appear even as the blush spreads across her smooth cheeks. “Sounds good, more candy for us!”
At first they sit on opposite beds but after the Chinese food arrive, Samantha gets comfortable on Eric’s bed. They chat as they eat, talking not only about school, but about the prospects of going home for the Winter Holidays. Sammy raves about how much she really loves Christmas.
“Are you going home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, to either of your parents?” Eric asked Sammy carefully as he dishes up more fried rice.
She shifts a little and pushes back some of her longest curls behind her back. “Um, no. I don’t think so. I’m not a big Thanksgiving person and the campus will be so deserted - which I think could be super nice actually. The school's in the middle of the East Coast; perfect for both a chance for the last of Autumn or the first of Winter and that makes me excited for the photography opportunities. And my mom’s got a cruise planned for Christmas to the Caribbean and my dad’s going to his wife’s parent’s house…. So there goes that,” she shrugs. “What about you? I’m sure you’ve got something awesome planned to head back to Florida with Robby and see your brothers and stuff.”
“Ah, not really,” Eric lies, given that there had been something awesome planned involving theme parks and the beach and a visit to his favorite seafood restaurant. But, he’d told his parents he was too worried about finals and needed to stay and study. “I’m planning on staying here this year. It just doesn’t seem like the best idea for me to go home right now.” His decision was well worth it by the sparkle in Sammy’s eye and the way she beamed.
“Oh, that’s great! We can buddy up then. I’ve got this little Christmas tree if you want to decorate it!”
His eyes never leave her face and his soft smile eases into a thankful smirk. “Sounds great. My sister sent me this link for a do-it-yourself thing where you can make snowflake looking decorations out of the bottom of plastic bottles. What do you think?”
Sammy actually clapped and bobbed up and down a little on the bed. “I love snowflakes!”
After the noise in the hall died down and it was well past three AM, Sam said it was probably safe for her head to bed and actually be able to get some sleep. Walking her down, like always, Eric chatted with her outside the room for a few minutes before saying his goodnight. Sam said goodnight like normal but surprised Eric with a kiss on the cheek.
Inside their respective rooms, they each think about that kiss. It had just been on the cheek, sure, but that’s still a big deal in the grand scheme of things, isn’t it? That’s still a step in the right direction, they both think. It’s still a signal that something more was happening.
Eric mulls over whether it really was a big deal or if she had just been so happy with all the Christmas talk. As Sam lays awake even though she is so tired, she replays her decision, questioning if it was right. Then she remembers his expression and she knows it was. Even though they are just across the hall a bit, Eric sends her a text good night - a first for them.
The next three weekends continue as usual. Their relationship, friendship, relationship thing didn’t go back but it doesn’t exactly move forward either, even though both of them wanted it to.
Thanksgiving came and nothing happened between them. Eric planned to set up some sort of romantic dinner or something but last minute stripped it down to normal. And Sam planned on having their first kiss, but when she finally gets up the nerve, Robby comes bounding through the door.
After that they are both heavily distracted by finals and end-of-term projects. It isn’t until Sam is lying on her bed listening to her roommate pack for the holidays that she finally lets herself think about it all while staring at the lucky penny she kept so private. Just as she is thinking about him, Eric is staring at that little penny that started it all. Maybe he should just kiss her, he thought, just get up - just go over there - just cup her face and do it. Just do it and see what happens. But his confidence in that plan flickered out faster than a shooting star and he eases into a plan that may be more plausible. Maybe… maybe! Maybe he can stage some mistletoe or something so he could see if she actually wanted to or not. But then it hit him… he flipped the penny one last time and he knew exactly what he had to do.
Samantha and Eric spend almost every day of the winter holidays together. The entire dorm building is quiet with very few people still on campus. They take time to decorate Samantha’s room but for reasons known only to him, Eric keeps pushing off decorating his. They watch Christmas movies and catch up on TV shows, just enjoying each other's company.
They both have a hard time not thinking about each other. There are some nights where they each stand inside their rooms with their hands on their own dorm door handles and sometimes, in turn, when they stand, hand raised to knock on the other’s door. Eric even notices that Sammy is starting to wear makeup. He takes this as a good sign and keeps his plan intact. Sam, on the other hand, is losing hope that anything is going to happen between her and Eric. She even starts wearing unseasonable clothes so she can always be borrowing his sweaters and hoodies.
When Christmas Eve comes round, Sammy tucks her lucky penny into her pocket once more. She grabs her gift for Eric and heads down the hall. She knocks on his door, letting go of her upset and letting herself fully enjoy the holiday, feeling excitement and ready to exchange gifts.
Eric squeezes his lucky penny before putting it in his pocket when he hears Sammy knock on his door. He opens the door but blocks the opening. For a split second Sam imagines the worst outcome and thinks he must have another girl in there. She just about drops his present and runs away to cry. She forces back the tears though and hands his present over.
“Merry Christmas,” was all she could muster.
He smiles bright and says, “Hold on to that and close your eyes.”
Her negative feelings almost snuff out any hope she has left, but she takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. With her eyes closed, all she can think about is that he had said that to her in the laundry room. She felt his large and strong hands on her little shoulders as he leads her into his room. A scent of berries and pine fill her nose and she could hear a little song that reminded her of her childhood music box.
Samantha felt Eric lean against her and felt the warmth of his breath on her ear. “Okay, open them,” he murmurs.
Sammy did so and to Eric’s delight drops the gift to cover her mouth with both hands. Eric comes up beside her and holds his arm around her waist. Feeling so triumphant, he watches as tears start rolling down her face.
Eric had taken all the time they weren’t together, sometimes foregoing sleep, to turn his room into a Christmas Wonderland. There were Christmas lights strung around the room, a tree (similar but bigger than hers) on his desk, with presents from her family underneath [which had taken quiet a bold conversation on Facebook and a lot of sweet talking to get her family to fib and say the packages were just late]. In addition, had made a traditional gingerbread house, and last but not least, he had made not only snowflake ornaments for the tree and to string around the room with the lights, but also paper snowflakes with glitter from the Art Department. Best of all, it seems the universe is on his side, for real snowflakes are gently falling just beyond his dorm’s window.
As he watches Sammy walk farther into the room and look around in awe, he closes the door behind them and goes behind his pillow to grab her gift. Down by the top of his comforter, he reaches for the small box.
He turns to see that Sammy had picked up his present and is holding it out too, as she wipes her face with her sleeve. “Here, open mine first.”
Eric did so, sliding his gift for her into his pocket. Untying the ribbon slowly and opening the box carefully, he just about fist pumped the air - his fist tightening and jutting just a little. “Holy fuck! These... are... amazing!” He glances up at Sammy who was beaming with pride, but soon went back to his gift. With as much grace as a man like him could muster, he pulled the leather bracers out into the air. Looking at all the detail, he backs up to take a seat on his bed.
Sammy’s first ever gift for him is a set of hand-crafted black leather bracers, with runes from Norse Mythology that he recognized as “poetry is in war.” He notices the symbols for all the gods but also notices script across the bottom in a form of English he wasn’t familiar with. Not sure what it said, he looked up at Sammy.
She sits on the bed and talks with her hands the way she does when she’s nervous. She explains: “Um, apparently it means something very close to 'as it seems, the luck is shared between the two, the past just a memory, as their lives together start anew.’ In Old English, like our first assignment in British Lit.”
Really, really wanting to kiss her he takes the small box out of his pocket. “Here, your turn.”
Sam softly takes it with a giddy smile and feels her heart racing. She takes the top off the simple gift box only to find yet another box inside. This one of blue velvet and definitely from a nice jewelry store, she pulls the tight lid open carefully. There she finds is a sparkling, silver and diamond snowflake cushioned in white fabric. It is the most beautiful necklace she has ever seen and as she pulls it slowly out of the box, she hears Eric murmur “Turn it over,” next to her ear.
She does so and knew there was no way she isn’t going to cry again. She reads the small sentence on the back and doesn’t quite know what to do with herself. It reads: “That was the luckiest day of my life because it gave me you” and she looks up at him.
Eric, who already had the bracers on, slips a hand under Sammy’s hair and leans in to kiss her. Sam grips the necklace tight in her hand and lets the box fall to the floor. When they pull away, Samantha listens to Eric as he helps her clasp the necklace under her hair.
“It may have taken us months to get here, but those were the best months of my life. I’ve never met someone so wonderful as you. When you fell asleep on me that first movie night, I’d never been so happy. Everything felt so perfect… and I hope you can take that necklace as a promise from me - a promise that I want to be with you, and only you.”
Not really able to speak, Sam grabs Eric’s face and kisses him again.
Years pass and Samantha and Eric fall more and more in love. The Christmas after graduation he proposes and Sam couldn’t say yes fast enough. Eric lets Sammy plan the wedding, because that’s the career field she’d been working toward all along. Eric, though, told her from the beginning that he would take care of the rings.
Weeks before their wedding date, as Sammy leaves for her last dress fitting, Eric rifles through the closet for her little jewelry box from college. Finding what he was looking for, he knew what to do for the rings.
Even as they came to the start of ceremony, Sam hasn’t seen their rings. She knows her best friend was to hand her Eric’s and Robby was to hand Eric her’s. She figures they must be inscribed or something and hadn’t actually given it much thought. When it came time for the rings, he went first and all the effort she had spent not crying is wasted.
The ring Eric slipped on her finger was that of copper and silver, with a strip of gold in between. Without even needing to ask or be told, Samantha knew he had taken their lucky pennies for the wedding rings.
Who would have thought that something as small and insignificant as a penny on a laundry room floor would have given them both such a beautiful and happy life?
Thank you all for the read, don’t forget to look out for my future works! My author Facebook is The Mousy Girl: Rosalie Thorne, my Instagram is @TheMousyGirl, and my website is TheMousyGirl.com!