Priscilla looked up from her textbook as Artemis wrangled her laundry basket through their dorm room door.
“That was the longest laundry expedition ever. I was about to send a search party out. You’ve never been out this late!”
Artemis hated the blush that rushed from her cheeks to her ears. She hadn’t done anything wrong, so why did she feel so guilty? “There were a lot of people waiting.”
Priscilla rolled her eyes. “On a Friday night? Artemis Chen, you are the worst liar I’ve ever met.” She ducked as Artemis threw a sock at her. “Was Andy Harrison among the huddled masses waiting for a washer?”
“No,” Artemis said truthfully. “He had already started by the time I got up there.”
“And you both just happened to have nothing better to do on a Friday night than five hours of laundry. I bet.”
“I can’t imagine what you’re implying,” Artemis said, turning around to put folded shirts and socks back into her dresser. “Andy and I ran into each other upstairs and we talked while waiting for our laundry. That’s it.”
“I can’t help but notice that in five hours of laundry you didn’t manage to wash a single pair of underwear.”
Artemis grabbed a clean pair from her dresser and slingshotted it at Priscilla, who dodged easily. “I’m not going to let Andy see my underwear! That’s creepy.” She paused, realizing she’d been caught. “You’re creepy!” Priscilla threw the underwear back and Artemis caught it out of the air.
“Hah! So you admit this was a premeditated meeting. I rest my case!”
Artemis stepped into the bathroom to change into a baggy t-shirt and gym shorts.
“You even dressed up!” Priscilla teased through the closed door. “This wasn’t laundry. This was a date!”
She knew Priscilla was being silly, but Artemis felt a tingle of fear shoot through her nonetheless at the word date.
“Pris, what are you talking about? I want to go bed.”
Priscilla tossed her textbook off the bed and got under the covers. She waited until Artemis had climbed in to the bunk above her before quietly declaring, “He likes you.”
Artemis stared wide eyed at the ceiling and said nothing.
Priscilla kicked gently at the mattress above her. “Hey, you’re not fooling me. I know you can’t fall asleep with the light on. What happened up there?”
A smile spread slowly across Artemis’s face. She was glad Priscilla couldn’t see. “We talked.”
Priscilla kicked harder. “Well, duh. About what?”
A muffled groan came from the bottom bunk. “Artemis, what is wrong with you? You’re acting like you two made out or did something dirty.”
“No!” Artemis sat up suddenly, then winced as her head smacked the ceiling. “Ow! No,” she insisted, rubbing her head. “Nothing like that.”
“Then why are you being so weird?”
It was a good question. Artemis had loved every minute talking with Andy about that week’s Bible study on marriage. He had listened attentively and nodded in encouragement when she’d told him about her commitment to purity and her desire for God’s will. He was so different from the guys she’d grown up with at the Chinese church, who felt more like brothers than anyone she’d ever consider dating. Funny and fun, but somehow…deep. So why did the thrill feel so dangerous?
“I just…I really like him, but what if he’s not the one?”
“What do you mean, what if he’s not the one? You mean, like, for marriage?”
“Why does that matter right now? You’re, like, twenty.”
“Of course it matters! I don’t want to, you know, get attached to someone if he’s not the one. Because what if later I meet the one and I still have leftover feelings or whatever from…from other guys? That’s what Reverend Yu always said, to guard your heart. Right?”
“I mean, I guess so.”
Artemis sighed. They lay in amiable silence for a few minutes. “Anyway, I think he has a girlfriend.” The words twisted in her heart but she said them aloud anyway. Better to put him safely out of reach than get her hopes up and end up disappointed.
“You think so? Who?”
“Grace Kim from the worship team.”
Priscilla’s laugh echoed in the small room. “Her? Naaaahhhh. She’s into girls. Or at least boys and girls.”
Artemis couldn’t believe it. Grace was a third or fourth generation pastor’s kid, lead female singer on the campus worship team, basically the youth group’s equivalent of the cheerleading captain.
“Is she really? How do you know?”
Priscilla paused for a split second. Artemis didn’t notice. “I just know these things.”
“Are you sure? She’s always all over him after service.”
“It’s an act,” Priscilla declared smugly. “A cover so no one suspects anything.”
Artemis felt hope fluttering uncomfortably in her chest and tried again to squash it down. “But he could still like her.”
Priscilla rolled her eyes almost audibly. “Artemis, for such a smart person, sometimes you really don’t make any sense. Andy didn’t spend five hours ‘talking’ in the laundry room with Grace Kim. He spent five hours talking to you. About who knows what, I don’t know, but a guy doesn’t just do that with someone he’s not interested in.”
“Couldn’t it be an act? Like playing hard to get or something?”
“You, my dear, clearly have not spent enough time around the human male. Men don’t do that. They’re too primitive.”
Priscilla’s words stung because they were true. Artemis fired back, “Well, you seem to know a lot about boys for someone who’s never dated anyone.”
Priscilla laughed softly. “You can spend time with boys without dating them, Artemis. All my best friends are guys. Except you, obviously.”
“Well, thanks, I’m glad we had this talk. Can we go to bed now?”
She heard Priscilla take a breath to say something else, but no words followed. The light clicked off and the two girls lay in silence.