The Laundry Trick

Submitted into Contest #31 in response to: Write a short story about someone doing laundry.... view prompt

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Shelly froze momentarily as she entered the dorm’s laundry room. Loading up a dryer was one of the most gorgeous men that she’d ever seen in her life. 

The ratty Queen t-shirt he wore strained to keep his muscular torso under wraps. He was lean in a way that had he been wearing normal clothes, you would have struggled to notice how toned he really was. His hair was lovingly tousled as was the trend with college boys. 

A flash of anger caused her to slam her basket down on the folding table harder than she meant to. She sighed. She couldn’t believe that she was feeling jealous over the idea that he might have a lover who caused his bedroom hair look. He looked up to identify the source of the noise. 

Feigning an embarrassed smile, she shrugged, “Sorry. Don’t know my own strength.”

He chuckled and the warmth of that rich sound seemed to caress down her spine and left a tingling sensation in its wake. 

He swiped his card to start the machine and panic set in. He was almost done. She could possibly never see him again. She’d never seen him before in the dorms. He must live on a different floor!

Bursting from her lips came the first thing she thought of, “Are you a Queen fan?”

He looked up and his brows pinched together for a moment. 

Shit, even his confused face is adorable.

“Oh, my shirt. Yeah, I mean who doesn’t love Queen?”

“Right, Freddie Mercury was like the king of rock.”

“Well, I think Elvis was the king of rock but Freddie was definitely the queen of rock.”

“Oh damn, that’s good.”

He grinned, “I can’t take credit for it unfortunately. I’ve heard it before.”

“Well, you can take credit for an epic t-shirt.”

He laughed and this time her knees went weak. She held onto the table in front of her for stability and silently scolded her knees for betraying her. Luckily, he didn’t seem to notice.

“I’ve had it forever. I probably should toss it... what with all these holes.” He grinned and stuck a finger through a hole near the hem. “Can you tell I’m running out of clean clothes?”

She laughed and silently sent up a prayer of thanks for dirty laundry. 

“Well, I’ll leave you to your laundry, but maybe let up on the laundry basket abuse, huh?”

“Yeah…” she laughed and cringed internally. He’d broken her. All she could do was laugh at his jokes, her mind was a complete blank. 

He winked as he walked out of the room. 

As soon as he was out of sight, she threw her head into her laundry basket and groaned pitifully into her clothes. A couple other laundry patrons looked over at her when she lifted her head up. 

Throwing her clothes into the nearest open washer, she slammed the door shut, and swiped her card. She tossed her basket on top and set a timer on her phone to match the time remaining screen on the washer. She was about to walk out of the room when a thought hit her.

Turning around, she walked over to the t-shirt guy’s dryer. 

Damn it. I didn’t even ask his name.

The devil on her shoulder answered, he never asked yours either.

Fuck off.

T-shirt guy’s dryer had 29 minutes left on it. 

Shelly opened her phone and replaced her current timer with a new one for 25 minutes. She practically bounced out of the laundry room and back up to her dorm. Her chest swelled with pride for her genius and also excitement at the thought of seeing him again.

Flipping open her laptop, she started scanning articles for conversation topics. She needed to be able to carry a conversation with him next time. No more mindless giggling.

Her momentary excitement soon took a turn for the worse.

Most of the suggestions felt awkward and forced. Working on anything exciting lately?

What were these? Interview questions?

She scanned the rest of the options.

What’s your story? Having fun? What’s your favorite restaurant around here?

She was screwed. She checked the timer on her phone. 10 minutes left.

Nooo, she needed more time.

And suddenly a memory bubbled up and her mind started spinning out ideas.

Shelly grabbed a book from her Eastern Lit class and raced down the stairs. She came barreling into the laundry room. 

T-shirt guy was not there. Thank God.

She walked over to the dryer and hopped up on top as if she was simply waiting for it to finish.

A couple weeks ago, she’d watched as a man from maintenance helped a girl recover a plastic bag that she’d accidentally dumped into the dryer with the rest of her clothes. 

The girl had clearly been concerned about plastic melting all over her clothes. 

Maintenance had clearly been concerned about plastic melting all over the interior of the dryer.

They couldn’t unlock the dryer mid-cycle, so the man had reached around behind the dryer and unplugged it from the outlet rack that ran just behind the dryer displays.

She scanned the people around her. Her heart was beating frantically in her chest and her palms were beginning to sweat. She waited til no one was looking in her direction.

Swiftly she reached behind herself, unplugged the dryer, felt it stop beneath her, and then plugged it back in. Thank you maintenance man. I’ll never forget this trick.

She released a breath when the dryer didn’t start back up again. It had taken 5 minutes for the dryer to unlock after it was unplugged by the maintenance man. She waited. It took a couple minutes for her to hear the distinctive click of the door lock disengaging.

Hopping off the dryer, Shelly opened the door and grabbed a handful of clothes. Still damp. Phew.

She felt slightly guilty for touching another person’s clothes, but she also felt very secretly pleased that she’d touched his laundry. She couldn’t even properly reprimand herself for acting creepy, she was buzzing with excitement too hard. 

Shelly walked over to her washing machine as casually as possible. She placed her laundry basket on the floor in front of her washer and hopped up on the top. Chairs were a non-existent commodity in this room. She opened her copy of The Tale of Genji and pretended to read.

Instead of actually reading, she continued to play out possible scenarios in her mind. 

It was possible that he’d decide the clothes were dry enough. She ranked that as possible but unlikely. They were pretty darn damp.

It was possible he’d come down and get really mad that his clothes weren’t dry. Well, at least then she’d know that he wasn’t stable. 

He might run it again. That was the best case scenario that she could come up with. It gave her two more options to talk to him. Once when he came down and realized his clothes weren’t dry and second, when he came down again to pick up his dry clothes.

Her phone timer went off and scared her so badly she nearly tossed her book out of her lap. She quickly turned the timer off. 

She had set it for a little before his laundry was supposed to be done, so he probably wouldn’t show up for a couple minutes. 

When he did roll in, she’d gotten so accustomed to the flow of traffic in and out of the laundry room that she almost didn’t look up to see him come in. 

He noticed her as he entered and gave her a friendly nod. She smiled back and pretended to go back to reading. Looking up from under her eyelashes, she watched in rapt attention as he went to collect his clothes. 

He shook open the mesh laundry bag he’d brought with him and then reached inside the dryer to grab his clothes.

“Oh man...”

He felt around in the dryer as if checking how wet the whole load was.

He pulled his phone from his back pocket, looked at it and then shoved it back in his pocket. 

“Shit, what do I do…”

Shelly called out to him, “everything okay?”

He let his head fall slightly to one side and smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes.

“Yeah, yeah. My laundry’s just soaked and I have class in five minutes.”

“Oh no!”

Shelly hopped off her washer and hurried over to him.

“Did you check the lint trap? If no one cleaned it out, sometimes it doesn’t dry well.” This was technically true...

“Damn it, I don’t think I did,” he growled slightly, “I don’t have time for this…”

A wave of guilt crashed over her as she watched him clean out the lint tray. It was not nearly full enough to have prevented drying properly. She didn’t know what to say.

He ran his finger along his lower lip in thought, “I guess I could start it and come back after class to get it... but then it’ll just be sitting in here taking up a dryer space for like an hour.”

“Someone’ll probably just pull it out and put it on top if they want to use the dryer.”

“Yeah but I hate that. I feel like I always lose a sock,” he smiled playfully, “also I don’t like being a burden like that.”

“Totally. I get that... maybe I can help?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, of course. I could drop it off at your room?”

“Oh damn, that would be awesome!” but then his face fell, “Er shit, I need to grab my bag for class so I can’t give you my room key. And my roommate’s out...”

“Well, maybe I can just take it back to my room when it’s done and you can come by and pick it up after class.”

“Oh my God, you’re a lifesaver!”

Shelly laughed and waved away the praise. The guilt was there, but it was quickly being drowned out by her elation at how the situation was turning out.

“Here, I’ll give you my number and you can call me when you’re coming by.”

“Perfect.” He handed over his cell phone. 

She entered her info quickly and handed the phone back. He looked at the entry and then looked up at her.

“So it’s Shelly?”

She laughed, “Yeah, I guess we haven’t actually introduced ourselves yet.”

“That’s usually how it goes, huh?” He had dimples in his cheeks when he smiled. God, he’s too cute. Shelly found herself mimicking his grin. “I’m Mark.”

“Nice to meet you, Mark.”

“And you!” Mark turned and slid his card through the dryer, starting it up for a second time, “I don’t know what I’d do if you hadn’t been here.”

Shelly’s smile became slightly more polite than genuine, “I’m sure it would have worked out...”

“All right, well, I have to run but we’ll talk soon. Thanks again!”

He’d dropped his mesh laundry bag on top of the dryer and was out the door before she could craft a reply.

The next hour or so went by too fast and also painfully slow. 

Her laundry finished around the same time as his did and she brought it all up to her room.

She must have spent 20 minutes deciding whether or not she should fold his laundry. Ultimately, she decided against it. It’d be creepy to have some random person fold your laundry but she was pretty concerned about the collared shirt in the load. What if it became too wrinkled to wear while it sat crunched up in the laundry bag? It’s not like he’d iron it. She appeased her neurosis by pulling the shirt to the top of the bag. She told herself that it wouldn’t get as wrinkled there.

She’d picked up two spam calls before he finally called her. He’d never texted her to share his number, so she’d been jumping at every call she’d gotten. 

It was about 20 minutes after his class should have ended when he did call. She gave him her room number and he said he’d be there in 5. 

She launched herself at the door when she heard the knock. 

Opening the door, she put on her best smile, “Hey Mark. Come on in, your laundry is safe and sound.”

“Man, thank you so much.”

“I didn’t check to make sure you had a match for all your socks, but I did check the dryer pretty thoroughly for any stow-a-ways.”

Mark laughed, “you’re the best.”

Shelly handed over the bag, and he swung it over his shoulder like she’d seen soldiers do in old movies. His bicep bulged and she had to consciously tear her gaze away.

She knew the conversation was ending and she felt her throat constricting in panic. What were those conversation topics??? What were any of them?

And then suddenly she remembered, “What is your favorite restaurant around here?”

He gazed at her with a wry smile.

Oh-no.

“Are you asking me out, Shelly?”

She froze. The mental face-palm that she gave herself for that question was hard enough that she almost reached up to smooth the pain away. Why couldn’t she have remembered any other question?

“No, no, no. I’m…” collecting suggestions of local restaurants? Ugh, nooo. So dumb. “...hungry. Looking for some new options, ya kno? Super bored of the usual.”

“Uh huh…” his smile widened and she felt her pulse racing. How was it possible that her heart could pound so viciously in her chest and her lungs could still suck in air? Actually, she wasn’t sure if she was still breathing. 

“Well, I’m meeting some friends at Tony’s Pizza right now. Why don’t you come along? As a thank you for helping me out.”

Shelly swallowed heavily and nodded, “uh, yeah, alright. That’ll be a nice change of pace. Thanks.”

Tony’s will be a nice change of pace?” Mark raised one eyebrow and the effect was devastating. Her stomach somersaulted and she felt instantly light-headed. That look should be illegal. Definitely not allowed while driving.

She managed to pull herself together enough to respond somewhat casually, “yeah, I haven’t had Tony’s Pizza before.”

He grinned. “Girl, you’re in for a treat. You’ll never be the same after tonight.”

Looking at his stunning face and the casual confidence in the way he leaned against her door frame, she knew he was right.

She would never be the same again.

March 07, 2020 00:08

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