The Broken Hearts' Society of Suite 17C
Rion, Amy, and Arielle, the three occupants of first-year dorm Harrison Tower’s Suite 17C have never met before the first day of school, but they soon discover they have one thing in common – being on the wrong end of an epically awful breakup.
Heartbreak sucks, especially when the girls should have seen the trouble coming from a mile away. But there’s no better time than the beginning of college to take charge of your own love life, and nobody better than a roommate to keep you accountable. Over ice cream and pizza their first week, the girls vow never again to date anyone like the assholes who ripped their hearts out and smeared them across the quad.
And that’s how the Broken Hearts’ Society of Suite 17C is born.
Now, if only Crash, the tattooed, pierced, and probably stoned guy who works at Rion’s newest job, wasn’t so damn sexy and sweet…
If only Matt, the thoughtful and driven pastor’s kid, would quit being so okay with just being Amy’s friend…
If only Lauren, the innocent California girl with her own set of issues, would stop finishing Arielle’s sentences and invading her dreams…
it would be a lot easier for the girls to keep their promises to the Society and to themselves.
“Oh my God,” Arielle moaned. “Pizza. You are the best. Seriously.”
A smile twitched at the corners of Rion’s mouth. “See? Things aren’t all bad.”
Now even Arielle cracked a smile. “It’s been pretty much the worst day of my life, but pizza always makes things better. Seriously, thank you.”
Yeah, me too.”
Arielle’s eyes went wide. “You got dumped too?”
“No, I just had to take a shit job I really didn’t want to take.” Rion had stormed out of the Studio determined to find some other place, any other place, to work. But all of them had online job applications that asked whether she’d ever been convicted of a crime. The little voice at the back of her head that said the Studio was the best opportunity she had was right. Dammit.
Rion needed to change the subject before she got all melancholy. That wouldn’t help anyone. “So which of these douchebag college guys do I have to murder?” The words were out before she thought about what she meant by them. Why did she give a shit about which Indiana Northern asshole had broken Arielle’s heart? It seemed like the crying was over, and hopefully so was the food-ordering. They could go about their lives going to different classes and moving past each other from the door of their suite to the doors of their rooms, and before they knew it, freshman year would be over.
But she still had some strange pull toward wanting to know. Wanting to care.
“None of the guys. But a two-faced sorority girl would be good.”
Ah, lesbian romance drama. Fucking fabulous. In the group home, Rion had seen more than a few gay girls making out one day and throwing punches the next, and that shit was never pretty.
Still, she caught herself guarding her words. Caring what Arielle would think of her. “Well, give me her stats and I won’t let her into the Suite. You have my word.”
Arielle cracked another smile as she reached for a pizza box. “Tall, willowy, straightened reddish-brown hair, wearing her sorority letters. Fucking gorgeous. And full of herself. You know, the usual.”
“Done and done. If you have a picture we can hang it on the wall and throw darts at it.”
But now the girl choked back a sob. “I have so many pictures.”
“Okay, okay. Too soon. Sorry.” Rion fumbled through the bags. “Look. I have ice cream too. It’ll be okay.”
And then the door to Suite 17C flung open, and the previously bubbly, bouncing, smiley Amy came in, her face dripping with tears and a total fucking mess.
Arielle had been just about to shove a bite of hot, cheesy comfort food into her mouth when the door swung open. Shoulders shuddering, Amy let the door slam behind her, and slumped against the wall. She slid down to the floor in time with the tears sliding down her cheeks, her purse softly thudding against the office-grade carpet a moment before her butt did.
The pizza dropped on the plate, leaving a hot smear of pizza sauce on Arielle’s hand, which she absentmindedly wiped on her clean yoga pants. She’d have to find the laundry room sooner rather than later, she guessed.
“Jesus fuck,” Rion murmured, slowly taking steps back toward her room
Amy gasped and whipped her head, with eyes wide with shock, over to Rion.
“She’s really…Christian,” Arielle mumbled at Rion while she moved across the room to slide her arm around Amy’s back and pulled her to standing. “Come sit on the couch,” she said to the still-weeping girl. The haze of the headache that her own tears had left behind minutes before still pounded behind her eyes. If Arielle thought she’d looked bad, Amy multiplied that tenfold. “Are you okay? What’s going on?”
Maybe she was called down to the lobby because there was bad news from home. Maybe one of her parents had been in a car accident or something. Arielle would lose her shit if anything happened to her mom, no matter how much the woman could annoy her sometimes.
“He…he…he said he loved me, but…” Amy managed, gasping, before she collapsed into tears again.
“Motherfucker.” Rion swore again, but when Arielle shot her another scolding look, she shrugged and slumped into a chair, watching Amy, who was beginning to calm down enough to hiccup instead of gasp.
“Oh, honey,” Arielle said, channeling her mom’s calming tone as much as possible. Her hand hovered in the air above Amy’s back, uncertain as to whether she should rub it like Amy had rubbed hers. A couple girls back in high school had flinched any time Arielle’s hand came close to touching their bra – she’d learned to be careful with touching girls.
But when Amy let her head fall onto Arielle’s shoulder, the choice was thankfully made for her. Arielle put her arm around Amy’s back, and squeezed her shoulder. “What did he say?” She asked, softly. Carefully. She couldn’t repeat Rachel’s stupid excuses right now if she tried.
“He just said…everyone he had met had broken up with their girlfriends when they got here…and he wanted to see other girls? I guess? Because he prayed about it, and he’s pretty sure I’m the girl he’s supposed to be with, but he just wants to be totally sure?” Her voice twisted higher on the last few words, and she started to sob again.
“What is wrong with these nut-clutching, mansplaining dickheaded assholes?” Arielle and Amy went quiet at Rion’s outburst. “Well, seriously!” she said, throwing her hands in the air. “You,” she said, motioning to Amy, “were obviously like about to get married, and you,” she pointed at Arielle, “fucking transferred to this school to be with that dumb bitch.”
“She’s not a…” Arielle started, her stomach twisting instinctively at anyone referring to Rachel that way.
“Oh but she is,” Rion said. “Nobody can know you’re together? Suddenly lesbians are this horrible thing? Is she living in fucking 1994 or something?”
Amy’s stomach pulled in as she gave a short, slight laugh, and her mouth twitched up at the corners. Arielle had to admit she was right – Rion was outspoken, but at least she was making this a little more bearable.
“And your guy. Who does he think he is? You’re obviously pretty, and sweet, and the two of you had something really serious. And now he wants to fuck other girls, just because he saw all the fresh Indiana Northern meat?”
Amy’s mouth dropped open, and she stared at Rion. “You think he’s going to – I mean – do you think he’s wanting to make love to other girls?”
Arielle shot a dagger-eyed glance at Rion, and quickly but firmly shook her head.
“No…no,” Rion stammered, giving Arielle a panicked look. “I’m sure he just wants to…you know. Kiss them and stuff?” she checked her response with Arielle, who rolled her eyes at her when Amy wailed.
“Okay, look. Let’s just calm down, okay?” Arielle said in the soothing voice again. She had definitely learned more than she’d thought. Mom had Arielle’s back through a few crying sessions when she was fourteen and just starting to come out at school. Ninth grade girls could be brutal in their teasing, and Arielle had learned not to give a shit mostly by Mom teaching her how to deal.
Teasing was one thing, and Rachel was another.
After a few quiet moments, while the girls waited for Amy to start taking deep breaths again, Arielle put slices of pizza on napkins for each of them. She handed one to Rion first, with a slight smile, then nudged one down the coffee table in front of Amy’s face. “Eat,” Arielle said, smoothing her hand over Amy’s long hair before she pulled it away and picked up her own slice.
The girls ate in silence for several moments, and then Rion let her napkin drop to the floor, half the piece of pizza still on it. “Listen,” she said, leaning forward with her elbows on her knees. “Guys are assholes. Girls too, I guess. I swear to God.”
“It’s like they don’t know how to be decent human beings. Do you know what happened to me, literally three weeks before I left to move here?”
Arielle and Amy waited for her to continue.
“I was with this guy, and he was cute, and fun, and really really good in bed, and he just happened to sell pot on the side. And then I fucking got stuck driving his car, with a trunkload of the shit. Nothing like trying to explain to the cops that it’s not your pot and knowing they don’t believe you.”
Arielle whispered “whoa,” and Amy’s eyes were the size of saucers. “So,” Amy’s timid voice broke the silence. “I mean…weren’t you smoking that stuff too? If he was? Or didn’t you at least know it was in there?”
“Of course you’d think that. Everyone else did. It makes sense.” Rion scoffed. “But no. I wouldn’t touch the shit. My only real crime was being stupid enough to drive the car without searching it first. Anyway, I had to go to court. Got a ten thousand dollar fine. Lost all my federal loans. Asshole completely fucked me over. ”
“So you broke up with him?” Amy asked quietly.
Rion scoffed, weaving her fingers together and staring down at them. “Didn’t have to. When he saw me after I got out of court, he figured I wanted to kill him. He was right. But it’s hard to kill someone that you’re used to kissing, you know?” Now Rion’s voice had gone from hard to broken and quiet.
Arielle shook her head. “You loved him, didn’t you?”
“Well,” Rion grumbled, “I wouldn’t say…I don’t know. Maybe. Yeah. I lived in a state run group home for the last year and a half. He was kind of the only person I had.” Rion stared down at her hands some more, and Arielle thought she heard her sniffle, too. Clearly she was done with that conversation, for now at least. They were all quiet for a very long few seconds.
“Okay,” Arielle finally said, tossing her pizza down onto the coffee table with a dull thump. “This is pathetic. We are pathetic.”
Yeah, she still felt completely devastated, like Rachel had permanently poisoned the part of her that could feel happiness. But there was another feeling too, the one that insisted that this was utter bullshit.
Just like Rion, she knew she was worth more than this. And from what little she knew of Amy, and from what she could see of Rion, she knew the same thing about them.
“Jesus, give her a minute,” Rion said, crossing over to the chair next to Amy and sitting down. She looked the girl up and down, as though she was wondering what to do with her. Then she reached into the bag, pulled out a pint of ice cream, cracked the top off, and handed it to Amy, who took it, looking lost. Then Rion mumbled, “Sorry,” and pulled a spoon out of the bag, too. She barely had time to hold it out to Amy before the poor, sniffling girl snatched it and started to dig in.
“Seriously,” Arielle said, watching her two roommates strike up a camaraderie before her eyes. “People screw with us, and we cry and eat ice cream? What the hell are we doing?”
Amy sniffled. “You guys are swearing a lot.”
Rion snorted and pulled another pint out of the bag.
“I’ll be right back,” Arielle said, pushing herself out of her chair, “Be ready to hand one of those over to me.”
In her room, Arielle dug through one of the three huge duffels she’d crammed in her dad’s trunk before the drive up to Northern. She was a sucker for two things: color coding and office supplies, and even though she’d be using her laptop for almost everything in classes, she’d stocked up on a few cute notebooks and fancy pens. She found one that was absolutely perfect – a composition style, so that pages couldn’t be torn out – and had three birds in some artsy-collagey configuration on the front. She grabbed a pack of new gel pens and stalked back into the common room.
“We are not going to let this happen again,” Arielle said.
“And we’re going to do that with a notebook and cutesy pens?”
Arielle glared at Rion, but Amy cracked a smile.
“We all know this is bullshit, right? Sorry, Amy -” Arielle said as she wiggled her yoga-pantsed butt back over the cheap dorm furniture upholstery.
“We all know our exes -” she swallowed – “totally screwed us over. We know we didn’t deserve that, right?”
“And we’re never going to put up with anything close to it ever again,” Rion said.
“Exactly,” Arielle said, willing certainty into her shaky voice. Unfortunately, at this point, she promise she wouldn’t jump back into Rachel’s arms and pick right back where they left off on their happily ever after, given the chance.
But deep down, she also knew that that happily ever after had been totally destroyed by whatever it was that made Rachel embarrassed to be her girlfriend.
“Adam said…he said he thinks we belong together,” Amy’s voice cracked as she fought to get some volume into it. “He just wants to be sure. So probably, we’ll….”
“No,” Arielle interrupted, slamming her hand on the cover of the notebook, then fiercely opening the cover and tearing the cap off the pen with her teeth. “You will not be getting back together. I’m sorry, because I don’t really know you at all, but I know that any guy who promises a girl forever and then comes to college with her and then dumps her ass is not forever. He is not The One. ”
How much was she talking about Amy, and how much was she talking about herself?
Arielle shook her head. It didn’t matter. “Listen to me,” she said, trying to infuse every word with conviction, “The three of us were put in this Suite together for a reason. I know we were.”
Actually, Arielle had been put in the Suite because she was a late transfer.
“My best friend backed out of our double last month,” Amy said. “Decided to start at the community college close to home instead.”
Rion swallowed another bite of ice cream. “And I’m here because -”
“Shut UP!” Arielle said, beginning to scribble furiously. “I’m serious. We’re all here for a reason, and I’m going to tell you what it is right now.” The ink from the green gel pen was especially shimmery, and it pulled a spark of happiness through the darkness threatening to take over Arielle’s whole experience at Northern. The words formed under her pen almost by themselves, and when she finished writing, she held up the notebook for the girls to see.
Amy blinked hard, clearing her eyes of the last of the tears, and Rion let out an exasperated sigh as she leaned forward to read.
“The Broken Hearts’ Society of Suite 17C?” Rion read.
“Yep. We’ve all ended up on the wrong end of some really bad breakups, and we’re having a hard time dealing. It’s true. And you know what that means?”
“We’re pathetic?” Amy offered.
“Yes, okay.” Arielle rolled her eyes. “We’re pathetic, today. That’s why we’re never going to let anything like that happen ever, ever again. We’re going to have such an amazing, jerk-free year, that we’re going to make our exes look like pathetic losers at the end of it. And we’re all going to hold each other accountable.” Arielle swallowed down the doubt rising in her chest. She doubted that gorgeous, confident, social butterfly Rachel could ever look like a pathetic loser, but now that she’d given the whole speech, she owed it to her roommates to at least consider it a possibility.
“So how are we supposed to do that?” Something like hope sparked inside Arielle as she heard a hint of willingness in Rion’s question.
“We’re going to hold a meeting. Every other Sunday. Just like this, with ice cream and pizza, but without the crying.”
“My mom only packed like a month’s worth of tissues anyway,” Amy joked, finally letting a real smile creep onto her face.
“It’s only going to work if everyone’s in. We all have to help each other.” Arielle looked straight at Amy, who swallowed hard, then nodded. She moved her eyes to Rion. She stabbed her plastic fork into the ice cream, taking a long time to twist out a scoop, then shove it in her mouth, then swallow. She looked up at the girls, letting her gaze shift from one to the other. “I’d probably have to listen to you girls talking about exes and crushes and dating and love no matter what, right?”
“Right,” Arielle nodded, keeping her face solemn.
“Fine,” Rion said, passing a pint of ice cream to Arielle as promised. “How’s this going to work?”
“Concentrate on your ice cream,” Arielle mumbled, trying to catch hold of the stream of words jumping up in her head like magic. She flipped open to the second page of the book and wrote so furiously her hand ached when she was done. The notebook made a hefty thud when she dropped it, open-faced, on the floor right next to the pizza.
Praise for The Broken Hearts' Society of Suite 17C
~ Trisha Leigh, Author of The Historians (August 2015, Bloomsbury Spark) and many others.