She looked around in disgust. "This place is filthy," she said.
He shrugged. "It's a dorm room;" he replied, as though that should explain everything, "What do you expect?"
She eyed him. "I expected that when you invited me over that there would be more 'date' and less cleaning. This isn't impressing me much."
"Don't be like that," he said in an annoyed tone as he shuffled some books and papers on the desk. "I only asked you to come over because I was going to be late otherwise. This stuff is mostly my roommate's. He's kind of a weird guy; I don't see him much. If he was here, I'd ask him to help me find my thermos."
She frowned. "Why do you need a thermos for our date?"
He sighed. "I couldn't find a picnic basket," he admitted, and revealed a large paper sack on top of a warm blanket that had been sitting on his bed. "I wanted to surprise you with a picnic. The thermos was supposed to be for the hot chocolate."
She wasn't sure quite how to respond, so she turned her head away to hide her embarrassment and started tossing gym socks and towels from one pile to a relatively empty space on the floor. A few seconds later she heard him opening desk drawers, and so she chanced a look at him over her shoulder. She hoped she hadn't made him angry. A surprise picnic was probably the most romantic thing anyone had ever done for her.
Tossing aside another towel, she unearthed a lone pink rollerblade that looked like it would fit a teenage girl. "Your roommate is weird," she said, holding it up.
"Oh, no, that's mine," he said.
There was a moment of bewildered and awkward silence.
And then he smiled. "I'm just kidding." He took the rollerblade and tossed it into the jungle-like closet, where it landed with a metallic sound. He immediately followed to investigate.
"My thermos!" he called, holding it up in triumph. "I'm going to go wash it out in case my roommate conducted a science experiment in it or something. You should..." he glanced around the room. "...probably wait in the hallway."
She nodded agreement and turned to move the last of the things from the old pile she'd been searching to the new one she'd been making. Everybody deserves some free floor space, she thought. There's not much left of this stuff, anyway.
Underneath the pile of clothes, dirt, and junk, there was a small golden medallion that seemed to shine in importance.
It sort of looked like a cross between an arcade token and ancient Asian currency. It was sparkling as though it had been recently polished.
She wondered what it could be, why his roommate would just leave it at the bottom of a pile of stuff like this. Looking at it made her feel a bit weird, like she was intruding on something. Maybe... I shouldn't be looking at it, she thought.
Despite that feeling, she reached out her hand and touched the metal with a fingertip.
When the hero returned with his clean thermos full of hot chocolate, ready to sweep his fair lady off her feet (and make up for asking her to help him search his dirty dorm room), the room was empty.
He looked behind the door, peered into the closet, and stepped out into the hallway and asked the guys across the hall if they'd seen her leave. She was nowhere. He texted her, then called when she didn't respond.
He spent a few minutes tidying up his desk, throwing a blanket over his roommate's bed to make it look a bit less messy, and grumbling that he didn't think he was gone that long, that it wasn't that bad in his room, and that a surprise picnic ought to have made up for both.
Hours later, he gave up with a disappointed shrug. Maybe this was her way of breaking up with him. Maybe he should have planned ahead a little more and found the thermos last night instead. Maybe she'd gotten a call from her parents and had to go take care of a family emergency. The next time he saw her in class he would ask. If she was mad, she probably wouldn't be mad for long.
He turned on his desk lamp, opened his laptop, and started to play a video game.
In a dark corner of the room, the medallion glittered menacingly.