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Along Came a Spider

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Emma cursed herself for what was probably the twentieth time in the last couple of hours. While at that, she took the chance to also curse her professor, the essay she was (unsuccessfully) trying to write, the class she most definitely hated by now, and the whole university itself. And, to finish, she cursed herself yet again, for allowing the offer of a full scholarship to convince her that she actually had what it takes to go to college. Sure, she could play softball life few other girls could; but that did absolutely not mean that Emma Swan was at all the scholarly type.

Still, in her senior year, she had been scouted and offered a full ride to Boston University for her athletic talent. And she had immediately jumped at the chance. The girl who had never even considered the possibility of going to college, knowing very well that she would never be able to afford it on her own and that, as an orphan, she could not count on parental support either, suddenly saw doors opening to her. At 18 years old, she envisioned a better future, one in which stealing to make do, never having a place she could consider yours, never being sure of what tomorrow would bring would no longer happen. It was a chance she would probably never have again, and if there was one thing Emma was even better at than softball, that was making the best with the hand she was dealt. So college it was.

Now, two years later, Emma was not so sure that had been the right choice anymore. Sports had always come easily to her, if anything, as a way to release tension or anger; the girl certainly had enough of both inside her, needing to come out somehow. Studying, on the other hand, had always been a struggle. Not for lack of intelligence; she was certainly smart enough. But discipline was hard, sitting down for hours was hard unless it was something that thoroughly interested her to the point where she'd be completely immersed in it and not even notice time passing. Most things that demanded prolonged concentration were tough for her; there was too much energy in her body for that, and soon restlessness had won her over.

She had always been an average student at school. Some subjects, she could do well on, barely even having to study – mainly biology, maths and literature, all of which she loved. Those gave her good grades and made sure her GPA didn't get incredibly low. Everything else... not so much.

Which meant that, in college, she was, in her own terms, screwed. The blonde already knew what her major would be since her very first day; actually, since before that. There was only one thing that she was interested in enough to imagine spending the next four years studying, so it was an obvious choice. That did not mean, however, that actually studying for that was came any easily to her.

Emma was well aware of the fact that Social Work was not the toughest major – although she found it hard to imagine how the really tough ones would be like – but still, it was a constant struggle. There was too much to read – and none of it was exactly literature. Fantasy books were her favorite, with thrillers being a close second. Academic texts did not even made the list. And yet, that was what she was stuck with. That was what she was trying to write a paper on at that very moment – and for the last almost 3 hours. So far, all she had was the first paragraph.

The young woman was unnerved enough to seriously consider getting up from her desk to bang her head against the wall, in hopes the impact would spark her brain activity somehow. But she had promised herself that she would absolutely not, under no circumstances, rise from that chair until she had written at least five pages of the paper that was due the very next day. So, instead, she sighed deeply, rolled her neck around a few times, stretched her arms and, with a determined huff, opened one of the 4 books resting on her desk in the first marked passage and started re-reading it.

A high-pitched scream jolted her out of focus just moments later. Almost by instinct, the blonde girl quickly jumped up and out of her dorm room, quickly stopping by the door to grab her softball bat, and set out to find where it was coming from. Someone was clearly in some sort of trouble, and a lifetime of having to defend herself made her earnestly empathize with that. If she needed to beat someone up... she would.

Another scream followed soon, and as she walked along the corridor, it wasn't too hard to tell which room it was coming from. Without thinking twice, Emma burst the door open with one hand, holding her bat with the other and quickly entering the room, ready to strike. Of all the scenes she imagined seeing there, a girl standing on her bed – with no one else in sight – was not one of them. She had to actually do a double-take to scan the space and make sure she was not missing anything, but judging from the fact that the girl screamed yet again at the door being opened and was staring at her with absolute terror on her face, she definitely had the right room.

Realizing there was apparently no one she needed to hit, Emma slowly let the hand with the bat fall to her side, looking rather confused while trying to figure out what exactly was going on. The other girl, on her turn, tried to recompose herself, although not very successfully. One look at her had been enough for Emma to figure out she was definitely one of the rich kids of her college; brand clothes, manicured nails, probably professionally decorated dorm room... she disliked that kind with a passion, and was already starting to regret bothering with her, especially after realizing there was no real danger anywhere. Either that had been a prank, or maybe a theater rehearsal or something, those kids always had time for those art clubs since they never had to work at all.

“So... are you under attack or something?”

It was meant to be an ice-breaker, or at least a try at making that at least a little bit less awkward and excusing herself as quickly as possible, but there was a tinge of disdain in her voice that she was not able to completely hide – and the other girl picked up on it. Her face quickly became nearly expressionless, as if she had a lifetime of practice in looking blank.

“No, of course not. Why would I be? And what on earth are you doing inside my bedroom?”

Emma congratulated herself on being absolutely correct in her first analysis. The tone of superiority in the brunette's voice confirmed every single suspicion she had had, and was enough to get on every single one of her nerves.

“I'm pretty sure the whole building heard you screaming, lady. So don't look at me as if I was crazy, because from what I can see, you're the one who's probably kinda nuts. I thought there was trouble and someone needed help. I was wrong, I'm leaving, I apologize for disrupting Your Majesty's yelling game or whatever it is you're doing. Just try to keep it down, will you? There's people trying to study here.”

Annoyance written all over her face, Emma made her way out of the door. Before she could actually leave, though, the other girl's voice stopped her.

“No, I... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude. Will you please accept my apology?”

Now that's a first”, the blonde thought. “That kind of people doesn't usually apologize.” In spite of herself, she found that actually earned the girl some brownie points with her. Turning on the balls of her feet, she faced her again, eyes softening the slightest bit. The brunette was clearly back to demonstrating at least some discomfort.

“Okay... accepted. Can I go now?”

The girl, who had still not come down, looked at her – part sheepish, part embarrassed, part hopeful. “Of course you can go if that is what you want... But maybe you could help me first?”

Emma rolled her eyes, the apology suddenly making more sense in her mind – she wanted something from her, she'd be nice until she got that. “What? Is there a monster under your bed? Hasn't daddy taught you how to use a flashlight to get rid of them?”

The brunette flinched slightly, but didn't retort to that, instead remaining silent for a few second, before saying almost inaudibly: “Actually... it's a spider.”

“Wait... you were screaming like that because of a fucking spider? I can't believe this. Just go ahead and kill it, for God's sake, that's what flip-flops are for. I have a paper due tomorrow that I haven't even started yet and I'm here wasting time on a girl scared of a damn spider?! I'm outta here.”

The blonde again turned to leave the room – and again was interrupted before she could get to the door.

“Wait! Please... I have a phobia, okay? I really cannot deal with spiders... Could you just please help me? I can help you with your paper!”

Emma had been listening while still facing the door, simply for the little pleasure of hearing a girl like that one actually plead with her. But the last sentence caught her attention enough to make her turn around a second time. Now that was a deal that could benefit her – a lot.

“Okay, you got yourself a deal. I'mma take the insect out, and then you're gonna help me out, alright?”

“Arachnid... but yes, you have my word. I'm Regina, by the way.”

The blonde rolled her eyes yet again at the correction, wondering if she'd be able to stand the other girl for long enough to get the paper done with. It was her best bet, though. She nodded curtly in her direction, acknowledging the introduction. “Emma. So where is the thing?”

“Last time I saw it, it was under my desk...”

Without bothering to reply, she crouched close to the ground, closely examining the pointed area, but finding nothing there.

“Nope... not here anymore, sorry. I'll have to take a look around. This is your clue to come down and hide your thongs, sex toys and whatever else you don't want me to find.”

Regina looked utterly mortified by what she had just heard, and seemed personally offended. “What kind of girl are you implying me to be? For your information, I do not own any of those tasteless things. Not that it's any of your business.”

Another eye-roll followed, together with a half-hearted groan. “I was implying you might actually be interesting or maybe have a life or whatever. Wrong again, lady's boring as hell.”

“Just so you know, if you continue to offend me, I might call our deal off.”

This time, Emma actually laughed out loud – much to her companion's chagrin. “And be forced to spend the whole night in this room with the itsy bitsy spider? I doubt it.”

The brunette huffed, but didn't bother denying that the other girl was right. There was no way she'd be able to get any sleep knowing the spider was still in the bedroom with her. So she resorted to simply staying silent (still on the bed, although at that point she allowed herself to sit down at least) and watching the other girl go through the place, looking bit by bit. A few minutes had passed, until suddenly, she saw Emma grab the closest shoe she could find and bang it against the side of her dresser.

“Aha, gotcha! Deed is done, miss. Your room is spider-free.”

Looking at the brunette, Emma realized she had a clearly disgusted look of her face. “What? It's gone, no need to worry.”

“You... you used my flats for that?!”

One more eye-roll. The blonde mused she should probably start counting them, because she might as well set a new world record. “What did you want me to use, your designer bag? The high heels? Spider's dead, my part of the deal's done, we have a paper to write. Come on, time to leave the bed.”