Laura and Amanda met for the first time when they were assigned the same room. They were both postgraduate students, very close to getting their doctorates. If all went well, they would finish that year, and they would then be ready to apply for an academic position or set off into the private sector.
Although they were very different girls, they took a quick liking to each other. They were both in their 20s, wearing the casual clothes which were practically a uniform amongst the serious postgrads, and they didn't have many difficulties in choosing their own half of the room.
Laura was a thin and tallish girl. She had an aetherial sort of beauty: long, thin limbs, some curves, fair skin and hair, as well as green eyes. She carried herself with confidence, and her movements seemed deliberate and purposeful. She didn't fidget, and each gesture, as much as each word, was measured and weighed. She looked serious and earnest, in a way that probably had been slightly ridiculous during her childhood but which was now fully appropriate to the person she was becoming. The exuberant exceptions to a body moderate in its shapes were her two breasts, which, while not enormous, had to be described as large and firm.
Amanda, in contrast, was also small, but not quite as thin in proportion. She was a good head shorter than Laura, and much more lively and energetic. She looked darker, and her smile often adorned her round face.
They both were doing their doctorates in biotech. After a long period when different disciplines seemed to appear and split off from each other at blazing speeds, some sense was starting to be made of the human body as a whole, and in general of the mechanisms of living systems. Not everyone had placed their bets on this multidisciplinary approach, especially not the old guard of geneticists, molecular biologists, and so on, but it was more or less an acknowledged reality that it was mostly a matter of time. All ambitious students were taking this route, and both Laura and Amanda had decided to do so as well.
Laura and Amanda spent their first day getting to know each other, and talking about their work. They were both dedicated students, and found each other's plans interesting. Laura was working on measuring and interpreting brain activity. She thought she'd one day be able to give a good probability estimate for the emotions of a subject, and her work could have applications in national security and public order type of stuff. A lie detector that actually worked wasn't out of the question. As to Amanda, she was working on devices to monitor the contents of blood in realtime. Some of these devices were already available, but not in small enough form factors and capable of detecting the very low concentrations Amanda was interested in. She thought her work could have applications for monitoring the state of patients, and perhaps even automatically give treatment in simple cases.
"So what about your personal life?" asked Amanda. "Last year I was roomed with a girl who was always getting into strange scrapes with guys. It was kinda fun at the start, but it could get rather annoying sometimes. You look too serious for that, though, or is it just an appearance?" She said this smiling.
"The truth is, I don't have all that much time for a personal life. I've been told I am a bit too focused, but to be honest, I don't see that as a negative. After I'm done with this stuff, I'm going to go into a jungle. Startups are incredibly risky businesses, and I just don't see myself having the time to keep a relationship on top of all that. And really, I'm not the kind to start something for the sake of it." She looked at Amanda. "How about you? Got a boyfriend?"
"Well...", said Amanda, "not really. I'm, hmm, not interested in men."
"Ah, you mean you're not ready for a relationship at this point either?"
"Not ... quite. I hope it's not a problem, but I only like women." As Amanda said these words, Laura started blushing. "If you have an issue with it..."
"No, not at all! I'm sorry, I should have seen that coming. I suppose I could have better social skills", Laura stammered. "Well, I don't think it will be an issue. I don't pretend I'm pretty enough to drive any men, or women, crazy, and I'm sure lesbians aren't all desperate to make up with any random roommate."
Amanda looked a bit uncomfortable, but Laura's reassuring words managed to put her at ease, and the little awkwardness in their conversation was quickly overcome. They talked a bit about their families, although Laura was oddly unwilling to discuss her parents. Amanda suspected they hadn't parted ways in very good terms, but Laura's childhood, from her own words, sounded ordinary enough, so she couldn't even hazard a guess on why.
Amanda thought she'd lucked out with her roommate. Laura was serious, reasonably quiet, and from the conversations they had had she wouldn't be bringing a new guy every night and crying on Amanda's shoulder every morning. She was also hardworking and their two areas of interest had some connection, so they could bounce ideas off each other. The only bad point was how Laura was so incredibly attractive. There was something about her which Amanda found impossible to resist: maybe it was that deliberate, measured, serious way she did everything, as though she were always performing in public, like a schoolgirl trying to act perfectly before a teacher; maybe it was a certain social cluelessness, combined with obvious technical skills; maybe it was something else, but whatever the case was, Amanda found it hard not to throw herself at Laura, and she knew that was absolutely the wrong thing to do. If she acted that way, Laura would be upset with her, and any chances to get on well with her roommate would disappear.
Laura, on the other hand, thought along similar lines. Amanda wasn't going to cause her trouble, and she seemed mature enough in spite of that odd way of behaving she had. She was just too happy, too eager, too enthusiastic. That said, she was quiet about it all, so it wasn't any problem for Laura, it was just she wasn't used to seeing people behaving like that who weren't total dunces, which Amanda clearly wasn't. She was a lesbian, but, thought Laura, not too likely to get interested in her roommate, and hopefully she would decide to have her liaisons somewhere else. She seemed to be a bit self-conscious about it all, so with a bit of nudging she'd probably prefer to do all that stuff away from Laura and let her have her peace and quiet. At the back of her mind, there was something about Amanda which Laura found endearing, the way one might feel towards a cute little girl, but she wasn't used to examining her feelings much, so she simply let it drop, expecting that it would just go away as their friendship grew to take its place.
The problems begun soon after for Amanda. Although she thought she'd be able to deal with living with someone whom she was desperately attracted to, she didn't count on Laura being so prudish. Amanda had the normal appetites of a woman her age, and living with Laura wasn't exactly diluting them any. However, and after that awkwardness they had had the first day, she didn't want to start doing things which would make Laura feel uncomfortable. So she decided she would wait until Laura would masturbate, before she did it herself. That had been two weeks ago, and Laura had given no signs whatsoever of ever going to do it. Amanda wondered if she even had any sort of equipment, although some girls she knew preferred to do it by hand.
Eventually she couldn't stand it anymore. She wasn't sure whether to ask Laura about it or not, but she needed to have some release. Asking Laura would at least avoid any unpleasant surprises during the act, and Amanda wasn't sure she could stop herself once she started. She couldn't remember having been so horny for a long time. On the other hand, she didn't want to give Laura the impression she had some sort of veto over her sexual life, especially given the kind of tight-arse asceticism she went for. Asking for permission could be misinterpreted. In the end, she decided for a middle way: she'd conspicuously get her vibrator, and maybe inform Laura what she was about to do. Perhaps Laura would prefer to be elsewhere for the few minutes it would take, but she wasn't going to stand it anymore.
"Hey, I'm going to, you know ... Well, fuck it, I'm going to masturbate."
Laura looked as shocked as a nun in a brothel. She couldn't understand how her innocent, bubbly roommate could even say something like that. She couldn't believe how she was standing there, with a vibrator in her hand. The silence was deafening, and it was Amanda who lowered her eyes first, blushed like a child caught by a parent, and put her vibrator away. She sighed, got in bed, as Laura kept observing her, and got ready to have another night of frustration and sweet but unattainable dreams.
When Amanda woke up, Laura had already left for the lab. She often got up earlier and came back later than Amanda, and that day wasn't an exception. For a few moments, Amanda thought of masturbating in the morning, something she preferred not to do, while Laura was away. That would obviate all those problems. However, she knew if she started doing that, especially after having been without for so long, she'd probably waste the whole day, or at least a good half of it, and she couldn't afford to do that. Moreover, she wanted to be able to be at ease with her roommate. Perhaps Laura was a bit uncomfortable about the whole thing, but surely it wasn't the first time she saw someone masturbating, not at her age! She'd talk to Laura about it, and hopefully they'd both reach an agreement like reasonable adults.
That was Amanda's plan when she came back from the lab. She was a bit tired, but resolute to tackle this issue once and for all. Having a roommate couldn't mean living like a nun, certainly not for her, and none of that scandalised reaction from Laura would make it otherwise. Where did she get the idea she could supervise her roommate's sex life like that? If she couldn't live with it, they'd have to apply for a room exchange, and that was that.
Laura came back later than usual, it was almost eleven, and looked completely shattered. In spite of Amanda's firm resolution, she couldn't start an argument with her roommate then and there. It wouldn't have been fair. It was clear that Laura had had a long, difficult day, and that she was driving herself harder than she should have. As a roommate, Amanda wondered whether it was her place to tell Laura to slow down. After all, if she wanted to work herself to death it was her own business, but perhaps a gentle friendly warning wouldn't go amiss.
"Damn!" Laura's word sounded like a hammer. "I fucking hate the fucking labs! Why can't they make the equipment height adjustable? Do they do this shit on purpose?" After coming to her senses though, Laura gasped in surprise. She never spoke like that! What had got into her?
"Oh, what's wrong, Laura? I've never seen you as pissed off as today."
"Sorry, I didn't intend to come in here like a thunderstorm. Sorry for the swearing, too, that's so not me. I was working with subjects today. At last they are letting me use the equipment I actually need. A lot of it, though, needs to be adjusted, and I need to see the subjects' data as it comes in. The whole system isn't really well set up for that though, so I had to stand for the whole day while doing the interviews. The subjects were puzzled enough that I had to talk to them from behind, they expected to look at me, and I'm sure this isn't going to work as well as if I could look at them directly at the same time."
She took her shoes off, reclined on her chair and put her feet up on her bed.
"Now my feet are killing me, and I'm probably going to have to do this tomorrow all over again. I've asked the department for some way to adjust the back pannels of the system, where the dials and the screens are, and they tell me it's not off-the-shelf and it basically won't happen Just because I asked them to. They didn't say it in so many words, but they more or less implied they don't think my tender feet are their problem."
Laura looked almost at the edge of her wits. If Amanda didn't know her, she'd think she was on the edge of crying, but Laura was too self contained for that. Probably she had met some admin arsehole when she made her request, someone who didn't realise standing for the whole day while trying to do intellectual work isn't exactly the best way of doing things.
"Oh, I'm so sorry. You sound like you've had a nasty encounter with some officious prick." Amanda got up from her own chair, and sat at Laura's bed, by her feet, looking towards her. "I know I can't really do much about your basic problem, but is there anything I could do for you? If you need any help, I'm willing to give you a hand. Have you had dinner at all?"
"Dinner? Heh, what is that?"
"Ok, tell you what, let's just order some pizza for you. You don't want to start cooking at this time. Let me go get some dishes from the kitchen. Maybe we can sort something out while you have to do this stuff, maybe I could, oh, I don't know, we'll think about it." Amanda was leaving, but she turned back at the door. "Is there anything else you want from the kitchen?"
"Well, you could get me some tea, if it's not too much bother. Ah, and one of my big bowls."
"A bowl?" she said almost automatically as she walked towards the door. "What for? Anyway, be right back."
Laura tried to wait for Amanda to come back, but she was so tired she didn't want to sit on that chair anymore. She lay on the bed, not even bothering to take her clothes of. She was just going to close her eyes for five minutes, just five minutes. That phrase seemed to be echoing in her head as she heard Amanda calling her name.