I never believed in love at first sight until it happened to me, and even then, I still didn't believe it.
It was my first day of school at the University of Central Florida , and I had just rolled up in a sleek new Honda coupe, minutes prior. With my sunroof cocked, I pulled the driver's side door open. I sported tan, vintage cowgirl boots, gleaming sunglasses, and long, wavy brown hair. Today was a day to take mercilessly, I told myself over and over. Today was the day to make every good impression.
Today would be mine, and there would be nothing standing in my way of that.
So, as I checked myself in my car window's reflection, the only thing I had anticipated at all was the behavior of my hair for the last class of the day. I turned my head a few degrees to the right, and then to the left, assuring myself that I still looked as nice and presentable as before. As of yet, nothing had caused any of my flowing brown locks to stray, or my sundress to wrinkle. Quickly I pleated the sleeves of the light denim jacket I was carrying before shrugging it on; effortlessly I slid the strap of my drawstring purse into place, adjusting the height as it travelled over my shoulder. I thought about little more than the present, in these moments…the moments before my world turned upside down.
I wasn't sure why I kept up with appearances so much, lately. After the strain of a previous heartbreak, I had fallen into a spiraling depression, in which I had eaten little and become super thin, just like the models that I so passionately despised in magazines. Once upon a time, I sported the perfect athletic body with abs and all; I was perfect, by my own standards (who made the rules, anyway?); but now that I was the same size, I only felt sympathy for them. It was a place I would never go; I had just learned to accept it, that nothing I wore, said, or did could ever begin to make me attractive. Now that I was small and spindly, with hardly any meat on my bones, everything seemed to fit bigger, and all that I did have I was unhappy with. I had a face that many would consider beautiful, but when I wore shirts, they clanged to my flat chest without grace, emphasizing my lack of breasts. My hair never seemed to behave the way I wanted it to, and at times my eyes gave the impression that I was a very intense person. Because of this, many people were afraid to approach me. In actuality, I rarely spoke because I tripped over my words, and physically, my feet didn't seem to do a much better job.
Silently I wondered if it would be a miracle for me to get through my day without falling flat on my face. I fingered the rosary beads dangling around my neck, for good luck, and resumed my pace to room 201.
Absently, I leafed through the pages of my copy of Wuthering Heights as I took a seat, nervous for the start of class. It served as a distraction while the rest of the masses shuffled in to take their places. At one minute 'til 3, I stuck the book back into my backpack, and, growing impatient, I began to mentally prepare myself for the lesson.
Nothing could prepare me for what was next.
My eyes wondered upwards, from the top of my desk, to the front of the classroom, and I saw movement stir from the corner of my vision. Automatically I turned to the source of the blur to see a young girl, no older than 18, gliding gracefully through the door. She was wearing dark, loose fitting jeans and a patterned shirt in coolly colored greens and blues. The shirt was collared, and, like me, she was small and petite; unlike me, she bared curves, just enough to present her with a subtle innocence. Her eyes were crystal clear, the color of the ocean, lined with very precise strokes of pencil liner and smoky grey lids by careful hands. Ever so slightly, the scent of strawberries caressed the air around me as she moved closer.
Our eyes locked.
Frozen in place, I could only stare back at this beautiful, blue eyed creature, for she was the stuff of dreams. As my eyes remained adhered to this perfect stranger, I instantly became full of an emotion that I could not understand. My breathing stopped and my head started to swim with a million sounds and images at once, in only the span of what must have been the blink of an eye. I averted my eyes quickly and covertly, in the hopes that the strange encounter would pass as unextraordinary. I blinked once, and then three times, trying to expel the dizziness from my eyes that lingered. My heart became unhinged from its long resting position in the hollow of my chest and rose into my entire being, causing my throat to pulsate unusually.
Ocean Eyes. I let out a breath that I didn't even know I was holding.
She took a seat two desks away from me and I saw the outline of her figure clearly once more. Subtle curves peaked from the collared shirt, which, at second glance, I could see was actually a light jacket. She took it off and hung it on the chair behind me to expose fair, freckled skin. A girl next to her, who had dark brown hair and a maroon and gold letterman on, began engaging in a conversation with her.
From my chair it became nearly impossible to stop myself from looking over at Ocean Eyes, and my heart refused to slow. The effort to keep my head down and on my own desk was proving to be a task in itself; desperate to satisfy my curiosity, I perked my ears and tuned them in as I began doodling what resembled raindrops on the top right of my binder. I was attempting to appear nonchalant.
"Any idea what our instructor is supposed to be like?" I heard from beside me. The brunette's desk was sandwiched between mine and Ocean Eyes. Before I could hear a reply from the blue eyed beauty, much to my dismay, the instructor flew into the room in a stormy haste and launched into an introduction.
"Hello, class, and welcome to College Seminar 1. My name is Dr. Sullivan, but you may call me anything: The Doc, Doc, The Doctor, or, if you are feeling particularly daring, 'Doctor S,' are all viable options, for short. Whichever gets you going, my dears."
I noted the sarcasm dripping in her voice. A few giggles and hoots erupted from all around me, but I didn't even pretend to be interested. I was too occupied in my own thoughts as I listened intently for a word, a sound, anything from the blue-eyed girl. "Let's cut it short and to the chase," said the Doc, interrupting me from my own mental conversation. "I'm an instructor. Not a teacher. There's a difference between the two. Does anyone care to clarify what that is?"
We all stared blankly back at her.
"A teacher is there to learn you. They might have time for petty b.s, but I assure you, class, that I do not." She paused abruptly before continuing. "This can be a fun course or you can hate it. It's what you decide to make of it. And that means: No cell phones, excessive interruptions, children, etc. etc." She looked at a boy in a back table who was texting. He smiled apologetically and slid his handheld into his pants pocket.
"As for cursing," she continued, "Let's be realistic here, people. It's college. We're all going to swear. Just keep it to a minimum." She made her way around the desk at the front of the room and to us. "So, recap. What's my name?"
"Dr. Sullivan," the class said collectively.
"What do you call me?" She asked. All around me, a cacophony of voices interceded each other with a mix of the words 'Doc' and 'Doctor'.
"Good," she said, smiling. I strained my ears for the one voice that I was anxious to hear, knowing that her words would be mingled in along with the rest, but to my disappointment, I was unable to make it out. I sighed and pushed my back up to my chair in defeat and tried to reason with myself.
What is so interesting about her, anyway? I said to myself. That's right. Absolutely nothing. Pay attention.
I looked over two seats and instantly, I looked back down at my desk and gripped the sides of it, wishing that I hadn't. The room spun, just barely, and my heartbeat sped up until I could hear it thundering in my head. I closed my eyes and breathed out while I tried to decipher what was going on with me.
"Lena Ivy," I heard the teacher say, and I replied with a hasty, "Here!"
"-Jerome. Paul Jaspers, Sarah Kesterson. Matthew Lancaster, Madyline Paulette." I yawned. "...Sterling, Christopher Sawyer...." I tuned out the remaining names of my classmates, retreating comfortably to my own thoughts.
What in the world is going on with you? I thought to myself once more. Suddenly, I realized that I wanted to be anywhere but here. My heartbeat cooled and I exhaled. Nerves. It's just nerves. You're nervous.
For the rest of the class period, I didn't look up. I didn't speak a word, and I only nodded when my name was called for role. When the clock tower chimed at 2:20, I gathered my things and practically ran through the door, not even bothering to check the homework assignment.
~ ~ ~
I stopped dead in my tracks. I hadn't heard that voice since-
"Stacey!" I squealed, as I dropped my keys. My old best friend, who had moved to California two years ago, had practically just materialized in front of me like magic.
"Daaaaaang, girl, you look like you belong in a magazine or on a billboard somewhere," she said as she pulled out of a hug. She pinched my sides. "You were skinny before but…damn. You don't have an ounce of fat on you anywhere." She lowered her voice. "Is this because of that punk, Kaori?" She half-growled as she spoke the last sentence, as if she were spitting it out of her mouth.
"What?" I looked around, confused for a second at the very mention of the name, as if someone might be behind me. I fought chills. "No, I promise," I smiled, assuring her. "I just have, like, a really high metabolism."
She raised her eyebrows. "Well, at any rate, you look really good in that dress," she said. "I never knew you were the type to wear one…guess things change." She shook her head. "We have so much to catch up on!"
"What are you even doing down here?" I said excitedly. Up until two years ago, Stacey and I had been inseparably close. We stayed at each other's houses on a regular basis, usually switching every few days. Of course, those were the days before her abusive step-father came into the picture and drove her away, to live with her less crazy but slightly eccentric grandparents.
"I talked my mom into letting me stay down here with my grandparents for college this semester," she said happily. "It wasn't easy, either," she grimaced, probably recalling some nasty fight or god awful favor she had to do in return. If it was one thing I knew about Stacey, though, it's that she had a way with words. She could persuade a travelling salesman out of his own shoes, if she wanted to. I laughed out loud, knowing that with Stacey, the question was never if she would get her way, but the matter of when.
"What's so funny?" Stacey said, smiling.
"Oh, nothing, I was just picturing you cleaning out stuffy old closets and dirty garages for an entire summer," I giggled. I hooked my arm through hers. "Coffee?"
We marched to the student center, my face aglow with happiness. I couldn't believe my luck! I thought that I would be completely lonely during freshman year, and, to my surprise, Stacey would be at the same college as me.
The line for coffee was short and before I knew it, Stacey and I were sipping on Starbucks and comparing class schedules. I quickly found that we only had two classes together, Anatomy 1 at 8 am on Monday and Creative Writing at 3 pm on Tuesday. Still, I reasoned that one class every day was better than nothing at all, and I didn't complain, even when Stacey cursed.
"Damn it, this is whack," she said with a frown. "We only have one class a day together! Can you say bummer, or what?"
"Cheer up, girl," I said. "It won't be so bad." I smiled.
"Yeah." She scowled, seeming completely unconvinced. "Anyways. Who are you rooming with?! What dorm?!" She practically jumped up and down with excitement.
"Uhm…I don't know," I admitted, shrugging. Truthfully, I hadn't given it any thought yet. On moving day I had gotten sick, and I hadn't had enough time in between classes to move my things into my new housing arrangements. My luggage was still in the trunk of my car, much to my disappointment, which meant that I still had mountains to do after we finished at the Cafe.
"How do you not know something like that, Lee?" She scoffed. I frowned at my old nickname, but she ignored my grimacing face and bounced up and down excitedly. "Well, get it out, let's see!"
Hesitantly I pulled a folded slip of paper from my drawstring and examined its contents. Stacey took the paper from my hands and looked it up and down. "Hmm. Says here that you share quarters in Alistair Hall with a Misses…Sterling?"
I looked up from my class schedule that I was now reexamining, confused. That's weird, I thought. That name sounds familiar...I remember it from somewhere..."Miss Sterling? What's with the 'Misses'? Is she married or something?" I asked.
"Uh, no, it shows you as "Miss Ivy" as well, she said. "I'm guessing they did that with mine and Ramona's, too." She pulled out her own housing chart, before nodding. "Yeah, see? We're under here as "Miss Hailigh and Miss Youngblood. My roommate's name is Ramona Youngblood, by the way. She's reeeeeally weird." She clucked her tongue. "I might be having sleepovers with you, if things get too bad! Anyways. I guess they do it that way so we can have the benefit of properly introducing ourselves."
"Oh," was all I could manage. By now, I was really nervous. What if my roommate didn't like me, or if she was really messy? And what side of the room would I get? Would she be friendly, and hospitable, or want nothing at all to do with me, and what if-
"Earth to Captain Spaceface, I was asking you a question," Stacey said, waving her hand in front of me.
"Sorry," I muttered, not realizing that I was staring off into space.
"Jeez, and here I thought you were a completely different person," she chuckled. "You still do that. Good to know that some things never change." She yawned and chucked her empty Starbucks cup in the trashcan, making it in without touching the rim.
"And you've still got 'the moves', I see," I said, laughing along with her.
"Hey, they have some pretty nice, Class A basketball courts up in L.A," she interjected.
"Uhm, no. I believe the actual wording you were looking for is, "They have some pretty nice, Class A boys up at the basketball courts up in L.A," I smirked.
She just shrugged, unashamed. "Sexy is what sexy does. It wouldn't hurt you to look, you know," she said with a smile.
"Ew. No way," I said.
"Gosh, Lena, your so gay," she said, clearly amused.
"Sorry," I leered. "I just don't see anything attractive about sweaty, stone age chimps fighting over a basketball shaped banana."
"Whatever, your just jelly because they want my body and you won't admit that you want it too." She winked and blew me a kiss, and just as quickly, I stuck my tongue out at her. "Hey, Lena, do they allow lesbians to room with straight girls? Your roommate might not like you. Which means, more sexy time for us." She winked again.
"Loser," I said in response.
"Double loser," she repeated.
"Gosh I've missed you," I giggled.
"Me too," she said. "You have no idea how lonely it can get when your grandparents are always gone and your all alone in CA."
I rolled my eyes. "I can't imagine the agony, being all alone in a huge city with a beach view, surrounded by dozens of restaurants and shops and galleries. Oh Stace, how ever did you survive?"
"Shut up," she said teasingly. "Hey, don't you have a room to move into?" She looked at her watch. "You know building curfew is at six tonight for the freshman. Better get a move on."
"Oh, no!" I said, and suddenly, I was up in a flash.
"Hey! Be careful! Text me when you figure out what your roommate is like!"
But I barely heard her. I was already out the door.