"Miss Roberts? You can come in now."
Laila stepped confidently into Mr. London's office. She had spoken with him on the phone before arriving at Harper's but had never met him face to face. He wasn't exactly how she imagined he would be. Mr. London was probably thirty pounds overweight and shorter than she had pictured. He stood behind his desk, his pudgy hand extended for hers, a warm smile on his round face.
"Hi, Mr. London. It's really nice to finally meet you."
"Likewise, Miss Roberts. Please, sit."
"Thank you." Laila smiled at him and sat down in the plush chair across the desk from his.
"So, tell me. How was your first week at Harper's Preparatory?" His eyes were eager for approval.
"It's different than St. Mary's, that's for sure," Laila offered. "But I'm making some friends and the work load seems manageable."
"Well, I would hope so. You've taken half the classes already."
Laila blushed. That was true. She had intended on graduating early from St. Mary's and had overloaded on credits her junior year. But Harper's acceptance letter had made her change her mind.
"Are you homesick? Transfer students, especially those who aren't accustomed to the boarding school life, often find themselves missing the comforts of home more than others."
"I am. But this is a good warm up for college."
Mr. London smiled at her. "Yale, right?"
"That's the goal. And that's why I'm here today," Laila was ready to cut through the small talk. Sterling had asked her out to dinner and she was eager to see him again.
"What can I help you with, then?"
"Well, you know what Yale is looking for so I was hoping that you could help me find ways to improve my transcript."
"Laila, you're a straight A student with a near perfect SAT score. There's not a whole lot more you can do other than become captain of a sports team, student body president maybe."
Laila shook her head. Both of those ideas were out of the question. "Isn't there something less…participatory I could try?"
Mr. London laughed at her. "Yale likes leadership. But they also like community service and the ability to prove your knowledge. Have you thought about tutoring underclassmen?"
"I could do that," Laila was almost excited at the idea.
"Lucky for you, it pays as well," Mr. London said, reaching into his desk and looking through his papers.
Laila smiled. She didn't need extra money but it would be nice to have some cash to spend without her parents being able to see her purchases on her credit card statement.
"What subject interests you?"
"Anything I guess. What has the highest demand?"
"Physics and Chemistry mostly."
"Sign me up for Physics, I guess."
"You may want to sound a bit more enthusiastic about the subject when you start tutoring." Mr. London teased her.
"I love Physics," Laila said in cheery voice. "It's challenging and can be seen at work in everything we do."
Mr. London and Laila laughed at her sarcasm.
"You'll be fine."
"Thank you for all your help." Laila stood up to leave.
"It's my pleasure, Miss Roberts." Mr. London stood up and walked her to the door, holding it open for her.
"I'll let you know when there's a student in need of a physics tutor. It shouldn't be more than a few weeks, I imagine."
"Thanks again." Laila smiled at him and shook his hand. "Later."
Laila was scolding herself for forgetting her well rehearsed salutations and farewells as she walked through the door and ran straight into Kalyn. The girl stood a few inches taller than Laila and looked down at her with contempt, her large brown eyes seething with hatred and disgust.
"Sorry," Laila murmured as she walked around her, Kalyn's head tilting in a regal nod as if she couldn't believe Laila poisoned her ears with one word.
"Ah, Miss. Andretti, what can I do for you today?" Mr. London's voice was fading into the background as Laila left the waiting room and turned into the hallway. Despite her run-in with Kalyn, Laila was on cloud nine as she walked back to her dorm. Yale was within her grasp and nothing was going to stand in her way. Sterling would be a pleasant distraction, but he seemed to be as motivated as she was. He had sat next to her in English and again in History, their only two classes together, and had been attentive and studious as the teachers lectured. This only made Laila like him even more.
Laila slowed her step as she approached her room. Tennille was playing the violin and it could be heard halfway down the hallway. Tennille had called herself a musical prodigy but that didn't quite do her justice. Musical genius was a better term, for Tennille didn't have talent, she had a gift.
Laila opened the door quietly, her roommate had her eyes closed, her long black hair was flowing down her back as she swayed in time with her bow, her shoulders flexing in exaggerated movements as she played.
Tennille opened her eyes as Laila shut the door and she smiled at her roommate. She always played better in front of an audience and Laila seemed more than eager to let her play for hours on end. Her innocent roommate with the strange violet eyes smiled back and took a seat at the foot of her bed, staring up at Tennille with a childlike sense of awe.
Tennille closed her eyes again, content that Laila would wait until she was finished before removing her attention. She poured her feelings through her bow and into her music. She had written the song for Tate after he had told her he loved her. It was her going to be her original composition for her entrance exam to Juilliard, her ticket to the rest of her life.
Tennille heard clapping as she finished, her bow still in her hand, resting casually at her side.
"That was beautiful!" Laila gushed. "What was it?"
"A Tennille Kelly original."
Laila's eyes were wide with admiration. "Serious? You wrote that?"
"Impressed?" Tennille laughed.
"Incredibly," Laila laughed as well. "Do you have anymore that you've written?"
"Only a few dozen, or so. But that one is my favorite."
"What's it called?"
"I call it Take Me into Love. I wrote it the night Tate told me he loved me. The first time we… well, you know."
"That's so romantic," Laila blushed.
Tennille put the violin back in its case and sat down on her bed facing her roommate. She liked this girl. She wasn't like the rest of the snobby girls at Harper's. Sure, there were a few who were better than the others, better than the Kalyn Andrettis and Tasha Davenports of the world, but most of the good ones were trying too hard to impress the others, losing all their appeal in the process. Laila was different. She seemed to be immune to all of that. Completely clueless, no question about it, but naturally kind hearted.
"So what about you? Ever been in love?"
"Me? No. Not yet."
"And what about Sterling? Could he be the lucky guy who steals your heart?"
"Maybe," Laila admitted, looking down at her feet and smiling. "Tennille," she asked after a moment's pause. "Can I ask you a question?"
"If it's too personal, just tell me and I won't be offended…"
"Laila, nothing is too personal for me. I'm an open book."
Laila smiled. She liked that about Tennille. There were no secrets, no hidden agendas, just pure honesty.
"How did you know you were ready to sleep with Tate?"
"Oh! That's an easy one. I realized one day, after we had been together for a couple of months, that I trusted him and loved him completely. I was a virgin so I wasn't going to throw myself at him. I made him wait until he was fully committed."
"Did he know you were making him wait?"
Tennille laughed. "We didn't talk about it, but I think he knew. But he's not the type of guy to lie about loving me just to get me into bed."
"Clearly. You two are practically perfect together."
"Practically, but not quite."
"What could possibly be wrong in your relationship?"
"Ha! I could name a thousand things that are wrong in our relationship. We fight all the time because we are so similar, both stubborn and bullish." Tennille shook her head and smiled. "But for everything that is wrong with us, there are a million things that are right. And whenever I'm upset with him, I play his song and remember how much I love him."
"Wow, I really never expected to hear you say something so incredibly sappy," Laila smiled and Tennille laughed at her sarcasm.
"Whatever, Miss I'm-keeping-Sterling's-note-in-my-underwear-drawer!"
Laila laughed and stood up. "Speaking of, I have a date."
"So that's what all the questions were about! Are you thinking of sleeping with Sterling?"
"What? No! We're dating. I guess, I don't know. I'm still not sure if he's serious about me."
"Yet he's been here every evening this week and can't keep his eyes off of you."
Laila smiled. That was true. "We may be headed towards something more, but for right now, I'm holding on to my V card."
Tennille laughed. "You don't know what you're missing. But you hold on to it for as long as you can. It's worth a lot, trust me."
"Thanks, Tennille. Help me pick out an outfit?"
"Of course. Anything for you, girl."
A/N: Sorry it's kind of a slow chapter, but it's setting up something for something bigger. More will be up tomorrow :) Much Love, Pink