“Be careful, sweetheart!” says my mother as she hold me close in a tight hug. When she lets me go, I see the tears in her eyes she tried to hold back all day. I wipe one of them away and smile at her.
“Don’t worry, mom. It’s not like I’m going to Vegas.” I laugh and she pulls me in for another hug.
“I know, I know. But you’re going off to college, and not just any college! Stella Academy.” She sighs, “I still can’t believe you got in.” I pull away to look at her. She looks genuinely happy, but something in her voice bugs me. I applied to Stella Academy in the beginning of the school year; it’s a school for only the top students in America. My boyfriend got a letter a year ago saying he had been accepted and he hadn’t even applied. He was truly a top-student though; he even got a scholarship so he didn’t have to pay to go. That was my problem, even though I was accepted my family didn’t have enough money for me to go. It was a miracle when my stepfather all of a sudden inherited a ton of money from a relative he didn’t even knew existed. But that money made it possible for me to go to Stella Academy.
My mother never had much faith in me, I had gotten into a lot of trouble a year or so ago. Some of my friends had started doing drugs, and I sadly had joined them. Lucky for me, my boyfriend was there to help me get through it and split with them. He pulled me back on the right track. So I get it, why she was, well is, surprised I got into Stella.
I smile at her as my younger sister slams into my body and wraps her arms around my waist. Katelyn is six years younger than me and she’s my only sibling. This is the first time I leave her for longer than a week. I know she’ll miss me just as much as I will miss her.
“Jessie, you can’t leave me!” she cries whilst squeezing me so hard I find it hard to breathe. It amazes me how strong an eleven-year-old girl can be, but nonetheless I squeeze her right back and we stand like that for a while. Right until my stepfather breaks us apart. He got married to my mother about ten years ago. He’s Katelyn’s biological father, but I could never see him as my real father. He is the closest I have to a dad, but it’s still not by blood. He’s oblivious to my opinion on our relationship, and for a few seconds I forget about it myself as I hug him. Saying goodbye is hard, even though it is just for a few months. I have been packing for the past week, and now with my family’s help it’s finally all loaded up in my truck.
“Take care, Jessica,” he says and lets go of me. After another round of goodbyes, a few tears, about ten more hugs to each of my family members, and a promise to say “hi” to Frederick from all of them, I get in my truck and drive off.
I don’t go very far. I only drive for about 10 minutes before I get to my boyfriend’s house. He is standing outside with a small backpack hanging from one of his shoulders and a goofy smile on his face. He went to Stella Academy last week with all of his stuff, so we didn’t have to overload my truck. He had already said his goodbye earlier when his mother left for work. I park the car in the driveway and jump out to give him a hug. He pulls me close and swing me around a few times before putting me down, and kissing me gently on my forehead. He looks at me with pure love shining from his eyes.
“Hey Freddie.” I say as I take his hand and lace my fingers between his. He stares at me with wonder in his eyes and a sly smile playing over his lips.
“Hello, gorgeous.” He whisper and tucks a strand of my red hair behind my ear.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” I ask. He looks around and ends up with his eyes on me again.
“You know, I’ve been thinking about something, Jess.” He says as he shrugs his backpack off his shoulder and opens it, “I love you, you know that, right? Good. Because I really want to be with you, and… uh, well.” He pulls out a small black velvet box. I can feel my eyes going wide.
“You aren’t proposing, are you?” I ask breathlessly, I can’t believe it. I’m only eighteen, I can’t be engaged, my mother would never approve of me getting married this young! But Frederick grins and shakes his head.
“No, I’m not proposing. At least not yet,” he opens the small box revealing a small silver ring. Nothing fancy, no stones. It is just a thin silver band with an intriguing design all the way around. “It’s a promise ring.” He smile nervously and licks his lips, “I want to promise you to always be faithful and always love you. I want to see where the future takes me, but no matter where that will be, I want you to be there with me.” He says. I am flustered. I have no reply for him as he stand there in front of me, with that silver band between his thumb and index finger presenting it to me. I bite down my lower lip as I avoid his gaze.
“So…” he says with a strangled chuckle.
“Fred . . . I don’t know what to say.” He sighs and nods slightly.
“It’s fine babe. Just take your time.” I can tell he is disappointed and it kills me. My gut aches from seeing the hurt in his eyes. I put my hands on his cheeks and pull him in for a kiss. I still feel tingles in my stomach when our lips meet, even though we have been dating for two years. I sigh as we pull apart and I smile at him.
“I love you, Fred. No matter what.” I tell him. He seems to calm down a little as he walks me to my car and opens the door to the passenger seat. I kiss him on his cheek as I get in. He shuts the door and a few seconds later he gets in the driver’s seat. He always insists on driving when we’re going anywhere, it doesn’t matter whose car it is. He’s always the perfect gentleman. Even now, with a nine-hour ride ahead of us he insists on driving the whole way. I don’t even protest, because I know it is a lost argument.
The first hour go by slow, my favorite Lady Antebellum cd is playing to fill out the silence between Fred and I. There is usually always something to talk about, but I had disappointed him so much by not answering his question. I can feel it radiating off of him. A few times we get a conversation going, but it quickly dies out. It is strange. It has never happened before. Before I know it I fall asleep and I don’t wake up until Frederick stops at a gas station to get more gas and buy some snacks.
“Where are we?” I yawn as I get out of the truck.
“You slept for a while, Jess. We’re just outside of Cincinnati.” He says.
“Cincinnati? That means I slept for like—three hours or something.” I count on my fingers to be sure. Yep, three hours. There’s about four and a half hours from Detroit to Cincinnati, and I was awake for the first hour and a half. Frederick grins at me.
“It’s okay, babe. You needed it.” He grabs my hand as we walk into gas station to get snacks.
“No, I was supposed to keep you company while you were driving.” I point out. Fred shakes his head and pulls me close. I am so happy to be so close to him, his disappointment has evaporated and he’s his normal, happy self. I give him a quick peck on his lips before I drag him towards the candy section. He raises an eyebrow at me as I take Lifesavers, Tootsie Rolls and Sour Patch Kids down from the shelves.
“You’re such a fatty.” He muses and I punch him on his shoulder. I have never been one of those skinny supermodels most guys like. Most of my life I have been fighting being overweight. I have never felt comfortable with my body, at least not until I began dating Frederick. He was, is, my first boyfriend. And to be honest, I have no clue why he went for me in the first place. He has always been the popular kid, quarterback on the football team, a member of our school’s math team and just an all-around great guy. I don’t get why he didn’t just go out with one of the hot, skinny cheerleaders, but apparently he fell in love with me the first time he saw me. Or that’s what he tells me when I ask. I have lost a lot of weight now, I am still not as skinny as I would like. I could still lose another ten pounds though; it would definitely help boost my self-esteem. It’s hard losing old habits, and with four and a half more hours to go before we get to Nashville, we need snacks. I pull down a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and Cheddar Chex Mix and hand it to Fred with my wallet before I head off to the restroom.
As I wash my hands I take in my reflection. I stare at the mirror and a pair of crystal clear blue eyes stare right back at me. My red hair falls down my shoulders in soft waves, and right there in between some of the layers on my right side is a black and blue feather. I put it in yesterday, I change it regularly, and before this one I had a purple one. I run my fingers through my hair and walk out to find Fred with a bag filled with all of our snacks, a couple of water bottles, a Gatorade, and a few cans of AriZona iced tea. He knows me too well. I grab his hand and we walk out to my truck again. I offer to drive, but he declines my offer and helps me into the passenger seat. A minute later we are back on the road on our way to Nashville. I can’t wait to begin at the Academy. It’s such an honor to be accepted.
“Are you excited?” asks Fred, breaking my train of thought. I must look pretty confused, because he repeats his question while chuckling.
“Oh, yeah. I’m scared too though. Well . . . nervous.” I confess, and Fred smiles at me.
“Don’t be. I’m sure you’ll fit right in.”
“Not as good as you. You have all those scholarship students to befriend.”
“Oh, that’s what you think, huh?” he laughs. I raise my eyebrows at him and roll my eyes. “Actually, there’s only five other students with scholarships this year. There are four guys and then some girl.” He explains. I scoff at him.
“Hey, baby. You know you are the only one for me. Don’t worry. If anything, I should be worried. I mean . . . there are a lot of guys at this school and you’re hot. I’m scared you’re going to dump me for one of them.” He mutters. I feel a smile creeping onto my face. I don’t know if I should feel flattered that he thinks I’m so hot, or mad that he just thinks I would dump him for some random guy. I just look incredulously at him.
“You really think I would just dump you?” I let out a short laugh, “Fred, you are my first and only love. You loved me when no one else did; you have been there for me through all of the shit I’ve been through during the pat year. You stuck with me even when I did drugs, when I cut myself; you helped me get past my suicide thoughts. Do you really think I would leave you? You have been there for me throughout my lowest points in life. I love you.” I babble. I can see Fred’s body tense up when I mention my suicide thoughts. It was half a year ago, and it was a very difficult time for the both of us. I ended up having to see a shrink ever since then, and I wasn’t allowed near any kinds of painkillers or other medications. I still have to go see a psychiatrist once every other week, my mother found a good one in Nashville and that’s why Fred and I are going there before going to the Academy. Our school is just outside the town of Torchville, and Torchville is about half an hour southeast of Nashville. So I don’t have any problems making that trip once every other week.
“I’m sorry for bringing that up, my love. I didn’t mean it like that. I guess I’m a little nervous about starting school as well.” He apologizes. I accept his apology and lean over to kiss his cheek.
With another stop for gas in Louisville we make it to Nashville. With my GPS we easily find my new shrink’s office and make an appointment. With that out of the way we get back into the car for the last half hour of our trip. Soon we are able to see the school. Stella Academy is not a huge campus like so many other colleges. But of course, there aren’t as many students as in a normal college, or even high school. This year 30 students have been accepted to Stella, and there are only about 100 students total in the school. Fred parks my car and we get out. A huge banner is hanging above the entrance to the school. “Welcome freshmen. Class of 2016.” it says. Below the banner is a long table; teachers are sitting behind it giving out schedules, maps and numbers. I get number four and Frederick receives number six, the numbers represent our groups. We get directed through the entrance and we enter a big courtyard. There’s grass everywhere, a few trees, and buildings surround it. They all look ancient. New students are sitting in groups around the courtyard and next to every group is a huge sign with a number on it. I quickly spot group number four and then realize I have to split up with Frederick. I had truly hoped we would spend the day together, I don’t know how well I will do without him by my side. Frederick utters a profanity and I realize I have been squeezing his hand to hard.
“You’ll be fine, Jess.” He whispers, and I’m surprised at how well he knows me. I sometimes suspect him for being a mind reader.
“I hope so.” I stutter.
“Don’t worry. They’ll love you.” He gives me a deep kiss, which sends tingles all the way out to my fingertips and I hold him close for a little bit. “Good luck, sweetheart.” He whispers and with one last kiss on my forehead he walks off to his group. I see his group leader shake his hand and immediately he is introduced to the rest of the group. The scholarship students. Of course, he’s immediately accepted, I hadn’t expected anything else. But even as he speaks with the other students his gaze is on me. I send him a small smile and begin walking towards group number four. As I get nearer a girl separates from the group and jumps, yes seriously jumps, towards me. She has almost platinum blonde hair and bright green eyes. Even though it’s still almost eighty degrees out she wears a long sleeved blue shirt with the Stella Academy logo on it—it’s a very simple logo, a star in between an intricate S and A—and a pair of faded jeans rolled up to right below her knees. I can’t help but stare at her, she has that perfect body I have always dreamed of, and I suddenly feel very fat as she comes to stand next to me.
“You must be Jessica—Dawn?” she asks, I manage a smile and shake her hand.
“Yes. But just call me Jess.” I stutter. The girl smiles a genuine smile and brings me towards the rest of the group.
“Well, Jessie,” I roll my eyes at the nickname, the only other person who calls me Jessie is my sister, “my name is Avalon, and I’m your contact person. If you have any problems with teachers, homework, friends or your roommate, you can come to me.” She pulls me into the middle of the group of students sitting on the ground. I hate being the center of attention, I always have, and right now I feel horrible. Even though it’s only five other people, it still makes me feel kind of nauseous.
“Everybody this is Jessie.” Avalon says, a few of the people mutter faint hellos and then fall back into their own conversations. Avalon raises an eyebrow and the group and clears her throat. “Guys! You might not think so, but you really need to show some respect.” She exclaims, “Why do I always get the difficult groups?” she ads in a whisper to herself. This actually makes me smile. She shakes her head and begins introducing the group. Naming the students one by one. Jack, Mattie, Sophia, Chelsea.
“And last but not least, Jessie, this is Faye. She’ll be your new roommate.” Avalon says excitedly. Faye, a tiny brunette with golden highlights and a pink tank and a pair of cut-off jean shorts on, doesn’t even look at me when she’s introduced. Avalon looks at me apologetically.
“She’s been here for a few days, and she’s not really that social.” She leans closer to me, “She has OCD, so just be careful around her. If she gets stressed it get’s really bad.” She whispers. That shouldn’t be too hard to handle. Katelyn has OCD as well and I know how hard it can be.
“Thanks for telling me.” I mutter, Faye and I would be great roomies. Neither of us are the social types; I don’t think we are going to have any trouble.
The next hour is spent getting to know each other. Jack and Mattie are both musicians from Seattle, and they are roommates here at Stella. They already know each other; they have been friends since kindergarten. Neither has girlfriends, but they once dated a pair of twin sisters. They are interesting people, and I like them instantly. Sophia is from Tennessee and she’s a singer. Music is her passion, but she is also insanely great at math. She knows no one at the Academy, but loves meeting new people, her and Chelsea immediately hits it off which is lucky considering they’ll be roommates as well. Chelsea tells us about her growing up in an orphanage because of her fathers’ death and her mothers’ drug problems. She spent a lot of time alone in the orphanage reading, and since she was very poor, the only books she had to read were schoolbooks. Which is why she’s a chemistry state champion five years in a row in Florida. Those talents are what got her into Stella.
“I didn’t apply myself,” says Faye when it’s her turn, “my physics teacher wrote my application because she thought I was smart enough to get in. I guess she was right, since I am here now.” She laughs a little to herself as she cracks her knuckles; I notice she does that a lot, “But yeah. I don’t know what else to tell y’all.” This is the first time I hear her speak, and I instantly decide she’s from Texas. I notice the thick accent. Avalon smiles at Faye and touches her back comfortingly; apparently Faye is scared to speak in front of people as well as I am. But Faye shakes off Avalon’s hand and cracks her knuckles once again.
“Please don’t touch me.” She whispers and Avalon immediately apologizes.
“Let’s just move on to Jessie.” Avalon smiles at me and I feel the group’s eyes on me, except for Faye. She is staring intently at her hands. I quickly begin feeling nauseous, but I have to get over it and I swallow my fear as I meet the eyes of my group.
“I’m from Michigan. I only applied because my boyfriend got in on a scholarship, and I want to be with him. I’m not a genius like you all are. Biology is my best class, but I’m not in the same level as you are. I’m just trying to do my best.” I tell them. I hear Avalon suck in a breath as I mention Frederick and his scholarship. Her eyes tell me she wants to speak with me. Another hour passes, and then it’s time for supper. Avalon grabs me by my sleeve and pulls me with her to the cafeteria, we are ahead of the rest of our group, but Avalon doesn’t seem to care much. She pulls me to a small table and we sit down.
“So you said your boyfriend is here on a scholarship?” she asks, obviously interested.
“Yeah, he didn’t even apply to the school. He just got in.” I reply.
“Who is he? Can you point him out?” I look questioningly at her and she just laughs at me, “Oh, I guess I should’ve told you. I’m here on the scholarship program as well. I’m in my third year now. I would have loved to be the leader of the scholarship students, but sadly I don’t get to decide. Phoenix got them this year, and I got you. And so far, I’m not regretting it.” Her voice gets a little venomous when she mentions the guy, Phoenix, but when she finishes talking she just smiles. Her smile is contagious and I feel the corners of my own lips pull upwards. I look around the cafeteria, but I don’t have to look long, because I immediately make eye contact with him. My insides melt and I feel more comfortable than I have since we arrived. I look back at Avalon and point towards Frederick.
“There he is.” I say and point towards my handsome boyfriend.
“Wow, he’s hot.” Avalon says and the immediately slaps her hands over her mouth, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. He’s your boyfriend, and besides I have one myself.” She mutters from behind her hands, and even though her hands are covering a big part of her face I can still see her red cheeks. I smile slightly.
“No, it’s fine. He is pretty good-looking.”
“So how long have you been together?” she asks.
“About two years.” I sigh, “He’s my one and only love.” I look away from Avalon to gaze at Fred, only to find him looking at me too.
“Two years? Really, it looks like you’re still newly in love.” She comments as she looks back and forth between Fred and I.
“It’s because I fall in love with him all over each time I see him.” I say.
“That’s so sweet!” exclaims Avalon and sighs happily, but when I look at her I see worry in her eyes. Something’s wrong, but before I can ask her about it, a guy sits down on the table and cuts of my vision of her. I can only see his back.
“Phoenix.” Greets Avalon. So this must be the guy she was talking about, the one who is the leader of the scholarship students’ group.
“Hello, babe.” He says, his voice is soothing but at the same time it has a rough edge to it. He shifts slightly and gives me a view of the right side of his face. Not a pretty sight. Well, it would be, if it weren’t for a huge scar, which runs all the way from his forehead down over his neck. But I’m positive he would be insanely hot without it.
“Phoenix, you’re not always very nice.” Avalon teases and pulls him down for a kiss. This shocks me, after how she spoke of him only seconds ago, I wouldn’t have thought he was her boyfriend.
“Whatever do you mean baby? I’m always nice.” He muses when they finish their very intense kiss. Avalon just laughs at him and gestures towards me.
“Phoenix, this is Jessie. Her boyfriend is one of your scholarship students.” She says, Phoenix looks at me shortly but then without any further comment he turns back to Avalon. And begins talking about some bet he made with his friends yesterday. That short moment he had looked at me had left me breathless though. I was mistaken; he wouldn’t just be insanely hot without the scar. He was incredibly hot with it as well! His golden-brown eyes bore into mine for only a few seconds; they are framed with the thickest eyelashes I have ever seen. His dark hair is stylishly messy, and he has his left ear pierced.
I have always thought Frederick was the most gorgeous guy on earth because of his absolutely perfect looks. But this guy, Phoenix, has him beat. He is nowhere near flawless, but yet, he is still so gorgeous, those flaws are a part of him, and they make him look amazing. I blush as I think of him and when I look back at Frederick he looks at me with confusion painted on his face. I send him a smile and mime a declaration of love to him ending it with a finger kiss. He pretends to catch it and puts it in his pocket for safekeeping. I laugh at his goofiness and shake my head before I look back at Avalon and Phoenix. They’re in the middle of a very passionate kiss, and I feel like I’m intruding them by watching. So I keep my eyes down until they finish and Phoenix walks back to his table where Frederick is sitting as well.
“I’m sorry for his behavior. He’s not really good with new people.” Avalon says with a shrug and sends a longing look after him.
“Well, why is he a contact group leader then?”
“Let me rephrase that, he’s good with the scholarship students, but not so much with everyone else. He’s kind of a snob.” She laughs.
“Well, I’m glad you’re not like that.” I mutter, Avalon smiles at me and point at a blonde girl sitting at a table close to Phoenix.
“Well, I’m probably one of the only friendly ones. That girl over there? Her name is Sky. Phoenix has cheated on me several times with her. Everyone says they fit together. But I love Phoenix. I deserve to be with him.” Avalon explains. I think it sounds weird.
“Why would you deserve someone who has cheated on you? I think you deserve better than that!” I exclaim. Avalon lets out a laugh.
“There’s so much you don’t understand. I can take care of myself; I know what’s best for me. And right now? It is Phoenix.” She says.
“Speaking of Phoenix, what’s up with that scar? How did he get that?” I can’t help myself I really want to know. Avalon tense up and avoids my gaze.
“It’s really nothing you need to worry about.” She stutters.
“Come on, Av. You can tell me.”
“It’s nothing. He just got in a motorcycle accident a few months ago. No big deal.” She says, but she’s still avoiding my eyes. I have a strong feeling that she’s lying to me, but I can’t prove it. She looks at her watch and immediately stands up.
“Oh my God. I have to go! I'll see you tomorrow at nine am sharp!” she says before leaving me alone at the table. I sit and stare at the exit for a few minutes until I feel a familiar presence sitting down next to me.
“How was your evening?” asks Frederick. I yawn as I scoot closer to him.
“Tiring. You know how I feel about meeting new people, I can’t handle too many.” Frederick chuckles and plants a kiss on the top of my head. “How about yours?” I ask
“It was great. The other students in my group are amazing! Our leader is a bit mean though; he’s a real tough guy. I guess you realized that when he was over here.”
“Not really. He didn’t say a single word to me. His girlfriend Avalon told me he doesn’t like us ‘regular’ students.” I sigh, and add a tiny insult under my breath, which makes Frederick laugh.
“I love you, Jess.” He whispers in my ear as he hugs me close, “Come on. Let us get your stuff to your room, so you can go to bed.” We both get up and leave the cafeteria. It so dark out, we’re not in the city, and the only light comes from a few rooms in the dorms and the cafeteria. We find my truck and get in. Frederick drives it down the road towards the girls dorm, so it’s easier to unload. To my surprise, four other guys are waiting for us there.
“These are some of my new friends, Jess. Jonas, Mike, Chord and Adrian, this is my girlfriend, Jessica.” All the boys greet me with handshakes, and honestly I am quite flustered to see them all here. “They promised to help me get you moved in your new room.” He explains.
“Oh, sure. Thanks.” I don’t know what to say. That is very nice of them to offer help. I carry my purse and my suitcase, and each of the boys takes a box from the car. I have so much stuff, I don’t even know how my stepfather managed to make it all fit in the truck. I’m seriously impressed. I find my dorm room without any problems, but before I open the door I look back at the boys.
“I should probably warn you. My roommate is not really a social kind of person. She keeps to herself.” I say, leaving out the OCD part. No need for the whole school to know. I put in my key, unlock the door and enter. The room is dark with exception of a small reading lamp Faye is using.
“Faye? Would it be okay if I turn on the lights? I need to see where I put my stuff.” I ask carefully.
“Sure.” I flip the light switch on and admire our room. It is huge! We each have our own closets, and they’re big, at least six times eight feet. Our beds are pretty big too, big enough for two people, I sneak a look at Fred and I can see he’s thinking the same as I am. Hopefully his bed is as big as mine. He has a single room. Two desks are lined up by the windows, which have a view over the courtyard. The boys all unload their boxes and leave to get a new load. I smile as I take in my new room. I don’t think it’ll be so bad living in here the next year.
The boys are done pretty quickly, and Fred sends them away. I shut off the light again and we go out to the hallway so we won’t bother Faye. Fred cups my face in his hands and pulls me in for a deep kiss. I melt into him and we don’t separate for another couple of minutes. When the kiss is finished we hug and with another quick goodnight kiss Fred leaves. I can definitely get used to living so close to my boyfriend. Spending the next four years here with him will be no big deal. I am looking forward to it!
I sigh happily as I go back in my room and get ready to go to bed. Without a word to Faye I drift into a heavy sleep, which only lasts until a loud ringing bring me back to consciousness all of a sudden.
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