The Foyer of Alistair Hall was ablaze with activity, as students crowded around each other to exchange social pleasantries. Ladies and gents alike ambled across both the
East and West wings, where the different genders resided opposite each other, in order to mingle, compare class schedules, and make friends. I scoffed silently at a group of boys as they played
Ninja with each other, shirts off and chests bare, glistening with beads of sweat.
It's only the first day, and the boys are already showing off, I thought gloomily. Must be nice to parade around half naked. From their positions around the common room, the boys were blocking the entry way into the East Wing, where the girl's dorms resided. I frowned but did not slow my pace. They'll move, I thought smugly.
Surely enough, as I walked, the boys parted their circle and stared at me, taking me in with curious eyes. Almost immediately, their curiosity piqued to flirtatious grins, and soon one boy was moving right for me full force, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. With my luggage in my hands, I struggled to make it past, but my efforts were fruitless. Before I knew it, several had abandoned their mission to offer me assistance.
"Let me help you with that, miss," I heard one say, and before I could protest, one of my suitcases vanished from the insanely tall pile in my hands.
"Oh, me too!" Said another, as yet another case of luggage was taken from me. Maybe they aren't that bad after all, I thought, as a smile unfolded on my face.
"A girl as pretty as you should not be taking luggage alone," said a dark haired, blue eyed boy. He winked. Instantly, my smile disappeared, and I got an intense feeling of mistrust in my stomach. Yep. They're that bad.
Smile. Just keep smiling, I thought through clenched teeth. I was grinning so wide that my worry was no longer whether or not it was believable, but if it might get stuck like that on my face.
However, despite my lack of interest or attraction, soon every boy playing ninja abandoned their game to help out. I watched wearily now with my hands empty, since my stack had grown smaller and smaller until nothing remained for me to carry.
"Which room is yours, miss?" Another boy asked. He was blonde and tan, sporting a nice, firm eight pack and board shorts, and he wore a necklace made of sea shells. Hmm, I thought silently. Better take a note of this. Stacey will want to hear all about it.
"Room 304," I said happily. "Thank you so much for the help." I smiled my signature, charming smile, knowing that it was not genuine. The smile did not reach my cold, green eyes, which was taking them in without desire.
"Don't mention it!"
"Yeah, it was really no trouble!"
I looked around me to the lot of smiling boys. I groaned mentally, and hoped that I wouldn’t be the latest chase.
Do I really have such a strong effect on people? I thought quietly.
We trudged on to my dorm, and after two or three trips to my door, I thanked each of the boys with a hug and let them return to the commons, no doubt to continue on with their game. With all of my paraphernalia accounted for, I fished out the key to my room and pushed it open.
The left side of the room had been left completely barren, but the right side looked just like a scene from Better Homes and Gardens. The cream colored wall had an abstract painting on it, with warm yellow and orange hues. The bed was enveloped in a white canopy that hung over the rails, with a fancy black frame sporting a round clock. At the end of the bed was a small wooden fiddle protruding from a little black cover, suggesting that my roommate probably had some musical talent. Maybe she's a music major...? I ventured. A bookcase divided our sides down the middle, which was taken on two shelves but still contained two bare ones, presumably where mine would go. An ocean colored carpet lay on the wooden floor as well, complementing the simplicity of the design elements. Even weirder was the absence of one thing in particular...
"No roommate," I sighed.
Maybe she's still out right now?
I spent the next two and a half hours arranging my things. When I was done, I breathed a sigh of relief. My bed was now adorned with bright yellow sheets and a cashmere black and yellow comforter, complemented by matching throw pillows. Above the headboard I had contemplated hanging many of my drawings, but settled on only one-a black and white charcoal sketch of a girl, her hair whipping about in the wind majestically. At the end of my bed I placed a large chest that sported a design of vintage postcards from Paris, with golden corner hinges. I stuck most of my clothes inside it. Finally I placed my large sketch pad and my easel to the side of my room, and set a half a dozen or more small, scented white candles around the objects that were mine.
With everything finished, I waited patiently for my roommate to return.
After about thirty minutes, the clock on the wall and on my wrist struck five simultaneously. I felt my eyebrows knit with concern.
Freshman curfew is at 6 today… I heard Stacey's voice replay from earlier today. Just as quickly, I dismissed the thought. What did I care? She'll have to show up soon enough, anyways.
To occupy the time I set up my sketchpad on the easel and began working on a drawing, and soon enough I was so engrossed in it that, by the time I looked up at the clock again, it read 7:30.
"Seven Thirty?! Good God!"
I commenced to cleaning up my mess. Sticks of charcoal, kneaded eraser, graphite, and tortillon were all packed in the shoebox where they stayed, and then placed inside my chest of drawers. I picked a few articles of clothing out of it, got out my bathroom supplies, and headed to shower.
The shower room in UCF was nice enough and probably hygiene friendly; however, I walked past them, careful not to let anyone suspect me, for I had a different plan.
~ ~ ~
Freshmen were already in their dorms for the night, but a few sophomores, juniors, and seniors still walked around. I dodged behind a large square bush and waited for two girls, who were deep in conversation, to pass me. Luckily, neither seemed to notice, and soon I resumed my pace to the LA building.
I had heard from a friend of mine, who used to attend this college until he graduated two years ago, that above the Liberal Arts 2 building, there was an old loft overlooking the campus. Originally the loft was intended as an apartment for the university's art instructor, but when the campus made renovations, all the professors, including the previous art teacher, had moved to the newer, nicer apartment residences. Due to this, the area's main entrance was closed off and hadn't been lived in for almost a decade.
According to Craig, he used to go there to bathe ever so often, or to study in peace. It didn't matter if the water ran, since nobody would be around to hear it, and as long as nothing was breaking or shattering, one could even get away with playing music in it. This largely had to do with the fact that, because the Liberal Arts building originally housed all music classes in addition to art, it was also built with soundproof walls.
Craig also told me that the stairwell once used to connect the second floor to the loft, or third floor, had been sealed off with bricks. Now there were only two ways into it. One was by climbing up the building, which was completely impractical, and probably entailed breaking a few windows. The other was located inside the art teacher's classroom. The classroom remained unlocked most all of the time for the maintenance staff, but on the rare instance that it was locked, a spare key could be found under the matt outside the door. Once you were inside the classroom, all you had to do was step into the far corner, pull on the chord, and pull down the stairs.
When I arrived at the LA building, I double checked to make sure no one was around before slipping in the door. From there I tried the art room's door, and it budged without difficulty. I breathed a sigh of relief. Once I was inside, I moved quickly to the corner of the room where I knew the pull down stairs would be, and climbed up a few shelves to reach the chord that would allow me access.
Funny, I thought. It’s a lot higher up than Craig mentioned, in passing.
I finally grabbed on to it and, almost as if by magic, a pair of stairs appeared before me.
Ask and you shall receive, I thought warmly. Not too bad for my first college adventure! I climbed the stairs and pulled the latch behind me, I looked around.
I expected to see lots of dust and cobwebs, but instead, everything seemed relatively clean. A few boxes of art supplies, tapes, and countless painting projects were stacked up here and there under
white sheets, and could have easily been from 15 years ago. I stopped and ran my hands over the bottom of one, discovering a marker date on the side. I blew the dust out of the way. It read
Wow, I thought wondrously. The boxes were placed in the loft five days before Christmas thirteen years ago, which meant the place hadn't actually been used by a teacher in all that time. I sighed. What a waste.
I quickly moved from the little den to the bathroom, noting that it was surprisingly bigger than the rest of the floor. A very large, square hole sat in the middle of the floor, below ground, and it was easily the size of a hot tub. The tiling on the floor remained uninterrupted by all this, as if it wasn't unusual in the slightest to see a built in tub in the floor. A gaudy but slightly rusted faucet peaked from the side of it, confirming Craig's old ramblings about the inlaid jaccuzi bath. Opposite me on the west wall was a large mirror. A marble cabinet with a built in sink adorned the corner where it met the North side, and all around the room, paintings of gold cranes soared on the walls, clutching what looked like little mangos in their long silver beaks and silver legs. Upon closer look, I could see Chinese trees and shrubs, the names of which I didn't know, on mountains and hills surrounded by fog. It was all one big masterpiece, and the entire room was still as spotless as the day it was last used, no doubt by Craig himself.
This entire place is a wonderland. I couldn't help but be amazed at what I was seeing. Here was a perfectly good floor, a place even cooler in person than in Craig's old stories, and it was abandoned and forgotten over the course of a little over a decade.
I set to work running the water. Initially I was worried that the top floor might not have hot water, but to my luck, it turned scalding in only a minute or so and the building's hot water heater flowed through the pipes and into the bathwater. I set my clothes, towel, and other pleasantries on the cabinet and placed my bottle of coconut shampoo, conditioner, and body wash on the floor next to the little pool. Without another moment to lose, I stripped down and slipped into the water.
In a matter of seconds I was submerged in a cocoon of thermal relief. I felt my pores opening, and I sat back into the corner and soaked it in for a minute or two while I processed the events of the day.
What had happened to me, earlier, in College Seminar? What was making my heart to beat so fast, the blood to rush to my cheeks? Why was I getting butterflies just by thinking about it? Better yet, who was Ocean Eyes, and what did it mean, the look we had exchanged?
Before I had dismissed it as nerves, but now I wasn't so sure.
I was just about to rule out another theory when my ears picked up on something. I twisted the spicket to a close and paused, waiting for the noise again; after a minute or so I heard it once more.
A sad cacophony of violin notes tangled themselves in the air, shimmering before my ears, as if they were dancing. They seemed to tell a bittersweet tale of heartache and love lost.
Where is that sound coming from? I thought, my entire being stunned from the magical sounds.
Mixed in with the sad melody, a delicious bar of hope presented itself, mixing in the sweet flavor of redemption and acceptance. Then, just as quickly, the sliding strings plunged back into the
same sweet, lyric-less melody. It sounded so tragic, as if the sounds themselves were searching for something that they had lost long before.
After only an instant, it stopped.
I blinked back tears. Never in my life had I heard music so expressive.
A new thought dawned on me, and I stopped conditioning my hair. All three floors were soundproof, meaning that no sound could get in...
The music was coming from inside the building.
I listened again for a sound, but nothing else remained. Is it coming from the second floor? I rubbed my fingers to my ears. But who would be up in the LA building at this time of night?
I shrugged, figuring that there was nothing to worry about. After all, even if this person was in the building, no one else knew how to get up here. I exhaled, and set to work washing the rest of
my hair and my body.
In no time, I was standing before the mirror cleanly dressed, with my hair brushed and my teeth cleaned and flossed. I nodded quietly and carefully placed all of my things back into my carry bag, minus my shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, and toothpaste; those, I reasoned, could stay up here. I cautiously checked the scene around me as I made doubly sure that everything was exactly as I found it, and I climbed down the stairs, out both sets of doors, and into the East wing of Alistair Hall.
I crept down the hallway and opened the door, but, to my disappointment, my roommate was still nowhere to be found.
Ah, well, I thought gloomily. Maybe this Sterling chick is one of the freaky Gothic types. Maybe she likes to roam around in graveyards and woods at night.
I took another look at her side of the room, however, and felt guilty for thinking it. Obviously she was no Goth, judging by the decorations (unless she was a Goth into interior design, which I highly doubted). Besides, hadn't I just been sneaking around campus at night, myself?
I yawned and, before I could think much of anything else, my head hit the pillow and I was out.
Tuesday went by in a blur. I slept through breakfast, and so my stomach growled all through my first two classes of the day, Lecture Hall at 8 am, and English Composition 1 at 9:30 to 11. All
throughout the night, I kept having dreams where I was surrounded by darkness. Finally finding some light, I would walk towards it, until I realized that I was in my College Seminar class. Soon
everything went dark again. From the distance, light beaconed from a single pair of eyes, not completely green but not fully blue, and they floated just out of arm’s reach of me. The eyes seemed to
taunt me, always just out of my reach, and around them began to dissolve those same cheekbones, that fair skin and little nose, that freckled face-
I woke up in a sweat after that. I was certain that I had heard the door open and close, but I was too tired to open my eyes and check. I guessed that I was imaging things, because when I woke up the next morning everything was still perfect and orderly on the other side of the room, same as the night before. Unless somebody was this good at being covert, and took the extra trouble to wake up before me and fix everything, I highly doubted it if anyone had entered the night before. Still, something in my gut lingered on the idea for a second longer, until I dismissed it manually.
So, who was this Sterling girl? And why hadn't she come to her dorm during curfew last night?
"Wow, you sure do love to have those mental conversations with yourself, Lena," Stacey said as she sat down with her lunch tray. I jumped, being jolted out of my own mind and back into the present, and in my haste I managed to hit my head on the purse she was carrying on her arm.
"Ow," I said grouchily. I rubbed my head.
"Jeez, Lee, is it Triple Spaz Tuesday or something?" She teased, elbowing me.
"What? Oh, no," I said. "Sorry, Stace, I'm just a little jumpy..."
"What's got you so uptight, girl?" She smiled.
"I'm not sure." I frowned. "My roommate didn't come home last night."
Stacey almost spit out the carton of juice she was drinking. "Your roommate didn't WHAT?!" She lowered her voice, as her sudden outburst had just attracted stares.
"Your roommate didn't... what?!" She repeated in an angry whisper. "Well, where was she?"
"I don't know," I replied with a shrug. "But I had bad dreams all night last night, and then I thought I heard someone come in, only everything was exactly as it was when I woke up, and god knows what I was dreaming about, and I don't even know what I'm thinking, and I have to go to College Seminar at three today, and-"
"-whoa, whoa, slow down there, Lee," Stacey said through a mouthful as she covered her mouth up with her hand. I waited patiently for her to finish chewing and swallowing. "Now," she said calmly, "I want you to tell me everything that's been going on."
I explained the events of the day yesterday, leaving nothing out, except for me being gone to the loft. That secret was mine, and I wouldn't be giving that up anytime soon, I reasoned.
"And what were you doing out past curfew?" Stacey asked, when I was finished.
"Uhm...I couldn't sleep," I lied. "I got bored waiting."
"Lena," she said, her expression somber and her tone serious. "You have to abide by the curfew. You can get in serious trouble for doing things like that!" She pouted.
"Yeah, I know," I grinned.
"That's just like you. Always looking for an adventure. You really haven't changed a bit." She paused and clucked her tongue. "So, this 'Ocean Eyes'. What's she look like?"
I described her in detail, from her lanky body that almost seemed to be carved from wax, to her button nose, the bridge of freckles just below her eyes...down to her small, soft pink lips.
"-And the worst part is, I have no idea what is going on with me," I sighed. "I didn't even eat dinner last night."
"They were hosting dinner in the Commons, you know," Stacey pointed out. "If you hadn't been so dead set on sneaking out and creeping around last night, you might've noticed." She said pointedly. I frowned. "But that's beside the point."
She formed a frame with both hands by forming two L shapes that met at both sides, and placed me inside it in her line of vision, almost as if she were critiquing me. She looked me over, studying
me very closely, and let out an intent "mhmmmm". She picked up first my left hand in hers and flipped it over, seemingly studying something on it as if it were telling her everything she needed to
know. She did the same to my right hand. Next she looked deep into my eyes.
"I'm going to count to three, and when I do, I'm going to say a random word. When that happens, I want you to say the first thing that pops into your head. Then, I want you to think about the meaning of the word and what it means to you. But when I say stop, you stop, okay?"
I nodded nervously. Even though Stacey had just gotten in college, she had been studying psychology for years. It was no secret what she intended her major to be, either. By now I was used being psychologically evaluated by my best friend, even if it had been by just listening to my voice over the phone for the past few years.
"Ready? Set? Go. Desk."
"Freckles," I blurted. Instantly I was taken back to yesterday, and then to the face disappearing and reappearing in my dream. What did it mean? Freckles...did it have to do with Her? What did that mean to me? What did she mean to me?
Nervous butterflies lurched through my stomach, and the room spun a second time.
"Stop," she said. I snapped back to the present. She held up both of my hands again and flipped them over once more.
She placed her two fingers on my wrist, and then on my windpipe. When she was done, she looked at me curiously.
"What's your resting heartbeat, normally?" She asked.
"Sixty six, Im pretty sure...why? what is it?" I asked.
”Yes, it’s just as I thought.” She looked at me with a knowing look on her face. "Your heart rate was at 120, just now," she replied matter-of-factly. "It almost completely doubled."
"What's that mean?" I asked, panicked.
"Sweaty palms, restless sleep behavior, daydreaming. Excessive Daydreaming," she added, to emphasize that she was aware that I already did this on a normal basis. "Loss of appetite. Jumping heart rate, jumpy, irritable attitude. My dear, it means,-" She paused and looked me up and down, "It seems that we have a case of catharsis on our hands."
My look of fear slowly changed into one of confusion. "Say...what now?"
She chuckled. "That's Latin for "emotional leakage of repressed feelings." She grinned. "It just means you've got the hots for somebody and you don't know how you feel about it.” I sighed in relief. “It’s a perfectly normal emotion, especially after...Kaori." She whispered.
I eyeballed her suspiciously, choosing to ignore her usage of the one name I hated more than anything. "I don't know if that means I should breathe easy, or be concerned."
Just then, three girls walked through the entrance of the Cafe and down into the Lunch area. I noted that all three sported red and white jersey shirts. Two very tall, dark haired girls, their heads turned, were talking to a third, petite girl wearing dark jeans and purple high tops; but she wasn't paying any attention to what they were saying.
She was looking right at me.
My heart stopped. It was Ocean Eyes.
"Samara?" One brunette said. They turned to see what she was looking at.
Her lips turned upward in a smile.
I looked down quickly and pretended to be interested in my barely-nibbled-on sandwich. Footsteps faded from earshot before I dared to look up again. When they were well out of sight, I finally let myself breathe.
"Was that her?" Stacey asked quietly.
"Samara....hmmm. Not a terrible name. I like it.”
:She's not too bad on the eyes, either." she said teasingly. I just looked on, absently.
Samara...I thought to myself in silence....
"I-I need to go," I mumbled. So that's her name…
"Hey, wait, where'r you off to now?!" Stacey yelled after me, but I was already out the door before I turned to reply.
"I don't know!" I yelled back. I closed it behind me and slipped into the late afternoon breeze
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