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Here's an excerpt:
My first night on campus—while I was all homesicky-weepy and trying like hell to hide it—I saw a guy with long, dark hair sitting on the railing of an aerial walkway that bisected the two-story high dining hall, way up above my head. It was high enough that I wouldn't have wanted to look down if I'd been up there, and I sure as hell wouldn't have sat on the narrow railing with my feet dangling about a mile above the people's heads.
"Whoa, look at that!" I pointed upward with my fork, shocked out of my shy silence. My three roommates—all tough, he-manly type guys—turned. I'd only met them a few hours ago. Fellow freshmen seeking safety in numbers, we'd gone to dinner together. I kept getting their names mixed up.
"What?" one of them asked.
"That guy sitting up there!" I glanced at them in shock. How could they miss him? Then I looked back up and felt like an idiot. "Oh. He was sitting on the railing." I scanned. He must have gone into one of the classrooms at the end of the walkway. Very quickly. "That was nuts."
My roommates turned around and went back to eating and talking about which freshmen girls were the hottest. I rose, said goodbye, and followed a couple other kids with empty trays to a pair of garbage cans next to a shelf. Then I saw a stairway that looked like the one I'd come down. I went up, putting my hands in my hoodie pockets and hunching my shoulders, trying to look like I knew my way around. It was only six-thirty in the evening. What was I going to do until it was late enough to crawl into my bed? Don't cry. Don't cry! Damn, I was going to cry.
Once outside, wiping my eyes on the sleeve of my fleece jacket, I headed away from the dorms. The campus crowned a hilltop like a castle built on a high, defensible spot above the town that nestled in the valley below. Skirting the ring of academic buildings where I would start my higher education tomorrow, I paused a moment and took in the beauty of the other hills around me. They glowed in the light of the setting sun as the foliage slowly took on the hues of autumn that
was known for. As a Vermont native myself, I knew that in a few weeks the hills
would be blazing like fire, but tonight, everything was soft gold mixed with
green; the delicate balance between summer and fall. The inevitable change made
me sadder. I had so not wanted this summer to end!
I headed for what the campus map called the Lower Pond. Teardrop-shaped, appropriately, it was nestled between a nicely mowed lawn on one side and a brushy bank on the other. The far end of the pond was filled with tall cattails, their green fronds rustling quietly in the evening breeze. In the middle of the water crouched a rock like a giant gray turtle. A matching turtle rock lay before me on the pond's edge, where the path ended. It was big enough for two people to sit on.
I couldn't see anybody around, anywhere. For a moment, I leaned against the rock, then took my hands out of my pockets and pushed myself up so I sat on it. It didn't grow legs and start walking. I sighed and wiped my eyes. Stress and exhaustion feed my imagination way too much. I tried to let the solace of the late summer evening sink in. A bullfrog croaked over in the cattails, and a gentle gust of wind rattled the branches of the birch trees on the brushy bank. The only way I knew the campus existed was the faint music coming out of somebody's dorm window.
Where I was going to be locked up for the next four years.
Don't leave me here! But it was too late to call my parents back. Damn, what was wrong with me? What guy on his first night on campus sat by a pond and cried? I was supposed to be getting drunk and stoned and laid. What would my roommates think if they knew that none of those things had happened to me? One guy already had two kids by two different women, or so he claimed. And they both wanted him. At the same time, as a threesome. Or so he claimed. I buried my face in my hands. I wanted my own bed. Granted, I was still in
Vermont and only a few hours from
home, which was an old farm on Lake Champlain.
I didn't want to be on this damn campus practically up in Canada just because my mother
worked for the state, hence my free tuition. There'd been no choice about where
I was going to go. Even though I hadn't wanted to go anywhere. I didn't want to
be anywhere but at home.
God, I missed my parents! Did all only children go through this? My friends from big families had been counting down the hours to freedom. I knew they weren't feeling like they were in jail tonight. Right now, they were probably getting stoned and drunk and laid. Or at least they were happy.
If I were home on a Sunday night, we'd be playing cards and eating popcorn around the kitchen table. Mom would be singing along with her country CDs, and Dad and I would be rolling our eyes and laughing when she whacked us over our heads with her cards. Were they doing that tonight? I rocked back and forth, hugging my knees and pressing my forehead down into them.
It'll get better once classes start, I told myself. I'd have homework. The library would be open at night. And in classes, I'd meet other history majors, and we could talk about the Crusades as opposed to some stupid idiot's conquests. But that knowledge felt hollow, compared to the enormity of the present. Tonight, I was going to have to sleep in a room with three strangers who were planning to party until morning. Going to bed and reading until I fell asleep wasn't going to be an option.
How cold would it be on this rock at two o'clock in the morning?
I wiped my eyes again. It was already getting dark. My last summer of freedom, fading away. I'd started crying last night, sitting at my desk at home. I hadn't really stopped all day; I'd just hidden it. Everything I'd dreaded all summer—really, all of my senior year—was now coming to pass. I couldn't do it, I abruptly decided.
Filled with sudden determination, I got to my feet so quickly that I scuffed some loose stones into the water, causing faint splashes. An answering splash came from the middle of the pond, as though someone else had just done the same thing from the rock in the middle. I looked up, feeling my face flaming over being caught crying. It would be all over campus by morning! Then logic hit me. As if there'd been somebody out on the rock in the middle of the pond watching me. A big frog, probably. In the dim light, I could see faint rings spreading out from where it had landed. It was probably that bullfrog I'd heard earlier. God, I was stupid! I leapt down from my rock and headed back up the path, reaching for my phone to call home and tell them to come get me. Right now.
And yet I couldn't get the feeling out of my head that somebody had been watching me.