“I think there are two more boxes left in the trunk sweetheart, will you run down and grab them?”
“’Course, I’ll be right back love, and don’t start unpacking anything without me” The thin, wooden, door thudded shut behind my dad’s booming voice, and though I wasn’t facing him, I could still hear the distinct smile in his voice as he called behind him. “I don’t want to miss a single thing!”
“Ignore him love.” my mom waved her hand in the air, dismissing my dad’s words. “Start with your clothes, they’re in that blue bin on your bed.” She pointed to a large plastic blue bin sat atop the frame of my bed in the corner.
“You know-” I called behind be as I pried the lid handles of the bin up. “You and dad don’t have to help me unpack my things. I’m going to be just fine on my own, I’m not five anymore mom.”
She pretended to be shocked behind me, making gasping sounds and faces I was sure. “Yeah I know-” I rolled my eyes, though she couldn’t see me “-shocker. Wait until you find out I was adopted too.”
“Who told you!” my mom had suddenly appeared by my side, an faux look of anger on her face as she snatched the pair of pants I had been holding in my hands away from me, slamming them down onto the bed indignantly.
“Mom!” I groaned, though I could barely hold in my own laugh at her hysterics and even her facade began to wane as the edges of her lips threatened to twitch into a smile. She let out a heavy, heart-wrenching, sigh, her hand coming to rest on the cool of my cheek, as her other tucked a stray curl back behind my ear.
“We know you’re not five.” she shook her head, and I watched as her the corners of her eyes slowly began to fill with water, as she desperately tried to hold in her emotions.“But we’re not used to you not needing us, and we’re- we’re going to miss you.”
“Mom stop” I shook my head. “No tears, ok? You know this isn’t goodbye right? I’m going to come down to visit you guys so much that you guys are going to get tired of me and try and send me back.” I laughed to keep my own tears from cascading down my face.
“That could never happen!” she chuckled. “Trust me, we need you a lot more than you need us, so can you just indulge us for a few more minutes and pretend that you’re still five?”
“Of course I can” I sighed, pulling my mom into a tight bone crushing embrace. “I’m going to be ok, you know that right?” I whispered into her ear, but apparently not quiet enough.
“Of course she is!” a voice from the hall boomed through the small dorm room, and both my mother’s and I’s heads turned to find a towering, eavesdropping, figure in the doorway. “She’s got me!” My brother stood staring back at the both of us.
“Devon.” I rolled my eyes yet again, though a gigantic grin plagued my face now, all my tears evaporated.
“KiKi!” In seconds his arms had replaced my mother’s around me and he was lifting me up in the air, spinning us round and round my dorm. “Welcome to college sis!” he grinned, placing me back onto the gray carpeted floor. “You’re going to love it and hate it all the same time!”
“Devon!” our mom scolded, but he only rolled his eyes at her. “Don’t you worry your pretty little head mom-” he teased, placing his arm around my shoulder. “I’ll take great care of her.” he winked at me.
“’Course!” he shrugged his shoulder nonchalantly, pursing his lips together, but my mother only shook her head, turning to me as she spoke.
“Don’t do anything you brother says.”
“What did I say!” Suddenly my dad’s voice joined the fray once more, his arms full with two large cardboard boxes that he sat at the foot of my bed frame. “What did I say!” he repeated, louder this time. “You weren’t supposed to start unpacking without me!”
“Hey pops.” Devon smiled, throwing his arms around our dad now and he mimicked my brother’s actions.
“Jeez” he exhaled through his teeth as he held Devon at arms length, examining his figure from head to toe. “You look like an adult now!”
“I would hope so.” he joked. “I think sophomore year gave me a few gray hairs.”
“Well I better be getting the good information!” I nudged him with a smile. “I’m not trying to have gray hairs my freshmen year!”
“Don’t worry” Devon shook his head. “I think the teachers are going to be a little lenient with the work load this semester anyway because of the murder.”
“Murder?” Both our parents spoke in unison, and I found myself fighting to take a large gulp at my brother’s revelation. His sucked his lips into his mouth, as if realizing what he had just said for the first time and he was quick to give me an apologetic look as his eyes darted back and forth from our parent’s back to me.
“Murder?” my dad asked.
“What murder Devon?” my mom pushed, her arms folded tightly across her chest in anticipation and her eyes wide, the size of hubcaps.
“I-I thought you guys already knew.” he shook his head. “It’s been all over the news for the past few days.”
“What murder son?” mom repeated, and Devon let a loud sigh into the charged air, his teeth still chewing furiously against his bottom lip. “Devon?”
“Over at MIT, a student was murdered the day after early move-in.” he began to explain, gasps and “Oh my god”’s escaping from our mother’s parted lips and I had to fight the urge to let out one out myself.
“They found his body in the woods behind the campus three days ago.”
“And the murderer?” my dad questioned this time, and Devon gave me a quick, knowing, look before he answered.
“They suspect it was his roommate, they haven’t been able to prove it yet, but they have him in police custody.” I could tell by the way his eyes drooped to the floor that he was lying, but thankfully, neither of our parents caught his deceit, instead too enamored by the story of the dead boy in the woods.
“The police have it completely under control” he quickly rushed out, noticing the growing terror on our mother’s face just as I had. “They’ve doubled campus security, and there’s a curfew in place until a definite killer is in custody. They’re taking care of all of it and making sure everyone is safe.”
“Everyone is safe?” she repeated back to my brother and he nodded his head vigorously in response.
“Everyone. There’s absolutely no need to worry.”
There was silence as we all watched my mom’s face as she contemplated whether everything was indeed “safe” or not, though Devon and I both knew that, no matter how long and hard she thought, her verdict would be the same. “Well, what-” she tried, but my dad quickly cut her off before she could find anything to worry about and try to take me back home for good. I had a feeling she had been itching for a reason all day.
“That’s our cue.” he grimaced, much to my mother’s protests, but still, he wouldn’t let her get a single word out. “You heard Devon” he shook his head, grasping her hand into his, though she tried to break free relentlessly.
“Everything’s under control. Besides, I’m sure Devon and Kira will look out for one another?” he eyed us now, practically pleading with his eyes and we quickly obliged his request, nodding both our heads without hesitation.
“Always.” Devon promised.
Still, it took one persuasion after another to get my mother to even think about leaving my dorm room, and yet still more to persuade her back into the car, where I was sure she sat refusing to leave just the same, but after an abundance of grumbling, assurances that everything was going to be fine, and promises from Devon that he wouldn’t leave my side, I was finally standing in my empty dorm room all alone, nothing but untouched boxes around me. The only sound in the room was my own breathing reverberating off the walls back to me and, though I was completely alone and had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I had never felt more free and more sure of myself than I did at this moment.
And as soon as the wooden dorm door closed behind my parents, a wide grin spread the length of my face. I spun around in circles, taking in my new home for the first time since I had stepped in the doorway, completely unable to comprehend the fact that I was where I had always wanted to be, and I had done it all by myself. Sure, my rich family had helped along the way, but it was my hard work and determination that had gotten me a spot at Harvard University, and now that I was here, I felt like I was in a fever dream.
Here, I was free to start over if I wanted too. I got to choose who I wanted to be and who I wanted people to see me as, I could completely reinvent myself if I wanted to and nobody would know. I wouldn’t have to be the smart kid, or the foster kid, or the black girl with a white family, I could just be me, and that was more than I ever was.
Scurrying back over to the open plastic blue bin on my bed, I began to unpack the rest of my clothes in unbridled elation, organizing them into one side of the small closet I assumed would be shared by my roommate, whoever she was, moving onto my shoes when I was done, but my excitement was quickly doused with confusion at the growing sound of a crowd of voices gradually growing louder nearby.
The noise was quiet at first, only a few loud voices carrying above the rest, but after another minute or two the conversation had become progressively louder and louder until all I could hear was shout after shout coming from the courtyard window of my dorm room, and drowning them out had become impossible.
Dropping the pair of shoes in my hand down onto the frame of my bed, I timidly made my way over to see what the cause of all the commotion was. Throwing open the window in seconds, I found myself bewildered by the sight outside my window that met me.
In the middle of the courtyard, all clad in black attire from head to toe, guns bigger than I had ever seen holstered at their sides, was a horde of the angriest looking police officers I had ever seen. They were all talking animatedly, their hands waving about in the air passionately in mid-conversation, and I leaned over the railing of my window sill, straining to catch a glimpse of their heated conversation.
“-positioned at every hall-” as loud as they were talking, I couldn’t make out any of their words, still I strained to understand something.
“-couldn’t get far-”
“-in or out”
As loud as they were talking, I couldn’t make out any of their words, still I strained to understand something, but I could could only catch bits and pieces of words strung together. Though none of it made sense, I chose to believe it was the campus security discussing new security measures like Devon had said earlier. Besides, there was only one suspect and, according to my brother, he was already in police custody and away from campus. There was no need to be worried, even if the campus security had tantalizingly large guns and were positioning men at every hall.
I nudged it all off, returning to unpacking my things with nonchalance, replaying my brother’s words from earlier in the back of my head. “Everything’s under control.”
“They’re just trying to do their job and keep the campus safe, there’s no need to be worried” I tried to assure myself, but the loud thumping sound of feet pounding against my floor assured me that my concern wasn’t irrelevant, and when I turned to find the source of the noise I had to contain a giant scream that was building up in the back of my throat.
It was a boy.
There was a boy in my dorm room, and he was hiding underneath my window sill, his finger pressed roughly against his mouth, gesturing for me to be silent. Suddenly, my fear had evaporated into the air and was instead replaced by enamorment and confusion.
His eyes were a deep brown, almost black if you looked at them a certain way, matching his dark messy hair, strewn all over his face as if he had just gone for a run, nevertheless, I could still only focus on his tattooed arm, covered as far as the eye could see in nothing but black ink that never seemed to end. He sat un-moving and in complete silence, never once breaking eye contact as his finger waved just inches away from his lips. Seconds quickly turned into minutes, and each minute only added to my growing confusion until, suddenly, he moved swiftly from the floor and back to his feet silently. He shot a quick glance out the window and a quick one back at me before he pulled himself onto the windowsill, disappearing so fast it was almost as if he had never been there in the first place.
“What the heck just happened?”