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Rose-Colored Glasses

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Chapter Two

At first, the water dribbled out of the showerhead, but with two taps of the heel of her palm, the shower sputtered and then blasted against the dark blue tiles of the stall. Jessica smiled grimly. Carefully, she stuck her foot into the stream, her toes tilted and gripping the thong of her flip flops. It was a little cold yet. She eased her foot back with a sigh and shut the shower curtain, waiting for the heater to catch up to demand.

The girls’ bathroom echoed with noise from other stalls. A pair of girls was in the stalls on the other side of the room, chattering about last night’s student teaching assignment. Jessica dimly recalled them sitting in the front row of her own class. One of them had had their laptop up and on some social networking site, playing a farm game, while the other had her cellphone propped against her lap underneath the fold-out desk of the auditorium seat.

She snorted with disgust. It wasn’t as though these two were alone. Really, it was her entire class, or enough of them that it may as well have been everyone. And it was girls like these that she was competing with for the scholarship.

Her glasses began to fog with the steam billowing from behind the curtain. She quickly stepped into the stall, fiddling with her glasses and putting them on the pile of clean pajamas waiting on the bench outside. The water pounded on her back, easing her shoulders as she fiddled briefly with the taps one last time. As she stood, she closed her eyes and let the water soak through her hair. Rivulets ran down her neck, tickling the little hairs on her arms. For a time, she thought of nothing but the hot water and the sensation of being clean.

But she couldn’t escape from her thoughts for long. As she turned off the water and reached to the bench for her towel, she reconsidered the scholarship. Was it really worth all the trouble? It wasn’t as though she was in love with Rocky Hill College; it was only that it was close, and cheap, with a decent teacher’s program.

She didn’t really want to teach, though, did she? Jessica scowled and toweled her hair harder, as if to scrub the thought away. But it persisted, an ugly blot in her sensible, logical, practical plan. She enjoyed learning, yes, but not in a classroom. She liked sitting with a pad and paper and impossible problems with pencils. She smiled. Lots and lots of sharpened pencils with fresh erasers.

If Yankee Candle would manufacture a scent of pencil shavings, she would never have muscle tension again.

As she opened the shower stall door, a blast of cooler air rushed in. Prickles raced up her arms and shins. She shivered, pulling the towel tighter around her body.

Of course, that wasn’t possible. To have pencil shavings, you needed a sharpener—an electric one, preferably. The sharpener needed an outlet, which needed a wall and a room and, well, electricity. All of which cost money, and while the world’s unsolvable problems had waited for years for her to arrive, the bill collectors wouldn’t. Her ivory tower dream would never be.

Jessica’s feet squelshed in the damp flip flops as she walked down the dormitory hall to her room. Bracing her shower caddy between her thigh and the door, she fumbled for the doorknob when it opened, nearly sending Jessica to her knees.

“Took you long enough!” Jessica’s roommate Elaine stood in the doorway, arms across her huge chest. The terrycloth robe strained to cover everything. A towel was draped over one shoulder.

“You could’ve gone with me,” Jessica said. She reached to pick up the caddy, making a damp puddle on the threshold. Elaine huffed before squatting down with a grin to pick up the shampoo which had escaped the caddy.

“You know I hate leaving the room unwatched.”

“We could’ve locked the door.”

“Oh, because you opened it so well!”

“I would’ve if you hadn’t opened it first!”

“Oh well.” Elaine stood with a sigh. “I’m right, but there’s no time to argue.” She held out the soap container to Jessica, still hunched over the caddy on the floor. Jessica accepted it. “I’m off to the shower. Your glasses on are on the nightstand, by the way. Why do you walk around without them, anyway?”

Jessica blinked. “They’re in the caddy,” she said. She fumbled around and withdrew the hard case, sweating from the humidity in the shower stall. She took them out to show to Elaine, but she had already left, humming Fergie in some off-key riff. She jammed the glasses onto her face; the lenses immediately fogged.

Standing up straight, Jessica headed towards the giant burgundy lump that was her bed, setting the damp caddy on the floor. Folded on her nightstand was something that looked vaguely glasses-like, though she couldn’t quite see well enough to tell. She took off her glasses to polish them on the edge of her tank top when she saw the now-fuzzy object shine gold and rose in the corner of her eye.

Her screech brought her roommate sprinting back to the room in a towel and dripping hair, as well as her RA and half the hall. A crash and more screaming brought the rest of the hall to see what was going on.

“What the hell, Jess?” Elaine sputtered, desperately trying to keep her towel covering all her important bits.

The RA looked just as surprised, but at least tempered it with concern. “Are you okay? Do you need something?”

Jessica stood by the nightstand, trembling. The RA shivered, too; for some reason, the girls had left the window wide open. Snow flurries fluttered through the gap, landing on Jessica’s still-damp hair. She looked like she was in shock, gaping at her fist as if she’d never seen it before.


She snapped out of her daze, color returning to her cheeks. Her eyes seemed to refocus on the RA and the growing crowd outside her room. The RA was about to leave when Jessica shrieked again, this time clutching her robe to her body. “What the hell…? Get out of my room!”

Elaine elbowed the RA aside. “You were the one screaming bloody murder in here!”

Jessica blinked. “I did?” Her fingers began massaging the knuckles on her right fist. “Oh, right, I did.”


“I, uh, I saw a mouse.” She smiled brightly.

Those words unleashed a chaos little before known to Reidman Hall, Floor Three. Any concern for Jessica evaporated as the RA attempted to calm the stampede of hysterical women and their attempt to climb on top of each other to avoid touching the floor.

But Elizabeth and Jessica managed to avoid the chaos as Elizabeth took advantage of the distraction to stomp into the room and slam the door behind her.

“A mouse? Really? You couldn’t do better than that?”

Jessica mustered as much dignity as she could, half naked and completely blind. “What makes you think I’m lying?”

“You couldn’t see a nun dancing to ‘Single Ladies’ in a thong right now, let alone a mouse.”

“Oh. Well. I could’ve heard it.”

Elizabeth snorted and flopped onto her bed, headless of her own dampness. Jessica winced. “So what happened to make you freak out like that? I thought I was gonna have to rough somebody up for you.” She sounded mildly disappointed.

“Oh, um, there were these glasses on the nightstand.”

“Yeah, I liked ’em. Better than your old ones.”

“They’re not mine, though,” Jessica said. She fingered her way across the bed to where her caddy sat on the floor. She pulled out the glasses case and flipped it open, offering it to Elizabeth. “I told you, mine were in the caddy.”

Bedsprings creaked as Elizabeth leaned over to look at the glasses case. “Ugh, yeah. Those are yours, no one else would wear them.”

Jessica barely restrained herself from sticking out her tongue. “Thanks.” She plucked them out by the nose piece and slid them onto her head. Her vision focused to Elizabeth lying half off the bed, upside down, with her towel sliding off her chest. “Jeez! Get your clothes on!”

“Nope.” Elizabeth did turn over onto her stomach, though. “I’ve gotta finish my shower. But if you’ve got your fugly glasses, whose are the other glasses? Why did you scream so loud? They’re just glasses, for god’s sake.”

“They’re…” Jessica coughed. “They’re from those promotional people in the Quad today. The ones looking for models?”

“Oh, yeah! Mm, the cutie with the curls…” Elizabeth’s face glazed over, her hand idly tracing her collarbone.

“Not cute! Not! Ugh!” Jessica shivered.

“Oh?” Elizabeth raised one eyebrow. “Why not? I thought you had a thing for curly hair.”

“He’s…” Jessica trailed off, trying to decide what to say. How could she say that he had goat eyes? Even now, she could hardly believe it. But if it distracted Elizabeth from her asking about the screaming fit the glasses had sparked, she had to say something. She settled for: “He’s just not like that.”

“Did you talk to him?” Elizabeth rose from the bed, recollecting her shower things from the floor. “Ten bucks says you didn’t. You need to learn not to judge people, sweetie.” She opened the door, and a breeze sighed across the room. “Close the window, would you? I swear, you’ve got eskimo blood or something.”

“Eskimos wear parkas,” Jessica muttered, but Elizabeth had already left the room. She faced the window, openly cradling her hand.

At least she didn’t notice the screen missing, she thought. She poked her head out the window to stare at the hedges below. She could barely make out the black mesh against the trimmed bushes, but there it was, right where she’d punched it out. The glasses were somewhere around there. And they can stay there, for all I care.

But the screen had to come back. Already, Jessica could hear the noises from the earlier hysteria dying down. The RA would come back, and if she found out that Jessica had wrecked the window, she’d be written up for sure, and that couldn’t be good for her scholarship chances. Dammit.

Fifteen minutes later, Jessica found herself outside in sweats and sandals and wet hair that was already drying into a ponytail press, mashing buttons on her cellphone so the light would stay on and she could look through the bushes for the stupid window screen.

She finally caught a sheen of black plastic in the top twigs. She stretched out but couldn’t quite reach it. She jumped up and bumped the corner of the screen—even higher onto the branch.

“Schiess it!”

“That’s not particularly mannerly, you know,” an eerily familiar voice remarked conversationally somewhere to her right.

Jessica nearly left her shoes.

“Especially for a young woman of your stature,” it added. The owner stepped into light from Jessica’s cellphone. “What happens if you go to Germany one day? Then everyone will understand and it will not be looked on with favor, I can tell you.”

“Peter! The hell are you doing here?”

“The hell am I… You all speak very strangely,” he said. “You’re a very skittish girl, too, did you know that?”

“I’m sorry, I’ll try to be a little calmer when”—Jessica struggled to say the word, but for some insane reason it seemed completely rude— “when tiny people with pointy teeth come creeping out of the dark and don’t say they’re there!”

“You were ‘creeping’, as well,” he pointed out mildly.

Jessica breathed in through her nose, exhaling through her mouth. She would be calm. Even if it killed her, she would be calm. “I was looking for my window screen.”

“Ah.” Peter craned his neck to try to see past Jessica’s shoulder in the gloomy twilight. “And I suppose you found it?”


“In the bushes?”


“Is that normally where you keep it?”

“What do you want?” Jessica demanded, ignoring the question. “Why are you here?”

The little man cocked his head. “Why? To find you, of course.”

Jessica took a step back. The bush prickled against her back through the damp sweatshirt. “Why? Is it because of the glasses? Because I gave them back! It’s not my fault you… you slipped them in my bag and they fell out and landed on my nightstand and were there when I got out of the shower and then I—holy cow, this is screwed up.” She swallowed. “This is all kinds of screwed up.”

“So you have the glasses, then!” Peter smiled, his teeth glinting. Jessica backed up even more. “Where are they?”

“Where are they?” Jessica repeated through grit teeth, continuing to press her way into the bushes. “I’ll tell you where they’re gonna be, right up your—”

Glass crinkled beneath her flipflop. She froze.

“Or not.” Peter gently pushed her to one side to pick up the rose colored glasses. The lenses gleamed in the light from her cellphone.

“I’m sorry I stepped on them, but really, it’s your own fault if you’re going to just give the things to people when they don’t want them and…” She trailed off as she saw that the glasses Peter were now polishing in a handkerchief were whole and perfect as ever.

“Peter? Did you find her room, sir? Because I’d like to go to bed soon.” Another silhouette appeared from around the corner of the dorm, curls almost black against the violet sky.

“Seriously? Seriously?” Jessica’s voice brushed near-shrieking levels. “You were looking for my room? Are there no security guards or anything around here?”

Peter frowned. “You have the most abysmal timing, Giles,” he said.

The newcomer snorted and said, “First of all, girl, it’s an open-campus, which means there’s nothing preventing us from coming onto school grounds. Second of all, we have an excellent alibi for being here, so go ahead, scream all you like, but we’ll still be here and you’ll be looked at as a hysterical female.”


Jessica launched herself at the curly-headed menace, neatly shorn fingernails ready to rip into his sarcastic hide—not that she managed to get that far.

“For the love of all the holies, Giles, do you need to bait her?” Peter glared at his companion as he grabbed Jessica’s waist, holding her in place despite the spitting, clawing woman more than twice his size. “Not to mention sounding like a pedophile!"

Giles shrugged as the light faded from Jessica’s cell again. “I was merely stating the facts. It is no fault of mine that she should get overwrought from the truth. And she is of age, so I would be classified as a pervert, I believe, not a pedophile.”

“Use your senses, boy, and hush now! Miss Winter, calm yourself, you’ll merely call attention to yourself.”

“And to all of you!” she spat. “You crazy, trespassing, loitering…crazy people! Who file their teeth and put in weird contacts and just aren’t right!” And with that, she stopped struggling, fell limp to her knees, and promptly burst into tears.

Startled, Peter patted her back. “There, lass, you’ve had a fright now, haven’t you? It’ll all be alright, I promise you, it will be.”

“Is she bleeding?” Giles asked, curious. “Because that’s when I hear they get particularly volatile. I told you, sir, that we should be looking for men to wear the glasses.”

“And it wasn’t to be a man this time, was it, if she wore them and is of sound mind and body to tell about it?” A particularly loud sob made Peter wince. “Well, she will be of sound mind once she cries it out. There, there…”

“She was dead!” Jessica wailed into his shoulder, the sound partially blocked by the heavy fabric of his coat. She might’ve wondered at the coat at the end of April. “She was bleeding and no one saw! And you have pointy teeth and he’s got goat eyes and I’ve finally gone nuts! I’ll never graduate now! They don’t let crazy people get degrees!”

Giles made a sound that may have been a laugh, though she wasn’t really aware enough to notice.

“You haven’t gone crazy, Miss Winter,” Peter said, continuing to soothe the poor girl. “You’ve just had a look at the heart of things, that’s all, and if it’s not all rosy, well, then, that’s life, isn’t it?”

Jessica lifted her head and wiped her nose across the back of her hand. “I can’t see anything right now.”

“That’s no surprise, is it, being night time and all. Let’s go sit in that café area I saw earlier today and have ourselves a nice cup of tea, shall we?”

“I don’t drink tea,” she said. She coughed and sniffled. “And I’ve used up all my meal plan points, I can’t afford to eat there until next fall.”

“It’ll be my treat, lass, don’t you worry about it.”

Jessica nodded a little and let Peter help her off the ground. “But my window screen…”

“It’ll keep there for a little bit, won’t it?”


“I’ll have Giles stay behind to retrieve it for you if you come for a drink with me,” Peter said. “All in brightly lit, public places to put you at ease. I promise, I only want to talk to you about…about this afternoon. And the glasses,” he added, patting his breast pocket.

Jessica shivered. “I don’t want to touch those things again.”

“And you won’t have to tonight, not if you don’t want to. Giles, the screen?” With that, Peter put his hand in the middle of Jessica’s back and began to steer her towards the yellow light spilling out from the entryway to the dorm. “May I ask why the screen was in the bushes?”

“I punched the screen out the window when I saw the glasses on my nightstand.” She blushed and quickly added, “Which means you better not try anything funny or I’ll punch you straight out your little-man shoes.”

“The word you’re looking for, my dear, is ‘goblin’, and I give you my word, I won’t give you any reason to.”

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