I clenched the rough material of the duffle bag that lay on my lap tightly as I stared out the window. Blurred colors whisked past me as I focused my gaze on foreign world that swept past me. Tension was thick in the air. Not a single word was uttered, the only sound coming from the cars engine. My lips were set in a straight line, and my shoulders lay tense. I ran a few fingers down my dark locks as I pushed stray pieces of hair behind my ear. I kept my stare focused on the various trees and buildings we passed, studying the beauty and uniqueness each upheld.
Because my mind was engrossed elsewhere, it came as a surprise when the car came to an abrupt stop. Looking outside, I recognized the familiar building of the college I would be attending.
“Get out.” His gruff voice muttered as he lit a cigarette and brought it towards his mouth. No other words left his chapped lips as he continued to puff out smoke from the cigarette.
Wordlessly, I picked up the tiny duffle bag with my only belongings and began unlocking the door. A surge of excitement bubbled inside me as I awaited my freedom. Despite the fact that I wasn’t fully free from his hold, I was grateful for whatever opportunity I had. Allowing my hair to curtain over my face, I hid the smile that threatened to erupt on my face. Any sign of happiness from me was a red flag to him. A signal for him to torture me and erase all the joy from my soul. I would be lying if I said he wasn’t half way successful.
I barely had one foot out of the car when I suddenly felt someones hand roughly grip my shoulder. I turned back to a furious looking Rick who glared daggers at me. His thick eyebrows were furrowed and stubble covered the length of his face. Pieces of dirt covered his face indicating his lack of showering in the past couple of days.
“If I find out that you are doing anything sneaky here, I’ll make you regret even being born.” He seethed quietly. The smell of beer and cigarettes emanated from him as he set his icy stare upon me. I merely nodded my head as his grip on shoulder tightened. A sting of pain went though my shoulder where he continued to squeeze. Bruises littered the course of my body and I would be surprised if another didn’t appear within a couple of hours.
“I’ll be back to check on you later, I trust that you’re aware that even though you may be living here, I will still have all eyes on you Even when you least expect it.” He sinisterly informed as a sick smile spread over his face. His yellowing teeth were on display as he held a look of triumph on his face.
“I know.” I whispered so lightly so that only he could hear. There was no denying that Rick had connections with all types of people, especially those who committed illegal crimes. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if he had arranged for people to keep an eye out for me.
“There is no escaping me.” Were his last words before he released his grip from my shoulder and revved his engine. I stepped out of the rusting vehicle and moved farther into the sidewalk as I watched him speed out of the car lot. Hoisting my duffle farther up my unscathed shoulder, I began taking slow steps towards the vast campus. I shuffled past numerous buildings and mini shops before making my way towards the center of campus.
As soon as I arrived at the main portion of campus, I was instantly met with buzzing people, bright smiles, and laughter. Dozens of families stood beside beaming students as they made their way to their new dorms. Pure happiness radiated off everyone and I felt like the dark cloud on a sunny day. I watched as parents hugged and kissed their children as they sent their loved ones off to start a new chapter in their lives. As I stood there staring at nothing in particular, I caught the eye of a young child who stood beside what appeared to be her mother. I flashed her a weak smile and she shyly looked away, a blush appearing upon her cheek. She held a lollipop in her tiny hands and shyly sucked on it as she shyly avoided my gaze. My smile heightened at her reaction, her innocence instantly brightening my dull mood. A distance ache resounded in my heart as I thought of my own family, and the biggest milestones I had passed in my life without their presence. Casting my gaze downward to conceal the flood of tears that threatened to seep down my cheeks, I began making my way towards my dorm building in hopes of diverting my attention from the depressing thoughts.
I needed to be grateful that I even had this opportunity. A few weeks ago I sat in my tiny room gazing out at the world I was forbidden to see, and now I stood on a college campus, following my dreams as best as I could.
I soon stopped in front of a large tan building with an endless amount of windows littering to outside of it. The building itself was stunning, with intricate details running across the length of the structure, allowing the building to uphold its own uniqueness against the many others around it. A large sign stood on the lawn in front of the building that read Becker Hall in bold print.
Before making my way into the lobby of the hall, I dug into my duffle and pulled out a piece of paper along with an envelope that carried my dorm key. With the papers in hand I confirmed I was at the correct building before taking a deep breath and making my way into the well lit building. I was instantly met with groups of students who stood around conversing in the large lobby as echoes of their voices surrounded me. Chairs and couches littered an area in the corner where students sat watching TV and across from it sat a large desk that was currently unoccupied.
Upon my entering, a couple of students turned to look at me, most of them smiling in acknowledgment before returning to their conversations. I returned the smile and felt a spike of eagerness as I thought of living here for the time being. Although Rick would be checking on me constantly, I would still be able to go to classes, and explore campus whenever I had the chance to. I could finally have a taste of the real world instead of seeing glimpses of it when I had the chance. The aura of the campus already felt more welcoming than that of my own home I had been living in for the past nine years. I once agin hoisted my duffle bag which was slipping off my shoulder and began walking farther into the lobby.
I looked down at the paper that stated my dorm room number and began making my way towards the elevator. I clicked on the button that had an arrow facing upward seeing that my dorm was on the second floor and stepped inside. Clicking on the button labeled two, I scooted towards the right side of the elevator and watched as the steel doors closed. Leaning against the wall, I held the key card in my hand as I waited for the elevator to reach the second floor. A faint ding sounded before the two doors opened allowing me to step out. I stepped out of the spacious elevator and turned the corner towards a narrow hallway with doors littering each side. As I walked through the hallway, I read each number as it passed, getting closer to the number printed on the paper that I had folded in my hand.
I soon stopped in front of a dark brown door that had the number ‘209’ engraved into it and slid the key card into the slot. Making my way inside, I was met with fairly sized room. Two beds sat against each end of the wall along with two desks placed to the right of each. There appeared to be a narrow hallway towards the right which led to another room which I assumed was the bathroom. My attention soon steered to one end of the room that was already decorated with bedding, pictures, and lights, implying that my roommate had beat me to the room. Bright blue sheets were laid across the twin size bed as all sorts of photos were taped onto her wall.
As I made my way towards the bland bed on the other side of the room, I scrutinized the room which I would be occupying for however long I would be here for. The room itself was average sized, larger than I had anticipated, and it was even better that we had our own bathroom. I felt the bed dip beneath me as took a seat, placing my duffle beside me. I ran a hand across the plain grey sheets as I relished in the feeling of the plush mattress I was sat on top. It had been years since I had sat atop a bed, let alone sleep in one.
“Super comfortable right? It surprised me too.” A perky voice called as a petite brunette filed into the room. Streaks of blue ran through the ends of her long hair as her hair flipped from side to side as she walked into the room. She held a large box in her hands as she maneuvered her way from the doorway to her bed. She was dressed in a tank top and shorts along with a pair of flip flops. Along with her unique hair, she was fairly tall with long legs and had a figure that resembled that of a model. Her eyes were bright blue and she had a small heart shaped face. She was clearly beautiful and her aura reeked of pure happiness.
I sat there quietly on my bed, watching as she placed the large box onto her bed before turning around and looking at me.
She stared at me with a confused expression when it dawned on me that I hadn’t uttered one word to her since she had arrived, let alone respond to her comment. I mentally face palmed myself before I flashed her a small smile and dumbly nodded my head in agreement. She gave me a funny look before she walked towards me, placed her hands on her hips and beamed down at me.
Excitement emerged from her as she cheerfully introduced herself. “I’m Isla Adams, your beloved roommate for the year and hopefully future friend.” Before I could utter a response to her, she turned on her heels and shuffled back towards the bed where she proceeded to rummage through her box.
I cocked my head to the side confused at her actions before mustering up a response. “Hey, I’m Isabella.” My voice compared to hers seemed so dull and lifeless, but it only matched what I was feeling inside. She turned and acknowledged me with a smile before she continued throwing random items from the box onto her newly made bed.
I watched as she continued hanging up photos as she hummed a sweet melody under her breath. Turning to my tiny duffle, I pulled out a small photo placed in a glass vintage frame. I stared down at the happy faces trapped in the tiny paper before placing it on the bedside as something to cherish everyday.
I was caught by surprise when Isla suddenly turned towards me and practically sprinted to my bed. She made herself comfortable as she sat criss cross beside me with only a few inches between us. Despite her welcoming personality, her close proximity was making me uncomfortable. I hadn’t been near people in ages and as lame as it sounded to admit, her free spirit intimidated me.
“So, where are you from?” She exclaimed excitedly while placing her hair onto a bun at the top of her head.
“Not far, I only live abut 15 minutes away.” I answered as I mimicked her position and leaned against the wall behind me. My feet dangled off the bed and I diverted my attention towards the ratty converse I had on to avoid looking into Islas’ eyes. The fear of her seeing the panic or unhappiness as I answered the question about my home loomed over me. Questions regarding my home life was one topic I wanted to delay for as long as I could. Although Isla seemed to be a good friend to have, friends would only be a burden. The effort that came with lying and coming up with excuses about my past and Rick would be too overbearing, and would only hurt the people I would get close to if they found out about the secrets I was keeping.
“Really? Thats awesome that you don’t have to be far from your family.” She replied as a sad smile covered her face. She placed her head into her palm as she looked at me pouting. “I’m from New York and thats a good three hour drive and I’m too poor for gas money.” She stated as she let out a small tear. I sat up alarmed and confused as I watched tear after tear fall from her eyes. Scooting closer to her, I lightly patted her back in an effort to comfort her. I wasn’t equipped to soothe people due to the fact that I avoided being in contact with my feelings the majority of the time.
“Haha got you there!” She abruptly cackled loudly as sat up straight and began wiping her tears. She now laid on my bed laughing loudly as she held her stomach tightly. “I forgot to mention that I’m a drama major.” She breathed in between laughs as she tried to calm herself down. Once she had ceased her laughter, she wiped off the excess tears off her face before pulling me into a tight hug.
“You’re so sweet.” She said once she pulled back and began pinching my cheeks tightly. She got off my bed and made her way back towards her bed as she began sorting through her box again. I furrowed my eyebrows in pure confusion at what I had just encountered and sat there processing the personality of my interesting roommate, knowing that she would definitely be a source of entertainment for my time here.
“Are you busy right now?” She asked suddenly from her seat on her bed, snapping me out of my wandering thoughts.
Seeing as I was simply sitting on my bed doing nothing, I answered her question with a yes.
“Great, can you do me a huge favor and return this book to the library? I borrowed it a week ago and never got around to reading it.” She asked kindly as she held up a book in the air. Nodding at her, I got up to grab the book from her. I had planned to explore the campus later today anyways and an early start wouldn’t hurt.
“Great, thanks Bella! Wait, can I call you that?” She warily asked causing a tiny laugh to bubble out of me.
“Bella is fine.” I affirmed as I took the book from her hand that was frozen in the air as she awaited my response. She dramatically let out a breath of air and flashed me a smile before diverting her attention to her buzzing phone. I quickly ran a hand through my hair to tame it before turning the knob to the door and making my way towards the grand campus. As I walked back down the narrow hallway, I fumbled over the conflicting notions about the people I would meet here. As much as I didn’t want to get close to anyone here, somehow I knew deep down that I wouldn’t be able to stop a few certain bonds from forming, no matter how hard I tried.
And surprisingly enough, I was okay with that.