I placed the final picture frame of my adorable, fat cat Miss Kitty on my nightstand. “There,” I smiled proudly as I looked around my dorm room. “Everything is finally finished, and just in time for this semester to start, too.”
“Wow,” my best friend, Hailee Macintyre, laughed as she walked into my small dorm room, looking around. “You sure have a lot of pictures of your family in here.”
“Of course I do, don’t you?” I asked as I plopped onto my bed.
“Nah, just one,” she said and pushed up her black glasses, her blue eyes scanning my room as if analyzing all of it. She pushed back one of her frizzy, dark curly strands of hair behind her ear and grinned at me. “Come on, Chloe, come see how I decorated my dorm room,” she said while pulling me off my bed and proceeding to tug me behind her.
I couldn’t wait for college to start. It had been my dream to go to the University of Alabama since ninth grade, and after a lot of hard work in school and studying, I got two amazing scholarships to go here. One for my outstanding GPA, the second for a great ACT score, and the third for being a part of the Million Dollar Band. What made it even better was that my best friend in the entire world was my roommate.
Hailee dragged me into her room, and I was stunned to see everything around me. At this point, I shouldn’t be surprised by anything Hailee showed me, but she managed to do it every single time. Her room was beautifully decorated in an ombre of blues and accents of gold. Everywhere I looked was the most expensive this and that. On top of her nightstand was one single picture of her family, just Hailee and her parents.
Hailee was an only child and was raised in the wealthiest home of Willowbrook. Her parents could afford anything Hailee wanted. All she had to do was ask and poof, just like a genie in a lamp, everything she ever dreamed of appeared before her. Unlike her, I was not raised in a wealthy family, but my family was considered middle class. My dad was a firefighter, and my mom was a nurse. They were hardworking, wonderful people who I looked up to and strived to be like one day, rich or not.
I looked to see her Valedictorian certificate framed on her blue bedroom wall. Hailee was more than just a pretty rich girl, she was also extremely smart. She won Valedictorian of the senior class, which was an amazing honor. It showed how hard Hailee worked throughout high school to earn that spot, considering there were a couple hundred others contending for it, but she beat them all and it made me so proud.
“You know, Chloe, when I looked at our GPAs to see how close we were, I was literally only a hundredth of a point above you. It was super close, even the school counselor was stunned. I feel like we both should have been Valedictorian,” Hailee smiled proudly.
I smiled at her. Hailee was such a good friend. “Nah, you deserve it Hailee. You are the smartest person I know.”
She laughed and shook her head, her dark curls bouncing from side-to-side. “I always felt like you were.”
We were interrupted by Hailee’s latest iPhone vibrating. She took her phone out of her pocket and looked to see who texted her. “Chloe texted me,” she said as she started texting back.
“Come on, I’m right here,” I grinned and elbowed her jokingly.
“Not you, it’s Chloe Marshall,” Hailee said, not looking up from her phone screen.
“Yeah, I know,” I sighed and sat down on Hailee’s bed. I didn’t like Chloe Marshall. I also didn’t like knowing that some of the kids from my high school were coming here, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I guessed it was a coincidence that we all happened to want to go to the same school. “You know how I feel about Chloe Marshall,” I said with disgust.
“I know, I know. I’ve heard it about a million times, but listen, Chloe Marshall isn’t as bad as you think. She’s actually really nice to me. She just texted me saying she just finished volleyball practice and that she and Heather were going to get iced coffee and wanted to see if I would go with them.”
I rolled my eyes and messed with one of Hailee’s expensive fur pillows. “Of course, she’s nice to you. You’re rich and you helped her cheat on tests in high school. Why wouldn’t she be nice to you? I don’t understand why you want to socialize yourself with the popular kids from high school.”
Hailee sighed. “You can’t discriminate against them because they were popular. Not all popular people are jerks y’know. I mean, look at Luke Armstrong.”
My heart sank at the mention of his name.
“He was the most popular guy in school and he was always extremely nice to everyone, even the trash bags who didn’t deserve it,” Hailee looked me up and down with sass, pushing her black glasses up her thin, straight nose once more.
Luke Armstrong was the guy I had been trying to get over for the past eight years, but nothing seemed to be working. He was also the same guy every girl in the universe had a crush on, including Hailee, but she would never admit it to me. I mean, why wouldn’t a girl have a crush on him? He was 6’2” ‒a complete foot taller than me‒ with luscious brown hair with natural caramel highlights, mesmerizing green eyes, bronze skin from being out in the sun all day, and muscles to die for. Just thinking about him made my heart pound, but I knew better. He wasn’t the nice guy he pretended to be.
“Easy for you to say, since he was always so nice to you,” I grumbled as I continued to mess with the fur strands of the pillow.
“Give me that,” Hailee snatched the pillow away from me and smoothed out its fur. “You’re going to rip the fur out.”
“No I’m not,” I sat up and said defensively.
“And yes, I couldn’t help it if Luke was nice to me. He’s a nice guy. Just because of that one incident in sixth grade doesn’t make him not nice,” she glared at me.
“I am pretty sure it does,” I sighed and played with my honey colored hair nervously. Even thinking back on it made me nauseous. It all took me by surprise. I couldn’t believe he could say such a thing and it hurt my heart just thinking about it.
Hailee placed the pillow back on her bed and reached to hug me. “I’m sorry, Chloe. I’m so, so sorry. Here, let’s do something fun, how about that? You wanna go have iced coffee with me, Chloe Marshall, and Heather Bates?”
“Heck no,” I scoffed. “I’m pretty sure I left high school for a reason. I don’t want to get caught up with the people there again.”
Hailee shrugged and stood back up. She inspected her blue painted fingernails. “Well you can’t blame me for trying to socialize you. Oh well, I guess you’ll just have to be in this lonely dorm all day, all alone.”
I hated being alone. It wasn’t easy for me to open up and act all bubbly like Hailee could. She was used to being the center of attention while I was not. One way to find introverts at a gathering was to look in all the corners. One-hundred percent of the time I would be there, being socially awkward and not knowing what to do with myself.
I took in a deep breath and let it out, hoping that all of my nerves would come out with it. “Fine, I’ll go with you. Will they even be okay with me being there with them? They asked for you, not me,” I said nervously as I stood up and brushed my shirt off.
“Of course they will! I just told Chloe and she said it’s fine,” she smiled ecstatically as she usually did.
It was either going with Hailee or being completely and utterly alone. Loneliness wins every single time. One thing I didn’t like about Hailee was how she knew my limits and how far she could push me. She even knew I would go with her because I hated the feeling of being alone.
“Hey, you need to dress in something cuter before we leave,” Hailee said as she looked in the mirror, playing with her hair. “I’m not saying you should dress for prom or anything, but you should definitely go with something cuter than jeans and an old t-shirt. I know you are excited about being able to dress lazy for college, but I can’t let this go,” she turned and pointed at my clothes.
At least Hailee always kept me in check. I saw myself in her mirror hanging on her door and I completely agreed with her. My honey colored hair wasn’t the problem. In fact, it was one of the few things I actually liked about myself.
“You should wear a lower cut top some time,” Hailee said as she pulled me back to my room. “You need to show the world your double Ds.”
“Ha, ha very funny, Hailee,” I said as I tried to cover my chest up poorly. “You know other people wish they had bigger boobs, but they don’t realize all of the back pain that comes with it. Plus, I don’t really feel like exposing myself thank you very much. I don’t even want them!”
Hailee looked through my clothes, tossing whatever she thought looked indecent‒ which was most of my clothing. “Well if you don’t want them, I do.”
I could feel myself getting embarrassed once more. I wished I could look more like Hailee. She was tall, skinny, had great skin, and blue eyes. What was I? I was short, fat, pale with faint acne scars, and brown eyes. I had always been insecure about myself, especially growing up. In elementary school, I was not one of the stick girls running around with bows in their hair, and some of them made sure to point it out to me. Just because I wasn’t a stick like the others, it didn’t make me a hippopotamus.
“Here you go,” Hailee said and handed me items of clothing to wear.
I reluctantly took them and inspected them. The clothes she picked out weren’t bad. I mean, they did come from my closet so there was nothing skimpy about them. I put on the beautiful sheer top with a tank top underneath, wore white capris, and sandals.
“You look summery now,” Hailee smiled and started putting on mascara.
I smiled and did my usual makeup routine. Unlike other girls, I wasn’t a natural beauty so I had to put on foundation, compact, mascara, eyeliner, and a little bit of eyeshadow. It sounds like a lot until you see it on a person and it fits them perfectly. Hailee just liked to lightly put on some powder and use a few brush strokes of mascara and called it a day.
“Hey Hailee, can you smell me? I don’t want to smell like armpit when we go meet them,” I laughed. “I did have band practice earlier.”
Hailee sniffed me and laughed even harder. “You don’t smell like an armpit to me. Can you smell me?”
I sniffed her and pretended to wrinkle my nose in disgust. “Oh my gosh, you smell like Frank the tuba player after band practice. He smells like tacos that sat out in the sun too long.”
She laughed even harder. “Ewwww.”
On the way to the coffee shop, we laughed and discussed funny or horrible smells over the years.
“Remember in P.E when we had to run a mile and Kyle crop-dusted us?” I grinned as Hailee drove her new and expensive Buick LaCrosse‒ her graduation present.
“Oh my gosh that was the worst!” she exclaimed as she turned onto a different street. “I thought his fart was going to kill us. I thought I was about to throw up.”
“That would’ve been disgusting but hilarious,” I giggled to myself. I knew Hailee would hate me for it, but I found these things ridiculously funny.
Hailee’s jaw dropped. “Are you saying you would’ve loved me throwing up over Kyle Higgins’s atomic fart? What a friend you are.”
“Come on, it would’ve been the funniest thing ever and you know it. Afterwards we could’ve told him that his fart was so bad that you almost died over it.”
Hailee shook her head, trying to repress a smile. “Sometimes I worry about you, Chloe Claire.”
“That’s what Felix and Elijah say all the time and they’re only fifteen,” I smiled as I looked out the window. Tuscaloosa was a beautiful place, making me feel right at home with all of its cute stores and restaurants only a walking distance away‒ if walking a couple miles was fine that was.
“Oh yeah, how are your twin brothers doing?” she asked, as if remembering that she was supposed to ask about them. “It feels like I haven’t seen them in forever.”
“You know about as much as me. They’re probably fine, playing Call of Duty and rage quitting when they play against someone better than they are. They probably jump up on the couch and scream, ‘Hacker!’ like most of them do when there is nothing else to explain at how good the other person is.”
“I can totally see that,” she said and pulled into the coffee shop.
Why was it that all of the sudden I wanted to pee? In every situation like this, somehow, I always wanted to pee. “Is there a bathroom in there?” I bit my lip. I realized afterward it was a stupid question, but to me, it was an important question to ask nonetheless.
Hailee opened her car door, got out, and looked down at me. “Don’t tell me you feel like you have to pee right now.”
I took in a deep breath and stared inside the coffee shop. “I can hold it,” I muttered as I stared into the windows of the coffee shop. How many people are in there?