Leaning my head against the cold glass of the window I lose myself in the swirling thoughts inside my head. Struggling to finish the seventh book in the Lilac Cove series, everyone decided that I would benefit from a drop of normalcy in my life. Normal. I tried that once. Before life got crazy. Before I lived a fish bowl existence of a life.
Julie finally agreed to follow through with Nick’s idea. She approached the college with a deal they couldn’t refuse. Damn savvy publishing house rep. She insists that I go to college for the full experience since I missed out on the testing grounds of high school. Her words not mine. My memories of high school was one of a daily hellish existence. I remember hiding away in corners scribbling stories on spare scraps of paper until one day I stuffed the completed manuscript in an envelope and mailed it to a slush pile.
Sighing softly, briefly wondering why this book is taking forever to finish I attempt to get more comfortable against the cold pane of glass. I’ve already taken the advance royalties. I feel so out of touch with my peers but then again I’ve always felt out of step with people my own age. Classes start in less then 2 days. I don’t have time for college. Was I crazy to agree to pretend to be a mousy student teaching creative writing for dummies? Why did I agree to find out what I’m missing out on?
’Doing okay over there?’Nick asks breaking the silence in the car. ‘Nervous.’ I reply softly. There’s not enough caffeine in the world to prepare someone for leaving home for the first time. ‘You know I wouldn’t have suggested this plan if I didn’t think it was something you could benefit from.’ He pulls up at a red light and turns to me taking the few minutes to assess my condition, ‘You’ll be fine.’
Sneaking me onto campus in the middle of the night he grins at me, ‘Want to have some fun?’ He turns up a street full of mid-century modern houses. One of the houses has a black Challenger in the driveway. Nick’s smile widens as if he knows the owner of the car. ‘This is professor row.’ He revs the commodore’s engine before executing two perfect donuts and accelerating away from the scene of the crime.
Raising my eyebrow, I wait for an explanation. ‘I was part of the underground car racing circuit while I was here.’ He confesses, ‘It was a big part of my study hard and play harder persona.’ He pulls into an empty parking lot. ‘Right. This is the building where you’ll spend your time teaching. Your classes finish at 11. So you need to get used to walking across campus at this time of night.’
Nick slips on the same thick frame nerd glasses I prefer to wear when no one else can see me. Loading up with my belongs he gives me a moment to scan my new surroundings.
Huffing slightly to keep up with his long strides he stops and peers down at me concerned. ‘Inhaler?’ he demands. I wave it at him before taking my medication. Geek glasses and inhalers don’t quite go with the ice princess persona I’ve built up with the media. Heaven forbid they should actually find out that I practically live in comfy flannelette shirts, jeans, and my favorite worn uggs while I’m working. Slipping the inhaler into the pocket of my jacket we resume walking through the crisp night.
We arrive at the red wooden door barely visible in the wall of overgrown greenery. Making sure we aren’t being observed first Nick takes out an old lace wrought iron key from the dark ages. It’s a pretty piece of ephemera that does not belong is this modern world. Automatic lighting flickers on as we set foot into the tunnels. I know what you’re thinking either this college has had tons of secret societies or my security team is way over the top in ensuring my safety at all times. The whole campus is riddled with them. No one knows why they were built only that they’re here and mine allows me to go three places without stepping foot into the hallway of the main dorm.
Just because I agreed to this experiment didn’t mean I want to be mobbed every time I leave my room. Call it a compromise. Those tunnels are my freedom in a world full of crazy fans. When I first created Lilac Cove I didn’t expect the world to go gaga for Missy and Dan. Now I’m on the seventh book in the series I can’t seem to say goodbye.
He drops my bags unceremoniously on the floor in the spacious suite of rooms I’ll be living out of for the next year. Nick pokes his head into the bathroom making sure no one is hiding out in there before wrapping me up in the best brother’s hug ever. He pulls back before saying, ‘Guess this is it, kid.’ He doesn’t tell me how proud he is of me for taking such a giant step or any of the other platitudes family throw out when a child leaves the nest for the first time.
‘Guess so.’ The moroseness of my mood seeps into the tone of my voice. I don’t get lonely but I don’t want to live a gazillion miles away from Nick either. ‘Cheer up. Live a little. Make Millie work for you.’ Nick heads back towards the door on the far wall concealing the tunnels. I nod jumping slightly at the door banging shut somewhere else in the building.
Millie. My alter ego. She’s a no one from nowhere and she teaches creative writing for dummies. That’s not what the college is calling the course but it’s what I’m calling it in my head. I created Millie. She’s mine not some product of my media manager’s. Sue is an absolute shark when comes to being the queen of spin. I only agreed because they’d let me come up with my alter ego.
Millie (no last name). That’s who I am for three nights a week between 8 pm and 11 at night. Millie is a brunette. I’m a blonde. Her hair is wavy and mine is sleekly styled. She dresses romantic bohomian. I’m more classic in style. Unless I’m writing and then grunge could set up a postcode all of its own in my office.
Millie is shy. Sits on the fringes of society and doesn’t make friends easily. She’s kind and gentle. The core part of the Millie identity. The important part. This is when there is no dividing line between Millie or Lily. At the heart, we’re the same person.
I’ve seen the pictures in the file of my suite. It’s just like any other luxurious hotel room with a large sitting area, a comfortable workstation, plush size king bed and a table for two for eating at. Food will be delivered in the hours I’m at work so that my kitchen is kept fully stocked.
There’s no television. There never is. Television is just an excuse to be distracted by the noise of life. I can stream news, Spotify, and Netflix if I want to be entertained. I pull out my phone and text Nick.
I don’t know where any of my clothes are ???
In the panels behind your bed. There’s nothing for you to ‘do’ and nowhere you need to ‘be’ until Monday night. Sue left your disguise in the bathroom in case you want to check out the campus.
You shouldn’t text and drive.
I’m not :p Still sitting in the car. Knew you’d need me.
Go home big bro. Love you. Call on Sunday yeah?