1. BETTER THAN EXPECTED
I pull up to the house and take a deep breath. It looks exactly the same as in the pictures, a grey square building. Nothing about it is attractive but this is the best I could find. I also didn’t want to judge a book by its cover, or in this scenario the building by its exterior.
I didn’t get accepted into my first college preference, or my second, or even my third. I know it has everything to do with my poor grades and the lack of attendance. The only college who gave me an offer was Westshore - my fourth and last preference. It’s two hours from my hometown.
It’s not that I’m stupid or I can’t achieve higher results. I was the top student in my class before the universe decided to ruin me. After that, I didn’t care.
It was my dad who convinced me to get out of town and start over. Easier said than done. We both knew that if I stayed in that town, I would never stop blaming myself for my mother’s death.
It’s as if the last two years of my life were a blur. I do my best to block out the painful memories but I still find myself silently crying into my pillow every now and then. I miss her so much.
College starts on Monday and I only decided that I was going to attend a week ago. I couldn’t get a dorm on such short notice; they were all full. I also can’t afford to rent out an apartment on my own, so I found myself looking at ads on the college Facebook page.
I walk up to the front door, I don’t take my bags yet just in case this is the wrong house but I am sure it isn’t.
A petite brown-haired girl answers the door and I remember her name is Olivia. We have been talking over text for a few days and it is nice to place a face to a name. I’m praying that this wasn’t some sort of frat house.
“You’re Carlotta, right?” she asks with a smile and I shudder at the sound of my name. It’s not that I don’t like my full name but the only person that ever used to call me that is now dead. So, I guess you could say that I would prefer not to hear it.
“Calla,” I correct her and force myself to smile so I don’t seem rude.
“Cool, call me Liv,” she says. Her curls bounce on her shoulders with every movement. “Do you need help with your bags?” she continues. She seems nice.
“Yeah sure,” I agree. From what she told me over text, my bedroom would be upstairs, across the hall from hers. Luckily the room is already furnished with the basics like a bed and a desk, but I had to bring clothes and books from home that would last me a whole college year.
“Zach!” She calls and a tall blonde-haired boy appears behind her. He plants a kiss on her cheek and Olivia giggles.
“This is my boyfriend Zach,” she says, and he beams a smile at me. “Zach this our new housemate, Calla. Be nice,” she warns, and I see him roll his eyes.
“I am always nice, who do you take me for?” Zach asks jokingly and reverts his attention back to me. “It’s nice to meet you, Calla,” he holds out a hand like a gentleman.
I take it and he gives me a light squeeze before letting go and wrapping his arms around Olivia.
Olivia and Zach seem like a cute couple and for some reason, my thoughts seem to run to Asher. My ex-boyfriend, who also is attending the same college as me this year. We broke up a few months ago. He wanted to be carefree and single for college. I don’t blame him but there still is a part of me that wishes things were different.
He is one of the few people who were there for me through my mother’s death. Maybe that was a big part of why we broke up. I pushed everyone away. I wanted to be alone, all the time. Like somehow that would fix everything. I knew I was punishing myself, but that somehow made me feel better.
I walk inside with a box in my arms and look around. The floors are wooden and cold. I instantly find myself hoping that this place has heating. The only compromise to comfort is the old shaggy rug in the living room and that too has seen better days. Nonetheless, to my surprise, it somehow seems homey.
“Is it just you two? The ad said three housemates?” I ask, purely out of curiosity.
“There’s Ace as well. He won’t be here until Monday though,” she says. “He usually keeps to himself, his room is down here,” she points to the door in the corner away from everything.
“I’m so glad you’re here, I couldn’t imagine living with just boys.” Liv scrunches up her nose in disgust and I let out a small laugh.
After they help me carry my stuff to my room, they give me a key to the house and explain a few things. I will be sharing a bathroom with them, it is across from my room. I can bring anyone over as long as it isn’t guys from the Ashworth College, apparently, they are the enemy. I don’t understand but agree anyway, because I’m not going to be bringing any guys here anyway.
That’s definitely not on my to-do-list.
Liv leaves to let me settle in and says if I need anything to let her know. I can tell we are going to get along and I hope everyone around here is as nice as her.
My room is way bigger than I expected and I am kind of glad that I found this place. My housemates seem normal and I might even make good friends here. I unpack my clothes placing what needs to be hung in the closet and the rest in the small dresser.
I place my books on the ground near the small desk and sigh. I don’t know what college would be like and that is making me slightly nervous.
I glance out the window and wonder whose house this was and why they would want to rent it to college kids. The view from my room is somewhat magical, I always loved fall and that was one of the few things that still hasn’t changed. The air is cool, just how I like it, but the trees are on fire. I smile at the inferno near my window and remember how my mom would always scold me for bringing leaves into the house.
I would do anything to hear her voice again, to see her. She didn’t deserve what happened to her and it was all my fault.
From a distance, I can see a lake and I imagine how peaceful it is down there. I make a mental note to take a walk in that direction during the week. Maybe I can even take my journal and write. I haven’t written anything in two years and that was my favourite thing to do.
I decide to call my dad and tell him I got here okay; I don’t want him to get one of his cop friends to check up on me. He has plenty of those around the state and that was the last thing I needed.
I dial his number and he picks up on the first ring.
“Hey Cals, I was getting worried. Did you get there okay?” he asks.
“Yeah, sorry I was just unpacking,” I say and sit on the pink blanket on my bed.
“How is it? Do they seem nice? You know I could always pay for your own place,” he offers. I know he means well but we both know that he already struggles with bills and there’s no way he would be able to afford to pay for an apartment for me.
“It’s good, they are nice,” I reassure him.
“Don’t be just saying that Cals, if I find out there’s some funny business going on, I will bring a whole damn SWAT team,” my dad stresses and I let out a small laugh, knowing full well that it isn’t a joke.
I feel bad for leaving him all alone in that house even though he is the one who encouraged me to pursue my dreams. I don’t know anymore what my dreams are, but I don’t want to disappoint him.
After reassuring him that I’m okay and there is no need for him to come to check up on me I finally end the call. I am surprised he didn’t lecture me on boys and parties but we both know that is the last thing on my mind.
I lay on my bed feeling exhausted even though I haven’t done much. Loneliness isn’t an issue for me, so I am glad that I didn’t have a roommate.
I check my classes for the semester even though its only Saturday. I hope that I don’t run into Asher on my first day because that would be awkward, and I’d rather not go down that path.
Eventually, I drift off to sleep knowing that the first day of college will probably be an absolute disaster and I need all the rest I can get.