The Wanderers

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chapter 5

With only a week left until school started, there was so much to be done. I had to buy furniture and appliances for my dorm along with books, flash drives, notebooks, and clothes. Although, according to Josie everyone wore pajamas to class.

I had gotten a sneak peek at my dorm room when I visited the school with Josie in the spring. The dorm rooms were not big, but not small like most. I knew I would need a microwave, mini fridge, a desk, and a desk lamp.

As I threw item after item in the cart my mom asked where exactly I was going to fit everything. I told her no worries, I’d make it fit. She also suggested maybe I should wait to see what my roommate would bring, that way I didn’t take anything extra. I replied with, her mom probably told her the same thing. Better safe than sorry.

Our shopping trip was a successful one. I found the perfect little desk, with a clamp-on light, and a mini fridge. My mom said no to the microwave, claiming she’d like to think I was getting a better meal than something you would just nuke for two minutes. My books would have to wait until I got to school. I also bought some new clothing. Vermont was definitely colder than California. Sweaters, jeans, and a winter jacket were a must to survive the cooler climate.

My mom hated the fact that I was going to school so far away, but to me, the whole point was to get as far away as I could. I could get a fresh start and meet new people. Knowing Josie would be at the same school as me made my mom feel a little better. It also helped that Dean wouldn’t be that far away. He was transferring to a school in Rhode Island. My mom took comfort in knowing at least Dean and I would be on the same coast.

My mom spent every minute with me up until I had to leave. She basically smothered me, saying it wasn’t too late to go to a school closer to home. I told her, as I did a thousand times, I’d be fine, stop worrying. My mom wanted to fly out there with me, but I had my dad convince her it wasn’t necessary. I was an adult now and could do this on my own.

On the day of my departure we had our big family breakfast, minus Dean. He left two days earlier to go back to school. Since transferring, he had a few things to deal concerning his paperwork or so he said.

After breakfast, I double-checked to make sure I had everything. Xander helped me carry my luggage downstairs where everyone was waiting to say their goodbyes. I gave Danni and Hadley big hugs, saving Xander for last. “Stay out of trouble kid,” he said.

“Please…I’m not Dean.”

“We’ll see,” he laughed and gave me another hug. My mom was already crying and I told her if she didn’t stop, she wasn’t allowed to come to the airport.

Josie and I were taking the same flight out, so my parents offered to take her with us. Her parents weren’t as involved in her life as mine and seemed more than happy to not have to worry about driving her to the airport.

When Josie saw us pull up, she ran out of the house screaming “Freedom!” I couldn’t help but laugh. I stepped out of the car to help her load her things in the back.

Jake came running out of the house after Josie, hands full, and still in his footie pajamas. “JoJo, wait!” Josie turned to him and paused. “Here, I made you a card and got you a present.” He handed her a piece of construction paper and an oddly shaped present that you could tell he wrapped himself.

“I think I’m actually going to miss you,” she said, picking him up and giving him a hug and kiss. “Okay go back inside.” She rustled his hair and with a sigh hopped in the car.

“Ready?”

“Oh yeah, I’m ready.” Josie waved goodbye to her brother as we drove off.

On the way, she opened the card Jake had made for her. The card was made from purple construction paper with what looked like a drawing of Jake and Josie (stick figures of course) playing in the sun. On the inside, Jake had wrote real big, in blue crayon -

I will miss u JoJo

Do not forget me

Luv, Jakey.

He also attached a photo of them together that was taken last year at the beach. While they were on vacation Josie had buried Jake in the sand up to his head. Next she opened the gift. It was a stuffed penguin. His stuffed penguin. The one he took everywhere with him. I remember he told me once it made him feel safe. Josie choked up a little at the gift.

I smiled at her letting her know it would be okay. As much as she complained about him, there was no denying how much she truly loved him.

Once we were inside the airport my dad hugged me and gave me a kiss on the forehead. My mom squeezed me so tight I couldn’t breathe. “Uh mom…dad a little help,” I said, waving my arms frantically trying to escape her vice grip.

I didn’t think she was going to let go. “Okay Jamila, she has a flight to catch,” my dad said, unlocking her mama bear paws she had hooked around me.

I waved goodbye and got in line with Josie to head through security. Once we were out of sight of my parents, Josie and I started jumping up and down, unable to contain our excitement. We practically ran to join the rest of the passengers waiting in line to board the plane.

Once we were settled, we waited patiently for the plane to take off. It was about a six hour flight, so we made ourselves comfortable and checked out the in-flight movie.

Upon arriving in Vermont, we stopped at one of the local coffee shops before heading to campus. All our stuff was already delivered to our dorms, waiting to be unpacked.

The campus was buzzing with new students heading in every direction trying to find their way. “Okay, well my dorm is this way.” I pointed to the right.

“And mine’s that way,” Josie said, pointing to left all the way across campus. “Call me as soon as you get situated. I hope you get a cool roommate.”

“Ditto,” she said, smiling nervously.

We hugged and both headed our separate ways. I took out my information packet and headed off to meet my new roommate. When I got to my room I found out I was the first to arrive. All of my stuff shoved in the one corner.

I sat on one of the beds and looked around, taking everything in. We had a few days before classes started and to get settled in. Not quite ready to unpack I called Josie to see if she wanted to hit the bookstore with me. “I don’t feel like unpacking yet. Wanna walk around and check everything out?”

“I can’t. There’s a problem,” she said. I could hear her biting her biting her nails through the phone. A nervous habit of hers I was constantly trying to help her break.

“What do you mean?”

“Apparently they assigned too many people to a room. I was the last to arrive so I’m the one stuck without a place to stay. I already called my parents and they’re bitching up a storm. Meet your roommate yet?”

“No and my things are the only stuff here. Maybe she’s arriving later.”

“Well at least you get to pick what side of the room you want. I can’t even…Ella, I’m gonna have to call you back. Don’t go anywhere without me, okay?”

“Okay, I won’t,” I said, ending the call. I figured since I had to wait, might as well start unpacking after all. I started with the biggest box first, which included my desk and all my school supplies.

“Some assembly required,” the box read.

Great, I was the last person who should attempt to put something together. Maybe I can get my roommate to help me.

I moved onto the next box, my clothes.

There were two dresser sets and one closet – so much for not having to share. I shoved everything I could into the drawers and stuffed my bulkier things in the closet, such as my winter coat, sweaters and boots, which ended up taking up most of the space. I hope my roommate packed less than I did.

I moved on to the next box, containing my toiletries, make-up, a few knickknacks, and two framed photos. One was a picture of Kyle and I after we won the state championship and the other was a picture of the whole family. I placed them both on the night stand next to my bed. If I couldn’t have him here in person then at least I would have him here in spirit.

I was distracted by a knock at the door. I got up to answer it. When I opened the door, there was a large man carrying a heavy box. He pushed pass me and laid the box down on the floor, walked back out, and carried in some more boxes.

Must be my roommate’s stuff.

I stayed out of his way until Josie popped her head in the door carrying one of her many suitcases. “Hey, what are you doing here?”

“Is that anyway to greet your new roommate?”

“What?” I asked surprised.

“Well, after I talked to my mom, she called yours and told her what happened. So your mom instantly called the school to make sure you weren’t having any problems.”

“Of course,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“That’s when we found out you were never assigned a roommate and since I didn’t have a place to stay…voila`.”

“So you’re my roommate?” I said, a big smile dancing on my lips.

“Yep.”

“Ah!” We both screamed jumping up and down.

The man who carried in the boxes stood in the doorway waiting for his next instructions. “I think that’s it. Thanks Bob,” Josie said, slapping him on the shoulder and handing him a big fat tip. He nodded and closed the door behind him.

Josie and I proceeded to scream again while jumping up and down and falling on our beds. “How perfect is this?” Josie gleamed.

“I know, and since you’re here; I need help putting this desk together.”

“Please, that’s what hot young freshman are for. Besides, now that we know we’re roommates we can go out and explore.” She yanked me off the bed and out the door, barely giving me enough time to grab my key.

We walked down the hall passing kids settling in or saying goodbye to their parents. A tall, rugged, good looking guy, wearing only a towel passed us and Josie said, “I really think I’m going to like college.”

Our dorm was coed, which was one of the primary reasons Josie picked this place, so she says. I knew it was because she didn’t want to go to a new school without me.

Our room was located on the second floor. Instead of the elevator, we took the two flights of stairs to the lobby.

Once outside, we paused for a moment and debated which way to go. There was so much activity and plenty to check out. They had booths set up everywhere to sign up for clubs or charities. Others were fraternities or sororities trying to get you to join and each and every one had a flyer or pamphlet. There were even protestors, speaking about wildlife or the depletion of our natural resources. Josie and I only made it about ten feet before our hands were full of colorful papers of endless information and invites.

We strolled along the campus taking in the sites. Eventually we found the book store and I told Josie I wanted to pick up my books. After spending two hours of touring the campus and not being able to walk anymore, we made our way back to our dorm. “So what do you want to do now?” Josie asked.

“How about rest for a little, then finish unpacking.”

“Ugh, I hate unpacking. I should have had Bob stay and do it for me.”

I laughed and checked my cell phone to see I had three missed calls from my mom and one from Dean. I had left it in my room by accident while we went out to explore. “Crap, I forgot to call my mom. She’s probably freaking out.” I called my voice mail to listen to my messages.

“Hi Ella its mom, just want to make sure you arrived okay and everything is alright. Call me as soon as you get in, love ya.”

The second message was my mom again.

“Hey honey, Jade just called me and told me what happened to Josie. I hope you aren’t having any issues and why haven’t you called yet? Please call me so I know you’re okay.”

And the third was from Dean

“Christ Ella, would you please call mom back. She’s threatening to make me drive there to check on you and I do not have time for your petty games. I have better things to attend to. ‘Dean hurry up.’ I heard a girl’s voice in the background and then Dean hanging up the phone.

I shook my head and right away called my mom. “Ella! Are you alright? Why haven’t you called? What’s going on?” She bombarded me with questions.

“Yes mom, I’m fine. Sorry I haven’t called. Josie and I went to look around the campus and I forgot my phone.”

“Well you scared me. Don’t do that again.” I could just see her sinking down into a seat with her hand over her heart. Her tone relaxed as she continued the conversation. “I wanted to tell you I packed a few extra items in your suitcase just as a precaution. Did you get them?”

“No. I haven’t gotten that far yet, but thank you.”

“Your father and I have been talking and we think it would be a good idea for you to have a car while you’re there. I’ll feel safer knowing you’re not walking everywhere.”

“Okay mom, I’ll look into it when I get a chance.”

“No worries, we already took care of it. It will be delivered tomorrow.”

“Thanks mom,” I said, kind of shocked but also not surprised. “Totally unnecessary, but thanks.”

“So tell me about your first day.”

“Mom, I’m kind of tired. Can I tell you some other time? I haven’t even unpacked yet.”

“Okay sweetheart. I love you.”

“I love you too. Bye mom.” I hung up the phone before she had a chance to say anything else. I was thousands of miles away and she was still smothering me.

I immediately opened my suitcase to see what my mom had snuck in there. On top was a bag with a note that read ‘Be safe honey’, in my mom’s handwriting. I emptied the contents of the bag onto my bed.

There was a can of mace, a rape whistle, a mini flashlight, a first aid kit, and of all things, a reflective vest. I rolled my eyes and stuffed everything back in the bag, shoving it under my bed. “Hey, at least your mom cares about you,” Josie said.

“Yeah a little too much, but one good thing about her undying love and wanting to keep her daughter safe, we’ll have a car.”

“Sweet, I’m gonna take a nap. Wake me when you finish unpacking my stuff.” I threw a pillow at her and she yelped. “Alright, alright.”

Josie reluctantly got up and started unpacking. She opened up one of the boxes stuffed full of clothes, picked up the wrinkled pile, and threw everything on the floor of the closet. “One down, four to go,” she smiled.

“Josie, you are not leaving your clothes in a pile on the floor of the closet.”

“Why not?”

“Because the closet is on my side and I know you’ll be throwing clothes everywhere making a mess for me to clean up.”

“Fine.” She stomped back over to the closet, picked up the pile, and threw it in the corner on her side. “Better?”

“Much,” I said sarcastically. I forgot how messy Josie was. Maybe her being my roommate might not be as great as I thought.

After I finished unpacking everything I decided to attempt to put together the desk. “I’m going to go grab a soda. You want one?” Josie offered.

“Yes, please.”

“Okay I’ll be right back,” she said, skipping out the door.

I dumped out all the materials and spread everything across the floor studying the directions. “This can’t be that hard,” I said out loud to myself. I managed to get half of it together and started putting in the next screw when the screw driver slipped and cut my hand. “Ow! Shit!”

“Need some help there?” I turned to see a tall, lanky kid standing behind me. “Sorry your door was open and I heard you yell. I’m Jack,” he said, offering me his hand.

“Hi. Ella.”

He had a crooked smile, which was kind of sweet. He pointed to the desk on the floor and offered to help. “Yes please, I’m not very good at this stuff.” I tucked a piece of hair behind my ear as he joined me on the floor.

“Happy to help.”

I handed him the screwdriver and that was when I noticed the cut on my hand was pretty bad. “Crap, sorry, I need to…”

He took my hand and inspected my finger. “It’s just a scratch, here.” He pulled a small packet of tissues from his back pocket and applied one to my cut. “Just hold this here till the bleeding stops, and then you should go clean it up.”

“Thanks.” I watched him start to put the desk together. Now that he was closer I got a better look at him. He had dirty blond hair with short wiry curls. His face was long and covered in freckles and his eyes, something about his eyes looked very familiar. They were a goldish color with violet flecks.

“Done,” he said, drawing my attention back to the desk.

“Wow, thank you. It probably would have taken me another hour to finish it,” I laughed.

“No problem,” he smiled.

“Hey, they only had diet is that alright?” Josie said, coming back into the room. Jack brushed his hands on his jeans and stood up.

“Josie, this is Jack.”

“Hi,” Josie said with her best flirtatious smile. He shook her hand and proceeded towards the door.

“Thanks again.”

“No prob. I’m just down the hall if you’re ever in need of my insistence again…and don’t forget to clean that cut.”

I smiled politely at him as he exited the room.

Josie shut the door. “I’m gone ten minutes and already you have a boy in our room.” She teased, falling on her bed.

“Shut up. You forgot to close the door and he heard me cursing and came to see what was going on.”

“Uh huh…” she smiled.

I rolled my eyes at her and push myself up off the floor. “I’ll be back. I’m going to clean this up.” I made my way to the bathroom and rinsed off all the blood from my hand. I knew I would have plenty of supplies to properly clean it and bandaged it back at my room.

“So how about we go through these flyers and see which ones have the best offers and best parties,” Josie said, spreading all the papers across her bed. I tossed my stack into her pile and one by one we went through them making three piles - one for yes’s, another for the maybes, and another for the no’s.

Josie based most of her decisions on how hot the guy was who handed her the flyer. I told her that was not a valid reason for picking a club to join, or whatever the flyer was offering. We also separated them according to what they were for; parties, clubs, sororities, petitions. Josie focused on the party and sorority flyers, while I focused on the clubs and petitions. “What about this one?” I asked handing her a flyer about Greenpeace.

She automatically tossed it in the ‘no’ pile. “Those people are grungy. Hello it’s not gonna kill you to take a shower. Besides, doesn’t your mom already work for a Greenpeace?”

“Yes, but it would be nice if we helped do our part.”

She stood up from the bed with her empty soda can and threw it in the empty trash can. “Recycling, there I did my part.” I just shook my head at her knowing it would be a lost cause. “Besides, I don’t think we should get too involved in extracurricular activities until we know what our schedule is like.”

“Now that is something I can agree on,” I said, picking up the flyers to throw them away in our new ‘recycling’ can.

Josie grabbed my hand. “Except these,” she smiled. “I’m sure we won’t be too busy to check out some parties.” I stifled an eye roll and let her go. “So which one do you want to check out tonight?”

“I don’t care. You pick.”

She closed her eyes and reached blindly into the pile of party flyers. “Okay, this one it is,” she said holding up a blue flyer that read Jell-O shots in big print. “I remember the guy who gave me this. He was really hot.”

“Where’s it at?”

“Some fraternity.”

“That helps,” I said sarcastically. “What time does it start?”

“Not till ten.”

“Well if you don’t mind, I’m going to take a little nap.”

“Sounds great. I think I’ll do the same.”

I got clean sheets out of the closet and placed them on my bed. Josie lay down on her mattress not even bothering to put sheets on it first. The second I lay down and closed my eyes I was out.

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