I ran across the campus, heat in my cheeks from the conversation that had just taken place with Julia Hawke. She had clearly thought I was a country bumpkin and she was right. I wasn’t even sure what had compelled me to speak to her one on one like that. So stupid. It was always better to stay hidden, sit at the back and never raise your hand. ‘If you don’t say anything, you can’t say anything stupid’, that’s what my mother always says. But watching her talk about writing had planted some seed of excitement in me. It made me want to sit down and start typing right that second, without knowing what might come out.
But now, thinking about doing that seemed scary and ridiculous. I wasn’t even sure why I chose Creative Writing as an elective, it wasn’t going to lead anywhere. I was at Medford to get a business degree. Even that was considered a waste of time by my parents. As far as they were concerned, I’d be going to work in the family shop and you don’t need a business degree to work in a mini mart in Pilldale Village. But I had managed to convince them that when I eventually took over the business, it would be helpful to have knowledge that would keep the business afloat in a future that no one could predict. What if things in the village changed? What if a large chain store moved in? It was enough to strike doubt into them. I know it’s not very nice to worry them like that, but before I settle down in the village, I just want a little time to experience other things. I couldn’t even tell you what things, but I guess that’s the point. I want to be surprised. And there’s not too many surprises in Pilldale.
I was just about to enter my Principles of Marketing Class when a voice cried across the campus.
I turned to see my boyfriend, Will, running toward me. I sighed inwardly, he was going to make me late but I put a smile on my face and waited for him. He reached me, sweating and happy, dressed in gym clothes.
‘My course is awesome!’
I laughed at his excitement. This hyperbole was typical of Will. He was like a puppy, excitable and always full of energy. That’s what made a physical education degree the perfect choice for him. I hoped it would wear him out a bit. We’d been together since we were fifteen and he’d decided to follow me here to Medford before he found a PE teacher job back home. I hadn’t been sure if I’d wanted him with me but I knew that three years on opposite ends of the country might be too hard on the relationship and I had to admit, in all this newness and excitement, it was nice to have a part of home with me.
‘It’s your first day, how can you tell it’s awesome already?’
‘I just can. I’ve already made friends and my tutor is really cool.’
That made me think of Julia. Cool wasn’t the word for her. The way she’d moved around the classroom, so self-possessed, so statuesque and patrician. She knew she had her students in the palm of her hand. And when she looked at you, you felt exposed, as though she could see right into you. It was frightening and somehow exciting. She wasn’t cool. She was something else they didn’t have a word for. I realised I’d gone into my head for a moment and that Will was still in front of me, waiting for interaction.
‘I’m glad you like it’
’How about you, how was your... Was it writing or something?′
‘Yeah. It was... Fine.’
I didn’t want to go into detail, I wasn’t sure I could trust myself not to gush about Julia and for some reason I didn’t want to do that in front of Will.
‘Look, I’m sorry, my class is starting. I have to go.’
‘Oh, I didn’t realise, sorry. See you later!’
And with that he was off again, running across the campus. I turned and headed into my next class, still a trace of the excitement from Julia Hawke running through my veins.
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