I arrived at the West Auditorium a few minutes later and saw an older woman – maybe she was a hall monitor – standing outside the open doors. She greeted several students as they casually entered. I guessed the party had started.
The room was filling up. Booths lined the walls as well as a center row. It was like a downtown retail center with a sign above each shop advertising the university. Thinking of downtown made me crave food and I wished I had eaten a couple more cheese sticks before showing up. Oh well, I’d quickly make my way through the aisles and grab lunch with the guys before our basketball game. Maybe Janik would pick up the tab since he owed me for schooling him in nine-ball the last time we played. And if I could convince the cheapskate to show some honor, I’d make him pay by getting an extra order of cheese fries.
Anyway, I meandered through the crowd half-listening to people talk about how wonderful their university was and what a good choice it would be to give them all the money you didn’t yet have. In exchange for this charity, they would help make our dreams of mid-level management come true.
Okay, maybe I was just being cynical, but the prospect of coughing up all that money – actually going in debt to that crazy extent – made me suspect. Granted, my dad was going to help pay for the majority of it, but I kind of felt bad having him pay for something that I wasn’t sure I wanted. It would be much easier if I were like Allison. She knew exactly what she wanted and would tailor her schooling to meet the end game. I didn’t have a goal. I figured life would somehow just work itself out.
“And what’s your name, young man?” a pleasant, yet finely tuned voice interrupted my thoughts. “You look lost.”
I stopped and traced the voice to a red-headed woman with penetrating green eyes. She looked like a serious person who was trying to play the role of a nice bureaucrat.
“I’m sorry, were you talking to me?”
“Yes. What’s your name?”
“Trenton Locke. What’s yours?”
“Alexa Petrovich,” she said, extending her hand. It was small and cool to the touch. She then typed something into her keyboard and studied the shielded screen.
“Looks like you have a bright future … if you decide to take advantage of it, that is.”
“What does that mean?”
“Your aptitude test scores – you have a better than good chance of getting a scholarship based on them.”
“I’m sorry, I’m confused. You must’ve typed in the wrong name. I only got in the 70th percentile.”
She looked at me with a curious set of eyes before double checking her system.
“Nope, I’m afraid I’m not mistaken, Mr. Locke. It says right here that you scored in the 85th percentile ... and my numbers don’t lie.”
“But my aptitude letter said I only scored in the 70th percentile. I don’t understand.”
“That’s strange. Do you have the letter with you?”
“Of course not.”
“Well it sounds like there was an error somewhere in the reporting chain. I’ll have to have a look into that. Anyway, have you given much thought to what you’d like to study and eventually do once you graduate?”
“No, I haven’t. You know this is really strange. I don’t understand how my letter could have gotten mixed up.”
“I don’t know either. But it seems more options have opened up. Have you ever considered serving your country by working for the government?”
“You mean like joining the military?”
“Not necessarily the military. The government does a lot more than protect our country from foreign threats. There’s a lot of exciting opportunities you couldn’t possibly dream existed,” she continued her pitch and TTOP immediately came to mind. “And the best part is that you get to serve your country while doing it.”
Wow, I thought, this lady is all red, white and blue.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure what I want to do in five years.”
“Since the opportunities of a scholarship have opened up, you should consider studying one of your past life professions.”
“I don’t know,” I said, still wondering what the hell had happened to cause such an error. I mean, if I was actually interested in pursuing a past lives scholarship, this error could have drastically changed my life. Some idiot in the government should definitely be losing his or her job. Morons.
Before Ms. Petrovich continued with her sales pitch, Allison grabbed my arm and politely pulled me away.
“There’s nothing going on between us,” she said. “He’s just helping me because I’m interested in working with them one day.”
“It sure sounded like he was interested in more than that.”
“You’re just being jealous and although it’s cute, I don’t like it, so please stop. Besides, my dad’s the one who introduced us. He knows what I want to do and thought Augustus would be a good connection.”
“Your father introduced you? Now that’s precious.”
“Oh stop it. You’re still the one for me and you know that.”
“Am I? I mean, I’m not gunning for the Library of Congress or the military like your dad. In fact, I have no idea what I want to do in four-and-a-half years. Do you know how long from now that is?”
“It’s not that long?”
“It may as well be a million years. Heck, graduation from high school seems like it’s never going to happen.”
“Now you’re just being silly,” she said and squeezed my hand sincerely. “You’re still coming tonight, right?”
I was defenseless. Once she threw in a kiss or two, or in this case a tender touch, I may as well have handed over my Past Lives Letter. She had that power over me and I didn’t know why. I also didn’t like it because I had never felt like that before. What a kick in the shorts.
As we walked out of the college fair, Allison asked me who the red-headed woman was. I told Allison her name, but for the life of me couldn’t recall what university she represented. Odd, I thought, and completely forgot about it by lunch.