14

11/12

Day 7 (more)

4:13 am by L. Jacob. Filed under: NaNoWriMo

Because Kate knew she wouldn’t do it, she knew that Niva would.  And Niva would continue to do this work for her, because she had no idea how much Ana was going to use her.  At that moment, Kate disliked Ana enough to turn on her heel and walk into her room, shutting the door quietly.

Kate couldn’t control Ana, or Niva, but she could control her reactions to them.  Right now, she was angry at Ana for trying to use her, and angry at Ana for using Niva.  Maybe at some point she would sit down and talk to Niva about how Ana was going to abuse her, but for right now, she had to do some normal studying.

 

-3-

The vacuum sucked up the last bits of popcorn from the floor.  The anger and hate that Kate had the night before had cooled into a pool of disgust.

It was raining today, a perfect day to crawl into bed with her books and a cup of tea.  As it was, she was busy dusting and cleaning the two common rooms of the apartment.  The kitchen was cleaned first, and it was spotless; now she was vacuuming the living room and would soon be finished with the dusting.  She had found Ana’s books on the coffee table and piled them at the door to her room.

Lynn was lucky to have gotten three hours’ sleep before heading to the bus stop to catch the bus to campus; Niva had presented Ana with a perfectly typed paper that morning, adding to Kate’s irritation.

Kate looked at the clock after the vacuuming and decided she was going to take a quick walk to the convenience store across the street and pick up something special for lunch.  She really wanted a tuna sandwich, but needed the key ingredient.  She hoped that the store would have chunk white, but would be happy with the simple chunk light instead.  She got her coat on and went down the three flights, pausing at the second floor to hear a baby cry.

She didn’t know that one of the girls on that floor had a baby, and she knew from the landlord that was a particular no-no, as this was for single college girls.  If they had boys over, that was their prerogative, but no children were allowed.  Maybe someone was babysitting.

The baby’s cries were stopped suddenly, though she heard nothing to make it stop.  She shrugged and kept on going to the store.

The store was empty except for three older men who leered at her and then at the Kino screen, watching small bouncing balls hit numbers on a TV.  She went up and down the aisles, searching for tuna.  She finally found some, a pair of dusty cans, and plucked one from the shelf, checking the expiration date.  There was one month left.

She shrugged, and brought it to the counter.  After paying three dollars for it, she pocketed it without a bag and ran back to her house.  As she approached the second floor, she heard the baby cry again.  She hesitated at the door, not wanting to disturb anyone, yet, not wanting to get anyone in trouble, either.

Back at home, it would be perfectly all right to knock on someone’s door and ask if they needed any help or had a cup of sugar.  But this was the big city, and people here were not as friendly or as forthcoming as they were from her hometown.  She had her hand raised at the door, to knock, and thought long and hard.  What would the girl say if she knocked on the door and said she heard a baby crying?  “Yes, and I know it’s a bad thing but I have no where else to go”? “Yes, please don’t tell the landlord”? “Yes, I’m babysitting”?

The more she thought about it, the more she realized it was probably the last.  It wasn’t her problem.  She brought her hand down, and as she turned to go upstairs, the door opened and a harried girl stepped outside.  The baby was still crying.

“Excuse me,” Kate said, and the girl stopped for a moment.

“Yeah?” she said, fumbling to lock the door.

“Do you hear that baby?”

“What baby?” she asked, and hoisted her backpack onto her shoulder.

“The baby crying?”

The girl gave her a look that Kate immediately read as, “You’re off your rocker,” while the girl said, “Yeah, right,” and went down the stairs.  The baby stopped crying again.

Kate went back upstairs, and no longer heard the baby cry.  When Lynn came crawling in around dinnertime, Kate saw from the look on Lynn’s face that she had an up close and personal date with her bed, and so she let her go.  Niva came home next, followed by Ana at around nine, smelling of cigarettes and booze.  The tromped into the apartment, and was obviously drunk.

It’s not my problem, thought Kate, shutting off her light.

The next morning, she had a ten o’clock class, so started to leave to go catch the eight o’clock bus.  One of the girls from the first floor, a Vietnamese girl named Thanh fell into step with her.  She was born in America, and her mother was dead.  Her father was working three jobs to put his four children through college.  Kate thought that was crazy.  “He loves to work,” Thanh said as they sat on the bus.  For once, she didn’t have her earbuds in.

“Did you hear the baby yesterday?” Kate finally asked.

“What baby?”

“The baby crying, on the second floor.”

“No, we’re not allowed to have children in those apartments.”

“I know, but I could have sworn I heard a baby crying yesterday.  This girl out and out lied to me when I asked.”

Thanh shook her head.  “No, I’ve never heard any babies on that second floor.  Creaking beds, maybe, but no babies.”

The two laughed over that, and Thanh promised to come upstairs sometime to visit, while Kate promised to do the same.  Neither had the same classes, as Thanh was one year ahead, but Thanh said she’d be happy to have her along as a study buddy.  Especially for her Western Civ class.

Kate went to her Algebra class and then was free until noon, when she worked at the computer lab for three hours before heading home on the three-thirty bus.

She got to the second floor and heard the crying again.  Finally, she could take it no more and knocked on the door.  An African-American woman opened the door.  “Yes?”

“Hi, I’m from upstairs and…do you have any…sugar?”

The woman looked her over, and Kate knew that she didn’t look like she was baking, seeing as she had just come off the bus.  “I think so, how much do you need?  Come on in.”

“Thanks.”  Kate stepped inside.  She expected the crying to be louder in here, but it wasn’t.  It was the same volume as it was out in the hall.  Kate looked around the kitchen, furnished as it was like hers upstairs, with one kitchen and a large living room, and bedrooms off the kitchen and living room.  In this set up, the TV was opposite the windows, and there was a doorway as opposed to an archway to the living room like her apartment was.

“How much do you need?”

“Much – Oh, only half a cup.”  As soon as she spoke, the crying stopped.  The woman took down a large tin from the cupboard and then took out a zipper plastic bag.  She measured a half a cup with a measuring spoon.  As soon as she poured the sugar into the plastic bag, the crying started again.

The woman gave her the plastic bag, and Kate murmured, “Thanks.”  Then she asked, “How can you stand the crying?”

“What crying?”

“You don’t hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“The baby – there, it just stopped.”

The woman smiled, “Honey, there’s no baby here.”

“I can hear it crying.”

“I swear, there’s no baby here.”

Kate frowned.   “Okay, well, thanks for the sugar.”

“You’re welcome.  Anytime you need anything, just come over.”  The woman quietly shut the door behind her.  Kate shook her head, thinking that the woman must think she’s crazy.

Kate heard the baby again and went up the stairs.  As she did, she bumped into the landlady.  “Hi, Mrs. Cohen?”

“Hello,” she said, her accent harsh.  “I left a note upstairs.  I got a complaint yesterday that one of you came in late singing up a storm.”

“I know who that was,” Kate said, her head down.

“You tell her I do not tolerate this here.”  She started to walk back down the stairs.

Something occurred to Kate.  “Mrs. Cohen?”

“Yes?”

“Was there ever a baby here?”

Her face went cold for a minute.  “Does someone have a baby?”

“No, but, and this is going to sound crazy, but I hear one.  And I checked, but there isn’t a baby there.”

Cohen looked at the second floor door.  “I won’t let babies here anymore.  I did once, once.  It was awful, awful.”  Then Cohen knocked on the second floor door.  The same woman as before unlocked the door.  “I want to check your place,” she said.  “I heard you have a baby.”

That was just what Kate did NOT want to happen, and the woman said, as she closed the door, “I told her that we don’t – “ and the door shut.

Kate went upstairs and immediately jumped onto her computer.  She Dug her own address.

There it was, in black and white, a newspaper report from the ‘80’s.  A baby was found in a closet, suffocated.  The mother was an 18 year old college student who had suffocated her two month old baby because it wouldn’t stop crying.

Now it wouldn’t stop, and there was something in that apartment that was making it cry, making its soul stay behind.

She had to find Daniel, he could find the thing that was making its soul stay behind.  But she had told Daniel to leave her alone.  What an idiot she was.  She turned right around and bumped again into Mrs. Cohen.  Apologizing, she ran down the stairs and to the bus stop.

Kate sat in the middle of the bus, hoping he would be there, but he wasn’t.  She said he lived in a castle in Longwood, so she got off the bus at the terminus and walked the four blocks to the beginning of Longwood Mall, a long expanse of trees and woodland where, according to him, the Summer Fairies were.

She walked along it, and it grew dark around seven; pretty soon she was stumbling around on the outskirts.  Then she saw a house from a distance, a house bathed in light, with a fountain also bathed in light, facing the Longwood Mall.  It looked to her like a castle on a hill, made of light.

She headed for it.

14

11/12

Day 7

1:02 am by L. Jacob. Filed under: NaNoWriMo

Daniel had said something about a castle on Longwood.  She hadn’t been there, but knew it was just off campus.  Maybe she would go there Friday.

“Lucy, I’m home,” yelled Ana as she stomped into the apartment.  Kate heard a thud, probably Ana’s backpack hitting the floor.  She next heard a knock on her door, since it was right off the kitchen.  “Come in,” Kate called.

Ana threw open the door.  “Hey, can you read over my paper and tell me what you think?”

“What’s the paper on?”

“Moby Dick.”

“I never read Moby Dick.”

“Neither have I.  But I want to make sure it doesn’t sound like the Yellow Notes.”

“Ana!”

“Could you please?”  She held out a few hand-written papers.  “I’ll type it up later.  Just look it over?”

“Will you make me dinner?”

Ana sighed.  “Oh, come on.”

Kate said, “Nevermind, I already had dinner.  Let me see.”

Ana stomped into the room on huge platform shoes and handed the papers to Kate.  Ana turned back and left the room.  “Mark up what you need to,” she said, and slammed shut Kate’s door.

Kate sighed and sat down to read.  It sounded too much like the Yellow Notes, using words Ana would never use, such as “armistice” and “moribund”.  She crossed the words out and at first started to fill in some words that Ana would use, simpler ones, but then just crossed the words out.  She wasn’t going to write Ana’s paper for her, and she’d be damned if she was going to help her like this.  The more she read, the angrier she got, until she got to the third page and just tossed them aside.

Kate glared at the hand-written notebook paper, and picked it up, then threw open the door.  The TV was blaring in the other room, and Ana was in her usual spot, laying about on the couch.  She had a bag of microwave popcorn and was eating it, getting popcorn bits all over the rug.  The rug that she would have to vacuum tomorrow.

“Ana,” Kate said.  Ana said nothing.  “Ana!”

Ana jerked up.  “Oh, done already?”

“You copied this right out of the Yellow Notes.”

“Some of it.”

“Most of it.”

She shrugged.

“Don’t you think your professor will know?”

“He’s old.  He’s not going to know.”

“You do know that he doesn’t grade his papers.  A grad student usually does.  That grad student probably read the Yellow Notes at one time.”

“Oh.  Can’t you make it sound like it’s not from the Yellow Notes?”

Kate dropped the papers onto Ana’s lap.  “I tried, but this is direct plagiarism.”

Ana shrugged.  “I’ll get Lynn to read it.”

“Lynn’s got clinical tonight.  When’s it due?”

“Tomorrow.”

Kate knew something like this was going to happen.  She vowed that she wasn’t going to let Ana walk all over her and use her.  She knew Ana didn’t have a computer, and it was too late for her to go back to campus to use the computer lab.  She wasn’t going to be the one who was going to pander to Ana.

However, the person who was ended up walking in the door.  “Niva!” Ana yelled as soon as she cleared the threshold.  She was up and out of the couch in a flash.  “Niva, hon, can you do me a favor?”

Niva stopped at the door, not even shutting it.  “Of course, Ana.”

“Can you read my paper over?  I want to make sure it doesn’t sound like Yellow Notes.”

“Surely, I can do that,” Niva said, and dropped her books immediately.  She shut the door and pulled out a chair at the kitchen table.

“And, uh, I might need to use your computer.  I didn’t get a chance to type it up at school, and…”

“Do you have a flash drive?”

Ana frowned.  “No, I don’t.”

“I will be happy to let you use my computer.”

Something told Kate that Ana was going to somehow get Niva to type up her paper for her.  Kate would not do it.  Would not.

10

11/12

Day 7

8:33 pm by L. Jacob. Filed under: NaNoWriMo

So engrossed she was in the chapter that she didn’t notice when her relief came in.  She waved to her, and then headed for he last class of the day, Mass Communications.  Here they would talk about TV and what it meant for Western culture.  Though she didn’t like to watch TV, she had to pick one day to watch and one channel to watch and write in a journal about each episode.  She had picked Sunday prime time, watching A&E.  It was not exactly her cup of tea, but it was either that or PBS.

After that class, she got on the bus to head home.  About halfway down Commonwealth Avenue, she remembered something.  It tugged on the edge of her consciousness, making her look through her notebooks to find something she wrote down.  She found on the back of her Comp notebook, the words, “Black duster.”  She remembered the boy with the brown duster in her Algebra class, but couldn’t remember anything else.

She decided that she needed new music, so she got off the bus at Fry’s, a local CD shop.  They usually had the college alternative music that she found herself growing to like, but they also had a good selection of country, which she had been brought up with.  She went inside, and started pawing through the used CD rack, looking for old Loretta Switt or the Sex Pistols.

Someone came up to her side, and she looked up, startled.  It was the young man in the black duster from the bus.  “Hi,” he said, and plucked a CD from the rack.

“Are you stalking me?” she demanded.

“I want to apologize for earlier.”

That memory came flooding back.  “What were you doing?”

The young man pocketed the CD.

“You are a thief!”

“Shhh.  Do you want to draw attention to yourself?”

“You’re going to walk out of here with that, aren’t you?”

“Maybe, maybe not.  I wanted to show you what I found.”  He went in the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a woman’s silver ring with dark blue and light blue stones in it.  “This is what drew that man to the store, time and time again.  It was his favorite piece.”

She looked at the ring.  It looked simple enough, split in half down the middle with the two stones set inside.  “Why?”

“Why do you like the music you do?  Who knows.”  He pocketed the ring.  “Once I cleansed the ring, he was able to go to his final rest.”

“What?”

“Let’s go get some coffee, and I promise to explain everything.”

“I was planning on eating dinner – ”

“Then I’ll take you to the pizza place right next door.”  He smiled.  “It’ll be a date.”

“I don’t date thieves.”

He sighed, and put the CD back.  “Spoilsport.  C’mon, my treat.  And I’ll explain everything.”

She crossed her arms in front of her and regarded him for a minute.  “What’s your name?”

“Daniel,” he said.  “Will you come with me?”

She frowned, and followed him.

They walked out of the CD shop and next door to the pizza restaurant.  He ordered four slices of pepperoni, though she had often eaten a large pizza all on her own.  He got her a Pepsi, though she preferred Diet Coke, and they sat across from each other in a booth.

“First of all,” he said, after biting into the pizza, “I told you I’m a mage.”

“Yes,” she said, eating the pizza ravenously.  “You make rabbits pop out of hats.”

“No, that’s a magician.  I’m a mage, which means I do all sorts of magic.  I would have gotten that CD for you without setting off any alarms.  You do know that they put anti-theft devices in those CD’s, right?”

“I kind of thought they did,” she said, finishing up the first slice of pizza.  He still hadn’t finished even half of his.  She drank soda to cover up how hungry she was.  “What do you mean you ‘cleansed’ the ring?”

He sat forward, warming to his subject.  “When ghosts are around, it’s usually because they’re tethered here because of something or someone.  Ghosts are people’s souls, who have something here they have to finish, or do, or like or love.  Loved ones can have other souls follow them for life; sometimes they’re stuck in a certain place because something happened to them there.  Or, like this ring, it’s something that they loved and wanted to be tied to forever.”

“That man was doing that forever?”

“I don’t know how long ago it was, but that store’s been closed the last thirty years.  It was a jewelry store in the 50’s, then a pawn shop, so it could be that he’s been doing it since the 50’s, or since he died.  That ring has been there since then.”

“What are you going to do with the ring?”

“Sell it at a pawn shop, probably.”

“Where do you live?”

Daniel ate some pizza.  “Ah, that’s where we get into some nitty gritty details, and especially how I know your name.”

“You said you’d explain everything,” she said, starting in on the second slice, forcing herself to go slow.

“Yes,” he replied, “and it’s probably going to blow your mind, so don’t freak out until I’m done, all right?”

“Okay…” she said, and ate pizza while he told her:

“I am a fairie.  I live with my prince in his castle over in Longwood.  Many of us help humans, at least those of the Spring Court like myself.  The ones of the Fall Court do not, and the ones of the Summer Court could care less, since they are forever entertaining each other.  The Winter Court are all dead.  Regardless, what we do in the Spring Court is try to keep humans unaware of what happens around them, and we try to help them against the Soul-stealing Vampyrn that exist.  That’s where you come in.”

She had stopped eating her pizza after the first sentence.  He paused to eat his pizza and she asked, “Are you done?”

“Nope,” he said, taking a drink of his soda.  “What you do is you see the souls of people, and you can see whether or not someone is Vampyrn.  Vampyrn wear other people’s souls like cloaks, and hold onto those souls; that is what gives them power and strength.”  He ate the pizza, saying, “Okay, ask away.”

She had set her pizza down, leaned back in her chair and said, “You expect me to believe that?”

“It’s the truth.”

“You don’t look like a fairie.”

“You’re thinking I’m a pixie.  Pixie and fairie are two different things.”

“What’s this about Courts?”

“It’s how we align ourselves.  Spring Courts are usually helpers of humans, and most of the fairie who walk among human kind are of the Spring Court.  Fall Court fairie also walk among humans, but they cause sickness, mental illness, and all sorts of maladies.  Summer Court fairies live in the woods, like Longwood Mall, and are very close to the Spring Court.”

“The Winter Court is dead?”

“It’s where dead fairie go.  They sometimes have some impact on humankind, but it’s mostly in the realm of nightmares and dreams.”

“What are these Vampyrn?  I’ve never heard of them.”

“That’s what’s supposed to happen,” he said, “You’re not supposed to know about them.”

“Well why are you telling me?” she demanded.

“Because if you’re going to help, you need to know what they are.”

“Who said I was going to help you with anything?”

Daniel tilted his head, and tried to give her a pleading look.  She got that look from her brothers when they begged her for something, so it didn’t work on her.  “Please?  I’m asking for not only the fairie, but for you humans.”

“Are there Vampyrn here?  Like now?”

“I don’t know.  You would be able to see.”

“How?”

“You’d look at a person and see their soul.”

“Look,” she said, pushing the pizza away, “I’ve never had this happen to me until I saw you.  For all I know, you’re doing this to me, you magician.”

“I’m not a magician – ”

She got out of the booth.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I don’t want to see you again.”

Daniel got out of the booth, leaving his food there.  “Please, look, I’m begging you.  Don’t go.”  He stood in front of her.

“I’m not helping you with your crazy scheme.  And get out of my way.”

Daniel sidestepped, and she pushed past him.  She felt a little bad for him, being delusional at such a young age, but she couldn’t see herself doing anything to help a thief.   Fairie.  Vampyrn.  What the hell was this guy thinking she was, some hick who fell off the turnip truck?  She wasn’t going to “help” him; next he was going to ask her for money, or some such things.  No, she wasn’t falling for any of that.  She wasn’t born yesterday.

She got back on the bus and headed back down Commonwealth Avenue to her apartment.  As she got closer to her apartment, the whole thing seemed like a dream.  She pulled out her comp notebook and under the Black Duster, wrote down what had happened, using the words “fairy” and “Vampirin”.  She would search the Internet for these terms later.

Kate got home and it was still light outside, as she walked past the four buildings.  At the frat boy’s building, someone tossed beer over the upper porch just moments before she walked in that direction.  She ducked close to the house to avoid any more falling debris and found her way back to her house.

She had no class tomorrow, so she decided to buckle down and study.  She went into her room and pulled out her comp book, ready to write a compare-contrast essay for two books that she had read over the summer.  Unfortunately she didn’t have the books with her, so she had to rely on her memory, which was pretty shoddy these days.

She opened her Comp book and turned to the back page, seeing what she had written.  She fired up the computer and got on Dig-It, her Internet search site of choice.  She looked up fairy, and there, in bright colors, was what she had imagined: a little girl in a gossamer gown with wings.  There were different kinds of wings, from pretty thin little paper wings to thick angel wings.  Vampirin didn’t show up as anything.

 

08

11/12

Day 6

1:48 am by L. Jacob. Filed under: NaNoWriMo

Bryan was there.  Bryan wore an earring in his left ear – she didn’t know if that meant he was gay or not.  It didn’t really matter, because he sort of acted a little effeminate, at least to her.  Her brother would come right out and call him gay.

Bryan smiled at her and went to help someone.  Because she was still a freshman, she technically wasn’t allowed to work-study, but they needed people to babysit the computers during the day so people wouldn’t walk off with them.  She had laughed when Sabile, the manager, told her that, but Sabile gave her a look and told her, “It’s happened.”

She got out her books and started reading the chapter on American Literature.

08

11/12

Day 5

1:36 am by L. Jacob. Filed under: NaNoWriMo

After a very boring lecture, she debated about lunch.  Even though that boy in the cafeteria was being immature, he was right, in the sense that she was buying a lunch at 10:30 in the morning. She didn’t want to go through possibly seeing him again, though she knew that she would be hungry.  She decided to go to the library, thinking that maybe reading a newspaper or doing anything but the cafeteria might be better.

As she went to the library, she smelled fresh-baked bread.  Her head turned in the direction, and there was the Student Union, where there was a Subway.  Well, maybe the boy wasn’t in the Subway, and maybe nobody would know, so she headed there.

Looking around the room, she saw no one she knew, but the place was crowded.  It being just after 12:30, this was the lunchtime crowd that didn’t want the ethnic cafeteria food.  A simple ham and cheese sub (small), no lettuce, just peppers, and she was good to go.  Someone vacated a spot, and she dove right into it.

She kept an eye on the door and inhaled her sandwich, feeling very guilty.  When she was nervous, she ate more than usual, and that boy in the lunchline had made her nervous and guilty. However, when she ate and how much she ate was her business, even though she felt that the world was watching and someone would say something.

Kate finished her sandwich and looked around.  People were eating their own food, not looking at her, looking at devices or laptops or out into space.  She gathered up her detritus and threw it out.  As soon as she cleared the seat, another person jumped into it.  She left the restaurant and the building, heading back south through the quad, to the computer labs where she would begin her Work-Study.

08

11/12

Day 4

1:35 am by L. Jacob. Filed under: Uncategorized

Kate would be on campus all day this Wednesday, between three classes and her work-study program in between.  Then she would be back on Friday morning for two classes, having Thursday off.  She usually planned Thursdays to be her homework day, the day that not only she would do homework and study, but also the chores around the house, since most of the time the other girls were gone.  They paid an extra part of her rent if she kept the house neat, which wasn’t that difficult with Lynn making sure people at least picked up after themselves.  Niva was always meticulous; it was Ana who threw stuff around.

She went the two doors down to the Scott Building, named after some obscure scientist who had probably donated half the money to the building of the site.  She never got a chance to look at the plaque under the picture of a balding man with glasses, and frankly, was never interested.  History was not her forte’, and she knew that she was putting off the Western Civ class that she knew she’d have to take next semester.

Entering the Scott building, she saw one of the girls from her class, chugging down a Mountain Dew out of a can that must have come out of the vending machine before her.  She didn’t know the girl’s name, but knew that she was from her class.  “Hi,” Kate said, not wanting to be rude.

The girl turned to her and said, “Hi,” then burped.  She put her hand over her mouth while Kate giggled.  “‘scuse me.”

“That’s all right, I’m used to raunchy burps with three brothers,” Kate said.  “I’m Kate.”

“Oh,” said the girl, taking Kate’s outstretched hand, after shifting the can to her other hand, “I’m Melissa.  Lissa for short.”

“Nice to meet you.  Did you do that short program Jimenez assigned?”

“Program?  No, I read the book.  I’m not doing programming.”  She finished the can and tossed it in the recycling bin.  “I’m a Fine Arts major, at least until I figure out what I really want to do.”

Kate smiled, maybe it would be a good idea to get on this girl’s good side.  “I might need your help with papers.  I’m not very good with those.”

“Are you taking Comp?” Lissa asked, as they walked up the stairs instead of taking the elevator.  Comp was short for College Composition, what all freshmen had to take in their first or second semester.

“Yes, with Professor White.”

“Oh, he’s just a post-grad,” said Lissa, and they cleared the floor to the second level.  “They call him professor because he happens to be teaching the class.  He doesn’t have anything special.”  They approached the door to the class.  Lissa stopped and looked awkward for a minute.  “Well, I’ll be seeing you,” she said, and left Kate there near the door.

Kate’s shoulders slumped without her realizing it.  She hadn’t made any friends except for her roommates, and those were were forced to be together.  There was one boy in her work-study, but she thought he was gay or at least too geeky for her.  He kept going on and on about a Doctor Who, something she didn’t know anything about.

She went to a seat on the opposite side of the lecture hall, following Lissa with her eyes.  Lissa went over to a group of girls and all of them, laughing and joking, stayed at the top of the lecture hall.  Kate had never noticed them before, but they acted like a group of chickens on her farm – aloof and always talking to each other, not wanting to be bothered with anyone around them until, probably, someone decided to sit between them.

Professor Carlos Jimenez came out of the side hall.  He was a handsome Hispanic, with dark skin and dark hair and eyes.  He had a beard but no mustache, and stood just slightly taller than Kate.  She knew this, because his office was next to her advisor’s, and she had met him personally.

Jimenez put on the wireless mike and Kate took out her iPhone.  She always made a recording of the lectures, sometimes transcribing them when she had the time.  She was an oral learner, she had found out years ago, learning better when things were read to her than when she had to read them.

He tapped the microphone and, satisfied that it worked, he said, “Good morning, everyone.  Today we’re going to learn about [something about computers].”

Kate turned on her voice recorder option on the iPhone and quietly listened.

[Find a lecture about computers and simplify it]

Kate stopped the iPhone’s recording.  She put that away first, and then her notebooks.  She decided, as usual, to wait for everyone else to hit the doors before she did.

She glanced at her watch as she waited.  She already knew she had about a half an hour before her next class, College Algebra, and then it would be time for lunch.  She had maybe another half-hour between lunch and her work-study, and then an afternoon class.  She would be home by five.

She wondered if she should pick up anything for dinner.  She had some hot dogs and mac and cheese with her name on it in the freezer – everyone thought she was weird getting frozen mac and cheese, but she liked it better than the florescent boxed stuff the other girls got.  She was starting to get a taste for Ramen noodles, something she’d never had at home.  However, her parents gave her about $300 a month in spending money, all on a personal credit card that had exactly $300 on it.  At the end of the month, if there was any money left – and because she was very frugal there usually was – she would take it out as a cash advance and put it aside.  She wanted to go home to her parents on spring break, and she was saving enough money for that.

Kate saw Lissa with the gaggle of girls again, as they headed down the quad toward the library.  She also saw Ana standing at the outside of the library, smoking a cigarette, blatantly against campus regulations.  Kate shook her head and walked on into the cafeteria.

She didn’t like the food there, because it was strangely ethnic.  There was one side for Hispanic food, another for Indian and Asian food, and another with hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza.  She got a slice of greasy pizza, and paid for it with her card.

Someone jostled her from behind, and she saw it was two boys who looked like jocks, both wearing letter jackets from their high school.  “Is that your snack?”  They both guffawed at their own joke.  Kate felt her face get hot, and she turned to ignore them.  One of them called “Boom boom, ba boom, boom,” at each step she took away from them.

Kate wasn’t obesely heavy, but probably compared to the anorexic girlfriends they probably had, she was.  It was something she had fought against all her life.  Nebraska was not kind to her in high school, either, and her whole family was a bit on the heavy side due to the rich food her mother made.

She had thought coming to college would mean she was an adult and wouldn’t have to deal with some of the stupid things kids did in high school.  What she had forgotten, and was painfully reminded at this moment in time, was that the first couple of years of college weren’t that different than the last couple of years of high school.  Maybe if she stuck through it, by the time she graduated, she would be among adults and real people in the workplace, and would not have to deal with these kind of immature people again.

She sat down alone on the third floor of the cafeteria, where no one else dared to go.  She sat and ate her pizza, going over her notes from the prior class in Algebra to get an idea of what she would be expecting in today’s class.  Her syllabus also gave her a clue, but since she had barely squeaked by her high school algebra, most of it was arcane to her.

After she finished eating her lunch, and it was her lunch, not a snack, she decided to head early to the class.  At worst, there would be people in the classroom and she’d have to wait in the hallway.  There were plenty of places to sit in the hallway if she needed to.

She walked half-way across the quad, passing the computer tutoring lab which was where her work-study was.  She wondered if Brian was going to be there today.  She’d at least have someone to talk to, while people worked on their projects because maybe they didn’t have computers at home or they couldn’t get their computers at home to run some of the Linux or Windows or Oracle programs that they had.

At the Hawes Building, she went into the first floor and glanced inside the classroom.  Two people were there already, either reading or writing in notebooks.  She opened the door and stepped inside, glancing around for her favorite seat – in the middle row, toward the back.  She didn’t mind people sitting behind her.

Soon enough, the place started to fill up.  A goth girl sat behind her, and a kid with a brown duster sat to the side of her.  She stared at him for a minute, thinking she knew him from somewhere.  Maybe he was in on of her other classes, she thought.  There was something about the canvas duster that he draped over the other chair.  Did her brother have one of those?  If not, he would want one.  They were pretty badass.

The professor came in, and nodded to them all.  “Afternoon.  Please pass in your homework.”

She already had it out and ready, and passed it to the boy in front of her, after taking goth girl’s.  The professor gathered it up from each front-row student.  “Hm, kind of light here.  Homework that I request passed in is part of your grade and cannot be made up.  I expect you to do the homework in the order that I present in the syllabus.  Otherwise, you will learn nothing.”  He turned to the front of the class and the boy with the duster covertly stuck up his middle finger at him.  Kate smiled and looked away.

08

11/12

Day 3

1:34 am by L. Jacob. Filed under: NaNoWriMo

She finished her shower, turning the water off suddenly.  Shivering a bit in the chill air, she toweled herself off, avoiding looking in the mirror.  Kate then got dressed in her t-shirt and shorts again, and headed back out to the living room, then the bedroom.

Kate debated sitting on the computer for a minute or two, surfing the internet, but she really was tired.  Something had happened to her tonight, and she wasn’t sure what it was, what had left her in a state of panic earlier.  It didn’t matter all that much, as whatever it was, it couldn’t have been that important.

2.

It all came flooding back, the minute he sat next to her again.  She stared at the young man in the black duster, who said, “I’m really sorry about what happened yesterday.”

Kate was on a different bus, at a different time of day.  This time she was going to her morning class.  Was this guy following her?  He had been on the bus already, and sat down next to her a few minutes after she sat down.   She started to get up again, to move somewhere else – she couldn’t be late for class.

“Wait, hear me out, please?”  She could see his eyes, imploring her.  His hand reached out, as if to take her by the arm, but he stopped himself.  “Please?” he said again.

She huddled her backpack close and took her earbuds out, letting them dangle over one shoulder.  “How do you know my name?”

“It came to a friend of mine in a dream, all right?”

“They some kind of psychic?”

“She is, yeah,” he replied, taking his hand back and giving her a small smile.  “We’ve been waiting for you.”

“We?”  This was freaky.

He looked around the bus, seemingly looking for something or someone, and then he leaned in close, closer than she would like.  “Not here.”  He leaned back.  “Let’s get off at the next stop.”

“I have to go to class,” she said.

“You can catch the next bus in time for your class.  It won’t take long, I promise you.”

Her senses were telling her no.  She looked him over again.  He was thin.  She probably could put up a good fight.  She had nails.  And she had roughhoused with her brothers when she was younger, so she knew how to fight dirty against a boy.  This was an early morning, and there were tons of people.  So long as he didn’t drag her down a dark alley, she felt  she could be safe in the crowd.

“Okay, I guess.”  She looked outside, watching the stores go by and people walking.  Yes, she would be safe in a crowd of people.

He pulled the cord that signaled to the driver to stop at the next stop.  When the bus slowed down, he got up.  Kate followed, her backpack over her shoulders to keep her hands free.

They got off the bus, heading up Commonwealth Avenue toward the campus.   He stood close to her, and then took her elbow and guided her toward an empty storefront. He looked around again.

“I’m a mage,” he said quietly.  “And you’re a Seer.”

Her first thought was that he was loony.  He seemed so sincere about it though.  Her heart flew in her throat.  She noticed that he wasn’t crowding her, that she had room to run.  “What does that mean…exactly?”

“You can see things no one else can see.”

“Like what?”  She looked around too.  She saw people, and stores, and vehicles – nothing out of the ordinary.  “And you’re not answering my question – “

“Ghosts,” he said.  “People’s souls.”

She stifled a near uncontrollable laugh.  “I think you have the wrong person.”

“I know I have the right person.  I’ll prove it to you.”  He turned the door handle to the storefront, and it turned easily in his hand.  “Trust me?”

“Are you kidding?” she said.  “No, I don’t trust you.”

He nodded.  “I really don’t blame you.  Look, I’ll go first.  You can leave the door open, too.”  He stepped inside the darkened store.  She looked around her, but no one seemed to be looking her way.  Maybe if she left the door open, she could have room to run.

She stepped inside.  The place looked like it had been a pawn shop or a jewelry store, with d cases still together in a large U leading out from the door, with the bottom part of the U on the opposite side of the door.  Everything was in a diffused light, mostly coming from the front of the store.  People walked by and the shadows flickered along the walls.

Kate looked at the opposite corner, diagonally across from her and could see a man there.  But it wasn’t a man.  He was in muted colors, as if m was a clothed store mannequin left out in the sun too long.  It wasn’t a mannequin, either, if no one dressed a balding, short mannequin in a suit and tie.

“What do you see?” the young man asked, looking in the same direction she was.

“You don’t see that man over there?” Kate asked, pointing.  The man stepped forward to the counter and looked like he was speaking to someone sitting at the counter.  He pantomimed pulling out something from the display case, and offering it to the people there.

Then he stood up straight again, went back to his place against the wall.  He stepped forward, speaking again, pulling out something.

“I don’t see that man over there,” said the young man, “but my friend sensed someone there a while back.”

“The psychic?”

“No, someone else.”  The young man walked over to the counter, going around it.  He had his hands outstretched, as if a blind man trying to find his way.  “He’s around here, isn’t he?”

She watched the young man move, “You’re almost right on top of him,” she said.  The man didn’t move, but seemed to shimmer, like someone had put a hand in a bowl of water and the reflection in that bowl rippled.

The young man nodded.  “What is he doing?”

“It looks like he’s showing someone something.  From the display case.”

The young man glanced into the display case and rummaged with his hand around inside.  Kate looked out the door, then back at him.  “What are you doing?”

“Ghosts are drawn to a certain place for a reason,” he said, and straightened.  “There’s something over here that this ghost needs laid to rest.”

“Are you some sort of ghost hunter or something?”

“No,” said the young man, looking up.  “You’d better catch the bus, you’ll be late for your class.”

“Are you a thief?”

He laughed.  “I wish.  I’d make more money that way.”  He rummaged around some more.   “Close the door, please.  You’re either in or out.”

Class or this young mysterious man.  School or finding out who “we” were.  The first class of her major or finding out how he knew so much about ghosts.

She stepped outside and shut the door behind her.  She ran back to the bus stop and waited about five very long, agonizing minutes.  She kept glancing back at the store, to see if he would come out, but he didn’t.

He had to be some sort of thief.  Maybe he was like that show with the pie man…she couldn’t think of the name of it.  Her mother watched it once or twice.  The bus came and she hopped on, glancing at her watch as she sat down.  She had lost maybe ten, fifteen minutes, still enough time to get to class.

She watched the store go by, still looking uninhabited.  She wondered why she didn’t go to the cops, to report this guy.  But what was he doing?  Breaking and entering, maybe.  But he didn’t break in, the door opened for him.  He just turned the handle, and it opened.  Right?

Maybe he wasn’t supposed to be in that abandoned property.  She didn’t feel right there.

Then it hit her.  She had just seen a ghost.

A Seer, he called her.  But Seers were fortune tellers, as far as she knew.  They weren’t people who saw ghosts and spirits.  She half-believed in ghosts, or in life after death – her parents were Methodist, so she was brought up in the faith – but she stopped going to church when she was fifteen.  She believed there was something after death, there had to be.  She also believed that ghosts were because someone had done something horribly wrong or horribly bad, that they were haunted.

This couldn’t have been a ghost.  It was a mannequin, that’s it.  She was overusing her imagination, and some guy had talked her into it.  He was a mage, he said, so he could be using powers of illusion to create things that weren’t there, like David Copperfield.  That was it, that had to be it.  She was suckered by some guy, a guy she couldn’t remember quite right, but who gave her a sense of unease.  She’d be able to pick him out in a line up.  Maybe she should report him to the police.  But how, if she couldn’t quite remember him.

She had an aha moment, and pulled out a notebook.  On the back page she wrote “Black Duster” in big letters and stuffed the notebook back in her pack.  There, now she would remember the most important part of him, the part that stuck in her mind even after he had taken her into the store.  She would make a point to remember to open her notebook the minute she got to class, and she would look inside the back.

The bus pulled up to the campus, and most of the people on the bus got up.  This was usually the end of the line for this bus, even though it hit three other stops before turning around in the campus and heading back to Commonwealth Avenue to restart the process all over again.

She got off at the second stop, looking at her watch again.  Fifteen minutes to get two doors down and two flights up.  Not a problem, so she walked, not ran like some of the other kids were doing.  She didn’t know what their hurry was; she had all day.

02

11/12

Nano Day 2

11:58 pm by L. Jacob. Filed under: NaNoWriMo

Kate said, “Well, it was dark.  I couldn’t see anything.  Much.  Well.”

Lynn said, a smirk on her face, “I think if someone was chasing after me with a black duster on, I would have remembered what he looked like.”

“Did I say he had a black duster?”

“You did.”

She looked at her cereal in her bowl, contemplating.  Now she didn’t remember saying that.  She didn’t remember what he looked like – was she even being chased?  She stopped at a coffee shop on the way home, but why?  Was there a man?

Lynn was examining her, like a nurse examining a patient for any signs of deterioration.  Finally Kate said quietly, “Maybe I imagined the whole thing.  It seems so surreal.”

“Surreal,” laughed Lynn.  “Maybe you were spooked by someone and just panicked.  Happens all the time in the big city.”  Lynn nodded to the bowl of cereal.  “You going to eat that?”

“Oh, yeah.”  Kate poured milk onto the cereal, watching it flow over the shredded wheats, covering the brown with a thin film of white.  She took up her spoon and started to eat, as Lynn went back into the living room.

Ana was watching TV, spread out on the couch as if she owned it.  Well, she did, technically, having bought it from a yard sale the weekend after she moved in.  None of the girls had boyfriends, or any male friends, so manhandling it up to the third floor took a lot of work on their part.  They decided that after they were done the year, they were just going to leave the damn thing behind and eat the security deposit.

The couch was a soft brown, with some wear on the armrests, but didn’t look too shabby and didn’t have any hidden friends.  That was the one and only thing that scared Kate to no end – bugs.  Bugs of any type.  Spiders, roaches, ants…she hated them all, and would scream like a terrified girl at the sight of them.  It probably had something to do with her uncle’s farm.

Kate carried the bowl to the doorway between the kitchen and the living room.  “Whatcha watching?”

“More zombies,” said Ana.  “Can’t get enough of this stuff.”

Lynn gave a long-suffering look and beckoned Kate over.  She shook her head – her mother taught her to never eat while watching TV.  “You’ll get fat,” she told her.  Well, it was probably too late now, but old habits die hard.

Kate watched some zombies get blown up, and she’d had enough when Ana sat there and laughed.  She went back to the kitchen and leaned against the counter, eating her cereal.  Again, she plugged the earplugs back in to drown out the noise from the living room, and her teacher droned on about Ezra Pound.  Her mother had said nothing about eating and listening to her professors’ lectures, so she did not feel guilty about that.

She finished her cereal, then turned to wash out the bowl.  She saw the light go off behind her in the living room; this meant that they were going to pack it in for the night.  Ana had her own TV, but she had wireless headphones so could listen to what she wanted.  Lynn had her computer like the rest of the girls.  Kate had an old Mac laptop that her father had gotten her; it was too old to run some of the fancier things, but it still had Microsoft Office 2008 on it.  She could at least run presentations under Powerpoint and do her reports on Word.  Those programs she was familiar with in high school.

She washed out the bowl, drying it, still listening to the professor, now who was taking questions.  She couldn’t quite hear the questions being asked, but she understood the answers.  American Literature was not her major, and she didn’t know why she had to take these extra classes.  Her father didn’t think it was right, either, and had complained to the admissions officer there about it.  It didn’t matter; it was a time-honored tradition to have a well-rounded education, blah, blah, blah.  Her father would have none of it.  Kate was embarrassed, but said nothing.  It was her father, after all.

Kate headed to her room, which was the second one off the kitchen, Nita’s being the first because she was the last person who rented.  Kate shut off the iPhone and looked at it, this time as a phone.  It was ten-thirty here; it would be nine-thirty back home.  Too late to call St. Paul.  She hadn’t called them in about a week; she would call them on Sunday night, after football.

Her room was bigger than her room back home, big enough for a full-size bed and a wardrobe, and a desk for her computer.  She had plenty of room to move around.  The room was kept clean, as she thought of her mother every time she dropped clothes on the floor, as she did right now, getting undressed to get in her pajamas – which were actually a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.  Her roommates couldn’t believe that she wore shorts in October, but this weather was balmy compared to Nebraska, where sometimes there was snow for Halloween.

Kate slipped on her clothes, then grabbed her shower kit and headed to the bathroom, just off the living room.  She picked through the half-dark room, lit only by the street lamp outside, giving the room a faint blue tinge to it.  She got to the bathroom to find it occupied.  She put her ear to the door and could hear the water running in the sink, which was a different sound than the water running in the bathroom.  She went back to the couch and leaned on the armrest, waiting.

Soon enough, the door opened and light spilled out into the living room, silhouetting a small, thin person.  “Ah!” she cried, “You scared me!”  Her accent was thick, pronouncing each syllable with a small lilt to her voice.

Kate smiled, though it was probably not seen in the dark.  “Sorry, Nita.  I was just going to take a shower.”

“It is all right.  How was your class?”

“Boring as ever.  Don’t take any classes with Professor Thompson.”

“It is only a general requirement.  I could stand that for a semester.”

“But I don’t care about American 20th century writers.  I care about computers.”

“You will learn computers.  You must have a base to build your learning.”

Kate snorted, but smiled anyway.  Nita was so nice about the hoops that the school was making her jump through.  She must be happy just to be here, Kate thought.  “Yeah, I guess.”

Nita held the door open for her.  “Enjoy your shower.”

“Thanks.”  Kate stepped inside, closed the door and locked it.  Although they were all female, she had the habit of locking the bathroom door whenever she was there, due to her large family, such as her brothers walking in on her.  Ana never locked the door and didn’t care who saw; Lynn didn’t either, but had the modesty to hide.  Nita usually locked hers.

Kate stepped into the shower and turned the water on hot, so it would get warm faster.  At least that’s how it worked back home, and, really, old habits do die hard.  She undressed again, testing the water with her hand.  It was too hot, so she turned it down, testing it again.  A little hot, but better, and she took the plunge into the shower.

She washed her hair first, and then her body, frowning at the curves.  Why couldn’t she be thin like Nita or Lynn? Ana was taller and had gotten a little heavier over the past month, but her height helped make her look not as heavy.  No, Kate had more curves than she should, she believed.  She wouldn’t get a boyfriend the way she looked, or the way she dressed.

Not that she was looking for a boyfriend, really.  Her father told her, kiddingly, that she wasn’t allowed to have boyfriends until she was thirty-two.  She wanted to concentrate on her computer science degree first.  She wasn’t using college as a boy hunting-ground, like her other high-school friends were doing.  This was why she didn’t go to the University of Nebraska, like nearly everyone else of her class had done, at least the ones that were heading to college.  Not all were going to college, either.  Some of them, and she remembered them in particular, she was quite fond of, but they were going to end their lives as they had began them; working on their father’s farm.  She could do more, be more than just some farmer’s wife.

When she told her family she wanted to go to Boston, her eldest brother, Kevin thought it was the dumbest idea ever.  Going into computers was stupid to him, too.  But then, Kevin’s crowning achievement was pitching a bale of hay fifty yards.  He was all brawn, no brains.

Kate also wanted to show her sister, Dawn, what could happen to her if she applied her mind to things.  Dawn was the cheerleader and didn’t seem to think it would be a bad thing being a farmer’s wife.  She thought there was money in farming.  She was going to be a golddigger, Kate knew it.

Her younger two brothers, Alex and Johnathan, were going to be their father’s son, though Jon – and he liked to have his name spelled without the “H” – looked like he wanted to go into the Army.  He was fifteen, and he definitely was not in the frame of mind to be a member of a farmer’s family.

Her parents, at first, thought it was nearly the dumbest idea ever.  She wanted to go to MIT, but her scores weren’t high enough.  Boston University was going to give her a good scholarship for the first two years, and her last two years would be covered by school loans and Pell Grants.  She had the option of going abroad one of those last two years, which thrilled her to no end, making her imagine that she would go to Greece, or Italy, or maybe even England as an exchange student.

((Total WC 3431))

02

11/12

NaNo Day 1

11:56 pm by L. Jacob. Filed under: NaNoWriMo

Kate picked her way warily through the crowd on the bus, looking for an empty seat.   The bus had already started moving. She had her earplug headphones on, the noise loud enough to hear the music but not loud enough to drown out the noise around her.  Luckily there wasn’t much noise in the area.

She was making sure that she didn’t touch the people next to her, didn’t make eye contact.  The bus was moving so erratically that she couldn’t really keep her feet, and plopped down into the first empty seat she saw.  It was too close for comfort to the people on either side of her.  As soon as a seat opened up a little ways down, she got up and negotiated her way down the shifting, moving aisle and dropped into it.  Again, there wasn’t very much noise here.

This was one of the last busses from campus heading due east, heading toward her apartment on Back Street.  She had to take this bus on Commonwealth which ran every fifteen minutes, more or less, from the campus to the corner of Back Street, then she could get off right at the Back Street corner and walk the five doors down to the apartment she shared with three other students.  Those five blocks were rough in the daytime; at night, they were downright harrowing.

In between two of the buildings, across the street from her apartment, was a small convenience store, a bastion of light on a street of four-bedroom apartments that were rented out to students at Boston University – students just like her.  Just like her, they rented one room out of the four bedrooms as their own, with a common living room and a common kitchen.  Earbuds became her best friend, having them perpetually in her ears morning, noon and night, except when she was on campus.

She heard a rustle behind her and instinctively glanced back.  A young man in a black duster sat in the seat behind her.  She immediately assessed him as whether or not he was a threat.  He was maybe a bit taller than her, but the duster hid his bulk, if he had any.  He has short brown hair, shorter than her own which was probably about five or so centimeters longer.  He had a triangular face, long and broad at the forehead, tapering down to a pointy chin.  His eyes were blue, dark sapphire blue, almost to the edge of navy.  But then, the inside of the bus was lit only by the light above the signs advertising different TV shows or movies.

“Hello,” he said, as a voice from one of her lectures on Greek War droned on in her ears.

“Hello,” she replied, and went to turn back to face the front of the bus.

“You’re Kate.”

She whipped her head around to face him.  “How do you know me?”

He chuckled, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

That’s such a stupid pick-up line, she thought.  But it was still mysterious.  She didn’t want this man to have the upper hand on her.  She looked beyond him, outside the window.  They were still on Commonwealth Ave, where the stores were still open and it was bright.  She pulled on the wire to signal the driver to stop at the next stop, then she got up quickly, hoisting her backpack over her shoulder.

“Wait, I’m sorry –“

She was already down the moving bus’ aisle, hanging onto the bars as she walked, still not used to public transit.  The bus stopped, and she hung on, swinging forward a little.  The young man had gotten up and followed her.  She panicked, and jumped off the bus.

The building in front of her was lit up and she ran into it, not caring if what the place was.  With her luck, it would be a nightclub or a strip joint.

Instead it was a coffee house, loud even through her headphones.  There were corners where people were sitting, taking advantage of the free wi-fi or ambiance to write their great American novels.  She hurried through, glancing back.

The young man didn’t follow, but stayed outside.  She stayed inside, buying a very expensive cup of House Blend, and leaning against a corner, watching the window and the door.  She sipped her coffee and seemed to shrink in on herself whenever someone walked by.

As she sipped, she went through her mind thinking of people she had gone to school with, people who knew people, who knew others who might be in Boston.  As far as she knew, and it was advertised through her “award” of “Going The Furthest Away To College”, no one else was coming to Boston.  That didn’t mean that someone wasn’t already here.

But who would describe her to someone, describe her enough to be able to pick her out of a crowd on a bus?  Maybe it was a fluke.  She looked like someone named Kate.  She looked like any Kate.  No, probably not.  Whenever she thought of a Kate, she thought of some girl from Western movies, not a part-German, part-Welsh, and a wee smidgen of Irish stocky girl, with brown hair and eyes, looking pretty   plain for all to see.

She glanced at the clock.  The absolutely, positively last bus for Commonwealth Avenue was just after two a.m., and the time right now was just a little after ten.  The mother hen of the girls at the apartment, Lynn, was probably wondering where she was.  She decided to take a chance, and finish her cup of coffee, then step back outside.

No one was there, thank goodness.  She swallowed her heart that had moved its way to her throat.  She moved to the bus stop.  She didn’t have to wait long for the bus to take her to the darker recesses of Back Street, where she got off and took a deep breath to walk the gauntlet of shadow to her apartment building.

The first couple of buildings were inhabited by other college students, mostly boys.  A matron who lived on the bottom floor of the second building screamed an awful lot to tell people to shut up.  One of the boys in that building was already scraping up the money to get out of there.

The third building was boarded up, and a crack house.  She never knew, having seen no one enter and no one leave, but it was a pool of shadow for Lord knew what to come out and get her.  She found herself walking through that quickly.  The house next door to hers was not brightly lit, as it did not have a porch light, but the street light bathed the area in some semblance of light.

Then there was her apartment, which had a walk up on the side that led to a porch.  Across the porch came a doorway, well-lit, and always locked.  She already had her keys in her hand as soon as she came upon the porch.   She stuck the key in and it turned easily, many others doing the same thing every day and night.

She walked past the fire alarm notification panel, then headed up the stairs.  As she did, the air got thicker – she knew the people downstairs smoked in their rooms, which was against the rules, and she knew they didn’t smoke tobacco.  She got to the third floor, where it was warmer, even on this early October night.

This door was usually locked too, though she tried it.  It certainly was locked, Lynn would have made sure of it.  All these locked doors were so strange to her, from where she was from, people would think nothing of leaving their doors unlocked at night, or even while they go to work.  There were always neighbors looking out for neighbors day and night.  Here, she found out quickly, one did not go searching about to talk to neighbors, and it was best to leave people alone.

The door opened, not creaking on its hinges, well taken-care-of.  It was a sturdy wooden door, meant to outlast the house.  One thing about these colonials, she thought, they certainly seemed built to last.

She could see the TV on through the kitchen, a dull blue glow against the darkness.  Ana liked to watch TV in the dark, and got the other girls to agree most of the time.  Nivedita didn’t watch TV, having come to this country to work hard.  She was already married to a boy from India, having been betrothed when she was five.

Kate didn’t ask Niva about her world, but Ana did.  Ana was a poli-sci major, planning on going into the State Department.  Niva was taking pre-med, and Lynn was on her last year of special education.

“And where were you?” came a voice from the living room.  Kate shut the door and unhitched her back from her shoulder.

“Some weird guy on the bus freaked me out,” Kate said, walking through the kitchen to the fridge.

Lynn’s voice was closer – she had moved into the kitchen.  “Weird how?”

“He knew my name.”

Lynn examined Kate closely, then went to her backpack and examined that.  “Maybe he’s from one of your classes?  One of the big general ed lectures?”

“I would have remembered that black duster,” Kate said, finding her half-gallon of two-percent milk.  All of them bought their own food and labeled it, something Lynn had instilled in them from day one.  Any theft of food was not tolerated.  So far, over the last month, none had been taken, or reported taken.

“Not everyone wears the same jacket,” Lynn said.

Kate found a box of cereal and took it down.  She also found a clean bowl and took that down.  Another house rule was to wash dishes as soon as you were done with them.  They had a relatively empty kitchen sink.  Kate didn’t think that rule would last very long.

“What did he look like?” Lynn asked.

Kate turned to her and opened her mouth to start to describe him, but as she did, she realized she didn’t remember.  She knew the look she gave Lynn meant that she was confused, because Lynn said, “You can’t remember?”