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?”
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))