I put my pen down and answered my phone. “Hi Aunt Caroline,” I said sweetly.
“Hey! How’s my college girl?” my aunt asked. “I’m guessing you’ve been pretty busy since we haven’t heard from you.”
I cringed. “Sorry about that. I’ve been busy, yes. I was actually just doing some homework when you called.”
“Oh! I hope I’m not interrupting. Are you in the library?”
“No, it’s fine. I’m in my room.”
“That’s good. So how are your classes? Do you like them so far?”
“Yeah, it’s a little hard getting back into the swing of things but I’m managing so far.”
“That’s good, dear. You know you can come back and visit anytime, or even take more time off if you need to. Just let us know and Uncle Stewart will pick you up.”
“Thank you Aunt Caroline. But I think I’ll be fine here. It hasn’t been too bad so far. Actually, I think it’s helped me take my mind off things.”
I convinced myself I had to stay at Arrowhart because I needed a return to normality. The longer I put that off, the worse it was going to be for me. Dr. Schwartz had suggested that being around other people my age in a college environment could help and I agreed with her. These were supposed to be some of the best years of a person’s life. So far, mine had been a nightmare. It was going to be tough getting back to feeling normal, but I had to get there.
“Good, I’m so glad to hear that. You know you can call me whenever, if you want to talk. Even if it’s very late. It’s been hard on all of us. The boys and Stewart are doing better but I’m still trying to get over it, myself. Your dad—my brother—was a good man. I know he loved you very much.”
“Yeah, I know,” I said sadly.
“But hey,” she said brightly, quickly changing the depressing topic. “You’re back at college now! I must ask, you do anything fun this weekend?”
My thoughts flew back to the craziness of last night. “Umm . . . I went out yesterday night on a double date with my roommate and two guys, but they were creeps. I did meet another guy though and gave him my number.”
“Oh wow, look you at Lorrie,” she said teasingly. “Already attracting boys in your first week. That sounds so exciting! What’s he like?”
Let’s see, he has tats, big muscles, he took me to an abandoned amusement park . . . Oh and he fights and girls are attracted to him like squirrels to acorns—you know, your typical college male.
Telling her what Hunter was like would give her the wrong impression. Knowing her, she’d probably freak out and insist on staying with me for a while to make sure I was all right. “I don’t know, he’s tall, he has short, dark hair. He’s nice.” I considered telling her about falling in the lake and how he saved me, but that would be too hard to explain and it would make her worry. It was better if I kept it vague.
“Are you going out on a date?” My aunt had a way of cutting straight to the point.
“Nah, I don’t think I’m ready for that right now. I just told him we’d be friends. He hasn’t called me yet though, I just gave him my number last night.”
“Well you’ll have to let me know how things go with Mr. Short-Dark-Hair.” She chuckled.
“I’ll be sure to let you know.”
“Well, it sounds like you’re doing okay.” She released an audible breath. “I’m so relieved. I was worried you might have had a rough start.”
“Nope, so far so good.” No falling-into-frozen-lakes-and-almost-dying here. I gave a thumbs up sign though I knew she couldn’t see it.
“Okay,” my aunt said. “Well I’m glad to hear you’re doing well. I’ll let you get back to studying. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and let us know if you need anything.”
“Will do. Bye Aunt Caroline.”
“Goodbye dear.” She paused for a moment. “We all love you, Lorrie.”
“I love you too.”
I ended the call and went back to Daniela’s notes. My aunt—Caroline Perkins—was so good to me. When I thought about what life would be like without her, it made me shudder. The Perkins family and Daniela were just about all I had in the world at this point. Thinking about how close to alone I was scared the hell out of me.
Just as I finished with Daniela’s notes, I heard my other two suitemates who shared the double—Kate and Petra—come in the suite. My door was open, so I called out a cheerful greeting into the common area.
Kate stopped in her tracks and peered into my room with Petra hiding behind her. “Hi Lorrie,” Kate said. She shifted on her feet, apparently debating whether to continue walking by or to linger for a few more words. “Everything okay?” she asked delicately.
Petra leaned her head out from behind Kate to catch a peek at me but then jumped back behind Kate like a frightened child.
I narrowed my eyes. “Yeah, I was just copying Daniela’s notes from lecture. Why wouldn’t things be okay?”
“Sorry, no reason. You just surprised me. Anyway, me and Petra are going to the gym. Catch you later!”
As far as I could tell, Kate and Petra were pretty close to being literally attached at the hip. It was kind of annoying the way they always did everything together like they couldn’t exist apart. Also annoying: the way Petra acted like I was a rabid beast liable to snap at any instant. Why did people like Petra have to be so awkward around me? All she had to do was say hi back. Instead, she acted like my eyes were red from crying all morning.
I took my stuff and went into the common area, plopping down on the futon. A few minutes later, Kate and Petra left for the gym. At least Kate waved goodbye. Ten minutes later, I was still stewing on why people couldn’t treat me normally. Couldn’t they understand it just made things worse for me?
Daniela came into the suite, smiling with a gym bag over her shoulder and her hair wet. I hadn’t seen her since the previous night, which meant we hadn’t caught up.
“Hi,” I said brightly, as soon as the door had closed.
“Hey there,” she said, a mischievous smile still playing on her lips. “Haven’t seen you since last night.”
“Yeah, I got home and crashed. Did you and Cody, you know . . .”
She shook her head. “We all left the bar and came home not too long after you went off with your fighter man. Cody got a little wasted so I came home alone, of course.”