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I sat in my chemistry class and groaned.
We were going over the different definitions of acids and bases and I was zoning out. I already knew this stuff but Professor Graham insisted on covering these topics before we moved on. He couldn't stress enough how important it was to be able to discern between Arrhenius, Lewis, and Bronsted-Lowry. I jotted down some notes in my notebook and stared up at the clock. We were running overtime; this wasn't a rare occurence. Professor Graham loved to blather on and on about things. I wasn't surprised but knew he was just talking to hear himself echo. I gently tucked my notebook in my backpack and glanced over at my friend Winnie. She was listening intently, hanging on and waiting to hear something of importance. I chuckled to myself and poked her in the shoulder. She turned to glance at me and waved me off.
"Don't distract me," the horse hissed. I smirked.
"He's just blabbing. You don't need to listen to him right now." I said. She shrugged.
"Easy for you say. You're touting an 'A' in this class." I narrowed my eyes. "I'm just the unlucky Creative Writing major who got stuck with this class as my required gen ed science." Winnie hissed at me. "Now please, you're my friend and I love you and you know that, but shut up, Eden." I snickered and sat back as I watched Professor Graham tell a story about when he was in college. I was one of the only people who probably liked his stories. I brushed some light brown hair out of my face and listened to him drone for a few minutes. When the story was over, he dismissed us warmly.
"Have a good weekend, guys. I'll see you all on Monday, 10:30 am sharp. While I don't want to hamper any plans you got going on this weekend--" he added. A huge groan echoed across the room. Professor Graham bit his lip. "--I have an assignment for you, guys. Write a 2 page report about the origin of and differences between Arrhenius, Lewis and Bronsted-Lowry acids and bases. I want it on my desk first thing in the morning." The loud, annoying sound of chairs screeching filled the room as everyone got up and scurried out of the room before he could add anything else. Professor Graham lifted his head towards me and gestured. "Eden, I'd like to see you, please. Come down here before you leave." My stomach pitted. Did he hear me groan? I swear, I wasn't that loud! Winnie gave me a look that said 'you in trouble' and told me she'd meet me back at the common quad. I nodded and trotted across the classroom.
Professor Graham was sorting some papers and cleaning up his desk when I walked up to him. "What's up, Professor?" I asked. He smiled.
"Remember how you were asking me if I came across any great laboratory opportunities to talk to you?" he started. His grin gave it away. "Well...I did! A colleague of mine in the chemistry department asked if I knew anyone willing to assist one of his seniors doing a thesis project. I immediately thought of you and told him I'd pass on the message. He didn't give me the exact details of what you would be doing but I can give you his contact information and you can set something up. I figured you would be interested." This wasn't a false assumption. After my first week in Professor Graham's classes, I had expressed my love for chemistry and my desire to help out in any way I could in the lab. As a freshman, I was extremely lucky this was being offered to me at all.
I nodded. "I am very interested!" Professor Graham handed me the colleague's card. I glanced down. It was Professor Keaton--the biochemistry professor. "Thank you so much for thinking of me and giving me this opportunity!" I said with a cheerful grin. "I'll let you go now. Great lecture!" I said with a parting wave. Professor Graham waved back and lingered to clean up the classroom. I hurried across campus to the common quad. The common quad was simply a grassy area towards the front of campus where students studied, hung out, or played Frisbee. (Yes my college is one of THOSE places.) I immediately found Winnie and sidled alongside of her. She looked up at me with a nonchalant expression and returned to her laptop. I peered over her shoulder and started laughing. "You're starting a little early on the project, aren't you? It's just a two-page report! I thought you were the big CW major."
Winnie scowled. "Don't make fun of me. Just because you're a chem major doesn't mean you can procrastinate and wait till Sunday night to throw something together." I shrugged.
"I have a natural talent, Winn. You do too...just not actually IN chemistry." I chuckled.
"The only reason you're my friend in the first place is that you need English tutoring." I smirked. Our banter was so lovely and supportive.
"A B-...that's not bad..." I trailed. I dug through my pockets to pull out the card. "I should call Professor Keaton now. Or should I just stop by his office? Although he might not be there." Winnie looked up from her research and asked me what I was talking about. I showed her the card. "Professor Graham held me back to tell me that Professor Keaton has a senior doing a thesis project and was wondering if I was interested." I flipped the card around in my hand. It's not like there was anything on the other side; it was blank. "I'll call him. It won't take long. I need to be AN ADULT about this stuff." Winnie patted my shoulder.
"Go on with your 18-year old swagger now. You're polluting my report with your foul attitude." I got up and began to walk away. I turned around and asked if she had any plans later. She shook her head. "This is my plan. I will be sitting here working on this like all night and drafting it into tomorrow." I rolled my eyes and smiled.
"Okay, have fun with that. I'll talk to you later!" I walked across the quad and headed towards a secluded area. That type of seclusion was sorta hard to find at my college. Park City College wasn't exactly the smallest university in the world. I struggled to unlock my phone and call Professor Keaton as I found myself on the marble steps of the library. I felt confident. I had an idea of what I was going to say. I was going to sound professional, mature and--
"Hello?" Professor Keaton's gravelly voice could be heard on the other end. I froze. "Who's there?" Thankfully, I was able to regain my voice.
"Professor Keaton! It's Eden...from Professor Graham's chemistry class. He told me I could possibly help a senior do her lab thesis..." I trailed.
"Oh yes! Professor Graham was talking to me about you. Trust me, he had nothing but good things to say. Why don't you come down to my office? We can talk in a much more comfortable environment." I managed to studder out a 'sure!' I felt like he was nodding. He just seemed like he was nodding. "Perfect! My office is over in the science center, room 204. See you then." Before I could mutter even so much as a 'thank you', he hung up. I locked my phone and stuffed it in my backpack. I scurried across the quad, back towards the science center.
I guess I had an interview to attend?
I approached the mahogany door with the gold nmbers 204 engraved on the door. I could easily see through the open glass and spot Professor Keaton sitting down at his desk. He waved at me to come in and I slowly entered the office. He gestured for me to sit down in one of the dark leather chairs. I obeyed. We exchanged some pleasantries but I could tell the eagle was eager to get down to business. After looking out the window for a few moments, he turned his chair towards me and leaned forward.
"So, Eden, tell me...what interests you about chemistry so much?" Oh God. It was going to be one of THOSE interviews. I swallowed nervously and proceeded.
"In high school, I took chemistry when I was in tenth grade and absolutely loved it. The different reactions and the unique chemicals...and that periodic table...oh my Gog. It just all fascinated me because it was literally explaining the building blocks of life. I memorized the periodic table and won this little stupid award in my school's science club." I said with a laugh. Professor Keaton laughed with me too. Good, he was lightening up. This was good. "I couldn't wait to take AP Chemistry in senior year and it gave me a new outlook on science and the world. That's why I chose to major in chemistry. It truly drives me and I love the science." He nodded.
"What do you plan to do after college?" I shrugged.
"I haven't solely decided yet but I have a bunch of different options. I could go on to med school but I also really love the possibility of doing drug research, working in pharmaceuticals, or even teaching chemistry at a school! Either way, I want to do something to contribute to the world and improve the quality of life." That was the best answer...like ever. Professor Keaton nodded.
"I like your flexiblity, Eden. Now, the senior that you would be helping is my top student in the class. Her name is Opal and she has been accepted to pharmacy school next year. Her thesis is kind of complicated to explain. When she told me it, I was astonished. I never had a student that would attempt such a thing. However, Opal, she's something else." Professor Keaton stood up and walked across the room, wings folded behind his back. "She's working with Streptococci bacteria to explain the antigenic variation that lead to H5N1." I may only be a freshman but I knew enough to know what he meant. I nodded slowly. "She's started off slow but Opal is definitely determined to tinker with the bacteria. By helping her, you would ultimately be leading to a potentially major discovery." This seemed like a huge pressure all the sudden. I just wanted some lab experience. Professor Keaton sat down again and smiled. "Of course, you would get some credit for it. I would talk to Professor Graham about it; hook you up...as the kids say." I laughed.
"You don't have to do that! I'm willing to do it for no incentive." Professor Keaton waved me off.
"Nonsense, Eden! I don't know what the other students say about me but trust me, I'm not the evil professor that may be the stigma across campus." He said with a wink. "I like your initiative and I think you're a promising student. It's quite a shame you didn't major in biochemistry. I would have loved to have you in my class." He said to himself. My face turned a dull pink. He got up to escort me out of the room. "No matter. You'll have to take a biochemistry class at least once during your four year galavant here. Now, I'll email you more information. I think you're perfect for the position."
"Thank you so much!" I said giddily, shaking his hand firmly. He shook my hand and led me out of the room. "I look forward to receiving your email. Have a good day!" I said with a wave. He waved back and I headed down the hallway. I was engulfed in a partial daze. I would be working with a senior in the lab! On a real project! This was honestly really exciting and I couldn't wait. I started the trek back towards my house. I didn't actually live on campus; room and board was way too expensive at PCC. I chose to live in a home in the adjacent district of Park City, Central Avenue. It was basically the same thing as living in the dorms. I shared the rent with two other people: Winnie and our mutual friend Portia. Portia was a snooty Dalmation with an impeccable fashion sense.
Portia was a Fashion Design major at PCC and had an internship working with Gracie. Yes, THE Gracie Grace. Even though fashion isn't my cup of tea, a girl can't help but be jealous. I made my way into Central Avenue and found myself on the main strip. The main way was kind of the border between Park City and Central Avenue. Firstly, it was literally called Central Avenue. It was where all the big shops were located such as T&T Emporium, Able Sister's Shop, Club LOL, and GracieGrace. I noticed a couple of my neighbors wandering out and I even saw Portia working upstairs with Gracie. I had no time to dillydally or chitchat. I wanted to settle my stuff at home and not have to lug around my backpack anymore.
I eventually was crossing the bridge by my house. I stared down into the river and looked at my reflection. I looked decent enough but there was this weird shadow to the left of me. I put my head up and nearly collided into one of my friends Nate. The big giant yellow bear lumbered up to me and grinned. "Hi Eden!" He greeted. I led us both off the bridge so we wouldn't fall in the water and I smiled back.
"Hi Nate! How are you today?" I asked. Nate was a junior at PCC studying English Literature. He was a good friend of Winnie's but he was well acqainted with me too.
"I'm good. I'm just coming back from my classes. How about yourself?" I nodded and affirmed the same. He tugged his satchel further up his broad shoulder. "Man, will I be glad when this week's over..." he trailed. "I have a lot of studying to do for important tests and it's been hard juggling school and my job." Nate had a job at T&T Emporium. He acted like Timmy and Tommy, hustling around the store and occasionally restocking the shelves. "I was thinking about asking the boys to dock me to part-time status but I need the money." I frowned a little.
"Sorry to hear that you've been struggling, Nate! I hope everything works out for you." He nodded a little. "I hate to cut you short but I have to get back to the house. Maybe we can talk later?" I asked. He looked unsure, glancing down at the ground. I nudged him gently in the shoulder. "Come onnnn! It's Friday! I get you have to study but you can loosen up a little. Just for one night, right?" He nodded again.
"Yeah, you're right. I can hold off on studying hard core for one night. I heard that there are going to be some crazy fireworks down on the beach tonight. You going to go?" he asked. I shrugged.
"I'll think about it. I should be going now. See you later!" Nate said 'goodbye' and jogged in the opposite direction. No doubt he was heading to work after class. We both conveniently held up each other. I trotted across the way to the house. I pulled my house key out of my pocket and easily slipped it into the door. Thankfully, Portia or Winnie had left the light on. I nonchalantly placed my bag on the table before picking a snack out of the refrigerator. Thanks to Portia's health consciousness, we barely had anything GOOD to eat. It was all fruit, vegetables, beans and tofu. Lately, Portia has been on an expedition to convert the rest of the house to a plant-based diet. That doesn't work for me. I need some meat (sorry, neighbors) and I need junk food. What would be a world without M&M's, chocolate chip cookies or sour cream and onion potato chips? Certainly, not a world I would want to live in. I sighed and opened the nearby armoire. It was where we kept our dishes but I had something more important stuffed in there.
Obviously, it was my sweets stash! I pulled aside a few plates and grabbed a package of chocolate chip cookies. I placed them on the table and then ran up to my room to grab my laptop. Immediately, I checked my email. Professor Keaton had already sent me a message with further details and instructions. I was to meet Opal in Room 349 at 3:30PM on Monday. Thankfully, there were no class clashing but Professor Keaton noted that if there were any, he would take care of it. The eagle was really being nice. I must have made a decent impression on him. I chowed on some cookies while I browsed around my computer. There really wasn't much going on. I saw a few Facebook statuses alluding to what Nate was talking about...the fireworks later tonight.
That's when I noticed a message in my inbox. It was from Portia.
"Hey Eden! I need you to do me a favor. Gracie is keeping me in the office late tonight so I won't be able to bring the potato salad and watermelon to the fireworks tonight. If it's not too much to ask, could you possibly bring the food to the party at Francine's and explain I'll be there in an hour or so? Gracie moved my deadline so I need to get this design done tonight. I'll try as hard as I can to make it by the time the first firework goes off at 8 but no promises. Thanks! Love, Portia. xxxxx"
I rolled my eyes. That girl was always working. I guess this gave me an excuse to go to the fireworks party today. I didn't like Francine but I had to suck it up for Portia. Otherwise, the food would go to waste. I quickly typed back a reply and pressed 'send'. A frantic knock on the door shattered my thoughts. I slid out of my chair and hurried to open the door. Nate was standing there, looking purely panicked and terrified.
"You have to come with me now! There's an emergency at the beach!"
I found myself sprinting through town, following Nate down to the beach. For a big bear, he was really fast. I found myself panting by the time I descended the ramp and touched the sand. Nate barely broke a sweat. I looked up and saw there was a crowd of people surrounding a small area. I couldn't see what was there but I could only assume it was something important. Lyman, one of my neighbors, departed from the crowd and came over to me. His rippling muscles grabbed my shoulders roughly and turned me around to face the beach wall.
"Thank goodness you're here! We need all the help we can get. Isabelle already has called the paramedics. They should be on their way soon."
"What's going on?" I asked. Lyman launched into a giant explanation. Apparently, this girl washed up onto the beach all Gulliver style. She looked pale and weak and people were panicking. She just kinda washed up alongside all of the people while they were preparing for the fireworks at the beach. I demanded to make my way through. The crowd slowly parted and I saw her lying there. She was clearly alive. You could see the slight rise and fall of her chest. The poor girl was drenched. Her long black hair looked matted and tangled. Her black shirt was darker if possible and clung tightly to her body. Her dark skinny jeans clung to her legs as well. It seemed like she had lost her shoes in the sweep of the waves. Miraculously, the Converse sneakers stayed with her. It was like the shoes were destined to remain by their owner's side. I knelt beside her and turned to Isabelle. She easily launched into an explanation too.
"We were minding our own business prepping for the fireworks when all of the sudden, Lyman turns around and spots this girl on the beach!" Isabelle bit her nails nervously. "She has a pulse and all but it still was terrifying. We tried to do CPR but it didn't help that much. She's still unconscious. I called 911 and they should be sending someone...what's taking them so long?!" she squealed. I placed a calming hand on the dog's paw so she would not freak out. Her frenetic cries were passing along to the other villagers like wildfire. That's when we saw the emergency medical technicians come running down the ramp with a stretcher. They sidled alongside of us and asked someone to repeat the story. Isabelle was too hysterical and scared to repeat it. Lyman wasn't too accurate with his story, so it was up to me to recount what happened.
The one EMT looked grateful and watched as the other two EMTs steadied the stretcher and lifted the girl on it. I stared nervously. "Will she be alright?" The EMT nodded, assuring me that she'll be perfectly fine. I let out a breath of relief. "Is is possible for me to accompany her to the hospital? Someone should be with her when she wakes up. She'll probably be really confused." The EMT smiled.
"Sure, that's fine. Let's go." The EMTs took the girl up to the ambulance and I quickly followed. Meanwhile, the other villagers slowly began to break up and either set up for the fireworks or leave. I climbed into the back of the ambulance as the EMTs slammed the door and hurried to the hospital.
Park City Hospital is the closest place. It's a nice place with great doctors. There's a girl in my chemistry class who's pre-med and she does work-study at Park City Hospital. She raves about the facilities constantly. I know this girl will receive good care there. Within minutes, we arrived at the hospital. They rushed the girl into the emergency room section and I noticed some police officers in the lobby. They asked for me to tell the story. Again. Boy this was getting old. Hopefully, this would be the last time I would tell this story. I told the cops everything and soon they were leaving. I stopped them before they walked away.
"Can you guys find out who she is? I mean there has to some way for you to track any missing people reports or disappearances..." The one dog looked hesitant and stared at his partner for assistance. The more firm dog stood his ground and kept his paws on his hips.
"We'll try to discover her identity and origin, ma'am, but there's no promise. If we find anything important, we'll pass it along." I thanked them and the officers left. I stayed in the lobby for a few hours (The staff wouldn't let me back there because I wasn't a relative). It was very grueling. I stared at my cell phone and saw that it was 6:00. I cursed under my breath. I'm sure Francine was having the party now and Portia was probably still at work. Meanwhile, THE POTATO SALAD. I didn't care about the watermelon and I'm sure no one else did either...but the potato salad...I think people would care about that. I quickly fired off a message to both Portia and Winnie. Winnie had to have been home by now. She was just working on her report. I asked her if she could take the food over to Francine's. Thankfully, the horse answered right away.
"OMG Eden. Putting your work on meeeeeee. :'''''''' FINE. I'll just risk my grade and take Portia's stupid organic potato salad over to Francine's." I rolled my eyes and messaged back.
"Get over it gurl. You and Nate need to get on the "Chillax for one night and not work your tail off towards school" bandwagon."
"Ew I don't wanna be on ANY wagon with Nate. And we had this convo already. Easy for you to say when you're a top student in chem. I need to do as much research as possible to bring my grade up."
"Oh for Gog's sake just take the potato salad over to Francine's. Then you can dive yourself into enough acid and base to turn into a redox reaction."
"OK I'M GOING NOW. I'm getting up. Also, I don't even remember what a redox reaction is....this is why I need TO DO MY SCHOOLWORK."
A shuffle in front of me and someone calling my name startled me. A nurse stood in front of me and asked if I was Eden. I nodded and she told me that the girl from the beach was awake. I silently followed her into a secluded hospital room. You know the typical layout: long hallway, monotonous doors, white tiles. The nurse stood outside the door and pointed to it.
"She's in there. Her memory is still a little foggy but she's 100%. She's definitely lucky..." the nurse trailed. I thanked the woman and entered the room. The pale girl with dark hair I initially saw lying on the sand was now awake and sitting upright. She still looked weak but I could tell she was regaining her strength. She looked at me with confusion and I gently slid into the chair besides her bed. I introduced myself as Eden and told her AGAIN what happened. I explained she was washed up on the beach and asked her if she remembered anything. The girl looked so confused. She just scratched her head and then finally spoke up.
"I'm sorry. I barely remember anything. Last time I remember, I was swimming. Everything is such a blur..." I was staring at her. She had a very prominent jawline and very nice green eyes. Her skin looked whiter than the sheets right now but she managed to survive. That alone is miraculous. She realized I was staring and spluttered nervously, looking away. "Excuse my manners...I haven't introduced myself. My name is Alisha." She pursed her lips and smiled lightly. "When the nurse told me that I must have had a guardian angel watching over me, I didn't know she literally meant it." I didn't know what to say so I just looked down and tried to mutter a thank you.
For some weird reason, I was tongue-tied. Cheery, peppy Eden's voice was tied in a tongue-twister. I felt her eyes resting on me and couldn't bring myself to look her in the eyes. When I finally managed to respond coherently, the meaning was as embarassing as the attempt to procure the response. "The tile is really fancy for a hospital." Her laugh echoed across the hospital room. It had a light tinkle to it, like windchimes hanging outside a grandma's front door. "Well, I've been in my fair share of hospitals. A lot of places cheap out and get like the rubber or laminate stuff. This has like recycled glass or something in it..." I trailed. I finally looked up when she spoke.
"Thankfully, I don't have as much hospital experience as you so I can't speak in that respect." She slid backwards so she could rest against the pillow. "Tell me about yourself. I might as well get to know my hero." I smirked; my "18 year old swagger", as Winnie would call it, was creeping back to me. I leaned back in the chair (which wasn't very comfortable) and shrugged.
"There's not that much to know about me. I'm a college freshman at Park City College...a chemistry major...I love hanging out with friends, learning new things, and listening to music. But tell me about yourself. You're the mysterious one that literally washed up on the beach. What are you, Gulliver's sister?" Alisha laughed again.
"I wish. Maybe if I encountered Gulliver when I was sailing the waves, I wouldn't be here right now." She looked at me and I must have had an expression of disappointment on my face. I didn't even realize what I was doing at that point. She hastily reached out and grabbed my arm. "Not that I regret it! You seem like a really nice girl and I'm grateful you helped me out." She pointed at herself, lying in the hospital bed. "Doc says I'll be holed up here for at least another day or so. 'Protocol', he says." She said, rolling her eyes and using air quotes. "I enjoy being pampered like any princess, but I need my freedom. This bird needs to fly." I smiled and she stared out the window. "I have no idea where I am and I'm probably so far from home..." she trailed.
"Where are you from?" I asked. Before she could answer, a nurse opened the door and said that I needed to leave so Alisha could rest. The nurse made her way in the room and huddled over Alisha, pumping her pillow and lowering her in bed. Silently, I gathered my things and rose from the chair. I wanted to say something else but I felt awkward speaking in front of the nurse. I don't really know why, but her presence made me feel strange. I opened my mouth to say something, but the words couldn't come out. I sighed and slowly walked out of the room. I stood in the doorway before leaving and turned back. The nurse was pulling out some medications; I presumed that it was time for another dosage. "I'll come back tomorrow, Alisha." She looked up and I connected with her green eyes despite being feet across the room. "I hope you can tell me more about yourself." I added with a smirk.
She was about to reply but the nurse shoved the pills in her face. She had no choice but to swallow them with water. She smiled back and waved as I left the room.
By the time I got back to the house, it was late. There was a lot of foot traffic and people were scattered all over Central Avenue. The fireworks were over and people were just kinda hanging there. It was interfering with me getting home. I just wanted them all to MOVE. It was quite frustrating. I was by no means short, but 5'5" isn't exactly a demanding stature to push your way past tons of people. I walked in the house, expecting to see Portia or Winnie. Unfortunately, I saw no signs of life. The TV wasn't even on. I stumbled over to the refrigerator where I saw a note. It was from Portia. I ripped it off the table and scanned over it as much as my tired eyes could possibly scan.
"Hey, Eden. Just wanted to let you know that I really don't appreciate you pushing your work off on Winnie. Poor Winnie had schoolwork and couldn't possibly complete the task that I asked you to handle. Because of that, my potato salad and watermelon went to waste. No one took it over to the party and by the time I was home to attend, no one was hungry. You know I don't like to place the blame on anyone. I'm not that type of person, but I honestly expected more out of you. I'm disappointed."
Oh my Gogggg what is she, my mom? I threw the paper down on the counter. The impact wasn't as dramatic as I would have liked it to be. Due to gravity and fun physics concepts that I am too much of a chemistry nerd to appreciate, the paper ended up floating to the ground and landing underneath the table. I rolled my eyes and headed upstairs. I was TIRED. I walked up the stairs and saw that Winnie's bedroom door was open. The computer light was on. I peered in and saw Winnie fast asleep on her desk, head resting besides her mouse. I stared at the computer (It hurt my eyes) and saw her report was pretty much done. I saluted her inwardly for working hard and getting it done. That was more than I could say. I nudged Winnie's shoulder and tried to wake her up. She didn't respond though. I couldn't just leave her there.
I ended up dragging her towards her bed and tucking her in. She was deadweight so my nurturing skills really weren't that efficient. Winnie barely budged. Poor girl. She had to have worked all night. Once she was settled, I stumbled to my bedroom and shut the door. I was exhausted, physically and mentally. All I wanted to do was smash in the sheets and code out (althought not permanently). I wanted to visit Alisha in the morning but I also had to start and finish the report that Winnie slaved herself over today. I'd come up with a solution tomorrow. I always did. I carefully slipped off my dayclothes and got into my pajamas. Next, I snuggled underneath my thick blankets. Within seconds, my eyelids grew heavy and I fell asleep.
When I woke up, I felt a thin layer of crust on my eyes. I had no idea what time it was; I wanted to figure it was around 10. I tried to open my eyes but I didn't exactly see my room. It was like there was something over my eyes. My hand flew up to feel my face. Turns out, there was a piece of paper on my face. I grunted in frustration and pulled it off. My blurry eyesight detected a note. I didn't even need to guess who it was from; I already knew. Portia was infamous for her notes. That was basically the only way she communicated with us because she was always so busy. The note was short. I also wasn't surprised with that. Portia was probably still angry at me "or disappointed" because of last night and the food.
"Don't bother Winnie for anything. I tried to wake her up for breakfast and she told me no one is to touch her until dinnertime. That leaves you some flexibility."
I crumpled the note and threw it across the room to my wastebasket. The piece of paper bounced off the wall and fell to the floor. My morning coordination clearly was not on point. I glanced at the clock. It was almost 11 am. I dressed myself and slowly crept down the hallway. Winnie is usually a deep sleeper but I didn't want to take any chances and wake her up. Once I descended the stairs, I opened the fridge and prepared to make myself a bagel. There wasn't much action going on outside. Sunday mornings, things were mostly quiet. A few animals here and there went to church or took a walk or worked in the garden or something. Otherwise, I think all the other villagers took advantage of the morning and slept. I wished I could share that advantage.
I took my bagel over to the table where my laptop was also located. I wanted to at least start a paragraph while I was sitting there. See, Winnie had a writing process. She would sit there and outline. Next, she would actually put the outline into words and draft. Then she'd draft and draft and draft. Finally, she'd type it out. I'm convinced that's what takes her so long to compose an essay. I just sit in front of the computer and type to my heart's desire. Now, I'll admit that that is probably a main reason why she's the Creative Writing major and I'm not. However, I can't sit there and draft like that. My mind doesn't work like that. Unfortunately, at this moment, my brain blanked out. I couldn't think of even how to START. I sighed and closed the laptop. I would bring the laptop to the hospital and perhaps I would have more inspiration then. I blamed my current predicament on the lack of carbohydrates in my body.
By the time I finished my bagel, it was 11:30. I hurried to get my stuff together, including my laptop, and head to see Alisha. I didn't have to see her technically, but something abuot her intrigued me. She seemed like such a nice girl and I wanted to help her. I would feel bad if I abandoned her in a random hospital and left her to her own devices. Thankfully, when I got to the hospital, the nurses were much more nice. They quickly escorted me to her room. When I saw Alisha, I was relieved to see that she had a lively glow to her face. She was still pale (I guess that's her natural skin tone) but she looked alive. Alisha sat up in bed and smiled. As rapidly as the nurse burst in Alisha's room, she left. I gently shut the door and shuffled towards the bed.
"Hi, Alisha." I said. I wanted to say more. I wanted to ask how she was doing. I wanted to ask if she remembered anything more. For some reason, I couldn't find myself able to speak. It's not that I was afraid of pressuring her; she seemed like a strong girl that could handle her. I can't explain why my greeting faltered.
"Morning, sunshine. What's with the bag?" At first, I didn't realize what she was talking about. I looked down and saw she was staring at my laptop carrier.
"Oh, I have a report due Monday. I was thinking that if I get inspired while I'm sitting here, I could get part of it worked out." A light smile played on Alisha's lips.
"Don't compromise your grade because you have to nurse me, Florence Nightingale." I chuckled.
"No, I do really want to be here. It's fine. I want to talk to you and keep you company." I smiled. Alisha rose her eyebrows and kept her gaze on me. I cleared my throat and looked out the window. "So, did you have any progress with your memory? Remember anything more?" She shook her head.
"It's still a little foggy. Doc said it would take some time." She pouted lightly and I must say, it looked adorable. "It's okay though. I'm a patient person." She scratched her head. "The doctor also told me I could leave today." My head snapped up. "He said I was perfectly fine and healthy and that I just need to take it easy for another day." She poked the bed with her finger. "They just want to kick me out and make room for another patient." I laughed with the joke and straightened up in my seat.
"You know, Alisha, you can stay with me in my house." She pursed her lips and tilted her head. Obviously wanting me to talk more. "Um, I understand if you're not comfortable with that! I mean we just met, but I don't feel comfortable with you out there wandering and still not having your full memory!" I took a deep breath. "I know my other roommates would have no problems with it. They'd be fine with it..." I trailed but still spluttering all the while. She held her hand out, ready to refuse, but I reached my hand out and grabbed it. "Please. I won't take no for an answer. I would feel awful if something happened to you." Alisha lightly smiled.
"Okay. Yes, I'll stay with you." I beamed. I stood up.
"That's great! Should I tell the nurse? Or the doctor? How does that work? Are there papers I have to fill out?" I asked, a dozen questions racing through my mind. Alisha's classic laugh rang in my ears.
"I don't know, but before you go on any expeditions to hunt down who to tell, let go of me." She said calmly. I gasped, realizing I was still gripping her hand. I let go and apologized profusely. "It's fine, cupcake. Now go. Chase down the nurse and pester her." She said with a lighthearted wink. I nodded.
"Okay! I'll be right back." I hurried out of the room while Alisha sat back on the bed. When I entered the hallway, there was no one around. I called out for someone (anyone really) and walked down the hallway. There weren't many rooms around that were occupied, which meant no nurses or doctors. Mentally tracing my tracks, I continued down the hallway hoping to run into someone. Unfortunately, I just encountered the pharmacy. I sighed and turned on my heel to return down the hallway. That's when I smacked into a green body. We both stumbled backwards and fell on the floor. I grunted in pain and glanced up. "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to run into you. I was just looking for a nurse and I was turning to go down the hallway."
The girl who I ran into didn't even stay to accept my apology. She cursed under her breath and picked herself up. By the time I was on my feet, she was gone muttering that I was an ignorant human who got in her way. I sighed and hurried back down the hallway. I needed to find my way back to Alisha's room. I realized I could have pressed the 'call' button in her room; someone would have come in and I could have told them without having to leave. I'm such an idiot. I couldn't wait to tell a nurse Alisha would be staying with me.
I wanted to get to know this girl better. Letting her live with me would be the first step.
The nurse was able to come into the room and process everything. There weren't that many forms to sign. Before I knew it, the nurse was slipping Alisha into a wheelchair and pushed her over to me. The nurse was telling me that this was only protocol; Alisha was very capable of walking once we got home. I sighed inwardly. I had no car so I would have to grab a cab. I gripped the handles of the wheelchair and stared down at the girl. She wasn't happy that she was in the chair but went along with it instead of protesting. (OK well she protested a little but she stopped quickly after I politely asked her to comply) The nurse came back with Alisha's clean clothes. She had them stuffed in a bag and handed it to me. I slung the bag over my shoulder and grabbed my things. I was double burdened and struggled to push Alisha out of the room. Alisha chuckled when she noticed my situation.
"Hey packmule, I'm not that fat." She joked. I cracked a smile.
"Trust me, I'm usually stronger than this. I go to the gym regularly and work out, but it's just because I have these bags over my shoulders. They hurt." Alisha smirked and stared at my muscles for a moment. She then held her hands out and offered to take her clothes. I carefully slumped the bag in her lap and pushed her out of the room. The nurse offered to help but I declined. The nurse led us down the hallway and out the hospital. A light wind was blowing and I could feel Alisha shiver in the wheelchair. "Hey, why don't you put your jacket on?" I suggested. She looked up at me and shook her head.
"I appreciate the help but no thanks." The nurse helped me arrange a cab to roll up in front of the door and we both got Alisha into the van. I nodded and thanked the woman for her time. She smiled warmly and returned inside the hospital. I climbed inside the van and told the man where to take us. He drove and Alisha and I sat in the back silently. She gazed out the window like she was examining the scenery for the first time. Suddenly, her voice rang out and I nearly jumped in my seat. "It's quite busy around here. Lots of cars and people..." she trailed. I shrugged.
"Well, Park City is...a CITY, you know? It's very big plus it's a college town." She nodded and we didn't say another word to each other until the cab driver pulled up to my house. I clambered out of the van first and helped Alisha out. The man was nice and helped me get all the bags out of the car. Once he was finally gone, I noticed Alisha was standing next to me and staring at the house. I nudged her shoulder gently. "Follow me." I unlocked the door and noticed a giant piece of paper on the table. I placed the bags down and walked over. Picking it up, I noticed the note was from Winnie.
"Hey I know I said no one was to touch me until dinnertime but I remembered that I had to meet a student for a tutoring session at 3! So I'm fully up (maybe not fully awake) and I'm over at the kid's dorm right now. Don't expect me back for dinner. I'll probably swing over to the cafeteria since I'll be on campus!"
I heard a snicker behind me. I twirled to see Alisha peering down at the letter over my shoulder. She raised her hand and showed me another piece of paper in her hand. It was a note from Portia. Alisha smirked. "I take it your roommates are the 'note-writing types.'" I shrugged and explained it was the only way we could really communicate. Our lives were always so hectic. She nodded in an understanding manner and pointed to her bags. "Mind helping me with these? I'm still kinda weak. I need a big strong person like you to do it for me." I laughed and took her to her room. It was the room across the hallway from mine. I pointed to the other doors and explained they were Portia's, my, and Winnie's bedrooms.
"If you need anything, I'm across the hall." Alisha stared at the door and stumbled into the room behind me. I set her bags alongside the closet and drawers. She sat down on the bed and looked tired. I nodded and went to excuse myself. "You're probably really tired! I'll let you relax. You know, mi casa es su casa....now? I don't know how to say 'now' in Spanish. It's been over a year since I've taken Spanish, sorry. I know I shouldn't have forgotten four years of Spanish that easily but after that last exam, I let my brain drain and I didn't get some information back!" I laughed nervously, turning on my heel and hurrying out of the room.
"Ahora." I glanced back at Alisha and asked what she said. "Ahora. It's 'now' in Spanish." She chuckled. "Anyways, thanks, Eden. I really appreciate you letting me stay here." I told her she was welcome. I'm sure Alisha needed her space and I needed to get working on the report.
One giant Spongebob moment and half a giant bag of M&M's later, I was halfway through with my essay. I had it all typed out on the computer! I just needed to proofread and finish it up. Somehow, during the interim though, I fell asleep. I pulled a Winnie! How could I? I wasn't even tired! I didn't even know how much time had passed. I groggily glanced out the window and saw it was dark. Upon this discovery, I sat up straight so quickly that I nearly toppled out of my chair. I noticed some noises coming from the stairs. It sounded like people were talking. That's when I saw Winnie come down the stairs with Alisha. The two were talking and having a very animated conversation. I groaned and stretched in my chair. The horse chuckled and poked Alisha in the shoulder.
"Look who's awake." she said. I rolled my eyes and scowled.
"How long was I out?" I asked. Alisha shrugged.
"Not TOO long. If I had more strength, I would have carried you up the stairs. Unfortunately, I had to let you sleep at the table." She leaned over my shoulder and stared at the screen. "The essay's looking good, hotshot. You're quite the scholar," she complimented. Winnie narrowed her eyes and looked at the essay.
"I see some typos and grammatical errors." I frowned at her. She jabbed me playfully and laughed. "You can fix them later. For now, dinner's ready." I stood up slowly and walked towards the counter to get some water. Winnie continued to talk. "Portia left a note. Didn't you see it? She told us she had some spare time to make lasagna. SO we're having lasagna." I told her I didn't know what note she was talking about, but then I realized Alisha was holding a note from Portia when we first came in. I had never read it. Winnie slipped the lasagna in the microwave. "Anyways, that'll be a few minutes. You didn't tell me you were bringing home a girl." For some reason, my face turned pink. Not really sure why.
"Right!" I said, gulping nervously. "Well, you know, it just happened so spontaneously. That's the way things go! One minute she's washed up on the beach, the next minute she's in my bed!" I said rapidly. "Not MY bed, you know it's a bed in my house...well it's not even really my house. It's our house, but uh she's across the hall from me." If Winnie sensed my nervous blundering and stumbling, she couldn't tell. Alisha, on the other hand, couldn't stop looking at me. She only shifted her gaze when Winnie spoke again.
"Alisha is really cool; it's generous of you to let her stay here while she gets better..." she trailed. "Nate was telling me everything that happened. I can't believe it!" She turned to Alisha. "Has your memory recovered a little since you've been hospitalized?" Alisha shook her head.
"No. Unfortunately, it's still pretty blank up here." She said, tapping her head. "It'll come around. I just have to give it some time." Winnie nodded and turned towards the microwave. The timer was counting down and the alarm suddenly rang out within the living area. Winnie took out our lasagna and dished our portions on to the plates. I grabbed my dinner and hurried over to the table to eat it. Hopefully, through chowing, I could escape and evade any further embarrassment.
Today's Monday. It's been two days since Alisha moved in. She says her memory still hasn't fully recovered. She says there are some bits and pieces but nothing firmly set. I keep telling her to be patient, but honestly my curiosity is itching me like a rash. I want to learn more about this girl's past, but I'm unable to get farther than the initial gate of her personality. Today was the day I meet Opal in the lab. I was excited to get some real lab experience. First step though was my class with Professor Graham. Thankfully, my essay was complete and I was confident I would get a solid B. I left Alisha alone (she was fine with the arrangement) so I could go to class. Winnie and I walked together to the science building with our essays stuffed in our backpacks.
The hamster was standing by his desk waiting for everyone to file in. Once everyone sat down, he started off the first class of the week on a jovial and joyful note. This is why I always enjoyed his class. He taught because he enjoyed enriching the minds of the younger generations. He wasn't in it for any ulterior motive. His primary goal was to help kids like me and Winnie understand the fundamentals of our world and comprehend how the minute building blocks of our natural environment contribute to the world we live in today. That should be the goal of all teachers and professors: to supply students with knowledge in each topic and infuse that love of learning. Professor Graham's bubbly and down-to-earth personality is what makes this class so fun for me.
"Hi class! Welcome back. I hope you all had a good weekend. And me? Since I had no assignments to grade, I relaxed. It was nice! For once there were no complications. No family issues, no time constraints. I could fully lounge at the spa and get my facial." He said, patting his face and his smooth fur. "Don't I look ten years younger? I feel like I'm back in grad school!" Some of the students laughed at his joking manner. "Nevertheless, let's get down to business. I always like to ease my Monday class into the work for the week since it's the first day back from the fun times of the weekend. However, it's time to move along. Please lie your essays out face-up on your desks. I presume you have written or typed your names in the corner. If you haven't done so, please do so now. I will be coming down the aisles and picking up your essays."
Professor Graham smoothly glided across the classroom, taking everyone's essays. Once he had them all stacked neatly in his arms, he scurried back to his desk and placed the papers alongside his pens. "My next class isn't till 1:30, so I'll have some time to go over your essays. Hopefully, I won't procrastinate and I'll have a grade plastered to the front of each of them by tomorrow or Wednesday." With that, Professor Graham pulled down his giant paper grid of the periodic table and let it dangle over the chalkboard. "For now, let's talk a little bit about the chemical properties. It'll help you understand a bit about redox reactions..."
"....And that's why the elements in alkali metals makes the best bases." Professor Graham glanced up at the clock. "Oh it's 11:45. I'm running you a little over, aren't I? What a shame, I had a funny story about me and a buddy when we were in the lab working with sodium. Oh well! I'll leave it for another time. I'll let you all go. I'm sure you have places to be and things to do. See you all tomorrow! Oh--Eden! Can you please come down here real quick?" Winnie gave me a knowing nudge.
"Teacher's pet. Or wait, since you're a human and he's a hamster, is it the other way around? Teacher's owner?" I scoffed and nearly pushed her into the desk.
"Shut up, Winnie. Go run off and bask in the glory that is 'I got an A on my acid-base essay.'" She folded her arms.
"At least I know I got an A. I bet you barely think you got a B." I stuck my tongue out at her and hurried towards the professor. Winnie gathered her things and left the room. I was there all alone. Professor Graham leaned against his desk and smiled, asking if I was excited about working in the lab with Opal. I nodded.
"That's great! I know Professor Keaton was really excited after your 'interview'. I can tell he likes you. Trust me, Professor Keaton doesn't like a whole lot of people," he joked with a wink. "But no, he was telling me that you were a very bubbly, eager student. I'm confident that I made the right decision by passing your name along. Remember, Opal will guide you along the way. You won't have to DO much but you will be helping her with the little things. How many times have I said it's the little things that count because they build up to be the big thing?" I nodded.
"You say it a lot." I laughed. I puffed out my chest to pretend to be the professor and 'pushed' glasses up the bridge of my nose. "Any element can be a reactant or a product, but it takes a special element to be a catalyst." I said, deepening my voice to sound like the hamster. "That catalyst makes the reaction possible in the first place. What makes the reaction possible on a deeper note are the chemical bonds. They align just perfectly and interact to break apart and reform to make something completely new and beautiful. They are the tiniest bonds to the tiniest blocks of our world but they make the bigger blocks a possible feat." Professor Graham laughed.
"It's like you took the words straight out of my mouth!"
"You speak and I listen, prof!" I exclaimed. He clapped me on the shoulder.
"I'll let you go on your way but I just wanted to wish you luck before you go into the lab. I won't see you again for the day. When we have our next class, let me know how it goes!" I smiled widely at him.
"I will. Thanks, Professor Graham!" I hurried out of the classroom and made my way across campus to my next class.
It was 3:28. I was rushing my way past students to get to the lab. I rushed down the hallway, hoping to make it to Room 349 in time. The only problem was I had been running laps around the 3rd floor for five minutes. I couldn't find Room 349! I had been looking forever. I saw Room 340 and Room 350 but no 349. It was very frustrating. I knew this building like the back of my hand; there was no way I couldn't find this place like it was the hidden closet of Narnia. There was only one door that didn't look like a lab. The inside was dark; it resembled a closet. It was 3:29. Taking a risk, I yanked the door open. Light flooded in the room. A tall figure stood there, hunched over some Petri dishes on a counter. The figure gasped and rushed towards me.
Before I could react, I was shoved outside of the room and heard the door slam. I breathed deeply because I think this person knocked the wind out of me. My vision adjusted to the light and I realized who was standing in front of me. It was that tall green elephant from the hospital pharmacy! I hadn't gotten a great look at her before but I now knew that it was her who I had run into in the hallway. She scowled at me.
"You're the human who bumped into me at the pharmacy!" she exclaimed. I bit the inside of my cheek. "You must be the freshman that Professor Keaton sent my way to help me in the lab. Instead of helping me, you barge into my lab like a raging bull and compromise my results. Typical human. I was using the darkness to get the bacteria growing. Then you come in." She said coldly, folding her arms. I held out my hands submissively.
"I'm sorry, Opal! If I can call you Opal. I didn't mean to! I didn't realize this was Room 349. I was looking all over but I only noticed 340 and 350." The elephant scoffed at me and turned me around to look at the door behind us. It was a blank door but led to a lab.
"This is Room 349, you dingus." She leaned down and picked up some numbers that were on the floor. "They fell off. They were on the floor and YOU just neglected to look at it." My breath hitched in my throat. "Pay attention." I groaned and followed Opal into the lab. She pointed to a stool and told me to sit down while she explained the experiment. A lot of it was very intimidating and a lot of 'I'm a senior and this is my thesis; if you mess up, my education is on your head.' After 15 minutes of explaining what I was to do, she was ready for me to jump in. Kinda.
This was going to be interesting.
It was dark and I was making my way back from campus. I didn't mean to be this late but I got held behind. Some of my classmates from Calculus were going out to Chipotle. How could I refuse? After that, we hung around the general shopping mall and goofed off. I forgot about Alisha--totally didn't mean to do that either. My cell phone was dead. Otherwise, I would have called the house and hoped she would have picked it up. Well, neither Winnie nor Portia texted or messaged me with horrendous news. I could only assume everything was okay. After most of the classmates dispersed to go back to their dorms, I was left to awkwardly walk back across town. One of the guys offered to wait with me for a cab. I didn't want to tell him I was too cheap to get a cab; I just said I'd walk. Unfortunately, I could tell he really didn't buy my excuse of 'I need the exercise!' He watched my petite body amble away from him. For some reason, the streetlights were burnt out so I was walking down the street by myself. I stayed on the sidewalk and jumped slightly every time I saw a shadow. Fortunately though, I was almost out of the shady part of Central Avenue.
That's when someone grabbed my shoulder.
I whipped around and saw a dark figure hovering over me. I screamed and pushed him off of me. However, he was too strong. I heard him grunt as he shoved me against the wall of the brick building. I tried to kick. Thrash. Scream. Bite. Do all those things Mom taught me right before I left for college. I felt him brush up against my clothes and my mind blanked out. I wanted to struggle but I was losing strength quickly. It seemed like he was immune to my slaps; it was like one of those nightmares where you try to fight back but it barely touches them. I felt his hands on my face and his disgusting breath wafted into my nose. Suddenly though, I felt a lessening of pressure. Someone ran up and slammed his body into the nearby dumpster. A loud clang reverberated across the alley and he lay there, moaning in pain.
"That's what you get for trying to attack some girl. Stay there and think about what you almost did." My rescuer said heroically.
My ears were tingling and all of my senses were on stress overload. The voice seemed vaguely familiar but I couldn't determine. The person helped me to my feet, but I still couldn't tell what the person looked like. It was dark. The person leaned me against their shoulder and practically carried me down the sidewalk. Every now and then, I could feel forced breathing and the person had to pause a few times to replenish some energy. My eyes, brimming with tears, adjusted to the light. I saw long dark wavy hair. I noticed the pale skin and the prominent jawline.
"Alisha..." I trailed. She stood up straight and placed a finger on my lips.
"Please don't talk. We can have a fun conversation once we're out of this, uh, no offense but, greasy area." She leaned me on her shoulder again. I tried to push her away but I wasn't really too successful.
"You're healing still. I can't ask you to carry me all the way home." I tried to walk forward to show her that I could walk by myself. That endeavor wasn't very successful either. I nearly tripped over my own two feet and landed face-first on the concrete sidewalk. My only saving grace was Alisha's firm hands around my shoulders.
"You don't have to ask me. I'll do it voluntarily. Come on now." She led me away. It took us fifteen minutes but we finally arrived home. She let me recline on the couch and I panted with exhaustion. She hurried to the kitchen to grab me a bottle of water and held it gently to my lips. I sucked at the water and guzzled it down until the bottle was nearly half empty. When I was done, I turned to her.
"Thank you, Alisha. How did you--how did you know where to find me?" She pursed her lips with worry.
"One of your friends called the house and said he was worried because you weren't answering your cell. He asked if you were home and I said no. He was concerned and wanted me to call him as soon as you got home. When you weren't home by a certain time, I took matters into my own hands." I was so touched. I didn't even know Alisha this long but she already was acting like a true friend. A friend. Because friends totally do this type of thing. I realized how close our faces were; I pulled away and smiled.
"Thank you so much, Alisha. I'm really grateful. You saved my life." She moved forward and placed her hand on mine.
"Of course, Eden. You helped me out and saved me when I needed it. I wouldn't hesitate to do the same for you." We lingered closely together. I gulped nervously and tried to look away, but her eyes drew me in.
The phone rang abruptly.
We both jumped in shock. Alisha mumbled to herself in frustration and went to answer it. I could tell it was my guy friend Axel, one of the classmates I was out with tonight. He must have been the one who was concerned. I smiled a little, thanking Gog that I had great friends. I could barely hear their conversation; it was quite muffled. Or maybe I was just that tired. Alisha soon hung up the phone, coming back over to me with a fuzzy blanket.
"You had a rough night, cupcake." She lay the blanket over me. "Get some sleep. We can talk in the morning." Without a second's thought, I drifted off to sleep on my sofa.
When I woke up, I almost didn't remember what happened last night. A part of me wanted to forget what happened. Unfortunately, it was etched in my brain. I remember everything. I remember the man pinning me down and attacking me. I remember Alisha pulling me over her shoulder and dragging me down the road. Heck, I still hurt from the night before. The sun peeked through and I gently sat up. When I realized today was Tuesday, I sat up straight in my spot. I ran upstairs to get dressed, mumbling wildly to myself. When I glanced at the clock, I nearly had a heart attack. It was 1:30. I had missed 2 of my classes already and my World History class was in fifteen minutes. There was no way I could make it across town in time. I hurried to get dressed. I didn't hear Alisha lean on the doorway behind me. When I twirled around, I jumped up with shock.
"Alisha! You startled me!"
"You startled me," she said cooly. Alisha rose her eyebrows and stared at me. "What are you doing up?"
"You should have woken me up!" I exclaimed. "I have class and I CAN'T miss them. Today, I should be getting my grade back on my chem essay and I needed to be in psychology class so we could get the outline of what topics would be on our midterm this semester..." I trailed. Alisha rested a hand on my shoulder.
"You needed to rest. Last night was rough. One day never killed anyone." I sighed, brushing my hand through my hair.
"You're right." I said, taking a deep breath. I closed my eyes and envisioned everything that happened. I shook my head, wishing that that could simply remove the memories from my brain. "Again, thank you so much. I probably said it a thousand times last night. I don't really remember, but yeah. I don't know what would've happened to me if you didn't show up and honestly, I don't think I want to know." Alisha bit her lip.
"Let's not think about that." She stood up and walked over to the kitchen. "Want some lunch?" I nodded. She hustled around the area, trying to find materials to make a sandwich. I groaned to myself and leaned back on the couch. My phone dinged and I glanced at it. Apparently, I had received messages from Portia and Winnie. Winnie was asking where I was and Portia was reminding me to get my laundry in the house hamper so she can run a load when she gets home tonight. Leave it to Portia to think about chores; I bet she doesn't even know what happened last night. Ugh, c'mon Eden. Alisha's right. You can't dwell on it.
Alisha crafted a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich and set it before me on a plate. I smiled and picked the sandwich up, thanking her. Silently, I munched on the edges. Alisha walked away briefly to make herself a sandwich too. When I was done eating, I stood up and walked to put my plate in the dishwasher. My legs hurt really bad and I was sore walking across the room. I hadn't felt this awful since high school when I used to play varsity soccer and we'd have to do cardio. I dragged my calves across the floor and managed to make it into the kitchen. I slid into my desk seat where my laptop was conveniently located in front of my face. I turned to smile at Alisha.
"I just remembered! Some of my professors record their classes and put them on ParkTube!" I exclaimed. She rose her eyebrows, asking what ParkTube was. "It's the college's Beta-tested software version of Youtube. All sorts of classes are posted on there in different playlists for students and we even post highlights of sports games and college talk shows on here." She nodded.
"Sounds geeky." I twirled around in my seat to throw her a fake pout. "I'm kidding, sunshine. I would definitely expect you to enjoy such a thing though," she added with a laugh. "I mean, you're taking probably the first day off in college and you're gluing yourself to the school's knockoff of Youtube." I chuckled but didn't really know how to answer. I picked up my earbuds and absorbed myself into Professor Felicity's psych lecture. I had to admit; that cat knew how to teach. She made psychology really fascinating. When she covered the memory part of the outline, I suddenly and ironically remembered Alisha still potentially her memory loss. I paused the lecture and pulled my earbuds out of one ear.
"Hey, I was just thinking about it since I was listening to my psych lecture...have you made any progress with your memory?" I asked Alisha. She was sitting on the couch watching television. I watched her body grow rigid. She stiffly turned her head towards me and said there's been no progress.
"I don't really understand all that, y'know..." she trailed. "I figure the doctor knows what he's talking about when he says it takes time. I'll just let nature take its course. My memory will come back when it wants to." Alisha turned away from me and I could tell by her body language that this discussion was finished. I bit my lip and turned back in my seat. I wanted to continue watching my psych lecture but I was distracted. Alisha's situation was nagging on my mind and it was bothering me. I didn't understand why HER INDEFINITE MEMORY LOSS was not bothering her. It would certainly worry me. The doctor kept saying that it would come back over time and that it was fine. I didn't understand their lax attitude though. I wanted to go down to the hospital and speak to the doctor. Or at least a nurse.
I wasn't sure how I'd be able to sneak out to the hospital without Alisha knowing. I also didn't want Alisha to think I didn't trust her body to recover independently. I just am a concerned friend who doesn't exactly think having this indefinite memory loss without any type of treatment is normal. I suddenly stood up and strolled across the room to pull my sweatshirt on. Alisha rose her eyebrows.
"Where are you going?" I hoped to Gog that my face was not turning a bright pink as I tried to bury this lie in the corner of Treasure Island.
"Oh, I'm just going for a walk." I said nonchalantly. "I want some fresh air." Alisha nodded and waved towards the door with a slight smirk as I zipped up my sweatshirt and hurried out. I think that was a smirk; was it a look of worry?
Thankfully, I was able to reach Park City Hospital in a timely manner. It only took me a few minutes. Since I wasn't there in an urgent emergency like before, the lobby and the general aura of the atmosphere was warmer and calmer. I walked up to the triage desk to speak to the receptionist. I didn't want to get into the whole situation so I just requested to speak to a doctor or nurse who had worked on a recent patient named Alisha. It was slightly embarrassing because I didn't even know Alisha's last name. Thankfully though, the receptionist was able to get me Alisha's doctor. To my surprise, the doctor wasn't old or stuffy. He was young--he couldn't have been older than 28. The brown pig introduced himself as Dr. Spork and pulled me away to the far side of the lobby. I respected his gesture so we could have some privacy.
"You asked to speak to someone who worked with Ms. Alisha Kavanaugh?" he asked. Oh so that was her name. Nice to know. I nodded and shook his hand firmly.
"Yes! I wanted to inquire about something you had told Alisha about her memory..." I trailed. "I know you had said that it would take time for her memory to return. We totally value your input but the problem is it's been a while and Alisha still hasn't regained her memory. I was wondering if you knew what we could do to possibly speed up this process?" I asked. The pig rose his eyebrows and stared at me.
"Miss, I don't know what you're talking about. Alisha told me she had 100% of her memory recovered and even was able to tell me certain details about her life and how she ended washed up on the beach." That curious look didn't leave his face. Meanwhile a mortified look crept onto mine. "That's the main reason why she was able to leave the hospital so early. I never would have let Ms. Kavanaugh leave otherwise." I gulped and swallowed half my pride and stomach.
"I'm so sorry, Dr. Spork! I did not mean to waste your time at all. I'll just be going now." I turned on my heel and practically sprinted out of the hospital. I didn't want to glance back and see what type of look he was flashing me with. I hurried back to the house, filled with different emotions. Anger. Confusion. Sadness. Embarrassment. She lied to me repeatedly! In what world is that acceptable? I trusted this girl and she was in my house. Oh Gog, she's in my house. That thought caused me to speed up. I was quite relieved when all was normal at my house. I burst the door open, practically kicking it into the side of the wall. She sat up straight in her seat and glared at me.
"What the heck, Eden?!" she exclaimed. I had it all planned out in my head. I was going to tell Alisha off for lying to me and ashame her all at the same time. I was going to articulate it perfectly and even use some clever wordplay. I had the scene played out in my head numerous times as I rushed home. However, as I stood there staring at her, I was silent and literally no thoughts or nerve impulses flowed through my brain. Finally, after a few seconds, I was able to string together some sentences.
"I can't believe you! You lied to me!" Alisha looked confused and asked me to elaborate. "Oh come on, don't feed me that line!" I exclaimed. I threw my sweatshirt on to the coat rack. I missed and the sweatshirt fell to the floor. "Miss Kavanaugh? I talked to your doctor. He told me you already have had your memory back." Alisha paled and held up her hand in a surrendering motion.
"I can explain..."
"Now you can explain." I said with a scoff, folding my arms. "Meanwhile, I've been asking you for days out of concern and you literally blew me off and lied to me."
"You don't understand, Eden! It's not that I didn't want to tell you. I did want to eventually tell you but I couldn't find the right time. I didn't even know what to say." Alisha sighed and looked down at her feet. "Part of me wanted to just forget my past and the whole reason I'm even here in the first place." I started to feel sorry for her but I didn't want to let her know that. I kept my arms folded and glared at her. She shrugged. "It's not easy to actually talk about it and I think my subconscious wanted to brush it under the rug." I sighed and finally unfolded my arms. I moved to sit next to her on the couch but she moved away from me.
"Look, if you didn't want to talk about it, you could've just told me." I said, smiling a little. "I would like to think we're friends by now. You can tell me anything." Alisha slowly nodded. "I'm sorry if you felt pressured by me constantly asking you. I was just worried about you." Alisha smiled and moved closer to me.
"I know you were just worried. I'm sorry for hiding the truth from you." She paused and sighed. "If it's okay with you, I don't really want to talk about my past just yet. Don't worry. I'll eventually open up to you but I have to go through my own personal battle with my past before I can open my Pandora's Box to you." I nodded eagerly, telling her it's okay. "I hope you understand," she said, raising one eyebrow and smirking. Obviously, I was really emotional and mad before. But how could I resist that face?
"Of course I understand!" I said, engulfing her in a hug. "I want you to know that I'm here for you, okay?" Alisha nodded. She rose her eyebrows at me as she stood up to place my sweatshirt on the coat rack.
"So...you didn't really just go for a walk, did you?" she asked with a sly look on her face. A blush crept on to my face and I said no. I glanced at the clock to get up and return to my computer. I needed to catch up on my classes since today was basically shot.
Wednesday had a much smoother transition. Alisha didn't hold me back and everything was normal. At least, everything seemed normal. I woke up at a normal time and was able to make it to all my classes on time. My professors had expressed concern and asked what happened to me. For pretty much the whole year, I had perfect attendance. I wasn't one to miss classes or be absent. I had simply made up an excuse that I wasn't feeling well. I had no intention of getting into the details with my professors.
Once classes were over and I had caught up on all my schoolwork, I headed towards the science building. I needed to meet Opal again for her thesis project. I walked with Winnie as she made her way across the quad to her history class. Thankfully, I was done for the day and just wanted to get this labwork with Opal over with. She wasn't exactly the most pleasant student to work with, and I wasn't into it as much as I wanted to be. She sucked any excitement out of my enthusiastic brain. As Winnie and I walked across the quad, my phone dinged. It was Portia. Over the past few days, she had forgiven my inability to bring the food to the weekend party and had even warmed up to Alisha.
"Your friend Alisha totally ate all of my apple chips. I don't appreciate her helping herself to my snacks without my permission. You're going to the farmers' market on 34th and Strand to buy new ones."
I rolled my eyes and nudged Winnie. "Apparently Alisha likes Portia's dorky snacks."
"Alisha clearly has a taste for the dorky," she retorted, "I mean, she likes you." My face burned and I assumed that it was because Winnie had such a snappy quip.
"Ooooooh you think you're so cool." I said with a stilted voice. "Don't you have dumb dates to memorize in your weird note-taking fashion?" She folded her arms.
"Hey, my note-taking methods work! Can't say the same for your chicken scratch. I don't know how anybody can read your lab reports." she said with a light roll of her eyes. "Anyways, I have dumb dates to memorize and you have dumb measurements to make. Adios." Winnie waved her hand and hurried off to the Humanities building, which is formally known as the Wenterz Center of Arts and Humanities. Calling it Humanities rolls off the tongue better though. I was finally at the science center and had no problem finding the room this time. This time, I didn't barge in a dark lab and possibly compromise Opal's results. She was hanging over one of the lab tables and straightened up when she saw me.
"I was about to call in the troops. You're usually not this late." I rolled my eyes and placed my bag on the counter.
"Sorry, am I a nanosecond off?" I glanced at the clock. "Let's get to it, chief." Opal nodded and showed me the Petri dishes she was observing. The specimens under the Petri dishes had been sitting in the dark for quite some time. I stared over her shoulder down at the dishes. They looked normal but we couldn't tell from this macroscopic view. Opal pulled a cotton swab out and swiped a bit out of the bacteria. She placed it under the microscope and casually stared into it. I looked out the window, waiting for Opal to tell me something. However, she was awfully quiet. I glanced over and saw her body tense over the microscope. I narrowed my eyes and looked at her. "Opal, is everything alright?" She didn't answer me. I reached my hand out to grab her shoulder but she had rapidly turned and looked at me with bulging eyes.
"LOOK AT THIS." She practically shoved me into the microscope. I scoffed and rolled my eyes inwardly. I didn't really understand the point of all this. I leaned forward and stared through the lens. I noticed the cell. Pretty basic. I gently moved the slide to the left to observe the adjacent strand. It was kinda different...the strand was definitely longer and thicker. The shapes were bigger...and--
Professor Keaton and Professor Graham surrounded the microscope, aghast looks on their face. They would just make a couple awestruck noises and then lean into the microscope to look at the bacteria again. Like it was going to disappear. Trust me, it was not going to disappear. Opal and I didn't need to look anymore. We got our fair share of squinting into the lens before the two men rushed down from the faculty room. The visual was quite simple but the reasoning behind the visual was not as simple. Where there should have been cilia on the outside of the cells, there were spikes. Large evil looking spikes. They resembled something out of a comical horror cartoon. However, Opal and I knew better.
This was a breakthrough and our professors needed to know about it.
Professor Keaton wiped some sweat off his brow with his wing and smiled. "I must say, Opal, I'm very surprised. I honestly didn't expect you to make such progress very quickly. There are men and women holed up in laboratories across the country trying to achieve what you just did. It may not seem like anything right at this moment, but trust me. This is huge." Opal nodded.
"As soon as I saw the spikes, I realized this was no regular variation. Spikes usually aren't included in any time of description of streptococci bacteria which immediately got me thinking," she noted. Professor Keaton smiled.
"You're absolutely right. This is no regular variation. I don't have any idea what it actually is, but I do know that this is significant. I have some friends involved with this type of bacterial research at federal laboratories in the capital. I must notify them right away. We should keep this as hush hush as possible. We have no idea what is on that microscope slide so we shouldn't jump to any conclusion. Positive or negative." He turned to stare at Professor Graham. "What's your take on this, Graham?" The hamster shrugged.
"I'm an optimistic person. You know that. I'm not the proper person to ask about this type of stuff. You're the one with a Ph.D in biochemistry. I'm just the general chem professor." The eagle nudged the shorter man in the shoulder.
"Nonsense! You have had great research with lactase and lactose intolerance. Your input isn't null." The hamster leaned on the counter, holding his head in his hands.
"Definitely inform the capital. This is important information and they can send some people out to analyze the bacteria and possibly extract some samples. We have to be as delicate as possible because we have no idea how this variation reacts with the body or what it even does!" He turned to Opal and me. "I applaud you two girls for working together to reach this goal. Congratulations!" We blushed. I didn't even really have a role in this whole thing. Opal was the main girl behind this project. I was the assistant on the side. Professor Keaton broke the silence and beamed.
"I will go to my office right now and make a phone call to some contacts of mine. If anyone needs me, I'll be there." He turned on his heel. In a flash, he was out of the door. Professor Graham nodded curtly and followed the eagle's wake. I stared over at Opal. She looked different from before. Before, I imagined her as a stern, tough girl who was determined to never fail. However, now I saw an older, enthusiastic student such as myself. I saw a girl who wanted to make a difference in the world. I saw a girl who had made the first step towards that difference.
I turned towards my bag and slinged it onto my shoulder. "Well, this was fun. I didn't expect the day to take such an exciting turn." I cleared my throat. "I'll see you in a couple days. Let me know when Professor Keaton hears back from the capital." I said with a smile. She grinned back and nodded.
"Sure thing. See you!" She waved and turned to gather her things. I left the room. I was done with everything for the day; there were no more classes left. Behind my shoulder, I could hear Opal locking the door to the classroom. I hurried down the steps and made my way out of the science center. Winnie was probably done with her history class and was back at the house. As for Portia...I'm sure she was working as always. Even though I was still suspicious of Alisha and didn't approve of her lying to me, I let her stay in the house. I couldn't kick her out and I felt bad that she had no place to go. Besides, there was something about her where I couldn't say no.
I returned to the house to find her lounging on the couch, eating some potato chips. I raised my eyebrows. I had talked to her about possibly getting a job or even enrolling at the university. I don't know what her educational or vocational history is; however, I didn't think that she should just limit herself either. Nevertheless, I didn't comment. Things were awkward between the two of us and I didn't know what to do. In lack of anything else, I just dropped it. I placed my book bag on the table and pulled out my psych books. I needed to review some more material to prepare for my semester midterm. I didn't really understand a certain module and I needed some help. Professor Felicity's office was probably closed now but Jamie's office wasn't.
Jamie was a young teacher's assistant (TA) for my psychology class. She was a smart woman in her late 20's. I believe she is a graduate student at Park City College, going for her PhD in psychology. Jamie was really nice and I know she would help me with anything. I didn't feel like trekking all the way back to the Humanities Center. I just got back! So I got on my laptop really quick and shot an email out to her. I asked Jamie if she could possibly meet me at Brewster's Coffee Cafe. Thankfully, Jamie emailed me back and told me we could meet there in twenty minutes. I hurried to get my things together and shoved them in my bag. Alisha stared over at me from her spot in the couch.
"Where you headed?"
"Brewster's. I'm meeting my TA to ask her some questions about my psych midterm." Alisha scoffed.
"You're always worrying about academics, babe." She stood up and grabbed my shoulders. "Can you sit and talk with me for a second? I wanted to talk to you about some things." I tensed up and she could sense it. Alisha took her hand off of me like I was on fire.
"Alisha, as much as I would love to talk to you, I don't think I can." Alisha looked at the clock.
"I won't be long, I promise." I shook my head.
"No, I don't think I ACTUALLY can," I said turning away. "I can't trust you. Not yet anyways. I need time to acclimate myself to this entire situation. I'm not going to lie. It's kinda weird." I regretted my words; Alisha's face fell considerably. That only lasted for a moment though. Her expression changed. Alisha crossed her arms, taking a step backwards.
"Nothing is weirder than the fact that you have a roommate and I've never actually seen her." I narrowed my eyes in confusion. Alisha rolled her eyes. "I'm talking about Portia! I mean, you're always saying she's so busy with school and her internship with GracieGracie, but how do you really know she is who she says she is?"
"What are you implying, Alisha?" I asked with an accusatory tone. She smirked.
"For all we know, your precious Portia is doing business in one of those shady alleys I found you in the other night." I backed up and grew angry.
"How dare you! Portia is a hard-working girl with a good head on her shoulders! She is no criminal. On the other hand, I don't know about--" I stopped in my tracks before something else could slip out of my mouth that I would regret. Alisha realized my blunder though and caught up with it right away.
"What were you going to say?" she asked softly. I looked down on the ground in shame. Alisha scoffed and grabbed her bag in the corner of the room. "Well then. Don't let me hinder you anymore." I opened my mouth and held my hand out to stop her, but she shoved me backwards. "I don't need your sympathy, Eden. I will be leaving now." With a grumble on her lips, Alisha grabbed her things and walked out of the door. I couldn't stop her. I groaned loudly and flopped onto the couch. I have no idea where Alisha was going to go, but at the moment, that wasn't my concern. I needed to meet Jamie at Brewster's.
I slid off the couch and hurried out of the door. Luckily, I didn't forget any of my study materials. Jamie was already sitting at a table, bookbag and coffee readily at hand. I waved to her from across the cafe and approached her. She looked like how she usually does when she's in a class environment. Her long straight blonde hair was tied up into a ponytail and thick dark glasses framed her blue eyes. She wore a white blouse and a light black blazer and some black pants and heels. She looked like she just came out of a lecture. I asked her if she had any more lectures tonight. She nodded.
"Yep. I have another at 6:45. I'm more than happy to go over some basic stuff with you now, but if you need a crash course, I could swing by your house after my lecture." I nodded.
"Okay, thanks, Jamie!" For the next forty to forty-five minutes, we went over consciousness and Sigmund Freud's concepts of id, ego, and superego. Jamie was a really great TA. Whenever she explained something, I was able to understand it. It was never hard for me to comprehend the material after she expanded upon it. In the back of my head--perhaps my subconscious--I wasn't bothered by the fact that she wasn't "difficult" to look at. She was quite the pretty girl. It's a shame; I don't think she has ever mentioned a boyfriend...but that's none of my business. My brain loves to wander aimlessly to no avail. By the time we were done, I basically was very familiar with this module. The minutes flew. Before I knew it, Jamie was packing up her things. She had to head back to campus for a lecture however she cheerily offered to come by the house afterwards. I was eager to have her over and hurried on my way home.
When I walked in the house, I was ready to see Alisha sitting on the couch or at the table, waiting for me. To my dismay, the house was empty. Winnie was out with friends and Portia was working and Alisha...Alisha was gone. I had no idea where she was and I hoped she was okay. I couldn't let her get in my head anymore. I needed to focus on what mattered--my studies. I took this time to relax and grab myself some dinner. I ordered takeout pizza and requested that it be delivered. While I waited for the pizza, I sent a group text to Winnie and Portia.
"Just wanted to drop a line and let you know that Alisha has moved out. I know it's kinda been a sudden thing, but this is a mutual thing so we're okay."
No reply. At least not yet anyways. Doubtless, Portia will want me to recompensate her for the stupid apple chips no matter what. Winnie will probably bust my chops about how my other half moved out. Either way, I didn't need their flak. There was a knock on the door. I opened it and a man stood there with a pizza box in his hands. I promptly paid him and he was on his way. Meanwhile, I had a large pepperoni pie mine for the chowing. Well, maybe if it was still around when Jamie stopped by, she could have a slice. Maybe.
I had zoned out, watching Youtube videos of channels I was subscribed to. I was simply catching up for the week and gorging myself with pizza. That's when there was a knock on the door. I answered the door, not thinking of who it could be. I figured maybe it was a villager. Maybe it was a group of Girl Scouts selling cookies. Or it could have been a group of missionaries and I just subjected myself to the sermon of a lifetime. Unfortunately, it was none of the above. Jamie stood in front of me, but I could barely recognize her. She didn't look like my TA; she looked like a wild party girl I saw back at the campus dorms. Jamie's hair was no longer up in a ponytail; her straight hair flowed down her back and settled around her waist. Jamie wore a tight white shirt and dark denim skinny jeans. She was not touting that "academia" vibe anymore. Jamie actually looked like a grad student in her 20's.
I stuttered, realizing how I looked. I had changed into my old sweatpants and a dirty Park City College sweatshirt. Which was probably now stained with tomato sauce and grease. I blushed and self-consciously tried to cover up the stain. "Jamie! Uhh--hey! Welcome to my--eh humble abode." I hustled around the house trying to clean up some junk I had lying around. She entered in behind me and sat on the couch.
"Place looks great! No offense but I expected it to be a lot dirtier. You share the place with what, two roommates? Take it from me, I know how a college house can get trashed. This place is surprisingly clean." I chuckled and turned towards the stairs.
"I'm just going to go upstairs really quick and change." She waved her hand, jumping up from her spot on the couch and grabbing my arm.
"You don't have to do that! Sit back down!" she exclaimed. I felt myself being tugged back to the sofa. "I don't want you to inconvenience yourself in your own home. Now come on, let's study. We're totally going to crash course this semester's work." Jamie pulled the textbook and notebooks out of her bag and placed them on the coffee table in front of us. She leaned close to me and opened to the cognition chapter. "Let's go over the types of memory..." she trailed. I could barely focus on memory though with her so close to me. My mind wandered off and I found myself not paying attention to anything Jamie was talking about. I was merely nodding and grunting at the proper moments. After a few minutes, I felt her jostle my shoulder and smirk. "Are you listening to me?" I nodded. Jamie rose her eyebrows with a suspicious air. I gulped.
"Yes, I'm listening. Sorry , Jamie." She laughed and leaned back.
"No problem! I've been blabbing too long." She sighed and closed the books. "Let's just relax for a little and talk about non-academic things. Outside of psychology." She smiled warmly and her shoulders didn't look as tense. Meanwhile, mine were as tense as ever. She sensed it--such a psych major. "You look like you need a drink. Time to raid your fridge..." she trailed. Jamie got up and sauntered over to the kitchen. She leaned down and rustled through my fridge. "You don't have much, man. Some cider...barely a six back of beer...YOU HAVE CAPRI SUN JUICE PACKETS." Jamie dipped her head out of the fridge and pursed her lips. I almost burst into laughter at her aghast expression. I could barely hold back my smirk. She scoffed and placed her hands on her hips. "Are you and your roommates back in kindergarten? Are you going to be sharing juice boxes and getting ready for naptime?" she asked in a mockingly babyish voice.
I grabbed the pillow alongside of me and chucked it at her. My aim was awful and the pillow bounced off her stomach and fell onto the floor. "I don't appreciate the tone of your voice, young lady!" I said with a fake sneer. She smiled and disappeared into the fridge again. She pulled out some apple cider and pulled out two glasses from the cabinet. I was amazed that she knew my kitchen layout and had never been in my house before. She poured a generous serving of cider into each glass and then returned with the drinks. She handed me the one glass; I took it out of her hands gingerly and chuckled.
"I'm watching you closely. Did you spike my drink with something to make me confess the psychological demons in my subconscious mind?" I asked. She shook her head.
"No. You're lucky I'm not friends with anyone doing pre-pharmacy or you would totally be confessing your deepest darkest secrets." We clinked glasses and took a long sip of our cider. It burned my throat; it felt really good. My head spinned a tiny bit but it was just apple cider. Nothing incapacitating or inappropriate; after all Jamie was my TA. Jamie and I had a lot of fun joking around and poking jabs at each other. It was lighthearted and harmless--until the door opened suddenly. Jamie and I both turned in our seats.
Alisha was standing in the doorway with her bags in her hands.
I jumped up from the couch, hoping Jamie wasn't able to see the red tinge on my cheeks. Upon seeing Jamie, Alisha stared at her suspiciously but quickly looked my way. Jamie, on the other hand, didn't notice anything wrong. Thank Gog. Jamie brushed some blonde hair out of her face and stared at Alisha, lightly blinking her blue eyes.
"Hi there! I'm Jamie, a grad student at PCC. What's your major?" She assumed Alisha was a student. Oh jeez. How was Alisha going to get out of this pickle? Alisha calmly put her bag over in the corner and smiled. I had seen Alisha's genuine smiles before though; this was clearly a fake expression.
"I'm a political science major. Just transferred in." I was stunned into silence. Alisha barely missed a beat. I was impressed by how much she was able to go with the flow and articulate a believable answer. However, I couldn't forget that I was MAD at her. She accused Portia of being a criminal...not to mention she lied to me numerous times and I knew nothing about her. Before Jamie could respond, I interrupted and asked Jamie if she minded me and Alisha stepping outside to have a conversation. Thankfully, Jamie was cool with it. She grabbed her drink to take another large sip of cider as I pulled Alisha outside of the door.
It was cooler outside and it was now dark out. However, it was better than being inside with Jamie. The darkness hid the blush on my face and cooled the sweat on my brow. "What are you doing here?" I hissed. Alisha pursed her lips, squaring her shoulders in that way I learned to appreciate.
"I am the definition of homeless, honey pie. I have nowhere else to go." Technically she was right but I had no other retort to open with. I scoffed and crossed my arms.
"I told you I couldn't trust you!" I exclaimed in a defeated manner. Alisha smirked, the corner of her lip curling upward.
"Apparently neither can I. I'm out of the house for a few hours and you're on a date with blonde bombshell over there." My face burned deeper. "On my couch." She said smoothly.
"It's not a date, Alisha! She's my TA. We're just studying..." I trailed. "Besides, it's not your couch. You just seem to have claimed it as yours because your butt hasn't strayed far from it." Alisha leaned back and laughed heartily.
"Glad to know you're keeping tabs on my behind, cutie. But seriously, that little...defensive cover-up you did there...that's what all the kids in the romantic comedies say." I scowled, unable to fight against the Queen of Sarcasm over here.
"It's not like I owe any obligation to you. You won't even tell me your past." Alisha walked closer to me. I could feel her warm breath on my neck. She had a slight fragrance of coconut and chocolate. A strange but pleasant mixture indeed.
"About that...I was doing some thinking since I did my time-out. My reasons of hiding my past to you are stupid. I need to be a big girl and face my fears." Alisha smiled and pointed towards the house. "If you get the model out of the living room, I'll share my life story with you."
"Hmmph! How will I know if you're telling me the truth? I'm confident that you have a poor track history with me so far." I said firmly. Alisha inched closer to me. I could have sworn an apologetic look spread across her face.
"I know...and I'm sorry." She held up her right hand. "I swear, Eden, I will tell you everything, okay?" I looked in her green eyes. I had enjoyed hanging out with Jamie but this was too good to resist or turn down. This may be the only opportunity I have to hear Alisha's backstory. I sighed, numbly nodding and opening the door again. I walked inside while Alisha lightly leaned through the doorway.
"Hey, Jamie. I really really appreciate you coming over and going over the modules with me. You're probably busy and have a social life outside of being my TA. I had a lot of fun hanging out with you and stuff but I'm kinda tired. I have a busy day tomorrow and I'm sure you have other stuff to do. I'll let you go now. Thank you so much for coming over!" Jamie took another large sip of her cider, gulping the whole glass voraciously. She smiled and walked towards me, placing a hand on my shoulder.
"No problem, Eden! I enjoyed hanging out with you too. It was fun. Let's do it again soon sometime." Jamie quickly turned to gather her things and was soon out of the house, waving to me and telling Alisha it was good to meet her. In a flash, Jamie was gone. However I could still feel the pressure of her hand on my shoulder. I felt like it burned a hole straight through my shirt. Alisha walked inside, shutting the door and plopping on the couch. She leaned back, taking a sip out of my cider glass and patting the spot alongside of her.
"Take a seat, babe. Grab a blanket and huddle up. It's story time." I ignored her command to grab a blanket. I sat down next to Alisha and stared at her intently.
"Are you telling me that you're going to zone out into flashback mode?" She nodded and grinned.
"Expect nothing less."
"My name is Alisha Kavanaugh but you already knew that part. I come from Pyrenees, a distant mountain village. It was small; there were only a few villagers and my family. My family consisted of my mom, my dad, and my little sister Cassidy. We were the only humans in town. We originally came to Pyrenees when my mom traveled there as a Christian missionary. She spread the religion to the animals; Dad, baby Cassidy and three-year old I were along for the ride. After the religion took off, Mom wanted to stay amongst the people. She begged my dad to stay so we could live a simple lifestyle. You know what they say...happy wife, happy life. So we stayed. My dad, an ex-Marine, felt that the animals needed some balance and order. When we came to Pyrenees, the people had no laws, no election, and barely a leader. At the time, their chief had died and the chief's heir--a thirteen-year old boy--was in no way fit for the position.
My dad jumped in immediately, proposing democracy and eliminating the current system. Cassidy and I were too young to understand what was really going on at the time. We thought he was being a generous, kind man who was willing to help out the animals. My dad introduced the villagers to a new way of life and led the way to Pyrenees' first election. My dad ran of course, but the chief's young son ran as well. However, my dad unanimously won the election and became the mayor. The people praised us and held us on a high pedestal. They worked to express their gratitude. Over the years, our family lived comfortably and my dad continued to be re-elected every four years. Our lives were calm and pristine. Cassidy and I were the mayor's daughters and we lived as luxuriously as we could in a small village. Everyone knew us and no one obstructed us. Ultimately, we were princesses. The animals treated us like royalty but inside our "palace", it wasn't all peaches and lychees.
Meanwhile, my mom struggled with her new position as the mayor's wife. She felt like it invalidated her beliefs as a Christian and made her into a hypocrite. She was ashamed for having so much power over the people and disapproved of my dad's influence growing beyond the duties of a simple mayor. What my dad said went, whether the animals liked it or not. When Cassidy and I first lived in Pyrenees, we thought the animals idolized my dad. As time went on, I saw how many people disapproved oy my dad's power-hungry rampage but had been futile to prevent it. It made me wonder how long my dad hid the dissent from us. I remember my parents having frequent arguments. The fights got louder and the abuse was more evident. Mom would hide the bruises and Dad would secretly cover his bandaged bloody hands. I didn't care what they did behind closed doors but I didn't want them to touch Cassidy. Cassidy was the only human I could trust. She was more than my little sister--she was my best friend." I wasn't going to let anything happen to her.
The screaming scared both of us but everyone pretended it was okay. When I was 13 years old, my parents finally had an argument in front of Cassidy and me. Mom revealed that Dad had rigged the first election. There was a strong majority of animals who didn't want my dad to be the mayorand were content with letting the thirteen-year old chieftain rule as long as a select few men advised the boy. They didn't want to change their old ways. Mom revealed that Dad had paid some men off and tampered with the votes. No negative consequences occurred because of my dad's corruption. It sickened me to the core but Dad didn't defend or deny anything. All he said was "I know what you've been planning and you're not going to get away with it." and left the dining room.
The next morning, my mom was gone. She was just...gone. No note, not anything. My dad told Cassidy and me that our mom was a traitor and terrible person. He insisted that she was a selfish, greedy woman who didn't deserve to take another breath. He forbade us to speak about her and, in turn, never referred to her again. Cassidy adapted fine--she was a giant daddy's girl--but I wasn't fine. For years, I struggled with the unknown. What really happened to my mom? There was no way for me to find out. Without the protection of my mom, my dad was meaner. He kept us inside the house and rarely let us outside. He banned anything that connected us to the outside world and refused to be lenient about anything. Punishments, even for something as minor as interrupting or entertaining the "wrong thought", were harsh and brutal. This went on for years. One rare day, when I was 18 and Cassidy was 16, we were allowed outside of the city walls. Once a year, Cassidy and I were lucky if Dad let us outside to walk. Monitored by guards, we walked close to the gate. Dad was out of town for the day on a diplomacy visit.
I convinced Cassidy to sneak away from the guards. We soon ended up in the middle of the forest away from everyone. We were able to sit under a tree and eat apples. It was the first time we had been unmonitored in years. An animal--an orange dog--had soon approached us with a message in his hands. For some reason, he recognized me and my sister right away; he told us the message was from my mom. I didn't believe but I allowed him to read it."
Dear Alisha Jean and Cassidy Ann,
I know it's been five years since I left Pyrenees. I have counted the days since I departed. I miss you; I've missed you both from the second Ieft your rooms and I haven't stopped missing you since. I had to leave for safety reasons that I have now deemed suitable for you mature girls to know. Your dad became a very power-hungry, tyrannical man. He wasn't always like that but he let his title get to his head. I knew for quite some time that your father planned to kill me. I was a threat because I knew too much. I wanted to take both of you and flee in the middle of the night but, somehow, he had found out my plan. The night before I left, he gave me an ultimatum. I had to leave for good and never communicate with you two again or he would kill you. I only left because I had to--I did it to save you. It breaks my heart to have abandoned you when you needed a mother. I can't imagine what abuse you had to endure with your father as your only parent. I couldn't be selfish and attempt to stay in your lives when your very existence was at stake.
However, I have grown the courage to send a mesenger to you. David is very aware of the danger of this mission. If you see this, he has succeeded by some slim grace of Gog. I am writing because I want you to come join me. I live in the big town of Park City. Here, I am a fly on the wall, a member of my church congregation, and a simple worker. My life is bland and humble but I pray everyday that my life can be spiced up by the arrival of my two beautiful daughters. I sincerely hope you can take me up on my offer and come live with me. Either way, I send my love and my apologies for leaving you all these years.
May Gog bless,
Your Mother Rosalind K.
"Cassidy and I could barely believe it. That was our mother. Every inch of that letter was legitimate. David told us that he had come by boat. Down at the end of the forest path, he had hidden a small boat with plenty of supplies for the journey back. He told us we could leave right now and on one would know. Cassidy and I had to quickly contemplate our options. When I looked back at Pyrenees, I recognized it as home. It was no place of rainbows and happy memories but that gray little town was all that I knew. Leaving it with my sister and a stranger was a huge risk, but it was a risk I was willing to take. Cassidy and I agreed to go with David and we were soon on our way. No one even noticed we were gone...just as he said. It all seemed happy and good. For the first time in years, my life seemed to have been looking up. Until...well...the storm..."
"What happened during the storm?" I asked Alisha. It was the first time I spoke in forever. Alisha's story was so riveting; it struck me into silence. Alisha's tone during the entire story was stern yet detached. It was difficult to not be enthralled by her demeanor. Or her appearance. But that's neither here nor there. "What about your sister or David?" I asked again, since she didn't really answer the first time.
"I don't know," she said with a shrug, I just remember David waking me up, asking me to help him manage the little boat in the ocean. Cassidy was still sleeping and I remember wondering how she could sleep in the pouring rain, booming thunder, flashing lightning, and the rolling of the waves. David and I worked our tails off but it was useless. Last thing I saw was that big stupid wave overwhelming us. Everything went dark. When I woke up, I was...here."
"Alisha, I'm so sorry!" I exclaimed. I wanted to hug her but I didn't honestly know if that's what Alisha even wanted.
"I don't care about David," she snapped. "I mean, I thank him for coming to get us, but I don't think about him. Now Cassidy is a different story...I would like to think she's alive, that she miraculously made it out like I did, that she's wandering around some town all alone. However, I'm probably thinking too optimisticaly. She's probably dead."
I pursed my lips. "Alisha, I'm so sorry." I said softly.
"I don't need your sympathy." Typical Alisha. Just when she walks two steps forward and opens up to me, she has to take another step back and close up entirely. I sighed.
"Fine. But, how come you didn't say anything sooner? How come you didn't tell me your mother is somewhere in this city?" There was some silence in between my words and her response. I could tell she was emotionally drained from talking about all of that.
"I didn't know how to tell you," she admitted. I put a hand on her shoulder.
"You can tell me anything. Which, by the way, thank you. For talking to me about it, I mean." I said with a grin. "I understand it was hard. I'll leave you alone for a while, but hey..." I trailed. Alisha looked up in my eyes. Her green orbs seemed so different to me here. I don't know, my brain has flashed through so many thoughts when I stared into those eyes. But now, my mind was just all jumbled. I took a deep breath. "We're going to find her."
When I woke up the next morning, my phone was holding messages from my confused roommates. Both Portia and Winnie were very perplexed about everything, given its sudden onset last night. I switched on my phone and chuckled to see their individual emotions play out over the line. Winnie was sorta like me (except not as cool)--crazy and emotional. Portia on the other hand was calm yet confused. She always managed to maintain her snark though.
"Yo E, Winnie here. I was just in Jamie's psych lecture this morning and she told me to tell you that she had a great time last night. o_o WHAT DID YOU GUYS DO LAST NIGHT??? Do I even want to know? You said you were just having coffee and talking about lectures...but girl...I didn't imagine you to be like those chicks in Lifetime movies. The only reason I am overreacting is because Jamie had this red-tinged look on her face when she said it. Otherwise, I would assume you two are upholding appropriate TA-student relationships. Also why the heck is Alisha still here? You said she moved."
That one gave me a nice chuckle. I quickly wrote her back.
"Red-tinged? Seriously, you are such a Creative Writing major. Couldn't you have just appeased my ego and told me she blushed as she screamed my name? JK but yo chill out Ms. Reporter. We just had coffee at Brewsters but she had a lecture so she had to leave. I invited her back to the house and we went over the material more. We had some apple cider and chilled on the couch and talked a little. Nothing alarming, okay Harriet the Spy? About Alisha, it's a long story but she's back now. Sorry."
She must have been in class because I received no reply. Meanwhile, Portia remained her snarky self.
"Forgive me, Eden, but I'm slightly confused. You messaged me quite suddenly last night, telling me that Alisha moved out. It didn't really make much sense however you seemed okay with everything so I was okay. HOWEVER, I peek in the room and see Alisha sleeping in the bed. Can you pray tell me what on earth is going on? I don't mind if Alisha still chooses to live here regardless of your personal situation. But either way I expect to be compensated for my apple chips. Remember--farmer's market--34th and Strand."
I rolled my eyes and wrote back.
"Sorry about the confusion. Alisha's still living here now. I'll explain later. But dang girl you and your apple chips? Can't you make up an excuse to run out of GracieGrace and get them yourself? I thought your building was located on 30th and Strand? :[b][/b]p Either way OKKKK I'll get you your chips."
Portia didn't write back. I understood that she probably was busy with Gracie though. I remembered Portia had told me ages ago that Gracie heavily restricted her electronics usage. I got that though; Portia was there to work. She wasn't there to blab or goof off on social media. I had some classes today plus I had my lab research with Opal. I glanced at the clock and rolled out of bed. I needed to be at my calculus class soon. I dressed myself and hurried out of the house; I didn't hear Alisha at all but I assumed she was crashed in her bedroom. I made my way towards the Mathematics wing, or as the math majors fondly call it, Math Manor. As I entered Frederick Hall, the main campus building, I rushed towards the east wing. I couldn't be a second late. Professor Genji wasn't exactly the most lenient professor at PCC.
It's not like the rabbit was mean or anything like that. He was a very good teacher; he was just very strict. He loved math and his primary focus was teaching students. Genji is not the type of professor to go over to students' houses and sip cider with them. He was very professional and non-conversational; however the slight language barrier contributed to that wall. He had an accent. It wasn't difficult to understand him but the accent was definitely present. I slid into the classroom and settled into a middle desk. Professor Genji looked up from his paperwork and scanned the classroom. A majority of us were here minus a couple late bloomers and maybe one or two slackers. He put down his papers and shut the door. Everyone in the classroom heard the lock click.
"Good morning, class. Without further ado, let's jump right into this week's topic: the rules of derivatives." A groan echoed across the classroom. Professor Genji pretended to ignore everyone and picked up his dry-erase marker. "As some of you who have taken calculus in high school may remember, the derivative of a function is the slope of the function at that point. It is necessary for us to go over these rules right now so you can remember them for later." Professor Genji began to write some notes and key points on the whiteboard with his marker. "I'll have the table of formulae up on ParkBoard tonight plus you should have a table of formulae in your textbook. I want to say Chapter....9? These need to be embedded in your brain. In future lessons, I will assume that you have mastered these rules so we can work on more difficult equations."
I pulled my notebook out of my backpack and began to scribble some of the rules on my pages. That's when my phone dinged. Loudly. Professor Genji stopped writing and turned around to face me. All eyes of the room were planted directly on me.
"Ms. Caufield, you know I have a strict policy on no phones in class. I am trying to teach here and I don't need to have your phone dinging and ringing all over the place." he said sternly. I gulped.
"Yes, Professor. I'm sorry." He grunted at me to turn it off and continued to write the rules. I quickly glanced at my phone to see who it was. Of COURSE it was Winnie. I rapidly slid my phone open to read her message, angry that she got me in trouble.
"Ew no I am not going to feed into your girl crush on your TA. I mean, how old are you? You back in high school where you get a crush on the sub? You may think it's not alarming but I am certainly not comforted by the thoughts that ran through your mind while you two were on the couch. Anyways, I don't need to know your backstory with Alisha, bruh. I was just curious since you seemed kinda upset. Portia won't stop bugging me about the apple chips. She must know you have no intention of grabbing them. I have an hour or so before my next class with my TA Wesley for Western Civ I, so I'll pop over to the farmer's market and grab them for you. PEACE OUT."
I was inwardly grateful for Winnie to buy the apple chips for me but DANG. Could she just let it go about the whole Jamie sitch? I wanted to reply badly but I knew I wouldn't have been able to then. I would just have to explain later. I turned off my phone and threw it in my bag. Just in time too. Professor Genji glanced back mid-formula to see what I was doing. Thankfully, I was grasping my pen in my hand and was leaning forward, pretending like I was concentrating on him the entire time. Silently, Professor Genji turned back towards the whiteboard, beginning to write down some information.
"The derivative of e to the x power is always going to be e to the x power. It sounds quite easy but the coefficient of the derivative changes if the power isn't just x. Who knows why?" A hand to my right raised quickly. Professor Genji nodded and pointed towards the girl on my right. "Yes, Naomi?" The cow grinned knowingly.
"Because the coefficient of the derivative is the derivative of the exponent. The derivative of x is one, so if the power was x, the derivative would just be e to the x power. However say the power was 2x squared, the coefficient of the derivative would be 4x." I understood that. Kinda. Professor Genji nodded, affirming Naomi's answer.
"Perfect. Nice job, Naomi. Glad to hear someone has fully comprehended the text. This can be a complicated concept for people." Professor Genji turned and wrote some equations on the whiteboard. "Eden, let's see how well you understood what was just said. Hopefully your attention was fully focused on class. Come up here please and solve these derivatives." I groaned and slid out of my seat.
Why are teachers like this?
After calculus class, I had lab time with Opal. I hurried to the science center. By now, I knew my way to the lab like the back of my hand. Opal was standing there, playing around with her phone. She stuffed her phone in her pocket when I entered the room. She smiled and leaned back on the counter.
"I had run into Professor Keaton when I was heading to the lab. He told me someone from the capital is here today." She glanced at the clock on the wall. "He told me they would be here in a few minutes-- they are all at Professor Graham's office--however they're probably late because they're chatting." I nodded. "So it gives us some time to calm our nerves." she said with a warm laugh. I set my things down and stood alongside of her.
"Don't be so nervous, Opal! Either way, you've made a historical discovery and you should be really happy. You've made so much progress with your thesis." I complimented. Opal never got to answer because the door opened. Professor Keaton and Professor Graham entered the room with a tall human woman. Her medium-brown hair was tied neatly up in a bun and she wore a wrinkle-free pantsuit. She approached us and held her hand out for us to shake, introducing herself as Dr. Norma Grover, science director from the National Organization of Research in Epidemiology or, more commonly referred to as, NORE.
"It's a pleasure to meet both of you." she greeted cooly. "It is always nice to see women making groundbreaking steps in the STEM field." Opal nodded.
"It is a pleasure to meet you as well, Ms. Director!" she exclaimed. The woman nodded, acknowledging her formality, and pointed towards the microscope.
"Mind showing me the specimen?" Opal nodded and immediately began showing Dr. Grover the microscope. I stood off on the side with Professor Graham and Professor Keaton. This was Opal's moment. I had no right standing there trying to fit in. All was silent in the laboratory as Dr. Grover stared into the microscope. Sweat dripped down Opal's face as she stared at the director; the director's lips were gently pursed together as her eyes squinted into the lens. After a few minutes, the director hummed in her throat and pulled away from the microscope. Opal fidgeted with her fingers.
"Well?" Opal asked, trailing her question nervously. Dr. Grover folded her arms and leaned against the back table.
"It's unlike anything I've ever seen before and I have been the director of NORE for almost fifteen years now." She paused and glanced back at the microscope. "I can't tell what is on that slide...and I can't tell how it could affect our world. But either way, I would like to take the slide right now and hand it over to government researchers who can study it properly." Opal narrowed her eyebrows.
"Wait a minute. Take the slide? I thought you would have just extracted a sample...like cut a little part from the slide. You can't take the whole thing!" she exclaimed. Professor Graham opened his mouth like he was going to intervene but changed his mind.
"I absolutely can. This is a matter of public safety and I cannot guarantee that the sample cannot hurt others in an uncontained environment that is not fully equipped to host such a species. This is for the best. I am protecting the college, the students, the faculty, and possibly the city by doing this. We have no idea what this bacterium could do so our best option is to contain it in one of our federal labs." Professor Keaton cleared his throat and stepped forward.
"Opal, I understand your hesitation, but Dr. Grover is right. You need to hand over the whole slide." Opal sighed and looked down.
"Fine." she said with a grunt, folding her arms with an indignant attitude. Dr. Grover nodded and reached down in her pocket for her cell phone.
"Perfect. We appreciate your cooperation. I have some contacts in Park City that can get me a biomedical biohazard team here in 5 minutes to gather the sample properly. Excuse me while I call them." Dr. Grover turned on her heel and strode out of the room. As soon as the door shut, Opal groaned in frustration. She picked up her book bag and slung it over her shoulder.
"I'm not going to stand here and watch my hard work get sold out like a small business to a corporation. I have other things to do." Within seconds, Opal had left the lab.
Just me and the professors stood there awkwardly by ourselves.
I stayed with the professors while Dr. Grover and the team she called in took the bacteria slide. Opal was AWOL from the scene. I didn't have enough time to text Winnie or Portia. My phone had been vibrating in my pants for thirty minutes; I could only assume it was Winnie or Portia hunting me down. However, I didn't even take my phone out because I thought it would have been too rude to do while we were in the lab. Once I was on my way out, I looked at the texts. First it was Portia.
"Sorry for the short notice but my colleague at GracieGrace asked me out on a date! I'm usually not the type of girl to mix business with pleasure but he's a really nice guy. We'll be going out to Lloid's for dinner so don't wait up for me! Hope you and Winnie will be able to whip something together."
I think I knew who Portia was talking about; I didn't pay attention to her ramblings often but I did remember she had her eye on another intern in the office. He was going to PCC for business, I think. I forget his name. I flicked off of Portia's bubble and brought up Winnie's.
"Ayyy I got Portia's stupid chips from the farmer's market. Told ya I wouldn't procrastinate. You oweee meeeeee. How about you do my Western Civ homework for me? ;] Wesley is making us do a research report on the impact of Charlemagne in his empire and I don't wannaaaaaaa."
I laughed inwardly and wrote back quickly.
"Thanks for getting the chips but seriously??? No you're the CW major not me. Have fun learning about Charle Mang this week." It wasn't long until my phone dinged again. Winnie was ringing in.
"Fine, you're no fun. Don't expect me home right away. I'm going to be stuck at the library researching Charlemagne and doing this assignment for my English class. You're on your own for dinner."
I typed back a quick response and stuffed my phone in my pockets. Then, I hurried back to the house. By the time I got home, I was exhausted. I wasn't surprised to see the lights on from inside my house. I wasn't surprise to initially see that Alisha was home. I was surprised to smell the sweet aroma of Chinese food when I walked in the door. Alisha stood at the counter with those little white takeout boxes scattered around. She smiled warmly and stood back.
"Hey there, cupcake. I didn't know when you would get back from school, but I figured I would get you some dinner." I mumbled a thank you and wandered towards the kitchen. I glanced down at the food. How did she know my favorite? Alisha sidled alongside of me and leaned against the counter. "I got something important to tell you." I had barely shoved a cheese wonton in my mouth; apparently there's a caveat to all this? I groaned inwardly and stared expectantly at her. I was chewing my food but otherwise, I would have spluttered out an answer. Since I couldn't, Alisha took the cue to keep talking. "I went down to admissions and talked to someone in the office. I inquired about coming in as a political science major next year. The lady in the office told me that there was a slot for this upcoming spring semester, so she told me I could enroll then." The seriousness of the situation hadn't sunk into my brain yet. She smirked. "I'm going to be a PCC Raptor."
I narrowed my eyes and stepped back. "Wait, you actually want to transfer in?" She slowly nodded. "And it isn't because of my shoddy excuse to my TA the other night?" I asked with a grin. Alisha laughed and shook her head.
"No. I actually WOULD like to get a college education. I know my mother would love for me to get my degree." she said. I dished some food onto a plate and turned towards her.
"About your mom...I was thinking that we could--" She cut me off quickly, holding up her hand to stop me.
"I understand you want to help, and believe me, I love that part of you. But I'm just not ready yet. I wouldn't even know where to start and honestly, I don't even know if I want to search her out. I wouldn't expect you to understand and I'm not asking you to. I just want you to respect my decision." I nodded with a smile.
"I understand." I headed towards the table and Alisha seemed relieved, as she grabbed her food and followed me to sit down. We sat in silence for a bit, just chewing on our food. I had suddenly realized something and leaned back in my seat. I wanted to blurt something out but my brain didn't process the action right away. I only could stare at Alisha in awe like a dummy. She noticed me looking at her and opened her mouth to ask what I was doing. At that moment, my neurons finally synapsed. "Does this mean that I can buy some Raptor gear?" I asked excitedly. Alisha laughed. It had been a while since I heard a real laugh out of her like that.
"Yes, that's exactly what it means."
After dinner, I was so tired but I needed to study for psychology more. My study session with Jamie was very helpful but I still needed to catch up on my reading and the topics. I got up to clean up my plate but Alisha stood up and grabbed my dish.
"Let me clean up." she said simply. I shook my head.
"I can't ask you to do that, Alisha. Besides, I still want to pay you back for dinner." Alisha smirked and waved me off.
"No. You're not doing that." Alisha began to wash the plates, drying them and putting them away afterwards. As the hot plates simmered in the cabinet, Alisha proceeded to put away the food in the refrigerator. I sat in the chair at the table because I didn't know what else to do. It was strange to watch Alisha act so domestic. I reached over to my bookbag and pulled out my psych books. I scrolled through my notebook and my textbook when I noticed Alisha standing over my shoulder. She calmly closed the book and pursed her lips. "Give the studying a break for once, Hermione Granger."
"Alishaaaaa!" I whined. "You'll understand soon enough. Once you're at PCC, you'll understand everything that I have to go to maintain my GPA." I soon felt Alisha's warm slender fingers massage my shoulders.
"Hey, no one's saying you can't maintain your GPA. I'm just saying you need to lighten up a little. Maybe I can help with that." I scoffed.
"I'm a chem major. No one can help me with that." I said, sarcasm dripping from my tone. Alisha bent her head around to look me in the eye.
"Never say never, sunshine. That whole 'pessimistic' vibe doesn't look good on you. Only I can carry that attitude." she said with a knowing smirk. I knew reasoning with Alisha was useless; she was a pretty stubborn girl. My brain couldn't help but emphasize the pretty as Alisha was MASSAGING me. I relaxed into the chair and let Alisha work her magic. Before I knew it, my psych books were stuffed away in my bag and we were lounging on the couch watching a movie. Alisha and I were sitting closely to each other, both staring intently at the screen. Every now and then, Alisha would make a funny comment about something that had happened but for the most part, we were quiet.
When the front door opened, the two of us nearly jumped apart. Winnie stood there in the door. She looked exhausted and she could barely carry her bookbag. She threw her bookbag lazily on the floor and stared at us. I gulped and hoped Winnie couldn't see the blush on my face.
"Portia's stupid chips are in my bookbag. I was going to sleep in the library but Deidre found me upstairs and kicked me out." Alisha stood up when Winnie looked like she was going to fall over. Alisha gripped the horse's shoulders firmly and frowned.
"You should get yourself to bed. Let's go." Alisha threw her one arm around Winnie and leaned the horse against her torso. Winnie acquiesced with Alisha's demand and hobbled alongside of her. Alisha spoke over her shoulder to me. "I'll be right back." Alisha was gone for a few minutes attending to Winnie. Technically nothing was stopping me from wandering upstairs and either helping out Alisha or going to bed myself. However, something told me to stay rooted in my spot on the couch. Alisha had finally come down the stairs about ten minutes later. I had glanced at the clock when she appeared. It was 12:30 in the morning. I stood up immediately.
"I completely lost track of time, Alisha. I should really be getting to bed. I have a bunch of classes in the morning. With midterms and all that--"
"It's not that late, but okay." She looked disappointed. Oh Gog I couldn't look her in the eyes when she seemed so sad.
"I'm sorry, Alisha, but I have class in the morning. You'll understand when you start class in the spring semester." Alisha still looked dismayed but her lip curled into a slight smile.
"It's fine. Go get some sleep." Face burning a strawberry red, I leapt across the room and hurried up the stairs. I was tempted to look back to see what Alisha's expression was; I didn't really need to though. I felt her green eyes staring into the back of my head.
I overslept and had to hurry out of the house. Somehow my alarm never went off and I had to quickly throw together a cream cheese bagel. By the time I was running out, Alisha was just wandering down the stairs. My first class was English. Whoooppeee what a way to start the morning. After that, I had chemistry, psychology, and biology. I barely made it into the Humanities building in time. Thankfully, the classroom was only down the hall a little bit. There were a few stragglers like me, sprinting through the corridors to get to their classes. No one followed me into my classroom. When I opened the door, I immediately saw my professor glance at the clock. I was grinding on seconds. The minute hand just moved the moment I plopped down at my desk.
Professor Long didn't appear happy. However, there was nothing she could do about it. I made it on time. My English professor was a human (PCC's faculty actually has a fair balance of animals and humans); she was quite skilled in her field. I remember Winnie stalking Professor Natalia Long on the department website. She had a PhD in English Literature and has even written her own book. I think it's called "The Stars Are Shining". Winnie told me she read it over the summer and that it was amazing. If I was into reading, I'd read it too.
But I'm not.
Professor Long brushed some red hair behind her ears and leaned forward. "Good morning, class. I hope you all are quite ready to tackle the day. I'll open up with a pleasurable topic. For the next three weeks, you all are going to be working on a major research paper. It's going to count for 25% of your grade." The whole class, including myself, groaned loudly. Professor Long smirked. "I know. I'm no fun, sorry." She scratched behind her ear and smirked. "I have confidence in all of you though. Moving on from that, let's review the reading this week. We were going over Don Quixote. Did everyone read the assigned chapters?"
A murmur of agreement whistled around the room. The professor nodded and turned towards the whiteboard. "Perfect. So you'll be able to understand this lecture without being too confused. Let's jump right into this. When Don Quixote attacks the windmills, we fully are able to see the complexities behind Don Quixote's delusions..."
I was relieved when Professor Long finally let us out of her class. Don't get me wrong, she's a good professor and all. However, English is not my forte. Reading is not something I enjoy in my spare time. Writing...well I wouldn't attempt that ever either. Professor Long gave us homework to read more assigned chapters and begin our research paper. I'm not going to say that I'm a procrastinator or anything like that. However, I'm no Winnie. The start of the research paper can wait a few days...or a week. Maybe more. Either way, I had to get to chemistry class. The commute from the Humanities building to the science center was not a fun one. However, it had to be done.
I rushed across campus to make it in time. Luckily for me and my athletic build, we were right on time. The older hamster was just settling by his desk and preparing some lecture slides. The first slide that came up involved entropy, enthalpy, and Gibbs free energy. Thermodynamics was never something I enjoyed. I wass more fascinated by chemicals but thermodynamics was an important factor in all chemical reactions. I had to remember this stuff. Professor Graham smiled up at us and waved his arms around enthusiastically.
"How are you all doing today?" I heard a scratch to my left. A frazzled Winnie staggered into the seat besides me, brushing some hair out of her face. I smirked and she sighed deeply at me, rolling her eyes and trying to control her panting. "Energy is the foundation of chemical reactions. You already know that the atom is the foundation of the molecule and the element is the foundation of the compound. Energy is just as equally important. Scientists have discovered three different terms to measure the type of energy, or in the case of entropy, lack of order, that is involved with chemical reactions: enthalpy, entropy, and Gibbs free energy. If you've done AP Chemistry or at least have taken a chemistry course in high school, you should be well familiar with these terms."
Professor Graham grabbed his laser pointer and pointed the red dot towards the screen. "Delta H is the symbol for enthalpy. Enthalpy is defined as the heat content released or absorbed in a chemical reaction. All reactions are different and can either absorb or release energy. If a reaction releases energy, we call it exothermic. If a reaction absorbs energy, we call it endothermic. Another way to think about this is if a reaction requires a lot of energy to proceed, more than your typical activation energy, it is endothermic because the reaction is taking all this energy in. Generally, we would say that the energy is a reactant in the broad chemical equation BECAUSE the reaction requires the absorption of energy to proceed." Professor Graham turned towards the mini-kitchen in the classroom and took a tray of ice cubes out of the freezer. "I have a mini experiment for us to do. I have some ice cubes here. Now, since I want to speed up the experiment, I'm going to be using hot water to pour over this ice." The professor set the tray down on the little counter. "Can everyone see what I'm doing?" There were some nods and murmurs in the class. "Good. Now, the hot water is obviously going to have more energy, correct? Why is that?"
Winnie's hand flew up in the air immediately. "Because it has more heat." she said firmly. Professor Graham nodded.
"Correct. When the heat of the hot water comes into contact with the ice cubes, the ice cubes will absorb the heat. Now ice is a solid of water. That means the ice is colder and more ordered. With solids, the molecules are very close together and barely move in a light back-and-forth motion. When the ice absorbs the heat, what do you think happens?" I raised my hand.
"The ice takes in the extra energy and the molecules will move more quickly." Professor Graham nodded and winked.
"Exactly. Our knowledge of states and matter tells us that when a solid gains energy and becomes warmer, it becomes a liquid. Does everyone understand?" Thankfully for me and Professor Graham, everyone understood. "Good! Now I'm going to commence the experiment. Watch carefully." Professor Graham extracted some ice cubes from the tray, pouring them into a strainer. The hamster turned on the sink and let the hot water flow for a few seconds. He then held the strainer underneath the hot water. The entire class watched as the ice cubes dissolved, turned into liquid, and filtered out of the strainer. Professor Graham stopped the experiment and slowly began to clean up the supplies. "Any questions about what just happened?"
Nobody said a word. Professor Graham nodded. "That's great. I'm assuming you all understand. The ice absorbed the energy from the hot water and became a liquid. This is an endothermic reaction. Why? Because solid ice needs to absorb energy, in this case heat from the hot water, to then melt into a liquid. With exothermic reactions, it would be the opposite where the reaction still requires its basic activation energy but the overall reaction releases a lot of energy. Typically with exothermic reactions, we say that energy is a PRODUCT of an exothermic reaction."
The lecture proceeded smoothly with Professor Graham covering the basics of entropy and Gibbs free energy. By the time the lecture was over, I was glad and of course, educated. The other people who weren't really strong in science probably were more confused than before they came in. Winnie included. When the lecture was over, Winnie closed her notebook and stared at me with wide eyes. I laughed and gathered my things in my bookbag. Winnie shook her head and bumped me on the shoulder.
"Eden, I barely got a thing of that lecture. I understood the Latin roots of the terms but I think that's it! What was even the equation to figure out Delta G?" she asked frantically. "I don't even remember writing it down. I'll write it down--tell me quickly!" I rolled my eyes.
"Winnie, seriously, get a hold of yourself. Maybe you should take a stroll down to either Professor Graham's office or Rizzo's office." I suggested. Rizzo was our TA for Professor Graham's class. He wasn't here often; he usually just filled in for when Professor Graham couldn't make it or had a scheduling conflict. Winnie shrugged.
"Maybe I'll take you up on that. But right now, tell me what the equation is before you forget! I'm going to write it down." I smirked.
"Delta G equals Delta H minus the temperature in Kelvins, abbrieviated as T, times Delta S." Winnie quickly scribbled the equation in her notebook and grinned. Yelling a thank you, she grabbed her backpack and scurried out of the room. Professor Graham called to me as I readied myself to leave the classroom. I walked over to him. "What's going on, Professor?" I asked. He had a strange look on his face and clicked his nails on the desk.
"I have some bad news, Eden." I gased inwardly, bracing myself for anything. "NORE, the agency from the capital that took the bacteria samples, has just contacted me and Professor Keaton. They told us to discontinue any research involving the bacteria and has commanded us to disband Opal's thesis." My eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets. Professor Graham gravely nodded. "I'm afraid so. It's out of our hands. NORE is demanding us to stop everything we have been doing. They told us that if we do not cooperate, they will pursue federal prosecution." Professor Graham shrugged. "Professor Keaton will be working to reassign Opal but as for you, it's my responsibility to relieve you of any further duty. I'm sorry, Eden." I nodded, barely able to swallow my own saliva.
"I understand, prof. It's fine." I pulled the bookbag closer to my clavicle. "When will you hear from NORE about the bacteria samples? Any time soon?" I asked. The hamster shook his head.
"I have no idea. No doubt, the capital will want to keep things hush hush until they come across something. Who knows when that will be?" The professor began to close his laptop. "I just wanted to let you know though so you wouldn't be left in the dark. I'll see you at the next lecture." he said, closing out the conversation. I smiled.
"Thanks, professor. I'll see you around!"
I made my way out of the classroom. My psychology class was directly after this one so I needed to hustle. Since my schedule makes so much sense, I had to rush back to the Humanities building. At PCC, psychology can be considered both a science and a humanity due to its complicated classification as a social science. If I was actually majoring in psychology or something on the neurology side, I would probably be able to stay in the science building since my class would be in there. Since my psychology class is more of a general course, Humanities building I go.
When I arrived at the psych class, I wasn't surprised to see Jamie standing at the front of the room. Professor Felicity is nice, don't get me wrong, but she's always very busy. She's one of those professors that is spread out thinly, leaving Jamie to take over. When we do get Professor Felicity, it's great, but for the most part, Jamie graces our presence. I took a seat alongside Nate, one of my closer neighbors. He was an English Lit major but he also was minoring in psychology. He hissed at me as I sat down and passed me a piece of paper.
I felt like I was back in high school again. I opened up the piece of paper and stared down at it with a confused expression.
"Hey Eden it's Opal. Sorry to pass this through Nate but it's an emergency. Meet me at my dorm--"
My head snapped back up at the sound of my name. Jamie was standing directly in front of me, leaning down and glaring at me. I gulped and crinkled the paper up in a ball, stuffing it in my pockets. I was used to seeing those blue eyes so happy and bubbly. They would normally ooze of glee and giddiness. I saw a stern coldness when I stared into those eyes now; I was so confused. I glanced down lightly to see how close she truly was to me. Her body was centimeters away from being on top of me as she leaned over menacingly. My thoughts were interrupted by a harsh clearing of the throat. My eyes shot up to look at hers.
"Did you hear what I said, Eden? Lecture is starting now. Put the note away...unless you want to read it out to the whole class." Ouch. Jamie was always so fun and tolerating. Right now, she's making Professor Genji look like Bill Nye the Science Guy. I shook my head, saying nothing and putting my hands on the desk.
"Sorry, Jamie." I said meekly. Her face didn't soften though.
"Alright, guys, so midterms are really close. We have two and a half weeks to be exact. If you guys haven't been studying already, you better get on it. You won't be able to get away with procrastinating this one. Professor Felicity and I are going to be really busy up to the midterms, so I don't think it's possible for us to have any small study sessions. However, the next two weeks, we will holding additional lectures that are strictly review, covering everything that will be on the midterm. This is on top of the normal schedule we have, which are going to cover things that will be on the finals. It's optional to attend these review lectures but they will be really helpful. Any questions?"
I raised my hand because I had a small question about the midterms regarding like the date and location and time. Jamie glanced around the classroom (I know she saw me!) and shrugged.
"Okay then, let's begin with some talk about obsessive compulsive disorders..."
I was aghast by her sudden cold treatment and had to endure sitting in the rest of the class with Jamie. She refused to look me in the eye and when she did interact with me, it was so awkward. She was very blunt and concise, always hurrying to move on from me and continue the lecture. Usually, it was fun to interact in class with Jamie and we'd sometimes go back and forth with each other depending on the topic. I didn't really understand the sudden change in attitude but it made things very complicated in class. I should really be interacting with Professor Felicity anyways but it always was just easier to talk to Jamie. Professor Felicity was always busy. However, now, if I have a question about anything, I guess I have to go through Professor Felicity.
When the lecture was over, Jamie lightly talked about when and where the review lectures would be. As soon as she finished, everyone took it as the cue to leave. Nate nudged my shoulder and mumbled for me to read the rest of the note. He would explain more but he had to run off to a Shakespeare elective class. I nodded and was ready to leave. However, Jamie's attitude towards me hurt. Maybe we weren't best friends but I thought we had grown a little closer after our study session. I wanted to confront her.
I strolled to the front of the class and leaned forward on the desk. "Hey Jamie. How have you been? I haven't really talked to you much since our study session." I asked with a light smile. Jamie glanced up at me as she put some books away.
"Good." Jamie looked around the room a little bit, like she was scanning for lingering students who could overhear us. "I would prefer to not really talk about that night if you don't mind." I raise my eyebrows and asked her what she meant. Jamie shook her head. "You're a smart girl, Eden. Now, I really don't want to discuss this right now."
"I don't understand what the big deal is, Jamie. Nothing happened." Jamie pursed her lips and brushed some blonde hair out of her face. She sighed and relaxed her shoulders a bit.
"Your girlfriend barged into my office and told me to stay away from you. I didn't even know you HAD a girlfriend!" I had no idea what Jamie was even talking about. Girlfriend????
"I don't have a girlfriend! Who came in your office? What did she say?"
Jamie sighed again in exasperation and stared at the ground. "Look, I think you're a nice girl and I enjoyed hanging out with you. But I'm not going to get degraded and name-called in my own office every time I interact with you. I know when to take a hint and stay away."
"But I don't even know what you're talking about! I'm single and can do whatever I want, including talking to you. I WANT to be friends with you, Jamie." I reached out to touch her hand but she shied away.
"Please, Eden. I don't want to rehash this right now. You have class, I'm sure. I'll see you next lecture." Taking the hint to leave, I sunk my shoulders and trudged out of the office. Who would do this to me? Winnie surely wouldn't pull such a stunt without running it by me or mentioning something. Only one person remained as the suspect in my brain.
I had so many things to juggle: My last class of the day: biology, some emergency with Opal, the situation with Jamie and Alisha. I was ready to scream or punch a brick wall. Or both. Thankfully, I had a half hour in between times so I rushed to Opal's dorm. It wasn't hard for me to ask around and figure out where she was. Opal was apparently a really popular person. As a biochemistry major, a pharmacy school applicant, an avid volunteer in the community, a sorority member, AND an honors student, Opal was well-known around campus.
I found myself outside PCC's honor dorms in minutes. Thanks to a bunch of people, I was able to pinpoint the exact room. The door was open and I saw Opal sitting on the bed, distraught. I knocked on the door and quickly entered the room. Opal jumped up and gave me a hug.
"What happened?" I asked. Opal wiped some tears from her cheeks and grimaced.
"Two NORE agents showed up at my dorm room. They demanded I hand over my notebooks from my thesis. I complied and asked them if there was any progress with the bacteria. They told me it was confidential information and that I wasn't allowed to know anything..." she trailed off. Opal buried her head in her hands. "They said I had no right to the research project anymore!" I rubbed her shoulder in a consoling manner.
"I'm so sorry, Opal. I know how meant the thesis meant to you." The elephant shook her head.
"What right do they have to strip me of my own project? It's not my fault that this happened." I nodded.
"WELLLLL they are the federal government." I said with a wink. Opal smirked a little at my humor but it didn't exactly break the ice. "I know what you mean though." Opal sighed.
"I tried to get more out of them but they said they would arrest me if I pressed more." She shook her head and bit her lip. "I know I can't just sit here and feel sorry for myself, but I'm literally at a loss of what to do. I don't want my grades to go down because of this. I got into the pharmacy school of dreams and I do NOT want to get rescinded." I nodded. I didn't blame her. Opal seemed like a very smart girl who worked hard to get where she is now. This crap with NORE and the bacteria she inadvertently discovered should not affect her success. By now, I knew that Opal didn't necessarily want me to say anything. She just needed someone to listen.
I was her girl for that. I let Opal talk on for a few more minutes and vent. And cry. Then, I regretfully told her I had to run back to the science center for a biology class. I promised I would text her and maybe even stop by her dorm later that night. Opal was forgiving. Luckily for me, the science center was next door to the honors dorms. My biology professor Klaus was a good teacher; I liked him. He was fun and unique but he never lost that sense of respect and decorum in the classroom. In these modules we were going over the body and the different organ systems. I'm pretty sure we weren't going to do any dissections until after midterms.
Entering the biology classroom, it looked like your typical science room. Posters of the human body, animals, and plants adorned the walls. A few life-size anatomical models stood in the corner. Professor Klaus was pulling one of the anatomical models towards the center of the room. The gray bear smiled at the class when he was done and pointed to the figure.
"As you can tell, we're jumping into the digestive system today. Or...can you not tell? I thought it might have been obvious with the alimentary canal going down like that. Well either way, we're doing the digestive system today. Keep in mind that the skeletal, muscular, nervous, respiratory, and circulatory systems will be on the midterm. On the last week-week and a half before midterms, normal lectures will be replaced with review sessions in this very room. So for reference, the digestive, endocrine, lymphatic, immune, excretory, and reproductive systems will be covered more in depth next semester and will be on the final. Any questions before we begin?" No one said anything besides inwardly freak out that midterms were coming up soon. Myself included.
"Perfect." The bear pointed at the model in front of him. "The digestive system is probably one of the most well-known systems in the human body. Even at a young age, people know what the esophagus, the intestines, and stomach are. Some people even understand the presence of the duodenum, colon, and salivary glands. You can't exactly say the same for other systems. If you walk up to someone on the streets, do you think they know what the superior vena cava is? Or what the function of the medulla oblongata is? How about the location of the adrenal glands? Now depending on who you ask, they might have an idea. But you're not going to have a large amount of people who know for sure." Professor Klaus looked around the room with a sly grin. "If you did, we would have a lot of more doctors, no?"
Some people in the class laughed with his joke. "Nevertheless, we look at the function of our digestive system. The main one we are going to focus on today is digestion, but there are multiple. It sounds simple enough. This system is responsible for breaking down our food. We need the energy from food to survive and perform basic functions in our body. Our body cannot just take in, say, a slice of pizza and immediately extract energy from it. We need something to break that pizza down into smaller bits and molecules so we can actually use it."
Professor Klaus began sketching some things, including a piece of pizza and a human body with an open mouth, on the chalkboard behind him. "We start in the mouth. This is the first step to eating. We put the food in our mouth. Now there are a bunch of components here: teeth, tongue, and salivary glands. The teeth break the food down by cutting it and grinding it. The salivary glands secretes saliva, which moistens the food and begins breaking own carbohydrates in the food. This makes sense. If you hold something on your tongue, you'll feel it eventually melt. It is sometimes slow but it does happen. Finally, the tongue helps push the food into the throat."
The whole time, Professor Klaus is drawing arrows and words and terms on the board. I was writing the notes down in my notebook but I really wasn't sweating it. I wouldn't need this information for quite a while. I didn't want to push necessary information out of my brain for something that won't be as relevant yet. Professor Klaus turned back towards the class. "These things all happen in a matter of seconds. We should be pretty familiar with this process. We call it chewing and swallowing. For those of you who are more into technical terms, degluition works too." The bear said with a smile.
A student alongside of me rose his hand. Professor Klaus noticed him and nodded. "Yes? Do you have a question?"
The human boy nodded. "Yeah, I was just curious. Do the taste buds play a huge role in digestion?" The bear pursed his lips.
"Good question. See the taste buds are more sensory receptors than accessory organs to the digestive system..." As Professor Klaus droned on about taste buds, I couldn't help but stare at this boy. He had a familiar vibe to him. He had jet black hair that ruffled like a fauxhawk towards his head. He wore a varsity sports jacket and dark jeans. Those green eyes. They seemed so warm and inviting. The boy caught me looking at him and I was forced to turn away. He saw me and I could sense he smirked; he must have thought I was checking him out! First, Jamie thinks Alisha (well probably Alisha but I'm pretty sure it was her) is my girlfriend, and now this random guy in my class saw me staring at him. I'm just having the greatest day ever.
I kept my face buried deep in my notebook for the rest of the class. I was relieved when Professor Klaus finally dismissed us. Everyone got up out of their chair and I managed to glimpse the back of the varsity jacket. In large white letters, I read the name "Kavanaugh." I gasped and hurried to get out of this chair. This was getting weirder and weirder and now, all the pieces were finally connecting in my head. I practically ran out of the classroom, catching up with the boy as he was entering the hallway. I reached out to grab his broad shoulder. He turned around at my touch and stare at me curiously.
"Hey!" I exclaimed. "Sorry for uh, staring back there. You really reminded me of someone I know. You looked a LOT like her. Um...what's your name? I'm Eden Caufield!" The boy narrowed his eyebrows in a strangely familiar way and smirked.
"It's fine. Nice to meet you, Eden. My name is Cassius Kavanaugh."
I nearly fainted on the spot.
It was a long day. I was finally almost home, in Central Avenue. I was forced to only text Opal because I was so riled up from the recent discoveries over the course of the day. I was half angry half upset. I was torn between ripping Alisha to pieces or breaking down in an alleyway and crying. She lied to me and I still have no idea who she is or what type of person she is. I mean sure, it could be a coincidence that there's some guy named Cassius Kavanaugh at PCC, but he looks JUST like her. It couldn't have been that coincidental.
Opal was better at least. I was messaging her and she seemed a lot better. She told me that she and some biochemistry friends were going out to the bar for a drink. It's moments like that that make it hard to remember she is a senior. She's graduating with her bachelor's degree and is going onto pharmacy school. Meanwhile, I am a drama-burdened frosh. I heard someone scream my name and looked up. Winnie was standing on the grass a few feet away from me.
"Hey, E!" The horse greeted. She galloped over to me and grinned. "It's been a long day, hasn't it?" she asked. I nodded, barely able to carry on a conversation. Winnie began to talk about her events of the day. What happened in class. What she did today. General stuff like that. After a few minutes of blabbing about herself, she turned to me. "What's up with you, Eden? You seem a little off. Is everything alright?"
Winnie was one of my best friends. If I couldn't tell her, who could I tell? But Gog, where do I start? I mean, she would find out anyways and I'd rather have her hear it from me than have it trickle down the grapevine. But either way, it's such an embarrassing thing to talk about. I couldn't hold it inside though. I shook my head. "I don't know, Winnie. Today was one of those weird days. A lot of messed up stuff happened and I'm so confused." Winnie stopped in her tracks and faced me.
"E, you know you can talk to me anytime, right? I'm your friend and your roommate. Whatever's going on, you can trust me." I held my head and sniffled. I ended up just blurting out everything, starting with Jamie and her sudden cold attitude towards me, my confrontation with her at the end of class, discovering Alisha yelled at Jamie in her office and claimed to be my girlfriend, and learning that there's a boy in my bio class who looks just like Alisha with the same last name. When I finally stopped spitting everything out, Winnie just stood there staring at me. I thought I had broken the horse for a moment. I reached out and touched her lightly.
"Winnie, you still with me?" The horse looked frozen for a few seconds. At my touch, she sprang to life and clenched her fists.
"I am going to kill that girl!" she growled firmly. I ran in front of Winnie and grabbed her shoulders.
"Please don't hurt Alisha! I'll talk to her and handle it, okay?" Winnie sighed, just staring at me with sad eyes. "Believe me, I really appreciate your support and wanting to help. If I need you to step in, I'll say so, but just stay out of this for now. I'm going to talk to Alisha tonight and I'm going to get answers from her, once and for all." Winnie nodded.
"Alright, I'll respect your privacy and stay up in my room when you talk to her . But Eden, I swear to Gog, if it gets out of hand, I'm running down there. Baseball bat and all." I rolled my eyes and nudged her shoulder playfully.
"Thank you, but the weapon won't be necessary." I said with a smile.
I didn't feel like I was telling the full truth though. I was only saying that to satisfy my brain. At this exact moment, I didn't care how attractive Alisha was. I didn't care how much she "seemed" to really care for me or anything like that. I was ready to grab the baseball bat myself.
When I walked in the house, I didn't know what to expect. I was still so emotionally riled up but I knew that I needed to keep myself under control. It was just nice to know that Winnie was behind me every step of the way. Literally. She was standing behind me as I walked in. Alisha was preparing a meal in the kitchen and in the middle of cooking dinner. She stepped away from the stove and smiled, greeting the two of us. Winnie ignored her, flatly grunting and shoving me lightly to remind me of what we spoke about. The horse trudged up the stairs with her belongings. Alisha furrowed her eyebrows and stared at Winnie's retreating figure.
"What's up with her?" she asked. I shook my head, brushing it off and sitting down at the table.
"It doesn't matter. I need to talk to you about something. Mind sitting down?" Alisha nodded, turning away from the kitchen and sitting across from me. I stared Alisha in the eyes. Gog, I didn't want to believe she was a liar. I really didn't. I wanted to believe that everything was good in the world and that she didn't storm into my TA's office and verbally assault her. But alas, the accusations and rumors lie. No pun intended. "I don't really know how to start this out because there's just so much weighing on my chest!" I exclaimed. "I'm going to just go right in with this...I was talking to my psych TA Jamie, you know the one you met the other day? She told me you stormed into her office and called her a bunch of names. It had to have been really awful, because she wouldn't even go into details with me! Is this true, Alisha? Did you do this?"
A short silence hung in the air as Alisha paused and looked down. I scoffed and nearly wanted to throw her out of the window. The pace of my breathing sped up and I worked hard to blink away tears. "I did." Alisha said raspily. "It was wrong of me. I can't make excuses for myself. I shouldn't have done it." I sighed deeply, pushing my body back in the chair. I couldn't get up; my muscles felt physically unable but I wanted to do anything to get away from her in this moment. My mouth could barely formulate the questions that were really pushing at the edge of my brain: how? And why? Thankfully, Alisha read my mind.
"I don't know what got into me. I guess it was my jealousy. The way Jamie looked at you, the way she was sitting on that couch, it just got me so angry. I marched myself down to that office the next day and gave Jamie a piece of my mind. I lied and told her you were my girlfriend because I didn't want her eyes all over you like that." I scoffed.
"Alisha, I'm my own person! There was nothing going on between me and Jamie, but even if there were, my relationships are none of your business!" I exclaimed angrily. "So what else did you say to her? She said you called her names." I stated firmly, determined to dig up more of the truth. Alisha sighed.
"I told her to stay away from you and to never speak to you while staring at you like a piece of meat. I said that if I caught her eyes on you, raking you over up and down, that I would make her regret it." I huffed impatiently.
"That doesn't answer my question. What names did you call her?" I asked testily. Alisha looked down with shame and pursed her lips.
"I said that if she defiled you with her eyes ever again, I would let the whole school know she was nothing but a homewrecking w--" I shot up out of my chair, knocking the chair out from underneath of me. Alisha stopped mid-sentence and jumped with a start. I looked at this girl with such an aghast expression; this girl--who I thought was so amazing--basically threatened my TA for something she wasn't even guilty of doing. Alisha winced. "Eden, I'm sorry! Please accept my apolo--"
"No, I won't!" I yelled, cutting her off. "What you did was despicable! You talked to my TA in such a disrespectful way, lying about your relationship with me. I don't care how jealous you were, nothing excuses you for what you did. I've tried to forgive you, but you've given me no choice. You threatened my TA!" Alisha said nothing. I sighed in exasperation, covering my face with my hands and pacing around the room. "Jamie probably hates me now and it's all because of you." Gog, that last part came out so bitterly. I didn't really mean for it to come out in such a harsh manner, but the point set in. Alisha's head fell and she was now staring at the floor. "I really liked Jamie AS A PERSON. I thought we could have developed a nice friendship but not now. Because of what you've done, she's definitely not my biggest fan right now."
We both heard a creak on the stairwell. Alisha and I turned around to see Winnie standing there. She didn't have the baseball bat in her hand but it was probably hidden behind the wall somewhere. The horse slowly descended the steps and glared at Alisha. Realizing she was outnumbered, Alisha slowly stood up and backed towards the wall. I glanced over at Winnie, holding up a hand for the horse to slow down her advance.
"You've constantly lied to me and it's making it really hard for me to trust you. I want to be on your side, Alisha. I really do. In such an annoying, confusing way, you drive me crazy yet you make me feel whole. I would love to get to know you more and work through this, but I can't. I've had enough of people who make promise after promise to improve and then have them and their promises fall through. I always have gotten my hopes up and then was forced to wallow in my disappointment when things never panned out. Your charm is irresistible and I am overwhelmingly attracted to...everything about you. You give me classic butterflies and I feel so happy around you, but I have to learn how to let people like you go." I sighed. "You may not realize it, but your flip-flopping and complete lack of change is mentally abusive. I can't deal with that in my life anymore." I turned away, walking towards Winnie and pointing towards the stairs. "Please get your things and leave now."
Alisha sighed, walking towards me and reaching out to grip my hand. For a brief second, I felt her warmth enclose my hand. It felt so cozy and inviting, but I quickly clenched my fist and pushed her away. Alisha was surprised by my resistance and simply stared at me. Winnie stepped in now and snarled at Alisha. "You heard what Eden said. Get your stuff and get out." Alisha frowned.
"Where am I supposed to go? I've been over this with Eden; I'm basically homeless." she said. I turned my face towards the wall. Winnie snorted.
"Why don't you go sleep on the floor of Cassius's dorm room?" I gulped as soon as Winnie said this and looked at Alisha's face. Her face paled and that revelation only made my stomach sink further. Winnie nodded and smirked. "Yeah, Eden and I know about your clone twin." Winnie pointed at Alisha. "Your little game you got going on here where you play the suave casanova is over." Alisha shut her eyes, blinking a few times in between and sighing.
"I can explain..." she trailed.
"You always have an explanation, don't you?" asked Winnie. "Now you heard Eden. Pack up and move out." A thick tension hung between us all. Alisha mumbled curses under her breath and stormed up the stairs. Winnie scowled and swiveled her head to face up the narrow stairwell. "Make it quick or I'm breaking out the baseball bat!" Within three minutes, Alisha had all her things packed up in some bags and was making her way out of the house. She didn't say a word to me and honestly, I don't think I would have been able to say a word back. As Alisha walked out the door, she stared back at me. Trying to connect with me. Trying to look into my eyes one last time and see if there was anything there. At the last second, I turned my head. I couldn't stand to watch the disappointment in her eyes as she left. I buried my head against the wall as Winnie closed the door behind Alisha. The door closed with a light push and Winnie locked it. She turned around to look at me, an expression of pity clearly descending on her face. "I'm sorry, E." she said softly. "We'll chow on some ice cream. I think I just bought some and hid it from Portia in my mini-fridge."
I was grateful for Winnie's support. She was a sane referee who helped me see through the confusion and the darkness. I knew that Alisha was unhealthy for me; she was irresistible, attractive, flirty...literally all of the above and more. But I couldn't let her poison my life anymore. I needed to move on but the depth of her lies and the mystery behind her still intrigue me. I do want to find out the truth about everything, from Cassius, the story Alisha told me, and Alisha's mother, to Alisha's mysterious washing-up on the beach. I wanted to uncover the fog behind it all, but it would have to wait another day.
For now, I chose to cry my eyes out while shoveling down chocolate ice cream.
Recovery took a few days. I missed the little things about Alisha. Simply the absence of her presence and her adorable nicknames made me want to break down. I needed to be stronger than this though. I was not going to just let her rule my brain and every little facet of my consciousness. Ironically enough, my lessons from psych could help me learn how to get over her. I certainly couldn't ask for any help from Jamie right now though. I had to wait it out a nice grace period and then apologize once I was in a more stable frame of mind. Winnie and Opal have been dolls through all this. Winnie's been there for me a lot and has become encouraging She tried to get me to go out, interact socially, and move on. When Winnie was in class, Opal took over. Opal was great when I just needed a break from Winnie's occasional overbearing attitude.
I took refuge in my classes and my work to get my mind off of Alisha. I have no idea what happened to her. Cassius would barely look at me in biology class which led me to believe he knew and that Alisha told him everything. I tried to ignore him but it was really hard since he was the male version of my former roommate. Meanwhile, Opal was being a good sport about the whole NORE thing. No one has talked to either her or our professors. It scared us because it made us wonder what we had really discovered. What dangers did the bacteria pose? Opal did some research online about NORE and found some horror stories from this "prepper/conspiracy theorist" forum website. She had hurriedly texted me one night, urging me to come over to her dorm. I had no idea what was wrong (I honestly expected another crying breakdown). I was quite surprised to find Opal glued to a laptop. When I came in, she practically shoved the computer at me and yelled at me to read the posts on this one thread.
One user claiming to be a junior from a nearby university said that his research with viruses was suddenly halted after NORE stepped in. He linked to a blog he created, highlighting his experiences with NORE in a journalistic fashion. Introducing himself as NORE_Narc, or as Opal and I called him: "Double N", he explained in full detail the story. It started when Double N believed there had to have been SOME way for viruses to degenerate and die more quickly. When Double N began his research, he was making considerable progress but nothing ground-breaking. Before he could even find out something, his professor had softly suggested that Double N consult someone from the capital and bring out someone who could assist or take this to the capital for further properly-funded and safe research. Before Double N knew it, in walked Dr. Grover from the National Organization of Research in Epidemiology.
"Or as I like to call them the National Organization of Research Erasure." Double N states bitterly.
Shocked, I turned to Opal. "What does this all mean?" I asked. "Research erasure?" Opal nudged me and waved her hand at the computer.
Double N went on to explain that NORE stepped in and confiscated all of his research, very similar to how Opal's research was taken away. Double N wasn't allowed to be involved with his research or know anything about it. Like us, he was suspicious and investigated the situation more. He soon encountered boatloads of evidence that NORE was a corrupt organization run by the government and pharmaceutical industry. It was regulated and enforced by various chemistry professors at universities. The goal? Ensuring that groundbreaking research towards curing or alleviating ailments such as the common cold, flu, cancer, or other types of viral and bacterial infections never occurs. I was shocked to discover, through the tons of newspaper articles and personal interviews and emails that Double N provided, that chemistry professors were even a part of this whole thing. Double N explains the whole thing in a part of one of his posts.
"The professors are the grunts of NORE. They do the dirty work and they're the ones who make the first tip off to the big boys in the capital. Think about it. Where does the research start? In college laboratories by young, naive students with dreams of helping the world and contributing to the future. In all of my interviews and research, the first step to letting NORE in the door starts with a single sentence. The structure of the sentence varies a bit but the gist is the same. "We have to notify the capital." From there, it's all downhill. Unfortunately, most idealistic, optimistic students and people would like to imagine that the professors involved with NORE are a minority. There should still be a strong amount of honest professors, NOT involved in preventing groundbreaking research, right? Wrong.
The odds of your chemistry professor being a member of NORE are 99 in 100. That 1 professor out of 100 is most likely to be on a NORE Blacklist where he is targeted at all angles by the government, drug industries, the school, other professors, etc. If he isn't a member of NORE now, he will be pressured so much that he will become one at the end of the year. I can't imagine the personal dangers and risks involved by former and current NORE members who chose to be whistleblowers and give me this type of information. I can only think that NORE eventually found out the rats and exterminated them. though."
I looked over from the computer and stared at Opal. "How do we even know this is real? We're on some shady forum website. This guy could be making all this up. I mean, to me, this sounds like the perfect type of antagonist in a fanfiction. And I'm not even a Creative Writing major." Opal rolled her eyes and pointed to the screen.
"Look at all these sources. Not only did Double N provide full transcripts of his interviews and real emails, he even provided video tape evidence (when he could) of the encounters." I sighed and stared at the screen.
"So even if this all is true, how does that help us? This NORE sounds dangerous. I don't want any of our lives getting risked by doing this. And you, Opal...your pharmacy school aspirations..." I trailed. Opal shook her head.
"I don't care about it anymore. If a pharmacy school wants to rescind me because I want to discover the truth and restore my research to the world, let them." I opened my mouth to protest but Opal cut me off. "When I was a little girl, I was so fascinated with science. I wanted to learn everything about the world and make changes. I decided to go into a STEM field because I wanted to affect the future. I wanted to be a pharmacist so I could help people and serve my community. I majored in biochemistry so I could pursue those dreams I had as a little girl. I've gotten this far and have learned so much...it would betray my character and it would betray that little girl if I just turned my back on this whole NORE thing. And why? Just so I could appease a pharmacy school? Nothing is worth compromising my ethics and my values. Ever."
Opal stood up and walked across the room, staring out the window. "I don't know how I'm going to find out answers but I'm going to do it." She turned around to face me. "Will you help me?" I paused for a moment but nodded immediately. Opal grinned. "Great! I'm going to do some more research into this whole thing. I'll see you around." I took that as my cue to leave. I could only groan in my brain as I left her dorm.
What did I just get myself into?
I haven't heard from or seen Alisha in a week. The silence was powerful but relieving. It was cathartic to have this new freedom. Between classes, hanging with Winnie, and learning about the NORE drama, I had other things on my mind. I had given Jamie loads of space but her treatment still was cold and stern. She would barely look at me and basically acted like I wasn't even there. I was determined to speak to her and apologize for everything but I didn't want to be too pushy. I was in one of the review psych lectures at the moment, going over midterm content and outlines.
Yes, midterms were very, very near.
It was a freak-out moment for sure. Jamie's melodious voice rang through the room as she talked about the development of infants through parental interaction. "Every adult has a different style of parenting. There's warm, cold, apathetic, permissive, authoritative...the type of parenting really determines how the child will be. One may think that a warm permissive parent is the best type of parent, but that's not always the case." I almost felt like zoning out. Almost. "Eden, could you possibly elaborate why?"
I looked up from staring at the desk and gazed forward. Jamie's clear blue eyes blinked at me expectedly. They didn't seem to have such a rough edge to them right now. I nodded curtly, clearing my throat and leaning forward. "A lot of kids probably think warm, permissive parents are the best, but I think they're not always the best because of the...eh..." I struggled finding the right words to say. "...situations and environment their styles can create. Very friendly, fun parents that don't establish a lot of boundaries become more friends than parents." Jamie nodded.
"Boundaries, yes. They are necessary. But why are they necessary?" I bit my lip.
"Well, parents setting boundaries is the first exposure we as people have to discipline and morality. Boundaries teach us right from wrong and instill values and respect." Jamie nodded again.
"Do you think boundaries are absolutely necessary or are parents permitted to be permissive?" I shrugged.
"Trust is an important aspect but some boundaries are necessary." I said. "I think good parents set reasonable boundaries for their kids. Parents cross the line into uber-strict when the boundaries are unreasonable." Jamie smiled and strode across the room to point at the slide on the whiteboard in front of us.
"There is a variety of parent types. You have warm and apathetic, warm and permissive, warm and authoritative, cold and apathetic, cold and permissive, and cold and authoritative. And the list can go on. When you think about what types of parents you have, you can determine how their parenting style affected you. If you can do that for yourself, you can determine it for other people as well. A lot of the times when psychologists have to analyze patients, they ask what the patients' childhood was like. 9 times out of 10, psychologists can figure out a lot of depth behind the why when they learn the parenting style."
Jamie clicked to another slide which talked about the consequences of certain types of parenting. "When you mix these attributes of parenting into a single type, it's sorta like a chemical compound. A new thing is created by the addition of these different, unique qualities. I do just want to point out for the record that apathetic and permissive are different types of parenting. Apathetic means indifference. If a parent is apathetic, it means they're detached, nonemotional, and mostly disinterested. Permissive means being tolerant and relaxed. If a parent is permissive, it means they don't set a whole lot of boundaries and allow their children to do pretty much anything." Jamie whipped out her laser pointer and waved it at the "Cold" category.
"Cold parenting is very similar to apathetic. The parent is non-emotional, isn't very involved, doesn't care much, and shows little to no love or affection. So you can imagine that cold-apathetic is like a double whammy. Products of cold-apathetic parenting can be commonly seen as emotionally withdrawn and forced to fend for themselves. Since there is no emotional connection or parental affection, a lot of children coming from cold-apathetic homes have to find their own way and many have higher chances of becoming juvenile delinquents. Without any type of guidance or support, they have to rely on others or fly solo. The lack of boundaries--because if a parent is apathetic, like permissive, it also means they don't set a lot of boundaries--can really make the children lost and confused." The clock abruptly struck the top of the hour, startling the entire classroom. Jamie jumped in shock and turned around to see what time it was.
"Okay, it's 2:00. We don't have any more time today. Thanks for coming out for the optional review lecture, everyone. I hope to see you at the next one...it'll be uhh not tomorrow, but the day after...Wednesday. We'll pick up where we left off at parenting styles and continue our way through adolescent development." All the students hurriedly grabbed their things and made their way out of the classroom. Jamie seemed in a good mood; I wanted to talk to her. I made my way towards the front of the classroom. I saw her shoulders stiffen but she turned from what she was doing and smiled lightly. "Hi, Eden. What can I do for you?" I glanced over my shoulder as one of the last students trudged out of the room.
"Hey, Jamie. Can I talk to you real quick? I've had a lot on my mind and I wanted to clear the air between us." Jamie rose her eyebrows and leaned against her desk.
"Sure. Why don't we go to my office? It's just down the hall and I'm sure it'd be more comfortable there." I nodded, following her into the hallway. As I trailed behind Jamie's tall figure to her office, I could understand why Alisha would be jealous. I don't know what would have been rushing through my brain if I had caught Jamie sitting on the couch with Alisha. Ugh that's not the point though. Alisha overreacted to the entire situation and had no right to take it forward like she did. Jamie stopped outside her office and gestured me into the office first. "Have a seat, Eden." I obeyed, sitting down in one of the comfortable chairs. "So what's up?" she asked.
I bit my lip. "Well, I was really bothered by what you told me happened between you and Alisha." I looked down, trying to find something to focus on OTHER than Jamie's blue eyes. I failed though. They drew me in. "I confronted her about it and she confessed to everything. I want to just tell you that I am SO sorry for her and her behavior. I know that my apology could never fully alleviate the situation but I hope you know that I don't condone anything Alisha did or said. I had no idea she even talked to you until you brought it up." Jamie's expression relaxed as she reclined in her seat and gazed at me. I cleared my throat and continued. "We got in a fight over it...well more like I got mad at her and told her to get out of my house." Jamie furrowed her eyebrows and sat up straighter.
"Eden, as much as I appreciate your apology, you didn't have to kick her out of your house for me." she said with concern. I waved her off.
"Don't blame yourself. We were having...other issues. We were building up to it." Jamie swallowed.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know." There was a slight silence before Jamie spoke up again. "Have you talked to her or heard from her?" I shook my head.
"No, and I don't know if she'll reach out to me. I was pretty mad that night and kinda harsh." I tightened my grip on the strap of my bookbag. "But yeah, didn't mean to ramble but I just wanted to let you know that I'm sorry and that I think Alisha's behavior was completely unacceptable. You're probably still mad but I hope you can forgive me at least. I don't want things to be awkward in class anymore." I attempted to stand up and leave, but a long arm and pale hand shot out to push my shoulder down. I landed in the chair with a soft thud. Jamie was grinning goofily at me.
"Eden, I have some things to get off my chest too. Relax. Take a deep breath." I took a deep breath, inhaling and exhaling slowly. Surprisingly, it felt good. "Hopefully, your parasympathetic nervous system is going to do its job now and calm you down." I blushed and she laughed, lightly brushing my hand. "Again, RELAX. Look, I know I was harsh when I talked to you but I didn't mean to be. I was still very wound up and upset from the whole ordeal. I'm sure you don't blame me. It doesn't excuse my attitude towards you but I just want you to understand where I was coming from. I've forgiven you because I know it's not your fault. Clearly Alisha dragged you into this because of something personal against me? I don't really know but it doesn't matter." Jamie sighed deeply and stared at me warmly. "I'd like to start over with you. Fresh, you know? Like Alisha never barged into my office. How does that sound?"
I slowly nodded and smiled. "That sounds great."
On top of midterms, I had to work on my research paper that was worth 25% of my grade. I didn't really know how Professor Long expected us to tackle such an endeavor, especially with midterms coming up. Luckily for me, I had a Creative Writing major as my roommate. Now I didn't do anything unethical or expect Winnie to write my paper for me. She just helped me out since English was never my strong suit. I was immensely grateful for Winnie's assistance and critique. I struggled with even picking out a topic that didn't seem overtly controversial but not Sally safe either. Thankfully, Professor Long didn't limit us to writing about literary/English topics. I probably wouldn't have succeeded with a subject like that anyways.
Winnie helped me come up with the best topic ever: the history of the use of cadavers in colleges. It sounds gory and morbid, I know. But coming from a chemistry major, it's relatively simple but interesting at the same time. Hopefully, Professor Long won't be too grossed out by it. Winnie warned me that if it gets too gross, she's resigning as editor and proofreader. If Winnie bailed, that eliminated Portia from the line too since she's the most squeamish girl I know. I think Opal would be up to the task though.
Speaking of Opal, she was still hot on the trail of NORE. She had already discovered NORE_Narc's real name--Drift Trotter--and found out he was a Microbiology major. Her progress was great but I hadn't seen her do much midterm study. I hoped her brain had similar characteristics to an organism in phylum Porifera, able to soak up knowledge and keep it holed up inside. I know she said pharmacy school wasn't her top priority at the moment, but I wasn't going to let the girl fail. We were currently sitting in the library. I was studying for all of my midterms, attempting to cram information into my miniscule brain. Meanwhile, she was obsessed with finding out everything she could about NORE. She consulted library books and the Internet. I wasn't sure what Opal expected to find in library books but hey, the girl was much smarter than me and clearly had a game plan.
I was poring through my textbook about the human body and Opal sat hunched over her laptop, quietly attempting to eat Pringles. The menacing glares shooting over at us from the librarian's desk and other students told us that Opal's attempts were futile. We sat in somewhat silence until I heard a muffled choke and a grunt emit from Opal's mouth. I sat up straighter and stared at her in confusion. Opal pointed to the computer screen wildly.
"What???" I asked dumbfoundedly. Opal rolled her eyes, swallowing her Pringles and pointing at the laptop.
"I came across more information! Not to mention that one of the students from Double N's university wrote me back on Facebook..." she trailed. Opal rapidly brought up her messages and showed me a chat she was having with a female mouse named Penelope. Opal gave me some backstory. "Penelope goes to Saint Dominic's across town. Through some stalking, I was able to trace her back and see that she also was a Microbiology major." I leaned forward and read the screen. First I saw Opal's message:
"Hi Penelope! My name is Opal and I'm a senior from Park City College. I was doing some research and I was wondering if you had any information about a Drift Trotter. He may have been in some of your classes or you might know him? Feel free to write me back or you can call me at this phone number. Maybe we can meet up if you don't feel comfortable talking over the phone."
Then I saw Penelope's:
"Hello Opal! I do know Drift Trotter. He was a good friend of mine. He doesn't currently go to our university anymore. He transferred out for some ambiguous reason but hopefully I can help you with any questions you have. Is now a good time to call?"
Opal's freshly sent message lingered at the bottom with a green, seen checkmark alongside of it.
Now is perfect!
The sound of Opal's ringing cell phone shattered the halls of the library. Students were severely staring at us and the librarian stood up, pointing towards the door. "You're going to have to take that conversation outside, Ms. Douglas." Opal blushed a deep red and hurried out of the door. She pointed to the first tab on her computer, urging me to read it while she rushed outside. I had wanted to overhear her conversation with Penelope but I guess I would have to hear the mouse's testimonial secondhand. I clicked off of Facebook and looked at the first tab Opal directed me to. It wasn't actually related to NORE_Narc. It was an old Yahoo article that mentioned NORE in light passing. I read it thoroughly.
Apparently, NORE had rustled up some feathers a few years ago when one scientist from the Park City Tech Lab was trying to prove that a plant-based diet can cure a variety of certain ailments. NORE disregarded the accuracy and reliability of the research and officially stated the odds of proving the hypothesis were scientifically improbable. NORE stepped in and shut down the research. Sound familiar? Yeah. One of the chapters, located in Park City, released this official statement to Yahoo.
"The National Organization of Research in Epidemiology [NORE] is dedicated to determining the factors behind diseases and ailments and determining a way to control their spread and onset. We realize that our goal is a difficult and challenging one but we are intent on pursuing it fully. The serious issue of these diseases weighs on our community every day and we are persistent in our goal to eventually eradicate these diseases. Public health is a delicate frame of our society's foundation that must be maintained and regulated thoroughly; NORE does its best to complete that objective. We are welcoming to any type of research that attempts to assist us in our goals and encourage scientists to share their ideas and hypotheses with us. However, we will not tolerate any type of research that can spread misinformation and yield inaccurate, unreliable results. Our action in shutting down Dr. Guthman's research is a rare one that we hope to never repeat; but we will not hesitate to immediately terminate any type of research that does not align with our goals, standards, or policies."
- Big K
I had no idea who Big K was and I had no clue how this even pertained to our research. I glanced towards the door hoping Opal would come back in soon to explain.
Opal came inside and hung over my shoulder, beaming like the sun. I had so many questions but clearly no room to speak. Opal sat down next to me, stuffing her cell phone in her pocket. She began to chatter away about her conversation with Penelope.
"She was really helpful! She told me that Double N confided in her a lot about the research and NORE." Opal insisted that when we were speaking to each other about NORE, we should still call Drift Double N. I didn't really see the necessity in it, but I understood where she was coming from. "Penelope said that Double N pursued his virus degeneration research and was very excited about it. Their virology professor suggested he consult the capital and before he knew it, the research was being taken over by NORE. We knew this already BUT Penelope provided that extra oomph our research needed." I stared blankly, waiting for Opal to get on with it. "Double N did some more research and told Penelope that he had evidence that his research and all his slides were sitting in a biohazard dumpster inside the building of the Park City chapter. So he planned to break into the chapter and get his research back and conduct it on his own at the Park City Tech Lab."
I narrowed my eyes. "What? Well...what happened next?" I asked in exasperation. Penelope shook her head.
"Allegedly, Penelope said she never heard from Double N again. She heard a rumor that he transferred out. Then she heard other rumors that Double N was dismissed from Saint Dominic's. She's not sure what happened." I nodded and pointed towards the Yahoo article asking me what this meant. Opal's smile only grew wider. "It validates that Penelope's testimonial is true. There IS a chapter of NORE in Park City and it could quite possibly be the location of my research." I bit my lip.
"Are you seriously going to try to follow in his footsteps and get your slides back? You see what can happen." Opal shook her head.
"No, I want to dig more before I try anything too risky. I have to figure out who Big K is. I need to do more research about things. Speaking of research...don't you have an important paper to work on?" I stared at my bookbag where my closed laptop sat. I sighed deeply and nodded silently. Opal got the hint. "I've been there, girl. You should work on it. Can't have my research partner getting on academic suspension because she flunked out of English. Why don't you get out of here so you can concentrate?" she asked with a smirk.
I stood up, flaring my hand out. "I really don't want to work on this paper but you give me no choice, boss." I saluted weakly and gathered my things. Saying my goodbye to Opal, I walked back towards my house. As I exited the library, I smacked straight into a rock-hard chest. Falling backwards, my bookbag tumbled out of my hands. I heard a loud crunch as my laptop probably took a major hit. Someone gasped above me but didn't say a word. I glanced up to see it was Cassius.
The boy looked like a carbon copy of Alisha. It wasn't even funny. He bit his lip, grimacing at me and shoving a hand my way to help me up. With a grunt, he grudgingly lifted me to my feet. I scowled at him, taking in his every feature. The first day I saw Cassius, he seemed like your normal student. Now, I couldn't help but look at him with disgust and hatred. He just reminded me SO MUCH of her.
"Take a picture. It'll last longer, babe." He said in a smooth voice. Gog, right down to the condescending nicknames. I leaned forward and poked him in the shoulder.
"You have no right to act jerky towards me. I certainly did nothing to you." A shrill hiss sounded from behind me. The librarian was standing up, pointing towards the exit for me to leave. I grabbed Cassius and dragged him outside the library into the crowded hallway of the campus center. The boy grunted in slight annoyance and huffed when I stopped moving.
"What's your deal?" he asked. "Can't you just leave me alone?" I shook my head.
"No. I want answers and you're the only person who can give them to me. What's your relation to Alisha? Are you her brother? Is she with you now? What is HER deal?" Cassius shoved himself away from me and pulled his satchel tighter on his shoulder.
"I don't have to tell you anything. If Alisha wanted you to know those things, she would have told you." Before I could grab Cassius again or say anything else, he was already halfway down the hallway. I groaned and headed home. I couldn't help but send a text out to Portia. She was busy enough with her own thing but she never hesitated to help me when I needed it.
"I need your help. Can you research something for me?" My phone dinged seconds later.
"Gracie's not making me run to Brewster's at this moment, so sure. What do you need?" I quickly typed back.
"I need you to research Cassius Kavanaugh and Alisha Kavanaugh. Tell me anything you find about them. Send any relevant links to my email. Most important, tell me if they are related!!!" There wasn't a reply for a few minutes so I figured Portia got the message and had moved on from the conversation. I was proved wrong when she wrote me back.
"...isn't that the girl who lived with you? I am so confused right now."
I rolled my eyes and sent Portia a quick message.
"OK I'm asking you to look up something not get your nose into my affairs. Plz and ty."
I didn't get any reply this time so I knew Portia either was asked to do something at GracieGrace or she was finally helping me. I assumed the latter. Gathering all my things AGAIN, I made my way home. It didn't take long for me to walk home. Luckily for me, I encountered no one else on my journey home and Winnie wasn't at the house. That left me full run to concentrate on my very important research paper. The paper that counted for 25% of my English grade.
Or it gave me full run to do some research myself. I opened my laptop and resisted the urge to wander on the Internet. I had my sources and I had my Word document opened. Just when I needed to focus on things the most, my brain was shutting down and I wanted to do anything EXCEPT what I needed to do. Why do these things happen to me? I couldn't let this happen. I needed to GET IT TOGETHER. I leaned over my laptop and started typing. I already got some research out of the way so once I got in the mode, I was able to get the first two paragraphs or so out of the way.
I hadn't even realized two hours passed when the door opened. Winnie stepped in, looking exhausted. She chucked her bag on the floor and smirked. "I need to get out my camera. Eden Caufield is working on her term paper. It's a miracle." I picked up my empty water bottle and threw it at her. Winnie laughed as the plastic bottle ricocheted off her arm and landed on the couch. "Portia texted me about dinner. She's going to be late so she said not to wait up on her." I nodded and checked my phone real quick. Portia's group text sat unopened in my inbox.
"That's cool. What do you want to do?" Winnie shrugged.
"I'm in a pizza mood. It's the easiest anyways, especially since you're working over here." she added with a wink. I saved my document and closed the window.
"I'm done for now. My brain has had enough." Winnie asked me what I wanted on my pizza and soon jumped on the phone with the local pizzeria. Meanwhile, I finally jumped to research that Portia probably didn't get to: research about Alisha and Cassius. This was going to be exciting. I never really researched people before but I had an idea about where to start. A simple Google search was the best bet. Only bad part was that neither Cassius nor Alisha showed up really. Alisha had nothing and Cassius only had a Facebook. Cassius didn't post anything exciting besides some pictures of him with friends or his fraternity.
I was almost ready to give up until I dug back further in his photo albums. It was a picture taken a few days before I "rescued" Alisha on the beach. Alisha was dressed in a white tank top, black jeans, combat boots, and a black leather jacket. Cassius was similarly dressed minus the leather jacket; instead he had aviator sunglasses pushed on top of his head. The caption read "Siblings to the grave -- ride till we die -- Big K all the way." I nearly clicked past it in a bored frenzy. That's when I saw so many leads all click at one time. I stared at the comments; there were none. But there WERE tons of likes. I clicked on the link to see who liked the picture. Two names that lingered in the list made me fall out of my chair and get some strange stares from Winnie: Graham Prock and Keaton Fleming.
Opal sat in front of me, eating a piece of pepperoni pizza. I called her over to the house as soon as I saw the picture. Winnie didn't really understand the situation but instead was sitting on the couch, browsing through Tumblr. Opal narrowed her eyes and stared at the screen intently. She didn't say a word but continued to munch on her slice. It made sense and it didn't make sense all at the same time. As my brain spiralled into confusion, Opal suddenly spoke up.
"I don't get it." She squinted. "Who's Big K? The both of them? Maybe the two of them run the whole thing like a gang or something. What do you think?" I shrugged and took another bite out of my pizza.
"No clue. Alisha couldn't have been running NORE. I lived with her for weeks. She was always around. I never noticed times where she was talking to someone or distracted." Opal suggested that Cassius could have run NORE while Alisha was living with me. I couldn't think of that. Alisha already had betrayed me and lied to me so much; I couldn't imagine that she was hiding something that hefty from me. I shook my head. "That couldn't have been it..." I trailed. Opal finished her crust and licked her lips.
"I have to find out more. The only way I'm going to discover anything is if I go straight to the grunts." Opal stood up and I stared at her in confusion. Before I could ask what was going on, Opal turned on her heel to face me. "I have a friend in the computer science department that owes me a favor. I'm going to ask him to hack into Professor Graham's and Professor Keaton's computers." My eyes nearly dropped out of their sockets and bounced on the floor.
"Opal, you can't do that! Imagine everything you will risk! It's dangerous and you'll get caught." Opal pursed her lips, blinking lightly and shaking her head.
"I have to. I have to get to the bottom of this." She swallowed nervously and grinned. "Don't worry. I won't ask you to do anything that I wouldn't do. I'm willing to take the blame for all of it; you barely have to lift a finger." I narrowed my eyes and Opal leaned against the table. "I have a plan and it's going to reveal everything." I sighed and looked towards the wall.
"A-and what if it doesn't?" I asked shakily. I couldn't look Opal in the eye. I didn't want her to see my strength slipping. I needed to stay strong for her and this cause. A silence hung in the air for a few moments until Opal broke the silence.
"I don't know, Eden."
Midterms were tomorrow.
Quite some time had passed since I talked to Opal. Last time she spoke, she told me she was getting a guy from the CS department to help her break into Professor Graham's and Professor Keaton's computers and offices. I never told Opal I was opposed to what she was doing; I was afraid it would hurt her feelings. The poor girl was so emotionally invested and fragile from the whole ordeal that I didn't want to contribute any cripples. Meanwhile, the past few days, I've attended review sessions in all of my classes and I studied like crazy. I knew I was ready but I still was freaking out on the inside. I was a freshman in college. This was my first exposure to college level academics and tests. It definitely didn't give me a calm feeling.
I was sitting in psych class while Jamie was going over the details of midterms. When it was. Where we would be going. Apparently we would be sitting in one of the larger lecture halls on campus: the auditorium. Jamie suddenly clapped her hands, the snap ringing across the classroom.
"Alright then, guys. That's all I have to say. I wish you all the best of luck. You'll be fine. You've studied the material thoroughly and are getting good grades in the class already. Get a good night's sleep tonight, don't overstress trying to crash course, and eat breakfast in the morning." The bell rang, dismissing everyone. Chairs pushed out as people began to leave. Jamie noticed me in the back and reached her hand out. "Eden, do you mind staying back for a moment?" she asked. I nodded. As soon as everyone left, I made my way to the front of the classroom. Jamie reached her hand out to rest it on my shoulder and pursed her lips in concern. "Are you okay? You seem different today. If it's because of the midterms tomorrow, I wouldn't stress about it..." she trailed. I shook my head.
"Thank you for being concerned, Jamie. It's not the midterms. I have other things on my mind." Jamie nodded.
"I understand it's none of my business, Eden, but if you would like someone to talk to, just know that I'm here." I smiled even though I didn't feel happy on the inside. There was no way I could talk to Jamie about what I was ACTUALLY thinking. I was afraid Opal would get caught. I was terrified she would get expelled like Double N was or rescinded from pharmacy school. I didn't even want to think about the possibility of any involvement being traced back to me.
"Thanks, Jamie. I appreciate you extending the gesture. Once midterms are over, I'll be less on edge." I pulled my bookbag higher on my shoulder, staring towards the door. I moved a little, silently expressing I wanted to leave. Apparently, Jamie wasn't done with me though.
"Do you have any plans for tomorrow? After midterms, maybe I could take you out to dinner somewhere close by. There's a great bar and lounge on Central Avenue." she suggested. I felt a blush creep on my cheeks but I don't really know why. Jamie is just being nice and acting friendly. I nodded.
"Sure, that sounds fun. I could definitely use something to help me relax." Jamie nodded.
"Great. Meet me at the quad at 5:45. I'll see you tomorrow at midterms. Good luck!" Jamie waved, turning to file her papers. I took that as my cue to leave. For some reason, my face glowed a dull pink. I walked towards the science center. Professor Graham was having his final review session before midterms. I stepped in the building but things were drastically different. Professor Keaton and Professor Graham were standing in the lobby talking to two police officers. Other police officers had the hallway blocked off with yellow tape. They were walking up and down the corridor rapidly. I walked forward and tapped Professor Graham on the shoulder, asking him what's going on. He pulled me away from the crowd and pouted.
"Class will be canceled today, Eden. Apologies for not reaching out to everyone sooner. Professor Keaton and I discovered someone had broken into our offices and tampered with our computers. We've called the authorities and are actively pursuing whoever is responsible." My heart dropped into my stomach. I just hoped I didn't let it show on my face. Professor Graham didn't seem to notice. He kept talking. "We have the best people and faculty from the computer science department investigating to see if there was any damage." I couldn't help but remember Opal mentioning that a CS major was helping her. But was he really on her side? I swallowed, not really knowing what to say.
Before I could walk away, an olive-green hippo walked up to Professor Graham with a grim look on his face. "Professor Graham, I'm Harry from the CS department. Remember we talked over the phone?" he asked nervously. The hamster nodded and shook Harry's hand. Upon recognizing the hippo formally, Harry proceeded to speak. "I hate to interrupt your conversation with this young lady but Professor Sheldon and I discovered some unsettling evidence in both your and Professor Keaton's offices. I need you to come with us." Oh Gog. The hamster lowered his head and turned his head.
"Sorry, Eden. I'll see you tomorrow at midterms. Good luck on all of your tests." As quickly as Professor Graham pulled me aside, he was gone, hurrying down the hallway behind Professor Keaton and Harry. I only shook my head in disbelief.
What did Opal do?
An emergency text soon arrived on my phone. The entire science center was being shut down. That meant all the classes there were canceled as well. It also meant that my last biology review session of this semester was canceled. I was pretty revealed to discover that though; all of my classes' review sessions were over so I had time to do other things with my day. Any normal student would take this time to crash course, prep for the midterms, and be calm. That sounded like the reasonable night-before routine anyways. But do you think that's what I did?
Nope, not me.
I conform to no man. Instead of doing something relaxing with my night, I was running to Opal's dorm trying to figure out what the HECK was going on. As I ascended the stairs towards her floor, I noticed there was no one around. That was unusual because normally, there would be other girls talking or wandering the halls. The floor was dead. I didn't even attempt to knock on Opal's door. I burst into the room seeing Opal sitting on her bed. She was staring at her phone and stood up abruptly when she saw me.
"Eden! I was just about to message you. What are you doing here?" she asked. I pouted at her sadly.
"They discovered that Professor Keaton's and Professor Graham's offices were broken into. They know the computers were compromised." I didn't see an inch of emotion budge its way onto Opal's face. I nervously stepped backwards and scanned the hallways. It didn't SEEM like anyone was around. So that meant no one would hear us, right? I scurried back in the room and whispered to Opal. "I don't know what you did and if you even found out anything, but I'm scared FOR you." I hissed. Opal nodded.
"I was just going to text you and ask you to meet me somewhere. I found out a lot and we need to talk about it, but we can't talk here. We need to go somewhere off campus, where no other PCC students hang out." I nodded and asked where we could go. Opal shrugged. "I'm not sure. What I do know is that we have to stay normal. I have a microbiology class in fifteen minutes. If I play hooky with you at some offhand place in Park City, eyebrows will be raised." Opal looked around warily. "I'll text you with a place to meet when class is over. For now, just lay low and...relax." Opal said with a smile. "You have midterms tomorrow and you need to do well. I can't have you failing because you're stressed out over trouble I got myself into." The elephant said with a broad grin.
I lightly punched the older girl in the shoulder. "I'm glad you can be so jovial about all this." Opal laughed and I made my way towards the exit. I stood in the doorway and looked at Opal with worry. She smiled at me and told me everything would be okay. I sighed and smirked. "I'll talk to you later. Stay safe, Opal." She saluted me mockingly and giggled.
"Will do, commander."
I left the dorm room and made my way back to my house. It took me a bit to get back to my house across Central Avenue but I still arrived at the house in a leisurely manner. My phone dinged just as I walked in the door. I stopped to read it quickly. It was from Portia.
"I know it's been a while since you asked me to find out some things about Alisha and that boy Cassius. I sent as much as I could to your email. I talk more about it explaining things in there. It's too detailed to get into this text. Normally, I would ask for some apple chips as payment but you're a friend. Friends don't attempt to swindle friends. Talk to you later! Love, Portia. xxxxx"
I jumped on my laptop and rushed to check my email. Sure enough, an email from Portia was there. I didn't expect it to be as large as it was. There were huge blocks of text and numerous links. I groaned inwardly, dreading reading all of this information. But I had to do it. I had to discover the truth, or at least what was 98% the truth. Because you know, don't believe EVERYTHING you read on the internet.
"I did a lot of research and found out a ton of things. Forgive the large blocks ahead of time but trust me, the innards are juicy! I listed all of the relevant links after the respective paragraph. I don't know if you would appreciate that, but that's just the format I'm used to because of Gracie. Sorry, you're going to have to deal with it. So the first thing I looked up was Alisha's name and Cassius's name. Immediately, I discovered the two were related. Through multiple links, I found out that they are siblings. Alisha is the older sibling and Cassius is the younger sibling. I believe Alisha is 20 and Cassius is 18. I'm not really sure because I was given a vague range but some of the sources I came across seemed to confirm those ages. They are from an area, several miles outside of Park City, called Hyde View. It's a ritzy suburb of Park City with very expensive homes and prestigious K-12 schools. Believe me, I came across some rankings but those probably aren't important right now. I linked them anyways!
It wasn't hard to find Cassius's social media pages. His Facebook had stupid guy stuff just about him partying, hanging out with friends and whatnot. His Instagram just had pictures he posted on Facebook and a couple selfies. Irrelevant, but he has a really nice body. The boy works on his abs and glutes, fo sho! Nevertheless, he just seems like your self-absorbed frat boy that is probably illegally consuming alcohol. He has no pictures to confirm (he's smart in that aspect, I guess) but if I did see something, you know I would be obligated to report it. After some deep intense searching, I found Alisha's Facebook. It's not as conventional or narcissistic as Cassius's. Her Facebook is much more mysterious and mature. There's definitely a lot of...ergh...images with her and other girls. I don't honestly know if you and she ever had a thing--I know it's none of my business! But you probably would get really red and/or jealous if you saw the pictures I did. Y'know, like how Winnie tells me your face turned into a strawberry every time she took a breath in the room.
I'm messing with you. But seriously, she must have had a girlfriend or something. She wouldn't have just taken these pictures with little flings. There were also a lot of confusing quotes and stuff. Nothing too interesting or whatever. After crossing personal boundaries with Cassius and Alisha, I tried to find out things about their parents. Apparently, their dad was an ex-Marine and developed PTSD after being deployed. When he came back, he was severely depressed and ended up not being able to handle things anymore. Their mother Rosalind has some really good government job. She's the head of this agency called the National Organization of Research in Epidemiology. Or NORE for short."
My heart stopped right there.
I guess it did make sense. Big K...but why would the mother be the head of it? My head was spinning so much. The ONLY thing that Alisha didn't lie to me about was that her father was an ex-Marine. I did feel awful about what happened; no child or family should have to go through that. That doesn't excuse the nastiness behind either Cassius or Alisha. Or Big K for that matter. I was just curious about how the heck Portia was able to find all this out. I'm sure Opal researched for hours and still wasn't able to crack the Big K mystery with NORE. I give Portia serious kudos for being able to figure it out. I'll go to the farmer's market and pick her up some apple chips. Gog knows she deserves a bag or two.
I ended up just staring at the screen in disbelief and reading the links over. I was so distracted by delving into the breadth of Portia's research when I heard my phone ding. I stared at in confusion but soon realized it was Opal. Her microbiology class must have been over. I quickly read her text to see where we would meet. Hopefully no one would have traced anything back to the green elephant already. I prayed that Opal's mole in the CS department didn't rat her out in fear or anything like that.
"Hey meet me at the Parthenon Diner in Park City. Here's the address. Sorry it's in kind of a greasy area." I read the address and it was in a gross part of the city. It was definitely a part of town that no PCC student would stray, whether they were alone or not. I was forced to go there however. Well, not really forced, but I didn't have too much choice in the matter. I needed to meet Opal there. I got my stuff together and made sure my cell phone was charged. I was not going to get stuck in some weird situation like last time where Alisha had to heroically swoop in and save me. Alisha wouldn't be there for me this time. As I was ready to walk out the door, Winnie came in the house. She raised her eyebrows at me as I slipped on a light jacket.
"Where are you headed?" I shrugged nonchalantly.
"Just meeting some friends in Park City. Don't wait up for me or anything." Winnie nodded.
"Okay. Don't forget we have midterms tomorrow. I really don't advise stumbling in two minutes before with disheveled hair and a spinning head." I pouted playfully.
"You really think I would do that? I thought you knew me by now." I said, tossing my hair over my shoulder. I made sure to exaggerate it and laugh. Winnie waved me off and I left for the diner. I made sure to stay on lit paths and not walk by shady characters on sidewalks. Plus I avoided alleys. Glad to demonstrate that I learned a bit about street safety since the last incident.
As my phone navigation directed me, I soon saw the Parthenon Diner creep into view. It was one of those traditional diners with a Greek vibe. The exterior was decorated with white columns and leafy green plants. There was no siding; instead there was mirrored glass. It gave the diner that modernistic touch. I ascended the brick steps of the diner and entered the tiled atrium. Pushing open the glass door, I was greeted by the warm scent of coffee and baked pastries. The hostess smiled at me and asked me if it was just one in my party. I hesitated and looked around the small diner; Opal was nowhere to be found. I was sure she had to have been just out of sight; her head was like hiding under a booth headrest or something.
"Um, I'm meeting a girl named Opal. She may have gotten here before me and said she was waiting for me..." I trailed. I saw a sparkle glint in the woman's eye and she nodded.
"Yes, someone came in here by the name of Opal. Are you Eden?" I nodded. The hostess grabbed a menu and gestured for me to follow her. As we walked down the narrow corridor, the hostess spoke over her shoulder to speak to me. "Opal is very pretty. I understand why her mother named her that." Right, her green elephant skin. Kinda obvious, lady. "I mean, those green eyes are enough to stop time." My brain paused for a moment. Did Opal have green eyes? I couldn't honestly remember. As I was trying to picture Opal in my head and discern if she had green eyes, the hostess suddenly stopped and pointed towards the booth to my right. "Here you are." My sight shot over to the person sitting in the booth with a snarky grin on their face.
Before I could open my mouth to protest, Alisha grabbed my hand and pulled me into the seat. The hostess plopped the menu in front of me and sauntered away. My jaw dropped in shock and I glared at Alisha. "Cupcake, I never thought I would see your pretty face again." I yanked my arm out of her grip and exhaled sharply.
"Where is Opal? What kind of game is this?" Alisha didn't answer and sipped her coffee with a smirk. "I can't believe you. You tricked me into coming here!"
"I wouldn't call it tricking, sweetheart. It's more like just contacting you under a different name." I groaned in frustration and clenched my fists.
"I found out all your secrets! I know Cassius is your brother. I know your mom is Big K and runs NORE." I listed off. "I just don't understand why you had to lie to me. I asked you to be honest with me about your backstory. You told me your mother abandoned you and that you had to run away from your father. Your father..." Alisha furrowed her eyebrows and scowled.
"I don't want to talk about that coward. That's irrelevant to this entire conversation. Cass was telling me that you bugged him about my backstory. He practically pulled my teeth to get me to bring you out here. Although I was never averse to seeing your beautiful face." I scoffed and shook my head. She was unbelievable. "Besides, I couldn't tell you the whole story right away. it would have ruined everything. You're right though. I don't know how you found all that though. I have Cass working on that as we speak. My mom does run NORE, and my brother and I enforce it here at PCC. The chemistry faculty are all in the palms of our hands. My sole mission was to control Opal's research and her lackey." I didn't know what she meant by lackey. I stared at Alisha blankly and she rolled her eyes. "YOU, nimrod." Oh, that makes sense.
"How did you know that I was going to be chosen to help Opal with her thesis?" I asked. Alisha bit her lip.
"I just said that the entire chemistry faculty at PCC answers to me and Cass. Professor Keaton and Professor Graham chose you out of all people and passed on the info to me." She raised her eyebrows suggestively. "Aren't I lucky?" I threw an unopened packet of sugar at Alisha. It bounced off her jaw and fell into her lap. She chuckled heartily and sneered. "See, when you do things like that, it doesn't make me less attracted to you. I'm used to girls fawning all over me. I like a challenge." I shook my head.
"Where's Opal?" I asked again with more firmness in my voice. Alisha sighed loudly.
"If you must know, Cassius easily found out that she was the one who directed the break-in into the professors' offices. I mean, she can put on all black and wear some gloves, but we have the highest intelligence. We have our own rats, moles and narcs." My face paled. Alisha nodded. "Yeah, that kid from the CS department...uh Harry was his name? He ended up squealing to us. They all do when the big guns roll out. Or should I say Big K." Alisha said raising her eyebrows. I felt like I had been hit in the stomach by a giant boulder. "Opal is in our custody at the moment. Don't worry, we won't kill her or anything like that. We have our own methods to erase research." I stood up, nearly knocking the table over and lunged at Alisha. I grabbed her shirt and screamed at her. I didn't care who was looking or listening.
"What are you guys going to do to her? Where do you have her? Tell me now!" Alisha suggestively stared at where my hands were and shrugged.
"That's confidential information, sunshine. Now, I'm glad we had this little meeting. I have to cut this short." She easily pulled my fingers off of her shirt and began to slide out of the booth. "We shall meet again. I'm sure of that. Before I go though, let me just leave something so we both can remember this encounter." Alisha suddenly grabbed my face and pulled me in for a kiss. I tried to resist but her hand rested on the back of my head, pushing me into her lips. They felt so soft and I almost forgot who I was kissing. Thankfully my brain kicked into gear after a few seconds and attempted to push away. Alisha let go of me abruptly and smiled. "Until next time, babe."
Just like that, Alisha was gone. I held my head in my hands and groaned loudly. I can't believe what just happened.
I got home without any incident. I just replayed the kiss over and over in my head. Just when I thought I had gotten over Alisha, she slammed into me like a Mack truck. Almost quite literally too. I had midterms tomorrow! I couldn't worry about this stress or deal with this hormonal crap right now. I needed to focus right now but all I could do is think about Alisha. She was disgusting, evil, rude, and pushy. But she was also extremely attractive. UGH I know she's not good for me or anything like that, but this in-and-out involvement in my life and intentional mind games are seriously messing with me. I can't deal with this right now. I was really worried about Opal but I remember what she told me the last time I saw her.
"I can't have you failing because you're stressed out over trouble I got myself into."
I can't let this get to me. I needed to do well on my midterms; I know that would be what Opal would want anyways. She's a great friend and would put herself before anybody. She wouldn't want me to worry. I trudged in the house and Winnie stared at me from her spot on the couch. "Hey, E. How was the diner?" I smiled. I couldn't worry Winnie with my problems. I had the whole rest of the semester to do that. Once midterms were over, I could cry all my worries to Winnie. For now though, I had to pretend everything was okay.
"Good. I'm tired. I'm going to head up to bed. I'll see you in the morning." Winnie nodded.
"Okay, cool. I should get going soon too. Netflix will end up wrapping me in until like 4AM. I can't be doing that tonight." She began to put away the empty chip bag and blankets. I walked upstairs and entered my bedroom. As I slipped into my pajamas and readied myself for bed, I waved a 'goodnight' to Winnie and shut the door. When I collapsed into my bed, lying my head on my pillow, I felt all the worries of the world sink away. Temporarily anyways. I needed to relax and let go.
I had a long day tomorrow.