Chapter 1: College Experience
“Now, sweetheart, don't be getting yourself into any trouble, okay?"
I roll my eyes at my mother's warning of concern for my safety. She has been like this since I was a little girl. Growing up in the rural area of the mountains in Utah, all I have ever known is danger. Dangerous weather, dangerous wildlife, and dangerous terrain are the examples that come to mind. So, it's ironic that she would be warning me to stay out of trouble while attending college in Los Angeles.
“I'll be fine, Mom, I promise," I give her a reassuring smile, “It's my first day of college. How could I possibly get into trouble?"
“You never know," My dad interjects as he looks up at the front of my dormitory where I'll be spending the next year living. “There are a lot more dangers lurking around than you may think."
As I look between both of my parents – my mother's face full of concern and worry as she watches me intently, her orange hair a wild mess on top of her head, and my father's furrowed brows as he inspects a building that has been here for years as if he's expecting it to collapse any time shortly – I realize that this is the first time I've seen them act overprotecting toward me. It could be because of the new environment or because I've finally left the nest after nineteen years.
“I know how to look after myself," I say with a smile on my face in the hopes it'll calm their racing minds. “You both taught me how to do that."
“And it better pay off," Dad says as he walks toward us, “I didn't teach my little girl survival skills for nothing."
“Well, I'm not sure I'm going to need survival skills to fend off wildlife while I'm walking to and from class in a major city, but I'll keep it in the back of my mind."
“I just can't believe my little girl is finally grown up," Mom weeps as she rests both of her hands on my shoulder, trying to hold the tears brimming at bay. “Although I knew this day would come, I didn't think it would be so hard to let you go."
Although I appreciate my parent's sentiment about me finally becoming an adult, I'm starting to notice a few students' eyes on me as they pass by and into the building. I love my parents so much, but I don't want the people I'll be living with to see my parents be a blubbering mess as they drop me off.
“I'll call and text as often as I can, okay?" I offer, knowing they'll take the bait. “I will be busy considering I'm studying veterinary, but I'll do my best."
“We appreciate that sweetheart," Dad says as he rests one of his hands on my shoulder, my parents now standing inches away from me. “Your mother and I are only a call away if you ever need us."
“I know," I smile as I step forward and wrap my arms around both of them. I sniffle back my own tears as the reality of what is happening hits me all at once. As soon as I say goodbye to my parents and watch them walk back to the car, I'll be here all alone. The thought is both terrifying and exciting.
“We love you," Mom says as she pulls away from the embrace and rests her hand on my cheek. “And we're so proud of you."
I blink back my tears and smile at them. “Thank you."
We finish our goodbyes and I wave at them from across the grassy area between the building and the car park, watching as they get in the car and drive away. The sense of being alone hits me like a tidal wave and so does my newfound freedom of living alone for the first time in my life.
All I have ever known is dense woodland areas and the rough terrain of the Utah mountains. And now I'm going to have to get used to warm weather and palm trees in the city of the elite. I chose to attend the University of California for one simple reason – a change in scenery. I needed a change in my life, and I figured moving here is the only way I'm going to get it.
I take a deep breath and spin on my heels to walk into the building. My room is on the fifth floor of what is an eight-story building. There are at least twenty rooms on each floor, all having to share a communal kitchen. It's not something I'm thrilled about, but I'm looking forward to the experience of college life on campus.
I quietly greet a few students moving into their own room in the same hallway as me. I don't stay and chat because I have a lot of unpacking to get through, but I make a mental note to be more forthcoming when it comes to meeting new people. The last thing I want to do is be friendless the entire time I'm completing my degree. I think I'll start friend-hunting tomorrow once I'm settled in.
My room key card clicks to open the door and I walk in. The room is way smaller than back home, but I expected that given how many rooms are on each level. There is a double bed pushed against the back left corner of the room with a small wooden desk under the window opposite it. I am pleasantly surprised with the amount of closet space I get, considering the size of the room.
Oh, and did I mention the communal bathroom I must share with nineteen other people? Yeah, I'm going to enjoy that less than the communal kitchen.
I sit on the edge of my unmade mattress, looking around at the boxes and trash bags of clothing I have yet to unpack. Despite the amount of work I have to do, I still feel giddy inside knowing that today is the first day I'm truly alone. I'm sure it would scare most people, but not me. I'm looking forward to finding my independence and experiencing what life has to offer.
“Let's get to work," I mutter to myself, almost as a small pep-talk to get myself into unpacking mode.
I spend the next couple of hours unpacking all my belongings. I organize my clothes away into the closet and begin setting up the desk area where I'll likely be spending most of my time studying and doing assignments. I need to make sure that area is the most organized because if it's not, I'm going to have a hard time keeping myself motivated and that's what I need in my degree.
My parents have texted me several times over the past couple of hours to check in on me as they drive back home to Utah. I have a feeling this is what is going to happen for the first few weeks while I'm here until they learn I'm okay and have come to terms with me moving away from home.
The sun is starting to set when my stomach grumbles, reminding me that I haven't eaten since breakfast this morning. Thankfully, my parents took me grocery shopping before we arrived to stock up my shelf in one of the four refrigerators in the kitchen. I think now is as good a time as any to take a break.
I grab my key card off the desk and walk into the hallway. The hall is mostly quiet besides the sound of someone in the kitchen. Nerves suddenly consume me and I take a deep breath. I guess I'm jumping on that friend train sooner than I thought.
My feet pad across the carpeted floor as I walk toward the kitchen. The overhead light streams into the hallway and the sound of the refrigerator door opening is all I can hear. I turn the corner and walk into the kitchen.
My eyes widen when I see a guy sitting at one of the wooden tables with a can of soda in his hand watching me with curious eyes. I take in his stunning appearance, cursing that this is the first person I will be interacting with since arriving. He is gorgeous.
He has tousled brown hair that falls over his eyes, barely showing his chocolate brown eyes. His skin is rather fair, but that could be because of the light above him. I open my mouth to greet him, but nothing comes out. Just air.
“Hi," The guy says with a smile on his lips as he stands to his feet. Woah, he is very tall.
“I'm just grabbing a late-night snack," the words tumble out of my mouth before I can stop them. I want to facepalm myself.
The guy chuckles and holds up the can in his hand, “Me too."
Still stunned by how attractive he is, I simply nod because I can't form any other words. How embarrassing.
“Well, I guess I'll see you around," he says before giving me a warm smile as he walks toward me.
When he is close enough, I spot the specks of red in his irises, stunning me further. I have never seen such a thing. It instantly has me captivated, wishing I could see more of it before he walks past me and out of the room.