Tip tap. Tip tap. The noise gets steadily louder against my dorm window. I loved the sound of rain, but it was normally accompanied by a hot coco and a warm blanket no matter the time of year. I knelt on top of my mattress, pinning a picture of mi familia right next to my pillow. At least that way I can always give my baby siblings a kiss before bed despite being states away from them.
A loud, annoyed groan sounded next to me as my friend, Jessica, threw herself down onto my mattress. I bounced a few times before giving Jessica a side eye.
“Rain, again? What I wouldn't do for some sunshine! Right, Astrid?" Jessica grumbled.
I chuckled quietly. “You are the one that moved with me to Portland, Jessica."
Jessica rolled over to look at me directly, her warm brown eyes always poking fun at me. “Well, I certainly couldn't let you go by yourself, could I? I can hear your mama now." Jessica cleared her throat before imitating my mother. Even throwing her hands up like my mama does. “Don't let mi Astridita go alone! Por favor, mi Vida needs you. Yada-yada. More Spanish. I think she threatened me too."
I laughed louder this time. Jessica was always so dramatic, but that's also what I loved about her. Well, that and she does a really good impression of my mama. “Sounds like Mama." I paused, a smile tugging at the corners of my lips. “Now tell me the real reason you came with me."
“Well, that and I heard the guys were hot."
No surprise there. Jessica was always the boy crazy one. Who could blame her? The woman was an absolute bombshell and she got all of the attention. I didn't mind that, but that did mean that I had to look out for her all the time. She's way friendlier than she should be.
Jessica jumped up, noticing my picture. “Really? Next to your bed?"
I furrowed my eyebrows. “Yes. What about it?"
“How am I supposed to bring anyone over with your abuela giving me the evil eye?" Jessica pointed right at my abuela, who was scowling for the family picture like she always did. Come to think of, I don't think that woman ever smiled. How she managed to have four children and ten grandchildren is beyond me.
“I don't know. Maybe don't bring any random boy into our room?" I put my hands up in defense. “I know. That's crazy talk, but you could follow the rules and not bring any boy to the girls' dorm after eight."
Jessica rolled her eyes and got up. “Yeah right." She marched over to her side and opened her closet. “I guess because it's raining, I can't wear this," she tossed her sundress to the side. “But I can wear this." She picked out some fashionable leggings and boots. She paused. “Ooh, can I pick out your outfit today?"
I pulled out my laptop and sat on my bed. I tie up my long black hair with a scrunchie before clacking away onto the student portal. “I have two online classes and a night class today. They'll be lucky if I'm not wearing my pjs under my apron."
“Buzzkill." Jessica gets dressed. Her tone suddenly turns serious. “Are you excited about class today?"
My ears perk up and I look across at her. My answer is genuine. “I think I am. I mean, it's a new start and I'm four years older than most of the students in the culinary arts department, but I think this will be really good for me." I pause. “I need this."
Jessica smiles at me. “Good. I'm here for you."
“I know you are." I glance at the clock. “You should get out of here though. Don't be late for your first class!"
Jessica's eyes bulge. “Sh*t! You're right! Gotta go!" She threw on a shirt and a jacket before running out the door.
I glance at her phone on the dresser and get up. I knew she was going to forget something. I pick it up and hold it. Instantly, she rushes back in and grabs her phone. She gives me a sheepish smile and blows me a kiss before leaving again.
My day wasn't very eventful after that. Online classes about food theory and a business class. I used to teach second-grade history, always surrounded by kids back in Texas. It was nice to feel excited about the prospects of a new career, a new start. Even nicer to have my best friend taking this journey with me.
Well, Jessica is on a different journey. She can't cook, nor does she want to. Instead, she's starting a career in fashion design. Unlike me, this isn't a new journey for her, she just transferred schools so she could support me. She's working on a Masters in Fashion, and I couldn't be prouder of her. Texas wasn't safe for me anymore, but that was another story.
Jessica had just gotten back to the room when I had to go to my nighttime class. I was really excited about this class. It was a beginner's class, but I would learn knife skills, how to poach an egg, and all sorts of new techniques. Even though I joked about wearing pajamas, I actually got dressed in something practical that I didn't mind getting grease on.
When I first walked through the door, Chef gave me my apron. It felt surreal. This is it. This is just the beginning for me. I could see a lifetime of opportunity in front of me. My station was equipped with my very own chef's knife, perfectly sharpened for the lab today.
I threw the apron over my shoulders and stood by my station, waiting for instruction. I was practically vibrating, that's how excited I was. The classroom was very well-equipped with saucepans, cutting boards, and all sorts of fun gadgets that I couldn't wait to get my hands on. Across from the burners, facing the hallway, was a ton of windows so other students passing by could look in.
I heard him before I saw him. The student chefs turned their heads to see the stranger at the door and I followed. His head was down, and he looked up once he entered the classroom. He was broad-shouldered, tall, and slender. He didn't have a baby face like several of the other students around me, who you could barely consider drinking age. Instead, his jaw was angular with a full sprinkling of facial hair that he must have just trimmed but grew back by the evening.
He looked up from, I could assume, was his schedule. He muttered something under his breath and looked at his schedule again.
“Can I help you?" my instructor asked him.
He glanced back up, and when he did, I was taken aback by his striking eyes. A deep blue like sapphires. He locked eyes with mine just for a moment before saying, “Sorry, wrong room."
I didn't realize that I had stopped breathing until he left. I gulped hard and tried to tear my attention back to my instructor. The teaching assistant handed out garlic cloves and onions as my instructor started to demonstrate how to chop them appropriately.
My eyes followed that handsome man as he walked across the hallway and into the correct classroom. Even though he was finally out of sight, he was not out of my mind. As I focused on my technique drill, my mind wandered a little. Mainly I wondered who he was.