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Chatoyant College, Book 1: New Student Orientation

 

 

 

Chatoyant College: Book 1

New Student Orientation

 

 

 

 

Clare K. R. Miller

 

 

Smaragdine Books

 

 

Corrie, Edie, and Dawn are just starting at Chatoyant College, and expect their biggest challenge to be classes, with making new friends a possible second. But as freshmen, they have a few days before classes start, and a sudden challenge emerges. A mysterious scream somewhere on their floor leads to the discovery that a student has vanished. The RA, Lorelei, says she’ll take care of it, so our heroines don’t have to worry about it, right? But the next day, Dawn discovers that she is the only one with any memory of the missing girl—except maybe for another student, Ever, who, though she seems to know something, won’t reveal it. Dawn has to enlist her friends’ help and solve the riddle, or one girl’s college career may end before it began.

 

New Student Orientation (Chatoyant College, Book 1)

by Clare K. R. Miller

 

Smaragdine Books

 

Text Copyright © 2016 Clare K. R. Miller

Shareable under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

 

Cover image by bobajams

Shakespir Edition

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, events, and locations are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons or events, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.

 

This file is licensed for private individual entertainment only. The book contained herein constitutes a copyrighted work and may not be reproduced, stored in or introduced into an information retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means (electrical, mechanical, photographic, audio recording, or otherwise) for any reason (excepting the uses permitted to the licensee by copyright law under terms of fair use) without the specific written permission of the author.

Chapter 1: Corrie

Wednesday, August 27

 

Corrie let her last box drop onto the floor with a thump, then looked around, vaguely disappointed by the rather beat-up wooden furniture and the plain, white walls. This was definitely the weirdest school she’d applied to, so she’d hoped for something more interesting. Then again, what had she expected? Unless they let the magic majors decorate the walls of every dorm—which wasn’t likely—she had no reason to expect anything other than the usual dorm fare. She would have to buy some posters when she got a chance. At least she could open the blinds over her bed (which she did) and brighten the room a bit. Then she looked down at the box she’d just dropped and winced, guiltily hoping she hadn’t packed anything breakable in it; she hadn’t labeled any of her boxes. To make sure, she opened it up and sighed with relief to see that it contained pillows and sheets, cushioning the slightly fragile digital camera and phone that she’d packed with them. Well, first things first, right? She located the phone jack behind her desk and plugged it in. She picked up the receiver, was pleased to hear a dial tone, and dialed a very familiar number.

 

“Hi, Mom! See, I promised I’d call as soon as I got my phone hooked up. No, I’m sure I don’t need help. I don’t have that much stuff. I’ll tell you if I need you, promise! Bye, Mom. I love you.” She hung up the phone, sighing in exasperation but smiling. It was true, though; if she hadn’t talked to her mom, she would probably be pretty unhappy her first day away at college. But then she wasn’t really alone. She had a roommate. And as she turned around, she saw a girl who was presumably that roommate: short, pudgy, plain, with curly brown hair, and just setting down a large box on the unclaimed bed.

 

The other girl grinned sympathetically. “Helicopter mom?”

 

Corrie laughed. “We’re really close. She just doesn’t like me going so far away. All of twenty miles!” She stood up, adroitly avoiding the box of books she’d stashed behind her chair. “I’m Corrie.”

 

“Hi, I’m Edith, and I guess I’m your roommate,” the girl said.

 

They’d gotten information over the summer about each other, but neither had bothered to contact the other. Edith sounded like the right name to Corrie, but it didn’t fit the pleasant girl in front of her. She didn’t look dowdy or old-fashioned at all, which was what Corrie had pictured. “Mind if I call you Edie?” she asked.

 

Edith looked surprised and positively delighted. “Sure! I’ve never had a nickname before.”

 

Corrie laughed. “You’ll never forget me, then!”

 

Edie leaned against her bed, looking suddenly uncomfortable. Corrie tilted her head to the side, sensing that the other girl had something important to say and willing her to spit it out. After a frown, Edie spoke again. “I should tell you, I’m a lesbian, so if that makes you uncomfortable, you should probably do something about it now.”

 

Corrie breathed a sigh of relief. That was not a big deal at all. “Why would that make me uncomfortable?”

 

Edie shrugged, smiling a little again. “Well, some people are.”

 

“Hey, as long as you remember I’m straight, it’s not a problem to me,” Corrie said.

 

Edie’s shy smile broadened into a grin, picking up Corrie’s playful mood. “Does that mean no friendly roommate sex?”

 

“Not without permission!”

 

“Seriously,” said Edie, shy again, “what if I, uh, bring a girl over?”

 

Corrie shrugged. “No different than if I bring a boy over. And while we’re on the topic, I guess we should have a signal or something.” Though she could hardly believe this was what they were discussing the first time they met. Better than leaving it too long and being surprised, though. And they were being honest with each other: that set a good precedent.

 

“I don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.”

 

“Me neither,” Corrie replied. “But I guess a sock on the doorknob will do?”

 

“Sounds obvious enough,” said Edie, nodding. “As long as I can find somewhere else to be!”

 

A lanky boy appeared in the doorway, most of his form obscured by a tall box. “Hey, Edith, where do you want me to put this?”

 

Edie turned toward him, looking a little startled. “Just stick it at the foot of the bed.” She turned back to Corrie. “I better go get the rest of my stuff out of the car.”

 

“Sure. I may as well start unpacking.” She looked around at the piled boxes with a sigh. She didn’t really want to start working on all this stuff, but she’d never get it done if she didn’t start now. Well, she had her priorities. She picked up the folding bookcase she’d leaned against the foot of her bed and began to unfold the shelves. The room would feel more like home once she’d gotten some of her books set up.

 

“I hope we can fit all our stuff in this room!” said Edie as she left. Corrie laughed and opened the first box of books.

 

Chapter 2: Edie

By the time Edie had finished getting all of her stuff out of the car and bidden her family goodbye (her little sister had kept insisting on more hugs, and her father kept asking if she was going to be okay), the sun was streaming almost directly into the window. Since they were on the fifth floor, that might not have meant much, but since it was also the end of August, that probably meant it was fairly late in the day. And the only things not in boxes or suitcases were her pillow and the worn teddy bear, Rutherford, she’d had since she was three. She sighed and perched on her bed. “Well, I guess I’m moved into college.”

 

Corrie looked up from the book she’d been apparently immersed in and smiled sympathetically. “It’s pretty different, isn’t it? I’m not sure how I’ll adjust to having a roommate.” She was pretty, but not at all Edie’s type, which was a relief. Corrie looked a little like a jock; tall, slim, blonde, ponytailed, and not particularly curvy. Edie preferred body types more like her own—curvy—but without the excess weight she carried. Hopefully Corrie’s jockish appearance didn’t translate into a personality like the jocks at her high school. Then again, she wasn’t homophobic, which was a very good sign to start out with.

 

She’d been worried about what it would be like sharing a room with a girl close to her own age to whom she wasn’t related. Having had very few female friends who came without sexual complications, she didn’t know what it would be like. But she thought she could probably avoid an infatuation in this situation. Hopefully. “I won’t have any problem with that! I’ve always shared a room. I have three sisters and there was never enough space for all of us—my little sister is going to have a room to herself for the first time now that I’ve moved out.”

 

“I’m an only child,” said Corrie. “I’m used to it being just me and my mom!” Edie wanted to ask about her father—why wasn’t he in Corrie’s life—but stayed silent, thinking it would be impolite. Luckily, they were saved the awkwardness by a knock on the door.

 

Corrie jumped up to open it, smiling cheerfully. “Hi! Come on in!” she said to whoever was out there.

 

The girl who accepted Corrie’s invitation was more Edie’s type, and was really quite beautiful. She was tall, with clothes that hung invitingly on her curves, and bobbed chestnut wavy hair that framed her high cheekbones. Still, Edie hung back shyly. She just knew she’d put her foot in her mouth and she didn’t want to make a bad first impression; anyway, this girl was probably straight. “Hi!” she said. “I’m Dawn. I live next door.” Corrie introduced herself and Edie, and Dawn gave them both cheerful smiles. “I just finished unpacking, my roommate hasn’t shown up, and I’m starving.”

 

Corrie nodded. “Dinner sounds good to me. What do you think, Edie?”

 

Edie nodded shyly, surprised to be included in the decision-making, and manufactured a smile. With such an outgoing roommate, she might have to become more extroverted. “Just lead the way!”

 

They went out into the hallway and Corrie carefully locked the door. Edie patted her pocket to make sure her keys and ID card (which she’d had to pick up as soon as she set foot on campus) were in there. All seemed to be well, and they set off down the stairs. In an effort to be friendly, Edie broke the silence. “I didn’t even come here for a visit. I don’t know my way around at all.” Okay, she was also trying to hint that she had no idea where the dining hall was.

 

Dawn nodded in agreement. “I visited once, but I don’t remember where anything is. I hope we don’t get lost.”

 

“Well, you two are lucky you have me!” said Corrie with a grin.

 

“Why, because you live nearby?” Corrie must have visited the campus, probably a few times—Edie remembered her saying she lived twenty miles away, which was probably in or close to the nearest good-sized city.

 

“No, because I’m good at reading maps.” Corrie flourished a folded-up campus map that had been in her back pocket. They all laughed.

 

Once they’d gotten to the front door and outside the building—it was darker here, since the sun was filtering through the trees to get to them, but there was still light to see by—Corrie unfolded the map. “It looks like we can cut past the admin building and get there faster,” she said, pointing to the space between the administration and music buildings to where the dining hall was. However, the paths that the map showed didn’t go that way, but rather below the administration building and up again.

 

“I think I’d rather just follow the path, even though it’s longer,” said Dawn, frowning at the map.

 

Edie was relieved that she didn’t have to be the one to suggest that. “I agree. I want to be able to see where I’m going, especially since it’s getting dark.” And she’d be able to find her way around campus better in the future if she knew where the paths led.

 

“Right then, we’ll follow the yellow brick road! Or the black tar road. Whatever.” They giggled as Corrie led the way down the path and around.

 

Chapter 3: Dawn

The dining hall was extremely crowded and loud. Dawn was suddenly very, very glad that she’d recruited people to come with her. She was not an especially shy person, but the press of strangers here was intimidating. Trying to communicate by way of gestures, since it was too loud to try to talk, the three of them found the line to get food, then looked for a place where three seats were available. They didn’t find one, but one table had two seats free at the end, while the table next to it had an empty chair, so after checking that it wasn’t in use, Corrie grabbed it and stuck it at the end of the other table, giving the three of them a cozy little nook, despite the basketball players (who were still wearing their uniforms) they shared the table with.

 

“So what are you two planning on majoring in?” asked Corrie between mouthfuls of mashed potatoes.

 

“I don’t know,” Edie admitted. Dawn could tell she was shy, and was already developing a motherly sort of attitude toward her. “I think maybe French, but I’m not sure I love the language enough to study it that deeply. Otherwise I don’t really have any ideas, though.”

 

“I kind of have the opposite problem,” Dawn said. “I have too many ideas, and I don’t know which one to pick! So I’m taking a lot of intro courses this term—sociology, biology, psychology, history, and of course, since this is Chatoyant, magic.”

 

Corrie nodded. “I’m taking intro to magic too—I hope we’re in the same class, that would be fun.”

 

Edie was looking at the two of them in bewilderment. “You two are seriously taking magic courses?”

 

“Sure,” said Corrie, turning to look at her. “I mean, I’m taking it just for fun and I don’t intend to major in it, but it seems like a really cool course.”

 

“People don’t take that seriously, though, do they?” asked Edie, leaning in closer to them as if hoping not to be overheard. “I mean, it’s, well, magic. It’s just a fluff major.”

 

“Oh no, it’s completely serious,” said Dawn, shaking her head. “My aunt went here and told me about it. Showed me a little, too. I’m really looking forward to learning it.”

 

Edie leaned back again and stared down at her plate. Dawn realized she didn’t want to talk about it anymore and turned the conversation back to the original topic. “Do you know what you’re majoring in, Corrie?”

 

Corrie nodded. “English, almost definitely. I love reading and writing, so it seems like the obvious route.” Dawn couldn’t disagree with that. Soon they had finished their dinners and returned to the dorm, Edie back in a cheerful mood. Dawn went back to her room, but it was still dark and the second bed was empty; her roommate apparently still hadn’t arrived. She took the opportunity to grab her class schedule and returned to Corrie and Edie’s room. Edie was hanging up her clothes and Corrie shoving boxes under her bed, but they seemed pleased enough to greet her again. They sat and compared schedules. None of them were in the same section of the First Year Experience class that everyone had to take, but Corrie and Dawn did have Intro to Magic together, which pleased them. Corrie also had a basic essay-writing course, which Dawn had placed out of, with Edie. Before long, there was a knock on the door, and Corrie jumped up to answer it.

 

Chapter 4: Life in Gilkey Hall

“Your friendly RA Lorelei here,” said the smiling face that popped in, framed by long, wavy brown hair. “I’m just letting you know that there’s a house meeting in the common room in ten minutes, so you should meander on down there. Wait, this isn’t a triple.” It had obviously taken her a moment to compare the number of beds in the room with the number of girls.

 

“Oh, I live next door in 511,” said Dawn. “My roommate isn’t here yet.”

 

“Good to know,” Lorelei said with a nod. “I won’t bother to knock on that door, then.”

 

“Where’s the common room?” asked Edie.

 

“First floor, I’m afraid,” Lorelei responded. They groaned and she smiled sympathetically. “But it’ll be a fun meeting, and you’ll get some important information, so it’s worth the hike. See you soon!”

 

“I wonder if this is a dorm with a lot of freshmen in it,” said Corrie as Lorelei left. “It might be a thing so we can all meet each other.”

 

Dawn nodded and stood up, unfolding her legs slowly from the cross-legged position she’d been sitting in. “We may as well head down now.”

 

They trooped out into the hallway. There were other girls emerging from some of the rooms on the hall, collecting into a chattering mass. Some were in pajamas already. As they headed down the stairs, slightly muddy from all the feet going up and down them but still smelling slightly of bleach from when they had been cleaned over the summer, the group was slowly joined by girls and boys from other floors. Dawn couldn’t even hear the slamming of the heavy fire doors at the ends of the hallways over the combined sound of the group. The three of them managed to claim and crowd into a loveseat when they reached the common room, but they were the last; everyone else had to perch on tables or find spots on the floor. It was noisy, but everyone quieted down when Lorelei entered, accompanied by a tall, balding black man in a dark blue uniform with the college’s insignia over a pocket on his left side.

 

“For those of you who’ve forgotten already, I’m Lorelei,” she said, gesturing to herself, “and I’m the RA for the fourth and fifth floors of Gilkey. The RA for the first three floors, Charlie, will be arriving in a day or two, but since most of you freshmen live on the top two floors anyway I’m running this meeting. As you know, the upperclassmen who aren’t on sports teams or summer programs aren’t here yet, so you have the campus almost to yourself for the next few days.” There was a ripple of appreciative laughter. Lorelei talked with her hands, which made her seem engaged with the whole room, and she was smiling with cheery energy.

 

“First, let me give you the run-down on this building. You’re in the common room, which can be used for any legal activity, though if a club schedules meetings here, they get preference; since we have the big TV, that does happen fairly often.” Lorelei and the man were standing in front of the TV, actually; it made sense, since the room was set up to have it as the natural focal point for attention. “Across the hall,” she pointed, “is the kitchen. It’s pretty rudimentary, but there’s a microwave if you want to make popcorn and a fridge if you want to store food. Though I’d recommend labeling it if you do.” She grinned. “There’s also an oven, in case you want to make your wonderful RA some cookies.” A few people cheered, making everyone else laugh.

 

“If you haven’t noticed by now—and I hope you have!—there are bathrooms at the end of every hall, opposite from the end with the stairs.” Dawn had noticed the bathroom first thing: it was on the other side of her room from Corrie and Edie’s room. She hadn’t decided yet whether the placement was a good or bad thing. It probably depended on how drunk people on the top floor of Gilkey tended to get. Lorelei continued, “Since this dorm has single-sex floors, the bathrooms are single-sex too—I have the right to write up anyone who’s using the wrong bathroom, but that’s only if somebody reports it to me, so don’t worry about it if it doesn’t bother you, but do let me know if it does. If you need anything, I’m here, and if I don’t have it myself, I’ll probably know who does. And now I’ll turn things over to Mark.” There was a smattering of applause as Lorelei sat down and the man in the uniform stepped forward.

 

Chapter 5: Life on the Campus

“My name is Mark Gossett, and I’m a campus security officer,” he told them. He had a deep, soothing voice. “This is a really safe campus, so you can tell your parents not to worry, but I still have to go over a few ground rules with you. First, we get a lot of fog here. If you see that it’s foggy out, check the voicemail on your dorm phones; we’ll leave a message with the fog safety rating, telling you if it’s okay to go out. Sometimes the fog will be so bad that it’s dangerous to come in from town, and then we’ll cancel classes since your teachers can’t make it.” He smiled at the cheers. “Very occasionally the fog will be so bad that we don’t allow anyone out of the buildings. We really mean it when we say that. Students have vanished when the fog is that bad and never been seen again.” There were a few gasps at that, one of them coming from Edie.

 

Mark surveyed the crowd, as if to evaluate how seriously they took his words, then nodded with satisfaction. “Then there’s the woods around campus. That is totally off-limits. It only belongs to the college about twenty yards around, and it’s deep enough to get confusing and dangerous. The only times students are allowed in are when the advanced magic classes go on field trips.” Dawn glanced at Edie at the mention of magic. The curly-haired girl didn’t seem perturbed, but maybe she was busy listening to the security tips. Dawn herself was faintly surprised at the security officer’s matter-of-fact mention of magic. She was used to the concept, but her aunt had never been the most down-to-earth person, and she would have thought most people would have a little more trouble with it.

 

“The third thing is the campus’ main gates—they’re locked from sunset to sunrise. You can get in and out using your ID cards, but if you have any guests or order pizza after dark, you’ll have to go to the front to let them in. Finally, there are security phones all over campus and one outside the gate. You’ll know them when you see them; they have red lights on top to make them visible when it’s dark or foggy. Just pick up the phone and press the button to call security if you feel threatened. We’re always available for you.” He smiled and waved as he opened the common room door, and the students clapped for him.

 

Lorelei stood up again when Mark had left. “Does anyone not have their ID cards yet?” A few people raised their hands. “You’ll want to go to the admin building and get them first thing in the morning. You pretty much use them for everything. I assume you all know about the special freshmen activities planned for this week, but if not, here’s the schedule.” She held up a stack of yellow papers and put them down on top of the TV. “If you want to do any of the community service events tomorrow morning, you have to be at the gate by nine or the buses will leave without you. Believe me—it happened to me my freshman year!” That got a few giggles. “Okay, let’s try going around the room and introducing ourselves, so we can all start getting to know each other. We’ll all say our names, where we’re from, where in Gilkey we live, what our major is, and one interesting fact about ourselves. I’ll go first. I’m Lorelei, I’m from Texas, I live in room 101—I know it’s far away from you, my fourth and fifth floor constituents, but they didn’t put singles anywhere else—and if you forget my name after how many times I’ve told you all, I won’t tell you when we get free pizza.”

 

Dawn knew she wouldn’t be able to remember everyone’s names, so she just listened politely as they went around the crowded room, noticing a few people: a quiet-voiced, fair-haired girl named Annie, a girl with blue hair and a chest tattoo of oak leaves who said her name was Ever and yes, her tattoo was real, and a pudgy Hispanic boy named Rico with a sweet smile. Corrie’s interesting fact was that all of the jewelry she owned had the motif of either leaves or flowers. Edie’s was that she liked to knit. Dawn tried to spend the time between introductions thinking of a unique fact, but ended up saying, feeling kind of unimaginative, that she was a vegetarian.

 

When Lorelei declared the meeting over, the noise level in the room suddenly increased, and people started to straggle out. Corrie went straight to the TV to grab a schedule, and the three of them headed up the stairs, going slowly behind a heavily-built girl who leaned on the freshly-painted brown railing. “Are you two going to do the community service thing tomorrow morning?” Corrie asked.

 

Dawn shook her head, grinning. “I’d love to—except there’s no way I’m getting up that early! Besides, there’s a job fair at noon, and I want to make sure I don’t miss it.”

 

“What about you, Edie?”

 

Edie shrugged quietly. “Come on, Edie,” Corrie needled. “It’ll be fun. And it’s not like you’re going to be by yourself or anything; I’ll go with you.”

 

Edie managed a smile at that. “Well, all right. Will you wake me up in time to get breakfast?”

 

Corrie nodded. “Sure. I’ll be up at six to go for a run anyway. I’ll try not to wake you then, but it might take some getting used to.”

 

“I can’t believe we seriously have a forbidden forest here,” Dawn said. “This school is so weird.”

 

Corrie laughed. “I know! I love it already.”

 

“I love it too,” Dawn said, grinning. Magic classes, forbidden places… it was like something out of a book. And she was living it! “I’m a little disappointed, though. I was hoping to go for walks and hikes in the forest. I guess that’s an inducement to become a magic major, so I can take whatever advanced magic class gets to go in it.”

 

“It might not really be forbidden,” Corrie said thoughtfully. “I mean, not as dangerous as Mark tried to make it sound. We could try sneaking in sometime…” That was definitely an idea to remember, Dawn thought.

 

They had reached Corrie and Edie’s room. “I’m about to wilt,” said Corrie. She opened the door, flicked on the light, and moaned. “And I haven’t put the sheets on my bed yet. See you tomorrow, Dawn.”

 

Chapter 6: Dreams

Thursday, August 28

 

Edie woke fuzzily to the gentle beep of an unfamiliar alarm. There was no light filtering into the room yet, despite the fact that she could see the blinds were opened, and she wondered vaguely what Myra was doing getting up so early. Before her mind cleared enough for her to realize where she was, though, the alarm went quiet and she fell back into sleep.

 

She woke properly when the room’s fluorescent light went brilliantly on and a cheerful voice called, “Rise and shine!” She’d been having a strange dream, in which she was deep in a dark forest and an impossibly tall teacher demanded she produce her wand, which she didn’t have. After a few moments, though, the wisps of dream cleared away and she realized where she was and identified the source of her dream elements. She groaned as she swung her legs over the side of the bed. “Classes haven’t even started and I’m having anxiety dreams already.”

 

Corrie laughed sympathetically. “I’m sure it will get better soon. You’re in a new place—things are bound to feel weird. I had weird dreams too.” She was going through a suitcase she’d opened in her bed. “I just left the showers and there’s nobody else there—better head over there if you want some privacy.”

 

Edie nodded and grabbed her towel. Privacy was nice, even though she was sure she wouldn’t get much when the campus settled into its schedule. She hadn’t gotten it often at home, anyway. When she got out of the bathroom, Corrie had dressed in jeans and a plain white T-shirt and was sitting cross-legged on her chair, reading a book. She dressed quickly, throwing on old clothes (who knew what kind of volunteer work they’d be doing) and Corrie looked up. “Ready to get some food? I could eat a horse.”

 

“I bet you could, after running this morning,” Edie said as they left the room and started down the five flights of steps. “No wonder you’re so skinny.” She didn’t mean for it to come out as bitter as it did.

 

Corrie, thankfully, didn’t seem to take offense. “It is pretty hard to gain weight when you’re a running addict like I am,” she said cheerfully. “You could join me if you want, you know. It really is a ton of fun.”

 

Edie shook her head, surprised into smiling. “I don’t think I could handle getting up that early every day.”

 

“Oh, jeez, I didn’t wake you up, did I?” Corrie asked quickly. “I wish I didn’t need an alarm.”

 

Edie shrugged noncommittally. “I woke up, but I didn’t stay awake for more than a few seconds. Probably after a couple of days I’ll be so used to it that I won’t wake up at all.”

 

The dining hall was much emptier than it had been for dinner the night before. Edie supposed not many people wanted to get up that early. For that matter, neither did she. But Corrie had wanted her to come, and that made her feel like she should—besides, she didn’t want to alienate one of the two friends she had made. It amazed her a little that she had already made two friends, in fact. She didn’t think she’d be able to keep up the frantic pace.

 

Chapter 7: Leaving the Past Behind

When they got out to the gates, there were six buses waiting in the wide road that ran in front of the school’s gates and a small crowd milling around on the pavement. They spotted Lorelei, who was holding a clipboard, and headed toward her. She waved at them with a grin. “Hi, girls! Corrie and Edie, right?”

 

“Right!” said Corrie, while Edie marveled at her ability to remember their names. “And you’re Lorelei.”

 

“Very good!” said their RA with a laugh. “I’m in charge of the soup kitchen volunteer group. Did you want to do that one?”

 

“I’m not sure,” said Corrie. “I kind of wanted to do the reading to children one. What do you want to do, Edie?”

 

Edie was startled to have her opinion asked. “I hadn’t thought about it. Reading to children sounds like fun, though.”

 

“Go see Cita, then,” said Lorelei, pointing with her pen to a tall South Asian woman. “She’s head of the biology department and in charge of that particular group.” Corrie and Edie went in the direction she’d indicated. Out of the corner of her eye, Edie thought she saw a boy follow them, but told herself not to be so paranoid. There were lots of people moving around in all different directions. They gave Cita their names and got on the bus once she had them written down.

 

They found a seat together near the front and Corrie smiled at Edie. “Thanks for coming with me. I’d be pretty uncomfortable on my own in a bus full of people I don’t know.”

 

“Really?” Edie beamed at that. She’d never thought she could be really helpful to someone like Corrie. “But you seem so confident. And you barely know me!”

 

“But I figure I have to get to know you, since we’ll be living together for the rest of the year. Well, unless we have any huge differences that…” Corrie’s expression suddenly changed, her eyes widening and her jaw tensing.

 

Edie’s heart sank, sure that Corrie had suddenly realized there was a problem and they couldn’t live together. She didn’t think she’d be able to handle changing her roommate when she was just getting to like this one. “What? What’s wrong?”

 

“Shit, shit, shit. What is he doing here?” Corrie moaned, sinking down into her seat. “Don’t let him see me.”

 

Well, this was unexpected. Was Corrie actually frightened? She always seemed ready to take on the world—at least, for the short time Edie had known her. “Who?” Edie asked, looking around while trying to position her body so Corrie was harder to see.

 

“My ex-boyfriend,” Corrie said in the same despairing voice. “The tall guy wearing all black.”

 

“I see him,” Edie said. He was sitting at the very front of the bus with his body half turned around, trying to scan the bus without being noticed. He was tall and thin but not lanky, and was definitely the same guy she’d noticed earlier. “Wow, I guess I should trust my instincts. I thought I saw him following us earlier, but then I thought that was stupid.”

 

Corrie nodded miserably. “He probably was. He told me he wasn’t going to go here! I thought he was heading down to Boston! He got into a bunch of schools there. Goddess, I can’t believe he followed me here.”

 

The boy looked at Edie, and she quickly looked away, not wanting to seem as though she was staring at him—that would call attention not only to her but to Corrie, which was exactly what she wanted to avoid. “Is he stalking you? You should call the police!”

 

“I don’t want to do that! He’s not violent or anything. He’s just kind of creepy. And annoying. Besides, if my mom couldn’t scare him away, I don’t think the police could.”

 

“Your mom is scarier than the police?” Edie wasn’t sure whether Corrie had been serious or not, so she kept her tone light, making it halfway a joke.

 

Corrie grinned weakly. “To him, yeah. Oh, Goddess, it just occurred to me that he might be less intimidated now that I’m away from my mom. I so do not want to deal with him today. I guess I’ll talk to him… tomorrow. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.” She took a deep breath as the bus began to move.

 

Edie looked around. “I guess it’s too late to get off the bus now.”

 

“Oh, yeah,” Corrie said quickly. “I’m not going to stop him from letting me enjoy stuff I want to do. I just don’t want to talk to him.” Her hand sought out Edie’s and squeezed it, giving Edie a jolt of surprise. Corrie had made it pretty clear that she was straight, hadn’t she? But all she said was, “I really appreciate your coming with me, Edie. I would definitely not be so confident without a friend with me.”

 

Friend. Wow. That gave Edie an inner glow quite distinct from the one she usually associated with holding hands with a girl (not that she’d had too many opportunities to do that). “You… really consider me a friend?” she asked quietly.

 

Corrie looked quickly over at her, frowning for a moment, then grinned. “Of course! Maybe we don’t know each other that well yet, but I don’t see any reason we won’t get along really well.”

 

Slowly, Edie grinned back. College was probably going to go pretty well.

 

Chapter 8: Working Girls

When they got back from reading to the kids (it was a lot of fun, and since they were separated into pairs and sent to different classrooms, Corrie’s ex didn’t have a chance to bother them), Edie was tired, but Corrie wanted to go to the last half-hour of the job fair. “I don’t really need a job, but if there are any good campus jobs I might get one, just because it would be nice to have some spending money.” Edie shrugged and went along with it. Corrie’s logic made sense, and maybe she would find a job for spending money too. When they got to the large, carpeted lobby of the administrative building where the job fair was being held, the first person they saw was Dawn.

 

“Hi guys!” she called, grinning widely and waving at them. They walked over to her, meeting by a window. She was dressed up a bit from the last time they’d seen her, in a knee-length black skirt and a light pink blouse that made her look very neatly turned out.

 

“What’s all that?” Corrie asked.

 

Dawn glanced down at the sheaf of papers, all different sizes and colors, that she held in her hand. “Information on jobs. I’m going to go for the on-campus ones first, of course, but I want a backup plan if those don’t work out. Are you looking for jobs too?”

 

Edie nodded. “Well, we thought we’d look around, anyway.”

 

“Sure,” Dawn said. “I’m done, but I may as well hang around with you guys—I’ve got nothing in particular to do after this.”

 

The tables were set up in a circle, leaving a lot of empty space in the middle. Corrie and Edie walked around, Dawn trailing a little behind them, glancing at each table as they walked past. At the same time, Corrie and Edie said, “Oh, the library!” All three of them started laughing, as did the girl sitting at the table. Except for the bright red ends of her bobbed black hair, she could have been the stereotypical Asian nerd, with thick glasses, no curves to speak of, and a plain blue button-down shirt—possibly a men’s shirt. Edie wondered speculatively if she were gay. Not her type, but it would be good to meet other queer people. Of course, because Edie thought she was, it probably meant she wasn’t. That was the kind of history she had.

 

“Go ahead, take the information,” she said, her voice slightly accented—Japanese, Edie guessed, though she wouldn’t voice that judgment, since she didn’t have a lot of experience with different Asian accents. There had only been two Asian families in the small town where she had grown up; one owned the dry cleaner and one ran a cheap restaurant. “A lot of the library workers graduated last year and we’re always short-handed, so if you all apply, we may well hire all of you.”

 

“That would be cool!” Corrie exclaimed. She took two from a stack of mint green papers with information on one side and a form to fill out on the other and handed one to Edie. “It would be fun to all work together.”

 

“Do you all know each other?” asked the girl.

 

“We do now,” Edie said with a laugh. “I mean, since last night when we moved in.”

 

“Cool,” she grinned. “Well, remember the library when you decide where to apply.”

 

“We will,” Corrie assured her as they moved on.

 

They each picked up a couple of other pieces of information, then headed back to Gilkey when they were done. “I’d better put these down somewhere,” Dawn said. “Oh, and my roommate showed up this morning—you two can meet her. Do you want to go to lunch?” They assured her that they did, but when she returned to their room after putting away her papers and changing into black jeans, she was still alone. “Well, she was here,” she said. “I don’t know where she’s gone now. I guess you’ll meet her later.”

 

Chapter 9: Stairs

After lunch, Edie asked, “Corrie, do you still have that information on what’s going on for the new students?”

 

“Sure,” said Corrie. “Just give me a minute.” She fished around in the pocket of her jeans for a few seconds before emerging with a folded and wrinkled paper. She opened it out and tried to smooth it out on the dining hall table, but it didn’t help much. At least it was still readable. “Was there something you wanted to do?”

 

Edie pointed. “Just what I thought. The bookstore is open now. I’d like to make sure I get the books for all my classes.”

 

Dawn nodded. “Good idea.” They deposited their trays on the conveyor belt that went to the kitchen and headed out toward the bookstore, which was, like seemingly everything else, located in the administrative building.

 

“I ordered most of my books online,” Corrie said. “But I couldn’t get all of them.”

 

Edie looked at her in surprise. “How did you find out what you needed?”

 

“I emailed my professors,” she explained. “Not all of them got back to me, though.”

 

“How do we know what books we need once we get there?” Dawn asked.

 

“They should have a list, I think,” Edie said. “By department and class.”

 

“Hmm.” Dawn searched her pockets, then shook her head. “I don’t have my class schedule with me. I’m not sure I’ll remember what sections of the classes I’m supposed to be in. All my classes have different sections since they’re pretty popular.”

 

Edie sighed, then grinned. “Well, I guess we make the trek back up to Gilkey Five, then.”

 

By the time they were out of the dorm again Edie’s legs were aching. “Well, at least I’m going to build up some leg strength by the end of the semester,” she said, glaring down at her feet, which were only visible past her breasts and stomach because she was slouching. “Maybe I’ll even lose some weight.”

 

Dawn nodded in agreement. “I was thinking the same thing. Did they really have to put us on the fifth floor?”

 

“You guys are both wusses!” Corrie said, sticking out her tongue. Without warning, she took off toward the administrative building. Dawn shouted and ran after her. Edie continued trudging along at her usual pace. It wasn’t very far to the administrative building, but when she reached the door they were both waiting for her. Dawn was panting and they were both smiling.

 

“Hey, how come you didn’t run with us, Edie?” Dawn asked, still trying to catch her breath. “It was fun!”

 

“I can’t run,” she said shortly. “My legs are tired and I’m too fat.”

 

Corrie stared at her. “Please don’t tell me you’re playing that stupid girl game where you put yourself down just for compliments, because I really do not want to have friends who do that,” she said. “You are not fat, so don’t say you are.”

 

Edie stared back in confusion. “Of course I’m fat.”

 

“You two are so ridiculous,” Dawn said. “I’m sorry I asked. Edie, you’re not fat, and neither of us is in any kind of condition to compete with Corrie, because she runs every morning and we don’t. Now let’s go get our books.”

 

“You could both join me,” Corrie said brightly as they walked into the bookstore. “It really is fun.”

 

Edie was still brooding, but the bad mood was doomed to failure: she and Dawn met each other’s gazes and rolled their eyes at the same time, making them both burst out laughing.

 

Chapter 10: A History Lesson

When they had gotten their overpriced textbooks (though, unfortunately for Dawn, one of her textbooks hadn’t arrived at the bookstore yet), Corrie decided to call her mom. Edie was just as happy to put on her headphones and pick up the knitting she’d neglected for the last couple of days. Her current project was a pair of lace socks, and she thought she’d memorized the pattern, but after not working on it for so long it wasn’t in her head anymore, and she had to dig around in her bag for the pattern and reacquaint herself with it. She’d briefly thought of taking this time to put up a poster or two on the almost painfully bare walls of the dorm, but the knitting was a much more pleasant distraction, and before she knew it, Corrie was opening the door and letting in Dawn, accompanied by a short girl with blonde dreadlocks. Edie quickly finished the lace repeat and shoved the sock back into her bag before turning off her music and pulling the headphones out of her ears. “Hi, Dawn!” Corrie was saying. “And I take it this is the mysterious roommate?”

 

“That’s me,” said the short girl, grinning. She grinned even wider when Edie reached them. “I’m Naomi. Which one of you is Corrie and which one is Edie?” She was wearing an oversized tie-dyed T-shirt, a skirt made of a number of patches of different materials haphazardly sewn together, scuffed-up combat boots, and, as Edie was somewhat painfully aware, no bra. Her fingernails were painted with chipped pink paint.

 

Corrie introduced them, as had been her habit. “So where have you been? You missed all the introductions yesterday. Well, I guess Dawn already told you about that.”

 

Naomi shrugged. “I figure I’ll get to know everybody in my own time. My mom and I just didn’t feel like driving as fast as we would have needed to if we wanted to get here yesterday.”

 

“Where are you from?” asked Edie.

 

“Detroit. It’s a long drive.”

 

“Wow, I guess so,” she said. “Nice, um, skirt, by the way.”

 

She hadn’t thought it possible, but Naomi’s smile widened even further. “Thanks! I made it myself.”

 

“I thought you guys might want to have some dinner,” Dawn said. “Unless that free pizza in the dorms thing is tonight.”

 

“No, I don’t think that’s until after the upperclassmen move in,” Corrie said. “For now, the dining hall is still just freshmen and jocks. What do you say, Edie?”

 

She shrugged. “No complaints here.”

 

Once they had settled themselves with their food at a table in the dining hall, two boys who looked vaguely familiar showed up with loaded trays. “Hi!” said one of them, a pudgy Hispanic boy with a big grin. “Mind if we join you?”

 

“Not at all,” said Dawn, smiling back. “Rico, right? And… sorry, I didn’t catch your name. There are so many of us.”

 

“That’s okay,” said the other, who was short and thin, with a goatee that accentuated the angular intensity of his face. He continued talking as they set their trays down and sat. “Rico’s the one who recognized you all as being from Gilkey—I just thought I might have seen you before. I’m Duncan.”

 

The girls introduced themselves. “Are you two roommates?” Dawn asked. When they confirmed it, she asked, “Which floor are you on?”

 

“Fourth,” said Rico. “You’re on the fifth, aren’t you? That must be a royal pain. The fourth floor is bad enough.”

 

Both Edie and Dawn nodded enthusiastically, then laughed. “If only they could have put in an elevator,” Edie said with a sigh. “But I think they built Gilkey before elevators were even invented.”

 

“I doubt it,” Rico said, sounding abstracted. “The first modern elevator was invented in 1853. I don’t think the school is even that old.”

 

“It is, though,” said Dawn, surprising everyone. “I read it in the student handbook over the summer. I got really bored. Chatoyant was first established in 1650 by a Lady Alienor Chatoyant, originally of France.”

 

“Wow,” said Rico, a forkful of macaroni and cheese halfway to his face and apparently forgotten. “That makes it almost as old as Harvard—and Harvard is the oldest college in the United States! You’d think Chatoyant would be more famous because of that.” Edie noticed Corrie wince and look carefully around the room. Had Harvard been one of the Boston schools that Corrie had mentioned her ex getting into? If that was the case, it seemed pretty crazy for him to choose Chatoyant. She knew if she’d gotten into a really good school she would have headed there without a second thought.

 

Dawn shook her head, setting down her own fork. “It wasn’t always a college. For a while it was a boarding school for rich boys,” she said. “Actually, I think it mentioned that it was a fairly popular place to send your kid if you wanted him at Harvard later. After a few decades they opened it up to girls as well, and it wasn’t until after that that they made it a college and started to expand it. It’s been in the same place this whole time, though.”

 

“I doubt any of the buildings are that old, though!” Corrie said with a laugh.

 

“True!” said Dawn, grinning. “Anyway, Gilkey is the oldest building, but the only campus building that does have an elevator is Hickory, which is the newest. I think they were just lazy.”

 

“That’s not quite true, actually,” put in Corrie. “The dining hall has a dumbwaiter, because all the baking is done in the basement. The class buildings all have service elevators, too, for the cleaning people, and because they have to make some things wheelchair-accessible in case there’s ever a handicapped student.”

 

“Well, thank you all for the impromptu history lesson,” Duncan said, rolling his eyes. “Now I know more than I ever expected to about elevators.”

 

Edie laughed. She’d been growing tired of the learned discourse, too. “I didn’t know how old the school was, though,” she said. “That’s pretty interesting. I’m surprised it doesn’t have a religious affiliation—most schools that old do, or did at one point at least.”

 

“That’s true,” Dawn said thoughtfully around a mouthful of vegetables. “I hadn’t thought about it, but I don’t remember reading anything about a religion. Not even generic Christianity.”

 

“Maybe because of the magic?” Naomi suggested. “I can’t imagine any religions in 1650, much less Christianity, approving of a school that taught magic.”

 

Dawn shook her head. “Magic wasn’t taught here until after it became a college. At least, I think so. You know, I don’t think that was ever made clear. Maybe that is why it isn’t religious.”

 

“We go to a weird school,” Rico observed blandly. The whole table dissolved into laughter at that, and the subject changed.

 

Chapter 11: Not In High School Anymore

They returned to the dorm after dinner. They said goodbye to Rico and Duncan at the fourth floor, then headed up. As soon as they were on their own hall and safely behind the mostly-soundproof fire door, Corrie burst out, “You like him!”

 

“I do not!” exclaimed Dawn, turning bright red.

 

“Oh yeah?” teased Edie, grinning. “Then how did you know she was talking to you?”

 

“Maybe she wasn’t! How do you know she didn’t mean you?”

 

Corrie and Edie both laughed. “I’m a lesbian,” she giggled.

 

“Uh. Naomi?” Dawn looked down at her roommate hopefully.

 

Naomi shook her head, still grinning (though the only time Edie had seen her lose the grin when she had discovered at dinner that her pizza was frozen in the middle and ceremoniously taken it over to the trash). “Don’t try to pin this on me. We all know who we’re talking about here.”

 

“Oh,” said Dawn, deflating a little. “Well, I still told the truth,” she added defensively.

 

Edie and Corrie exchanged knowing looks. “Right,” said Corrie, trying to hide her smile.

 

“Sure.” Dawn stuck her tongue out. “You could have meant Duncan.”

 

They giggled about it the rest of the way to Corrie and Edie’s room. “So you admit it, then,” Corrie said, grinning over her shoulder as she unlocked the door and let them all in.

 

Dawn sighed, plopping herself down on Edie’s bed and still smiling. “Well, yeah. It’s silly to claim I don’t like somebody when I really do. I don’t even know why I said I didn’t—just an automatic reaction, I guess.”

 

Corrie nodded. “It was pretty juvenile of me to tease you like that, too. Sorry.”

 

“Wow, you two sound like grownups,” said Edie. She shook her head in disbelief. “We’re really not in high school anymore, are we?”

 

“Nope,” said Corrie, seating herself cross-legged on her own bed. “Time to grow up.”

 

“Hardly!” protested Naomi. She had situated herself on the floor, laying on her stomach with her chin in her hands. “College is time to figure out who we are and what we want, away from our families and our high school friends.”

 

“Well… our families, anyway,” muttered Corrie. “But you’re right, Naomi. This is the time we have with the least responsibilities and the fewest people with expectations of us beyond passing our classes. We should take advantage of it.”

 

“But how do we do that?” Edie sighed. The only identity she’d ever had outside of the context of her family and friends was her sexual orientation. That was why she was so glad to have made friends already—she had less work, less to think about. She could just go with their flow. But then again, she had already started with a new identity, hadn’t she? Corrie had taken away the old, frumpy name of Edith that had gotten her mocked all the way into junior year of high school, and replaced it with Edie, which was cuter, cheerier, and maybe more her own. If nothing else, it was different.

 

“I guess we just have to figure that out,” Dawn said, stretching. “I mean, that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? Just… experiment. Try things and find out if you like them.”

 

It was an interesting idea, Edie thought, but she didn’t know what to try. Even if she did think of something, how would she overcome her natural inclination to avoid it? She was trying the new nickname, and that seemed to be working out pretty well, but she would never have thought of it on her own, and if Corrie hadn’t already introduced her with it to a few people, she would probably either forget about it or get flustered when it was time to introduce herself to someone and err on the side of comfort. Yes, that was exactly it; she was afraid to do things that weren’t comfortable. She wanted to change if she could, to discover herself—but was even that impulse only there because her new friends had suggested it? How did she escape this cycle?

 

Chapter 12: Crafty Girls

While she was pondering, she realized, the conversation had moved on without her. Dawn was waving a hand in front of her face. “Earth to Edie!”

 

“Sorry,” she said, feeling her cheeks warm with embarrassment, but still feeling a little warm glow of happiness inside. She really did like that nickname. “My brain got derailed. Were you asking me something?”

 

Corrie nodded. “I just wanted to know if we could see your knitting.”

 

“Oh—sure!” Edie grinned broadly. That was something she had all to herself as well, wasn’t it? True, she might not have taken it up if her grandmother hadn’t taught her, but she would have had to learn somehow, and it certainly wasn’t something her friends from high school did. She bent down and dug through her bag to pull out both the first finished sock and the half-finished one she’d been working on earlier. She handed the finished one to Dawn. “This is just a simple lace sock. I’m about halfway through the second one—I’m about to turn the heel.”

 

“This is so cool!” exclaimed Dawn, turning the sock over and over in her hands before passing it on for Naomi to admire. “I wish I was crafty like that. My mom tried to teach me to sew but I can’t even manage a straight seam with a sewing machine.”

 

“I could teach you to knit, if you want,” Edie said shyly. To her surprise, she realized she’d pretty much gotten over her initial reaction to Dawn as a pretty girl, but the thought of holding her hand to guide the needles and yarn brought it back again. She hoped she wasn’t blushing too hard. “It’s nothing at all like sewing. I’m not good at that either.”

 

“Really?” Dawn nodded slowly, smiling. “I might just take you up on that offer.”

 

“This is really cool,” said Corrie, tossing Edie’s sock back to her. “I’m afraid that I’m not too interested in crafts, though. So Dawn may be alone in your knitting lessons. What about you, Naomi? You’re obviously a crafty type.”

 

Naomi shook her head dismissively, laughing. “Oh, no, one craft is enough for me. I only brought a little bit of my fabric collection and it takes up the entire bottom drawer of my dresser.” The dressers were quite generously sized, considering the size of the space they had to fit into, so Edie knew she had a lot of fabric.

 

Edie grinned and put her socks back in her bag. “I know what you mean. I actually worked hard on using up a good portion of my yarn stash so it would be easier to move.” Having kicked her shoes off, she was able to comfortably point with her foot to the trunk at the foot of the bed—large enough for two drawers the size of those in the dresser. It was nice to have the storage space, even if it did make the rooms feel even more cramped than they already did. “It’s all in there, with just a little room to spare, and the needles stuffed in a corner.”

 

“Do you have a sewing machine, Naomi?” Dawn asked. “I didn’t see it in the room.”

 

“Oh, I have one, but I didn’t bring it with me. I mostly do my sewing by hand. It’s relaxing and takes up more time that would probably otherwise be spent getting myself into trouble. Besides, I’m pretty sure the theater department has machines for costuming.”

 

“Are you planning to be a theater major?” Edie asked. Though she wasn’t much of a seamstress herself, she’d always been interested in costume design, and was taking an introductory acting class for the sole reason that it was a prerequisite for every other theater class.

 

“No, probably art, but they’re in the same building. And anyway, the teachers at my high school let me mess with all the theater stuff.”

 

“Hey!” said Corrie, her voice a mock reprimand. “Didn’t we decide this wasn’t high school anymore?”

 

“What, no comparisons allowed?” asked Naomi, sticking her tongue out.

 

Corrie shook her head, grinning. “Nope. In fact, let’s pretend high school never existed. College is our only existence!”

 

“What about after college?” Dawn asked. “I don’t know about you, but I’ve got ambitions. Even if I haven’t completely decided what they are yet.”

 

“Nope!” said Corrie, giggling and falling on her side. “Jeez, this bed isn’t too soft, is it? Right, I was saying, we don’t have to think about after college for like three more years. Freshman year at least is just for us.”

***

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Chatoyant College, Book 1: New Student Orientation

Corrie, Edie, and Dawn are just starting at Chatoyant College, and expect their biggest challenge to be classes, with making new friends a possible second. But as freshmen, they have a few days before classes start, and a sudden challenge emerges. A mysterious scream somewhere on their floor leads to the discovery that a student has vanished. The RA, Lorelei, says she'll take care of it, so our heroines don't have to worry about it, right? But the next day, Dawn discovers that she is the only one with any memory of the missing girl--except maybe for another student, Ever, who, though she seems to know something, won't reveal it. Dawn has to enlist her friends' help and solve the riddle, or one girl's college career may end before it began.

  • Author: Clare K. R. Miller
  • Published: 2016-12-18 01:35:09
  • Words: 45037
Chatoyant College, Book 1: New Student Orientation Chatoyant College, Book 1: New Student Orientation