Chapter Two – Beginnings
SAMANTHA HAD TRAVELED THIS ROAD BEFORE, sometimes as a driver, others as a passenger. The sights were nothing new to her eyes, but everything seemed brighter, more alive, as if the gods were lighting her path towards Palo Alto, as if fate was rewarding her for following the right path. Though concentrating on the road, she still soaked up every sight her drive had to offer, even though for the most part, it was just a bunch of buildings. On occasion she would catch sight of the bay and smile to herself. It always looked so wonderful to her at this time of year. She would miss the wonderful layout of San Francisco, but she was excited. This was something new to her.
She missed this feeling, the adrenaline building, the excitement of a new adventure. Nothing felt new to her anymore, she had been through so much. College was her single exception. She was used to having to move, to having to become acquainted with a new town, new people, to never really settling in before she had to move again. But she never got to choose where she was going, and that was something new. She never got to be excited about where she was going next, but today she could be as excited as she wanted. This was her choice, and her life. She wasn’t being dragged about like a puppet by her father. She was going somewhere, not leaving somewhere, and that was about as new as she could get.
The drive to Palo Alto from San Francisco lasted a scant forty minutes. Samantha easily navigated through campus, having determined the quickest route to her dorm on her last trip to Stanford with Catherine and Olivia. The three of them had been almost inseparable over the summer, visiting their respective universities together, and driving down to Stanford several times, since it was the closest.
Samantha remembered the dreadful road trip to Tucson the three had taken at the beginning of the summer. It had been in the high nineties for the whole trip, and discovering the campus had been a nightmare. By the end of the trip, they had all wanted to take a cold shower and to never go back there again. Of course, Olivia didn’t have a choice.
Going to Seattle was better, and slightly wetter. Slightly? That’s the understatement of the year, Samantha thought. Seattle had been wet and muggy, but thankfully rather cool. More like San Francisco, except with rain. Green and lush, Samantha knew Catherine would be happy there, though she would probably only look at the green from her dorm window, rather than be outside actually experiencing all the greenness had to offer. But Samantha didn’t really know what Catherine would do—she didn’t start classes for over a week.
Samantha had contemplated asking Catherine to come down and help her move in, but after careful thought and consideration, decided against it. She wanted to move alone. She wanted to feel like she was going towards something, not away from something. She didn’t want to have to deal with the pain of goodbyes. Maybe next year, if they were still friends. Samantha doubted that they would be though. She had a tendency to close a chapter of her life before opening a new one. That was how it had to be in her past, and it was so ingrained in her psyche, that was how it would be now. People rarely changed. It took something momentous to change someone’s ways. And this wasn’t all that momentous.
Samantha had a few problems parking when she finally reached her dorm. The lot was packed. She drove around a few times, and, just as she was about to give up, she found a spot. It was perfectly located right in front of her dorm. She looked around, trying to figure out if it was a handicap space, but saw no signs. Amazed by her good luck, she turned off her car and watched as parents and students carried an assortment of boxes, bags and little trinkets. She thought about her dad, had he gotten her letter yet? She didn’t know. She wished he was here, like a normal father would be. But she couldn’t always be lucky.
She grabbed her computer bag and hopped out of her car, joining the parade of people crowding the sidewalks surrounding the two dorms in front of her. Adams House, that’s where she was headed. She quickly eased herself around a group of people who were walking insanely slow, and made her way to the check-in tables. There was a sign above each of the two tables, the one on the left said Adams, the one on the right, Schiff. She went to the left. The table was further divided alphabetically by last name. She lucked out—no one was in the line designated for N-S. It surprised her, but she let it pass.
“Name?” the obnoxious looking worker at the desk asked, not looking up.
“Quinn. Samantha Quinn.”
“Is that like Bond, James Bond or something?” he asked sarcastically.
“Uh… no, I just thought, since we’ve been sorted alphabetically by last name, I should give you my last name first.”
“Humph. Well, you need to fill out this form and bring it back before I can give you your key.”
Samantha wondered at his behavior. She thought these people were here to welcome the newcomers, make them feel at home. He definitely didn’t make her feel at home.
The card he had handed her was an emergency contact form and a key replacement form. She wasn’t planning on losing her key anytime soon, but she filled the form out anyway, barely noticing when the form asked for her mother’s name. She left it blank.
Finished filling out her form, she went back to the table. The guy who she had talked to earlier was gone, in his place a bubbly blonde who seemed to be excited about the new residents moving in. She smiled at Samantha as she walked up to the table.
“You filled out the form? Oh, good,” she said with a slight snarl in the guy’s direction. “I hope Brad didn’t scare you, he’s not so great with helping new people. I just needed him to take over for a second while I helped someone find their room. Ok,” she continued, looking at the form. “Samantha Quinn. Hi, I’m Rebecca. I’ll be the RA on the third floor. Oh, you didn’t fill out your mother’s information,” she said, the sentence more a question than a statement.
“Oh. Um, she’s dead.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. Forget I brought it up.” Rebecca the RA smiled apologetically at Samantha, whose expression hadn’t changed. She was used to being asked about her mother. “Ok, well, let’s see,” Rebecca said looking down at her list. “It looks like you are in room 323. And I’ll be your RA! Oh, we’re going to have so much fun this year!” She looked like a puppy dog, desperately wanting someone to play with her. She continued when Samantha didn’t reply. “Here’s your key. Adams is to your left, and your room is up the stairs. Just follow the numbers.”
Samantha smiled at Rebecca the RA and thanked her for her kindness, while mentally rolling her eyes. She dutifully took all the materials Rebecca had shoved in her hands and smiled again when Rebecca wished her luck in her first year at Stanford.
Samantha walked away from the check-in tables, towards the building with the bright red sign reading Adams. She took a deep breath as she scanned her University ID to get into the building. She opened the door and walked in. There was no one else around. She felt slightly intimidated when she found the stairs and made her way up to the third floor. The stairwell was eerie, and dark, the lights only at the top of the stairs.
She made it to the third floor and walked out into the hallway. The difference between the stairs and the hallway was enormous. Where the stairs had been slightly cold and dark, the hall was warm, bright and welcoming. There were signs on every door with the names of the residents. Posters decorated the walls. Rebecca had gone crazy with her decorating, wanting to make her residents feel at home.
Samantha meandered down the hall, reading all the names on the door, when she finally saw a familiar name on a door, her own. She looked at the number on the door, then at the number on the post-it note she held in her hand. 323. This was her room. She looked at the other name on the door. Laurel Davies. She wondered if her roommate was here yet.
She tried the doorknob, only to find it locked. She was here first. Laurel Davies was not here yet. She took out her key and unlocked the door, leaving it open as she walked in. The room was not spacious, but not tiny either. It was a little packed with furniture, but that was to be expected. It was a dorm room after all.
Samantha dropped her computer bag on the bed to the left of the door and walked around the room. She wondered if it was anything like Olivia’s dorm room. Olivia didn’t talk much about her room, other than the one email complaining about having to loft the beds. Samantha had decided that she wouldn’t be lofting hers. Climbing up into a bed every night and having to climb back down every morning were not thoughts that appealed to her.
She sat down on her bed and looked at the sights outside the window that was situated opposite the still open door to the hallway. Her room looked out to trees and a sidewalk. It was a pleasant view. It reminded her of home. She loved the trees.
She sighed and looked, once more, about her room. There were three other doors beside the one that led to the hall. Two were closets, measly little things, and the last was to the bathroom she and her roommate would be sharing with their next door neighbors. Beside the identical beds, desks, and dressers, the room was empty. It needed color above anything else. She was glad she had brought posters with her. The room as it was looked like a room in a mental institute. That was going to change, and soon.
Sighing to herself, she realized that she couldn’t just sit here, on her new bed, soaking in her new room. She had a car to unpack and things to move in. She wanted to be done with everything before her roommate showed up. Laurel. Her name is Laurel, she reminded herself. She wanted to remember that just in case, when she came back, there was someone else in her room.
She tromped down the stairs, jumping steps to get her blood pumping again. Now that her drive was done, she wasn’t quite as excited to be moving in. When she got to her car, she had to contemplate what she was going to bring up stairs first. She thought about unpacking the trunk first, where all of her clothes were, but decided against it. She knew that once she brought her clothes up, she would want to unpack them, but she would still have a whole car load of stuff to bring up. So she would save that for the last trip. But what to get now?
She eyed her car speculatively. The front seat or the back seat? Huh. Tricky. In the front seat, she had stored a box of books and her backpack. I guess that’s the best place to start, she thought, knowing that it’d be easiest to go front to back, top to bottom. When she came back, she’d put the top down. No one here would steal her stuff. Or at least, I hope not.
She opened the passenger side door and grabbed her backpack, which she quickly slung across her back, and the box of books. She put her computer speakers on top of the box and closed the car door with her foot. Up the stairs she then had to go, for there was no elevator to be had. Unfortunately, she grumbled to herself.
When she got back to her room, her roommate still hadn’t arrived. But there were people across the hall now. Their door named them as Nick Roberts and Peter Graves. As she struggled to open the door to her room, she heard one of them come over.
“Let me help you with that,” said the dirty blonde, blue eyed guy—hunk really, she inwardly noted—relieving her of her box.
“Thanks,” she replied as she opened the door, giving him an awkward, shy smile.
She walked into her room, the guy at her heals.
“God, what do you have in here? Bricks?” he joked.
“Just books. You can put in on the bed.”
As he carefully placed the box on the bed, he smiled at her, “I’m Nick.”
“Nice to meet you, Nick. I’m Samantha. And thanks with the box, but I’m sure I could have gotten it on my own.” Samantha caught herself. She was still completely incompetent around guys—especially if they tried to help her with anything. She didn’t like people thinking she wasn’t able to fend for herself, because she definitely could.
“No problem!” He smiled at her with an adorable lopsided smile.
His joy was catching, and she smiled again. “Ok, well, I have to go back to get everything else. See you around.”
Samantha made towards the door, determined to unpack her car as quickly as possible. She really wanted to be moved in, to feel like she belonged here.
“Do you need any help with the rest of your stuff?” His eagerness to help reminded her of Rebecca the RA. Was everyone at this school determined to make everyone else feel welcome? Because it was starting to get on her nerves.
“Um… You don’t have to, that’s ok…” she mumbled, trying to get around him.
“No, it’s no problem. Peter and I moved in yesterday. We both wanted to come in early. Well, he had to, but I just needed to escape my parents.”
It didn’t look like he was going to take no for an answer, so she just shrugged. If he was determined to tag along, then she wasn’t going to stop him.
Nick looked ecstatic. He waved over at his roommate, “Peter’ll help too. Are your parents bringing up anything right now?”
Samantha shook her head. She didn’t really want to admit it to him, but his open nature begged for the truth. “They aren’t here,” she said simply.
“Oh well that’s a shame. I mean, my parents didn’t help me this year, but they were here last year. I’m guessing you’re a freshman right? I didn’t see you around last year, that’s why I asked. Peter and I are both sophomores.”
Peter, Samantha noticed, had put down whatever he was doing when he heard his name. He was behind them a few steps, looking like he was being dragged away from something very important.
Samantha turned to him, for the first time looking him in the face. Their eyes met, and she heard a melodic voice whisper a quiet warning, the word ringing through her brain. Danger. Her expression must have changed, because his face turned from annoyed to curious. Quickly, she turned back to Nick, who was still rambling on about one thing or another; she had stopped paying attention as soon as she had looked at Peter.
Danger? She shook the thought out of her mind. He couldn’t be danger. In her quick glance at his face, she knew that to be true. His dark brown hair was lightly spiked, and his blue eyes shimmered with intelligence, but there was no malice in his glance. He might not be as open as his roommate, but he definitely wasn’t going to hurt anyone.
The absence of Nick’s voice brought her back to the world around her.
“What?” she asked, confused by his expectant face.
“Which car is yours?” he repeated.
“Oh, this one over here. The blue Mustang,” she replied, startled that they were already back outside in the parking lot.
They walked to her car and she pressed a button on her key that opened the top.
“Just grab whatever,” she said, going for the box with her posters, lamp and alarm clock in it.
Nick reached in and snagged all the pieces to her bookshelf. She’d have to put it back together, she realized. That’ll be fun. Peter stood by the front of the car, not picking up anything. She didn’t even know why he was here.
“Dude, get something. We said we’d help.”
“Correction, you said we’d help. I made no commitment.”
“It’s no big deal,” Samantha threw in, just for the sake of diplomacy. She didn’t want to start a war between roommates before the school year even started.
“Just get something. Her parents aren’t here to help her, and it’s what us nice guys do. I’m not mistaken in grouping you in that category am I?”
Peter muttered something to himself, and grabbed the bundle that was Samantha’s quilt and sheets. He started walking back towards the dorm, leaving Samantha and Nick behind.
“It’s weird, he’s never like this,” Nick told Samantha.
Samantha believed him. It was probably the look she’d given him. She knew what face she had made. It was slightly less than terror, with a tinge of shock and a dash of confusion. Not the best first impression she’d ever given. Peter was right to act like this. She’d have to apologize, she just didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t tell him the truth. How would that sound? An voice warned me of danger. No, the truth was definitely out. But what lie could she go with? Maybe she could just say it was her reaction to the attention she was getting. That should work. And it accurately described her feelings, so it wouldn’t really be a lie.
Nick and Samantha had to quicken their step to catch up with Peter. When they did, she smiled at him. Maybe it would thaw him out a little, so that when she apologized, he would believe her. He gave her a small smile in return, and she realized that perhaps he was nicer than he was letting on.
When they reached her room, she plopped her box on the dresser and motioned for Peter and Nick to put their burdens wherever they liked. They waited expectantly, eyes questioning her what was next. She sighed, they were just going to follow her until someone else comes up, needing help.
“Do you want us to go get the rest of your stuff from the car?” Nick was the first to speak, of course. He dreaded silence.
Samantha thought about it for a moment. All she had left now were her school supplies and the two suitcases of clothes and towels in her trunk.
“Well, I was thinking that I would put together my bookshelf and make my bed first. Make the room seem more welcoming.”
Peter nodded, thinking that her idea was a good one. Get everything out of the way before you bring in more. Always a good plan.
“Well we can help with that!” Nick offered.
Samantha shrugged and rolled her eyes in Peter’s direction. He laughed a quietly amused laugh. He definitely wasn’t as standoffish as she had thought.
Nick didn’t even wait for permission before grabbing the bookshelf pieces and fitting them into place. It was actually quite simple. The top clicked into place on top of the two vertical pieces, and the shelves had little plastic pieces that pushed into holes on the sides. It didn’t take a genius to put together, though she didn’t doubt Nick’s intelligence. He may not look the part, his surfer physique standing out amongst the wiry builds of the other guys she had seen since arriving, but he wouldn’t be here if he couldn’t make the grade.
As Nick put the bookshelf together, Peter watched as Samantha struggled with the mattress and sheets. It was harder than she expected, but she finally managed. The quilt was easier—throw it on and smooth it out. She threw the pillow that Peter had brought up to finish her bed. Well, that was done. The room still looked bare.
Nick looked over at her. “Where do you want this?” he asked, pointing at the finished bookshelf.
“Oh, on the desk,” she said, flustered. How did she forget they were there?
Nick followed Samantha’s instructions and gently placed the bookshelf on the desk, pushing it up flush with the wall. Samantha started unpacking her books, placing them randomly on a shelf. She’d organize them later. She also unpacked the lamp, alarm clock and posters, but not bothering to plug anything in. She slid the two boxes into her closet.
“Ready for more?” she asked sarcastically, fake enthusiasm drenching every word.
And yet, Nick didn’t seem to pick up on it. His whole attitude was something completely foreign to Samantha, something she had never encountered before. He was happy, always joking, trying to make her feel at home and welcome, and she really just didn’t get it. She had always been skeptical about people like Nick, always thought they had some hidden agenda. But with Nick she couldn’t tell. He was just happy. It was very disconcerting.
But what was even stranger to her was his roommate. He was Nick’s complete opposite, it seemed. He was quiet and kind of brooding, but not in a foreboding way. He seemed too smart for his own good, and that made Samantha feel oddly inferior. She’d never felt inferior before. She didn’t like it. And the way he looked at her. There was something she was missing, she knew. She’d have to get to know these boys better, that was for sure. She needed to know what was in their heads. She was too curious for her own good.
The second trip down went off without a hitch, and suddenly, all of her stuff was in her room. Nick offered to help her unpack, but she diplomatically turned him down. It was just clothes now, and she was very particular about where everything went.
As they were walking out of her room, back to their own, whose door they had left open the whole time, Nick turned back to her.
“Peter and I were thinking about going to get ice cream later. You should come.”
“Sure, that sounds like fun.” Samantha wasn’t completely sure she wanted to spend more time with the guys across the hall from her, but she knew that if her roommate ever turned up, she’d want to be out of there.
Samantha closed the door on Peter and Nick, and started unpacking her clothes. It was almost lunch time by now, and she was starting to get hungry. She should have brought more than just a granola bar to eat. She hadn’t even thought about it. But she could wait a little longer. Maybe she’d go to get ice cream even if her roommate hadn’t shown up. She might actually be that hungry.