Kestral was so perturbed that she tripped on the doorjamb on the way out of the café and would have gone sprawling out upon the sidewalk had Nora not whipped around and seized her elbow securely. "Okay?" she confirmed as Kestral found her feet again. Kestral nodded, shamefaced. Now she'll think I'm clumsy as well as spectacularly socially stunted, she thought ruefully. She rubbed first the toe she had stubbed, contemplating whether or not it was broken, then the elbow Nora had taken hold of. The other girl's grip had been so tight that Kestral's bones had creaked.
The question fluttered from Kestral's mouth like a flag trying to fly on only a soft, wispy breeze. It escaped her lips so softly that Nora had to ask her to repeat it. "Whathappenedinthere?" Kestral repeated in a rush. Nora grinned and flapped a hand dismissively. "Eh, there was a dude in the girls' bathroom and it weirded all of us in there out."
Lame, Kestral thought, filing away her memory of the event for further contemplation after her anthropology midterm was out of the way. All the way back to the dorm, she just stared at her feet in a two-pronged effort to avoid further conversation: avoid further conversation by focusing on not tripping on a crack in the sidewalk and by being unfriendly and taciturn. Despite all her planning, Kestral's plan failed. Nora chattered away about whatever thoughts sailed across her mind like clouds on a windy day. I think she's trying to distract me, Kestral conjectured, Why?
Several days passed uneventfully as Kestral and Nora prepared for and made it through the first of two rounds of midterms that semester. To Kestral's amusement and fury, Nora's study plan consisted of sitting on her bed amidst a whirlwind of notebook pages covered with disorganized notes scrawled in her slanted penmanship. She would appear to be studying diligently, then periodically fling the sheaf of papers she held and mock-sobbing in frustration. Her forty-second attention span became the butt of many of the jokes made by other girls on the floor.
This particular evening, Nora was following her usual pattern of ten minutes' studying, twenty minutes on Facebook, concluded by a trip up and down the hall to chat, repeated as necessary until adequately prepared for the exam. Then a bird smacked into one of their room's two windows. Kestral shrieked in surprise and dropped her textbook off her lap. A second later, the bird recovered enough to try again, this time barreling though the screen, through it, and into the room. Contrary to what the casual bystander might think, Kestral's possession of a blatantly avian namesake did absolutely nothing to calm her in the face of a birdy crisis. She shrieked again and pulled her comforter over her head. Nora was also alarmed, but perhaps she had more right to be since the bird—a pigeon, apparently—fluttered into her lap and stuck out its leg. From beneath the safety her bedding provided, Kestral warned Nora not to touch the bird ("It probably has rabies and fleas and dirt!").
"No!" Nora cried, using a pillow to try and swat the bird away, "I said no to all that! Go away!" Any normal bird would have abandoned its quest at this point, sufficiently threatened by the pillow, but this one walked closer to Nora, making belligerent noises. When the girl failed to comply with the bird's apparent wish that she remove the tiny scroll tied to its leg, it bit her with its beak on the tender
webbing between her thumb and first finger. Then it took off out the window, slapping Nora's head and face with its wings on the way out.
"Omigod," Kestral muttered fearfully, "Omigod omigod! It bit you! You need…shots...and hospital things…that they do in hospitals!" Then she realized that she had actually said that out loud and clamped her jaws shut. Nora wasn't helping things by staring at the tiny cut as if her hand were about to fall off. Then she began to tremble. Her expression was angry, but fear hid beneath the physical cast of her features and appeared undisguised in her eyes.