(Rayna)1

Waiting in line to check into my dorm at Anders University, I fidgeted, feeling a little anxious. Although I was excited to begin my first year- and hopefully my last- as a college freshman, I was nervous as well. I'd felt jittery all morning. I usually have more faith than this that things will work out- but this was something so new and different for me that I supposed it was only natural to be edgy. My first year of college, first year of being apart from my hometown, my parents, my friends and church… what if I hated it? What if the classes were hard, or the kids wild and hard to befriend? What if the professors were really harsh, or I lost my keys or wallet? What if my roommate had a thieving or drug problem?2

Calm down, Rayna, I told myself, forcing myself to breathe out slowly, calmingly. It will be fine. You're not the first person to go to college- God will see you through. Just put your trust in Him and it will be okay. You're here for a reason- and he let whoever they paired you with be paired with you for a reason too. It'll be fine…3

That was one of my main concerns at the moment- whether or not my roommate and I would get along all right. I mean, I can get along with anyone almost, but I hoped she wasn't one of those girls who drank or did drugs all the time, or dragged guys back to the room to have sex. I had never met her, or even seen a picture of her; she doesn't have MySpace or Face book, and we hadn't gone to the same orientation sessions over the summer. I had called her on the phone before, to see about who would bring what, and whether she wanted to decide on a theme or decorations for our dorm, but that conversation hadn't gone over very well. My roommate- her name is Caitlyn, Caitlyn Dexter- had been very close-mouthed, barely answering me in monosyllables. She hadn't wanted to decide on a theme, or even talk to me, it seemed. She hadn't come across as very friendly.4

Stop it, Rayna; I told myself, give her a chance. You haven't even met her yet. Maybe she's shy, or one of those people who isn't very good on the phone. I'm sure it'll be fine. I just hope she didn't bring tons of stuff- I don't know how much our room will hold.5

Anders University is a pretty college- only about 4,000 students- and its rooms reflect that. Caitlyn and I would each have a bed, desk, dresser, and small closet- there wasn't much space for anything else. I guess we'll just have to see, I thought, maybe she's already here. She only lives fifteen minutes away- I live over two hours away, I probably got here later. 6

My parents kept glancing at me with these strange, anxious little smiles that betrayed both their nerves and sentimentality. My mom looked as if she were trying to keep from crying, and my dad kept touching my back or shoulder. It was kind of sweet, although a little embarrassing, admittedly, with all the other freshmen with their parents in line. None of them seemed emotional- not yet, anyway. But I suppose it was understandable that my parents were. I'm an only child, and I've always been close to my parents. I knew it would be lonely for them when I left.7

"You nervous, Rayna?" Mom asked, her voice slightly strained as she squeezed my arm. 8

"A little," I said lightly. "It's something new- but change is good, right?"9

"Don't' change too much," Dad said, meaning to sound facetious, but something in his tone didn't quite pull it off. "We love you fine the way you are, Rayna."10

He squeezed my shoulder, and I smiled at him, feeling my heart twist a little. I felt bad for them, weird as it might sound for an eighteen-year-old about to strike out on her own to say. Already I was starting to be homesick, sappy as that sounds. I bet none of the other kids were- probably all of them couldn't wait to leave their old lives. But then, most of them probably weren't majoring in Christian ministry either.11

At last it was my turn to register, and I stepped up to the table with the lists of all the names, run by two girls maybe two years older than me and a middle-aged woman.12

"Hi, welcome to Anders University," one of the girls chirped, smiling in a cheerleader-reminiscent grin. "Freshman, right?"13

"Yes," I replied. "My name is Rayna Hanley- I should be in Kingston, 104?"14

"Right- here you are," she said, finding my name and highlighting it. "Your roommate already checked in- Caitlyn Dexter? Here's your key, and this form- look over your room and write down anything missing or damaged, then come turn this back in signed. Bathroom too."15

The way my room, as I'd seen it during orientation, is set up is there are three rooms on the end of a hall that all share a bathroom. I hadn't met the other four girls I'd be sharing a bathroom with either, although I'd been given their names in the same packet where I'd been given roommate information. They were called Idris McKenzie, Jacqueline Kavanaugh, Alicia Nesterman, and Shauna Logan. I had no clue how all six of us sharing would work out- maybe we could draw up some kind of schedule with showers and cleaning and all.16

Taking the key from the girl and thanking her, I walk ed back to my car with my parents, driving around to the outside of my dorm. It was a large, old brick building like most college dorms- nothing special. My car was so loaded with my stuff for the dorm that I couldn't even use my rearview mirror. 17

I got out of the car and walked to the entrance of the dorm, leaving my things in the car- I'd unpack them after I'd checked out my room and returned the check off sheet, I supposed. The key stuck in the door for a few minutes before it opened up into the dorm lobby, a kind of anteroom equipped with two small couches, chairs, tables, a TV, and a drink and snack machine. I unlocked the door into the dorm hallways, and my parents followed me to the left, down to my room.18

Kingston, the dorm I was staying in, was mainly a freshman dorm, so everywhere I looked girls were carrying boxes and bags in and out of open doorways. The walls were covered with sheets of white paper with various headings entitling them- "Inspirational quotes", "Graffiti sheet", "News and Announcements", etc. Each door had two decorated papers, laminated, with a girl's name on each of them.19

I smiled and said hello to a few girls I caught sight of before I spotted my room, 104. I could see my name and Caitlyn's on the door, and the door was propped open, bags of trash and empty boxes shoved out into the hall. From the looks of it, she had been here a while and was mostly moved in.20

"Here it is," I said to my parents, catching a glimpse of two adults in the room- her parents, no doubt. "Guess I'll finally meet her, huh?"21

I couldn't think anything else to say except that obvious remark. My nervousness had suddenly escalated, my chest felt fluttery. Silly, I told myself, you'll be fine. Better get used to all this soon- this is your life for the rest of the year.22

I stuck my head inside the room, my parents hovering behind me, but still I only saw the two adults- they were standing in front of one of the beds, where, I supposed, Caitlyn must be lying or sitting. I didn't see her.23

"Hi," I called out, as I stepped into the room. "I'm Rayna Hanley- Caitlyn's roommate?"24

The two adults turned around, startled- they had been saying something in a low but intense tone, and I had taken them by surprise. Once they turned slightly, I could see the girl on the bed- the girl who was presumably to be my roommate. Had I just seen her in the hall, I would have assumed she was the high school dropout sister of someone attending here…25

She was hunched over, her shoulders and back so slumped and still that it was really no wonder her parents' bodies had blocked her from my view. Her hair was long with shorter bangs, a mess of badly dyed black and coppery red, pulled back in a sloppy ponytail. Her eyes were heavily outlined in black kohl and eyeliner, and her lips were done up in dark purplish lipstick. She had a stud in her nose and was wearing a silver chain around her neck, along with a spiked dog collar- yes, a dog collar- and a baggy black shirt, jacket, and pants. Her fingernails were painted white, and she had on a very beat-up looking pair of sneakers.26

As I looked at her, she slowly lifted amber-colored eyes to met mine, her expression as lifeless and uncaring it seemed dead. I attempted to smile, although my lips stuck at the corners; she did not.27

As our parents began to talk around us- addressing us, introducing us and each other in falsely cheery tones, as though they didn't' notice our silence, the awkwardness, I stood there, smiling painfully. My nerves had just given way to near panic. This was my roommate- this girl in black, who didn't even say hello?