Chapter I - Arrival

If you make a bad entrance, aim for a quick exit.

High school had been a period of mixed fillings for Melinda, as it is for most students. She had made friends and some unfriendly acquaintances too. Her best friend, Camilla, had been accepted to Harvard Med' and had now been estranged to her for a few weeks. As she thought about her, the eighteen-year-old girl scowled a bit. They probably wouldn't be friends for much longer now.

Her eyebrow rose as she noticed a copper sculpture she had previously seen via Google Map's Street View. She pressed a button next to her hand and waited until the bus doors opened. She had almost missed her stop! Losing herself in an unknown town would have been a great start for her first year away from home. She pulled the strap up to her shoulder, lifting a heavy bag and grabbed two more with both her hands.

She almost stumbled as she put her left foot on the pavement, a chance that she wasn't wearing heels. As a matter of fact, she had always favored practical clothes to fashionable ones. It was not that she didn't care about her appearance; she just found the ability to move easily more helpful than the attractiveness of her curves. That thought lead her to Jonathan, her ex, who would have apparently preferred that she wore less comfortable bras and tighter jeans since he had left her a couple of months ago for some bimbo. Something that would make most people dubitative about their appeal, but that did not change the way she judged her body. She never thought that one should take any interest in her due to her physical appearance. She had much more to give as a friend – or even a girlfriend – rather than as a trophy. She was good-natured and had a few witty moments. That was better than a stuffed piece of lingerie in her opinion.

She painfully climbed the stairs. Melinda had put a few pounds on during the previous months and was not much of an athlete before, so to speak. Of course, her mind was tricking her into thinking that she was fat and hideous, but most decent guys would have said that she was absolutely alright for her age and size. Although in general her self-esteem was not at rock bottom, when it came to her body issues, it flirted with the Marianas Trench.

A young, rugged teenager was staring at her. She did not let herself pause, even though that was exactly what she would have done under any other circumstance. He was unknown to her, what did he want? That would have been her main concern if her arms hadn't been under such strain. She awkwardly walked to her door and finally put everything on the floor. She hadn't traveled far from the bus stop, but those bags were horribly heavy. She looked again at the guy who apparently had not kept his eyes away from her since she finished climbing the stairs. He was standing in the doorway of the room facing hers.

"Hello," she said, hoping for anything but a creepy silence. He seemed to come back to his senses, as if he was dazed until then.

"Hi," he replied. "How are you?

- Tired."

He smiled, she frowned. Why would he smile? She didn't know, and she didn't really care. Her hands were already trying to find the keys in her jacket.

"Where are you from?

- Seattle," she answered almost unwillingly to the simple question. "What about you?

- I am from Selen.

- Then why are you in a student housing?"

The young man smiled again… That was beginning to concern her. What caused such an amusement in the stranger's mind? Was he mocking her?

She had moved to Selen, Oregon, in order to become a student; would she really have to deal with a jackass for neighbor during the whole year? She sure hoped not. Once again, he seemed to come back to reality after a short period of intensive staring. His eyes were almost black, she noticed; his irises hardly differentiable from his pupils. A feature she had usually witnessed amongst people of African or Asian descent only. Yet, his skin was not dark enough to indicate such a complexion. Well, did it really matter?

"It's kind of a ritual in the family, we have to prove that we are growing up, so we leave the nest and we pay for our rent by ourselves.

- Interesting," she badly lied. She found it idiotic due to the fact that he could have helped his parents if he had worked while living with them. "I am Melinda by the way." She unlocked her door with the newly found key.

"Louis," he replied with what she recalled as a Quebecois accent. "Louis Dithan." The last name was however pronounced the "normal" way.

"Nice to meet you, Louie," she misinformed him again.

"Nice to meet you too."

"Well…" She opened the door. He slightly nodded. "Good bye then.

- Good bye, Melinda."

N/A: Thanks to Anihyr Moonstar for her help, please check out some of her stories (especially The Coquette and the Thane).

Thanks to Complex Variable too for his help, please check out of his works (especially Shanghaied!).