I had been having a pleasant dream about puppies and magical stardust when I was rudely awakened by someone kicking my seat from behind. I was about to turn around to verbally assault the offender when that groggy fog of sleep cleared from my mind and I realized that it wasn't a person at all, but the movement of the plane. Another jolt threw me sideways in my seat and I found my face smashed up against the window looking out into the stormy night sky.

It was raining. I mean RAINING, like end of the world, apocalyptic, Noah's Arc kind of raining. The only thing I could see through my window as the plane dipped lower and lower were streaks of wind, rain, and the occasional flash of lightning, all of which seemed to be zipping by much too fast for a safe landing. The plane lurched down suddenly and I swear, ever single person on the plane let out a small whimper at that moment. Now wasn't the best time for me to realize that this was my first time on an airplane. Of course, quickly following this observation I realized that it might also be my last.

Again, the plane shuddered as it was battered about by the giant storm clouds that surrounded us. I looked away from the window then, feeling my stomach begin to flip flop of its own accord and happened to catch a glimpse of one of the stewardesses when the curtain shielding her from the rest of the plane shifted in the turbulence. The look of utter terror on the face of a veteran of air travel did little to boost my confidence and it was a miracle that I was able to grab the sick bag in time. As I was heaving my guts up the plane touched down, skipping like a heavy stone along the slick runway. It lasted a few tense moments but eventually the wheels seemed to find their grip and the plane ceased to be air-born.

The passengers let out a collective sigh of relief. I on the other hand, made my relief more known with "Oh God! Sweet Baby Jesus, thank you! I will never ever doubt you omnipotence again!" Needless to say, the girls who'd been looking at me with doe eyes before were now avidly avoiding my gaze.

X

About an hour later I had my bags and had managed to hail a taxi. I'd only been standing on the curb a few moments and already I was drenched. The car pulled up and the driver threw open the back door. I dove in, pulling my bags with me and landed in a jumbled pile in the back. The door slammed and I felt the car accelerate off.

"So uh…whei's to?"

I giggled softly. I was finally hearing the famous New York accent with my own ears. "Ithaca please."

The driver grunted. "Sheesh, that's a lawng ways. Yoi shoi yous can pay fuh all that?"

"I'm sure."

I was excited to get to see the famous buildings and monuments of New York City and eagerly asked my driver to point them out for me on the ride to Ithaca. He smiled, knowing I was a first-timer and told me when were passing the sites; but that's all he did. The only things that could be seen through my rain-streaked window were dark smears, which I assumed to be buildings, and starbursts of light from the headlights of passing cars. So the only thing left to entertain me were my worries.

I thought about my family and my friends back home and regretted leaving because I already missed them terribly. A phone call every few days was no substitute for the real thing. What was wrong with me that I had voluntarily (and eagerly!) put myself into a situation where I would not know a soul in a radius of 50 miles?! Then I began to imagine all of the terrible things that could happen to me in this new place and all the awful people I could meet. Would I be able to make friends? Would they be able to see through my charade as thought it were tissue paper? I tried to recall memories of my father, of the life we lead before he left in the hopes that these memories would inspire me and remind me of why I had come. But it was in vain. I couldn't think of anything.

But the ride was so long that I had enough time to think these worries a hundred times over until they lost their sting and I grew bored. Soon after, I passed out, my head resting uncomfortably on top of one of the many bags stuffed into the backseat of the cab.

X

A few hours later (3 hours and 42 minutes later to be exact) I was jostled awake as the cab went over some rather large potholes in the parking lot of the school. I sat up as we came to a stop and the driver turned around.

"Well, here we aw. Tha's gonna be fitty foi dollas."

I dug through my wallet for a moment before finding the right change and handed it to him through the little Plexiglas window in a crumpled wad. I saw him make a face in the rearview mirror, but he didn't say anything so I opened up the door and stepped out onto the curb, right into a deep puddle. Well, that was just awesome. It was still raining, harder than before (if that's possible) and in the few seconds it took for me to pull one of my large trunks out of the car my clothes were completely soaked through. Even better. Their first impression of me would be: sewer rat. I turned around to start tugging on my next bag, but the driver was out of his seat and had already gotten it. His hair was already plastered to his face and his clothes were glued to his skin with water. With his help it didn't take long to get my three trunks to the foot of the stairs.

I yelled thanks as he was getting back in, but I don't think he heard me. I shrugged and turned around to start hefting my bags up Satan's stairs. Honestly, whose bright idea was it to build a big set of stairs between the parking lot and the school? With 1, 2, 3…15 stairs?! As I was pondering this I heard a faint voice calling to me through the rain and turned around. My taxi was pulling away, with the driver leaning out the window.

"Heyyy, buck up kid. I've seen a lawt of scrawny kids like you and I can tell you one thing foi certain: Yoi one of the smawt ones. You'll find yoi way one ways oi another, you'll see."

I blinked in surprise and then felt a smile forming on my face. This was the first time that I actually felt like things would turn out ok. But wasn't it weird how a stranger's simple words of kindness had done that when the people dearest to me could not? Then I remembered I was still standing in the pouring rain, getting myself and my things soaked and looking like a total idiot. I grabbed my things and hurried off.

A good 10 minutes later found me huffing and puffing at the top of the stairs with legs feeling like they were on fire and a half a mind to start screaming about stairways from hell. Somehow I managed to hold it in though. I caught my breath and turned around to have my first look at the school that might change my life forever. And what a place to do it in!

The building ahead of me was three stories tall, spread out in a large "L" on the other side of a large lawn that in the daylight would have been beautiful. But tonight, the flowering trees that lined the walk hung heavy with rain and the lawn was brown with mud and dead grass. The structure ahead of me looked more like a gothic castle than a school with its iron fencing, dark granite siding, ornate molding around the windows and doors, thick stone pillars, and what, as I drew closer, turned out to be gargoyles.

As I pulled my things down that main walk and through the front doors I looked up and saw them sitting high above me, gripping the edge of the gutter with sharp talons, their mouths opened wide in perpetual screams, and their eyes frozen in wide-eyed frenzy.

I shuddered slightly. They were majorly creepy. I pushed open the heavy doors and found myself in the main hallway of the school. A chubby woman, looking to be in her 50's or 60's was standing off to one side and rushed over to me the moment I entered. She flashed me a chubby smile and addressed me in a sing-songy voice.

"Hello! Welcome! You must be one of our incoming students! My name is Ms. Plum. I am one of the secretaries here at the school and in charge with the important duty of getting the new students settled. Give me your name and I will check you off on my little clipboard here."

It took me a moment to understand her, because she spoke so fast and in such a high pitch.

"Um, yeah. My name's Bri…"

She raised one eyebrow and I realized that I needed to lower my voice. I cleared my throat with a cough and then started again.

"My name's Brian Ermar."

Her eyes grew smaller as she looked me up and down. Finally, after an intense moment, and much "oh crap! OH SHIT! She knows!" going on in my head she nodded.

"Mmm….yes, here you are. Brian Ermar. You'll be staying in….. Cedar hall in room…. 221 with a….. W. Decker. Alyssa here will show you the way."

She thumbed over her shoulder towards an empty chair.

"Um, mam? There's nobody there," I mumbled timidly.

The chubby secretary turned around slowly and saw that there was indeed, no one in the chair. Her face turned purple, which was funny since her name was Ms. Plum. I started to laugh, but saw her jaw begin to shake with anger and thought better of it.

"ALYSSA! GET OVER HERE NOW AND DO THE JOB THAT YOU'RE GETTING COMMUNITY SERVICE CREDIT FOR!"

Immediately following this outburst I could hear the faint sound of someone running, their feet falling hard and fast onto the tile floor in the distance. It grew louder and louder until a girl, about my age, skidded around the corner, her face flushed and her long, blonde hair slightly tangled.

"I'm sorry Ms. Plump! But I had to pee!"

Ms. Plum's eyebrow twitched. There was a little bit of spittle foam at the corners of her mouth and a vein pulsed ominously on her forehead.

"You asked to go to the restroom 20 minutes ago! Knowing you, you were probably at the gym flirting with Marcus Garity!"

Alyssa scratched her head at this. A strange reaction…

"Well I…um….oh screw it! I can't think of any new excuses. But I was NOT flirting with Marcus Garity. He might be able to make a free-through but I don't want him if he can't even…"

"That's ENOUGH!" Interrupted Ms. Plum. Her whole body was shaking and her eyes were wide and rolling. "I don't want to know what you were going to say or where you've been. Just take this student and escort him to his room. Then leave. Do not come back."

"But I still have another hour or two left to…"

"JUST GO!"

"Awesome!"

Alyssa grabbed one of my bags in one hand and looped her arm through mine with the other and yanked me out the door. I stumbled after her, barely able to stay balanced with my other two bags dragging heavily on my right side. She tugged hard on my arm and I soon found myself running. I'm not sure how I made it through the deep puddles that filled my shoes and down the gravel path that led to the main dorm without my feet slipping out from under me, but I did it and soon we were back indoors, making a little trail of water up to the second floor.

Alyssa finally turned to speak to me in the stairway. This close to her I noticed now that she really was quite pretty, with bright blue eyes, and straight locks of platinum-blonde hair. She smiled kindly before opening her mouth to speak to me.

"You look like shit."

I take it all back. She was an ugly whore.

"Gee, thanks. How nice of you to notice" I replied dryly. Why in the world would they let a girl like this welcome the new students? She'd be perfect though if they ever overbooked and wanted to run a few off.

"I'm sure you'll look fine once you dry off a bit. I'm Alyssa by the way." She put out her hand and winked.

I just gave her a blank stare.

"Yeah, I know."

The smile faded from her face and she withdrew her hand. I could tell she was used to getting her way. In all honesty, she really was beautiful with her curvaceous body, perfectly straight hair, and obvious level of self-confidence. Her charms might work on boys, but she was in for unpleasant surprise if she thought they'd work on me. She shook her head slightly, as if trying to clear her ears. No, you didn't misunderstand me you bimbo.

She reached the top of the stairs and turned left. Luckily my room was only a few doors down because my arms were seriously killing me. Alyssa stopped and knocked lightly on the door numbered 221. There was no noise from the inside. She turned to me.

"Key please?"

I held the key out to her in my open palm. She smiled, picking it up slowly, allowing her hand to brush mine slightly. She giggled.

"Oh, sorry!"

I just rolled my eyes. Was I like this around boys? That little voice in my head screamed no and I smiled. No, I had much more dignity than that. Meanwhile, Alyssa had gotten the door unlocked and opened it for me.

"There you go."

I nodded and pushed past her roughly.

"I'll see you around then…." She faltered, "Um…"

"Brian," I grunted. But I never should have given her my name. It was a big mistake and one that I'd be paying for a long time after.

She giggled. "Ok Brian. I'll stop by later to see how you're settling in."

"That's not necessary Alyssa. I'm sure I'll be…"

But she was already running off down the hall shouting, "See you later then!"

Ugh. Sometimes I really hate my own sex. It's girls flirting shamelessly like that that give the rest of us a bad name.

I picked up my bags and stepped through the doorway and into the place I'd be living for the next year. (Man, I don't think I'll ever get used to saying that!) It was a plain room, with white walls and blue carpet, and quite large. It was big enough for two small beds, a nightstand, two small dressers, a desk, and a small corner of empty floor space. To me it was the Ritz. I'd never lived on my own before and I had a feeling that this was going to be the location of many happy memories to come.

I debated about whether or not I should let my roommate have the good bed that was on the far wall beneath a large window, but in the end decided to be selfish. It was first come, first served as far as I was concerned. I had just finished putting my stuff into the dresser at the foot of my bed when someone knocked loudly on the door.

I called out, "Come in! It's unlocked!"

A moment later the door flew open and a bundle of bags walked themselves in! Well, ok, so there was a person underneath all of that stuff, but imagine how much more interesting that would have been! The guy collapsed onto the other bed and let out a huge sigh.

"My mom's a psycho. I can't believe she made me bring all this stuff!"

I chuckled. The moon might wax and wane, mountains might grow and crack, kingdoms might rise and fall, but mothers would never change. My roommate began to claw his way out of his mound of bags and chuckled.

"Man, you look like shit."

Almost. It was almost the start of a beautiful friendship.

"That's the second time I've heard that today! I really must look like shit."

I turned around to look into the small mirror that was nailed up onto the wall. My hair was plastered to my face in pleats and my clothes looked like they'd been shrink wrapped onto my body they were so wet. I realized with alarm that my waist looked way too small and pulled my clothes away from my body with a loud squelching sound.

"You sound like you're getting a sore throat too. Your voice is cracking."

Woops! I kept forgetting! I turned around to address him properly and my voice caught in my throat. He was bloody gorgeous! His hair was dark brown in color and shaggy with that "just got outta bed" look that I found to be absolutely adorable. He had piercing gray eyes the color of a stormy ocean sky. And his body? He was tall and athletic looking with lean, toned muscles and was positioned in such a way that I could tell he was both agile and strong. His brows furrowed a bit and I realized that I'd been staring.

"Eh heh," I laughed nervously and looked away, "Anyway, my name's Brian."

He nodded. "Mine's Decker."

"Unusual name."

"Yeah, well that's because I go by my last name."

What a weirdo. Was this some sort of trendy rebellion thing?

"Something wrong with your first name?"

He laughed. "Yeah, it's lame and embarrassing and no, I won't tell you what it is."

I smiled. We had more in common than he'd ever know. I wasn't going to tell him my real first name either.

"I understand completely."

XXX

Yeah! I'm on a role today! I'm hoping to get a bunch more chapters written during all the free-time I've got, being on Christmas Vacation and all. And if the teachers decide to strike...YAY!