So there she was. Eight months later, and with her very own room, furnished simply, her art box gleaming in the corner of the room. She remembered the thrill that had shot through her when she'd first been given her keys and opened the door to her room. Breathing in deeply she had carefully set her one box on the floor and sat on the bed, unable to believe she was there at least. Ten minutes passed before she decided to unpack.
Now she sat at her desk, the buzz already beginning to wear off. It was quiet, few students had arrived yet, and she was beginning to dread what would happen when they did. She had always hated meeting strangers. As she stared at the clock, reading four pm, she began to feel very alone. Although she had always more or less relied upon herself, she had no idea what to do when she was totally and utterly alone. A door slammed shut in the hallway and she shuddered. Better to stay alone in her room until dinner, rather than go outside and face people she didn't know.
At five, she realized it was only fifteen minutes before dinner started. At five thirty, she decided it was probably too early to go down just yet, in case there was no one else there. At six, she thought that maybe there might be too many people there, so she waited. At six forty five, she realized she wasn't going to dinner. At seven, the dinner hall closed.
She sat still, as she heard people walk by past her door. They were laughing, they knew each other already. She comforted herself by imagining they had been friends from high school, who had come up to the college together.
"I'm so glad I met you this morning Sally," She heard outside in the hall. Oh. She comforted herself by thinking that they were probably the 'popular girls' who never had problems making friends, whose confidence was unyielding.
"I know! I was so nervous I wouldn't meet anyone and I'd have to sit alone in my room!"
Oh. She hugged her arms around her chest as she listened to the girls retreating footsteps, and had an over whelming urge to jump up and run out to them, include herself. But she knew she never would.
Instead she took out her sketch pad and drew creatures from the night; dark, terrifying beings that fed on your insecurities and gnawed on your weaknesses. At eight pm, she ventured nervously down the hallway to the dark bathroom, brushed her teeth and went to the bathroom very quickly, then returned to her room. Closing the door solidly, she sighed with relief, and then nervously changed into her pyjamas. Although it was only 8:15, she jumped into her bed, with its familiar quilt, and tried to fall asleep. But all she could hear outside the room was laughter and the quiet murmur of conversation, doors closing, giggles, and people outside. At twelve, when the last person had gone to their room, Claudine was still awake, weeping, clutching the bear she had stolen from Peter's old toy box.
The next morning she awoke at seven thirty, the only noise a bird chirping loudly outside her window. She gazed at the ceiling, wondering how she would ever pass another day. Her stomach growled loudly, and she silenced it with anxious thoughts. She had discovered that if she thought worrisome thoughts, the hunger would eventually disappear and be replaced by a rock of anxiety. While neither feeling was pleasurable, at least she could convince herself there was no need to go down to the hall for breakfast.
She lay in her bed a little longer, until a slither of light slid across her bedspread. A quick glance told her it was only eight, yet she decided it was probably early enough to have a shower uninterrupted. Gathering her shower items close to her chest, she wondered if she should change out of her pyjamas, and into the clothes she was to wear that day. She breathed in deeply, thought "stuff it" and practically ran into the hall, while she had a little confidence. The silence of the surrounding rooms enveloped her and she sprinted down the hall towards the bathrooms, trying to be as quiet as possible. She slipped inside a shower cubicle, closing the door, double checking the latch was locked and then quickly removing her pyjama top and pants. Standing only in her underpants and singlet, she leant into the shower and turned on the hot tap. Placing her hands below the stream she jumped back, knocking into the cubicle door. The water was still freezing. Although she was alone, a deep flush spread across her cheeks in embarrassment and she hopped from foot to foot as she began to get more and more cold. After waiting a few minutes, she stuck her hands out more tentatively, sighing deeply as the water began to heat up. She quickly removed her underwear, stepped in and began to relax for the first time in two days. All the tensions began to melt away and she massaged shampoo into her scalp.
A noise outside the cubicle made her freeze mid-lather. A cough near the sinks. A male cough. Claudine began to slowly continue her lather. She had almost forgotten the bathrooms were co-ed… and she was almost relieved there was someone there. Now she could say hello without wondering if it was inappropriate. And she had always been less awkward around boys due to her brothers. She began to go through the actions more quickly, rinsing her hair, scrubbing her body, shaving her legs and washing her face with an almost urgent speed. She could hear the boy beginning to shave his face with an electric razor as she stepped out of the shower, drying herself speedily. She slipped into her underpants, then grimaced as her pants stuck to her still-wet legs. Ignoring the uncomfortable sensation, she slid into her bra and tee shirt, shaking out her wet hair. As the boy began to brush his teeth, she realized she had left her tooth brush in the room. No matter, she thought, I'll just run this stuff back and grab it. She gathered up her towel and pyjamas, shoved her soaps and shampoo into her toiletry bag and opened the cubicle door. Silence. Absurdly disappointed, she walked out of the bathrooms towards her room. She noticed the door next to her room was open, and she rushed past, trying not to look up. As she got closer to her room, a voice called "hey".
She glanced up, and saw a boy standing in the doorway. For some reason, she knew it was the same boy from the bathrooms. He heard me shower she thought out of the blue.
"Heya," she replied, blushing. She shoved her head back down and marched the few more steps to her room. Fumbling for her key, she let herself into her room and grabbed her tooth brush. When she came back out of her room, the boy next door had disappeared and his door was closed. She sighed, once again disappointed. You blew it again Claudine, she thought as she walked to the bathrooms, no longer self conscious. She brushed her teeth quickly, efficiently, as one learns to do in eighteen years of living in a two bathroom house with eight people. She thought of the noisy, busy house, of her brothers, and although she had never received much attention in her life, she had never felt so lonely.
She passed the day uneventfully, reading a book, which she finished unsatisfactorily early. Having convinced herself that book would keep her occupied for the best part of the day, she was disappointed when she finished it at one pm. Standing up and stretching, she walked around her room, over and over, until she got dizzy. Laughing at herself, she sat in front of her computer. Bought herself a year ago, it was one of her most prized possessions. She never let anyone else touch it, and it held some of her deepest thoughts. There was something safe and easy about emptying all your thoughts into a computer. She would just drift away and look down some twenty minutes later and see a page or two of neat, typed writing. Sometimes she wouldn't even re-read what she had written, just save it and feel a little better. It was strange therapy, she knew, but she also knew it worked. As she sat in front of the computer now, she felt restless. She placed her fingers on the keys, then withdrew them. She scrolled the mouse around the screen, then paused, clicked on the Word button, and opened the program.

I don't know what to do. Like, I really don't know what to do. I keep taking tentative steps outside the door, telling myself that I'm going to go meet some people, then I hear someone laughing or talking, and I freeze again and run back inside the safety of my room. It's just so easy to sit here and pretend I'm fine, despite the hunger in my stomach. In the past twenty four hours all I've eaten is a bag of kettle chips. Wait, it would be longer than twenty four hours actually, since the last time I ate a meal was eleven thirty am and its now… six fifty pm.

She paused for a second as she realized how long this was for her. She laughed, without humor. No wonder I'm hungry she thought. She sat still for a few moments, and then her fingers once again found the keys, and she continued to type.

I went outside a little while ago, about six pm, and almost went into the dining hall. Actually, I got right outside the glass doors. Then I saw someone look up at me, and I stopped. Even my hunger isn't enough for me to go in there. It's just too hard, mentally. I keep imagining things. Embarrassing things. Like, me sitting alone at a table while everyone else sits with their friends. Them all looking at me, whispering "who's that? Why is she sitting alone?" Me dropping something and everyone looking at me. I just can't do it. I'd much rather sit up here, the hunger gnawing at my insides, and feel safe. Hungry, but safe. I'd much rather sit up here and sketch or type my feelings and hide from what's out there. I'm wishing Simon and Brad were here, with their easy manners and likeable personalities. They'd have hundreds of friends moments after they'd arrived. Sometimes I wish I was like them.

Claudine sighed as her fingers left the keyboard. Sometimes? Try all the time. She always wished she was more like her suave older brothers. She remembered when she was thirteen and Brad had been sixteen, and how he'd walked with her on her first day of high school. The second they walked through the gates people had been introducing themselves to him, thinking he was going to be attending their school. You could almost read their expressions as they gazed at him. There's a guy you want to know. Girls had been flirtily smiling and tossing light tokens of speech to him, their eyes glinting, leaning towards him, as girls always did. And he had just smiled, nodded, talked and flirted back, all the while his hand clasped protectively on Claudine's shoulder. And she had been so proud of him, yet also so envious.
As she slinked to her first class, Brad now long gone, she had but one thought. I wish I was more like him.I wish I was popular. But it was something you were born with. A gift. And no matter how often people commented on her artistic abilities, or went into raptures over her paintings, she knew that she'd swap her talent for the one she'd always wanted in a second. The talent of being popular.
Sighing unhappily, she decided it was late enough to go to bed, as it was nine pm. Grabbing her toothbrush and paste, she opened her door slowly. As she shut it behind her, she noticed writing on the large whiteboard that all students had on their doors. She jumped slightly, reading the loopy handwriting.

Happy to be your neighbo! From, Benjamin!

Claudine breathed in deeply, the short message flooding her heart with hope. Maybe this place wouldn't be so bad after all. That night she fell straight to sleep.