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Look! I'm writing another chapter! Good heavens, maybe I'll actually keep my word and be faithful with this story.

Then I can post it in the writer's forum and abjectly beg for reviews ^_^ . Might do that anyway.

This is a fairly useless chapter, except for the sake of character development. My apologies.

Chapter the Second: Roommates

There was a room on the third floor of one of the taller towers in which a rather bored, mousy-looking lady was handing out room assignments, keys, and other such vital information. She sat at a long table in front of a large bay window against which rain was still pattering; in front of the table, the floor was wet. Kathy obviously wasn't the first dripping person to come through here. Her shoes squeaked on the wet, varnished floor. "Name?" asked the woman on duty. Her accent was Irish, but not especially pronounced.

"Thorne, Katherine Thorne," said Kathy, feeling faintly absurd. Only international super-spies can introduce themselves like that and really pull it off. Quasi-goth freshmen girls, soaked to the skin and holding sloshing overnight bags, are best advised not to try.

The lady behind the table flicked some sheets of paper and made a tick mark next to Katherine's name. "Izzy's sister?" she asked mildly. Kathy nodded. "I taught her creative writing course," the woman continued. "She's a very bright girl. Irene Radcliffe, pleasure to meet you." She extended a hand, which Kathy shook awkwardly. "Now, here's your ID card, that's very important; it gets you into most of the buildings, and the dining hall. Room key, you're in Benedict. It's a triple, your roommates are... Lilly Hu and Rebecca Cantata. Here is a map of the grounds, and some other information; the orientation is at one o'clock, in this building downstairs. So, how is Izzy?"

"Traveling abroad," said Kathy, accepting a thick plastic card, a worn bronze key with the number '6' on its top, and a thick folder of papers. "She should be in Paris by now." Which was probably a lot nicer then here. "She's, um, taking that class on the influence of setting on tone..."

"Yes, I recommended her," said Ms. Radcliffe.

"Great. Well, she had a nice summer. Anyway, I should probably go get settled," Kathy excused herself. She shoved up her short skirt so she could get to the pocket in her checkered skinny jeans, where she deposited the room key and ID card; the papers she had no choice but to carry, and hope they wouldn't get too soaked.

"You know how to get there? Don't head down to Ariel by mistake, it is confusing from the back."

"Ariel?" asked Kathy, deciding not to mention she planned to go out the front door, creepy portraits notwithstanding.

"Yes, the other dormitory, around the back. It was for freshmen housing, but our class size has been small enough that we don't need it, so it's been boarded up. Wouldn't do to take a room in there, not at all." Ms. Radcliffe smiled in a way she probably thought was friendly, but which Kathy could only feel was patronizing.

"I'll be careful," said Kathy with an insincere smile of her own, and headed out, back down the spiral staircase that climbed the tower. The whole building seemed hushed and empty - only to be expected, perhaps, as it was early yet. Half the class wouldn't even show up until tomorrow; it was only the international students today, the ones who had to buy plane tickets months in advance. The squeaking soles of Kathy's Converses, and the light patter of each footfall, echoed around the hard floors and high ceilings. As she passed the portraits in the entrance hall, the eyes of Lord and Lady Leshe stared at her accusingly until she ducked out the double doors, and back into the rain.

By the time she got to Benedict, her information packet, however much she had tried to shelter it by bending over, was soaked through. On the bright side, the rain seemed to be letting up a bit, fading from sheets to dismal drizzles. Maybe the bus would make it up here with the rest of her belongings before nightfall. Kathy entered the dormitory, squeezed out both braids, shook the worst of the water from her glasses, and proceeded to get thoroughly lost.

It was not a large building, and it should not have been too hard to find room six; however, it took Kathy a good ten minutes. When at last she located it, it turned out to be wedged in a corner between room eight and room fourteen. The door had three names on it, written in blue Sharpie on pieces of yellow construction paper cut into star shapes: Lilly Hu, Katherine Thorne, and Rebecca Cantata - that final star had a multitude of tiny stars drawn all across its surface in pencil. Kathy twisted the handle, which was unlocked, and pushed the door open.

It was a fairly large room, by college dorm standards, but oddly shaped, more of a distorted pentagon then a proper oblong. There was a window at the far end. To the left, a bunk bed was pushed up where two walls came together at a weird angle. The small, pale girl from the bus was sitting on the bare mattress of the bottom bunk, staring off into space. To the right was a single bed, already made up with white sheets and a quilt; above it, band posters had been plastered over the bare wall. A plump girl with an olive complexion and wild corkscrew hair, pulled back into a sloppy bun with a pencil, was sitting on the bed, a guitar case on her folded legs, sorting through CDs. "Nirvana," she was saying. "You gotta listen to Nirvana. Here." She flung a CD in its case across the room like a Frisbee. The small girl on the bottom bunk tried to duck out of the way, but didn't quite make it in time; the CD case hit her forehead with an audible crack.

"Oh my God, I'm so sorry!" cried the girl who had thrown the disc, shoving the guitar case off her lap and sliding off her bed. "Are you okay?"

"Ya, ya, I'll be fine," said the small girl in a prim British accent. The other girl, with the lethal CDs, hadn't sounded European at all - she could have been from Kennebunk. Well, maybe New York - her voice lacked the New England twang.

"Okay, okay, that's good." The girl who was probably American reclaimed her CD and knelt by the girl she had just beaned with it, prying her slim fingers away from her forehead. There was a red mark, but it was fading fast. "Okay. Maybe Nirvana's too violent..."

Looking up, she noticed Kathy for the first time. "He-ey! Our third roomie is here! You must be Katherine?"

"Yup. Kathy, actually," said Kathy, daring to cross the threshold for the first time.

"Great!" The American girl walked back to her bed, absently tapped one of the band posters, and tossed the Nirvana CD back on a precarious pile. "I'm Rebecca, call me Becca not Becky, and that's Lilly. You don't look like a Kathy. Can I call you Kay instead?"

Kathy shrugged. "Sure."

"Great," Becca-not-Becky repeated, smiling warmly. She grabbed Kathy's hand and shook it. "I hope you want the top bunk."

"Yeah, actually, I did," said Kathy, completely truthful. She liked being up high; so she crossed the room in about four steps and swung her overnight bag onto the bare mattress. "So..." she began, swinging herself up onto the top bunk after it, using only one rung of the ladder. She dangled her feet over the side, careful the sodden laces didn't smack into Lilly. "...this is our dorm."

"Sure is," Becca agreed. "I think they grouped the freshmen by region. I'm from New York, where are you from?"

"Maine," said Kathy cautiously.

"Right. And we're the only citizens of the United States of America on our floor. So they figure Brits and Yanks are kind of similar, and threw Lilly in with us; the next room down is a couple of boys from England."

"Brits and Yanks are not similar," said Lilly from below. "And no one uses those terms anymore, not in any country."

"Whatevs," said Becca. "I like using words that aren't fashionable, don't you? It's spiffy."

Kathy looked out the window. The rain was leveling off now. "Do you think we'll get our stuff soon?" she asked Lilly, leaning over so she could see the top of the other girl's head, sleek black hair Kathy would kill to have.

"I hope so," said Lilly. "I could die for a cig right now."

"You smoke?" said Kathy, slightly aghast. Yes, she had been warned that such things happened in college, but her conservative upbringing had left her unprepared for the reality.

Becca burst out laughing. "You don't have to sound so surprised!" she giggled. But of course, she came from New York, and a wilder place then that in the US Kathy had yet to hear of. "Anyway," Becca continued, suddenly serious, "this is boring. Look, rain's stopping. Let's piss around the campus, we have..." She pushed aside some CDs to reveal a boom box; it had a tiny LCD clock on the front. "Like an hour before orientation. Who's hungry? I heard the dining hall was open." She shoved open the door of their room and leaned out. "Hey, you blokes across the hall!" 'Blokes' sounded weird in the absence of an accent. "Do you know where we can get food?"

Across the hallway were rooms five and nine; the door to room nine was open. A tall, lanky boy with shaggy brown hair leaned out. "Dining hall's open until one," he said; he had a heavy British accent. These must be the neighbors Becka had mentioned before. "There's a vending machine down the hall if you don't want to get wet, though."

"I'm fine with getting wet. Are you girls fine with getting wet?" asked Becka. She crouched beside her bed and pulled a long, beige duster out from underneath.

"I'm already so soaked it doesn't matter," Kathy muttered, dumping out the contents of her overnight bag. Some pajamas, underwear, socks, a toothbrush, a book, a plushie wolf pup, and lots of water puddled on her mattress. She spread the objects apart and wiped the water away as best she could. "Okay, let's go."

She dropped off the top bunk, landing loudly on the wood floor, bending her knees slightly to absorb the impact.

"Lilly? You coming?" Becka asked.

"No, I think I'll stay here," said the pale girl in her soft voice.

"Want to come hang with us?" asked the boy across the hallway. "We're watching 'Frankenstein' on Alex's laptop."

"No, thank you," Lilly repeated. The boy shrugged and vanished behind the door.

"Onward, Kay!" said Becca cheerfully, leading Kathy out into the hall. "And upward. Excelsior!"

All post art not specifically credited elsewhere is mine.

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