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Done with this chapter! It only took me two days...

Chapter the Fourth: Baggage

Kathy and Becca walked out of orientation along with the rest of the early-arriving freshmen - maybe half the class, today. Maybe less. That put it just under a hundred kids, so Kathy wasn't surprised she didn't see Lilly or the boys across the hall around, but Becca couldn't help remarking on it. "Do you think they skipped out on orientation? Maybe they're going tomorrow. Maybe they took over our room and are having an orgy. Maybe it's some British thing."

"Or maybe we can't see them because Lilly's this tall-" Kathy held her hand about waist level "-and there are a hundred confused freshmen milling around."

"I like my British orgy theory," said Becca.

They had exited the castle through a back door and were walking around to the front when a great confusion and commotion rippled through the student body. Suddenly the relatively organized crowd was succumbing to anarchy - shouts and elbowing. "What's going on?" asked Kathy, straining to see past heads.

"I dunno. Come on, let's find out," said Becca, and began shoving her way through the crowd. Kathy followed, unwilling to be left behind, and as a result was a little more aggressive then she would normally have been. She stepped on a few toes, but everyone was too busy milling and cursing to notice.

They were near the front of the crowd when there was a screech, and a tremendous crash.

The frenetic motions of the students eased a little, and Becca and Kathy made their way around the front of the castle. Halfway up the marble stairs, hood crumpled against the dented double doors, was the bus that had shuttled Kathy in from University Town. "Hey. Hey!" Becca poked the person next to her, an older student with dark skin and shiny black hair in a long braid down her back. "Did you see what happened?"

"It came up the road. Accelerating. And did not stop," said the girl in a pinched accent - Kathy thought it might be Indian.

"Was there anybody in it? Are they all okay?" Becca persisted, but the girl just shrugged.

A pair of teachers, Ms. Radcliffe and a younger guy, came pushing through the crowd. The guy grabbed the bus door and tried to pry it open. "Lend a hand, we have to get the driver out," he said to Ms. Radcliffe.

The creative writing professor peered in through the front window, then said something almost inaudible, but Kathy and Becca, straining eagerly forward, caught it: "There is no driver."

The guy managed to wrench the door open, and he went inside; Ms. Radcliffe leaned around the door. The entire crowd of students seemed to lean forward and hold their collective breath, until the male teacher returned to the outside of the bus. "It has the luggage from the last group of students to bus up from town," he said loudly.

There was no further mention made of the absentee driver; although the question was clearly on everyone's mind, it seemed almost as though voicing it would make it too real. Becca and Kathy exchanged glances, but all Kathy said was: "My luggage is on the bus. So's Lilly's. We should probably get it for her if she's not here."

The two teachers who had opened the bus helped unload luggage. The preppy girl walked away with a matching set of tropical-colored bags and trunks; the two boys grabbed hampers and duffels. Kathy had a wicker basket and a wheeling suitcase; apparently all Lilly had brought was a large trunk, which Becca dealt with.

"Okay," Becca said at last, when they were halfway down the hill to Benedict. "I give. How'd they get the bus up the hill without a driver?"

Kathy, staggering under the weight of her basket, tried to shrug. "Brick on the ignition?"

"That would explain why it crashed," Becca agreed. "God, this is heavy. What's Lils got in here, bricks?"

When they arrived back at Benedict, their room was empty. Lilly was across the hall, sharing a chair with one of the British guys; the lights were off, and the residents of the room were crowded around a flickering laptop screen. Becca dropped Lilly's trunk with a bang so she could fish out her key. "Hey, Lils, got your luggage!"

"Oh thank God," said the girl, starting up from the chair. She stumbled a little on the floor, and the boy she had been sitting next to reached out a hand to steady her. "Take it easy, Lilly," he said. "You want a hand to set things up?"

She shook her head no, her face a pale smudge in the light of the computer screen. "Well, okay then. Come back when you're done?"

"Goodbye, Alex," she said firmly, and walked out.

Becca held the door open while Lilly and Kathy dragged their luggage in, then wandered across the hallway herself. The exchange of pleasantries was just audible - "Whatcha watching?" "Frankenstein, the old one." "Mind if I join you?" "Go ahead." And that was the end of Becca, for the time being.

Kathy pulled a set of grey sheets from her wicker basket and clambered up onto the top bunk to begin making her bed. Lilly, with apparently the same idea, drew out several yards of a light-sucking black material; when Kathy next looked down, the bottom bunk had been surrounded with what looked like blackout curtains, and Lilly had vanished behind them, along with maybe half the contents of her trunk.

Kathy began transferring clothes to her closet - there were three in the room, one on each of the side walls. Maybe that was the point to the weird geometry in here.

Presently the curtains parted, and Lilly emerged, dressed in a black turtleneck and close-fitted black pants. It emphasized her skinny figure, her waiflike paleness, and the obsidian black of her hair. Kathy raised an eyebrow, wishing she could get her clothes to do that (or that she had a skinny figure, a waiflike paleness, and obsidian black hair in the first place; the last on that list a dye job had secured, the middle the weather at Leshe would probably take care of, but there was nothing she could do with the first short of an eating disorder). "You're a goth?" she asked.

"I like black. I'm not a babybat, if that's what you mean," said Lilly disdainfully, perching on the edge of her bed and rummaging in her trunk.

"A babybat?" asked Kathy curiously. She had her clothes all in the closet now, and was organizing her bathroom gear and various other knick-knacks on a shelf near the bed.

"Babybats, minis. People like you," said Lilly cuttingly. She found what she was looking for - a pack of cigarettes - and pulled it out. "I'm not out to join a scene."

"Well, maybe I'm not looking for a scene either," said Kathy, a little defensively. She lifted a shoebox containing her jewelry out from the bottom of the wicker basket and slid it lovingly onto a shelf. "Maybe I've got issues."

Lilly scoffed and struck a match. "That's a good one, there. You bought your clothes at Hot Topic, didn't'cha? You're trying to scandalize Mum and Dad. That's not an 'issue'."

Kathy found the rest of her stuffed animals near the bottom of the basket, cushioning her electronics. "And I'm sure you've got lots of issues," she said, half-joking. She tossed a stuffed bat, a plushie cat, and a red panda onto the top bunk to join the wolf pup from her carry-on bag.

The pungent scent of cigarette smoke filled the room as Lilly lit up and inhaled deeply. "I've got issues like you wouldn't believe. Want a f**?"

"A what?" Kathy almost dropped her alarm-clock radio.

Lilly laughed, a harsh sound. "A cigarette, you Yankee."

"Oh. No thanks," said Kathy, positioning the alarm-clock on the desk and trying to decide if she'd be able to see it from her bed. "Are you allowed to smoke inside?" She didn't like tobacco products much, and was afraid she might start coughing. Or the whole room would permanently smell like cigarette smoke.

"Dunno; guess we'll find out," said Lilly, taking another drag.

Kathy waved a hand in front of her face, trying to banish the smoke, and went down on her hands and knees to try and find the plug.

"I brought a razor to school," said Lilly, unexpectedly.

Kathy banged her head on the desk. "Really?" she asked through gritted teeth. There was the plug. Shoot, they used a different kind in Europe. Where was that adaptor Izzy had bought her?

"Oh yah. Couple of times. Some wanker was bothering me. Couldn't cut him up, of course, would have gotten me expelled. So I cut myself a bit and made him watch. They don't like blood, boys. They think they're tough, but they can't stand it."

Kathy, maintaining a very forced calm, plugged her radio into the adaptor and the adaptor into the wall. The face lit, numbers quietly glowing. Hurrah. "Why is this relevant?" she asked.

"Still think you have issues, Babybat?" asked Lilly, cigarette smoke trailing from the corners of her mouth.

"Okay, you win. Congratulations, you have more problems then I do. Geeze. Should I call a shrink?" The final item in the wicker basket was Kathy's laptop; she laid it tenderly on the desk, charger and cord beside it.

"Been there, done that," said Lilly boredly. "A'right, this bed is my space. No one comes past the curtains. Tell Becca when she gets back, would you?" She pulled her legs up, swished the curtains closed, and disappeared.

"Sheesh," Kathy sighed through her teeth. Then, despite the fact that it had begun to rain lightly again, she opened the window to let out the smoke.

That was when Becca slammed the door open. "Hey! Found out from Alex. First full moon's at the end of the week! Sweet."

All post art not specifically credited elsewhere is mine.

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