Chapter 2


“I can’t believe this,” Lena shouted, outrage emanating from her bedroom.

I rolled my eyes toward my empty bed, longing for its memory foam-filled comfort.  The tattered patchwork quilt that had warmed me since childhood called for me to wrap myself within its weathered fibers.

Frostburg State University’s spring semester was supposed to start tomorrow morning.  Most college students would be in bed with three alarms set, anxiously awaiting their first day.

Okay, maybe not most college students, but certainly the successful ones—those who willingly sat in the front of the class and who knew where the library was located.  I had been a promising student during my freshman and sophomore years at FSU.  Then I had made the life-altering decision to drop out and start my own business.

“Meredith?” she yelled.  “Did you hear me?”

“What do you want, Lena?”  I asked, moving toward the yellow light glowing in her room.  By the tone of her voice it was obvious that if I didn’t go in I would regret the decision for the rest of the night.

“I need you to take a look at this.”

“Take a look at what?”  If she was going to subject me to a fashion show of potential first-day outfits, I would cheerfully strangle her and allow exhaustion to ward off the homicide-induced guilt until morning.  Lena Whyte looked good in everything and she knew it.

“I just got a letter from someone named Susan at the registrar’s office.  I think I’ve lost the ability to read.”

“You called me all the way in here to tell me you can’t read?  I already knew that.”

My comment confused her.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know that little note I left on my chocolate chip cookies?  The one that said, ‘Lena, don’t eat these?’”

“No,” she said, casually scooting the empty Tupperware container behind her computer screen.

“See, that’s what I thought.  I knew you wouldn’t have ignored the warning on purpose.  The only logical conclusion was that you developed a sudden case of illiteracy.”

“You know there’s a second, equally feasible explanation.”

“For you stealing and eating all of my cookies?”

She continued without missing a beat, ignoring my question.  “To me not being able to read the letter.    Either I can’t read anymore or Susan wrote this thing in Japanese”

“If it’s the first you’re going to have trouble becoming a teacher.”

“And if it’s the second?”

“Will you just give it here?” I commanded.

I plucked the crumpled paper from her chokehold and skimmed the creased words for signs of a foreign language.  “This is written in simple English, Lena; there’s not even one word of Japanese anywhere.  The biggest word in this thing is Thursday.”

She tuned me out, ignoring my jibe with visible effort.  “They changed my class schedule,” she said in a flat monotone.

“That’s the gist of it.”  I read the missive twice more in an attempt uncover what could have led to the distress on her face.

“Mer, they changed my schedule!” she repeated with more animation.

“So what?”

“Now I have a class on Fridays!  I haven’t had a class on Fridays since sophomore year!  And, to make it worse—if that’s even possible, it’s at 9AM on Fridays.  That’s in the morning, Mer!”

“It is?” I scoffed.

“Very funny.” She reached for her pink ruffled pillow and chucked it at my head.  I deftly dodged the object, having anticipated the assault.

“It’s not really that big of a deal is it?”  It wasn’t like Lena went home early on the weekends like most of the other students; both of our families lived within Frostburg’s city limits.  She didn’t have a job either so her Fridays were always free; one class wasn’t exactly going to be earth-shattering.

“Not a big deal!  They must be trying to shut down all of the local businesses!  Scheduling a capstone course on a Friday morning is going to be catastrophic for Frostburg’s economy.  This is the type of issue that should be addressed by the local government.  Who is our mayor?”

So that was what this was about.  I should have known.  “You are talking about the bars, right?” I asked, awaiting her confirmation.

The metropolis of Frostburg, Maryland—population 7,719—is a quintessential college town: thriving during the semesters and abandoned on winter and summer breaks.  However, unlike other colleges, the majority of Frostburg’s students were from the surrounding area so they also went home when they didn’t have class.  This weekly exodus left the town deserted on weekends.  That factor meant Thursdays were the prime nights to hit the local establishments for liquid entertainment.

“Don’t you use that high-and-mighty tone with me; bars are businesses too.”

“Maybe you should start some kind of petition to call attention to the issue,” I suggested.

“That’s it!  I can start a protest group on Facebook.  Great idea, Mer!”

“You know it was a joke, right?” I pointed out, unsure of how serious she was.

“All I heard was what you said, not the way you said it,” she shot back.

“Do what you want, but I’m not going to join this nonsense.”

“Join?  You’re going to be the founder.”  She grinned wickedly, and my stomach dropped.

The confidence in her tone scared me.  “Did you figure out my password again?” I winced at the thought of the damage she had orchestrated in the past.

Instead of answering, she offered me a piece of advice, confirming my suspicions.  “You really should learn to be more creative in your choices or at least stop writing them down.”

“I’ve had to change the thing so many times that I forget what it is.”  This was the fifth password I had used since Christmas.

“If you can’t remember you could always ask me,” Lena offered.

“That’s invasion of privacy, you know.”

“There’s no privacy between friends.”

“I believe the saying is ‘there are no secrets between friends’ or something like that.”

She moved to hug me, but I resisted.  “I like mine better.”

“Let’s get back to the real issue here.  Why are this letter and your schedule change such a big deal?”

“Do you have any idea what a Friday-morning class means?”

“I guess it means you’ll be curbing your extra-curricular activities so you can get up early on Fridays.”  Which meant more shut-eye for me.  I couldn’t help the grin spreading across my face.  This was going to be an ideal last semester—for me.

“Be serious, Mer.  In the fifteen years since you have known me, have I ever curbed my extra-curricular activities?”

Mentally reliving our lengthy acquaintance wasn’t necessary to answer accurately.  “No.”

“Exactly.  It means I’m going to be missing a lot of class!”

And Lena missing a lot of class ultimately meant I would lose a lot of sleep.

“Do you think you’ll ever give up the night life?  Or are you training to be one of those teachers who parties with her students?”

“Be serious, Mer.”

“But you always tell me I’m too serious.”

“And you say I’m the ridiculous one,” she snorted.  “I’m going to be teaching kids in elementary school.  Something tells me their curfews are considerably earlier than when my night begins.”

“Okay.  Maybe the second question wasn’t serious but the first one was.”  Would Lena ever consider herself beyond the drunken-goodnights, hung-over hellos and Friday-morning regrets?

She pursed her lips as she considered her future.  “Yeah, I guess I will have to… eventually.”

“Eventually,” I repeated toward the ceiling, praying eventually was closer than either of us could anticipate.

“Who knows?  Maybe this final semester will serve as a sort of ‘last hoorah’ for us.”

Us?”  The word tasted ominous on my lips.

“Well, for me it will be willingly.  For you… reluctantly.”

“You mean requiring undue force?”

“To-may-toe, To-mah-toe.”

* * *

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