Ryan was the first up having an early class. He shuffled downstairs to grab a quick bite of something for breakfast. Rubbing his eyes he almost missed the older woman standing in the foyer. She looked somewhat confused as she watched him approach. Frowning Ryan stopped a few feet in front of her “can I help you?” he couldn’t help but wonder if she had some sort of car trouble and had come in here looking for help.
The woman smiled at him “I was beginning to think no one was here.”
Her tone sounded somewhat accusatory to Ryan’s ears. He shrugged “it’s early.” He glanced at the time not even 8:00 yet. What did she expect from a bunch of college students? “What do you want?” he asked gruffly finding her smile and attitude annoying.
“I’m looking for someone,” she said giving him another smile one he was sure was supposed to win him over “Charity Hollis.”
Frowning Ryan crossed his arms in front of him “who are you?”
“Does she live here or not?” the woman asked her eyes snapped with ill disguised irritation “I need to see her.”
Taking a step back Ryan tried to put space between him and the woman. He all but growled at her as he repeated his earlier question “who are you?” emphasizing each individual word.
As if sensing for the first time Ryan’s guard dog stance the woman giggled. A high-pitched unnerving sound in the quiet room. “She’ll want to see me,” she said reaching into the bag hanging from her shoulder “I’m her mother after all.”
Ryan’s eyes widened upon that declaration as she continued to rummage through her things. She smiled triumphantly upon finding what she was searching for. Her hand came out with a creased, crumpled envelope. She held it out to him with an expectant expression in her eyes. Hesitantly he took the envelope from her “what’s this?”
“Just give it to Charity,” the woman said smiling as she surveyed the interior of the room they were standing in “tell her I’ll be back later this afternoon.”
Ryan watched her turn and walk to the outside door her heels clicking on the tile. He held the battered envelope between two fingers as if he were afraid it might bite. There was something a little off about his encounter with the woman.
Retracing his steps he went upstairs. Stood in front of Charity’s door indecision in every movement he made. Should he give her the envelope? What if the woman was on the level? What if she wasn’t? Sighing he knocked on the door feeling like the bearer of bad news.
Hannah stuck her face in the crack as she opened the door. Scowling at her cousin “what?” she demanded not bothering to hide her irritation.
“I need to talk to Charity” he said.
“Can’t it wait?” she asked yawning “it’s too early.” She opened the door anyway allowing him inside.
“Sorry,” he murmured walking past her to Charity’s side of the room.
“Go away,” she moaned covering her head with a pillow.
Stopping short of the bed Ryan stopped tossing the envelope from hand to hand undecided what he was going to do.
“What’s that?” Hannah asked trying to snatch the envelope from him
“None of your business” he snapped at her clutching the envelope to his chest.
“Oooh a love letter,” she teased.
“Shut up” he growled.
“If you guys are going to fight take it outside” Charity complained “some people are trying to sleep.”
Looking at the envelope Ryan felt as if the paper was burning his flesh. Whatever feeling he had it wasn’t good. Taking a deep breath he sat on the edge of Charity’s bed “someone dropped this letter off for you.”
“A secret admirer,” Hannah said eyes sparkling enjoying the intrigue.
“Cool it with the stupid remarks,” Ryan snapped at her “it’s not some stupid love letter or declaration of admiration from a love-lorn secret admirer.”
Standing with her hands on her hips Hannah demanded “then what is it all knowing one?”
“Some woman dropped it off this morning,” Ryan said turning towards Charity who was now sitting up yawning “a woman claiming to be your mom.”
“My mom,” Charity said color draining from her face “impossible.” She pulled her knees to her chest “my dads said it was a closed adoption.”
“What did this woman look like?” Hannah asked as all the fun drained from her.
“What difference does it make?” Ryan asked watching her.
Hannah stopped pacing to give him an exasperated glare “did she look like Charity?”
Ryan stared at her eyes dropping to his lap. Slowly he nodded “she had Charity’s hair.”
Charity stared at her friends unconsciously running her fingers through her long hair. Like her mom’s hair. She had never thought about searching for her mom before. Faced with the option she couldn’t help but wonder what she was like. Reaching for the envelope she pried it from Ryan’s fingers.
Her eyes skimmed through all the legalese barely understanding anything but the rudimentary things. She’d have to have her parents take a look at it. In sudden panic she gripped the pages in her hands, she couldn’t do that. They’d think she didn’t love them and had went looking for that woman behind their backs
Turning to Ryan with pleading eyes “do you think you could have your dad look these over?”
Picking up the letter and envelope Ryan nodded “don’t you think you should show your dads…”
Shaking her head “no please I….” she blinked back tears “I don’t want them to know anything about this. At least not yet.”
“I don’t like it,” Ryan said under the baleful gaze of both his cousin and friend “you should tell them.”
“I will” Charity said “just not now.”
“Ok,” Ryan said knowing he shouldn’t agree to it but feeling he had no other choice “as long as you don’t meet with that woman without me.”
“Alright,” Charity agreed “and you’ll have your dad review those papers?”
“Yes,” he stood up. Moving towards the door “I’ll call him right now and send him a copy.”
Ryan walked into his room wondering how he was going to get his dad to look at the legal documents without him informing Charity’s parents.
“Aren’t you going to class?” Vincent asked upon seeing him walk into their room.
Glancing at the time he shrugged “guess not.”
“What’s up?” Vincent asked “you never skip class.”
“There’s a first for everything,” he mumbled shuffling towards his bed ignoring the inquisitive look Vincent was giving him.
“Does this have anything to do with Trinity?” Vincent asked.
“What? No,” Ryan shook his head “the dance was months ago.”
“Then you won’t mind if I ask her out will you?” Vincent asked inspecting his image in the mirror.
“Go for it,” Ryan told him unsure why Vincent felt the need to ask his permission.
“You’re sure?” he persisted.
“Positive,” Ryan mumbled trying not to give in to his growing irritation “if you like her that much ask her out.”
“I think I will,” He said straightening his tie one last time before going to the door “thanks man.”
“Whatever,” Ryan mumbled waving his friend on his way.
Skipping down the stairs Vincent all but ran from the dorm. He knew that Trinity had the same early class that Ryan had. He should have enough time to arrive when class was over. He hummed to himself. He knew he and Trinity had a connection. He felt it when he saw her for the first time on Ryan’s arm at the dance. It was exactly the way his parents described how they felt when they met at the same time.
Breathing hard he slipped onto the bench facing towards the door. He couldn’t miss her. Twenty minutes later he was watching anxiously for her to come out. He saw several dark-haired girls but none of them were her. He was about to give up concluding she must have skipped class. He gathered his things for the long walk back to his class.
He almost didn’t recognize her. Her hair was styled differently from the long straight pony tail he had seen her last in. She was so beautiful she took his breath away. He hurried towards her and watched helplessly as a broad shouldered football player gave her a smooch on the lips and another pulled her close and ran his hands all over her. Who were these guys? He thought they shared a deep connection. “Trinity” her name slipped unbidden from his lips.
She looked up smiling “yes” she inquired.
“You don’t recognize me do you?” he asked rooted to the spot wishing he could run or that the ground would open up and swallow him.
Still smiling she came alongside him “you’re not in any of my classes. Should I know you?”
Her simple question made him want to scream at someone. He was so tired of being the nerdy guy everyone forgot about.
“The party,” he stammered hoping to jog her memory.
She tapped a finger against her full mouth deep in thought “Ryan?” she asked shaking her head “no that’s not it. He’s in my class.”
He felt all the air drain from his body leaving him numb. He turned from her eyes focused on the cement sidewalk beneath his feet. If he stared at it hard enough maybe it’d open up and crush him.
“Wait,” she called reaching for his arm “I was joking. You’re Vincent. All around nice guy.”
Relief flushed though his system as he realized she hadn’t forgotten him after all. Nodding he turned to her. Her dark eyes soft and luminescent “yes” he said giving her a sheepish grin.
“Did Ryan send you to get my notes since he wasn’t in class today?” she asked pulling out her notebook.
Just as quickly his relief faded replaced with the cold razor edge of jealousy. Good breeding kept him standing there taking her notebook to give to Ryan.
“Be sure to tell him he owes me one” she said walking away “I’ll be by later to pick my notes up,” she called over her shoulder.
“Penny for your thoughts,” a girl’s voice intervened into his dark reverie.
“Hmm what?” he asked turning from the retreating form of Trinity.
“Is that the new girl you’re so hung up on?” Teasha asked watching Trinity frowning as she stopped to flirt with several random guys.
“Did you want something?” he growled walking towards the dorm.
“Isn’t your class back there?” she asked jogging to keep up with him.
“I’m not going to class,” he said walking faster.
“That’s obvious” Teasha said doing her best to keep up with him “what’s wrong with you?”
“I’m so tired of being the invisible guy” he growled “Hannah never saw me. Now Trinity.”
“Hannah saw you just not as her boyfriend,” Teasha told him.
Vincent rolled his eyes at her “you know what I mean.”
Shrugging she looked away “I know. It’s just not the same. She likes you just not the way you want her to like you. Believe me I understand.”
He nodded “I’m just tired of being the last one picked for everything.”
Teasha put a gentle hand on his shoulder “that girl doesn’t know what she’s missing out on.”
Smiling his thanks he asked “where’s Phoenix?”
“He’s out on assignment” she shrugged “I’m going to have to get used to the fact that he’s not always going to be around whenever I want him.”
“But you really do like him,” he asked.
“I do” she smiled a far away dreamy look in her eyes “this may sound crazy considering I haven’t known Phoenix that long but I’m glad things went south with Donovan. If it hadn’t I never would have met Phoenix.”
Vincent grunted “can you believe he thought Trinity was his girlfriend?”
Looking at her friend in concern “be careful Vinny from what Phoenix has told me Trinity isn’t the settling down kind.”
He stared at her for a moment wanting to deny the truth of her words. Images of Trinity as she left class kept clouding his vision. As much as he didn’t want to admit it she might be right.
“Oh look there’s Zach” she pointed running in his direction without even saying goodbye.
“Zach” she called dismayed at his appearance. He kept walking. Head down focused on his feet. “Zach” she called again “will you stop and talk to me?”
“What?” he looked up at her a vague look in his light blue eyes.
“What’s wrong with you?” she glanced behind her “where’s Waylon?”
“He told me to meet him at the dorm” Zach stammered looking around puzzled.
“It’s a good thing I stopped you then,” Teasha gave him a tight lipped smile “the dorm is back that way.”
“Oh” his face blanched “I guess I got turned around.”
Taking him by the arm she steered him in the right direction. Concern prompted her to ask “are you having trouble with Dexter?” She had seen the boy around campus and had hoped the boy would keep his distance from her brother.
Zach slowed focusing his attention on her face. Fear emanated from his eyes “he follows me around sometimes. I thought I could handle it but…” He sighed wiping at his eyes “I want to go home.”
“Oh Zachie why didn’t you tell me?” she lamented “I would have walked with you or one of the others would have. You don’t have to go through this alone.”
Puzzled he shook his head “I’m not alone. Waylon usually walks with me or Donovan.”
She gave her brother an appraising look “Waylon is a nice guy but Donovan….”
“Donovan is nice once you get past his rough edges,” Zach said jumping to his friends defense “today they were both delayed so I thought I’d go to class by myself like any other college student would.”
She bit her lip to keep from saying he wasn’t like everyone else. “Well next time if they can’t go with you come get me. I’ll walk with you or find someone who will.”
“Are you sure?” he asked “I don’t want to be a bother.”
“You’re my brother,” she said “you’re never a bother.” She put her arm around him as they walked back to the dorm. “So you and Waylon?” she watched as his pale cheeks flushed a deep crimson.
“Stop fidgeting,” Marzia demanded enjoying watching the girl in the mirror.
“It’s a little short,” Divia tugged on the bottom of the dress in a vain attempt to make the skirt longer.
“Nonsense,” Marzia shook her head, long blond tendrils flew across her face “you look great.”
Crossing her arms in front of her Divia gazed at her image in the full length mirror “it’s too tight.”
“It isn’t,” Marzia surveyed the girl from head to toe “you’re just not used to it.”
“There’s nothing wrong with what I was wearing” Divia wrung her hands.
“I never said there was,” Marzia assured her “you made these rags look good.”
“They’re not rags,” she assured her chin tilting up. This reminded her of the argument she had with her dad the last time they had been together. They had been buying the last few things she needed to go to college. Had that really been five months ago? Divia stepped closer to the mirror eyes drinking in her image. The too short, too tight dress showed off her legs and figure. She looked …. “my dad is going to hate it.”
Marzia’s melodious laugh filled the room “Divia haven’t you learned that dad’s will always hate what their little girls wear? They want us to stay little forever.”
“You don’t know my dad,” she mumbled.
“Is that an invitation to meet your parents?” she asked releasing Divia’s long hair from the clip. “Much better,” she said squeezing the girls shoulders “now all we need are some heels to go with that outfit.”
Eyes large with alarm “no Marzia please. The last time I wore heels I couldn’t walk for a week.”
Ignoring her Marzia handed her some sandals “try these on. They should be much easier to walk in than those spikes you were wearing at the party. What were you thinking anyway?” she asked laughing “they didn’t even go with the costume you were wearing.”
Divia blushed looking away mumbling “they made me feel pretty.”
Pulling the girl close Marzia kissed her cheek “you don’t need a pair of heels to be pretty when you already are.”