Whisper 1.4

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College. I arrive. It’s what I’ve wanted for so long. When I get here, everybody’s heading into the dorm.

“Get a room quick,” says a student in knee socks. I guess she’s one of my new dormies. She looks nice–kinda rebel spirit, like me.

But as I paint a ground mural on the front walk, I hear her talking about me to the other dormies. I can’t hear what she says, just my name, a sarcastic tone of voice, and their snickers.

Don’t worry. It always takes a while to make new friends. Don’t let first impressions get in the way. Yours–or theirs.

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In the evening, after orientation, I head over to the quad. A student with a shaved head and tattoos comes up to me.

“I’m worried about snails. Like, they don’t have any rights. And they totally should,” she says, “because they exist, too, right?”

I agree. I like snails. “Their shells are like works of art.”

“I’m thinking of some kind of protest at the groundskeepers’ building. Or maybe I’ll just like blow up all the snail poison. What do you think?”

“Well, that sounds like it might spread toxins into the environment. Maybe we can just start a public awareness campaign.”

“I’ll get back to you,” Shannon says.

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In my first class, I halfway check out all the other students. There’s this guy in a dog collar who makes really intelligent comments during the discussions.

After class, he happens to come out of the hall at the same time I do.

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He’s already dashing off to his class, but I call after him.

“Um? Excuse me? Do you know of a good place to get a cup of coffee?”

“Did you say a cup of Cathy?” he asks, and I blush.

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What do I say?

“My last name is Tea.”

“Oh! Indian or Chinese?” And we launch into a conversation about how Indian tea might actually be a different variety than Chinese.

“They’re both camellia sinensis,” I say, “but the Indian is varietal assamica and the Chinese is varietal sinensis.”

“Oooh! Camellia sinensis var. sinensis! Because, you know. Sinensis means Chinese!”

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I like him, this guy in the dog collar. Derek Khan. I’m glad we’ve got classes together. That means I’ll see him again.

In the afternoons, I paint.

Before I’ve realized what I’ve done, I’ve painted the center of the canvas red. It’s the same color as Countess Snypes’ glowing heart. That image is burned so deep in me.

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My dorm mate with the knee socks is also a fine arts major. She plays the guitar with expression and skill. Since we have classes and interests in common, I begin to hope that we’ll be friends.

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In the evening, I paint murals on the side of the dorm. The bricks make a nice texture for bolder designs.

I invite Derek to come hang out. He arrives right away, but then, while we’re talking–and, OK, I guess I’m flirting a little bit–he starts insulting me, and walks away. I don’t even want to think about what he said. And it’s that whole cycle like with Chauncey again. What am I doing to bring this on?

It’s not you.

I just want to meet somebody nice, considerate, gentle, and strong. Who likes tea and likes to talk about it. Is that asking too much?

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After class on Thursday, this guy with blue hair stops me.

“You’re Cathy,” he says.

There’s something about him. I’m seeing hearts and feeling as high as party balloons.

“Hi, Cid,” I say. “I was kinda hoping to meet you when I saw you in class.”

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“Really?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I reply. “I mean, how can my education in art history be complete, if I don’t get to know one of the greatest modern masterpieces?”

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To my surprise, he doesn’t mind my corny brand of flirting!

In fact, he says, “Life is like a pallet. It’s not complete until we fill it with all the colors.”

I nod like I know what he’s talking about.

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He comes back to the dorm with me, and I fix us veggie wraps.

“Look how the plates reflect the light,” he says. “Trippy.”

I like him, this guy with the blue hair. Cid Serverus. I’m glad we’ve got classes together.

Easy does it.

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