Whisper 2.24

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Dear me,

I feel I’ve never noticed how beautiful autumn is before! At home, it’s not so different from the other seasons–gray skies and rain. Here, we get enough rain that I don’t feel homesick, but we also get sun that sparkles the ground in gold light.

I’ve been watching the chipmunks and squirrels. We have so many now! More than were here in Mom’s day. They chase each other over the lawn.

One squirrel grabbed a twig and began doing gymnastics with it, and the more I laughed, the sillier he got!

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Since Shannon and I reached our sort of understanding, I’ve been feeling peaceful. Settled. All my doubts and questions have dissipated, and I can concentrate more on my studies.

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Funny thing is, I actually don’t need to concentrate on phys ed. It just comes naturally to me. So I’ve been reading the chapters in my art history book that I skipped last time. It’s fascinating stuff, and surprisingly, a lot of it seems to intersect with phys ed. For example, in art, the Fibonacci sequence forms the essence of Classical composition. And, in phys ed, we find this same sequence is repeated throughout the human body.

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It’s fascinating to me! How is it that something can be at the core of both of these disciplines? And would I find it in music, too? (Answer: yes.) But what about technology?

I asked one of my dorm-mates, who’s a tech major and one of the biggest geeks I know.

“I live for Fibonacci!” He said.”It’s for recursion. It gives a base case then allows a program to make repeated calls to a method to solve the problem.”

“Do you think there’s something mystical about it?” I asked him. I’m starting to think there is.

“Oh, no!” He replied. “It is no more mystical than the human mind! It is something we invent. Outside of us, and our ceaseless quest for patterns, it doesn’t exist.”

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I’m not so sure.  I asked Kenyon about it. He didn’t know what the Fibonacci was, but as I explained that it’s a sequence that shows exponential growth over time, he thought for a bit, and then he said that, in the creation of the universe, exponential growth was essential.

“That’s what allows creation to flower,” he said. “You need the exponential. So, yeah. I think it’s, like, integral.”

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I asked Melvin Moon.

“I use the Fibonacci all the time in computer graphics,” he said. He told me he even designs color palettes using the sequence.

“But what I’m getting at,” I asked him, “is whether it’s a human thing or more universal?”

“Does it matter?” he asked. “I mean, we’re part of the universe, right?”

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Melvin and I played a game of hopscotch on a hopscotch court designed with galactic patterns.

Melvin said, “Let’s play Fibonacci hopscotch.”

We hopped once, once, twice, three times, five times, eight.

“I’m out of court!” Melvin yelled.

“Keep going!” I encouraged him.

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It was the funnest game of hopscotch I’d ever played.

I watched the chipmunk run across the lawn. Of course! The Fibonacci sequence was first developed to predict the population growth of rabbits! It applies to little rodents, too. No wonder we have so many more here now than we did when Mom was here, when there was just one, then another one, then two, then three…

I looked at the pile of leaves that Kenyon had raked. The shape of the pile, the shape of each leaf, the gradation of color from one hue to the next, the various hues themselves. When I toss them, do they even fall in Fibonacci sequence?

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Miracles repeat–within us, without. Is it any wonder that we fall in love when the very universe is designed in mystery?

Keep wondering,

me

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Whisper 2.09

Hi, Riley!

I’m here! I’m at college! And guess what? I’m staying in Mom’s old dorm!

And guess what else? All her old art is still on the walls and the walkway. I guess she’s like some famous celebrity-artist alumni, so they’re leaving up her art for posterity. I think it’s so awesome.

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So college is really cool.

At orientation, I met some of the other students.

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Man, you wouldn’t believe how cool some of them are.

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I met this one girl from Bridgeport. She has the greatest style. She was wearing cargo pants, layered tanks, and–get this–sandals. And a big classy hot-looking belt with a huge buckle. Wow.

It takes somebody really confident to pull of that look. And that’s Jaclyn. Confident and… well, you fill in the blanks!

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Riding home from orientation, it hit me: I’m here!

College is all about discovering yourself, right? Or at least, that’s how I feel. You’ve already discovered yourself!

But me? I’m just figuring out who I am, what I’m all about. That’s the college experience.

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I guess my dorm mates are OK. OK, they’re weird! But heck. Who’s not weird?

This one guy was dressed like some sifu, and he sat next to me at supper. Didn’t say a word. Just sat there, with a concentrated look on his face. I asked him if he was meditating, and he mumbled something, and then dove into his tofu dog. Oh, boy. People are strange.

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After supper, I got a phone call and it was some guy inviting me to a party! I hadn’t even met the guy! But get this! He knew Mom!

His name was Mahmoud something, and he’d actually gone to school with Mom. He never left town, even after graduating. Still lives in the same frat he lived in back when he was a student. I was so tempted to go, just to meet someone who had that connection with Mom.

But I was so tired. And I had classes early the next day. So, I declined.

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Oh! Guess what? I’m even staying in Mom’s old room! I’m using her easel and sleeping in her bed! It’s sort of weird, but also…. Well. I guess you could say that it comforts me. I mean, I don’t feel so alone, and I don’t miss you and everybody so much when I feel Mom all around me like that.

Do you think it’s funny that connections are so important to me?

I mean, I’m always acting so independent and everything. But Riley, I’m not really independent. It’s just that I’ve got you and everybody at home supporting me, and that makes me feel like I can conquer the world.

But actually, sometimes, when it’s late at night, and no one’s looking, and I’m all alone, I feel sort of… not really lost, but sort of alone. I guess that’s why I wanted you to come with me, so I could keep pretending to be brave.

Don’t worry! I’m not guilt-tripping you! I’m glad for you that you did what you want.

It’s just that I’m also really, really grateful that I get to sleep in Mom’s old room because it makes me feel a little less like a bunny in a basket dropped on somebody’s doorstep twenty years ago…

Anyway. Enough of that.

So I woke up super early on my first day of classes. I was so excited. It was pouring down rain, which made me so happy since it felt like home, only warmer, and then I raced to my class.

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Class was cool. The prof is from Champs Les Sims, and he talks with a really strong accent. I felt like raising my hand and asking, “Ou est la fromage, c’est vous plais?” LOL! But I didn’t. I refrained. Because, you know. Manners.

I’m trying really hard to make a good impression on all my professors. Plus, it’s interesting. Did you know that Cézanne strove not to copy nature, but to recreate it, trying to produce “a harmony parallel to nature?” I think that’s awesome. It answers something I always wondered about, which is, now that we have photography, what’s the purpose of painting? And this gave me insight into the answer.

I’ve got a little bit of time in between classes, so I thought more about that while I was waiting for the next class to start.

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I’m taking such a full load that Mondays and Wednesdays are packed. I just go from class to class with, like I said, a little break in between to digest the material from one lecture before cramming in the stuff from the next.

Tuesday, I’ve just got a single class in the lecture hall, but the first Tuesday, I was so tired that I slept right up until class.

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At least I didn’t sleep through the lecture like some people!

I was so focused on taking notes. I want to remember everything!

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After the lecture, though, guess what? I got another phone call from another person who’d gone to school with Mom! She invited me to a party, too. Can you believe it? I was so surprised.

And you know what? This party, I’m going to. I want to meet this person who says she knew Mom back when they were both crazy rebels and anarchists. Did you know Mom was an anarchist? I didn’t either! I wonder if it’s true…

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Well, I’d better stop writing if I’m gonna make it to that party. Man, I miss you so much!

Did you make the special beef food for Zoey and Roxy? Give them lots of pets and snuggles from me. Tell Patches and Bo that I miss them and that I hope they’re not giving you a hard time.

And when you write, be sure to fill me in on everything that’s going on with you! I can’t stand not being there to hear everything right from your own lips as soon as it happens. Of course, it’s not like you ever did share all your secrets with me, you rascal!

Anyway, love you lots. Miss you and the fam.

Be good. Have fun.

Dang, I really better go or I’ll be late for that party.

OK.

Bye.

Love you lots,

Mari

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Whisper 2.08

Dear Mom,

I took my college entrance exams, and guess what? I got accepted! Guess what else? I qualified for full scholarship in three subjects: phys ed, communications, and fine arts. Guess what else? I earned 18 Advanced Placement credits in each! I’m so excited! I’m going to college.

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I was still trying to decide what major to pick when I asked Riley how she did.

“I didn’t take the exam,” Riley said.

“Well, you’d better hurry. We’re leaving soon.”

“I’m not going to take it,” she said. “I’m not going.”

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“Not going? You have to go!” I said. “That was the plan! That’s the dream!”

“It’s your dream,” Riley said. “It always has been. I’ve never wanted to go to college. I want to stay home.”

“But Riley!”

“It’s true,” she said. “Remember when I was voted ‘Most likely to never leave home?’ That might seem like a joke to some, but to me, that’s my dream.”

“But Riley!”

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“Not everyone wants what you want,” she told me. “You go, because it would give you joy. But what’s more important? Just doing something because it’s expected, or because it’s someone else’s dream? Or doing what you want, even if it lets down someone else’s expectations, because it’s your dream?”

“Is this because of Argus?” I asked her.

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“No,” she replied. “I talked with Argus about it. He was all ready to support me in going away to university. But I’d already made up my mind, even before Argus and I went out. I just didn’t know how to tell you.”

“I wish you were so afraid of me that you’d go anyway!” I said. “Just because it was what I wanted. I imagined you, after all.”

“Marigold!”

“I’m sorry. It’s just. I was so looking forward to rooming with you in the dorm, and going to parties with you, and studying all night! Now! Oh! It’s like my dream’s been torn in two.”

“I’m sorry. I hate disappointing you. But a dorm? With strangers? Who don’t wash their dishes and leave dirty towels laying around and forget to bathe? And parties? I hate parties! And studying all night? I’d hate to have to study. I hate all those things.”

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Oh, Mom. It was so hard to listen to Riley. I felt so sure that college was the best thing for her. Half of me still feels that way. But I had to listen when she told me what she loves: taking care of our home, caring for Zoey and Roxy, being here for Patches and Bo. And, yes, she admitted that she was looking forward to spending more time with Argus.

“Women worked hard and fought for equal rights so we’d have a choice,” she told me, “not so that we’d all have to march to the same drummer. I’ve looked in my heart, Mari. This is what I want.”

She’s right. Even I can see that. It breaks my heart to leave alone, Mom, but I guess I’ve got to do it.

On my departure day, the shuttle arrived in the early morning to take me to the airport. Riley had gotten up with me so we could have breakfast together.

“Write me, ” she said.

“Of course!” I replied.

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The kids were still asleep, and I was hoping to have lucked out and avoided having to say goodbye to them. I worried it would break my heart.

When I got into the shuttle, I looked back at the house. There was Patches, coming out to wave goodbye.

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And then Bo came racing out, waving his arms and making crazy faces! I was laughing so hard I couldn’t cry! Oh, Mom! I am going to miss this nutty family.

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Good thing I got advanced placement–it means I’ll only be away from home for two terms.

And when I come back, I’ll have a degree!

Oh! I forgot to tell you what program I chose! I’m going for fine arts. I figured that phys ed came naturally, and communications fits with my career–so both of those, I’ll be working on anyway. So I decided to challenge myself and major in fine arts. Just like you did! I want to be well-rounded. That’s why I chose what would be most difficult.

Oh, Mom! I’m going to your alma mater, and I’m majoring in your degree! Maybe I’ll even live in your dorm!

I’m going to miss you so much, too. I wonder if I’ll feel your spirit there on campus…

Love,

Marigold

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Whisper 1.10

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My last term at university flies by.

Some of my dorm mates complain that their papers are being graded too harshly: one misused semi-colon, one missing possessive apostrophe, and the essay receives a D. I can understand about the missing apostrophe until Shea explains to me that the entire notion of possession is culturally biased. “Plants don’t own things,” he says.

I see his point. So I stage a protest against the culturally biased, too harsh grading.

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I notice that the other students there are fellow Dean’s List members. I guess, since we’re coming from a place of academic strength, we feel like we’re in a position to speak up for those who aren’t.

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We shout and rant and rave for hours, until finally, the Dean’s secretary comes out of the administration building and says, “Enough. Go home. Everybody gets higher grades tomorrow, the Dean says.”

By then, we’re starving.

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I race back to the dorm to tell Shea that we won–now he can leave out all the possessive apostrophes he wants.

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Back at the dorm, Shea is lining up a battalion of snow people.

“We persuaded them, Shea.” I tell him.

“That’s great,” he says. “I’ve got more important things to do than study punctuation right now.”

“But punctuation is always important!”

“Not as important as snow people!”

He has a point there!

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On the last day of the term, Anoki invites me to a party at his dorm.

I realize this might be my last time to see him for while.

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Finishing college means leaving behind best friends.

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After talking with Anoki, I notice a guy hanging out in library.

“I don’t think we’ve met yet,” I say.

“Jeffrey Dean,” he says. We talk for a bit, and I feel like we’ve got a lot in common.

“Hey, what do you say we ditch this place and go on a date?” He asks.

I look around. Anoki has already gone to bed and the party seems to be wrapping up.

“Sure,” I reply.

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We head over to the student lounge, but we don’t even make it inside. We just stand out in the snow, talking for hours.

“College life has been good for me,” Jeffrey says. “Before college, I spent all my free time hanging out, racing cars, getting stoned. It was a sure way to noway. How about for you?”

I tell him about my life back in Moonlight Falls, with all those random-seeming things that kept happening.

“I think college has been good for me, too,” I say. “I’ve got focus at least. Or that’s what it feels like.”

It has been good.

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It’s late, and our date ends.

The next morning, I hear the sound of an envelope being slid under the door. Oh! The term grades!

Ugh! I can’t bear to look! What if they were as bad as last time?

Then you’ll be a proud B student who’s graduating from university!

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But when I look, I see all A’s staring back at me!

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Ooo! Yes! I did it! A perfect GPA! I guess my extra credit compensated for last term’s B’s!

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And then, it’s time for graduation. A snowman watches as I file in for the commencement ceremony.

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I can’t believe that all that hard work paid off!

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The ceremony lasts all afternoon, and I have plenty of time to reflect on all I’ve learned: a lot about art, that’s for sure. And art history. I learned how to stage a successful protest. I’ve learned that best friends come from all different cultures, even plant!

And I’ve learned a great new recipe for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! The secret is in the spices.

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Jeffrey Dean invites me to one last party before the shuttle leaves for Moonlight Falls.

Shannon Arkers is there, but I don’t see Jeffrey anywhere.

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I head back to the dorm to pack.

eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh has found a new friend.

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Somehow, this makes me feel less sad about leaving my own best friend.

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The shuttle horn honks.

“Move it!” calls the driver.

I watch my friends file out the dorm to say goodbye.

“Bye, Shea! Thank you! Keep in touch! Take good care of eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh and his new buddy!”

And like that, an adventure is over.

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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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Whisper 1.3

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Life feels very random to me. Things happen, and I can’t link them together. I can’t find cause, only reel from the effects.

You might just watch, without analysis, and then, through time, patterns may emerge which point towards meaning. When that happens, you see that nothing is truly random.

This valley, even in all its beauty, hides in a mist of eeriness. Nothing is straightforward. Nothing is simple. I wonder what I’m doing here.

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Something terrifying happens: more of the randomness, and completely senseless.

I hear noise in front of the house. Jin Anjali, our new roommate, runs out with me to see a figure in a black hood rise from the earth.

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“Oh, not the Countess!” shrieks Jin. “Countess Snypes! Get up!”

A figure glowing with red embers curls in a fetal position.

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She rises. I hope for a moment that she’ll be OK, that I can save her.

Her eyes are two spots of light. I avert my gaze from the red glow where her heart should be.

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She shakes the hand of the hooded one.

“No,” whimpers Chauncey. I look away, afraid to be a witness.

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And now we have a grave in the front lawn.

“How can a vampire have a grave?” I ask Jin, who seems to know everything. “Aren’t vampires already undead?”

Jin shakes her head. “It’s not like undead means immortal.”

But that’s exactly what I thought it did mean.

Jin is our new roommate. I have no idea how that happened. Chauncey decided that he was too good to be a roommate and needed to have his name on the lease. He knows the landlord. But then, since he was no longer a roomie, he decided we needed a new one to take his place, and now we have Jin.

They fight all the time.

Right now, Jin is yelling at Chauncey because he’s a bookworm. He overlooks her insults. She’s a witch, and he told me that she is the coolest person in the valley.

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That still doesn’t give her the right to be rude.

We attend a costume party at Rainflower’s house.

I go all out and wear a dress, a choker, and face paint. It’s Spooky Day, and I want to look magical.

“That green stuff on your face looks like a bunch of ants marched through pea soup and then walked all over you while you were sleeping in a crypt,” Jin says.

“I think she looks nice,” says Chauncey.

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Snow falls. More randomness continues. My garden lies dormant. I can’t imagine spending the winter cooped up inside with Jin and Chauncey.

I’m heading to university, even if my skills aren’t that high and I’ve got hardly any money.

Take the aptitude test. See if you earn a scholarship.

I take the aptitude test, giving it my best shot.

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To my surprise, I earn a partial scholarship and enter with distinctions in the fine arts major.

I’m going to college.

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I’ve wanted this for so long.

I tell Chauncey to look after the place, pack up my few belongings, and head out to catch the van to the airport.

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Through the rear window, I look back at my little house, at the edge of town. Jin and Chauncey are out in front, waving goodbye.

I watch my home and all the confusion around it grow smaller and smaller. Life still feels really random.

Hang in there, dearheart. You have all of life ahead of you, plenty of time for the world and those in it to begin to make sense.

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