Don’t you love it when you finish a project! I sure do! Especially when this project took me two and half years to complete. Yes, today I published the Fifth and (possibly) final book in my series. Blood’s Solemn Vow, The Purity of Blood Volume V by Jennifer Geoghan is now up for sale on Amazon!!!
Blood’s Solemn Vow – Volume V
How big a project was it??? Well, just for fun I added up the numbers. All five books together are 996, 106 words. Damn, didn’t quite hit the million word mark. It will get a little higher though. I have a short story I wrote that was a fun side project just for myself really. Nothing I could officially publish, but once my fans have had their chance to read the book, I’ll publish it here for them to enjoy.
This will be along post, but to celebrate the end of my series, I’d like to post the first chapter of book one for you to enjoy. Here it is:
The Purity of Blood
By Jennifer Geoghan
“It’s never going to fit,” my mother said as I trudged into the garage still half asleep. A faint hint of sunrise was just coming in the windows reminding me how much I wished I was back in bed. It was too early in the morning for this.
“I told you not to pack so much. You’re only going to college, not the moon.”
I really loved my mother, but the woman could find a thousand ways to say I told you so and at times like this, as much as I loved her, the moon almost didn’t sound far enough away. Even though I suspected I was going to miss home terribly, I was glad to be escaping these four walls … escaping a past that seemed to haunt me here like a shadow I couldn’t shake.
Last night I’d left all the things I was planning on taking with me for my first year of college away from home neatly packed in boxes on the garage floor to arrange this morning. My mother, trying to be overly helpful had attempted to pack my car for me, but wasn’t having much success getting the last few boxes in. In all honesty, she’d made a real mess of it.
“Yes, it will. You just have to pack it the right way.”
I must have involuntarily rolled my eyes because she gave me one of her looks that said I’d better watch my step. Her blonde brow furrowed as her hands came up to rest on her slender hips. With a wary eye, she silently strode past me into the house, leaving me to empty the car and start all over again.
An hour later I slammed the rear door of the old silver hatchback closed, all the boxes neatly packed inside. I loved this car. It had taken me forever to save up the cash to buy it. Even though my cousin had sold it to me at a good price, money was hard to come by when I’d have rather spent my time studying than holding down a job. My baby wasn’t much to look at, but I took good care of her and she’d never let me down.
Hearing a noise, I turned to see my mother standing on the top landing of the stairs. She was upset, but I wasn’t exactly sure why. With her arms crossed in front of her, her blue eyes gave me something of a leer. It seemed like a mixture of frustration that I’d done what she hadn’t been able to, and perhaps sadness that her baby was leaving home for the first time. Shaking my head, I chalked it up to pre-empty nest syndrome and went back up the stairs into the kitchen for a quick breakfast before I hit the road. It really was too early in the morning for this.
Mom followed behind me and as I opened the fridge, I noticed she’d made my favorite. On the table sat a plate of steaming cinnamon French toast with a bottle of the really good maple syrup I loved so much. After giving her a quick thank you smile, I poured myself a glass of orange juice and sat down to eat.
I knew it was tough for her. We were close and with my brother long moved out, I’m sure it was going to be pretty quiet around here after I left. She didn’t want me to go, but I also knew she was torn. She wanted me to be happy, and as much as I loved my parents, I knew it was time for me to go regardless of their thoughts on the matter.
Taking a seat across the counter from me, she started to drink her coffee. In between sips she went on about being safe at school and remembering that although New Paltz seemed like a small town like Wading River, it was full of kids from the big cities. Apparently you could never be too careful who you made friends with. I half listened, appreciating her sentiment, but it was nothing she hadn’t already said twenty times before over the course of the summer. I loved my parents dearly, but they were slightly obsessive about my safety. Actually slightly didn’t really begin to cover it.
“Just remember everything we’ve taught you and you’ll be fine,” she sighed. “Also remember that if at any point you change your mind and want to come home –”
“I won’t, Mom, but thanks,” I said, cutting her off as I got up to put my dishes in the sink.
When I turned to go, she opened the back door and yelled “She’s leaving, Carl” loud enough for all the neighbors to hear. A minute later my father appeared in the door just as I disappeared into the garage.
I put my purse on the hood of my car, looking through it one last time to make sure I had my maps and enough toll money for the drive up to New Paltz. I’d never actually made the drive by myself before and was a little nervous about it. Not that I’d admit that to my parents. They were still debating if letting me go away to college by myself was a good idea at all. I didn’t want to give them even an inkling that as I stood on the cusp of my first real adventure, I was shaking on the inside. And I was shaking. I was pretty sure it was with excitement. Only minutes from departure, I didn’t even want to consider there could be any other possible explanations, like I was glad to get away from loving parents such as my own. They loved me, I knew they did, but their love was tempered with strange shades of anxiety about my safety. I needed to be free of them if only for the school year, I needed to breathe.
Rifling through my purse, I felt horribly guilty about my feelings, but I couldn’t change them.
As I finished recounting my toll money, Dad came up behind me and gave me a kiss on top of my head.
“Time to go already?” he sighed.
In his own quiet way I knew he really didn’t want me to go. Not so much because he would worry about my safety, which he would, but because he was just going to miss having me around. My old man. I was going to miss him too. How do you tell someone they’ve been your pillar of strength your whole life?
“Well, be safe and don’t drive over the speed limit. I’m not paying for any tickets. So if you get any, plan on getting a job up there to pay for them yourself.”
I turned to face him. He was a big guy with burly shoulders and a hint of grey in his sandy brown hair, the kind of father that at first glance would scare the hell out of any prospective suitors. Fortunately, he’d never had to worry about that as I’d never brought a guy home before. If men were interested in me, I’d never noticed. It’s not that I was ugly or anything, but I guess my lack of social skills in the world of flirtation limited me, and I’d never met a guy who interested me enough to make any great effort in that department. By my own admission, the only thing I’d ever flirted with before was disaster.
Looking up at him, I thought I saw a sparkle in his eye that might have been the formation of a tear, but if it was, it never materialized. I’d really miss him. Not that we talked much as neither of us were big talkers, but he was always a shoulder to lean on when you didn’t want to say anything. Sometimes his ability for comforting silence was my favorite quality about him.
As I reached for the door handle, Mom pulled me back into a ferociously protective hug.
“I’m going to miss you so much!” she said, her face buried in my hair. Unlike Dad, she was crying. “Try to stay safe and call me every night.”
“She’s not going to call you every night, Vivy. For crying out loud, she’s old enough to stand on her own two feet now.” He shot me a side glance insinuating that he hoped I was, but wasn’t a hundred percent sure of it himself.
“Okay, every other night,” she sniffled. “And remember to go to church.”
After hugs, I got in the car and slowly backed out of the garage. Turning onto Overlook Drive, I gave them one last look in the rearview mirror and started towards this new unwritten chapter in my life. I was nervous, but also so excited I could hardly sit still in my seat. I was pretty sure the seat belt was the only thing holding me down. New Paltz was a place that seemed to hold … possibilities. I only hoped I would find whatever it was that I was looking for there … whatever I seemed to so desperately need.
“We love you, Sara!” Mom called.
My father put his arm around her just as she buried her head deep in his chest. Then I rounded the corner and they were gone.
Mom tended to be the dramatic one. At least she seemed that way to me. Fiercely overprotective might be another word for it. I wasn’t sure how Dad talked her into letting me make the drive up to New Paltz University by myself, but I would be eternally grateful to him for it. From our house in Wading River it was about a three hour drive through New York City up to New Paltz. Mom wasn’t crazy about me driving the twenty minutes over to Port Jefferson for work, let alone leaving Long Island by myself. Dad didn’t deny her much, but I think he understood this was something I really wanted to do by myself. In many ways he was as overprotective as she was, but somehow he seemed to understand me more.
As I drove out of our neighborhood, it was still early in the morning and the first of the early risers were just emerging from their houses. How strange it felt. I wouldn’t be here to see the lights go out in their windows tonight, or tomorrow night, or next week even. All of a sudden not in as much of a hurry to leave, I turned right on North Country Road to take the scenic route out of our sleepy hamlet. In the process I drove past a few landmarks of our small community; the white steeple of the old Congregational church, the duck ponds and the road down to the town beach. I would have loved to have taken one last early morning walk along the beach. It would be a long while until I was home again, but there wasn’t enough time. I needed to get on the road if I wanted to avoid the heavier traffic in the city.
Somehow I felt like this time away from home was my chance, my first real chance to be normal. Could I? I wasn’t sure, but I prayed to God I could, prayed with all my might that it was even possible at all for someone like me.
A little less than three hours later I pulled off the New York State Thruway into the college town of New Paltz. An hour or so north of New York City, New Paltz is a small, somewhat isolated community nestled in a mountainous area great for hiking. I’d chosen New Paltz University for many reasons, only one of which was how the campus tour guide had mentioned what great trails ran through the surrounding mountains. I’d been looking forward to my first chance to explore the woods and break in my new hiking boots. They were one of the few new items I’d splurged on to take away to school with me. Of course if you asked me in front of my parents, I’d have said I’d chosen NPU for purely academic reasons.
I pulled into the parking lot behind my new dorm, Capen Hall and was lucky enough to find a parking spot close to the back entrance. I’d been here just a few weeks ago for orientation, and while here had purposefully spent some time familiarizing myself with the general lay of the land. Not having gotten lost yet, it looked like that was already starting to come in handy.
While the afternoon sun rained down through the cloudless late summer sky, everywhere I looked the campus buzzed with activity. The sidewalks were filled with students carrying boxes and miscellaneous items into the dorms. Music and voices drifted out of open windows as I passed them, and the constant sound of laughter and music seemed everywhere. I had to wonder if this enthusiastic mood would continue after the first day of classes, or would campus eventually settle into a more somber, scholastic mood.
The three story red brick building that was to be my new home wasn’t new. If I had to guess, I’d say it was probably built in the sixties. Inside its walls the not unpleasant smell of incense clung to the air as a constant reminder that we were only about a half an hour from Woodstock.
As I entered the bustling dorm, I followed the signs for the registration desk in the first floor lobby where I was handed my room assignment and keys.
Following the directions I’d received from the girl at the desk, I climbed the stairs up to the second floor. Filled with students quickly scurrying up and down the stairs yelling excited greetings back and forth, I felt out of place, like the only one who had no idea what she was doing here. Not that this was a new feeling for me; I guess I’d just hoped I would have left it behind in Wading River along with the more unpleasant memories of my childhood.
When I reached the second floor landing I found a long corridor with girls’ rooms down the hallway to the right and boys’ off to the left. A common room at the top of the stairs separated the two of them. Judging by the number on my assignment paper, my room was only a few doors down the girls’ hall, so I gathered my wits about me and started in that direction. Stopping in front of the door, I fumbled around for a few seconds pulling the keys out of my pocket. It was only a dorm room and not my first house, but somehow, holding those keys, I felt a sense of freedom and exhilaration I’d never experienced before. Just as I was about to turn the key in the lock the door quickly swung open. When I looked up in surprise, the brightly smiling pixie face of a tall blonde with pink lipstick greeted me.
“Well hello, roomy!” she said enthusiastically. “I’m Darcy,”
“Hi, I’m –”
“You’re Sara Donnelly.”
I must have had a look of shock on my face. She laughed as she pointed to a name tag sticker on my chest with her exquisitely manicured finger. The registration lady must have slipped it on me when I wasn’t looking. I thought she looked a little sneaky.
“Oh. Yes I am,” I said almost absentmindedly as I reached up to pull it off, still a little wary of her enthusiasm for my arrival.
Dressed in a pair of jeans and an NPU school shirt, she was a slender waif of a thing with a head of wavy blonde hair that fell gracefully down her back. The picture was only marred by the big smile she wore. Something about that smile made me uncomfortable that I would be its cause.
“I’m glad to meet you, roomy. I was hoping I’d get a good roommate this semester. I had Bernadette last year. She was nice enough, but a bit of a hypochondriac if you know what I mean. She was always pestering me to feel her forehead,” Darcy said as she winced. “Anyway, she dropped out last week and now I have you! Yeah!” After a beat she hesitantly asked “So how do you feel?”
“Good, I guess.”
“Wonderful!” she replied as she flitted over to her bed and plopped down on the mattress. “I’m a sophomore so if you have any questions at all, just ask. I know pretty much everything about this place.”
I walked over and peered out the large pair of windows. Our room faced in on a large grassy quad with tall trees and picnic tables scattered about. Taking a deep breath, I felt the tension start to leave my shoulders.
So far, so good.
Darcy was indeed an overflowing font of all things New Paltz University, or NPU as everyone called it. Over the course of my afternoon of unloading and unpacking, I showed her my class schedule. Closely examining it, she more than willingly gave me the dish on all my professors and ways I could schedule better next semester. I’m sure I’d like her once I got used to her bubbly enthusiasm. She seemed nice enough, just a little over zealous in my opinion. I think maybe I liked her because, deep down, I knew I secretly wished I was more like her. I was too guarded as a person and I knew it. It was habit formed from years of unfortunate life experiences gained through no fault of my own. I couldn’t change who I was as a person, but I didn’t want that to discourage me from trying anyway.
Perhaps that’s why I’d finally left the security of home. The more I thought about it, the more I began to consider that the real question was how capable was I of that kind of change. Maybe that’s what I was looking for here in New Paltz, an answer to that question.
With classes starting first thing in the morning, it was my intention to finish unpacking and get to bed early so I would be ready to attack the day. However, when the dinner hour rolled around, Darcy, with a take no prisoners attitude, insisted I take a break and go to dinner with her and her friends so I could get to know everybody.
“This is college!” she said excitedly as she pulled on her jacket. “Educational? Yes, but there’s so much more to it. You have to take advantage of every minute. This is a time in your life you’ll never be able to recapture. You’ll see, it’s going to be amazing.”
And with that she handed me my sweater and purse and gestured towards the door. It would be fair to say that I liked her from the start, even if I was a little suspicious of what I considered her unnecessary overly cheerleader-esque attitude. As I followed her down the back stairs, I found myself wondering what her friends were going to be like. Was I about to meet the rest of the pep squad? Lord, I hoped not.
It was less than a five minute walk from Capen Hall over to the Hasbrouck dining hall. The main campus, set just outside the small town of New Paltz, was sizeable but felt somewhat isolated from the world at large. It was surrounded on three sides by mostly forest, parklands and quaint rural neighborhoods. With hints of the coming fall, the grounds of the campus itself were awash in fading shades of green covering the many trees and manicured grassy areas that spread out through the quads and open land between buildings. My good grades had given me my pick of schools including some good ones in the city, but I didn’t think I could be confined to a concrete jungle. My soul longed for some deeper connection to nature that the constant sound of the pavement beneath my feet wouldn’t give. No, as soon as I’d seen New Paltz for the first time with Dad, he’d made his sale.
After going through the cafeteria line we joined a table of her friends at the far end of the airy dining hall.
“There’s Darcy!” a raven haired girl with pretty blue eyes said as she looked up, smiling at our approach.
“Hi, guys. This is Sara, my new roommate. Sara, this is Tabitha, Mike and Ryan.”
I smiled as best I could, but I was always reserved around new people. I never felt I got a good understanding of someone from a first impression, and like a turtle tended to stay in my shell until I thought it was safe to come out.
“Come sit next to me, Sara” Ryan said with a flirtatious smile as he moved over to make room for me on the bench. He was nice looking with chestnut hair that complemented his complexion. After looking at the table arrangement, I decided to join him as my only other option left me facing the wall. I just felt more comfortable looking out on a room where I had a better view of the movements of the people around me.
Mike and Tabitha, I found out through the course of conversation, were a couple and had been dating since last year. Tabitha had just decided to major in history while Mike was thinking of music education for a major.
Tabitha was sweet. She had kind eyes and a short cropped head of shiny, black hair that framed her face well. Something in her friendly demeanor and quirky sense of humor told me we’d hit it off well. Not quite as bubbly as Darcy, she was open and friendly with what my mother would have called soulful eyes.
Mike matched her like a his and hers set. With just about the same color dark hair and height he had a stocky build, an infectious laugh and pleasant brown eyes that perfectly matched the color of his tee shirt.
Tab, Mike and Ryan all loved hiking and when I mentioned I wanted to go before it got too cold, all three were excited at the prospect of taking me on my first trip into the woods. Darcy would not be joining us. In her own words, she wasn’t the outdoorsy type.
“And besides I’m pledging my sorority this semester, so you probably won’t be seeing much of me.”
Since freshman weren’t allowed to pledge, she’d been forced to wait impatiently all last year for her chance to pledge Delta something or another. I liked Darcy from the first, but wasn’t sure how living with my own personal pep rally would wear on my nerves for a protracted period of time. That being said, I was kind of relieved to find I’d not be seeing that much of her in the coming months.
To my great relief, Tabitha was in my Art History 101 class. It was my very first class in the morning, and knowing I’d have a friendly face next to me in my first class at NPU went a great way in relieving my first day jitters.
“I took a class with Professor Walker last year,” she said. “He teaches history classes as well. You’ll really like him. He’s a wonderful teacher. When he talks about history, he really makes you feel like he’s experienced it all. Some teachers are flat and boring, just reading out of a text book, but not him. He barely uses any books at all.”
“You forgot to mention how easy on the eyes he is,” Darcy added with a sly smile.
From the way the boys all rolled their eyes, I got the impression they weren’t the biggest fans of the professor.
“Yes, I suppose he’s a very nice looking man as well,” Tabitha begrudgingly admitted, but I could tell by the tone of her voice she didn’t think he was as attractive as Darcy did. “But it was his passion for the subject that made me decide to major in history. He just got me so excited about the subject.”
“I heard he lives in some really cool glass house up on the mountain built into the side of a cliff,” Ryan said in between bites of his burger. “He owns a huge chunk of land up on the mountain somewhere and had some swanky party for a bunch of the faculty when he first arrived last year. I overheard my psych professor talking about it last semester.”
“Yeah, I heard something like that too,” Mike agreed, as he slurped down the last of his drink.
“As amazing as the Professor is, it’s his teaching assistant who’s the real hottie. Oh, what’s his name …?”
“Daniel,” Tabitha quickly, said finishing Darcy’s sentence.
“Daniel,” Darcy echoed with a dreamy expression in her eyes. “Yes, he’s about the best looking guy on campus, but I think he must be gay or something. One time last semester I stood in line behind him at the book store and said hello to him. You know, to be friendly and all. In response all he did was give this odd kind of scary look.”
“Oh, yeah, he must be gay,” Ryan muttered under his breath with a smiling sarcasm while he winked at me.
“Well, all I’m saying is don’t get your hopes up, Sara. Every girl on campus does at first, but he’s just not interested in NPU girls I guess.”
“Have you ever even had a class with Professor Walker?” Mike asked.
“No,” Darcy said off handedly as she took another bite of her salad.
We all laughed. Yes, I was going to like them.
After we finished our meal, we were about to get up to leave when I heard Ryan excitedly say “Hey, there’s Ben.”
Darcy turned with a big smile in the direction of a tall well-built guy with wavy brown hair who had just walked up to a nearby table with his tray. His hair, neatly trimmed at the back, was a little long on the top and flopped over to one side when he tilted his head to the side.
“Ben!” Ryan called.
Ben turned at the sound of his name and smiled in our direction. Wow! I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen eyes light up like that before. They were a deep warm brown, almost a chocolate brown. He left his tray with his friends and came over to our table.
“Hi, guys. How was your summer?”
Sliding into the seat beside me, he fell into easy conversation with my group of new friends. Not having anything to contribute to their discussion, I tried not to stare at him. If I wasn’t mistaken, his brown eyes seemed to mask strange hidden depths behind them. They drew me in for reasons I couldn’t begin to understand. He also had a bizarrely healthy glow about him, as if he’d never been sick a day in his life. He was attractively tall, something I really liked, with a rugged outdoorsy look about him. Like the kind of guy you’d like to get lost in the woods with, maybe even on purpose. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t help but stare at him.
“Ben, this is my new roommate, Sara.”
He turned and looked directly into my eyes. In my experience, most people didn’t look you straight in the eye. They kind of start there and then danced around your face uncomfortably. But he held my gaze steadily for what must have been only a few moments, but seemed like a small eternity. Inside his gaze, I’d forgotten we weren’t the only two people in the room.
“Hi, Sara,” he smiled. “I hope living with Darcy doesn’t drive you crazy.”
Everyone laughed. But not me, I was still gazing into those eyes. There was a certain aspect in the expression behind them that made me think he was deep in thought about something he didn’t want to share.
“Ben Pearce! Now don’t you go giving her the wrong impression about me,” I vaguely heard Darcy protest in the background.
“Hi, Ben,” I said lamely as I reached out my hand.
“So where are you from?” he asked.
“Wading River. It’s a small town out east on Long Island. On the sound.”
“Beach person huh? Well, welcome to mountain country. Must be a lot different from home. I hope you like the woods cause there’s not much to do around here otherwise.”
As he shook my hand with a firm grip, I shifted my gaze from my hand in his up to his eyes. They wore a peculiar expression I couldn’t quite make out. Confusion maybe, but they were also looking deep into mine as if asking me questions without words. He finally released my hand after an awkwardly long possession of it, causing me to break my own stare to glance back at Tabitha. I think she’d just asked me what my plans were for the evening.
A minute or so later I peered back over at Ben. He was still staring at me which was starting to make me a little uncomfortable. He must have sensed it because at that exact moment he looked away.
Wasn’t his food getting cold?
Thankfully, Mike turned the conversation to our upcoming hiking trip, and hearing of our plans, Ben expressed his eagerness to join our excursion into the woods. Apparently he was just as avid an outdoorsman as he appeared at first glance. I felt my cheeks warm under his gaze and looked away. Who knows, maybe it was just me being all female for the first time in my life, or it could have simply been the old flannel shirt he wore, but suddenly it was feeling a little warm in here. I’d always had a thing for well-worn flannel, and the man sitting next to me wearing it wasn’t helping any either.
On the way back to the dorm, Darcy talked in a long steady stream without any need for me to answer. I was more than happy that my participation in her conversation wasn’t necessary as I had a lot to process from my first evening as a free and independent college woman.
“Isn’t Ben cute? I’ve had a little crush on him since last year. I wish he’d ask me out. Personally I make it a rule not to ask men out on dates. It sets a dangerous precedent and if a man is too stupid to realize he should ask me out, do I really want to go out with him? Ben’s gone out with a few girls since I’ve known him, but it never gets too serious. I think he has problems with his family and that’s why he went to school so far away from home. He’s from Montana I think, but he doesn’t like to talk about home or his family much. Do you think he likes me? You’re an unbiased observer. Do you think he was looking at me, you know, that way? I always think so, but he’s a hard one to read. But oh, those eyes, dreamy aren’t they? Like melted chocolate.”
She sighed and paused for a minute, then continued without waiting for any response from me.
In the morning, I woke in a strange bed to the sounds of shuffling feet and murmured voices in the hallway. Dorm life. I suppose it was going to take a little getting used to. I rolled my head over to see Darcy still sound asleep, her foot hanging off the side of her bed exposing her bright pink toe nail polish and perfectly shaped feet. Her idea of getting a better schedule next semester was making sure not to have any morning classes.
I threw my feet off the side of the bed and peeked out the window. It looked like a postcard, sunny and inviting, just like the campus appeared in all the brochures I’d received in the mail over the past year.
Deep down I was happy, but I had the feeling I was going to miss my parents eventually. It was good to truly be on my own for the first time in my life. It had been a tough battle convincing Mom to let me go away, but my father and I had finally won her over in the end. And now here I was on this beautiful fall day beginning a new chapter in the book of my life. Considering my previous chapters, it all seemed too good to be true, like a dream somehow. Whether I deserved it or not, I really wanted my book to have a happy ending at some point.
I slowly dressed, taking the time to put a bit more thought into what I wore than I usually did. As I’d unpacked yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice Darcy’s adverse reaction to my clothes. She was way more into fashion than I was. I’d always viewed my wardrobe in a bit more of a utilitarian way. It consisted mostly of old jeans and ratty tee-shirts with a few sweaters and outfits for jogging. Maybe she’d be a good influence on me in that department. I smiled and shook my head as I walked over to the mirror.
“Yeah, good luck to her with that,” I mumbled. I knew I was a lost fashion cause. If you had any doubts about that, just ask my mother.
Now dressed in jeans and a new tee-shirt, I began to run a brush through my hair. My mass of red hair stuck out just as much here as it did at home, a bright red beacon lost in a sea of blondes and brunettes. Secretly I’d hoped I might make friends with another red head so I wouldn’t stick out quite so much. No luck yet, but the semester was still young.
Grabbing my backpack full of new text books and my laptop, I headed out, Darcy quietly snoring as I closed the door behind me. Her first class didn’t begin until after lunch.
After a quick breakfast over in Hasbrouck, I started off in the direction of the lecture hall to meet up with Tabitha before class. It was a beautiful morning, the air was still full of hints of summer even though fall was obviously about to swoop down and chase it away. As I walked past a few other dorms, I fell into step with an increasing number of students as they began to file out of their beds. All things considered, I thought it had seemed a little too quiet in the dining hall during breakfast. I’m guessing not many students thought enough of that particular meal to make the extra effort to get out of bed for it.
From all the way across the quad I could see Tabitha sitting on the concrete steps leading up to the lecture hall building. She was eating a banana and thumbing through our thick Art History text book. She wasn’t hard to spot. Her distinctive sleek bob of jet black hair easily set her apart from the crowd. Plus she was really pretty; quietly beautiful I guess you’d say. Way more than I was at any rate. Lucky for her, she wasn’t saddled with a big pair of boobs like I was. Not terribly curvaceous, clothes hung well on her.
I wasn’t in a hurry to get to her. Still soaking the ambiance of my new surroundings, I was enjoying my morning stroll. Most of the buildings on campus were modern looking, made of glass or concrete, but a few had that classical old brick, Ivy League look about them. It was an eclectic mix and stood as a visual timeline for the evolution of the campus. The most modern structure I’d seen so far was just around the corner from Capen. In the center of the Student Union Plaza sat an enormous glass pyramid. Perhaps a bit too modern for this old fashioned girl, it was interesting, but I wasn’t sure I liked it very much.
With a new building under construction not that far from the lecture hall, the NPU campus seemed to be in a continual state of change. I guess that was a good thing. I couldn’t imagine it was particularly healthy for a place of higher learning to be stagnant in any way. The building my class was in this morning was a modern minimalistic looking one with solid glass and cement walls. From the outside, it gave the impression more of a museum than an academic building, but I kind of liked that unexpected quality about it.
Walking across the quad in the warm glow of the morning sun, the distinctive silhouette of Mount Mohonk was visible on the horizon. Easily seen from just about everywhere on campus, it loomed over NPU like a protective parent, eternally watching the students as they went about their daily routines. It looked inviting and as I walked across the quad, I hoped our hiking trip would take us up in that direction.
Tabitha suddenly looked up and waved.
“Morning,” she said as she swallowed the last of her banana and smiled. She was obviously more of a morning person that I was.
“Good morning,” I yawned, forcing my usual grumpy morning self to the side.
“Did Darcy keep you up all night?”
“No, she dropped off pretty quick, but I stayed up a little later than I’d intended to finish unpacking. I knew I’d feel better in the morning if I didn’t see all the clutter.”
Seemingly eager to get to class, she jumped to her feet and slung her back pack over her shoulder. When she turned and started up the stairs, I fell into step behind her, following along with the crowd of students shuffling their way to class.
After finding our hall, we settled into a pair of seats in the center of the room about nine or ten rows back. I looked around the hall and smiled to myself. When I was in high school, this was how I pictured college. My high school was a small town school with small classes. The cavernous lecture hall I now sat in had a very collegiate feel about it that made me feel all grown up. It was a large hall that probably held over two or three hundred students, with stadium seating rows overlooking a podium and projection screen down below. To be honest, with its florescent lighting it was a little on the dreary side, but I was too excited too really notice.
In truth I was older than my new friends realized. I’d taken a year off after graduating high school and stayed home in Wading River. Taking a few classes at the local community college, I’d also gotten a job while I decided to give a think on what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Not that I’d received any great revelations on the subject in the last year.
After graduation, my friends from high school had all gone away to school. It had been a lonely year, but having no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I didn’t want to waste my parents money by just blindly going off to school and hoping some profession I’d want to pursue would finally be revealed to me.
Although my mother didn’t want me to leave the house, she insisted I continue my education. The classes I took at the community college were mostly to keep her off my back. I didn’t complain. They’d help me fulfill a great deal of the basic requirement classes I’d have had to have taken anyway that weren’t related to any major I might choose later on down the line.
The job was to keep my father happy. He’d wanted me to go away to school, I think sensing a separation from my mother might be a good thing for both of us. All the same, I think he was also secretly pleased that I didn’t want to waste his money. He appreciated what hard work could teach a person about life, and when I came home dog tired from a long day at work, I think he was proud that I never complained. In his eyes, these were lessons you could never learn in a classroom.
Not that he wanted me to leave either. It was strange really. None of my friend’s parents seemed half as reluctant to send their kids off to school as mine were. Heck, some of my friends were more than encouraged to go as far away to school as possible. Oddly enough, I didn’t recall my folks being this way when my brother left for University, but that had been over ten years ago. I don’t know, maybe it was because I was their baby girl.
Sadly after almost a year of my life had passed, I was no closer to knowing what I wanted to study or do with the rest of my life. I’d filled out college applications wondering, hoping really that I’d be one of those people that found their way once they were out of the nest. Unlike my friends who all seemed to have some purpose driving them on, I felt more like a compass that didn’t know North. Somehow, sitting here in the lecture hall moments before class was about to begin, I felt perhaps I’d made the right decision after all. Maybe this was where I’d find my future. Or it would find me.
To my left, a side door at the front of the room swiftly opened and two men walked in. The first was a handsome man in his mid-forties. From the description Darcy and Tabitha had given the night before, I presumed this was Professor Walker.
The Professor was on the tall side with very fair skin, and soft looking, dark, wavy brown hair. In my mind his pale skin seemed somewhat at odds with his athletic build. I would have expected someone in such good physical shape to have more of a summer tan. As he strode up to the podium there was a timeless quality about him that at first glance puzzled me. He was every bit as attractive as Darcy had described, but there was also something about him that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, something that made him handsome, but I wouldn’t say necessarily sexy. I wasn’t sure what that difference was, but I had a feeling I’d be giving it a lot of thought over the remainder of the semester. At least I was sure I would every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning while I sat in his class and took the opportunity to study him in more detail.
The other was a young man in his early twenties. Not wholly unattractive, he had the pasty look of someone who spent too much time in the library and not enough talking to girls. Had he been a friend of mine, my first suggestions would have been; loose the pocket protector and get a decent haircut. Poor guy, he all but had Nerd tattooed on his forehead.
“Humm … No Daniel. That’s odd,” Tabitha commented in a low whisper. Turning her way, I caught a glimpse of a frown betraying a subtle hint of disappointment on her face.
Notes in hand, the Professor came to a stop behind the podium, and for the briefest of moments glanced up at the class. In that quick appraisal of his students this semester, I couldn’t help but be taken aback by the way he eyed us. It was beyond intense. It was the look of a bird of prey soaring high over a heard of mice, carefully yet quickly searching the herd for something for dinner.
Settling in for his lecture, I pulled a bottle of orange juice I’d picked up in the cafeteria out of my bag. A moment later he cleared his throat and looked up again quickly scanning the room once more. As I twisted the top on my drink and raised it to my lips, our eyes met. His brow furrowed as his gray yes began to bore deep into my head. I wanted to look over at Tabitha for an explanation, but like a deer in headlights, I was too caught under his spell to move.
Beside me I could have sworn I heard a whispered “O-oh” coming from Tabitha’s general direction.
Eyes still locked on mine to the exclusion of everyone else in the room, he began.
“Welcome to Art History 101. I’m your professor, Jonathan Walker. I have very few rules in my class but I expect them to be strictly adhered to. Attendance is mandatory. You will sign in and out of every lecture using the sign in sheet located in the back of the hall. The other rule is no food or drink is permitted in class.” He was still staring at me. I was too afraid to move a muscle, lest I attract more attention to myself.
“Miss? What is your name?”
I paused, unable to speak until Tabitha gently elbowed me in the ribs.
“Sara, Sir. Sara Donnelly,” I answered with an amount of confidence in my voice that I certainly wasn’t feeling. At least I hadn’t stuttered.
“Well, Miss Donnelly, I’ll ask you to put away your beverage at this time and I hope we won’t have to have this conversation again. A second offense will see you out of this class. Do we understand each other?”
“Very well then.”
His voice was ice cold, an odd juxtaposition to his warmly handsome features. His wavy, slightly unkempt hair gave him a boyish look, but his gray eyes betrayed a hint of age that made him hard to decipher at first glance. Then there was the way he carried himself. He had excellent posture which made him seem even taller than he probably was. His entire demeanor was beyond authoritative, it was commanding really. Almost reluctantly, he pulled his stare away from me then continued. He hadn’t smiled yet and I found myself wondering what he’d look like if he offered me a friendly smile.
“I hope you’ve all taken the opportunity to skim through the pages of your text book to see the material we’ll be covering this semester. For those of you who haven’t, you’re already behind and odds are you won’t be passing this course. So let’s get started. Rodney, lights please.”
Rodney, the Professor’s pocket protector wearing sidekick, flipped a switch dimming the lights and activating the projector. A painting of a beautiful woman with cascading red hair appeared on the screen above our heads. She was dressed in a flowing champagne colored gown and stood among the lush greens of a woodland landscape.
“What is art? Few questions spark such heated debate yet provide so few satisfactory answers. – Imagination. To imagine means simply to make an image – a picture in our minds.”
Another slide appeared, a painting of a tall sailboat with billowing white sails on the horizon of a blue green sea.
By the expression on his face combined with the tone of his voice, it was obvious how passionate he was about his subject.
“Imagination is key in allowing us to conceive possibilities, to picture possible futures, to wonder about possible pasts and to dream of different tomorrows.”
The slide changed again to a blur of shades of reds and whites making up a more modern painting.
“But what is the meaning of art? What is it trying to tell us? Artists often provide no clear explanation, since their work is the statement itself. If they could say it in words, they would have been writers instead. Thus art, like the written word, requires that we learn the language of the artist. In this case a visual language. We need to examine each work through the eyes of the artist in an attempt to understand how he or she viewed the world they lived in and their place in it. Perhaps through their artwork, we can catch a glimpse into their dreams, and hope to understand the meaning of the images they captured on canvas.
“Well, enough of the esoteric,” the Professor said, turning back to his notes on the podium. “We begin this survey with a look at the Stone Age.”
The slide changed once again to a photo of a rudimentary human figure carved from stone.
I sat through the beginning of the lecture a little too stunned to take it all in. But slowly I watched as the Professor’s demeanor began to change from the icy tones he used with me to something else entirely. As the lecture wore on, his eyes would light up as he talked about different things. His voice was soft now with an undercurrent of boyish enthusiasm that easily held your attention. I remember registering for this course out of simple curiosity, but now I was glad I had. I had a feeling I was really going to enjoy watching and listening to him during his lectures. Somehow, he pulled you in with his words and kept your attention tightly wrapped. It was unexpected to say the least and I couldn’t explain why, but some part of me was drawn to him in a way I’d never experienced before. Not just as a teacher, but as a person.
Sitting there I felt caught in his spell somehow. It wasn’t only the words he spoke but the way in which he spoke them. That and his faint accent. Hard as I tried I couldn’t pin down what it was. It didn’t sound foreign but I couldn’t possibly imagine what part of the U.S. it could be from.
Before I realized it, the lights came up and class was ending. The Professor quickly headed out the side door, but not before stealing a glance over his shoulder at me. The icy stare had returned to examine me once again. And then he was gone.
“It’s all my fault,” Tabitha lamented as we gathered up our books. “I should have warned you, but I totally forgot.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Every semester, the Professor picks one student from each of his classes and relentlessly calls on them the whole semester. He usually singles them out for doing something like you did with your drink. But once he latches on to them … I hate to say this, but you’re either going to get an A or flunk horribly. I’m so sorry, Sara. He did it to this poor guy in my History class last year, and he ended up dropping out a few weeks into the semester. The next day the Professor just picked some other girl and called on her until the end of term.”
“I don’t understand,” I replied, shocked at her story. “How can such a wonderful teacher be such a jerk at the same time?”
Shaking her head, she looked at me with eyes filled with pity.
Together we filed up the stairs and out of the lecture hall in silence. As we walked out I could feel the eyes of several of my fellow students on my back. I was a marked woman now.
My mornings torment was the main topic of conversation over our table in the dining hall that evening. I didn’t have much to say on the subject. It was Tabitha’s guilt that did most of the talking.
Although I’d managed pretty well in all my other classes today, I found myself unable to wrap my mind around the events of the morning. I knew I could be a little paranoid from time to time, but there was just something in the way the Professor had stared at me as he’d walked out the door that made me uneasy even now.
It wasn’t that I was afraid of his calling on me. I mean I was dreading that, but it was his eyes. They were almost emotionless if such a thing were even possible. I had thought it a cold stare, but that imbued too much emotion into his expression. It was the look of a scientist right before he cuts into the subject of his research, somewhat cold and dispassionate yet utterly curious. I mean, how often does someone look at you with no emotion in their eyes? Some people love to hate, and some people hate to love, but everybody feels something, don’t they?
Outside the thoughts rattling around inside my mind, I could hear the friendly chatter of Darcy, Tabitha, Mike and Ryan in the background. It was comforting, but I hadn’t heard a word they’d said for a while now.
“So, no Daniel?” Darcy’s voice finally penetrated my haze. “How disappointing.”
“I know,” Tabitha sighed. She tried to play it cool in front of Mike, but I think it was possible that she had just as big a crush on him as Darcy did.
“He’s still here though. I saw him in my medieval history class so I don’t know why he wasn’t in Art History this morning. I’d have sworn Professor Walker and Daniel were joined at the hip. You so rarely see one without the other.”
Wishing for a change of topic, I looked past Darcy and started scanning the faces in the dining hall. Glancing from table to table, I tried to imagine what their conversations were about based on facial expressions and body language. A few tables into my mental game, I spotted Ben across the room, seated with another set of friends.
“Is that Ben over there?” I said to no one in particular.
Everyone turned in the direction I was looking.
“Yep, told you. I swear he’s friends with just about everybody on campus,” Darcy said as she turned back to her food.
“So what are your plans for the evening?” Tabitha asked me. I guessed that after the topic of my mornings escapades had ended this was what had replaced it.
“Studying,” I shrugged. “Guess I’d better stay on top of Art History if I know what’s good for me.” Off handedly I added, “Plus I want to organize all my research so I can hit the library tomorrow.”
“Research?” Tabitha raised an eye brow.
“Is that what’s in all those plastic containers you have stacked up in the corner?” Darcy asked.
“Yes,” I answered, suddenly wishing I hadn’t mentioned it at all. “I like to work on my family’s genealogy. It’s a hobby of mine. I’d brought a lot of my research with me from home to work on when I had time. The library here has one of the best genealogy sections in the state.”
I purposefully neglected to mention that the attractions of their library had been a major reason I’d chosen NPU to begin with.
As was usual a moment of silence followed. This was pretty much the norm when I first mentioned my hobby to new people.
“That sounds interesting,” Mike finally said. “My grandmother is really into that. She knows all sorts of stuff about the family going back to the 1700’s.”
Now started a general conversation among them of what they knew of their family histories. I didn’t say anything further. I’d been working on my research for about a decade. In the process, I’d amassed a considerable amount of information, much more than anyone at the table had, probably more than anyone at NPU. It was a topic I could easily go on and on about with little prodding or encouragement. I bit my lip though. On the few occasions in my life I’d talked to my heart’s content about it to someone outside the family, it hadn’t taken long for their eyes to either glaze over or their attention to drift. Either that or they’d give me an odd look like I was a little crazy. For what I considered a completely inoffensive hobby, most people, though they wouldn’t admit it, thought it was boring as saw dust. I knew some even saw it as an indication that I was some sort of social misfit who’d rather talk to the dead than the living. For this reason, I let it drop with my new friends. No need to run them off this early. They’d probably fall into the latter category though if they ever saw my extensive collection of family headstone photographs.
The topic of conversation eventually changed to our hiking trip and a date was set for the weekend after next. They were planning a drive up to Mohonk Preserve where they said there were plenty of good trails, waterfalls and lots of wildlife to see.
And so my life settled into a routine of sorts. I’d learned to forgo breakfast in the dining hall for a quick bowl of cereal in my room which saved time for a half hours extra sleep in the morning. Three times a week I sat through Art History and was put on the spot by Professor Walker at least twice each day. I studied hard for that class, harder than any other I had, and so far hadn’t embarrassed myself too badly. Hard as I tried I could never tell if he was pleased when I gave the right answer, or if he was hoping I’d offer the wrong one. I sometimes thought he might like the opportunity to publically berate me, but he never got much of a chance. Sometimes after I would answer, he’d get something of an arch smile in his eye that I could easily have interpreted as he’d get me next time.
My other courses were all going well. It became increasingly clear as the weeks wore on that I would be seeing less and less of Darcy. She was officially pledging now and had spent the last few nights sleeping in one of her pledge sister’s rooms over in Crispell Hall. Something about safety in numbers she’d said, but I wasn’t really sure what that was supposed to mean.
I met up with Tabitha, Mike and Ryan for dinner every night, and also for lunch some days when our class schedules allowed. I also ran into Ben from time to time while crossing the quad. He seemed as nice as he had on first impression, but guarded. It seemed like every time, I left him, I was left wondering why he closed off parts of his life to everyone here. From time to time I’d casually asked him questions about where he was from and his family, but he’d always quickly change the subject to avoid answering me. As a person with secrets of my own, I could recognize a kindred spirit of that kind better than most. I let it lie. I respected his privacy and hoped he would do the same for me. Of course, I still wondered what was going on behind his amazing brown eyes. Could I possibly guess his secrets if I tried? I know he’d never guess mine.
I’d made some other friends as well in my classes, but none that I really socialized with outside of the classroom except for the occasional quick snack after class to discuss a project or a particularly interesting lecture.
Eventually, I’d begun to notice that everyone I was acquainted with seemed to run into this Daniel guy but me. Not that it really meant much. I mean the only effect this had on me was to peak my curiosity. I’d been on campus a few weeks now, so I’d have thought I’d have crossed paths with him at least once by now. NPU might seem big in comparison to my high school back in Wading River, but in reality it just wasn’t that big.
It was the different ways in which people reacted to Daniel that was beginning to fascinate me – in a scientific curiosity sort of way. Women tended to ever so slightly swoon at the mention of his name, and men usually showed a flash of what I assumed was jealousy. But this was not a hard and fast rule. I’d noticed an extremely small minority of women didn’t like him either. A few girls in my classes said he kind of creeped them out when he looked them directly in the eyes with some intense stare he apparently had. I heard a lot about the strange shade of blue his eyes were. I’ll admit it, I was curious to see what all the fuss was about.
All this had gotten me to thinking. I’d been meaning to stop by Professor Walker’s office in the Faculty Tower to ask him a question about an assignment he’d given us last week. I’d been putting off a visit to his office for obvious reasons but now I was thinking this might be my opportunity to see what all the fuss about this Daniel character was about. I figured if there were any place I’d be likely to run into him, it would be in the Art History Department offices. Perhaps catching a glimpse of the elusive Daniel would take a little of the sting out of having to be alone in a room with Professor Walker.
The next morning, I ate my cereal and dashed out the door to Art History to meet up with Tabitha at her usual spot on the steps out front. She was a morning person through and through and always early to class. I envied her that. God had given me many gifts, but the ability to embrace the earliest hours of the day was not among them.
Class started promptly as always. And as always, about twenty minutes into the lecture I heard “Miss Donnelly, what are the main buildings that make up the Acropolis in Athens?”
“The Parthenon, the Old Temple of Athena, the Erechtheum, the Sanctuary of Artemis, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaea,” I answered.
Professor Walker nodded and continued his lecture. I’d have to go through this again in another twenty minutes or so.
This was our routine, the Professor and I. It didn’t bother me as much as I’d thought it would. I guess since the subject interested me, I didn’t mind the extra time I spent studying. And besides, I wouldn’t have settled for anything less than an A anyway.
My life had been filled with a series of tough instructors in a variety of subjects, which I guessed was why it didn’t bother me the way it had his past chosen students. As my mother would say, there’s nothing new under the sun. At least the Professor wasn’t standing an inch from my face screaming his questions about the Italian Renaissance in rapid fire succession. Still, if he chose to ask a question of someone else from time to time, I wouldn’t have minded that either.
Gathering up my books, I headed over to the Faculty Tower to see if I could catch the Professor during his office hours. He had, as was his usual custom, hastily exited the moment class ended with Rodney in tow. I’d been told, and it appeared to be true, that the Professor wasn’t one to answer questions after class except on rare occasions. For someone who seemed so comfortable in front of a crowded lecture hall of students, he seemed strangely uncomfortable when he didn’t have a slide above his head to talk about.
I took my time walking across campus, unsure of what to expect when I got there. As I exited the elevator in the Faculty Tower, I followed the signs to the Art History Department offices which turned out to be a small corridor tucked off the far end of the fifth floor. Up here you were high enough to take in the sweeping panoramic view of the valley below. As I passed the windows, I paused for a moment to take in the rapidly changing colors of the fall foliage. Fall had always been my favorite time of year.
Walking around a corner, I came to a stop in front of a door marked Prof. J. Walker in gold lettering. Hesitating for a moment, I took in a deep breath and knocked.
“Come in,” I heard through the frosted glass of the door. The tone of the voice was unreadable, providing me no warning of what to expect.
Blowing out my deep breath, I turned the knob and slowly opened the door. His office was lined with dark wooden book shelves filled with magnificent collections of leather bound volumes. If I wasn’t mistaken, the faint odor of old pipe tobacco hung pleasantly in the air. Did he smoke a pipe? Strangely enough, it wouldn’t have surprised me if he did. A large ornately carved wooden desk sat in the center of the room. On top was a small brass lamp with a green shade that glowed, casting most of the light in the small room. The Professor sat behind the desk in an old wooden swivel chair and looked up at my entrance. To my astonishment, he didn’t look surprised. Well, not exactly not surprised, but certainly not altogether comfortable. Again, he was very hard to read. His facial expressions and body language gave ambiguous signals that often left me baffled.
“Miss Donnelly, to what do I owe the honor of your visit? You’re not thinking of dropping my class are you?” he said in a soft velvet tone.
Somehow, I managed to say “No.”
“Good. I’m glad to hear it.” He actually smiled at me. “More often than not, my chosen students elect not to continue under my added attentions. But I’m glad to hear that’s not the case with you. Actually, I’d have been surprised if it were. So again, what can I do for you?”
His face wore a pleasant expression that was completely foreign to me. Those eyes had never looked at me before without some perceived sinister aspect behind them.
“I have a question about the paper you assigned in class.”
He leaned back in his chair and motioned towards an empty seat across the desk from him. I sat down, for some reason eyeing the chair suspiciously.
“Go ahead,” he said, patiently waiting for me to continue.
“I’ve had a hard time picking a topic for my paper and thought I’d ask your advice. I have three different ideas I’ve been throwing around. Since it’s important to me to do a good job, I was hoping you might give me a little advice on which one I should choose.”
He smiled again, looking somewhat pleased at my question. Again, I could not make him out.
I gave him a brief overview of the topics I’d been considering and paused, waiting for his response.
“Well, you really couldn’t go wrong with any of them” he said “but since you asked for my advice I’d go with Byzantine architecture and Hagia Sophia. I think it would best suit your style.”
I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant by that but decided not to pursue it. I got up, thanked him and started for the door.
“It was very nice to see you, Sara,” he said with a sincere tone as he stood behind the desk.
Eager to leave, I hastily thanked him again and left. After I closed the door behind me as quickly as I could, I exhaled, leaning against the wall for support. Why was I reacting this way? He had been perfectly pleasant and cordial. Why did that unnerve me so much? Something about the way he had looked at me throughout the whole encounter left me feeling exposed and I didn’t like that feeling at all. Yet being alone with him like that … I don’t know. Something seemed different about him. Maybe it seemed like he’d let his guard down, or maybe it was his smile. But for some bizarre reason I couldn’t begin to understand, I think he liked me. Problem was, I just wasn’t sure how I felt about that.
Suddenly I heard footsteps echoing down the deserted hallway. Startled, I looked up to see a tall, amazingly well-built man standing at the far end of the hall. He was staring at me, frozen in place like a statue. His shadowy blue eyes were locked on me like missiles, and for a moment I just stared back at him. I don’t think he was breathing or even blinking for that matter, but then again neither was I.
The expression in his furrowed brow scared me. The way he looked at me felt like a cross between the way you’d look at a Martian if you saw him walking down the street and how a man looks at a shiny new sports car on the showroom floor. Whatever it was, it shook me to my core and all I wanted to do was to act on some primal urge to flee. Like a tidal wave had suddenly washed over me I was hit with the overwhelming need to run as quickly as possible. And breaking his visual hold on me, I turned on my heel and hurried down the hall in the opposite direction as fast my feet could carry me. Oddly enough, it wasn’t fear I was feeling. To be honest, I’m not sure what it was, frustration maybe, or anger. I didn’t like anything that flustered me that much. And standing there in front of the Professor’s door, I felt my wits being scattered to the four winds.
Seizing upon the quickest exit, I opened the door of the stairwell and quickly darted through only to hear Rodney’s nasally voice from behind echoing down the hallway saying “Hi, Daniel.”
I hope you enjoyed. To read the rest, the book is available on Amazon.