“It’s very...grey,” she stated uneasily while she looked at her surroundings. As someone who grew up in colourful Sunset Valley, the continuous greyness of Sims University was an instant dampener on her mood.“It’s utilitarian,” Mia replied. “And we’re here to study, not gape at the buildings around us.” Despite her harsh words she looked over her shoulder and gave Chantia a slight smile, lessening the sting of her words. “But I’m sure we’ll do more than just study.”
Mia’s words didn’t reassure Chantia at all, so it was with a heavy heart that she followed Mia through the door, into the comfortingly homey and luckily not grey foyer of the building. The entire foyer was laid out in wood and cream with grand staircases leading up to the rooms above them, and the green plants scattered here and there provided some additional colour, causing Chantia’s spirits to lift instantly.
“See? It’s not that bad,” Mia said and disappeared up the stairs to find her room. After a second of hesitation, Chantia followed Mia upstairs in the search for her own room.They managed to find their rooms fairly easily. Their rooms were on the same floor, but Mia had the luxury of a private room while Chantia had to share one with a roommate. That was one of the perks Mia received from winning that full scholarship from the Landgraab Science Facility. Chantia was a bit jealous of Mia (and Mia’s private room), but as she looked around her room, she figured it could’ve been much worse. At least this one had some colour.
After packing her clothes away and hanging some of her personal achievements and photos on the walls of her half of the room to add additional colour, Chantia returned downstairs, where Mia was already chatting with one of the guys sharing the dorm, who had introduced himself as Gary. The poor guy looked like he couldn’t believe his luck that a pretty girl would talk to him, judging by the way he seemed to absolutely hang on every word Mia said.“You’re blocking the door,” another girl pointed out with irritation to the obliviously chatting pair.
“Oh, sorry,” Mia apologized absent-mindedly and moved out of the way, providing just enough space for the girl to get in. In the time she was distracted, Gary used the time to take the opportunity presented to him.“Hey, my eyes are up here,” Mia reminded him forcefully when she turned back to him. Gary blushed to the roots of his hair at being caught and with a lot of stammering, excused himself from her company. It was clear to anyone looking that he was completely mortified.
Chantia chuckled at the guy, totally amused by his embarrassment. Gary wasn’t the first guy to leave Mia’s presence with a stutter and a blush. People could say what they wanted, but the fact remained that Mia was extremely pretty. And, of course, the way the younger girl dressed certainly didn’t help.
“Let’s go; it’s time for the meet-and-greet to start,” Chantia reminded her sister.At the meet-and-greet the girls took the time to study all the information available to them. The university had certainly gone out of its way to ensure the new students were well-prepared for the term lying ahead of them.
“Hmm, let’s see,” Chantia muttered while she looked at her class schedule. “Classes are on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Classes consist out of…what? This can’t be right,” she said with a frown and gave her schedule to Mia for a second opinion.
Mia sped-read through the schedule Chantia handed her. She quirked an eyebrow when she noticed the reason for Chantia’s disbelief.
“The Physics of Girls. Interesting,” she replied and gave the schedule back. “Don’t worry; I have my own weird subject,” Mia consoled her sister. “The Psychology of Traveling.”
Chantia gave her sister a sceptical glance. “No. Really?” Mia’s only response was to nod seriously and show her schedule to Chantia. Sure enough, the schedule had classes for The Psychology of Traveling 202.
The girls spend a long time at the event, trying out the various activities available to them……or meeting their new classmates and professors. Mia’s new professor was a lecherous old man in Chantia’s view, but Mia apparently didn’t think so, or maybe just didn’t care. She was still standing too close to the man though, in Chantia’s opinion.
It was late evening by the time the girls returned to the dorm. The girls were tired from both the meet and the journey to the university, so they decided to retreat to Mia’s room for the evening, especially since Mia’s private room was bigger than Chantia’s half of her shared room. They could’ve gone to the common room, but neither girl was in the mood for other people.
“I think I’m going to enjoy university,” Chantia declared with a small smile playing on her face. “The sky and the buildings are very grey, but the people are very nice.”
“They are nice,” Mia agreed and gave the fire one last poke before straightening and turning to Chantia. “But we’ve only been here about a day. Living with someone is very different to just talking to them.”
“I know that,” Chantia agreed and walked to the window, staring at the rain falling in a slow methodical rhythm outside. The rain obscured the stars that should’ve been showing, and Chantia felt a sudden pang of homesickness. Back home, the stars were so bright.
“I’m going back to my room,” Chantia informed Mia. “I’m rather tired, and I promised Sam I’d call him.”
“Go ahead,” was Mia’s uninterested reply. She was already preoccupied by the book in her hand.“Hey, it’s me,” Chantia greeted Sam when he picked up the phone. “I promised I’d call every night, so here I am.” She smiled nervously and stared at the leaves rustling outside the window, feeling her heart-beat speed up slightly in anticipation. She had seen Sam only the previous day, but right now he felt so very far away. She smiled happily when he replied and sank into the armchair by the window, relishing in the rich tenor tones of his voice.
They talked for a long time, but eventually it had to come to an end. It was starting to get very late, and Chantia’s first class started early the next morning, so she had to get some sleep. In addition, Chantia’s roommate had arrived in the room and Chantia preferred to keep her conversations with her boyfriend private.
The next morning dawned grey and rainy, signalling a wet start to the beginning of classes. The weather was miserable and Chantia’s spirits fell even further when she realised she had left her umbrella at home. She would have to dash through the rain and the puddles to get to her class.By the time she reached her class, she was sopping wet and shivering from the cold. Her first day of classes was so much worse than she had imagined.
Cold and miserable, she slipped into her chair just as the professor arrived.
“Welcome to your first class in the Parapsychology degree,” the professor welcomed them after taking his place by the podium.“If you decided to major in this degree because you thought it would be interesting or easy, think again,” the professor declared. “Parapsychology, or ghost huntery, as it’s often called, is not for the faint-hearted. It is hard work. It is frightening work. There will be times that your very lives itself might be in danger. The hours are extremely long, and you’ll often work until very late in the night.
“Some of you will not be able to make the cut,” he continued. “Some of you will give up after your first term, while others of you might be able to hold out until your first paranormal experience, where the experience will prove to be too much to handle.
“But to those of you who are serious about this program, and are doing this for the right reasons, I believe you’ll find it’s one of the most satisfying jobs to do.
“So, I heartily welcome all of you, and hope to see the majority of you out there in the field after graduation.
“Now, without further ado, let’s start with the coursework…”The coursework was a lot more difficult than Chantia had expected. They had to study all kinds of different equipment and readings and statistics and interpretations, but Chantia found she also enjoyed it a lot more than she had expected. She had always thought she knew everything there was to know about ghosts through her interactions with Charlotte and the others, but she soon realised she knew extremely little. True, all the ghosts could be classified into the two main categories Charlotte had told her about (Lost and Damned, although the professor called the categories Ghosts and Spirits), but there were so many subcategories that Chantia had never heard of. It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fascinating work.
Life settled into a comfortable rhythm. Even though life at university was pretty hectic between classes and practicals and study sessions, Chantia enjoyed learning more about ghosts and the science behind them and Mia enjoyed being able to study the human body in more detail.The practicals and classes sparked even more ideas in Mia’s mind, driving her to keep up on her research whenever she had time. It felt to Chantia that Mia was always off somewhere on her own, pursuing her research, while Chantia herself felt like she never had time to do anything she enjoyed. She was often forced to study until very late in the night just to keep up with her studies, and slowly but steady she could feel the stress building up.
It was only to her frequent phone conversations with Sam that she felt she could still cope. Even though she wished to see him every day, just hearing his voice was able to give her enough strength to keep going.
Of course, it wasn’t long before the girls discovered the wonders of roommates. The bathroom was always dirty, some people never showered and dirty clothes were strewn all over the dorm. Literally every room had dirty clothes somewhere on the floor. The girls tried their best to keep a semblance of cleanliness in the dorm, but it usually held only a day before the dorm looked like a pigsty again.
Chantia, on the other hand, had to deal with more than just dirty surroundings. Her roommate, Tiffany, was a sweet girl, but she had two fatal flaws. One, she snored – loudly. Two, she had friends who had no respect to privacy.
“Who are you, and what are you doing in my room?” Chantia questioned the stranger crossly. She normally wouldn’t have such a big issues with strangers being in the room, but she did have an issue with people being in her room while she sleeping.
“It’s Tiffany’s room,” the stranger replied as if it was obvious. Chantia grinded her teeth at the answer, trying to keep her temper from boiling over.
“I know that,” Chantia explained slightly impatiently. “But it’s my room too and Tiffany’s not here,” she pointed out. Tiffany’s friend just shrugged.
“So, get out!” Chantia ordered crossly, finally losing her patience. The girl sniffed indignantly and left the room, taking Chantia’s bar of nougat with her when she left.
Besides the problems, it wasn’t all bad. The definite upside was that there was always someone willing to join them at the breakfast table or play video games with them when they wanted to forget about university for one night.Then, of course, there was the comic relief. Poor Gary blushed to the roots of his hair the first time he encountered Cora in only her underwear, causing all three girls to burst out in laughter. From that day on Cora tried to get a rise out of him by constantly walking around in her underwear.
Before the girls noticed, the final exams of their first term had arrived. Both girls tried their best and to Chantia’s surprise and utmost pleasure, both had managed to reach the Dean’s List.
Chantia celebrated by going to her room and calling Sam, but Mia celebrated by trying out something new.Gary was a sweet, naively innocent guy, and the perfect target for practise. Mia had time, and since she had missed out on the flirting game as a teen, she decided it was the perfect time for trying her hand at romance. Besides, she was curious. She had been introduced to some…questionable literature during her time at university, and the more she read it the more curious she had become.
Chantia of course, remained blissfully unaware. She too busy packing her bags. The vacation had officially arrived and they were returning home the next day. She’d finally be able to see Sam again.
The next morning finally arrived, but with it came bad news. Sunset Valley had been hit by a massive blizzard, causing all the passes to the valley to be blocked off by snow. There was no way the girls would be able to return home for the vacation.
“I have bad news,” she informed Sam after she heard the news.He instantly seemed to realise what she was talking about. “You’re not coming home, are you,” was his reply. Chantia shook her head numbly.
“They say all the passes are snowed close. There’s no way to reach Sunset Valley.” She heard Sam sigh softly through the phone.
“I heard. I just hoped…well, it doesn’t matter. Stay safe, okay?”
“I will,” Chantia promised earnestly before closing off the conversation with “You too.”
That night, Mia threw a bonfire party. Several people were unable to go home, so Mia had decided to throw the party to console the people who had been stuck at the university like her.It was chaos, but everybody seemed to enjoy the party. Mia had drafted the help of two guys to carry the stereo outside, something the partygoers appreciated a lot. They talked and danced and threw vials into the fire, laughing when it erupted into fireworks or grimacing when it spat foul odours all over their clothes. Still, everybody enjoyed it and Chantia even felt her spirits lift slightly.
But that was soon driven to the back of her mind.