Rose – 9 of 17

 

Rose set out for college two days before classes began. She’d been sure of herself until this morning, Saturday, when it is time to leave. Now she has butterflies, and premature homesickness. Charlie doesn’t feel any better about her leaving, but he knows it’s not his place to say anything. Acting as a bell boy, he follows her in order to carry her bags to her room. At least that’s the official reason for accompanying her. But in reality he wants to make a show of force, as it were, confirming to the studs hanging around campus that Rose is already spoken for. 

”This campus is larger than I realized,” Rose said after they park as close to the dorm as possible. Charlie wrestles her bags to the stairway attached to the west end of her dormitory, the one mentioned in her orientation letter stating her room is located on the third floor. Rose leads the way up while Charlie struggles with her bags. As they reach the landing the entry door swings open.

”What is your name?” asked a burley, middle-aged woman with a clipboard.

”Rose Hardacre.”

”Oh yes. You’re assigned to room 312, halfway down the hall on the right. This is far as you can go, sir,” says Burley.”

“MAN AT THE DOOR,” she shouts down the hallway. Instantly, doors slam like couplers on a train leaving the station.

”I’ll have the radio on, Rose,” Charlie says leaning forward to kiss her on the lips. “I’m going to miss you,” he adds, turning, making his way down the steps to head for home. He knows it’s going to be a long, lonesome trip.

* * *

Her room is papered with a delicate flower pattern. A gray carpet covers the floor wall-to-wall. The two beds are against opposite walls. Two identical chests of drawers are built into the wall, as well as two closets.

Rose’s roommate, Megan, is a shy brunette from Kansas City. This is Megan’s first time away from home and she’s nervous, in spite of the fact she is a big city girl. She’s hardly five feet tall with thick, black hair and dark eyes. Rose is positive Megan drives the boys insane.

”Have you explored the campus?” Rose asks after they are acquainted.

”No, I just arrived here an hour ago myself. I wish I knew where we could get something to eat. I’m starved”.

The housemother raps on the door frame before entering their room, then gives them verbal directions to the student union where food is always available until midnight.

”Maybe we should put our things away before we leave?” suggests Megan, her hands on her hips while she considers where everything should go.

”I don’t know that it matters, not yet, anyway,” says Rose, adding, “we have all night and tomorrow to do that. Besides I think better on a full stomach. We need to hide our money, though.”

Virgil has given Rose nearly $200 to cover the first semester’s tuition, cost of books, various additional fees, and some extra for what he calls walk around money. She drops her wallet in an empty drawer. Then they set out in search of the student union. 

The student union was a large dining room with a cafeteria on one side. Several dozen tables and chairs fill the area all the way to the far wall. Half the tables are occupied. Rose finds it easy to identify the returning students by the casual way they act, their offhand reunions, and laughter.

They eat their fill. 

An hour later they return to find their room door ajar and their belongings in a jumble. Rose’s heart is in her throat as she races to the drawer where she left her wallet. 

”It’s gone! My wallet is gone!” shouts Rose, her eyes glued to the empty drawer.

”What?” screeched Megan.

” My entire $200 is gone.”

”Oh no! Didn’t you lock the door?”

”I thought you did,” said Rose.

Megan shakes her head slowly side to side. “I’m so so sorry. Whatever will you do?” she asks.

”I don’t know,” moans Rose. “How will ever I tell Dad I lost that money?” She says half to herself.

”Tell the truth. Tell him how it happened. If your dad is anything like mine he’ll see through any fib you try to tell him,” suggests Megan.

Rose nods in agreement. “I guess l have no other choice but to go back home and see if Dad will give me a second chance. Do you want to go with me?”

“How far away is it?”

“A couple hours. We can spend the night there.”

“What if your dad won’t give you a second chance?”

“I think he will. I hope he will. But if he doesn’t I’ll still bring you back to campus tomorrow.”

They stow their belongings in their closets and drawers, bringing some order to the room before leaving. It was nearly dark before they descend the outside stairway and head for Rose’s Ford.

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