New Lives, New Loves – First Chapter

Blowing a wisp of hair out of her eyes, Nancy adjusted the straps of her backpack, yanked the tote bag onto her shoulder, grabbed one of her suitcases by the handle, and struggled up the steps, leaving her other suitcase and the lamp at the side of the walkway with the other luggage and boxes lined up there. “Well, Thayer, here I am,” she said under her breath as she entered the dorm that would be her home for the next year.

Just past the glass doors was a large lobby with a tiled floor and a bank of shiny silvery metal elevators. Along the walls were scattered bulletin boards covered with masses of brightly colored papers announcing events and gatherings for the upcoming week: Thayer Hall Orientation, Zeta Psi Freshman Bash, Asian-American Students Union…

There’s so much to do! Nancy thought. When is there time for classes?

She was about to turn away when something on a board caught her eye.

LOOKING FOR A “WILDER TIME”?

THE WILDER TIMES WANTS you!

Wilder’s Newspaper Is Looking for New Staff!

Come to the Organizational Meeting,
Wednesday, 8 P.M.
241 Goldwin Hall.

I’ll be there, Nancy thought excitedly. She snatched up her suitcase. But it’s only Saturday, she reminded herself. I’ve got to take college one step at a time. I’ll start by finding my room.

Thayer Hall had five stories, with the dining hail and mail room on the first floor, and then alternating floors for freshmen men and women. Nancy’s suite was on the third floor, so she started for the elevators. When she saw the lines of people waiting at each one, she shook her head and decided to climb the stairs. She fought a fluttery feeling in her stomach as she struggled up every step.

I don’t know why I’m so worried, she thought. After all, I’ve been in hundreds of really nerve-wracking situations. Why should the first day of college make me so nervous?

Nancy stepped out into the third-floor hall and found herself confronted with three sets of doors — one for each wing of the Y-shaped building. She was in Suite 301, in the wing just to the right of the elevators and the stairway.

A little hesitantly, Nancy opened the door and found herself in a small lounge. Blue sofas and armchairs were grouped around a low round coffee table piled with university brochures, information pamphlets, and take-out menus from different pizzerias and Chinese restaurants. A short hallway branched off this room. It was lined with doors, and the hallway was jammed with girls, parents, and luggage. Everyone was twisting around to get in and out of rooms. Blowing away the same annoying piece of hair, Nancy put on a patient smile, lowered her shoulder, and plunged into the crush.

“Hey there!” a squarely built girl with freckles called out to her, shouting to be heard above the din. She bounded over to where Nancy stood. “Are you my roommate?”

“I don’t know,” Nancy answered. “Are you Kara Verbeck?”

“Nope,” the girl said cheerfully, shaking her head. “Eileen O’Connor. Oh, well, I guess we’re suitemates anyway. What’s your name?”

“Nancy Drew,” she answered.

“So let’s get right to the important stuff,” Eileen demanded. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

“What?” Nancy replied, startled by the abrupt question. “Well, actually, yes, I do.”

“Lucky you, then.” Eileen sighed. “You’re preequipped. I guess that means you’ll be getting actual schoolwork done this semester. Unlike me. That’s the bane of us single animals,” Eileen explained. “We always end up getting bad grades the first semester because we spend all our time scouring the campus for love.” She laughed heartily.

Nancy couldn’t help laughing with her. Eileen had a good sense of humor.

Maybe I should introduce her to Bess, Nancy thought. They could go “scouring the campus for love” together.

“You said you’re rooming with Kara, right?” Eileen asked. “She’s here already. You two are in the second room on the left.”

“I’m definitely ready to drop this stuff.” Nancy glanced down at her bags, which were growing heavier by the second. There was that flutter again. This time it was provoked by the thought of meeting the girl she’d be living with for the next year.

“That’s the bathroom,” Eileen continued, nodding toward an open door. “It’s not as bad as it looks in the brochure. There’s room for three of us in there at a time.”

“Thanks,” Nancy replied, laughing. I can’t wait to tell George, she thought.

“Phone company. Phone company, coming through!” someone warned. A thin guy in a coverall barreled through, practically flattening everyone against the wall. He was wearing a leather holster; but instead of guns in the slots, he was packing phones, wires, and tools. He had a harried look, as if this was the hundredth crowded suite he’d had to fight through that day.

“All right, people, listen up,” he declared hurriedly above the noise, though Nancy thought she was the only one listening. “The phones in your rooms don’t work yet. No private service until next week. You can receive calls on the lounge phone, but if you want to make a call, you’ll have to go downstairs to the pay phones. Any questions?” Not waiting for an answer, he shouted, “Good.”

The door to the main hall slammed behind him, and he was gone.

“What a drag,” Nancy heard someone say. She turned and found herself staring into the lovely brown eyes of a girl her height. Though not exactly beautiful, the girl appeared sophisticated, with her high cheekbones and bright red lipstick. She wore a white, low-cut bodysuit that showed off her slender figure and deep tan. Everything, from her expensive-looking haircut to her perfectly manicured nails, said “money.”

“You pay gobs of money for tuition and room and board, and you don’t even get a lousy phone,” the girl complained in a lazy drawl.

Nancy smiled politely and tried to squeeze by. Since she was the one loaded down with luggage, Nancy thought the girl would step back to give her more room. She didn’t budge an inch, however. Finally, Nancy just dropped her bags.

“Sorry about that,” Nancy said, determined to be nice. “I’m Nancy Drew.”

The girl arched an eyebrow at Nancy and smiled smugly. “Stephanie Keats,” she said finally. “Excuse me.” She brushed past Nancy and moved toward the lounge.

Nancy stared after her for a moment, taken aback. What’s her problem? she wondered. Whatever it is, at least I can be thankful she’s not my roommate.

Bess backed clumsily into the crammed elevator in Jamison Hall, clutching a green garbage bag stuffed with sweaters and socks. “Just one more load and I’m done,” she whispered under her breath, thinking of the two suitcases sitting on the sidewalk outside and the last bits and pieces in the trailer.

“Thanks a lot, George,” she mumbled again. Bess knew she shouldn’t be mad, but she couldn’t help feeling deserted by her cousin. George had brought only a third as much stuff as Bess, and as soon as she had finished unpacking, she bolted. George had said she wanted to wander around campus and check things out. She wouldn’t wait even five minutes to help Bess up with her stuff.

I guess she’s just excited, Bess explained to herself. I can’t really blame her. There’s so much to do, so much to see.

As Bess eyed the kids standing with her in the elevator, she felt overwhelmed by the newness of it all. Everyone was chatting, introducing themselves, comparing notes on their rooms. But somehow, all the noise and hubbub was reassuring. The kids she passed nodded hello. All the incoming freshmen like her seemed eager to be friends.

The elevator doors slid open on the second floor, and Bess stumbled out and staggered down the hall to Room 214.

As she stood catching her breath in the doorway, she smiled with relief.

“I really love it,” she said out loud, setting down the bag of clothes. Her room was the one definitely great thing about college so far. It was light and airy, with decorative moldings around the high ceiling. Two twin beds sat under a large window, a small antique-looking nightstand separating them. Along each of the side walls were a built-in dresser, a wardrobe with mirrored doors, and a desk.

Nancy’s dorm may be shiny and new, Bess thought, but mine has character.

Then Bess noticed a perfectly stacked pyramid of blue suitcases on the left-hand bed. Obviously, her roommate had arrived but wasn’t in the room.

I hope we get along, Bess thought, glancing uneasily at what looked to her like a display for a luggage store. Then her heart dropped a little when she noticed two milk crates filled with books piled next to the suitcases.

“Oh, great,” Bess mumbled. “She’s already thinking about classes.”

She leaned over to read the titles. “Topics in Biochemistry,” she read aloud, wrinkling her nose. “Ugh, sounds awful. Well, that’s her life, not mine.”

In truth, Bess was more than a little worried about studying. All through the application process, her parents had never stopped talking about how academically challenging college would be, and how she would have to work really hard applying herself as her cousin George did. George had always been a good student, and Bess knew that she personally hadn’t a single academic gene in her body.

Bess was ready for parties and dances and football games — all the really great stuff she’d looked forward to since high school. But books? Classes? Tests? Studying all night? The concepts made her shudder.

“Party now, worry later,” Bess said under her breath as she bounded cheerfully across the airy room and headed back into the hail for the last of her things. As she walked down the stairs, she glanced out the window and caught sight of George leaning against Nancy’s blue Mustang, tapping her foot impatiently. “Uh-oh,” Bess muttered, racing down the last few steps to retrieve the last of her things from the trailer.

At the front door, she barreled into a tall, preppy girl dressed in a green single-pocket T-shirt and tan chinos. “Sorry,” Bess mumbled, rubbing her nose.

“You should be,” the girl scolded, pursing her lips. Then she turned and headed for the bank of elevators.

Too bad everyone can’t be friendly, Bess thought as she watched the girl disappear behind the closing doors of a jammed elevator.

With a shrug, Bess dashed outside.

“Isn’t everything great?” she said, wide-eyed, as she stopped in front of her cousin.

“Sure is,” George replied. “How’s your room?”

Bess sighed cheerfully. “It’s wonderful. It’s — “

“I don’t mean to interrupt, but do you think you could tell me later? I’m sorry, but right now I need to drop off the trailer and get Nancy’s car to her. Then Pam and I are going out for coffee.”

“Pam?” Bess asked, puzzled.

“My roommate,” George said quickly, sticking a lighted makeup mirror under one of Bess’s arms and ten or so rolled-up posters under the other. “Here, I think that’s everything of yours.” She opened the car door and slid behind the wheel. “Sorry to have to run. See you later,” she said above the roar of the engine.

The car pulled away, then skidded to a stop. “Hey,” George yelled back. “Don’t forget we’re meeting at Nancy’s dorm for dinner tonight.”

The Mustang pulled away, and Bess stood next to her suitcases on the walk, watching George turn a corner and roar off.

“No, that’s all right, George,” Bess muttered. “I don’t want any coffee. And I’ll meet Pam later. And tell you about my room later. And finish moving in — by myself.”

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