Rae had no idea where she was or how close she was to her destination. Her back was stiff from hours of travel and her jaw ached from the frequent bumps in the road. She was unfortunately squeezed right in the middle of the hard bench with no room to stretch or readjust herself. However, the coach was so overflowing with petticoats and bags no one was comfortable. Luckily, these girls had traveled this way before and everyone had the sense to save the perfume for another time.
Then, the sound of soft plodding on worn dirt instantly changed to the sharp clop of hooves on cobblestone. The coach had finally reached the edge of town.
Not fifteen minutes later, the carriage pulled up the gravel drive of the university station and the driver and footman began to unload the luggage. The girls poured out as quickly as they could, trying not to fall on snoozing limbs. They were all grateful to be standing in the cool moving air. Rae quickly located her large red leather bag amongst the hap hazardous heap and made her way to her dorm.
It was a warm and sunny day, but Rae felt almost chilled as she walked in the shade the tree-lined lane. Tall oak trees arched above her, allowing only the smallest specks of light to litter the ground. The large cathedral like buildings of the school could barely be seen through the old trees. She passed by many girls coming and going along the way, but she mostly didn’t recognize any of them. It was a large university and common to have a class with a girl and then never meet her again. The campus was loud with the hustle and bustle of everyone returning from spring holiday.
Rae eventually made it to her own dorm on the other side of the campus, fairly worn out from the long trek. She walked through the entrance of one of the many matching red brick buildings, quickly checking the building number to reassure herself. This was mostly out of habit after her mishap her first year. Back then, she had gone so far as to sit on the bed when she looked up and realized that girl lying on the opposite bed was not her roommate.
Rae climbed the ornate staircase to her room on the second floor, saying good afternoon and bobbing her head to a couple of dorm mates passing by. Unlike other dorms, the doors that lined the hall were bare of decoration. Nothing indicated the inhabitants of each of the unmarked rooms except two small nameplates on the wall. The hall monitor was very strict on this floor. Rae didn’t mind not being able to gussy up her door, but she wished others could just so she could tell which one was hers in the middle of the night.
Tobi had already arrived and was unpacking in the bright room. The late evening sun poured in, giving everything a slight orange glow. The room was small. The only furnishings were two small beds, a shared nightstand below the window, a shared dresser, and a shared vanity set.
The girl nearly flew across the room and embraced her roommate. Her light red-brown curls appeared almost bronze in the light and bounced as she moved. Rae hugged her back, glad to be with a kind friend.
Tobi was the daughter of a very rich and old merchant. He had made his money working hard and selling the new steam technologies that were just emerging. He married late in life to a young lady just out of high school. They had three daughters and named each after the month they were born. The eldest was June, the middle April, and, not wanting to break tradition, the youngest was named October. Since the merchant had neither family money nor a title, the family was considered “new money” and not thought of as on the same social level by many of the older generation.
“Isn’t it so exciting?”
Rae only shook her head in response.
Tobi’s eyes widened in surprise. “Haven’t you heard? ‘Destiny’ is being made into a musical!” The girl was nearly bouncing with excitement.
“Oh really? I hadn’t heard. How wonderful!” Rea said. However, she groaned inwardly. She had hoped that Tobi would have come up with some sort of conversation other than that darn book over the break. The romantic novel series was Tobi’s latest obsession, though she had many, and the only thing Rae heard about from the girl.
Tobi chattered on and on about the upcoming play while Rae unpacked her things in the tiny room.
As she fused with her belongings, Rea ignored her roommate’s endless prattle. She nodded her head at the appropriate moments and strayed into her own thoughts.
Suddenly, she realized the room was silent. Rea looked up and nearly jumped out of her skin to see Tobi standing directly over her, eyeing her curiously.
“You’re not paying attention!”
“Oh, sorry!” Rae blushed at being caught with her mind elsewhere. “What is it?”
“This!” Tobi exclaimed as she pushed a large piece of paper in her face.
After pulling back so her eyes could focus, Rae saw that it was a poster.
Rae sighed, “Yes, I heard you talking about the musical.”
Tobi rolled her eyes in exasperation.
“No! Him! Henry!” she said as she jabbed at the center of the paper. “Isn’t he handsome? I swear this is the man I am going to marry!”
Rae studied the printed drawing. Below the large letters of the title were the faces of a couple held in a loving embrace, the male and female lead.
He could certainly be considered… pretty, Rae thought, maybe. However, she didn’t think that the word handsome could ever be applied. She wondered if her roommate truly found him attractive or if it was just because he was playing the lead in her favorite book.
Tobi then took to hanging the poster on the wall above her bed, cooing to herself that she would be Mrs. Henry Something-Or-Other. Rae looked at the clock and realized they were going to be late for the evening meal. She grabbed the other girl’s hand and dragged her away from her love towards the dining hall. The whole while an image of a broad back and a boyish smile, reminding her of her own definition of handsome.