Lila had spent the better half of her morning scrubbing eggs off her door and the carpet. Since she didn’t have cleaning supplies, she took thin brown paper towels from the shared bathroom to slowly soak up the mess, until she had a mountain next to her feet.
When she felt she had cleaned as much as she could, she flopped onto her bed to stare at the ceiling. She left her boxes unpacked.
A floor meeting was scheduled at six. Giggling girls rushed down the hall, their footsteps padded by their socks and slippers. Pajamas and jeans disappeared around corners with the shuffle of Walmart shopping bags, plastic and benign, echoing after them.
Lila stood by the door, waiting until the clock ticked ever closer to six: 5:56, 5:57, 5:58, the shuffle of the day’s activities coming to a climax before she left.
The common area overflowed with girls, rushing out like waves from the glass doors. Blonde and pretty girls sat on couches, prim with phones in their hands and gum in their mouths. They occasionally whispered behind their hands and bracelets to the blonde next to them, quickly giggling and turning away. Girls with flowing brown hair curled in the corner, as if to be obscured by the omniscient fluorescent lights that never provided shadow nor shade. Other girls stood around the chairs, against the walls, making light and loud conversation, excitement bubbling and bursting from their own expression of their pride.
Two very pretty girls sat in the middle of the room, chairs pulled from the study tables near the window. They sat with business on their shoulders, backs straight with confidence, and papers laid across their laps. The plush seating tore away from the sides of the chairs, fraying ends sticking oddly out from the wood structure.
One girl, blonde, cast very tight and pretty smiles at the girls in the room. Her eyes were a very pretty crystal shade of blue that caught the fluorescent lights and made them like deceptively shallow cave pools, with spidery-long eyelashes nearly curled to her eyebrows. Her cheeks spoke of beauty, blushed with bright pink, and flushed to perfection. A deep-bow red mouth gave the smile a different tone. Too much tension in her upper lip gave the impression, upon closer inspection, of the fighting tones of her mouth.
The other, her chair within close proximity to the blonde, busied herself with writing across the papers, flipping through them anxiously. She too was blonde, but a much darker tone than at first glance, but appeared to be a very light ashy brown. Her thin bird-like wrists twisted and turned on the paper, too quickly and rapidly. Like her partner, her legs bent forward in a narrow V, ankles paper-thin folded beneath the wooden-plaster plastic of her chair.
“Okay, okay. Girls, may I have your attention,” the very pretty blonde yelled, tinny and almost unpretty-like in the small common area.
The girls in the room shushed each other, the couch-bound girls turning to the dark-haired girls on the fringe. Pointed manicured fingers met their mouths. They participated openly in the event of quieting the room, making it not too obvious as they peaked side glances at the RAs.
At the very end of the couch, a girl with hauntingly blue eyes looked in her direction. Catching her attention for a brief moment, the girl looked her up and down before glancing around the rest of the room, turning around swiftly in her seat and dramatically tucking her phone into her purse.
Once the attention of girls was mostly caught, the shushing quieting down the chatter and overpowering the excitement flittering around the room, the pretty RA stood up, straightening out her navy blue pin-straight skirt, and announced her presence.
“Hello and welcome to your first year of college!” the very blonde girl shouted too enthusiastically. The other, less pretty girl struggled to stand up, fumbling papers in her hands, face twisted up as she tried to stack them on thin air.
A girl in the crowd let out a whoop, followed by some quiet giggles. The very blonde girl gave a tight smile.
“I know everyone is excited to live in the dorms and we are excited to have you,” the other girl began to pass out papers, handing each side of the room a stack of messy papers.
“Just take those and pass them around,” the less pretty girl told the girls. The very blonde girl let out a cough, trying to keep the smile plastered on her face around her cough. The corners of her eyes crinkled in accordance with her nose bridge pinching up.
“I want to let everyone know that college is very different from high school. We’re not going to baby you. Your parents are no longer around and nobody is going to hold your hand,” the very blonde girl looked around the room, her crystal blue eyes settling on Lila for a moment, and the twisting of her nose became more prominent.
“College is like a jungle. Those that are strong survive,” she turned her head around to the other girls sitting on the couch, and they returned little grins back to her.
“They say that jaguars are the strongest predator in the jungle,” she turned her perfectly manicured nails over and stared at them for a moment,” so they are the ones that decide who lives and who dies. The ones that survive in college are jaguars, and the rest are their prey. Like I said before, I am not your mom. If you have a problem, try to solve it yourself.
Many of you come from different backgrounds and different places across the nation. I would suspect that many of you hope that college is a place where you come to make friends. And I hope to be friends with you all,” she passed another glance at the girls on the couch. “Many of you have always been different, maybe a little weird, and that’s okay. Work on becoming a jaguar otherwise people will run you over,” the very blonde girl cast a glance out of the corner of her eye at Lila.
Lila felt herself stiffen up. Within that gaze, she knew from past aggression hidden in the small interactions in school and camps the familiar feelings. She rubbed her hands up her forearms, feeling where the dried egg was left behind and was sticky and tight on her skin.
Cold crawled up her spine warning her to run away from the predator. The tingling of the feeling, like individual fingers plucking the individual nodes in her spine, left her feeling stiff and unable to move.
The rest of the meeting carried on. The girls laughed through name games and ran around the small common room like they’ve been injected with sugar, flicking pieces of paper at one another, and breaking pencils to rocket into the ceiling. Thundering laughter and heavy footsteps sounded louder in the small space, the echoing of the glass a cage to the activity and amplifying it.
Lila faded more and more into the background. The longer she stayed in this space the uncomfortableness grew, and she moved closer to the door until she could feel the metal bar pressing on her arm. Her escape was long-planned in her mind, from the moment the very pretty RA shined a cruel smile in her direction.
While she never expected the happy welcoming home of some long last family, embracing her in warmth from the distance they didn’t even know existed between them, she could never properly prepare herself for the rejection of the hope hidden deep within her, a childhood dream realized. Her thoughts trickled down into memories of the past, of hiding away from camp counselors and cold-gazing pretty blonde girls that hung off the arms of overly-ripped boys. Nothing really changes from high school to college she thought to herself.
She sunk further into her thoughts, not paying attention to the laughing and jeering in the room, the noise fading into the background of her head. When the sound tapered off, it drew her out her head and she darted out the door and into her dorm room.
That night she dreamt of jaguars with cold, pearl eyes dropping from trees like spiders. They spun around and around in the dark, their eyes catching the glint of the moon and matching the silver of the thread.