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Audrey took me to the airport the next morning. I got a bit misty-eyed as I hugged her goodbye at the terminal. When I was seated on the plane, I closed my eyes and allowed the roar of the engine to ease the tension my nerves from excitement were creating. When we were in the clouds, I slid my earbuds in, brought my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around my legs. I ran through plenty of scenarios of what could happen during my eight hour flight from California to Massachusetts. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was optimistic.
My duvet, pillows, room décor, school supplies, and other personal effects were mailed to campus prior to my arrival. I flew in with two suitcases and my dance bag. It enabled me to blend in a little easier, moving in a day behind everyone else. I texted Audrey about my safe landing as I waited for my luggage at the baggage carousel. I met up with the driver waiting for me outside with the dry erase board with my last name written on it.
My palms were sweating as I sat in the backseat of the town car, meddling with my bee necklace. I felt the shift in coast. California felt like a dream. Massachusetts, so close to my home in New York, felt like a return to reality. I knew I’d have to work hard and do everything I could to stay on my path to recovery. At the same time, it was still my new beginning, my fresh start.
“Thank you so much.” I tipped the driver of the town car with a smile.
“Have a good day, Ms. Hales.”
“You too.” I waved goodbye after he handed me my bags.
I put my dance duffle strap across my body. I pulled both of my suitcases along by the handles with either hand. I walked along the brick walkway until I reached a crossroads. I was surrounded by buildings. I needed to go to the housing office to receive my room key. To find out which direction to go, I pulled my school map out of my purse. I shifted my eyes between the paper and the surrounding buildings, trying to figure out where I was.
“WATCH OUT!” A cautionary shout pulled me out of my thoughts.
Before I had the opportunity to move, a guy on a skateboard collided with me. We both crashed into the ground. I landed on my back in the grass with him on top of me. He quickly scrambled off of my body, but I remained in the grass. I groaned with my eyes closed at my wonderful luck.
“I am so sorry! I forgot to put my contacts in this morning. I’m sorry. I didn’t see you until it was too late. I am so sorry. Did I hurt you? If I did, I’m sorry.” He asked frantically.
At the sound of his voice, I opened my eyes. I was thrown off by his unique accent.
His hand was in his dark brown hair as he stared at me in shock, his hazel eyes were wide in horror of what had just happened.
“I think you need to shove another ‘sorry’ into that sentence. The million weren’t enough.” I joked, slowly working myself up to a seated position.
“I am so–” He stopped himself. “Are you okay?”
“Where are you from?” I asked instead of answering.
“I think you may have taken a hit to the head. Do you feel dizzy?” He started to study my eyes.
“So you don’t have an accent?” I asked slowly, a bit worried that I had sustained a head injury.
“I am from Listonenia. Something must be wrong with you because instead of screaming at me for hitting you, you are making jokes and asking where I’m from. That is not normal.”
“I’m tempted to yell at you, like extremely so. It would feel great for a second, but it would wear off quickly. What’s done is done. You’ve already apologized. I can tell didn’t mean to hit me.” I shrugged and attempted to stand up.
“Here, let me help you.” He hopped up and offered me his hand.
When I put pressure on my left ankle, I involuntarily hissed in pain. I immediately shifted all my weight to my right leg. I groaned in frustration and swatted him on the chest swiftly.
“That is more like it. Keep going. I feel awful for doing this to you.” He encouraged instead of stopping me.
“If you want me to keep hitting you, stop being nice to me!” I screamed at him with narrowed eyes.
“You want to hit me again. I can see it in your eyes. You are holding back. You should stop.” He challenged. He looked into my eyes, contorting his face into a small smirk.
“Point me in the direction of the nurse’s office before I make the mistake of listening to you.” I demanded as I held eye contact.
“I can carry you.”
“You’ve admitted that your vision is impaired at the moment. Letting you attempt to carry me would be another accident waiting to happen. Thanks, but no thanks.”
“I am nearsighted. Objects that are far away are blurry. Objects in my face are clear. You can compensate for my poor distance vision by warning me of something ahead of time. This is a win/win situation.”
“Are you commissioning me to be your seeing-eye dog?” I crossed my arms and raised an eyebrow.
“Absolutely not. You are my seeing-eye friend.” He corrected with a smile.
“Really, what’s your friend’s name?”
He crouched down and squinted to read my luggage tag before returning to a standing position.
“Isabella Hales.” He answered with a smile.
“Izzie.” I corrected.
“Izzie.” He restated. “I am sorry we had to meet this way. My name’s Milo De Luca. Why do you have suitcases?”
“I’m transferring in a little late. I was trying to find the housing office. You injured me instead.”
“Please say you are in the music or art department, where the use of your ankle is optional.”
“You’re just as unlucky as I am. I’m in the dance department.”
“At least I have two years to make it up to you. I am a junior and a dancer as well. I transferred in last semester. I know what it is like to come in not knowing anyone. I will call one of my roommates and have them take your stuff to your suite. I will personally escort you to Nurse Miller’s.”
“Sounds like a plan, but if anything is damaged or missing, I’m holding you accountable.”
He removed his phone from his pocket. He finished his call in a matter of moments. He walked me over to a nearby bench afterward, where we wait for his friend to arrive.
“Let me check out this ankle.”
“Are you sure you’ll be able to see the damage?” I teased lightly as I propped my leg up on the bench for him to assess.
“Tehe.” He deflected playfully as he took my ankle into his hands.
“So…what’s the real reason you’re not wearing your contacts? You’re too aware of your vision problems to ‘forget’ to put them in.” I asked out of curiosity.
“I slept in them on my flight yesterday. My eyes are still sensitive from taking them out after I woke up. I was on my way to visit my girlfriend. She says I look better without my glasses. You can figure the rest out.”
“Did you really put society at risk because you wanted to look cute for your girlfriend?”
“In my defense, I have not seen her all summer. I got in late last night and I have been unpacking all day. It did not seem like that bad of an idea until I hit you.”
“I’m glad you’re acknowledging the fact that what you did was stupid.’”
“I do not see a point in denying that. It definitely was. Do you mind flexing your ankle for me?”
I complied. I cringed a bit at the discomfort, but I was pleased to find that it wasn’t severe enough to describe as pain.
“How does that feel?”
“Not too bad. You can go see girlfriend. Your friend can show me to the nurse.” I rolled it, trying to work through the stiffness.
“It if fine. I will talk to her after I take you. I cannot leave a friend in need.”
I fought back a smile and shook my head at him. “You learned my name less than ten minutes ago.”
“Since when are friendships based on names? We share a special and sacred bond based on sight.”
“Yes, your lack of it.” I retorted
“Touché.” He complimented my comeback with a smile.
“You’ve only been back for less than 24-hours and you’ve already managed to cause some sort of incident. You’ve gone too far this time. Instead of just hurting yourself in a freak accident, you’ve pummeled a poor, innocent girl into the ground. You should be ashamed.-” A guy called in our direction.
The voice belonged to a tall, lanky guy with a mound of dark curly hair. His green eyes sparkled with mischief as he sauntered over to us. He approached us with a wicked smirk on his face and two other guys on his sides. The one on his right looked shyer than the other two. He walked with his hands in his pockets and a sweet smile on his face. The other one strutted over to us like he owned the place. Every girl he passed acknowledged him flirtatiously.
“– How badly did he hurt you, miss? Would you like to sue for damages, both physical and emotional? I highly encourage it.” The ladies’ man asked playfully overdramatic when they reached us.
“Zip it, Ry. I am not that bad.” Milo retorts defensively.
“You’re right. You’re worse.” The jokester immediately fired back.
“Finn, Ryan, and Nick.” Milo introduced, pointing to each of them.
“Why are you two here? I only called Nick.”
“I came to laugh at you.” Finn replied.
“You’re not laughing.” I pointed out.
“Oh, I am on the inside.” He informed me with a small smirk.
Milo rolled his eyes and looked to Ryan for an answer.
“I wanted to personally welcome the girl you mauled to SMA. I need to ensure her that we’re all not careless jerks, who hit people with modes of transportation. –”
“I’m a junior in the acting department. What’s your name?” He offered me his hand with a warm smile, exposing his dimples on either cheek.
He had beautiful brown eyes and thick eyelashes that any girl would kill for. His eyes, in combination with his lean, muscular figure and chiseled features, made him beautiful. It was no surprise that he was an actor. He certainly had the looks of a leading man.
“Izzie. I’m a dance major in the same year.” I shook his hand.
“RYAN! Oh my gosh! We haven’t hung out in forever. How was your summer?!” A girl suddenly cried, after she practically runs over to us.
“It was great. I’m happy to be back, though.” He accepted her hug.
“I’ll see you around. Text me later.” She waved goodbye to him flirtatiously.
“I sure will.” He called to her lightly as she walked away.
“Who was that? She looks familiar.” He asked the other guys the moment she’s out of earshot.
“Alice Newport. It’s terrible that you don’t know the name of a girl you made-out with a few months ago.” The shy one, Nick, answered.
“I remember her face. That should count for something. I wasn’t the one that told people we hooked up.”
“It does not.” Milo chimed in.
“I was thinking one of you could take me to the nurse. He has a girlfriend. I don’t want to be ‘that girl’, if you catch my drift.” I addressed his friends.
“I can take you, but no one would’ve looked at you that way if Milo helped you. He’s only helping a person in need. I’m sure Anna knows how to be reasonable when she wants to be.” Nick attempted to reassure.
Finn snorted and a dimpled smirk crept onto Ryan’s face.
“Shut your mouths!” Milo snapped.
They silently held their hands up in surrender.
“Listen to Nick. There is a reason he is the only one I called.” He told me.
Nick nodded. “One of Finn’s favorite past times is being amused by the misfortunes of others and Ryan won’t remember your name if you do anything with him.”
“Okay, game plan?” I requested.
“I am taking you. They will take your bags. What is your hall and suite number?” Milo answered.
“We will take care of this for you, Izzie. Don’t worry. Focus on getting better.” Nick reassured me as he picked up one of my suitcases.
“Thanks.” I smiled as I worked myself off the bench.
Ry picked up my other bag. The guys said goodbye before heading in the direction of my suite. Finn put on my dance bag, took Milo’s skateboard and rode it beside them.
“Which way is the — ?” I started to ask. I stopped talking when Milo scooped me up into his arms.
“You’re seriously carrying me?” I cried in shock, wrapping my arms around his neck to steady myself.
“I am helping you stay off of the injury I created.” He started to walk in the opposite direction of his friends.
We eventually arrived at a one-story building on the other side of campus. I removed one of my arms from his neck and opened the door. He walked us into what looked like an average doctor’s office.
“Visiting me already, Milo? I thought I wouldn’t see you for at least a couple of days. What have you done this time?” A middle-aged woman called to him teasingly. She looked up from her desk with glasses resting on her nose.
“Good to see you too, Nurse Miller. I have managed to remain injury-free today. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about Izzie. I think I sprained her ankle.” He carried me back to one of the examination rooms and placed me on the examination table.
“I’ll have to take a look to be sure. How on earth did you manage to sprain someone else’s ankle? That’s impressive, even for you.” The nurse asked as she washed her hands.
“I crashed into her when I was skateboarding.”
“You’re not wearing your contacts, are you?” She questioned knowingly.
“No.” He admitted sheepishly.
“I get the feeling that things like this happen to you a lot.”
“He’s a very talented dancer. I know he’s capable of coordination, but somehow, he always in the middle of an accident.” The nurse informed me as she pulled on a pair of gloves.
“You may have injured her and carried her in here, but you have to wait in the lobby while I treat her.” She pointed to the door.
“I will wait out here for you, Izzie.” He walked out and shut the door behind him.
The nurse formally introduced herself before she examined my ankle. After determining that it was a minor sprain, she wrapped my ankle in an elastic bandage. She gave me a bag of ice to apply to it, before moving to her computer to report my injury. She advised that I stay off of my ankle for a week or two. She wrote me a note to excuse me from participating in dance rehearsal and sent me on my way.
“What is the verdict?” Milo asks me as soon as I limp out to the lobby.
“It’s a minor sprain. Nurse Miller says that I should be as good as new in a few weeks.”
“I will make this up to you. I promise. I will be your personal tour guide. I will show you around and introduce you to everyone I know. We will only be doing conditioning for the first couple of weeks.”
“Deal. First, I need to go to the housing office to get my room key.”
“As you wish.” He replied, before he scooped me back up into his arms.
The housing office was in the main building, right next to the site of my injury. As he walked me there, he named each landmark.
“I — uh — what’s your name or names?” The man at the counter asked, looking between the two of us with an eyebrow raised.
“We’re here to pick up my key. My name’s Isabella Hales. Just to be clear, we’re not a couple. This isn’t a display of affection. I met him an hour ago. He hit me with his skateboard. I won’t be able to dance for a couple of weeks. He’s carrying me around as punishment.” I explained with complete seriousness.
He looked to Milo for verification that I wasn’t joking.
“This is strictly platonic. I have a girlfriend.”
I nodded in agreement. “I’m his seeing eye friend.”
Milo breathed out a small laugh.
“Right. Here is your key, Isabella. Welcome to Sella Moora. Hopefully you won’t be injured again during your time here.” He eyed us suspiciously and slid my key across the counter.
“– Time to go to my dorm.”
“Thought so.” He adjusted me in his arms.
“Would you prefer to give me a piggyback ride? It would be easier.”
“No, I am going to stick this out.”
“You’ll drop me. I’m riding on your back.” I wormed out of his arms. I handed him my bag of ice to hold before hopping onto his back.
“I get the feeling that you are stubborn.”
“What gives you that impression?” I quipped as he started walking.
“You have been calling the shots since this started. You answered all my questions on your own time. And you followed your own course of action in terms of my punishment.”
“Why should I let someone else dictate my life?” I shrugged.
He resumed explaining our surroundings as he walked me to my suite. I did my best to ignore my ankle and focus on what he was telling me.
“Well, this is your stop.” He lowered me to the ground carefully.
“Thanks for the lift.”
“Thanks for not killing me after I hit you.”
“It’s my first day. Murder’s a bit extreme.” I joked.
He nodded. “It is more of a second week sort of thing, at least that is how long I waited.” He played along.
“Accidents happen. Put your contacts in and watch yourself. I might not be so nice next time.”
“Doubt that.” He smirked.
“You don’t know me. I could be hella crazy. New environment jitters are keeping it all bottled up.”
“I guess I will just have to wait and see.”
“At a later time, Romeo. I’ve kept you away from Juliet long enough.”
“That is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Romeo and Juliet were not really in love. He was high when they met — he popped pills with Mercutio prior to the party they crashed. Her dad was going to marry her off to a guy she did not want to be with; she wanted to choose her own mate. He was trying to mend a broken heart by jumping into a new relationship. They used each other as an escape. The moral of the story is not ‘be willing to die for love’. It is ‘think before you act’.”
“Exactly.” I kept my eyes on his.
He nodded and fought back a smile. “Point taken. Good luck with your roommates.”
“Tell yours I said ‘thanks’.” I waved goodbye.
I took a deep breath before unlocking my door.
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