Warmth in Ice Page 5

“This is cozy,” Dad said, putting too much optimism into his voice to be anything other than fake.

“Cozy like a prison cell,” I mumbled, dropping my suitcase onto the twin-sized bed. There were two twin beds separated by no more than five feet. There were two desks smooshed against opposing walls. Two closets were built into the wall and were wide open, no doors, though one was covered by a shower curtain (we’d get to this later). There was a small sink in the corner with a mirror over it and a door beside it that led to a fungus filled bathroom.

“Come on, Maggie May, it’s not that bad. It’s a freshman rite of passage. You are given the worst rooms on campus as a means of culling the herd. Consider this a young adult survival of the fittest,” my dad enthused, setting a box on my desk.

My roommate had obviously already arrived. Hard not to notice the bright pink comforter and Justin Bieber posters on her side of the room. Christ, how was I going to breathe the same stale air as someone who listened to Justin Freaking Bieber?

I was about to be thrust into my very own version of college hell.

“Here’s the rest of your stuff, sweetie,” my mom said, her voice tight and muffled from her recent bout of crying. She looked around the room and her face registered the same horrified shock that I knew had crossed mine a few moments before.

“This is your room?” she asked aghast. My dad tsked her under his breath.

“Don’t start, Laura. The room is fine. Maggie will be fine,” my dad said tersely, surprising me with the harshness in his tone towards my mother. But I knew it had more to do with his feelings of empty nest syndrome than anything else. He was trying to make lemonade out of this big ol’ pile of nasty ass lemons.

Mom rubbed her eyes and gave me a watery smile. “No, you’re right, Marty. It’s fine. Maggie will do great. Things will be…great!” she said with a forced enthusiasm it was obvious she didn’t feel.

The problem with being an only child was that your parents clung a little too tightly every time you tried to fly. Even though they wanted what was best for you, they spent more time trying to keep your feet on the ground than pushing you to head for the sky.

I knew my parents wanted me to live my life. They wanted me to go to school and to do well and to make them proud and all that other Hallmark card stuff. But I think for the two people standing in front of me, trying to hide how desperately unhappy they were to lose their “little girl,” the ideas looked better on paper than in real life.

“So where’s the roommate?” my mom asked, sitting down on the end of my narrow bed. I glanced at the Justin Bieber posters again and tried not to shudder.

“Don’t know. Haven’t seen her yet.” I had spoken to Ashley McCawl, aka the apparent Bieber-loving roomie, a few weeks ago. She had seemed nice on the phone if not a bit perky. But I shrugged that off as excitement and a case of the nerves. We had only talked for about twenty minutes. Exchanging banal information like where we lived and who would be bringing the fridge and who would bring the microwave.

I had never thought to ask about whether she had an obsession with eye burning color palates and really bad pop music. Shit, she had covered her closet with a Little Mermaid shower curtain.

Was I living with a five year old?

“She has some cute things,” my mother mentioned, doing the nosy parent thing and totally looking at all of the little knickknacks that covered Ashley’s desk. She picked up a bright pink snow globe with a pair of Mickey Mouse ears inside and shook it.

“Someone really loves cartoons,” my dad commented, looking around. He was right, it looked like Walt Disney had thrown up in my dorm room. Aside from the overabundance of Bieber, there were the Cheshire cat throw pillows and the collection of porcelain Disney princesses on the shelf.

My Pixies and The Cure posters would definitely clash.

“You must be Maggie!” I heard from behind me, followed by a girlish squeal. I was blind tackled by a tiny girl with frizzy brown curls and a bright pink shirt with the word princess written in glitter.

I automatically put my arms up and around my overly excited roomie, patting her back mechanically because I didn’t know what else to do with all of…this.

“Last time I checked,” I answered drolly, taking in the cute as a button appearance of Ashley McCawl, my freshman year roommate with an apparent Disney fetish.

Her smile was wide and strangely infectious. I felt my lips stretch and surprised myself by smiling back. “I’m Ashley! I’m just so happy you’re here! I haven’t been able to sit still I’ve been so excited to meet you! And now you’re here!” she said, her words running together in a hurried rush.

My mom and dad came over and shook her hand. They beamed at the so-happy-she-was-borderline-scary Ashley.

“We’re Maggie’s parents. I’m Laura and this is her father, Marty. We were just admiring all of your figurines,” my mom said, relaxing marginally as though Ashley’s meth addict on a sugar high personality instantly made her feel better about leaving me all alone in the terrifying world known as James Madison University.

Ashley bounced on her feet, her hair bobbing around her heart shaped face. Her green eyes sparkled in barely contained enthusiasm. This girl was like a shot of adrenaline after your heart stopped. It made you all sorts of twitchy.

But she was nice and maybe, just maybe, I could stomach having Dopey and Ariel watching me while I slept.

“I can help you unpack! I’m really great at organizing and color coordination! Oh I love your comforter! Is this a memory foam mattress cover? I’m so jealous!” Without waiting for my permission, Ashley ripped off the tape on the box closest to her and started taking everything out.

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