Continuing off my previous post on the home page, I’m continuing with giving a sneak peak at my WIP passion project while still working away on the next draft of my college story starring my cast of six characters. Last chapter, you met Matt Anderson, but this time around you’ll meet Heather Gracie, who has a lot going on beneath the surface as she too is starting over in a new environment and hopes for the best!
Be sure to head over to my page dedicated to this project at the top of the website! It’s labelled as WHEN IN DOUBT (WIP BOOK SERIES), or if you don’t feel like scrolling, just click the link HERE.
Hope you enjoy!
Chapter 2: Heather
Not many people would realize it if they were to take one look at her; they’d probably take in her long blond hair, hourglass figure, striking features, nice clothes, and assume she had everything handed to her and has never had a single hardship. She just has a way about her that naturally draws people in, and more than likely was both the homecoming queen and prom queen from back home in Prior Lake, Minnesota, had the latest fashion trends in her closet and had too many friends to even be able to keep track of them all, and maybe that was true at one point, but that was couldn’t be more further from the truth.
Heather has been ready for a fresh start since her sophomore year of high school. After everything thats happened—without having to rehash it all if anyone would ever ask—she was finally able to start her life over, and leave all of it in the past where it belonged. She didn’t even bother to look back as she, her mom, and boyfriend all drove onto the highway earlier that very morning.
She was riding a high of finally moving into her dorm, and it quickly faded with the heavily weighed down feeling of an oncoming food induced coma as the three of them walked back onto campus after grabbing a bite to eat at an upscale local bar & grill on Main Street named the Log Jam.
Heather ran her hand through her long, golden blonde hair and sighed with total pleasure at how bright and warm the sun felt on her face and down her spine. To her, it was like a good omen of how she was finally where she needed to be.
She decided to get out her Canon while Ryan, her boyfriend of three years, simply followed with her other hand still connected in his. She felt his smile on her with his warm brown eyes while she snapped a quick photo of the UW-Stout clocktower as it stood tall and proud against the clear blue sky. He playfully tugged her back into his chest after she took another shot, and kissed her cheek.
What was she going to do without him for the next ten months? He was always there over the last couple of years when she needed a shoulder to lean against, always within arm reach, and now he’d be over an hour away finishing his final year over at the University of St. Thomas.
While her mom walked ahead to give them both some space, Heather reached up to fix Ryan’s brown waves that he’d been growing out over the summer. It gave him a sexier laid-back look that she’d really began to like.
“Your hair looks so much sexier pushed back,” she quoted her favorite movie of all time, Mean Girls, as she played with some of Ryan’s locks, tugging a few locks behind his ears.
“Yeah yeah yeah, babe.” Ryan chuckled as he rolled his eyes. “Why are you so obsessed with me?”
Heather laughed. “Because I have a boyfriend who can quote movies right back to me, that’s why.”
“Well, you’ve had me watch them so many times, I practically could quote that entire movie back to you.”
Heather ruffled his hair with a mischievous grin. “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“Hey now.” Ryan’s voice feigned a warning as he playfully swatted her hand away. “You just fixed the hair, babe.”
“Well, I like it all messed up like that,” Heather lowered her voice as she leaned into his ear. “It gives me some great ideas.”
“Heather…not with your mom right there.”
“Fine, we’ll keep it just PG-13 for now.” Heather wrapped her free arm around his neck to have him lean down and share a quick kiss before her mom turned back around to catch them in the act and clear her throat.
“So, have you talked to your roommate at all recently?”
Heather shrugged as the three of them walked back into the HKMC lobby. “We talked about a month ago to see if there was anything else I needed to bring. Otherwise nope, not really to be honest.”
“Well, she seemed nice at least, right?”
Recognizing the worried tone, Heather shared a look with Ryan while her mother’s back was to them. “I guess so.”
They walked up two levels through the stairwell, the echoes of their feet on the tiled floor could be heard all the way up to the fourth floor.
Heather didn’t want to admit that she was dreading this inevitable greeting because as soon as the housing department emailed her roommate’s name: Lindsay Erickson, she’d immediately gone onto social media to check her out like any other normal millennial with a smartphone at their disposal. She still remembers the pit in her stomach and how it grew with every picture on Lindsay’s many profiles showed a petite human barbie doll with platinum blond hair going halfway down her back, baby blue eyes, a beauty pageant smile, designer clothes, and many group shots of her and her friends with their hands on their hips in that bent back pose…the many duckfaces…and how they all owned different versions of a Coach designer handbag. Based off that alone, Heather had a pretty good idea what kind of person her roommate was; hell, she was that same person not that long ago herself.
Heather decided to go to the University of Wisconsin-Stout to escape from the dark memories of back home, but it seemed like some of it decided to follow her there.
Speaking of the Prada wearing Devil with blue eyes, Lindsay was already moved into her side of the dorm room while the three of them had been out. Her side was an assault of the colors pink and white, and was currently painting her nails at her desk with what seemed like almost professional-level precision. She even had what looked like an actual makeup artist’s station set up on her desktop with many sized brushes, mascara tubes, hairspray, and different shades of eyeshadow.
Lindsay looked up with the flip of her sleek hair and flashed them all a too bright smile as she introduced herself.
“It is soooo fabulous to finally meet you!” Lindsay rose from her chair, and waltzed over to embrace Heather before she could even respond, but making sure her nails didn’t smear. “Can I just say, your Insta’ pics do not give you justice. You’re, like, so gorgeous…ugh, I am so jealous.”
She actually said the word “ugh.”
Heather quickly cleared her throat and pasted on a perky grin. “It’s soooo great to meet you too, Lindsay, and I am, like so in love with your hair! You’ve totally got to show me what kind of conditioner you use!”
“Oh, I totes gotchu girl.” Lindsay winked. “Not that you need any help, but if you’re ever looking for a little glow up, I am here for you.”
“I’ll definitely have to remember that just in case.” Heather looked around Lindsay’s side and lingered on a poster with curvy font saying just the words “Bold, Dream, and Sassy.”
Heather’s mom took a step forward with a cautious smile of her own. “So Lindsay, I’m surprised how quickly you moved in, we were only gone for almost a half hour. Are your parents still here?”
Lindsay sat back down at her chair and quickly blew on her nails. “Oh no, they’re both so incredibly busy with work back home, and had to rush out ASAP. Thank god for those people out front to make moving in so quick.”
Lindsay paused to check her phone. “So…we will defs have to chat some more soon, but I’d actually promised a friend of mine that I’d meet up with her once she got here, so see ya roomie! Something tells me that this is going to be such an amazing year!”
Lindsay waved over her shoulder as she jolted out the room left the three of them alone, once again not even waiting for a response.
Once the clank of Lindsay’s heels disappeared down the hallway, Heather glanced over at Ryan, who swore under his breath and ran a hand down his face. Her mom didn’t look any more relieved either.
“C’mon guys, it’s not that big of a deal.” Heather crossed her arms. “Compared to the others, she seems harmless. I can definitely handle her.”
Ryan plopped down onto the large red futon. “I believe you, babe, but I just don’t want you to have to deal with any more bullshit. One look at her, and it looks like it’s just followed you here.”
Heather’s mom checked the doorway before answering. “She does remind me of those girls you used to run around with.”
And of course that’s who I get paired with, Heather thought to herself. She noticed Ryan’s sullen expression from her mother’s comparison. “True, but like I said, I can handle it if anything happens. I can handle it, I swear.”
Ryan grunted some response, and her mom nodded with her usual worried look. “Just be sure to call me if there are any issues at all, because I love you and only want the best for you, okay honey?”
She walked over, and Heather was wrapped up in another tight embrace, this one much more welcome. She wished she could say or do something to completely erase the worry lines that have become so pronounced all over her mother’s face over the last few years. It was a reminder that she wasn’t the only one who’s suffered some hardships over the last couple years. Both her and Ryan have helped her through what was her own personal hell.
As she reluctantly let go, her mom took a deep breath and her expression brightened. “Okay, now it’s time for you two to scrunch together for a picture before we leave.”
She gestured for Heather and Ryan to stand close together while she whipped out her phone. Ryan scooted in from behind and wrapped his arm around Heather’s hip. They both smiled with well hidden patience while her mom struggled to figure out her smartphone’s camera, even though she’s had it well over a year by now.
“I’ll be sure to come visit often, someone’s got to make sure there aren’t any knives to take out of her back,” Ryan joked. Heather laughed, but her mom simply threw a bemused smile his way.
He kissed Heather before she could reply with some snappy response. “Love you, babe, and you’re going to do great here. Just get out there, and you’ll meet people in no time, I know you will.”
“Well damn, now I guess I have no choice with all this pressure on me.” Heather rolled her eyes, but returned his smile. “But I’m not worried one bit. I say bring it on.”
Soon after, both Ryan and her mom gave their final goodbyes as they walked out the door, and Heather actually had to fight back tears as she was now alone in an entirely new world that would be her temporary home until May. The last thing she needed was to start bawling and have someone walk by; it wasn’t the first impression she wanted to make.
Strong girls who looked for a fresh start didn’t cry at the first sign of trouble.
Later that day at around two in the afternoon, everyone was officially moved into the third floor of Milnes-Chinnock, so both Resident Advisors made their rounds to introduce themselves to all their new freshmen.
The girl’s side RA was named Tiffany: a shorter, curvier sophomore who was a little ball of energy all decked out head-to-toe in UW-Stout apparel. She gathered all the girls to meet in the study lounge that divided their side from the boys. The bun on the top of her head practically bobbed with excitement in just about every one of her motions.
Heather sat down at one of the worktables, and was joined by Lindsay and another girl with shoulder length layered blonde waves, but Tiffany spoke up before anyone could get even a word in.
“Hello girls, and welcome to our first-floor meeting for third floor Milnes! Now, the point of this meeting is to get you all ready to be able to start off your year here at Stout with a bang!”
The girl sitting next to Lindsay chuckled. “Amen to that.”
Olivia continued without skipping a beat. “So, while I’ve gone around and met each of you individually as you’ve moved in, you have yet to meet each other. I wanted to take the time to have us all sit together so you can do so, and so that there’s hopefully some familiar faces in case you’re ever lost around campus, or want to find someone to sit with in the commons.”
Olivia’s eyes immediately met Heather’s, who tried not to let her wince peak through her smile. “So, we’ll go around in a circle until we get back to me. Just tell us your name, hometown, major and what your favorite food is.”
Yay for those awkward ice-breakers…
Heather noticed a few of the girls rolling their eyes or sneaking glances at their phones, so she turned back to a hopeful Tiffany with a warm smile as she introduced herself. “I’m from Prior Lake, Minnesota, my major is Entertainment Design concentrating in Digital Cinema, and my favorite food is pizza.”
Lindsay hid her phone and perked up as she introduced herself next. “I’m from Edina, Minnesota, my major is going to be Professional Communications and Emerging Media, and my favorite food is…I’d say veggie wraps or spring rolls.” She giggled to herself. “I actually made the decision to stop eating meat, like, I believe that—”
“Yo, so my name’s Ali Devereaux.” The girl with the shorter blonde hair cut in with a smirk and greeting hand gesture. “I’m also from Edina, and Linds and I have actually been tight since second grade. I’m doing Industrial Design, and feel free to shove anything sweet and chocolatey my way.”
A couple other girls went around the circle. Next was an artsy, bohemian chick who wore a rosy-pink maxi skirt with a floral short sleeve top. Her green eyes that peaked out from beneath her bangs practically glowed; her whole demeanor felt warm and Heather found herself liking her almost instantly.
“My name is Eden Harrington. I’m from St. Anthony Falls, and my major is Entertainment Design.”
Heather also perked up at that.
Eden continued. “I’m in the Animation program, and my favorite food is…oh goodness…so many things. I love sushi, pasta, coffee, muffins, and did I mention coffee?”
A petite girl with porcelain skin, dark brown hair, and eyes the shape of teardrops straightened her back as she started next, introducing herself as Jenna Nguyen.
“I am from Duluth Minnesota, I’m majoring in Graphic Design, and my favorite food is mozzarella sticks.” Jenna gestured to her pin. “And yes, I am also a Ravenclaw, so if anyone else is a fellow Potterhead, we should talk!”
Eden practically squealed in her seat at how she was a Hufflepuff. Heather remembered when she’d taken the Pottermore quiz on that website a few years ago, and learned she was a Gryffindor.
They got to the final girl, who had pitch-black hair that was professionally straightened, and her dark skin was devoid of any imperfections; she was certainly striking. She had a commanding air around her as she spoke.
“My name is Madison Parker, and I’m from Beverly, Chicago.” She sounded like everyone should’ve just known that information already. “I’m going into Industrial Design, and I’m always up for grabbing tacos.”
Heather’s floor certainly had an interesting array of girls she was going to be living with for the next few months. Some she was more thrilled about, like Eden and Jenna and maybe Ali, but there were girls like Madison and even Lindsay who she was weary of. She wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, but she also didn’t want history to repeat itself.
Shortly after, Tiffany led the group outside towards the grassy quad separating the dorms from the academic buildings, where there was a festival called the “Backyard Bash” underway with many booths set up. Tiffany explained how all the student organizations on campus recruited new or returning students for their clubs, emphasizing how it was a great way to see all the different ways to be able to get involved on campus, and that everyone should sign up for at least one of them.
All the girls immediately split up and searched to see what UW-Stout had to offer; Heather ended up going off on her own since everyone else already appeared to be paired off. Eden and Jenna naturally bonded over their love of all things involving a boy wizard and his lightning bolt scar, and her roommate seemed to latch onto the girls like Madison, but not without dragging her childhood BFF along too.
None of the other girls really gave her the time of day either; they probably saw her long blonde hair and big breasts, and assumed she was just another stuck up bitch who thought she was better than everyone else because she was probably another Barbie clone.
Whatever, Heather thought to herself, It’s not like I haven’t dealt with that before. She refused to let it bug her, so she held her head high, squared her shoulders, and flipped her hair until it flowed halfway down her back, and kept on going even if it was on her own.
She pointedly ignored the sorority booths but was still curious at some of the other clubs being offered: Anime Club, Comics Creators, Blue Devil Productions, Blue Devil Brewing, and The Fine Arts Association were just to name a few. Her interest piqued when she saw that Blue Devil Productions were actually in charge of live concerts and the free campus movie nights, but wondered if she’d be able to film her own flicks at all. Maybe she could start her own filmmaker club while she was enrolled; it’d sure look great on a resumé for anywhere she’d apply to in a few years.
Her stomach began to growl so loudly her eyes darted around to check if anyone else actually heard her too. She supposed she could wait in line for a plastic container of nachos, and maybe listen to the live cover-band while they played on a stage nearby, but she had to admit that idea didn’t sound incredibly tempting or satisfying.
Someone tapped her on the shoulder, so Heather turned around to find that rocker chick from her floor, Ali Devereaux. Her ruby red lips grinned like she knew a secret.
“You’re Heather, right?”
“What do you think of all this so far?”
Heather glanced around and shrugged a shoulder. “A lot, thats for sure.”
Ali chuckled. “Right? Like, let me have a fucking second to breathe at least.” She paused to feign a gagging noise. “I swear, the chick running the Fashion Club booth or whatever would’ve decked me with her clip-board if she got any more up in my face to have me sign up, you know?”
Heather chuckled as she crossed her arms. “What? You mean you don’t like people attacking you to get you to sign up for something.”
Ali smirked. “If I did, I’d go find the nearest Best Buy.”
So very true, Heather thought to herself, but what does this chick want from me? “I guess, and at least they get paid to do that sort of thing, but thanks for the heads up, I’ll make sure to avoid them too.”
“Anytime, babes.” Ali gave her a quick once-over with a raised brow. “So I did have an actual reason to grab you besides just idle chit-chat. Linds told me that you seem cool, so we wondered if you wanted to come with us to get some real food at the student center?”
“We?” Heather’s brow rose while looking over Ali’s shoulder to spot Lindsay, Madison, and a gorgeous dark-brunette from her floor as they all stood about twenty paces away. She remembered the girl’s name was Mandy, who had striking eyebrows and the whole dark hair with pale blue eyes combo that made her a total knockout. Like Madison, she’d worn a bored expression while all the girls introduced themselves, and she seemed to have a smile like she already knew everyone’s dark secrets.
She gave off a strange vibe; it wasn’t like she thought everything was beneath her, but more she didn’t take anything seriously or have any real emotions towards anything quite yet. It was just a cool indifference, and it was hard to get a good read on her.
Lindsay and Madison both waved—Lindsay with much more enthusiasm—while Mandy simply wore an indifferent smile with her hip jutted out and arms crossed.
Part of her really wanted to say no, but Heather reminded herself how it was all their freshman year too, and no one wanted to be alone—Lindsay didn’t seem like someone who could even go to the bathroom on her own—so maybe they couldn’t be all bad if they extended an olive branch like this.
That certainly didn’t mean she wouldn’t keep her eyes on Madison and/or Mandy, because something about them didn’t sit right in the pit of her stomach.
She joined the girls, so the five of them all wandered over towards the Memorial Student Center—MSC for short—to check out what food options it had.
Heather just hoped she wouldn’t regret it.
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell