“Hi, Adeline.” It was my last semester at Penn State and I noticed that Paul was lingering in the lobby of the music building. He smiled when I came out and it was obvious that he had been waiting on me.
“Hi, Paul.” I smiled timidly, wondering when he would ask me to write his next essay, or sign him into class the next day so that he wouldn't be counted absent. Anytime I suspected that a boy might be interested in me, it always ended up being the complete opposite. “You finish your paper yet?” I decided to go ahead and give him an immediate opening for his ulterior motive. There was no need to waste time.
“Not yet.” His voice shook a little. So that was it. He needed me to head straight to the library and help him write a last minute essay. I had seen it all before. “I’m not too worried about it, though.”
“Oh,” My heart skipped a beat and my palms instantly grew sweaty. Maybe he wasn’t like the other guys who had suddenly wanted to spend time with me. “Well…”
“Want to grab a bite to eat?” Paul's giant brown eyes nearly swallowed me whole.
I was flattered and almost said yes, but instead made an excuse and hurried off to my dorm room. I couldn’t risk being hurt, I couldn’t imagine a boy wanting anything to do with me, and I couldn’t get the image of my father and Maria out of my head. I doubted that I would ever in a million years trust a man. I doubted that I would ever fall in love. I doubted that I would ever be anything more than a breeding ground for doubt.
As I sat alone in my dorm, I imagined myself taking Paul home with me. He was so handsome. I could see myself sitting on the porch laughing and flirting under the stars. His fingers intertwined with mine, not quite knowing where my fingers ended and his began. I wondered if Anna would sit by the window and spy on us, like I had spent so many nights spying on her. I would bat my eyes, lick my lips, and lure him in with my inescapable sex appeal. I kissed the air and suddenly realized how foolish I was being. I needed to go for a run to clear my head. I didn't know what was coming over me!
I donned my running clothes and headed out into the darkness of night. Clusters of students were scattered around campus. Laughing, smiling, just being the kids that they were. I was so different from them and realized that I had somehow aged twice as fast as my peers. I thought about running all the way home. What would my family be doing? So many miles between us. Mama was probably soaking in the claw footed tub, reading her favorite book, and sipping champagne while Father watched TV in the upstairs den. What did they do while Anna and I were away at school? I ran and ran until my mind wandered away from home and back to the students that I passed along the way. I saw a sea of unfamiliar faces and realized how alone I really was. Suddenly I wanted to kick myself in the ass for not taking Paul up on his offer.
Paul never approached me again after that night. I guess he took the hint. A few weeks later I saw him holding hands with a bubbly blonde girl and nearly threw up my lunch. I tried to tell myself that I didn’t need a boyfriend anyway-- it was foreign territory for me and I was perfectly happy how I was. I didn’t need to be popular or to be surrounded with friends. I had Mama back home waiting for me, and I only had a few more weeks until graduation... Then I could be by her side where I belonged.