It would be redundant to say that going to Silas University was LaFontaine’s idea, only because Perry considers nearly every event in her life to be LaFontaine’s fault. Not to mention that only LaFontaine would call attending a school which proudly advertised its werewolf containment facilities on its website a good idea.
“Come on,” says LaFontaine. “This looks epic. There’s an alchemy department.”
The brochure that’s being waved under Perry’s nose looks as glossy as any of the other advertising materials they’ve flipped through together in the last few months. But that’s about the only nice thing Perry can think of to say about Silas University. “One of their buildings has been set on fire seventeen times. A student disappeared from the library in the nineteenth century, never to be seen again.”
“Yes,” says LaFontaine. “but there are ancient tomes in the library. I’ve always wanted to learn Akkadian.”
Perry looks skeptical. “You’re planning to major in biology,” she points out. “I’m not really sure how Akkadian is going to fit into your study plan.”
LaFontaine shrugs. “Cryptozoology. Or something.” A frown. “Nobody expects you to have it worked out in your first year.”
It’s not until LaFontaine’s gone home, leaving the glossy Silas University brochure on Perry’s bed, that Perry asks herself the difficult question: What the hell are her alternatives?
It’s not that her marks are poor, or that she has a criminal record for getting caught breaking into a forensics laboratory in New York (unlike certain other people she knows, although LaFontaine would insist that that was “mostly an accident”, “one time”, and “can you stop going on about that?”). It’s just that, the longer you’ve known someone, the harder it becomes to imagine life without them.
She can’t think of any friends she has that LaFontaine hasn’t helped her make. She’s never had to learn how to go to a party without a reliable sidekick. How is she meant to shop for a prom dress without arguing with LaFontaine about whether or not a white tuxedo is an appropriate choice of outfit? Are there other people out there who won’t feel guilty when she comes to visit them and ends up washing all their dishes?
She waits thirty minutes exactly before she phones LaFontaine’s home, which is eighteen minutes for the walk between their houses, and twelve so that Perry can tell herself she’s not a terribly co-dependent best friend. They’ve both had cell phones for years now, but there’s a sort of nostalgia that comes to Perry, lying on the couch with the cord coiled around her fingers while her mother hassles her about the length of her calls.
“You’re not set on this, are you?”
No need for greetings: this is just a continuation of the conversation they were having before LaFontaine left. That doesn’t stop LaFontaine from pretending not to know what Perry is talking about.
“Set on what?”
“Perry, it looks awesome.”
“I don’t generally consider serving eyeballs in the cafeteria awesome.”
There’s a silence over the phone, which Perry knows involves LaFontaine pulling a face. “Neither. I think that’s a gross disregard for health regulations. But their science faculty is unbeatable.”
“Well, I’m not exactly Ivy League material--”
“I told you a criminal record would ruin your college applications.”
“Can you forget about that for once? Anyway, some of the research they’ve produced in parasitology is really weird.”
Perry can tell by the tone of LaFontaine’s voice that this is good-weird rather than creepy-and-terrifying weird, but Perry doesn’t like weird in any of its forms. “Have you been reading academic journals for fun again?”
“What do you do in your spare time?”
Perry sighs. “Okay, Su--” She cuts herself off. “LaFontaine. I get it. You’ve made up your mind.”
“Sorry,” says LaFontaine. “I really am.”
“No, it’s fine, it’s fine.” In Perry’s ideal world, the summer vacation before her final year of high school would have gone on forever, but she recognises that isn’t possible. Apparently, change is inevitable. “I’m just...going to have to think about this for a bit.”
She polishes every item in the cutlery draw before she goes to bed.
The first thing Perry does when she wakes is call Silas University’s student services number and ask about their language courses. It’s worth finding out.
“Oh, are you interested in German?” she’s asked.
“I - well - yes,” Perry stutters, flustered. She hasn’t said anything about what language she wants to study specifically. All she asked was a vague question about the structure of the course.
“Just one moment.”
Completely without warning, she’s put on to a very polite older man with a faint trace of an accent, who turns out to be the senior lecturer of the German faculty. He answers all her questions comprehensively, outlines a possible study plan to her, and twenty minutes later, they’re arguing about the location of the best bakery in Hamburg, which Perry is certain she visited on her tenth grade German study tour.
“Is that Susan?” her mother mouths at her, halfway through this animated discussion. Perry shakes her head.
“I’d better go now,” she tells the professor, “but thank you very much for everything.”
“My pleasure,” he says. “I hope I’ll be seeing you come September.”
Perry is very impressed with their customer service.
Next, she looks up the Silas University website to track down their anti-discrimination policies, and see if they ever mention a commitment to gender equality. It’s a beautifully designed website, well laid-out, the font and colour scheme consistent and readable. What’s more, it’s easy to navigate, intuitive to the point where she begins to suspect that their server can read her mind and is helpfully putting the links she’s looking for under her cursor.
She can feel her doubts crumbling by the time she finds the page discussing the feminist ideals on which the university was founded, and at the point when she hears herself think, How bad can cafeteria eyeballs actually be? she knows she's made her choice.
She downloads the application form, and opens another tab to message LaFontaine: Fine, I’m in.
The response comes almost immediately: It’s going to be so much fun!
Perry smiles in spite of herself. She’s worried about moving out of home and she has no idea how meeting new people works, and she's still wondering what kind of school needs werewolf containment facilities, but LaFontaine is one thing in her life that will stay normal.
Can’t wait, she types, before her friend has a chance to wax lyrical about the people they’ll meet, and the secret chemistry experiments they’ll run, but if you catch me eating eyeballs, I’m dropping out.
A grinning emoji is the only reply she gets.