Arden Blake walked up to the stone stairs of Cedar Ridge College with a bounce to her step. Her two closest friends, blonde Simone “Sim” Westover and auburn Theodosia “Terry” Landry, joined her at the bottom of the stairway. Arden pushed a strand of dark brown hair behind her ear a couple of times, but soon gave up as the wind was just as relentless in pushing it back into her face.
She let out a huff before turning blue eyes that sparkled with excitement on her friends. “So, what do you think?”
Terry gave a little queal. “I can’t wait to get started!”
Sim laughed. “I just can’t believe we ended up being roommates!”
“I know, right?” exclaimed Arden. “Come on, let’s go find our room!” The three dashed up the stairs past other students and went to the hall where the rooms were to be found. The three kept checking a piece of paper they had each received with a key against the numbers of the dorm rooms until they found the match. Arden pulled out her key and unlocked the door to room number 513. The three walked in, Arden closing and locking the door behind them.
Terry gasped. “This room is so quaint!” The walls were covered in a pretty, green and white, Victorian wallpaper. A bed was pushed up against each wall, with a wardrobe at the end of each. Next to the top of each bed stood a bedside table with drawers and a clock on top of each. In the middle of the room, three corner desks were pushed up against each other, leaving no gaps. There was also a bookcase on either side of the door. And tucked away between one bed and a bookcase was the door to the bathroom.
“This is actually bigger than I thought it would be,” said Sim with a hint of awe in her voice.
“And so nicely put together!” said Terry. “And here I was loathing to live in an ugly room.” She tutted. “Shouldn't wonder that John was teasing me, and I fell for it!”
“But I thought John wasn't teasing you?” said Sim slowly.
“Didn't he go to a different college?” said Arden. “Maybe there are colleges with ugly rooms, and we picked one of the better ones.”
Terry’s lip went up a bit in a slight grimace. “Yeah, you're right.” She gave a shake of her auburn head. “Anyway, who wants which bed? I'm fine with any one.”
“Hmm,” said Arden as she glanced at each one. Only two had windows, but she went towards one that looked out towards a modern building. “Say, isn't that Sanford Institute over there?”
Terry walked towards her with a bounce in her step and a bob of her head. “Why, I believe so.” She pulled out a map of the campus grounds. “It looks like it is, according to this.” She folded up the map and glanced excitedly at her friends. “You heard about the legend of these two schools, right?”
Sim tilted her head, thinking a bit. “Are you talking about the one that every year, a student from Sanford and a student from Cedar Ridge will fall in love, while another two will hate each other till their dying breath?”
Terry bobbed her head. “Yes, oh yes, that one! It sends shivers up my spine every time! And we shall be here to see four years!”
Sim scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Yeah, four years of useless drama.”
“Oh come on, what is college if it's not an extension of high school?”
Arden laughed. “That is such a good point though. Certainly seems like it.”
Sim heaved an exaggerated sigh. “I’ve had enough of high school drama. It's so dumb.”
Arden chuckled. “It certainly makes life interesting, that's for sure.”
Sim scoffed. “I can think of a hundred different ways that can make life more interesting than that.”
Terry shrugged. “To each their own.”
“So true,” said Arden at the same time with a nod of her head. She glanced out the window. “So, back on topic, who wants this bed?”
Terry giggled. “I think you do.”
Arden turned back to her and waved her hand. “Oh come on Terry, it’s a great view! But I don’t want to look out of it all the time.”
Terry laughed. “Oh, alright, but I think you’re going to get stuck with it anyways. Since you two are taking so long, I decided to make a decision.” She went and plopped her backpack on the bed nearest the bathroom.
Sim crossed her arms. “You didn’t care which one you got, huh?”
Terry smirked and shrugged. “Hey, I gave you a chance to choose this one, but you were taking too long.”
Sim rolled her eyes and sighed before glancing at Arden. “So which bed do you want?”
Arden sighed before shaking her head and chuckling softly. She placed her backpack on the bed looking out at Sanford. “I guess I will take this one.”
“Thank you,” said Sim as she went to place her backpack on the third bed.
“So, what do we do now until our luggage gets up here?” asked Terry. She glanced at the clock. “And we’ve still got an hour until orientation.”
Arden sat on her bed and opened up her backpack. She began pulling out a few articles while she shrugged. “Start unpacking your backpack, I guess. Maybe even try to memorize the map of the campus. I wouldn’t want to get lost.”
Sim nodded as she began unpacking her backpack. The first two things out were a snow globe and her bathing suit. She placed the snow globe on the bedside table next to the clock and her bathing suit went into the drawer. “Yeah, I wouldn’t want to get lost either. But I would like to pass by the swimming pool on the way.”
Terry scoffed. “Go figure.” Sim shot her a grin.
Arden chuckled. “I’m sure we can work out something. I mean, we don’t have to unpack our luggage when it gets here, we have all week for that! We just had to be for when the porter showed up.”
“Don’t think it’s an odd tradition?” asked Sim. “You know, having a porter take up your bags to your room.”
“I think it’s sweet,” said Terry. “And we didn’t have to lug everything up here.”
Arden nodded, shooting a glance at Terry. “Especially with how much you brought.” Sim chuckled.
Terry waved her hand. “Oh goodness, I have to bring a whole lot, knowing how you two are.”
Sim burst out laughing. “She’s got us there, Arden.”
Arden chuckled. “Alright, alright, truce! But it is nice not to have to bring up everything, that’s for sure.”
“Oh, definitely,” said Terry, opening up the pamphlet again. “And if I heard the desk clerk right, it’s a tradition from the olden days of Cedar Ridge, back when it was an all girls’ school.”
“An interesting tradition to keep,” said Sim.
“But it’s a nice one, and probably to just have something to connect it to its history,” said Arden.
“They also have an old bell tower with a bell in the courtyard. We can go take a look at that while we pass the pool on our way to orientation.”
Sim grinned. “That sounds like a plan.” A knock was heard at their door. Sim and Terry dashed to open it. A man in his early twenties stood there looking quite dashing in an old fashioned porter suit.
He tipped his hat and gave them a brilliant smile. “Luggage for Arden Blake, Theodosia Landry, and Simone Westover.”
“You’ve come to the right place!” exclaimed Terry, throwing the door open. “And such excellent service!”
The porter grinned and he pushed in the cart with their luggage. “Thank you, we do our best.”
“Do you just work here, or do you also go to school?” asked Terry.
He shrugged as he began unloading. “I just work here.” Sim and Arden jumped in to help get their luggage off.
“What else do you do besides just carting luggage?” asked Terry.
“I work as a groundskeeper the rest of the time,” he said with a soft chuckle. “Today is just one of the days where I’m not.”
“Oh, Ok . . . do you have a degree?”
“Um, Terry, not to be rude or anything, but the guy’s got a job to do,” said Sim.
The porter laughed. “Oh, it’s fine! She’s fine! You’re my last stop anyways, I’ve got some free time after this . . . before the last minute panic rushers barge in, that is.”
Sim scoffed. “I will never understand some people. If you know you need to be somewhere by a certain time, it would be best to give yourself an extra five minutes to get there so you’re not rushing around.”
The porter scoffed. “No kidding. But you just can’t always predict what will happen.”
“Speaking of getting somewhere on time,” said Arden, “do you know how long it will take for us to get to orientation if we pass the bell tower and the pool?”
The porter thought for a moment. “Well, if you're just pausing for a quick moment to look at each of them . . . and if you want to give yourself five minutes just in case . . . about twenty minutes, give or take.”
Arden nodded thoughtfully, glancing at the clock. “Which gives us about twenty minutes from now to unpack a few things before heading out.”
“Or you could leave now and give yourself forty minutes to enjoy the sights and still get there with plenty of time,” he suggested.
Terry wrinkled her nose. “Mmm, well, that is a good idea, but I don’t want to leave that early.”
“How about we leave in ten minutes then?” suggested Arden.
Terry grinned. “Sounds fine by me.” She turned to the porter. “And thank you so much, Mister, um . . .”
The porter held out his hand. “I’m Tom Scott, and it is my job.”
Terry shook his hand. “Well, I still want to thank you for doing a wonderful job. See you around, perhaps?”
“We’ll see. It was nice to meet you three, but I do have other jobs to attend to, so good day.” He tipped his hat.
“Good day, and thanks!” said Arden with a wave.
“Bye!” said Sim. Tom pulled the cart out of the room and walked down the hall, Sim closing the door behind him. She went to her bed and glanced at the clock. “Alright, ten minutes, let’s see how much we can get unpacked.”
Arden grinned. “You’re on.” The three unpacked as much as they could in such a short amount of time, but as soon as that time was up, they were grabbing their purses, making sure they each had their key, just in case, and were locking the door before taking off.
They got to the bell tower firs, as noted in the pamphlet, and gazed upon it with fascination. It was exactly the same as when it was built back in the late 1800’s. The school kept it in regular upkeep since then, even adding two unicorn statues to flank it, the school’s mascot and emblem. Terry read that the rope to the bell had frayed sometime in the early 1900s and that a legend stated that the spirit of a young woman would ring it at odd times. Another legend thought it was sprites looking out for the welfare of the school, the bell having rung a few times to wake people before disaster struck. The three took a quick walk around the tower. It was made of whitewashed wood with a single door. Only one person, or possibly two small people, could fit within the tower. But they each took a turn and saw the frayed rope hanging far over their heads. Then it was on to see the pool.
“What?” exclaimed Sim. Upon reaching the pool, the three came upon locked doors and a sign reading “Closed Until Further Notice - Maintenance”. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
Arden bit her lip. This pool was the main reason that convinced Sim to join her and Terry at Cedar Ridge. Now what were they going to do?
“You know, guess we’ll be seeing Tom again soon,” said Terry. “He probably knows what’s going on with the pool and how much longer it’s going to take to get it back up and running again.”
Sim sighed. “I guess so. I just hope it’s not going to be long. I really wanted to get some swimming in before school started.”
Arden patted her back. “Well, maybe we can find another pool for you to use. There’s got to be a public pool around in town, or something. We can check it out after orientation. We do have the rest of the week to explore.”
Sim shrugged. “I guess that would have to do. Though I wonder why Tom didn’t say anything about it.”
“Well we did say we were going to take a look at it, not go into it,” pointed out Terry, “he could have assumed that we already knew.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” muttered Sim. “Well, guess we’ll be really early to orientation, at least.”
“We can find good seats, then,” said Arden. “Come on!” The three dashed to the auditorium. People were already filing in, but most were standing and chatting away. A loud squeal to their right caught their attention.
“Arden, Sim, Terry!” The three were nearly rammed over by a girl their age, her dark hair was braided with various beads to match her colorful dress.
“Ethel!” chorused the three. They hugged their friend. Ethel Anderson grew up with Sim and the two met Arden and Terry in middle-school. They formed a circle and did a quick spin.
“Isn’t this exciting?” asked Ethel, continuing to bounce after they stopped spinning. “You should take a look at some of the girls going into the acting field. Why, I saw one who looked like she was Audrey Hepburn!”
Terry’s mouth dropped. “You’re kidding? Where?”
Ethel pointed to a girl sitting in the front. Her brown hair was pulled up into a perfect bun, not a hair out of place, and had on a lovely green floral tea party dress. “Her,” she whispered in awe.
“Wowee, she not only looks like Audrey Hepburn, she also looks like she stepped right out of an old movie!” whispered Terry. “And boy, do we have some fine boys coming here too.” Sim and Ethel glanced at each other and rolled their eyes before chuckling.
“I want to know how she manages to get her hair all perfect like that,” mumbled Arden, playing with her waves.
Ethel scoffed. “A lot of time, patience, and hair spray.” She flipped a braid over her shoulder. “And she probably has pretty straight hair too, a lot easier to work with than curls some days.”
Arden gave her a tight smile. “Right.”
Terry scoffed. “Hair in general can be such a pain to work with . . . but it can also be so much fun.” She grinned. “Like your braids. They’re awesome!”
Ethel beamed. “Thanks!”
“But there only seems to be her and a couple of other people who dress like that,” pointed out Sim. “Are they the only ones going in for acting, or are they just the only ones going for acting who decided to dress up?”
Ethel shrugged. “Can’t tell you, don’t know who’s going into acting. All I can say is, my roommates aren’t.”
“Oh! Which room are you in? The six of us should hang out!” said Terry.
“Nine of us, once we find Jane,” said Sim, referring to another friend who had also applied to Cedar Ridge. She quickly explained the pool situation and what their plans were for the rest of the week, so far.
“That actually sounds great! Come on, I’ll introduce you to my roommates. Maybe we’ll find Jane along the way.” Ethel led them to where two other girls were standing and introduced them to Mary Todd, who was going in for a degree in literature, and Linda Lewis, who was aiming for music. The six chatted gaily, all while looking for the last friend from home. They finally found her with her roommates, Millie Pratt and Greta Larsen. And just in time to make a wild dash for seats as the orientation was being called together to begin. When everyone was finally seated and the chatting hushed, the president of the college began. Her dark curly hair was pulled up into a smart bun and she was wearing a fine green suit.
“Welcome one and all to Cedar Ridge College!” A cheer went up and died down when the president held up her hands. “And we’re all glad to see you all here! If you don’t know me already, I am the president of Cedar Ridge, Dr. Tilda Anklon, but everyone just calls me Doc Tillie. I’m sure you all have a lot of exploring to do, so let’s get this orientation underway! Oh, real quick, before I forget, the pool was closed down due to some rusty pipes. We hope that it will be back up and running in time for the swim team to begin practicing. You may sign up if you wish, we will let you know if anything changes. Now, without further ado, this darn orientation.” A soft chuckle came in reply. But she got into it, giving all the rules, traditions, and opportunities to be found at Cedar Ridge. She ended it with, “And so, I say again, welcome to Cedar Ridge, where you take the first steps in making your dreams come true!” A standing ovation erupted at her words. Arden glanced at her friends. They all beamed at her. They couldn’t wait for theirs to come true, and it looked like they picked the right place to get started.