"Nice going, sunhead!" I hear a classmate yell near the gates of the academy. I grab at my bright, blonde hair, shielding my face from the glares as I make my way back to the taxi to pay the fare.
After I make sure the fare was settled, I tried to scurry back past the gates neck, back hunched, as if making myself small could compensate for the scene I made. I tried to avoid eye contact as to shy away from unnecessary interactions.
"Candidate, are you alright?"
Oh, that sounded harsher than it needed to be probably. Who was that? I didn't recognize the voice. I did not have time to dwell on that though. I just needed to get to my dormitory at the back of the academy complex as soon as possible.
I peeked up a little to see the rectangular and ascending plaza area. It was divided by steps that lead up the hill as you as go deeper into the academy which was surrounded by the five-story main building which had open-air hallways guarded by railings you can lean on and look onto the plaza below. The plaza area was made up of large flat spaces that functioned as social areas in between the steps that break and on this occasion it was crowded with parents having their final conversations before dropping off their daughters for the semester. Academy staff in dress uniforms were also around, ostensibly to greet the returning students. In truth, they were there to answer questions and address concerns from parents.
I remember very vividly the way my heart wrenched at the sight of parents sending off their girls with innumerate one-more-hugs and one-last-kisses. The girls were flushed with embarrassment, trying to peel their parents off and away.
I wish there were someone to embarrass me.
Not wanting to risk more interaction, I turned around. I slipped into a maintenance access and emerged on the side parking lot of the main academy building and walked the relatively peaceful walkways up to the dormitory.
It was still a five-minute hike up the hill, past the gymnasium, swimming pool, and the overstrike hard light field. And finally, beyond the massive circular Mirauditorium perched to the back and right of the academy proper, and a little hike up another hill, was the dormitory.
The dormitory was a large rectangular building that housed all of its students during the course of the school year. It was a perfunctory building as not to distract us from our duties. Every year we were assigned different rooms. I went to the dormitory receptions booth to find out which rooms I had been assigned this year. However, the receptionist desk was empty.
Rather, the lobby area of the dormitory did not have one single soul. I looked at the bell and thought about not ringing it. Absurd in hindsight for sure, the bell was labeled "If students need assistance, ring bell, all times". But surely the receptionist was helping with the assembly preparations later this morning, I thought to myself. Maybe she would return soon? I did not want to impose on her, so I sat in the guest area with my suitcase on my lap, waiting for somebody to arrive.
I waited in silence for thirty minutes, I think I did not see one person in the lobby. If I waited any longer I might miss assembly altogether. After an agonizing debate in my head that would be much too obnoxious to be put to prose, I had decided to ring the bell...