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The campus itself was absolutely gorgeous, that much I could never deny. Being on an island, many of my classes overlooked the ocean side. We weren’t next to a port, that was by the northern shore while we were settled closer to the west, but we still saw the ships coming and going, paddleboats and kayaks fighting the waves, and people hunting the beaches for sea-glass or crabs or whatever.
The color scheme was navy blue, ivory, golden yellow, and occasional splashes of red. Our mascot, the lobsters, of course. The paths between buildings were paved with bricks and lined with blue and green sea-glass. Additionally, inside all the campus buildings were art pieces created by the students. Freshman or senior, amateur and professional alike, there was art everywhere. I had been featured a few times, but that was last year. I hadn’t produced much of anything of satisfactory value since. Other than that, the campus was small, but what it lacked in size it more than made up for in beauty.
Luckily for students and staff, ferries to and from the mainland were free with an I.D. Actually, most restaurants were free or discounted to students and staff as well. I couldn’t say it was a terrible location to live, the locals were lovely at least, but one does get sick of seeing the same thing day in and day out after a while.
Limping to my class proved harder than expected. Despite my success at hiding my condition in the dorms and just outside of them, I was struggling to keep up the façade. I was tripping more and more with each step I took and people were glancing at me each time I did. I tried to ignore them, but their gazes burrowed into me like daggers heated over a flame. I hated it.
Thankfully, before long, I reached the arts building, Clippinger Fine Arts Building. But just before I entered, I saw a line of posters that had been there for several months now. A Missing Person’s poster for a boy named Haruka Ono. Only nineteen years old, Japanese, 4.0 student, last seen almost five months ago, half way through the second semester. I never had the chance to meet him, but I barely knew any freshman as it was. It was a shame he was missing, but he also wasn’t my problem. Those posters were all over campus, but I had taken special effort to ignore them. There was nothing I could do about them.
Finally stepping inside, I was not surprised to see a handful of students in the lobby space working on homework, mostly freshmen from what I could tell. A few were leaning on one another on the couches and sleeping. More than likely commuters who had to wake up earlier than most and catch the ferry.
The lobby was, in and of itself, simple in design, but also had a sense of homeliness about it. The walls had the highlights of one student from each class from the previous semester. In the lobby center, there were couches, tables, fake plants for atmosphere, and an office to the left. It was a shared space with the chairman of the department and the secretary. I never took the time to speak to them, my excuse always being that I was too busy or I just wasn’t in the mood. While not entirely untrue, a few details were always omitted.
Not even bothering to speak with anyone, I immediately went to the staircase and headed up. I was not in the mood to be bothered nor interact with anyone. Additionally, I didn’t want to draw attention to my condition. And walking up those stairs was an incredible feat in and of itself. I had to stifle a groan with each and every step.
Once I reached the top, though, my goal to remain unseen vanished. I ran into someone in a fairly hard collision and almost stumbled backwards. The pain sent shockwaves through my body and I began to cry, by no choice of my own. Luckily, someone reached out and took me by the sleeve, pulling me back up. I cried out, my voice echoing for a split second. I was more than certain everyone heard me.
As my vision settled, I saw that the person I bumped into was a boy I had not seen before. He seemed exasperated as he attempted to pull me back up. However, all he managed to do was pull me on top of him and we both fell on the floor, barely missing the steps. I cried more, but I made an effort to cover my mouth as to make no more sound.
I looked at the boy as he rubbed his head, probably hitting it when we made contact with the floor. His glasses were crooked now and I could see a few smudges that were probably caused by one or both of us. When he looked at me, he gasped. My eyes were still somewhat blurry from the tears, so I could not make out the full extent of his expression. But then I realized that I was, in fact, still on top of him.
I tried to shuffle off, to no avail. I was in so much pain. I could barely move, let alone at a speed fit for someone found in my situation. Then, to my surprise, I felt support coming from behind me. I was lifted up and brought to my feet. The boy stood up as well, but he was not the one who helped me. I felt someone brushing me off. Again, not him. I wiped away my tears just so I could see. Besides me was Lily Grainger, her expression one of concern.
“Saige, are you alright?” Lily asked me. I tried nodding, but the soreness of my body was finally catching up with me. I whimpered. “Saige?”
“I’m…I’m…” Before I could finish, I saw something held out to me. My vision, still blurry, could only see a white blotch. Glancing up, I saw the boy was holding it out to me, his eyes off to the side and avoiding me at all costs. Looking again, I realized it was a handkerchief. And he was offering it to me. I hesitantly accepted and wiped my face dry. “Thank you.” He simply nodded.