Eruption: Yellowblown Series Book One
Copyright © 2014 by Jill Hughey
heart thudded like a subwoofer while I drove the last mile up the hill to Western Case College, known by its students and alums as Head Case U. Today, my life resumed. The bane of my summer, Mom, tucked her ebook reader into her black and white geometric fabric tote bag that begged everyone to see her as trendy instead of the rural, part-time journalist housewife she was. Begged and failed.
My fingers tapped the steering wheel, alive with
the anticipation of arriving at my sophomore dorm room where I planned to live unhindered for the next nine months. I hoped to skip Thanksgiving this year, unbeknownst to my parents, though I’d probably have to go home for the longer winter break. I’d miss Dad, I had to admit. The fact Mom had landed and kept him for twenty-one years gave me faith some sort of hidden awesomeness lay underneath her nosy mom-ness.
I cruised through the
off-campus area of run-down student apartments, coffee houses and pizza joints into the chaos of upperclassmen move-in day. The freshmen had been here since Thursday. They stood out like Christian rock groupies who’d accidentally stumbled on a rave, their eyes wide, stunned as the experienced Head Cases screamed greetings at friends and unloaded duffel bags and mini-fridges out of everything from SUVs (my mom’s—gag) to cute little foreign convertibles (Twyla Blakelock—sorority girl—double gag).
Mom smiled over at me, each lock of her super-short dark hair in perfect order, the way she wanted everything. Her eyes sparkled. She loved my life. She fed on the details of my existence, parasitic as the tapeworms our scooting dog had rubbed out of its butt years ago after Dad forgot to take it to the vet.
I’d been reduced this summer, when not at my babysitting job, to retreating into the woods around our house for a break from her constant monitoring. I’d sit within a circle of laurel where no one bothered me, like I’d found the force field the daughter in
—also named Violet, poor girl—made to keep the bad guys away. Mom wasn’t exactly a villain, but she sure could push my buttons.
When I’d told her
I wanted to leave at 5:00 AM today so we could get here by the middle of the afternoon, she’d been all for it, eager to set the timer on her coffeepot. Crazy. Her willingness gave me guilt. I was motivated by selfish impatience, and I didn’t want Mom to have an excuse to spend the night in town. She needed to start for home in Indiana the second I got my crap out of her car.
“The campus looks great,” she gushed. “Look at those banners on the light poles. Are they new?”
“Yeah, they always spruce up when parents or alums are coming.” I eased past the double-parked cars on the one-way road through campus. I was lucky to have such supportive parents. In my head, I knew this, but found it hard to remember as we wrestled to stay on the tolerable side of the line between support and suffocate.
, I thought to myself.
in a yellow sari dashed from between parked cars. I tapped the brakes though she’d already reached the safety of the grassy quad. She leaped into the arms of a stocky, freckled, redheaded boy. The brightly ornamented fabric of her outfit reflected the pure joy of reunion.
Mom wore an indulgent smile as she
I explained the clinging
embrace. “That’s Diya—she’s from India—and her boyfriend Bruce. Her parents don’t approve.”
“Is she a good friend of yours?”
“Not really. We did a French paper together last semester.” I shrugged. “She was upset the night we worked on it. Her parents had picked out her future husband back home, but she loves Bruce. They’ve been together two years, practically since the first day of their freshman year.”
“Poor thing,” Mom said.
A land yacht pulled out of a prime spot near the dorm. “Thank goodness for the backup camera,” I said as I jockeyed into the space, challenged by the extra length of my bike rack on the back.
Mom chirped, looking out at the utilitarian, three-story, red brick building. “At least you’re only on the second floor this year. You and I are in shape. We won’t need the elevator.”
Moving in last year had, admittedly, been brutal, with the temperature at l
ike 150 degrees and those of us assigned to the fourth floor of North Hall waiting for the same elevator. My dad’s face had been the color of sloe gin by the time we finished, and don’t ask me how I know what color that is.
’s absence today bummed me out more than I expected. Somebody had to take my sister, Sara, to a cheerleading tournament, and my sophomore move-in didn’t justify a family event, especially if said family would delay my escape an extra day. Besides, Sara begged me to leave on Saturday so she could spend Sunday with her boyfriend instead of driving to Pennsylvania. The two of us tried to help each other out like that when we could.
I opened the car door to the face smack of humidity
. Most of the sweaty students I saw unpacking cars or talking in clusters outside the dorm were familiar, but no one I knew well, so I bent down to tug on the clip that held the rear wheel of my bike to the rack. The black plastic burned my fingers.
Mom lifted her arms
to stretch as I tackled the tall clamp over the front tire. Had to give my parents credit for one good thing—they knew how to choose Christmas presents. This lightweight bike could chew up some road miles but also handled gravel roads and dirt trails. The slick charcoal gray paint with a few purple designs said “girl, but not too girly.”
ed the bike to the sidewalk when a familiar voice screeched my name. Mia Carbone, my best friend and new roomie, strutted across the lawn, her smiling lips coated in her trademark 1950s red lipstick, black hair glossy as patent leather, the long side of her asymmetrical cut held back with a daisy clip. Tomorrow it might be a skull barrette or a lace ribbon. You just never knew with Mia.
er brisk hug made some of the stress leak down my body and out through my feet into the perfectly trimmed grass. I’d missed having a friend an arm’s reach away.
, Mrs. Perch,” she said to Mom. They talked generically about our road trip as she eyed the bike. “I dunno, Violet, you may have to sleep with that bike in your bed,” she finally said, cocking a hip clad in skin-tight polka dot leggings. “You’d think sophomores would rate a bigger crib.”
Two freshman boys
sauntered by, their freshman-ness given away by the brand new Western Case Copperheads T-shirts they both wore. Those boys’ tongues almost dragged on the cement as they ogled the slammin’ great body Mia did nothing to hide. She slid white-rimmed sunglasses down her nose and fluttered lashes coated in about five layers of mascara at them, drawing attention to her amazingly clear blue eyes. “I say, my fine fellows, wanna carry some of my roomie’s stuff?”
Fifteen minutes later, I i
nterrupted Mom from unpacking the new purple and blue bed linens. “Hey, Mom, do you want to get a coffee or something before you start the trip home?”
Mia and I knew how we wanted things, and I wanted to do it myself.
She consulted her cell phone. “Wow, only three o’clock. I guess if I leave now I could make it all the way home tonight.”
When we got to the side
walk, I handed her the car keys. “Don’t drive tired,” I said. My mom made me nuts, but I didn’t want her to die in a fiery crash or anything.
“I won’t.” Her eyes looked weepy as she enveloped me in a mom hug.
She rubbed my back.
Oh, hell no,
’kay, Mom, you be careful,” I said, pulling away and pretending her tears weren’t making my eyes get a little wet in sympathy.
“I know. I get it,” she said, laughing
. She slid into the driver’s seat. “You be careful too, girlfriend. Don’t break too many freshmen boys’ hearts.”
“I won’t,” I said. She
needn’t worry. Freshmen were not on the menu this year.
When I got back to the room, Mia was wrestling her purple pillowcase onto a fat pillow. I danced through the mess to hug her again, giddy with freedom. She patted me bracingly.
“Methinks I must hie myself to the bookstore before all the used volumes are gone. Wanna come?”
Mia had gone through her grandmother’s collection of dog-eared regency romances this summer. She now “fancied” things and talked about some book called
and used exclamations like “La!” The Jane Austen novel on her bedside crate worried me more than a little.
“Sure,” I said
. My fingers itched to make order out of this chaos, what with all my stuff in a pile by the narrow closet and my bike standing right where we needed to walk. “How do you even know what books to buy?”
“I checked wit
h the profs last spring and found a few in the Rutgers store over the summer, but these Head Case teachers have some bizarre choices.”
My pulse raced again
as we set out, urged on by the familiar buildings, the smell of campus. Palpable anticipation pressurized the atmosphere, like a balloon expanding before your eyes with the hiss of a helium tank.
reative in her greetings, Mia called to one of the school’s best wrestlers, “Hey, Mr. Bodacious. You been workin’ out this summer or what?” His head jutted up as a continuation of his freakishly thick neck, and his arm seemed reluctant to lift above his shoulder when he waved.
comparison, and in a spectacular display of my relative lack of social coolness, I barely managed a chipper, “Hi, Christine,” to a girl I’d aced a World Studies project with last year.
’s surgically precise shopping rolled us through the bookstore in less than thirty minutes, in spite of checkout lines daunting enough to make a discount store proud. Yellow shopping bags sporting the black Copperhead snake logo threatened to snap our fingers right off. Luckily, we made frequent stops while Mia figured out where to find the best parties.
She plotted as we climbed the stairs in Caples. “I think the one at Deek sounds good,” she said, referring to the fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon
. “But they’re usually late-night, right? The Foamy Head could be fun first.”