Home > Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(4)

Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(4)
Author: Miranda Kenneally

To this day, anytime I see water, it’s hard for me to resist the pull to dive on in. The Cal pool is beautiful.

“Maybe we’ll have time to grab a swim before we fly home,” I tell Roxy, bouncing on my toes.

She doesn’t respond.

“Are you really going to do this?” I ask.

“Do what?”

“Pretend like I don’t exist.”

She rolls her eyes.

That’s that, I guess. What else is new?

After we spend time exploring the pool and facilities, Roxy and I join up with a group of about twenty new athletes from across the country for a campus tour of the library, dining hall, and classrooms. She immediately starts clinging to this super cute lacrosse player.

To be honest, I don’t know the rules of lacrosse. It’s too bad I couldn’t attend the orientation for swimmers, which is next week, but I’m competing at conferences, and unless I qualify there, I can’t go to regionals. Still, I don’t mind checking out some of the guys. A super cute one with glasses and cropped black hair glances at me and smiles. But he’s much shorter than I am. Ugh, I hate being taller than most guys.

With her arm looped around Lacrosse Boy’s elbow, Roxy stares over at me and smirks, as if to say, I’m hotter than you, and I know it.

I ignore her and try to focus on the tour, but she keeps laughing loudly to show off.

Is it too late to pick a new college?

The guide leads us back to Haas Pavilion, the arena where the basketball team plays, to watch their game against Stanford. The stands are already filled with rowdy fans. The guys on my tour start horsing around. Two of them rush out onto the court and pretend to shoot an imaginary basketball.

“Get off the floor!” the guide screeches, and they hurry back to the sidelines, where they keep pretending to take shots.

I don’t blame them for being excited. The arena’s smaller than I imagine it looks on TV, but it’s still gorgeous. I take a picture of the basketball hoop and the gleaming wood floors with Cal written in blue.

I text the photo to Levi: Guess where I am?

Levi: Stop trying to make me jealous you evil woman

I grin at his response.

During the game I keep texting him, giving him a play-by-play. Levi wants to know what it smells like (sweat), if the seats are soft (hard), and what the fries taste like (they’ve got nothing on Jiffy Burger’s, but I tell him they are a perfect ten just to make him jealous).

The game is great. The team beats Stanford in overtime, and afterward, the guide leads us back to the boardroom to hear the university’s president give a short speech about how thankful they are “athletes of our caliber are attending Berkeley.” Then he announces that our student hosts will show us where we’ll be staying tonight.

I lift my overnight bag and walk to the K—N table and tell them my name is Maggie King.

The name checker drags a finger down her list. “You’re paired with Sylvia.”

Please don’t let her be a raging lunatic. Please don’t let her be a raging lunatic.

The athletic director comes over when he hears my name, and checks a chart. “Sylvia’s one of our highly talented freshmen on the dance team. She’ll walk you around and you’ll stay with her in MacDonald, the dorm you’ll be living in this fall. All of our athletes live there freshman year.”

A dance team member? That’s good news. Georgia’s a cheerleader, so I know all about routines. She’s tried to teach me some, and I can do Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” dance. I may look like a bumbling octopus with my huge hands and flipper feet, but hey, I can do it.

I glance over at Roxy. She’s animatedly talking to her host.

The AD introduces me to Sylvia, a small girl still wearing a skirt and tiny top from dancing at the basketball game earlier. She cranes her neck back to look up at me. “God, you’re tall!”

“Will that be a problem?” the AD asks in a depreciating tone.

Sylvia shoots him a look and places a hand on her hip. “C’mon, Maggie. We have to go get ready.”

“Ready for what?” the AD and I ask simultaneously.

“Uh, dinner in the dining hall. And a night tour of the library.” Sylvia grabs my heavy overnight bag, throws it over her shoulder with surprising ease, and yanks me out of the boardroom. “I thought we’d never escape. The AD thinks the dance team is made up of idiots.”

“One of my best friends is a cheerleader, and she is definitely not an idiot.”

Sylvia smiles. “I like you.”

She stops to put on a hoodie over her dance uniform before leading me back to her dorm, pointing out places like the Terrace Café and the bookstore along the way. The quad features a few marble statues surrounded by trees. I could definitely see myself studying there this fall.

It’s Saturday night, but campus is busy and bustling. Some people are running around screaming, celebrating the basketball team’s win. A group of guys wearing Greek fraternity letters—I’m not sure what they say—come spilling out of the dorms.

“Let’s streak!” one hollers.

“Yes!” another replies, pumping his fist in the air. “But first let’s get pizza.”

I crack up. No matter where you go, guys are still guys, and that means food comes first.

“Don’t eat before you streak!” I call out. “You might get cramps.”

The boys laugh at my joke, then hustle down the sidewalk, presumably in search of pizza.

Watching these people goof around, I can’t remember the last time I let loose. I guess when I went to a bonfire last summer with my friends and stayed out past midnight. It was fun, but you know what’s even more enjoyable? Winning. Which means practice comes first. Which means I need rest in order to get up at the crack of dawn and swim my best.

Sylvia swipes her ID card in a door reader and we go inside her dorm. Two students manning the front desk greet Sylvia by name, then look back down at an iPad they’re sharing. They must be watching videos while they work. I’ve never had time for a job, but I like the idea of greeting people as they come home.

Sylvia leads me to the stairs. “I’m on the fourth floor. You okay to walk?”

“Sure.”

“Good. It doesn’t matter if you live up on the eighth floor. People will give you shit if you take the elevator in MacDonald.”

We hustle up to her floor and she leads me to a door with a little white board for messages. I make a mental note to remember to buy one of those, along with some markers. Inside her room, there’s enough space for two beds, desks, and dressers. Pictures of dancers and cheerleaders cover the walls. A collection of medals hangs from a peg above her desk. Maybe I’ll do that with my medals next year. And I could hang a bulletin board with pictures of my friends.

It’s very clean in here. Much cleaner than my room. I tend to toss my dirty clothes on the floor instead of in the hamper, which drives my mom batty. Levi too. He generally invites me to his place because my room is always a pigsty. Having a roommate for the first time in my life will be different. I’ll need to keep my space tidy. Wait. What if she’s even messier than me? Hopefully I’ll get somebody I’m compatible with. If I’m rooming with another athlete, odds are we’ll be at practice most of the time, when we’re not in class or sleeping.

“I hope you don’t mind an air mattress.”

“Not at all,” I reply, taking off my jacket. “Thanks for hosting me. I bet it’s weird having a swimmer instead of a dancer.”

She shrugs. “We’ll still have fun. What did you bring to wear?”

I look down at my ripped jeans and long-sleeved tee. “Stuff like this.”

“There’s a party at the basketball house. They’re celebrating. We need to look cute.”

I bite my bottom lip. It’s not like I’m a prude. It’s just, I’ve never been to a party-party before. I always have to wake up early on weekends, so staying out late is a no-go. What if Sylvia ditches me and I have no one to talk to? What if they only have booze to drink?

I have had a drink before. One time when Levi’s mom was out of town, we experimented with her liquor cabinet. Not only did it feel terrible, Coach Josh totally caught us. The next day he knew something was up when we were sluggish. I haven’t had any interest in drinking since.

   
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