When Summer and Cassandra reached the gates, the scale of the grandeur and elegance that confronted them dwarfed Darling Honor. Darling College excelled on the forbidding. As their eyes finally became accustomed to the building ahead of them, they allowed their focus to shift towards the students heading to lectures.
They stood inside the gates for the first time, swallowing their nerves, in that moment the girls let their own quarrels fade to nothing and let the excitement rise. Cassandra put her fingers around Summer’s hand and squeezed. Summer tensed until she saw the excitement of a child in Cassandra’s eyes. She relaxed, amused that her mortal enemy, or so it seemed at times could be that excited.
Taking a deep breath, they headed towards where they assumed the reception would be. The closer they got they noticed a man walking towards them. “Miss Darling, Miss Devonthorne, what a pleasure to meet you both. I am Dean Forrester, I’m fairly casual with titles, I like to be ‘down with the kids’ as they say.” Summer and Cassandra cringed. “You may need to excuse my enthusiasm; it has been a long time since we had a Darling intent on studying here. Not since Edward Darling, Elizabeth’s father who I believe is your cousin? I met him once you know, lovely man. Anyway, I have been asked to give you a tour and fill you in on Darling life.”
He guided them out of the reception area. Cassandra and Summer shared a look. Just out of ear shot Cassandra whispered in Summer’s ear “trust us to end up with the over excited labradoodle.” They stifled their giggles while Forrester had a brief exchange with a passer-by, the girls had carried on walking.
“Excuse me” they chimed walking past a blocked hallway not waiting for Forrester who caught up with them. Summer began to hatch a plan as they walked.
Forrester continued to talk for over an hour and a half over loading them on information on the courses they offered, the library and additional lectures.
While on their tour the girls spotted a coffee cart. Cassandra made the suggestion of sampling the coffee. Forrester didn’t much like the idea and tried to coerce them into to sticking to the tour schedule. That was of course until Summer took an opportunity, “I could really murder a cup of tea right now, it’s so hard to find somewhere that knows how to make tea, just right.” She let her words sink in for a moment before sighing ever so slightly. She caught Cassandra’s eye and smiled. Rather reluctantly Forrester agreed they could get a cup of tea as long as they resumed the tour schedule after.
Ten minutes later Forrester had them back on the route no longer badgering Summer with questions about the Darling family being resident again in Grimeston. He guided them towards the magpie aviary. Summer found herself thoroughly entranced, “I love magpies, so quirky and did you know they are the smartest birds for their brain size. Such characters-” She found herself distracted again watching the magpies hop about in a happy chatter. The aviary was huge, she wanted to climb inside and just immerse herself in that other little world within the college.
On the way to student housing they heard a raucous up ahead. “I’ve been wondering something, I guess it’s something you see in the movies, but, are there any secret societies here?”
“What? No. That would be impossible.”
Cassandra and Summer were bored of their guide and had, had enough of Forrester’s over enthusiastic approach. They had finally finished the tour of student accommodation. Summer was determined to explore without their puppy guide.
The source of the raucous they had heard earlier came into sight, a group of “slightly” drunk students were walking towards them. One took a stumbled and landed on Summer, both entangled on the floor for a moment. Forrester’s face was a picture when he pulled the boy off of her to help Summer up. “Miss Darling, I am so sorry, take my hand.” He turned to the boy who was swaying a little, “Conduct yourself appropriately.”
The boy grinned “of course” and winked awkwardly.
“Miss Darling are you alright?” Forrester had turned back to Summer. The boy behind him snapped straight as if he had heard her name for the first time. Summer nodded, wiping the back of her trousers, “I’m fine, please just call me Summer.” The boy apologised, examining her with his eyes, unsteadily she nodded and walked ahead.
Forrester guided them away, Summer looked back to see the boy who had fallen on her still staring after her as his friends started to pull him into a building.
Summer was certain enough was enough of this tour. “This tour is very informative and we do appreciate it, but I do believe that Cassandra and I would like to explore at our own pace. It could be beneficial if we could see what interests us, I am sure you are very busy, should we have any questions would it be possible to seek you out?”
He stumbled on a response, torn from his duty and from the tour. Summer smiled softly in the hope he would take the bait and let them go. Reluctantly he agreed. Cassandra and Summer thanked him and turned on their heels before he could call them back.
After a while of Cassandra leading the way, Summer had discovered a lot about Cassandra. It was all rather strange, the both of them talking without being vicious. Their conversation was interrupted by the now very much more intoxicated boy from earlier. “Come join us” he offered his hand to her. Summer took Cassandra’s hand instead, “maybe another time” and took a step away until she felt a hand on her shoulder.
“My name is William, by the way.” They nodded but their eyes had fallen on the coffee cart ahead. “Nice to meet you, but we are on our way to get coffee and your friends are calling for you.” She smiled. As they walked away he yelled at them, “I love your accent”. Summer laughed as they walked towards the coffee, their main thought.
Summer took a moment of caution before dismissing it, “Cassandra, wanna come back to Grimeston?”
Cassandra was visibly surprised, but she couldn’t find a reason to decline. Summer suggested going to the Diner. “I want to ask you something.” Cassandra blurted out. Summer nodded for her to go ahead. “Do you like Jamie? As in like, like.”
“Oh hell no. Not in any kind of like.”
“Oh. I think he likes you.”
“I think you like him.”
“I… So? It doesn’t matter.”
“Honestly, he is not what I want. At all. To be honest, I am sure there are plenty of reasons for him to like you, I mean your definitely no air head like Valarie.”
“I’m not pretty.”
“You are, when you’re not being obsessively competitive about the valedictorian thing. There’s no reason to be so hard on yourself.”
“He likes you though.”
“Because I don’t like him. To him everything is a game. To be honest, you are better off finding a new crush, he wouldn’t be able to keep up with you.”
“You underestimate him.”
“Like I said, not interested.”