Part 2

by Kim Pritekel with Alexa Hoffman

For complete disclaimers see part 1.

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com

I sat on my bed with my back against the wall, knees up with a book resting on my thighs. I decided that perhaps I should actually read the text for Psych. The more I read the more interested I became. Why hadn't I ever taken any Psychology in high school? Then my mind drifted to my teacher. Hot damn, Dag. I couldn't believe it, nor could I stop the smile that began to spread across my face. My mind raced back to the perceptions of an eight year old girl who had a serious case of hero worship.

I was not happy about this. I did not want a new babysitter, I liked the one I had had last summer and the summer before that, and the summer before that, just fine. I couldn't keep the frown off my face. It wasn't fair! Carla got to go to camp and I had to stay home with a stupid babysitter.

"You'll like her, I promise." My mom said, sitting in the living room with the newspaper as I paced back and forth in front of her, my shoes thudding noisily on the wood floor as my lower lip popped out. The ultimate pouting position. "You might want to tuck that in, Chase. You'll trip over it." My mom said from behind her USA Today. I stomped to the foyer. She was supposed to be here any time. With that thought, the doorbell rang.

"Would you get that, Chase?"

"Yes." I muttered, opened the heavy front door. On the step stood a young girl with short blonde hair, sparkling green eyes and a smile.

"Hi." She knelt down to my level. "Are you Chase?" I nodded. "Well it is certainly a pleasure to meet you. I'm Dagny." She held her hand out to me, I stared at it, then back at her. "Don't you want to shake it?" I shook my head, the lip coming out again. "That's okay. We'll try that one again later." My new babysitter stood, looking over my head. I looked back to see my mom standing behind me, then my eyes went right back to this strange girl.

"Hello, Dagny. So nice to see you again. I'm so glad you could do this for us."

"Thank you for asking, Mrs. Marin. I was hoping to find a job this summer." Dagny looked down at me. My eyes had never left her even as she talked with my mother. "This little one doesn't seem so excited, though." She smiled. I glared.

"Well, Chase doesn't like change." My mother explained as she ran her hands through my hair. "We had another babysitter for the past few years that she'd gotten to know and like, but unfortunately Mary had to quit to have a baby."

"Oh. That's too bad." She smiled at me again. I didn't understand it. My glare didn't seem to do a thing. This only made me more mad. "That's okay, Chase. We'll have fun."

I set the text book aside, realizing that reading was a lost cause right now. I smiled as I thought of myself back then. Quite the little shit. No wonder my parents did everything they could to stay out of the house. My father had worked nonstop, but my mother had the summers off as she worked for a school district. I often used to wonder why she didn't stay home with me. She played on golf leagues, went shopping with the girls often, and was a tireless photographer. I used to dream about going on a shoot with her. I imagined us in our Jeep Cherokee, driving along the highway, headed to the Grand Canyon. My mother had an entire portfolio of just that alone.

But she never took me.

I shook my head to clear it, picking up the text once more to try yet again. I began to read the chapter on sleep when someone knocked at my door. With a growl I tossed the book aside.

"Damnit, what?"

"It's Carrie." I stood from the bed, opened the door with a nice glare.

"Shit, what did I do?" she asked, taking a step back from me.

"You knocked." I grumbled, walking back into the room, my best friend following.

"Hey, I could have just walked in." I glared over my shoulder, she smiled. "So what's up?" she plopped down on the bed next to me, the bed bouncing me slightly. I shrugged.

"Attempting to read my Psych book." I grabbed it for a third time.

"Oh. How's that going?"

"It was going fine."

"Oh. Oops. Sorry. You didn't meet me by the cafeteria, so I got worried. You okay?"

"Ah, shit." I closed my eyes, slamming my fist into the comforter. "I'm sorry, Car." I looked at my friend. I had been so stunned after Psych I had forgotten all about it. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just spaced it."

"Chase, we've met there everyday after class." She looked at me with accusing eyes.

"I said I was sorry. Damn." Her dark red brows drew.

"Hey, come on. What's wrong? Everything okay with you and Mike? Your folks? Mother Theresa?" she indicated the bed across the room. I grinned and nodded.

"You'll never guess who my TA is in Psych." I looked at her, wondering if she'd even remember Dagny.

She shrugged. "How many guesses do I get out of four billion people?"

"Dagny." I said, waiting for the proverbial light bulb to go off. It didn't. "The ultimate babysitter?"

"You have an old babysitter for your Psych teacher? God, your mom really is trying to keep tabs on you." I smacked her with a pillow.

"Don't you remember? She took us swimming when we were eight, and I almost drowned? The summer your brother went off to the Army?" Ding. There it was.

"Oh my god! What is she doing here?"

"She's a grad student."

"But I thought she had moved with her family to Texas or something." She leaned back against the wall. "Is she still hot? She was even then."

"Eww." I looked at her. "You're lusting after a fourteen year old."

"Yeah, but at the time I was eight, so it's okay." She smiled. "You know how I love those older women."

"God you're horrible." I glanced out the window. The sun was falling.

"I want to see her." I looked at her to see if she was serious. Yep. Should have figured. I shook my head.

"No way. I must protect Dag from you, you living hormone."

"Fuck off. You're just jealous."

"Bite me."

* * *

The rest of the week flew by until it was finally Friday night, and time for Casually In Debt to make it debut at Gotfry's. I wanted to cry, pee my pants and laugh all at the same time. I would never forgive Mike for dragging me into this, and I told him so.

"Nah, you'll thank me for this one day, Chase. Just wait. When you're a big star out there, you'll remember when." He smiled, kissing me softly.

"I know. You're probably right, but I still hate you." He ruffled my hair, smacking me soundly on the ass.

The place was the local hang out for college kids, having 18 and older nights three times a week gave the underclassmen a chance to have some fun, too. This, however, was not one of those nights, and I was glad. The last think I needed was to have all of my classmates see me make an ass out of myself and my boyfriend's band.

Doug and Mike had come in early to set everything up. The other band members were steadily trickling in. During our rehearsals over the week I had met them all, a great group of guys, me the sole woman.

"I'll be right back. I have to go to the bathroom." I tapped Mike on the back to get his attention from working on the sound system. He nodded, not looking at me. Pale and shaky, I headed to the ladies room.

It was empty, and I was forever grateful. I went into a stall, closing the door as I sat on the closed toilet seat, my head in my hands. God, I was so nervous. Would I be hunted down if I split right now?

I heard the door to the bathroom open, and someone was at the sink, washing their hands. With a sigh, I decided to go out and face the music. I grinned at my own joke, stopping short when I saw the back of short blonde hair. My eyes traveled to the mirror to see my Psych teacher looking at me. A smile spread across her face for just a moment before it slid off to be replaced with accusation.

"Okay, Chase, now I know for fact that you are not twenty-one." I smiled, nodding as I stepped up to the sink next to hers and wet a paper towel.

"Yeah, well when you're the entertainment you can get in at any age." I pressed the wetness to my face, trying to cool myself off.

"Are you with the band?" I nodded. Dagny grabbed her own paper towel, dried her hands. I glanced down at them.

"Do you always wash your hands before you go to the bathroom?" she smiled.

"Ha ha. No, someone decided to spill a drink on me out there."

"Oh, that wasn't very nice." I smiled, washing my own hands. She looked at me, shaking her head.

"I can't believe you're standing here in front of me all grown up. I know I keep saying that, it's just amazing."

"Tell me about it. Imagine my shock." I grinned. She looked at me from my boots up my jeans and tank, and finally my face.

"I can't believe how tall you got. The last time I saw you I could use the top of your head for an armrest." I smiled, proud for some reason. I looked down at her.

"I bet I could try that trick now." She glared then smiled.

"I better go. My friends are going to wonder if I fell in. Good luck out there. A little birdy told me you guys are quite good." With one last smile, she walked out the door.

I walked up the stairs to the stage, looking out at the dark bar. With the lights aimed at the stage, it was hard to see much of anything except for the smoke swirling in the beams of light. We hadn't been introduced yet, so I had a few seconds. I just prayed I'd remember the words to the songs.

"Hello, everyone, and welcome to Gotfry's. We've got a special treat for you tonight. Casually In Debt, a local band will be rocking you tonight." The crowd in the bar cheered, whistles high pitched came at me from everywhere. "Okay, okay, hold it down. Save it for the lady." The announcer, bar tender Greg, smiled and winked at me. "Here's CID with their lead singer's debut with us tonight, Chase Marin." That was my cue. I stepped up to the mic, Melo in hand. The whistles starting all over again. "It's all yours. Good luck, guys." Greg turned to all the guys behind me and smiled as he headed off the stage. I looked out, shading my eyes with my hand, which was probably a mistake. When I cut the light I could see everyone staring at me expectantly. Gulp.

"Um, hi." Real slick, Chase. "This is my first time to perform, so give me a break, huh?" more whistling.

"Come on! Sing already." Someone yelled from the back followed by a, "Shut up, man. Leave her alone."

I turned to the band, counted to three, then they began to play. We started off with a classic, Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart". It only took me a few bars before I lost myself in the music, forgetting completely about the audience before me. My toe tapped along with the music as it consumed me. My fingers raced over my guitar with an almost desperate need to get the song out.

The song came to an end, and my eyes opened. The crowd erupted. I looked around, nearly startled to hear the applause and yells and of course, whistles. The grin on my face spread faster than a wildfire. I reached for the glass of water that had been left for me on a stool, sipping from it, glancing back at Mike. He was smiling ear to ear, nodding at me. I smiled back, wiping my hand across my forehead to show my relief. He nodded again.

I turned back to the mic and began to strum my guitar, the only sound in the place, the guys waiting for their cue. I began Eric Clapton's rocker, "Layla". The bar quieted down, someone coughing now and then, but I had everyone's attention, and it felt damn good.

After a few more songs, it was time to take a break. Mike and I headed to the bar. I had finished my water about three songs ago, and was dying for some more. Greg came over to us immediately.

"You guys rock." He grinned, sliding a beer mug of ice water to me, which I downed about half of in one drink. "You guys want to come back next week? We can fit you in every Friday night. Prime time," he added to sweeten the deal, looking from one to the other of us. I indicated Mike with my head.

"He's the deal man. Talk to him." I turned away from the bar as the boys talked, looking out into the crowd that had turned back to drinking and laughing. People walked up to me to tell me what they thought of the performance or to make requests. It felt so strange. I'd never had fans before.

"You were fantastic, Chase." I turned to see Dagny standing next to me, a beer in her hand. "I had no idea you could sing. When did that happen?" I grinned, shyly poking at the bar stool behind me with the heel of my boot.

"I've always loved to sing, just never really bothered before."

"I bet your mom and dad are proud as hell." She smiled. "Are they here?" she began to look around the place.

"Um, they kind of don't know." She turned to me.

"What? Why?"

"Great job." A guy said as he passed. I saluted him with a smile, turning back to the TA.

"They wouldn't approve. It's just a hobby, anyway. Nothing to tell them about." I sipped from my water.

"I don't know about that. I have to tell you," she leaned in close. "People like you who have natural talent like this make me sick." She smiled, I blushed.


"Babe, we gotta go. We're on." I turned to see Mike standing next tome, looking Dagny up and down.

"Mike, this is my Psych TA. Dagny, my boyfriend, Mike."

"Hello." Dagny smiled, so did Mike.

"Hi. Come on, Chase." He grabbed my hand, started to yank me.

"Thanks, Dag," I yelled behind my shoulder as I was pulled toward the stage. I set my water down and grabbed my guitar, ready for round two.

I was dead on my feet as I entered my dorm, once again holding onto the wall as I stumbled to my room. I thought this pathetic sort of display was only for drunk people? Who would have thought singing could be so exhausting.

CID was only scheduled to play for one session, which was only just over an hour or so. We ended up there for nearly six.

I smiled like an idiot when I saw my door and managed to get the key into the hole. To my surprise Natalie was already asleep, prayers long finished I assumed. Also the tell tale folded towels on the floor.

I leaned Melo against her place on the wall next to the closet, and stripped out of my smoke-covered clothing before I fell into bed.

"How did it go?" I nearly jumped out of my skin as I squeaked. Natalie was holding herself up on an elbow looking at me, smile firmly in place.

"It went fine, thanks for asking. Goodnight."

* * *

I smacked my lips, a smile on my face as my asleep mind put the most wonderful images there, grabbing my pillow a little tighter. I rolled over when I bolted up, thinking the world was coming to an end. My head shot to the left as I heard someone pounding on the door again. What the...

"Crap!" I jumped out of bed, a bit taken aback to see that I wasn't wearing a stitch of clothing. I looked around, confused when I saw the pile of clothes I'd left on the floor. I looked to Natalie's made bed wondering how many Hale Mary's she'd had to say this morning when she'd seen me. I grabbed the closest thing to me, which was a robe that barely reached mid-thigh. With a deep sigh, I ran my hand through my hair and pasted a smile on my face as I opened the door. "Hi."

"Hi, honey." My mom said, her smile faltering just a bit when she saw my appearance. "You forgot, didn't you?" she looked past me into the room.

"Well, I had kind of a late night last night, so,"

"Studying?" my father asked, disapproval clearly etched on his face.

"Well, yeah." I smiled. "So how was the trip?" I said cheerily, trying to change the subject.

"It was fine. Why does it smell like a truck stop in here?" my mother walked past me, turning in a circle to look at everything. "Do you smoke, Chase Nichole Marin." My mother, hand firmly on her hip, looked at me, the lines around her mouth deepening.

"No." Shit, shit, shit. What do I say?

"Then why does it smell like you do?"

I knew I couldn't tell them about last night. They would never approve in a million years. God, why couldn't Natalie be their daughter? "Carrie was in here last night." I bit the inside of my cheek until it hurt as punishment. They knew Carrie smoked, but still. My mother stayed like she was, sizing me up to see if I was telling her the truth. My father joined her. God, they're already ganging up on me!

"Look, if you guys want to take a walk around the campus I can meet you at the library." I looked down at myself. "I kind of need to take a shower." My parents looked at each other, that strange silent communication that I never understood.

"We'll meet you there in one hour." My father said sternly, holding up the obligatory finger to show me just what the number one meant. I nodded like the good daughter.

"One hour." I smiled.

I closed my eyes, my head against the tiled shower as the cool water ran over my heated skin. I really didn't need this. I didn't need their criticism now. I finally felt good about something. Last night had been the greatest rush of my life, and I couldn't even share it with my family, not even my sister. I sighed heavily and finished my shower. They were waiting.

The weather outside was turning cooler, finally. I really was not a fan of summer time and hot weather. I always said I should get a summer home in Montana, or better yet Antarctica. I pulled on a pair of clean jeans and button up shirt over a tank, the sleeves rolled half way up my arms. I brushed out my hair and brought it back into a braid. When it was wet as it was not, it almost looked black. I looked good, I guess. I stared at myself one more time, really not wanting to do this. But sometimes in life we must do what we really can't stand.

Sure enough, there they were, looking like the perfect couple. My father was a very good looking man, his dark hair cut just perfect, graying just a bit around the temples, his tan skin giving him a rugged look. He wore slacks, carefully ironed, the house keeper a pro by now. His polo was blue to match his eyes, the same color as mine. I had never seen a man so picky about his appearance before. Sometimes he was more vain than my mother. She was also the picture of health and beauty. She was nearly a head shorter than I, getting my height from my father, with medium brown hair, thick and beautiful. She had bright blue eyes, and very trim, athletic body for a woman who was in her mid-fifties. She also wore a polo, a sweater tied around her shoulders, and slacks. Bill and Judith Marin. Quite the couple.

"Ah, there she is." My father walked up to me, wrapping long arms around me in a tight hug.

"Hey, dad." I looked around, feeling stupid. He stepped away giving my mother her turn.

"You look so beautiful, honey." She said, looking at me, seemingly under a microscope. "How are you doing here? Are you enjoying yourself?" she put an arm around my shoulders, my father walking on the other side of me, as we headed toward the cafeteria where a buffet table had been set up for breakfast.

"It's going well. It's not too bad."

"It shouldn't be bad at all." My father chimed in. "Why, college was the best time of my life." He smiled as he looked around the campus, nodding at passersby. "Yale was some of the greatest years of my life. I must say, Chase, I was a bit disappointed when you decided against my alma mater. I had hoped that my children would go to such fine schools. I was so proud when Carla decided on Berkley. Wonderful school, and a great town, too."

"This is a good school, dad." I said, suddenly feeling like I should defend my chosen school.

"Of course, it is." He patted my arm with a smile.

Have you ever felt like you were being put on display? As we entered the cafeteria my parents both a firm hold on me, smiling at everyone they saw as if they hoped that their pearly whites would bring attention to their daughter. I tried to smile, too, but ended up avoided everyone's eyes that we passed.

We found a table, and thank god I spotted Carrie and her family. Her mother and father along with her younger brother and older sister came to our table to sit down. Our parents had remained great friends through Carrie and my lives. They laughed, and nudged each other, and congratulated themselves on having such wonderful children. I looked at Carrie only to catch her eye. She rolled her eyes, and I smiled.

"So I hear you were quite the little rocker last night." She whispered, leaning in to me. I shrugged, butterflies fluttering in my stomach as the sensations and memories came back from the previous night.

"It was great. I loved it." I whispered back.

"Loved what, hon?" I looked up to see my mother looking expectantly at me, a half smile on her painted lips.

"Oh, um a class I have. Psychology. In fact, you won't guess who's teaching it." Good save. I heard Carrie chuckling quietly next to me. I smacked her leg under the table. "Dagny Robertson." My mother drew her delicate brows as she tried to bring the name to mind. Then it hit her.

"Your old babysitter?" I nodded. "How wonderful! So she became a teacher, then?"

"Well, she's actually a grad student. She's getting her doctorate in Psychology."

"Oh, that's absolutely wonderful! I'd love to see her. She was always such a lovely girl." my mother clasped her hands together. Now, why can't you get that excited about something I'm doing?

We were served our breakfast, everyone talking as they ate, catching up. Carrie's parent's had a ton of questions for me, mine narrowing in on Carrie. I just prayed that they would not bring up the smoke part. She'd kill me.

I looked around the room, hoping for some sort of escape. None to be had.

It felt strange being in the Psychology building when it was near empty. There were students and their families walking around once in a while, but it was nothing like it was at noon on a weekday. We rounded the corner, and I could already hear Dagny's laugh. An involuntary smile came to my lips. Carrie had wanted to come with us, determined to see Dagny now, but had to go off with her own parents to meet her professors.

We walked into the room to see Dagny talking with the father of one of the students in my Psych class. They were laughing, the TA gracious and friendly. She looked great in a pair of khakis and a sleeveless top, again, the color of her eyes. She absently reached a hand up to tuck some hair behind her ear.

"Well, Sam is certainly a pleasure to have in my class." She smiled at her student then at his father.

"Thank you, Miss Robertson. It was a pleasure." The man said, shaking Dagny's hand.

"The pleasure was all mine." She patted Sam on the arm as they turned to leave.

"Chase. Hello." I was greeted with a huge smile then green eyes looked behind me to see my parents. "What a treat. Mr. and Mrs. Marin." she extended her hand, but my mother walked up to her to take her into a gentle hug.

"How are you, hon?" she pulled away, holding Dagny by her arms, looking at her. "You're so beautiful." Dagny smiled.

"Thank you. Imagine my surprise when I found that I had Chase, here in my class." She gently pulled away from my mom, putting her arm around my shoulders. "She is such a good student, studious and smart as a whip." She smiled at me, I stood there too stunned to do anything. My parents looked from one to the other of us.

"How wonderful, honey. Why didn't you say anything?" my mom caressed my arm, looking like she'd just given birth again. I shrugged. I didn't know myself.

"So we hear you're going after your doctorate?" my father chimed in.

"Yes, I am. Chase scored the highest on a pop quiz I gave out this week. She's quite the sponge." Dagny patted my back.

"Well, when she was little I used to work with her on flash cards, help to increase her memory." My father smiled.

"Well, come on now, Mr. Marin," Dagny lightly punched my father's shoulder, smiling charmingly. "She's not a computer. That's just natural for her. She has wonderful retention, from what I can see."

"That's wonderful, sweetie. We're so proud of you." My mom subjected me to a bone-crushing hug. I looked at Dagny for help. She was trying to hide a smile.

"Are your parents here, Dagny?" my father asked.

"Well, I'm afraid they couldn't make it." She shrugged with a smile. "My mom couldn't get away from school, and my father is overseas right now. He's been a busy man since September 11th." She said sadly.

"Oh, well I'm sure. And with him being a Marine, right?" Dagny nodded. "I'm sure he's definitely busy. He must be pretty far up there by now."

"He's a Lt. Col."

"Good for him."

"Well, it was so nice to see you both again." She smiled warmly at both my parents. I could almost see both of them falling in love. I shook my head.

"You, too, honey. Oh, we have reservations for dinner tonight. You must come." My mother said, clasping her hands together as she gave the TA an adult version of puppy dog eyes.

"Well," Dagny looked at me, trying to gauge my reaction. I shrugged. "Sure. I'd love to."


We had made dinner reservations with the Rodman family. I was thrilled that Carrie would be there to help balance out the weirdness of having dinner with my parents and Dagny. I didn't have a clue how I was supposed to act around my teacher. Was this like a social call, or should I treat her just as I did in the classroom? I wasn't looking forward to this.

Dagny had to meet with other students and their parents, so she made plans to meet us at the restaurant at seven. Carrie and I went back to our dorms to change into something a bit more appropriate for the place we were going, a classy seafood place. This would be interesting since I couldn't stand seafood.

I changed into a pair of well fitting black slacks and a blue knit shirt that was a bit on the tightish side, but nothing too risqué, black boots completed the outfit. I looked into the mirror on the back of the door, trying to decide what to do with my hair. Leave it down, put it up, ponytail. So many choices, so little time. Deciding to keep it simple, I grabbed my brush and turned my hair into silk, leaving it to brush my shoulders.

Carrie met me downstairs, and we headed for the lobby where our parents were waiting.

Sea's the Day was a quaint little place tucked out of sight that served excellent food with not so excellent prices. We were lead to our table, I kept looking around the place to see if I could spot Dagny. She hadn't arrived yet, and I didn't want to miss her.

"Your waiter will be with your shortly." The hostess smiled, put a menu in front of all of us, and walked away. Carrie was seated to my right, which I was grateful for. The other members of our families were randomly seated at the two square tables they had scooted together to accommodate all of us. The chair across from me was empty, which meant one thing; I'd be looking at Dagny the entire night.

I sipped from the goblet of water that sat before me when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up and back to see Dagny smiling at us. I glanced at my watch, seven on the nose. I couldn't help but feel special as her hand drug along my shoulder as she walked past me to her own seat. I felt strangely disappointed when she did the same to my mother as she passed her. Shaking off the childish feeling, I smiled at her as she settled in across from me. I looked at Carrie to see her eyes were transfixed on my Psych teacher. I nudged her with my knee. She looked at me with drawn brows.

"Stop it." I hissed. She cleared her throat, stared at the folded cloth napkin in front of her. I could still see her eyes trying to roam back to Dagny. This would be a long dinner. I wanted to apologize to Dagny in advance.

"Mark, Gloria, do you remember Dagny? She used to babysit for Chase years ago." Carrie's parents looked at the TA, her father oblivious, her mother's eyes showing recognition.

"Oh, yes. You used to take the girls swimming." Gloria Rodman said. She smiled. "How are you, hon? What a coincidence that you're teaching at the same school as our girls, here."

"Well, actually I'm a grad student." Dagny explained. "I'm a TA helping out by taking the Psych 101 class."

"Oh. How nice. Do you enjoy it?" Mark asked, biting into a carrot from the appetizer platter.

"I do. It's a lot of work, but I have some fantastic students that make it worth while." She winked at me. I smiled down at the table.

The conversation continued as plates of food were served. I didn't say much, certainly didn't start any conversation. I watched around the table as my parents and Carrie's family laughed and talked, my mother throwing half a bread roll good naturedly at my father when he made some comment. I smiled, my parents had always had a very playful relationship. I had always hoped for that someday in my own relationship. Carrie and Dagny talked quite a bit, catching up on what Carrie was in school for, what she had been doing for the last ten years, what she did the previous summer. I could tell Carrie was quite taken by the teacher. I was amused.

It was getting late and everyone was getting tired. The bill was paid, and we all headed outside to our respective cars. I had already given Mr. and Mrs. Rodman a hug. They were headed out to go home first thing in the morning.

I followed behind my parents, tired from the late night last night, and little sleep. Glancing at my watch I realized it was nearly eleven. Far too early for me to be tired. I was getting old. Suddenly I felt the presence of someone walking beside me. I turned to see Dagny walking along with me.

"Hey." She smiled.

"Hi. I'm sorry you had to sit through that."

"Nah. I think it's great that you guys' parents care enough to come at all." She yawned. "I'm really glad you're in my class. I always wondered what had happened to that feisty little girl I used to know." She smiled at me again. "Just really glad to see you." I smiled, too, but inside I was absolutely beaming.

"Me, too."

"Well, look I have to get going. This old lady is tired." She winked at me, gently patting my shoulder. "See you around."

"Yeah." I watched as she headed toward her car, a little blue Honda. She turned to smile at me one last time, then got in and drove away.

* * *

I hugged my mom, my father standing next to the car. She kissed my cheek.

"We're proud of you, honey. I'm so glad Dagny is here with you. If you have any problems, you know she can help you." She smiled, I just nodded. I'm sure you are, mom. How is it that someone could intertwine a compliment with a slap in the face all in one sentence?

"Thanks." I smiled politely.

"Chase." My father hugged me, kissing the top of my head. My parents loaded themselves in the car, and I watched them drive away, my hand still in the air from my wave.


It felt nice to be alone here again, but at the same time my heart felt heavy. Why did I always feel this intense pressure on my chest all the time? I put my hand where I hurt, walked slowly back to my dorm.

* * *

I gripped the steering wheel of my car, knuckles nearly white. I was filled with a strange kind of... energy. I didn't understand it, nor had I ever felt it before. After my parents had left I had studied, or at least tried to. My mind kept drifting to different things, so I had given up on the books and brought out my notebook to work on my song. I felt the need to express feelings and emotions that I didn't quite get. They were at the tip of my brain but couldn't reach them.

After an hour, I slammed the pen down, frustrated. It was time to go to rehearsal anyway. I checked my watch; I had forty minutes until we were to meet at Mike's and it only took me five to get there.

There was only Mike's motorcycle in the drive of the apartment building, which was good. He was alone. I slammed my car door shut, hurried up the stairs, not even bothering knocking. Mike stood in front of the TV, hair still wet, a towel wrapped around his waist.

"Holy, shit, Chase. You scared the shit out of me." I walked over to him and without a word grabbed the back of his head and forced his face down to mine.

I pulled my shirt on, suddenly feeling very shy. My back hurt from the carpet burns, and my body was sore. With a groan I sat up. Mike laid on the floor, naked as the day he was born. He grinned at me.

"What the hell got into you? Not that I'm complaining." He rubbed my back with his palm. I closed my eyes, suddenly not wanting to be touched anymore. I decided to start talking to avoid anything else.

"Remember the whole deal with my Psych teacher?" I asked, scooting away from him and turning to face him, pulling my knees up to my chest. He nodded.

"Did you finally figure out the mystery?"

"Yup. It was my old babysitter from when I was eight." I smiled.

"No shit. That's too funny." Mike sat up, leaning against the couch. I wished he would put some clothes on.

"God, she was so fantastic, Mike. I had the absolute worst case of hero worship you've ever seen." I smiled with the memory. "She was everything to me back then. She was my best friend, my playmate, my confidante." I sighed, thinking of her. "And now, god, she's smart, she's beautiful. She blows me away, makes me feel, I don't know. Can't explain it." I reached for my jeans, yanked them on followed by my shoes. I looked at my boyfriend, hoping maybe he'd have the answers that I sought. He said nothing, just stared down at the ground. "Dagny is everything I wish I could be. She makes me kind of feel like I have the power to do stuff."

"Sounds like you've still got a serious case of hero worship." He looked up at me.

"Oh, I don't think so." I laughed nervously. He sat up.

"Listen to you, Chase."

"What? It's true. She's fantastic. God, to be so driven and so centered. I can't imagine." He sighed.

"Well, I guess it's a good thing you've got her as a TA now, huh?" He stood and walked to the bedroom to dress.

I stayed where I was, but laid back on the carpet, hands behind my head. Staring up at the ceiling, I began to wonder about things. Where was I? I didn't understand it.

I got home at a reasonable hour so I could get up tomorrow and get to class on time. Natalie sat at her desk typing away on a laptop.

"Hello, Chase." She smiled as I walked in. I gave her a small wave, plopped down on the bed. She turned to look at me, brows drawn. "Are you okay? I know you're not drunk otherwise I'd smell it on you." I smiled, shook my head.

"Nope. Not drunk."

"Want to talk about it?" her voice lowered, and she showed me true concern. I looked up at her with tired eyes, desperate to try and understand where my restlessness was coming from. I was just starting something new. Shouldn't that at least keep me content for a while?

"Have you ever felt lost, Natalie?" I pushed myself back on the bed until I leaned against the wall expelling a weary sigh.

"Of course I have, Chase." She stood from the chair, sat on the edge of the bed, hands in her lap. "I think everyone experiences this, really. We're at an awkward stage in our lives." She looked out the window above the desk, sighed, then looked back at me. "Everyone has something that works for them. For me it was the love of my Father, Jesus Christ. The Lord showed me where I was straying to , and helped me get back on the right path." She smiled the most peaceful smile I'd ever seen. I opened my mouth to protest, but she covered my hand with her own. "Chase, that may not be the antidote for you, I understand that. Basically what it comes down to is, you have to be comfortable in your own skin." She smiled understanding to me, patted my hand. Without warning I felt overwhelmed. I grabbed Natalie and pulled her to me. I needed human contact, and a hug from Mother Theresa was as good as any. "There you go. That's all it takes." She said softly, giving me a good squeeze.

Natalie slowly pulled away, pushing some stray hair from my face, and stood, sat back at the desk and continued to type. I watched her for a little while before I laid back, faced the wall and fell asleep.

Monday, and the second week of school. Dr. Bordeux was there in his usual militant style, clothing starched and sharply creased. He sat at his desk, going over papers from the quiz they had taken at the end of last week. He looked up as I entered.

"Bonjour, Chasse. Vous êtes à l'heure aujourd'hui." I grinned, looking down at my watch.

" Bien, j'ai obtenu réellement d'enfoncer à un temps décent."

The professor laughed. "Yes, it certainly does help to get enough sleep. Have a seat."

I went to my seat in the back, pulled my notebook out to work on my song. I thought about what Natalie had said last night. My chin resting on my hand, I looked out the window that was next to my desk. It was just before eight in the morning, and people were walking around, talking, holding hands, laughing, running. Any number of things.

"Chase?" I turned to see Dr. Bordeux looking at me. He motioned me over with his fingers. "On the quiz we took last week, you did very well. I think you really know what you're doing. How would you feel about tutoring?" I stared at him, dumbstruck. He smiled. "Now, if you're not comfortable with that, I do understand, but I think you'd be very good at it." I nodded, wondering why.

"Okay. I think I can handle that." He smiled, patted my hand.

"I figured as much." He smiled again. "Maintenant, allez s'asseyent."

"Yeah, yeah." I grinned, headed back to my desk. I almost felt myself stand a little taller, my shoulders out proud. Wow. Who would have thought?

The other students began to steadily trickle in, and attempt to rouse themselves. I watched, feeling strange being the first one there, and certainly the most awake of the bunch. I had to grin.

I waited at the table that Carrie and I had started to claim as our own, having to glare and growl at a kid who had been sitting there. With wide eyes, he had quickly packed up his stuff and scampered off.

I pulled the notebook out yet again. Something was still missing, but I couldn't put a finger to it. I stared at it, hummed it out loud, but nothing seemed to catch. With a frustrated sigh, I put it away.

"Hey, girl. How's it going?" I looked up to see Carrie dropping her bag on the floor, flopping down in the chair across from me. I shrugged.

"I've been recruited as the newest tutor in French." She looked at me, taken aback.

"And you're gonna do it?" I nodded. "That's great, girl." She smiled. "Congrats. You're so damn good at it, I don't really know why I'm surprised. But I thought you hated that guy? Bordom, or whatever the hell his name is."

"Bordeux. I don't hate him. He's just a tough teacher."

"Well then I'm happy for ya." She looked toward the food lines. "God, they're already piling up. Come on. I'm starving." Carrie grabbed my hand, pulling me toward the Mexican food place. "I've been craving tacos all day." She explained at my look. "You don't mind, do you?" she flashed me one of her charming smiled. I shook my head, glare still firmly in place. "You know I was thinking about Dagny Robertson last night." Here it comes. "Damn, she is hot!"

"Thinking or dreaming?" I asked drying. She glared.

"Ha ha. But since you asked,"

"Ew, Car!" she laughed evilly.

"No, but seriously. She seems like a really nice person." We moved up in line, just two people away from the counter.

"She is." I looked down at the floor, my boots shuffling across the tile as I contemplated this. I had Dagny's class in just under two hours, and part of me felt nervous. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I had seen her in a social aspect over the weekend, and was worried what she thought about me. Social and academic are two very different settings. Does she think my family is as strange as I do? Did she mind my best friend looking her over like a ripe tomato? All these things played around in my mind as Carrie talked on and on about her classes and the cute guys and girls in them. Then I thought about Mike. My parents had asked a few questions about him when they had been here, but to my surprise and relief, not to see him. Mike had let his hair grow out, and the unshaven look he had recently adapted would have flipped them out. I didn't need to deal with it, especially since I saw no real future for us. He was a great guy, but I just didn't know. I felt so alone even when in his presence. I sighed.

"You okay?" I looked up to see Carrie looking at me, her open wallet in her hand as she paid the guy at the counter. I nodded with a smile. I really needed to stop falling into the introspection in the middle of socializing.

* * *

The classroom had a few people in it, but for the most part not many had arrived yet. Dagny sat at her desk reading something. Looked like she was studying. I quietly headed to my seat, setting everything up for class to start. I glanced up from my text book, my eyes automatically moving to the TA. She tucked some hair behind her ear then rested her cheek into her hand. I noticed the way the fluorescent lights above made her hair shine, making it look so clean and healthy. She licked her lip as she turned the page, eyes concentrating on something she saw on the page. Suddenly green eyes shot up, met mine. I felt stupid, like I'd been caught doing something bad, but couldn't look away. She smiled. I smiled back.

I wondered if she would come over and talk, knowing that I couldn't stand to go to her. I felt glued to my chair, nailed to the floor. Why? Why was my stomach feeling as if I had a rope inside that was being turned and turned, tighter and tighter? It made no sense to me. All that I did know was that part of me did want her to come over, and part of me didn't. I felt the need to keep distance between her and myself. I knew I admired Dagny so much. Maybe Mike was right, and my hero worship hadn't all quite died out.

Dagny looked as if she were about to stand, scooting her chair back, but then Dr. Sauder strutted into the room, and she turned to him with a smile. I released the breath that seemed to have gotten trapped in my lungs somehow.

Class finally started, and I made a conscious effort to give the instruction my entire attention. I don't know how successful I was, but I didn't end up in la la land again, so I guess I'm improving.

"So, that's the theory behind the mind. Any questions? I must warn you, we will be having our first test three weeks from today, so be prepared." Dagny looked around the class, making sure she had everyone's attention. At the word test, she certainly had mine. "We'll be going over chapters four through fourteen. That's what the test will cover. We'll be doing some group activities next week, so be ready for that. I'll assign groups Friday before we leave here." She continued to look for questions, smiling at different students as she did. She smiled at me, slightly nodding at me. I smiled back. "Okay, folks, I'm done, put a fork in me." Some people chuckled as they gathered their stuff, headed out.

"Chase, where you headed?" my head snapped up, surprised to hear my name. Dagny was at her desk, loading papers and books into her bag.


"Oh, I'm so sorry." She winced then grinned. "If you don't mind, I'll head out with you? I'm headed in that general direction."

"Um, sure." I smiled, well tried to, anyway. God, why did she make me so damn nervous?

We walked out of the Psych building, neither of us saying much. Side by side, me with my backpack on one shoulder, her with her bag's strap across her chest, a couple books held in her arms. Finally she smiled as she turned to me.

"How is it that your mom does not age?" I smiled, looking down at the ground with a shrug.

"I think it's her secret, found the fountain of youth somewhere. I think she's hiding it in her closet." Dagny laughed.

"I think you're right. They're nice. They were always good to me when I was younger."

"Yeah. I know they both really liked you. My mom used to brag you up to the neighbors all the time."

"Really?" she laughed again. "Never would have imagined that one." She gave me a side glance. "So what do you think of college thus far?" I shrugged as I looked around, people milling about all around us as we made our way to our respective destinations.

"It's okay, I guess. Not sure what I was expecting, but I guess it meets those expectations." She nodded understanding.

"I remember when I started here. I was so excited, always wanting to go to college. My mom used to say I came out of the womb saying university. She swears that was my first word, but I don't know that I believe that." She smiled again at the memory. "With my mom in education herself, it was really pretty much expected. But then, I'm sure you understand that." She looked at me, I nodded vigorously.

"Oh, yeah. You can bet your butt on that one." She grinned.

"Well, here I am. I'll see you around." She smiled one last time, and walked toward her building. I watched her walk away for a few moments, sighing as my shoulders slumped.

Part 3

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