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The time on her iPhone read 8:45 a.m. Two missed calls at 7:49 and 7:51 a.m. respectively – both from mom – with a voicemail after the second. She’d ring her back later… maybe. It was no doubt a phone call to see if she would be coming home for Thanksgiving which was a little over a month away. Why else would she be calling? Obviously she would be home for the holiday, and she saw right through her mother’s thinly veiled attempt at trying to connect with her.
Denise Flanagan sat up in her bed, scoffed at an Instagram picture of a friend from high school and looked across the room to see if her roommate had left for the day. Their extra long twin mattresses sat in lofts across from each other, with a desk for each of them directly below.
Unfazed by the two missed calls from Ellen, assuming the only thing she wanted to do was “catch up,” Denise climbed down from her loft and after confirming that Mia — a girl from North Carolina whom she was randomly placed with after completing a short survey about her drinking habits — was out of the room, began to root around in the top drawer of her dresser where her socks and underwear lay. With surgical precision, Denise emptied the remnants of a small pipe into the trash and refilled it with fresh marijuana she kept in a cigar box with a couple of dryer sheets.
Near the window, she took two hits from the bowl and then turned on a box fan. She had a biology class in two hours but now that she had smoked, class wasn’t sounding so appealing and neither did calling back her mother.
Denise had now been away at college for a little over a month, and she hadn’t yet decided if she liked it or not. The parties were okay, her course load was manageable, and she was having mediocre sex semi-regularly with a boy she had met at a house party during Welcome Week.
But Denise constantly felt like she was simply going through the motions. Doing things that she thought she was supposed to be doing as a freshman in college — having precarious sex, exploring a wide variety of classes to see what she liked, blah, blah, blah. She didn’t understand the girls that she surrounded herself with. They all seemed so motivated and excited about college life, but to Denise, it felt like a downgrade. Cafeteria food, cheap alcohol, and one community bathroom for her entire dormitory floor — she was a long ways away from the comforts of Darien.
Mia, her roommate, was just okay. She was on an academic scholarship and worked hard. She drank with Denise on the weekends but she never brought boys back to their dorm room and rarely had more than one or two drinks out of fear that she’d get in trouble with campus police. Denise gravitated towards girls who came from means, and it annoyed Denise that Mia couldn’t dine out on a regular basis with her or afford drugs when they went out to party. So far the only people she was meeting at UCONN were poor kids — at least in her eyes.
Much like Darien though, Storrs was an insular bubble, a place cut off from the outside world. The idea of college had been appealing to Denise when her mother and father had sat her down to let her know that she had gotten into UCONN. She hadn’t seen a welcome packet in the mail, rather Terry had just brought one home for her.
None of this was surprising — her parents were good friends with the dean of admissions at UCONN, and as alumni themselves, Denise was a shoe-in at the university. She had applied to NYU and Barnard just to see if she could get in, but when she got rejected from both, she gave up on attempting to go anywhere else and settled on the public land-grant school just an hour and forty minutes from home.
Denise sat on her computer aimlessly surfing the web as the clock inched closer to 11:00 a.m. and that pesky biology class. She was high and had already made up her mind that attending said class was completely out of the question today.
Sushi sounded nice, and maybe she would text that boy and see what he had planned for the afternoon. As she got dressed and prepared to leave her room for the day, the two missed calls from her mother and the unheard voicemail completely vanished from her line of thought. Thanksgiving was a long ways off, and Denise really wasn’t interested in having a 30-minute conversation with her mother about classwork and what she had planned for the upcoming weekend..