It's the first day of college for the Freshmen. Excitement, trepidation. Car doors slamming. Distressed mother's crying and embracing their first years as if it was their first year at primary school.
'Mom, quit!" Sebastian Nicholls is embarrassed by his mother's coddling, "It's just college, I'll be home at spring break,"
His portly mother wipes her eyes and strokes his face, "You be careful now...here..." as she snatches the bag from his hand, "I'll help you settle in."
There's no stopping her fussing and bustling down the hallway into his dorm. There's no stopping her sliding a finger along the bookshelf above the only remaining bed in the four bed room and inspecting the residual dust on her forefinger. There's no stopping her introducing herself to his dorm mates long before he even knows their names or what they're studying. She persists. Hugs him. Begs him to be careful, to study hard and to call every day before bustling outward into the corridor and dissolving all too publicly into a well of sobs. Her first born, now in college 3 hours away from home.
Corina Morello has no such parental attention. Her parents are working and she caught the train, then the bus, lugging her semester's belongings behind her like a reluctant doll, in a battered wheelie case. She's nervous and tentative. The first in her family to attend college. Her homely looks stand out like a shag on a rock among the almost Kardashian glamour of her counterparts. She fumbles for her registration and the address of her dorm. Drags the suitcase up the steps and is greeted frostily by her sorority housekeeper.
"You must be Corina. Your room's right at the top. The Attic room on the left. Here's your key."
No hello, no welcome, no assistance as she drags her meagre belongings up the aged wooden stairs, unlocks the door and is surprised to see the room already occupied by one, as she faces the blonde from Hell.
"Hi, I'm Corina" Her brave face soon melting into insecurity.
Cecile LeNevez barely lifts her head and issues a haughty, "Whatever...." before returning to her iPhone where she's clearly immersed in a message of great importance. "Not there!" The blonde waves the new girl towards a bed in the corner of the room; again without making eye contact. A bed hidden in the sloped nook of a cape cod roof. Dark, away from the rest. "That's yours." She returns to her iPhone conversation as Corina begins to unpack whilst holding back the tears of loneliness. Already she doesn't want to be here.
It was a natural progression towards friendship. Accidentally sitting next to him in Statistics 101. Two lonely souls who didn't know anyone but longed to be accepted. Seb introduces himself and Corina shakes his hand.
"What are you doing?" she asks.
"No idea" he responds. The truth of it whacking him hard on the side of the head, "I just got good scores and a parental fund so here I am. Being the first in a long line of nobody's trying to be a somebody. Fulfilling expectations."
"Same," is all she says. It was a match. Misfits, yet bound by a feeling of isolation and unbelonging. How they both wanted to belong, and soon.
The two keep company at lunch and sit next to each other in several classes but make an effort to 'belong' by joining in various clubs and sports teams. Both wanting acceptance on a campus where appearance and family background appear to matter more than scholastic achievement. Both swallow their pride to become part of the pack.
It's four weeks before the strange couple are accepted in their various peer groups. Even then the association is tenuous and attributed to their 'ability' to perform some needed task, rather than their scintillating personalities.
Corina, still a little dowdy in her less-than-fashionable clothes, but the body beneath recognised by her room mates as potential cheer leading material. Helped in no small way by an aptitude for gymnastics and an ability to contort. Lessons she'd learned as a child from her Yoga teaching cousin. Lessons that led to her being asked to pledge. There was always room for an athlete who was prepared to be thrown or fall from the top of a human pyramid. A desire for acceptance even with these bitches enables her to agree to become part of Sigma Mu. One of the more athletic sororities on campus.
Seb, still a little nerdy but excelling at wrestling. His mother would have had a conniption had she seen the bruises on his arms and the grazes on his knees, sustained from being dragged across the canvas. She'd be even more horrified to see his opponent's split lips and eyebrows but at least this pursuit had him being noticed by the fraternity chiefs. Caning David Wiltshire clinched the deal, and he was asked to pledge. His Fraternity brother's recognising his potential value to the team, despite his social ineptitude. After seeing Corina's acceptance to swallow her pride in order to belong, he too shook the hand that would inaugurate him and began his three weeks of humiliation before the final Hell Week pledge
"Seb are we doing the right thing? These girls were total bitches when I first arrived. Now I know they only want me because I can perform in their stupid Cheerleading routines."
Corina's only half sincere. A life of loneliness, not fitting in, being a stranger in a distant and unfamiliar place, made her crave the company of others even if they weren't her type. She loved their look, their clothes. The way they hugged each other when they met. The harem of pretty girls with sashaying hips, admired by other boys. The parties she could hear downstairs. She wants more than anything to be part of a life so alien, so different, so filled with popularity and fun. She wants Jake Freeman to notice her. She knows with a little sorority sister help, she can knock the socks off that slut LeNevez. She knows she can steal her football star boyfriend away with a glance, a flash of cleavage, a seductive slice of leg; if only she can reinvent herself. When he walks past, she catches her breath. Her heart quickens, her juices flow. Her skin crawls and she becomes a quivering mess. Just to have him notice her would be a start.
"Corina, I feel the same but I like wrestling. I'm good at it and they seem to want me in the fold so why not? What'll it cost? A few weeks of walking around like an idiot. A couple of harmless challenges and we're in. Friends for life. Or at least while we're here at college. I'm going for it."
Sebastian too hides his cautious fears. Will they find a place for him on the team? Will he be teased, humiliated. He wants to be accepted. He wants to go home for Thanksgiving, a hero, a complete man, accepted and comfortable in his surroundings. He wants to assuage his mother's anxiousness by regaling stories of acceptance. He wants that pin on his lapel and a bunch of mates to wolf-whistle with. He wants one of those cheerleaders. Particularly the beautiful Cindy Cowan. Every time he sees her walk into the cafeteria she's flanked by admirers, cool and reserved but with a confidence that makes her shine. He hears music that isn't there, and feels the breeze brush through her blonde hair. He imagines her naked, firm, nubile and receptive. His imaginings get away from him so quickly he's often missed class choosing to remain seated rather than expose the erection he's developed obeying his fantasies. Yep, he'll pledge. Maybe then she'll look twice.