When Hearts Collide - Lorana Hoopes - ebook
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Amanda Adams has always been a Christian, but she's a novice at relationships. Her first year in college, she falls for a man she believes cares about her, but he has ulterior motives. Does she miss the signs because of her toxic roommate or for some other reason?Jess Peterson has lived a life of abuse and lost her self worth, but when she meets Amanda, she begins to wonder if there is a loving father looking down on her. Her decisions lead her one way, but when she ends up pregnant, she must make some major changes. Plus, she finds she now has to be the rock for Amanda after her faith is shaken.The third book in the Heartbeats series, this one is a must read for mothers and girls heading to college. Though part of the series, it is a stand alone book and can be read separately.

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When Hearts Collide

A Heartbeats Novel

Lorana Hoopes

Olympia

When Hearts Collide © Lorana Hoopes. All Rights Reserved, except where otherwise noted.

1

Dedication

When Hearts Collide is dedicated first and foremost to my family who give me inspiration daily.

To Jason, April, Amy, Beth, and Susan who read it first and gave me ideas to improve it.

To Ryann Woods who doesn’t agree with my stance but supports my writing anyway.

To my readers at eatprayvote.org who give me the encouragement to keep writing.

To Vicovers who designed my wonderful cover for this book, The Power of Prayer, and A Father’s Love- coming soon. Thank you for the amazing work.

To Lori, Shelly, Kristy, Michelle, Meadow and everyone who has read my books and recommended them to others. I thank you.

Contents

DedicationIntroduction 1. Jess - October 2016 2. Amanda - September 2016- The Arrival 3. Jess - The Arrival 4. Amanda - The First Day 5. Jess - The First Week 6. Amanda - A Chance Meeting 7. Jess - The Questions 8. Amanda - The Meeting 9. Jess - Seeds of Doubt 10. Amanda - Too Good To Be True? 11. Jess - The Change 12. Amanda - Late October - Disaster Strikes 13. Jess - Hope for Healing 14. Amanda - Not The Only One 15. Jess - The Road Trip 16. Amanda - Back Home 17. Jess - Seeking Advice 18. Amanda - Telling The Secret 19. Jess - Reality Strikes 20. Amanda - The Book 21. Jess - The Next Steps 22. Amanda - A New Beginning 23. Jess - The Past Returns 24. Amanda - Facing Your Fears 25. Jess - Making Amends 26. Amanda - Thanksgiving 27. Jess - Christmas 28. Amanda - The Trial 29. Jess - The Final MonthsAppendix

2

Introduction

Thank you for picking up your copy of When Hearts Collide. I hope you love it and the rest of the books in the series. As a thank you, I’d like to offer you a free gift. I’d like to offer you an advance sample of my new series. You’ll receive the first half of When Love Returns when you sign up for my newsletter. I hope you’ll love both series, and if you do, reviews are always appreciated.

-Lorana Hoopes Be sure to check out my other full length novels:

The Power of Prayer

Where It All Began

A Father’s Love

When Love Returns

Emerging reader chapter book – The Wishing Stone

1

Jess - October 2016

Fear covered me like a blanket. The music that had been uplifting now pounded a drum of dread in my heart. Why did it have to be so loud? I pulled desperately on the arm of a nearby boy, spilling some of his beer. “Where’s Amanda?” He rolled his eyes, cursing a little at his spilled beer, and shrugged me off. I turned to another, who gave me the same response. My heart pounded like a freight train in my chest as my eyes tore wildly around the room. I had known this was a bad idea; though there had been no vision, a malevolent feeling had burned in my gut. If my past had taught me anything, it was that I was becoming a good judge of character, and something about Caleb had just seemed off.

The crowd of bodies pressed against me, surging to the beats of the pulsing music. Sweat from those around me joined my own, trickling down my back. I pushed back, fighting my way to the other end of the house where the bathroom and bedrooms lay. He had to have taken her to one of them. A hand grabbed my wrist, and I whirled on a blond surfer type with long hair. At the sight of the fire burning out of my eyes, he let go, holding his hands up in apology. A tipsy blond fell into me, and I shoved her to the side. The bathroom door loomed just ahead.

“Amanda?” I pounded on the white wooden door. “Amanda, open up if you’re in there.” The pounding of my heart was now reverberating in my head, creating a pounding headache that made my eyes hurt.

The lock clicked, and the door opened. A thin brunette in a mini skirt and crop top stumbled out. “There’s no Amanda here.” Her words were a slur, and her brown eyes barely focused on me.

I grabbed the girl’s thin shoulders and shook her. “Have you seen her? Red hair? She would have been with Caleb West.”

The girl shook her head and fell into the wall as soon as I released her. Rolling my eyes, I pushed past the girl and opened the first bedroom door. A couple was entwined on the bed, but the girl had blond hair and the face of the man didn’t belong to Caleb.

“Sorry,” I pulled the door shut and moved on the next one. Another couple was heavily involved on this bed too, but again no Amanda.

The next door was locked. This had to be the one. I rattled the handle, but to no avail. “Amanda?” I pounded on the door. “Hey, can you open this?” I grabbed the arm of a nearby male and pointed at the door.

“Sorry, I don’t live here.” The man shrugged and walked away.

“Argh!” I turned back to the door and rammed my slim frame into it. The door didn’t budge.  Perhaps a kick would work. I took a step back and planted a perfect front kick. I felt the reverberation up my leg, but not even a tremor from the door. Cursing my weakness, I looked around for anything to wedge in the door. Would they have a crowbar in the house? Would anyone have one in their car?

“Jess!” At the sound of my name, I whirled around. Jared was fighting his way to me through the crowd. Thank goodness, he had seen my text. A glance at my watch revealed ten minutes had passed since I had texted him when I’d first lost sight of Amanda. I hadn’t trusted even for a moment that she was just getting air somewhere, not with the premonition I’d had. Jared’s disheveled appearance said he’d either just woken up or thrown on clothes in a hurry or both. “Where is she?”

I shook my head, the fear constricting my vocal chords and making them sound higher than normal. “I don’t know. She was right with me, and then I ran into a friend and started talking. They said they were going to get a drink, but when I turned around again, she was gone. It’s my fault.”

“It’s not,” – he ran a hand through his sandy hair – “but we have to find her.” Anger and fear radiated off Jared in waves, and I wondered what else he knew.

“I’ve already checked those two rooms, but this one’s locked.”

“Step aside.” His eyes were wild, the eyes of a man in love.

Acquiescing, I stepped to the side, and Jared pounded on the door. Still no answer came from the other side. He took a step back and rammed the door with his shoulder. This time the wood did tremble, but the door stayed locked. Jared took another step back and rammed the door again. A wonderful terrible splintering sound of wood echoed, and the door opened.  I rushed past Jared into the room.

Amanda lay sprawled on the bed. Her shirt was open and her pants were undone, but still on. As Jared entered, I looked up long enough to yell for him to find Caleb; then I returned my focus to Amanda. Her scared eyes flicked back and forth.

Pulling on the comforter, I wrapped it around her. “Can you move?” No head shake, but Amanda’s eyes moved left and then right. “Okay, it’s going to be okay. We’ll get you out of here. Any sign?”

Jared crossed to the bed. “No, the window is open, but he’s gone.” A tear slid out of Amanda’s eyes. “Don’t worry, we’ll find him. He won’t get away with this.” Jared patted her hair tenderly and wiped the tear from her cheek. Then he scooped her up and headed back out the door. “Let’s get her to the hospital.”

“An ambulance is on its way,” I replied, ending the call to 911 on my cell phone.

Jared nodded as he pushed his way through the crowd. A few people turned to gawk at us, but most were oblivious and kept dancing to the loud beats or tipping back their drinks. I shook my head as disgust boiled inside me and followed Jared out of the house and into the cool night air. The change in temperature sent a shiver down my spine as the cool air licked up the wet sweat dripping down my neck.

The ambulance roared up moments later. The EMTs clamored out and took Amanda from Jared, strapping her onto a gurney. As they loaded her into the back, I climbed in.

“There’s only room for one,” the EMT said as Jared attempted to climb in too. “Besides, the cops want a statement.” He pointed to the police car pulling up.

“Go. I’ll stay with her, and when you’re done, we can switch,” I said.

I could see the fight in his eyes. He didn’t want to leave her, but finally he swallowed and nodded. As he stepped down, the ambulance doors closed and the movement of the vehicle jerked me to the right.  I grabbed one of Amanda’s hands and sent a prayer up. Please God let her be okay, please God. I had no other words, and as prayer was still so new to me, I could only hope God was hearing my heart, which felt like it was beating out of my chest. Though I’d only known her a few months, Amanda was quickly becoming a close friend, maybe the first good friend I’d ever had.

The ambulance braked, and I fell forward a little. Cool air rushed in as the back doors opened and doctors took over the gurney Amanda was on. I clambered out of the back and hurried to keep up with them.

“Amanda? I’m Dr. Patrick, can you tell me what happened?”

“She can’t,” I spoke up. “I’m pretty sure she was drugged.”

The dark-haired doctor turned to me. “And you are?”

“I’m Jess. I’m her roommate, and I found her. Her eyes were open and seemed responsive, but she couldn’t even shake her head.”

“Okay, we’ll take it from here. You can wait over there.” He pointed to the waiting area. I wanted to protest, but I knew from the look in his eyes that it would fall on deaf ears, so I nodded and stumbled over to a gray, vinyl chair. As I sank down, my muscles gave out and the tears started falling.

I didn’t even bother to brush them away; I hated myself too much. I should have told Amanda no. I should have stopped her. Curling my knees to my chest, I wished I could turn back the clock.

“Hey, are you okay?”

I jumped at the touch to my shoulder ready to lash out at the intrusion, but relaxed when the green eyes I saw belonged to Jared. “Yeah, I guess I’m alright. How are you?”

He sighed as he sat next to me and ran a hand through his hair. “I’ve been better. They asked me a lot of questions. I couldn’t answer most of them, so they’ll be looking to talk to you too. But I told them what little I could about Caleb. How is she doing?”

“I don’t know,” I sighed. “They whisked her away pretty quickly and haven’t been back out yet. I’m so worried, Jared.”

“I am too,” he nodded, “but the best thing we can do right now is pray.” He took my hand, and we closed our eyes. “Father, our friend Amanda needs your help right now. Please be with her and give the doctors the knowledge to treat her. Lord also help us know how to help her in the future.”

“Amen,” we said together. He let go of my hand and draped his arm across my shoulder, pulling me into his chest. I buried my head and the tears I thought had dried up, renewed their trek down my cheeks in military fashion. She’d better be okay, or I would never forgive myself. Never.

2

Amanda - September 2016- The Arrival

I stared at the tiny gray room and sighed. This was going to be my new home away from home, and it was kind of depressing.

“Well, it’s got a lot of potential,” my mother said with a false brightness as she looked around. I raised my eyebrows at her. Potential? Maybe for a horror movie. Boring white walls dotted with a myriad of holes boxed the room in. Two small brown dressers with two drawers each separated two bare mattresses on metal frames.

Rolling my suitcase into the room, I hoisted it onto the left bed. A groaning cacophony of creaks greeted me, sending a shiver down my spine. I crossed to the right bed and pushed on it, hoping for a better outcome, but a similar sound resounded. “Right, potential.” Crossing my arms, I let out another sigh and surveyed the rest of the room. Two small closets framed either side of the doorway. One wall held a study desk and the other held a small sink and vanity with a cloudy mirror.

“Come on now. I know you can’t paint the walls, but you can hang pictures, right?”

I nodded. The holes in the walls supported that theory. “I don’t think I brought enough with me though to cheer this up.”

“So, we’ll go shopping and get some more pictures. With your bed made up and some bright colored towels, it can at least look a little more ‘homey.’ And we’re only a six-hour drive away, so you can come home on long weekends or we’ll drive up.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” I crossed to my suitcase, unzipped it, and began taking out my clothes. My mother grabbed a towel and began cleaning the cloudy mirror. Suddenly, the door slammed open. I jumped and spun around.

A girl with long black hair shaved short on one side and a nose ring entered. “Who are you?”

I swallowed and stepped forward, extending my hand. “I’m Amanda. I guess I’m your roommate.”

The girl rolled her eyes and pushed past me, ignoring the hand. “Crap. I told them I wanted a single.”

“Oh, um, well maybe they ran out,” I stammered as I dropped my hand. The hair on my arms raised slightly at the girl’s brusque demeanor. I looked to my mother for help, but she just shrugged.

The girl flung her backpack on the right bed and glared at me. Her icy blue eyes chilled my veins. “Well, I’ll be asking them to look again. I don’t do roommates.” She rifled in her backpack for a minute, turned and glared at me one more time, and then abruptly left the room, slamming the wooden door for a second time.

I stared at the door and blinked. “Well, this should be fun.”

“Maybe they’ll change her room after all.” Though the words were positive, my mother’s voice was filled with doubt, which mirrored my own.

“I can only hope.” I returned to the job of unpacking, and when I had finished, I locked the door and followed my mother to the car.

As we walked around the local Wal-Mart filling the cart with fun pictures and more colorful towels, I couldn’t help thinking that it still wasn’t going to be like home. I wasn’t going to have my things. There would be no brother and sister busting in while I was trying to study or Kate rattling on about the latest trends as we quizzed each other. And if that girl remained my roommate, it was going to be an uncomfortable year regardless of what I hung on the walls.

Once back at the dorm, I opened the door cautiously in case the mysterious, angry roommate was there, but the room was empty and looked exactly as we had left it. Taking the pictures out of the bag, along with the thumb tacks, I began hanging them over the bed I had chosen. My mother cut the tags off the towels and hung one by the sink and placed the others in one of the drawers beneath it.

When I had finished, I stepped off the bed and surveyed the room again. While it still didn’t feel exactly like home, it did feel warmer than when I had first arrived.

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” my mother asked, pulling me in for a hug.

I rolled my eyes as I hugged her back. “I’ll be fine. You have to let me grow up sometime, Mother.”

“I know, but I didn’t think it would happen so soon.” She wiped a tear from her eye and then pulled me in for another hug. “Come home as often as you need to, okay?”

“Okay Mom.” After another few awkward hugs, I finally ushered her out of the dorm room. As the door shut and the silence crept in, I turned back to my bed and sighed. I had hoped that I might meet another girl like Kate, someone I could relate to, but this roommate, whatever her name was, didn’t seem like she wanted to be friends at all.

Rifling through my backpack – the only thing I hadn’t completely unpacked – I pulled out my Bible and prayer journal and sat on the squeaky mattress. Though my prayer journal was just a spiral notebook and not a nice leather bound one like Sandra’s, it accomplished the same goal, and I’d had it since joining Sandra’s prayer team three years ago. It was nearly full now; I’d have to get a new one soon.

I flipped to the last entry and dug a pen out of my bag. On the next available line, I added ‘patience to deal with my roommate, and the words to say to reach her.’ I tapped the pen against my teeth as I thought about what else I wanted to add. ‘Wisdom in how to further God’s plan here.’ Having no idea what God had planned for me here, I figured I should leave the request broad and just listen for his wisdom. After closing the cover, I set the journal beside me on the purple bedspread. Then I picked up the Bible and flipped it open to John, where I had been reading.

As my fingers touched the page, I smiled. No matter how many times I opened it, the Bible always transmitted a feeling of peace and happiness. It had ever since I was a small child. I thought back to the day my father had led me in accepting Jesus as my savior.

“If you are ready for God to come in your heart, you just repeat after me.”

I nodded at him. I wanted nothing more than to know this heavenly father he spoke so highly of.

“Father, I know I have sinned,” he said.

“Father, I know I have sinned,” I repeated.

“But I also know that you died to save me from my sin, and I want you to rule my life.”

I repeated the statement and immediately felt a warmth wash over me. My eyes widened and my father smiled down at me.

“You felt it, didn’t you?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Good, now the next step is to know all there is about God. You can never learn enough. In fact, how about we start reading the Bible together and when you get old enough, you can read it on your own and we can discuss it?”

I nodded, eager to read with him. He pulled me onto his lap and opened the important black book to the beginning.

“Genesis Chapter 1,” he said. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

And that’s what we had done. I had been a precocious child and an avid reader at the tender age of five, but the Bible’s vocabulary had been a little challenging until I was older. Even when I could read the words myself, I still didn’t always understand the concepts, so he had set up a chart of the books with a point system, and I had earned points for every book I read and could discuss with him. This way, he could help me understand the parts I missed as we discussed it. Then I could trade the points in for treats. I had never told my father, but I would have read the books for free, partly because I loved learning about God and partly because I always looked forward to those discussions with my dad.

At ten, he had baptized me, even though he wasn’t the pastor. He had been a deacon of the church at the time though, and they had agreed he could. I had only grown from there, telling everyone I met about Jesus and his love for them. It hadn’t always been easy, especially in a public school where Christianity was frowned upon, but God had helped me stay strong, lead several friends to Christ, and helped me to form a Fellowship of Christian Athletes at my school last year that I hoped was going to continue just as strong this year.

Propping the pillow up, I leaned back against the wall and drew my knees up to serve as a stand for the Bible. As I scanned the page for where I had stopped, the door flew open again and “the roommate” entered, stopping short at the sight of my open book.

“Oh gawd, you’re one of those?” Disdain dripped in her voice.

“I’m sorry, one of what?” I placed my finger on the spot I had just found and looked up at her.

“One of those Bible beaters.” The girl’s nose wrinkled in distaste as an ugly sneer crested her face.

I chuckled and smiled. “I am a Christ follower, if that’s what you mean.”

The girl rolled her eyes, mumbled something under her breath, and pulled out a pair of headphones. She plugged them into her phone, and then turned up her music.

Flinching at the loud beat that escaped the headphones and filled the room, I turned back to my Bible, trying to block out the noise. This was going to be tougher than I thought and a very long semester. The words jumped on the page as I tried to focus, and after reading the same sentence four times, I decided I would finish my devotional later. As I closed the book, my stomach rumbled. Food sounded like a much-needed distraction.

Though I hoped she would decline, I figured it would be rude not to at least invite the roommate, since we were going to spending a lot of time together. I waved my hand to get her attention. The girl rolled her eyes, but pulled one headphone back. “I’m going for some food. Would you like to come?” She flicked her hand in dismissal, and relief flooded my body. Grabbing my key and ID card, I left the room before she changed her mind.

A dingy brown carpet ran the length of the hallway. Though I had known the dorm hall was old, I guess I had hoped maybe they would have spruced it up some. Identical brown doors lined the hall and a set of stairs sat at either end. I headed to the right and down the flight of stairs, which opened to another hall on the first floor. Though nearly identical to the second floor, an information desk took up some real estate directly across from the front entrance.

A mousy girl in glasses sat behind the desk, her nose buried in a book. Rows of mailboxes sat open behind her. “Hi, can you point me in the direction of the cafeteria?” I asked her as I approached the counter.

The girl’s eyes flicked up briefly. “We don’t have one here. You’ll have to go to Bledsoe-Gordon Hall.” Her eyes dropped back to the book.

I clenched my teeth against the snippy reply trying to escape my mouth and took a deep breath. Was everyone at college going to be this rude? “Okay, it’s my first day, though, and I seem to have misplaced my map. Do you have another one?”

The girl turned and grabbed a piece of paper off a counter behind her. She held it out, never looking up from her book. It must have been riveting.

“Thank you.” I took the paper and sat down in one of the chairs near the counter to peruse it. Rectangles filled the paper. A small “You are here” sign filled one of the rectangles, so I put my finger there and began reading the closest ones to find Bledsoe-Gordon Hall. Sneed Hall, Doak, West, ah there it is Bledsoe-Gordon Hall. It certainly wasn’t one of the closest buildings, but it didn’t seem that far away.

Folding the map, I placed it in my pocket, exited the doors, and turned left. Though Lubbock was, for the most part, flat and brown, the campus stayed relatively green, probably due to the sprinklers that ran incessantly. A few trees even dotted the landscape, though barren of leaves currently in the heat of late summer. Wishing I had remembered my sunglasses, I squinted and held up my hand as a shield until my sensitive eyes adjusted to the light.

Beads of sweat trickled down my back as I trekked across the grass. A few other people were out, most carrying boxes into other dorms, but some lounged at picnic tables reading or chatting with friends. Oh how I wished that Kate had come to Texas Tech with me, but I couldn’t begrudge her choice to go to the same college her brother was attending. After nearly losing him to a drug addiction, Kate had wanted to be closer to him. Still, it would have been nice to have my best friend here with me.

Bledsoe-Gordon came into view, and I turned up the cement steps. As my hand reached the silver handle, the heavy door flew open, knocking me down the steps and onto the jarringly hard ground. My head flew back and my teeth snapped together, sending a pain across my jaws and down my neck.

“Oh, sorry are you okay?” a male voice met my ears.

I shook my head to clear the stars and struggled to stand. Gritting my teeth, I blinked back the tears, threatening to pour over from the throbbing of my rear end and head. Gingerly, I rose to my feet, dusting off my backside and focused on the man on the steps. Close cropped blond hair framed a ruggedly handsome face. His eyes were the color of the ocean, and his nose had a chiseled-from-stone appearance. A grey t-shirt covered his broad shoulders, showing off his muscular arms and chest. His waist narrowed, and under his shirt, he wore tan cargo shorts. Brown flip flops finished off the look, giving him a casual air.

“Sorry,” he repeated. “I didn’t see you there.”

“Yeah, I got that,” I said. Though the stinging was subsiding, I knew I would be sore for a few days.

“Um, well hey, can I buy you lunch?”

“No, I’m fine, really.” As I stepped past him, he grabbed my arm. Shaking off his hand, I whirled, turning angry eyes on him. He stepped back, holding his hands up in defense. “Sorry,” I said, “but I don’t even know you.”

“I’m Caleb,” he said sticking out his hand, “and I’m really not a jerk. Please let me buy your dinner.”

I cocked my head and regarded him. He appeared sincere, and surely there would be more people inside. “Okay,” I agreed, smiling hesitantly and shaking his proffered hand. “Lead the way. I’m Amanda, by the way.”

He flashed a charming smile and held the door open for me.

“Haven’t you already eaten?” I asked as we stepped in the hall.

“No, I live here. I was getting something out of my car for my friend.”

“Won’t he be wondering where you are?” The hallway in this dorm looked exactly like mine. Had none of these dorms been renovated recently?

“Nah, he’ll be okay.” Caleb led the way down the hall, which opened into a large cafeteria at the end. Round tables filled most of the room, and many of them were filled with students. The other side housed an assembly line where students could pick up food and then check out at the end.

After grabbing a sandwich, salad, and some fruit, we sat down at an empty table.

“So where are you from?” Caleb asked.

I chewed the grape I had just popped in my mouth before answering. “I’m from Mesquite; how about you?”

“Houston. I can’t say there’s much to do here, but at least it isn’t as muggy.”

I nodded, remembering my trip to Houston in High school. Kate’s aunt had lived there and one summer Kate had asked me to go with her. The heat had hit me as soon as I de-boarded the plane, flattening my hair to my forehead in a sticky mess. To cool off, her aunt had driven us to the neighborhood pool, but even the pool water had been so warm that we had had to sit in the hot tub first before jumping in the pool to at least make it feel colder.

“So, what are you studying?” Caleb asked before taking a bite of his sandwich.

I narrowed my eyes at him, unsure of how much information I should give out to a perfect stranger, even if he was a ruggedly handsome perfect stranger. “Counseling,” I decided to keep it vague until I knew more about him. “What about you?”

“Business right now, but I’m not sure that’s where my passion lies.”

“What do you think you’d rather do?” I asked. My counseling instinct had kicked in, sensing that there was a story behind the slight sadness of his statement.

“I think I’d rather be an architect.” His blue eyes sparkled as he spoke, and my heart flipped and began beating faster. “I always loved building things, even as a kid.”

“So why aren’t you going into architecture?”

His face fell, and his shoulders sank. “My dad,” he sighed, “He really wants me to go into business with him, but he owns a furniture store, and I just can’t see myself really happy running it.”

I nodded, knowing that feeling all too well. Though my own family had always been very supportive of what I’d wanted to do, I had known a girl in high school who had wanted to pursue acting, but her parents’ desire was for her to become a lawyer. The girl grew so stressed every time “the future” was brought up in class that she had given herself ulcers. “It’s not my place, but your career is the rest of your life. I think it would be hard to do something you’re not passionate about.”

“You don’t know my dad,” he said, shaking his head.

I shrugged. “I know, that’s why I said it probably wasn’t my place, but I do think sometimes as much as you want to please your parents, you have to do what’s right for you. If it helps, I’ll pray for you.” I stuck a grape in my mouth and watched for his reaction, hoping he wouldn’t be offended by the offer to pray for him. He was intriguing, and I wanted to know more, but only if he were open to God.

“Thanks, I’d like that,” he said.

I smiled, and we finished the rest of dinner in a companionable silence. “Well, it was very nice meeting you,” I said, placing my trash on the tray. Caleb stood as well.

“Can we meet up again?” he asked.

I bit my lip even as my heart fluttered. Should I give him my number? Though I didn’t know him, he appeared genuine, and I could always use new friends in this unknown territory. Curiosity tamped my small amount of trepidation, and I agreed. We exchanged cell numbers before saying goodbye, and then I headed back to my dorm.

The dark cloud wasn’t in the room when I returned, but her essence remained. This was going to be a long semester.

3

Jess - The Arrival

I stepped off the bus onto the campus of Texas Tech and took a deep breath. Though it hadn’t been my first choice of colleges, at least it had gotten me away from my “handsy” stepfather. In fact, if I never saw Paducah, Texas and it’s one stoplight again, it would be fine with me.

I slung my backpack over my shoulder and crossed the quad to Knapp hall. A folded map resided in my pocket just in case, but having a photographic memory, I’d memorized most of the buildings, on the east side of campus at least. Knapp was a large, though non-descript, brick building of three floors.

Stopping at the information desk on the first floor just long enough to get the keys, I took the stairs at the end of the hall two at a time to the second floor. 216. The closed door elicited a glimmer of hope that they’d gotten me the single I had asked for. The last thing I wanted was a roommate.

I flung the door open and swore softly under my breath. A thin red head in blue jeans stood by the left bed, unpacking, and a woman, probably her mother, was at the sink. “Who are you?” I demanded.

The red head stepped forward, extending her porcelain hand. “I’m Amanda. I guess I’m your roommate.”

Rolling my eyes, I pushed past Amanda, ignoring the hand. “Crap. I told them I wanted a single.”

“Oh, um, well maybe they ran out,” Amanda stammered as she dropped her hand.

I tossed my backpack on the right bed and glared at her. “Well, I’ll be asking them to look again. I don’t do roommates.” I rifled in my backpack, looking for the paperwork with the RA’s name on it. Ah, there it was. Clasping it in my hand, I glared at Amanda again, and then abruptly left the room, slamming the wooden door behind me. “Nope, nu uh,” I muttered, cursing under my breath as I stomped down the hallway to the RA’s room.

Room 250 was at the far end of the hall, and I rapped loudly on the wooden door. A tall blond opened the door. “Hi, can I help you?”

“I’m Jess Patterson, and I’m supposed to have a single, but there’s some goody-two-shoes who has already started unpacking her things in my room.” I shoved the paper at the RA.

“Okay, well, first off, let’s try not to call our roommate names.” She unfolded the paper and read over it. I crossed my arms and tapped my foot against the carpeted floor as I waited for her to tell me they had made a mistake. “This says we’d try to get you a single, but that we couldn’t guarantee it. I’m afraid we had more upper classmen return than we expected, and they get their choice of a single first. So, I can add you to the waiting list, but I’m afraid you’re stuck for now.”

Heat erupted in my body. “That’s it? That’s all you can do?”

The blond shrugged, “Maybe try to get to know your roommate. I bet she’s not as bad as you think.”

“Argh, you are worthless.” I snatched the paper back and marched down the stairs. This couldn’t be happening. I slammed the outside door open as I reached the final step. It banged against the wall before slamming shut, satisfying a small destructive desire burning within.

Leaning against the brick wall, I pulled a cigarette and a lighter out of the pocket of my shorts and flicked the lighter on. As I puffed on the cigarette, the nicotine went to work on my nerves. How was I going to make it through a semester with a roommate?

As I inhaled, plans formulated in my mind. Maybe if I were awful enough, I could get the girl to leave. What would it take? Loud music? Being a slob? A parade of men? I’d have to try them all, until one worked. The cigarette burned to a nub, and I dropped it to the ground, squishing it into the dirt with my foot and deciding to take a walk to calm my anger and solidify a plan.