Evernight Page 7

I moved all the way around the room, always right at the edges, keeping my back toward the wall. I searched the crowd hungrily, seeking Lucas’s bronze hair, his broad shoulders, those dark green eyes. If I was looking for him, and he was looking for me, we were bound to find each other soon. Despite my fear of large groups, and my tendency to exaggerate them, I knew there were only a couple of hundred students here.

He’ll stand out, I told myself. He’s not like these others, cold and snobby and proud. But I soon realized that wasn’t true. Lucas wasn’t a snob, but he had the same kind of chiseled good looks, the same toned body, and the same, well, perfection. He wouldn’t stand out much in this beautiful crowd; he would be a natural part of it.

Unlike me.

Slowly the crowd shrank, as the teachers left and the students dispersed. I hung around until I was almost the only one left in the great hall. Surely Lucas would come to find me. He knew how scared I was and felt responsible for scaring me worse. Wouldn’t he want to say hello?

But he didn’t. Eventually, I had to accept that I’d missed him. That meant there was nothing left for me to do but go meet my roommate.

Slowly I made my way up the stone steps, my new shoes with their hard soles click-clacking too loudly. I wanted to keep climbing all the way to the top, straight back to my parents’ faculty apartment. If I did, though, I knew that they’d send me downstairs again immediately. Time enough to get my things and really move out after dinner. For now, the first priority was “getting settled.”

I tried to look on the positive side. Maybe my roommate was as freaked-out by school as I was. I remembered the girl with the super-short haircut and hoped it might be her. If I were living with another “outsider,” things would probably be easier all around. It would be torture, living with a stranger—actually having somebody I didn’t know there all the time, even when I slept—but I hoped the feeling would pass eventually. I didn’t dare hope for a friend.

Patrice Deveraux, the form had said. I tried to hang that name on the girl I remembered, but it didn’t quite fit. Still, anything was possible.

I opened the door and realized, heart sinking, that my roommate’s name fit her just fine. She wasn’t another outsider at all. Instead, she was the total embodiment of the Evernight type.

Patrice’s skin was the color of a river at sunrise, the coolest, softest brown, and her curly hair was pulled back into a soft bun, which showed off her pearl earrings and her slim neck. She sat at the dresser, still neatly lining up bottles of nail polish while she looked at me.

“So you’re Bianca,” she said. No handshake, no hug—just the click of each bottle of polish against the dresser: pale pink, coral, melon, white. “You weren’t what I was expecting.”

Thanks tons. “You either.”

Patrice cocked her head, studying me, and I wondered if we hated each other already. She lifted one perfectly manicured hand and began ticking off points. “You can borrow my perfume but not my jewelry or clothes.” She didn’t say anything about borrowing my stuff, but it was pretty obvious she wouldn’t ever want to. “I plan to do most of my studying in the library, but if you want to work here, let me know and I’ll talk with my friends somewhere else. Help me with the assignments you’re good at, and I’ll do the same for you. I’m sure we can learn a lot from each other. Sound fair?”

“Definitely.”

“All right. We’ll get along.”

If she’d acted all fake friendly with me right away, I think that would have weirded me out more. As it was, I was sort of reassured that Patrice was so businesslike. “Glad you think so,” I said. “I know we’re…different.”

She didn’t argue. “Two teachers here are your parents, right?”

“Yeah. I guess word travels fast.”

“You’ll be fine. They’ll take care of you.”

I tried to smile at her and hoped she was right. “You’ve been here at Evernight before?”

“No. First time.” Patrice said this as though changing her whole way of living was as simple for her as slipping into a new pair of designer shoes. “It’s beautiful, don’t you think?”

I left my opinion of the architecture out of it. “You said you had friends here, though.”

“Well, of course.” Her smile was as delicate as everything else about her, from the peach gloss on her lips to the perfume and nail polish bottles neatly arrayed on the dresser. “Courtney and I met in Switzerland last winter. Vidette was a friend of mine when I was staying in Paris. And Genevieve and I spent a summer together in the Caribbean, once—was it St. Thomas? Maybe it was Jamaica. I can’t keep these things straight.”

My pokey hometown seemed duller than ever. “So you guys all just—run in the same circles.”

“More or less.” Belatedly, Patrice seemed to realize how awkward I felt. “Eventually they’ll be your circles, too.”

“I wish I were as sure as you are.”

“Oh, you’ll see.” She dwelled in a world where endless summers in the tropics were everyone’s for the taking. I couldn’t imagine ever being a part of that. “Do you know anybody here? Besides your parents, I mean.”

“Only the people I’ve met this morning.” Meaning Lucas and Patrice, for a grand total of two.

“Plenty of time to make friends.” Patrice spoke briskly as she began putting away more of her things: silky scarves the color of ivory, hosiery in shades of taupe or dove gray. Where did she plan to wear things so elegant? Maybe it was unimaginable for Patrice to travel without them. “I hear Evernight is a wonderful place to meet men.”

“Meet men?”

“Do you already have someone?”

I wanted to tell her about Lucas, but I couldn’t. Whatever had happened between me and Lucas in the forest—it meant something, but my feelings were too new to share. All I said was, “I didn’t leave a boyfriend behind in my hometown.” I’d known all those guys at my old school since I was a little kid, and I remembered them back when they used to play with Lincoln Logs and mash Play-Doh in my hair. That sort of made it impossible to feel passionate about any of them.

“Boyfriend.” Her lips curled upward, as if the word struck her as childish. Patrice wasn’t sneering at me, though. I was simply too young and inexperienced for her to take me seriously.

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