07

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I groan as my eyes open from the blinding sunlight streaming through the window behind my bed, a major con of a room facing east. To my left, Martina is still fast asleep, the covers yanked up past her chin.

Being Natalie's roommate only lasted a solid two days, because by nightfall yesterday, she decided to bring something up.

"Whitney, I have something to tell you," she began, sitting cross-legged on her bed.

I looked up from my phone, my message to Mina still open. "Sure, go ahead."

"It's not you or anything, but I kind of... I kind of want to switch rooms."

Damn. I was expecting something far graver, like she was about admit she's secretly an axe murderer.

I shrugged. "Sure, I guess. Who do you want to room with?"

"Cynthia." Natalie said, referring to the petite girl. "I just feel like we understand each other a lot. Not that we don't, but I—"

"Honestly, it's fine, Natalie," I said, waving it off, "but who's Cynthia's roommate?"

"Martina. The pairing is—well—disastrous."

I could see why. Martina is outgoing and candid, while Cynthia seems more reserved and focused. The former had already grown on me, so this roommate switcharoo wasn't posing a problem at all.

"Hey, that works for me."

I sit up in bed and grab my phone. 6:50 a.m.? The earliest I've ever gotten up without the blare of my alarm in the summer is around eight. Since I'm awake, and there is no way I can sleep with all this sunlight, I get up and head to the bathroom to get ready. I take my clothes and small bag full of toiletries and quietly walk to the bathroom, all to myself this early in the morning.

I wash my face and then pile my hair into a neat ponytail, before changing into a pair of navy leggings and a gray sweatshirt. Ten minutes later, I sneak out of the dorms. Bob never mentioned whether exploring is against the rules, so I'm going to live like it isn't, even for just a few minutes.

I walk across the grass in the morning shadows where no one can see me and slip through one of the entrances to the central building. Before I walk in, I catch a girl lurking in the corner, her back turned towards me. She senses movement and turns to stare straight at me, a large caramel coffee with whipped cream in hand.

Where did she get that, and how can I get a hold of one?

"What are you doing here?" she snaps, hiding the drink behind her back.

"N-nothing. I woke up early and decided to get some early morning sunshine."

Morning sunshine? What am I, a senior citizen?

She purses her lips and crosses her arms. "Are you trying to leave?"

"Leave? Uh...no?"

She smiles to herself and scoffs. "I tried to last year. They made me come back this summer because of that." I take note of her appearance: tangled, wild red hair, a large chest, and sweatpants riding way too low to be fashionable. "There's no escaping here, Whitney. It's like fitness jail."

"First of all, why are you telling me this? No one forced me to come here."

She laughs, taking a large sip of her drink. "Because you seem to be the only one worthy of my warning here: lazy but smart, maybe even a little adventurous. Why else are you out at six in the morning?"

I'm beyond weirded out, backing up a few steps. "I think we're done here. But good luck with your"—I make an air circle with my finger around the sugary monstrosity in her hand—"fitness aspirations."

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