Prologue: Reunion

I was early for my first class, as always. I found that it was easier, in case of any unforeseen issues. I parked my car in the faculty parking lot, turning off the engine before I gathered my bag and prepared to start a new semester. Everything was the same as always; the weather warm for early September, students dressing in shorts and t-shirts, backpacks slung over their shoulders with maps and schedules in their hands.

I found it necessary to pass through the main registration building, in order to pick up the ever changing class roster of students I would have for the fall semester. Freshmen students were notorious for changing their minds several times before finally deciding on a permanent schedule. Most new students would try to knock out some of their more mundane required classes early in their academic career, to ensure that when the time came, they could be accepted into the more distinct college of their choice. What do you want to be when you grow up? A teacher, a writer, a doctor, a business man?

This semester was no different. No different. That thought used to depress me, but the idea of things never really changing at this point was something that I had come to accept – at least somewhat. I taught several classes at this university – English 101 and Basic Composition among them, one or both being required for every student that had been accepted here. This semester, I also had snagged the opportunity to teach a classic literature course.

My classes were almost always full, though students did tend to drop further into the semester, when they found the rigors of college life begin to catch up with them. Some of the excuses I would get later in the semester would make me chuckle – some of my students could be so incredibly creative. Now, if only they could get their work done! Again, this semester would be no different…

Although it was a warm, late summer day, it had been rainy and rather overcast, which was fine with me. I had applied to work for this university with a full understanding of the weather and its available amenities. Where I was suited me just fine – I could do what I needed and still adjust my life accordingly.

The campus itself was older, although historic, with many renovations in the works. Updated computers, more modern bathrooms, larger workspaces and classrooms – a new library was being built, thanks to a generous donation from an alumni who had recently passed away. The idea of a more modern library thrilled me and also allowed me the opportunity to catch up on reading some of the newer books that students had suggested to me sent a thrill of anticipation through me. I had always loved to read and having access to a large library would only spur that love forward.

I glanced at my watch. It was 4:15. I had a little over an hour until my first class. As I entered the registration office, I found it buzzing with activity. Hundreds of students trying to add and drop classes – some finding their work schedules would not accommodate them or finding they had missed out on certain pre-requisite courses they needed prior to advancing to higher level curriculum. It never changed – several student employees looked either helpful or annoyed while they tried to help other students accomplish their goals.

It might have been enjoyable to stop for a minute and people watch, but I had a schedule to keep and needed to drop in at the office to let people that I was still alive. Teaching night courses and administering several online classes sometimes led to the impression that I was more of a ghost than an adjunct professor here. It was important for me to make an appearance and remind people that, in fact, I did exist and was a part of the professional staff.

I looked over the available spots in my schedule of students and laughed to myself. Almost every spot filled – late registration still had a few days to go, and I would be loaded to the hilt with new students! I knew then it would only be a matter of time before students came begging for overrides. That was okay with me. My department chair and boss never understood my willingness to allow so many students into any one section of the classes that I taught, but I was always ready for more students. The more students I had, the more work I had and that kept me focused. Kept my eyes on the goal. Kept me from thinking about the past too much. The more the merrier was my motto at this point. Anything at all to keep my mind busy. Anything.

While I crossed the registration barrier to head to the front desk and requested the most recent class rosters assigned to me, I had, for a fleeting moment, felt that I was being watched. It's possible that someone did have their eyes fixed on me. There were literally more than 200 people in the commons area of the registration office. Every someone had to be looking somewhere. However, it was an eerie feeling, one that wouldn't let go. Just then, I caught a whiff of someone that I hadn't seen or heard from in some time. I thought to myself, this isn't happening. You're just not focusing. Get a grip on yourself!

I thanked the student employee who handed me my paperwork and was about to turn and head to my office when I saw a small, raven-haired beauty rush at me with almost Olympic speed. She grabbed me ever so gently before enveloping me into an almost rib-crushing hug. She released me, only to place a small kiss on my cheek. She had the biggest grin on her face, looking so happy, but then, just as quickly, her smile faded. A mixture of sadness and confusion spread to her beautiful, pixie-like features. She stood in front of me, looking exactly as she had when I had last seen her almost ten years earlier. Not since that horrible but fateful night…no phone calls, emails; no visits to let me know what had happened. She hadn't even said goodbye. Still, I couldn't help but look at her and mutter,

"Hello, Alice."