The next morning, Kate got out of bed for class, not having slept a wink since her nightmare. She had been thinking about the police officer that had told them about her mother. He hadn't been able to tell them anything. He said her mother's death had been random – which somehow seemed worse – Kate thought knowing why she had died might make it a little easier to accept. She grabbed some clothes and her towel, and was relieved to find the bathroom she shared with two other girls was not occupied. She took a quick shower, and dried her hair. She tried to dress nicely, but her heart wasn't in it. She did switch her chucks for her high heeled boots – she liked being tall. She put on a cardigan too – she was sick of shivering. She didn't bother with make-up – she didn't want anyone to be interested in her, anyway.
She grabbed her purse, and on impulse, slipped the card with Rick's number into it. She didn't know what made her do it – she just wanted to. She found the right books for her law class, and hoped there hadn't been any holiday assignments, because she hadn't done them.
She arrived a few minutes early, and her old friends came over to say hi. They were all rich kids, beautifully made up, well dressed, well educated, without a care in the world. Kate hardly knew them any more. She managed to smile and chat, but she was hugely relieved when the teacher called them into class.
He began to speak. There had been a holiday assignment – a 5000 word paper on something or other – but he looked at her sympathetically, and told her she shouldn't even think about writing it for a few weeks. She wished he had been mad at her – that would have been far easier to deal with.
She tried to pay attention to the class, but it was all just talk. Talk about rules, about punishing wrongdoers, about great people making great laws that protected Americans. Kate suddenly found that she wanted to do something. This place was so protected, it felt like a lie. She wanted justice for her mother, but it dawned on her that she was never going to get that sitting in this room, or writing essays.
She thought about Rick's book, about the detective in it. Detectives were the people who solved murders, not lawyers, or even chiefs of justice. She had chosen this path to be like her Mom, because she admired her so much. But catching her killer was more important – and she just couldn't make herself care about this class any more.
She sat quietly in the room, wondering what to do. Again, she wanted to call Rick. She decided to go for a walk. She bought herself a sandwich and ate it slowly, and after wandering around campus, she decided she wanted to go to the gym. She fetched some sweats and a tank top from her room, and went to the bus stop – she didn't fancy the campus gym, she wanted to be somewhere where people didn't know her. When she had arrived and changed, she went into the main area and looked around the room. She had hardly ever been in a proper gym – she had liked tennis before, and she was ashamed to admit that had been partly to do with the cute little dress. The punch bag was free, and she went to the desk to get some gloves.
She had never used a punch bag before. She hit it experimentally. It swung on its chain, then back towards her. She took a step back so it didn't hit her, and then hit it again, harder. It swung back harder too, which caught her a bit off guard, and it thumped into her stomach. She gave it a glare. Someone tapped her on the shoulder.
She looked around to see a muscular woman dressed in a gym t-shirt – a trainer, maybe?
"Hi – I'm Molly. I'm a trainer here – if you've paid entrance, it's free. What would you like to learn?"
Kate smiled gratefully – she had thought the gym was a bit expensive, but figured it was because they wanted you to join and pay monthly. But training included – that was cool. She thought about why she had gone for the bag.
"I think – I'd like to learn how to defend myself. And I'd like to get a bit stronger, too."
Molly smiled back. "Sure. Well, how about I show you some exercises you can do on your own – some of them you don't even need a bag. And then you can do some training with me, if you want. As to getting stronger, eat more, and work out for about an hour a day."
Kate liked her already. She agreed, and soon they were working. After they had trained for a while, Molly said she was a natural. She was proud that she wasn't as pathetic as she had thought. Molly had to go and work with someone else, and Kate decided to practise some of the drills with the bag. When you knew what to do, it felt a lot more productive.
After another half hour, someone else appeared wanting to use the bag, so she went to buy a water bottle. She liked the gym – it was peaceful. She could concentrate. She looked around – it was quite busy. There were some good looking guys there too. More because she thought she ought to be interested than because she actually was, Kate checked them out. The best looking one had just stopped using the weights, but he was side on to her, talking to someone, and she couldn't see his face. She drank the water. She was hungry again too. She wondered whether to just eat in the gym cafe, or wait and get something on campus, where she wouldn't have to pay.
She was still looking at the guy, watching the muscles on his chest dance around – he wasn't wearing a shirt. He started to turn in her direction, and she looked away hurriedly, blushing. He had seen her though, and he was coming over. She blushed even more, mortified – it was Rick! And he was grinning.
"Fancy meeting you here, Kate," he said. "And hey, don't worry about staring at me – I take it as a compliment. Although you should know," he put on a mock-injured tone, "I am a person, not a piece of meat."
She couldn't help laughing. He brought out something happy inside her, something real. Something she hadn't ever felt – even before her Mom had died - the warmth she felt inside when she was with him was completely new to her. Now that he was hear, she didn't want to be away from him. Even if they met up after, she didn't even want to go take a shower. She pictured herself asking him if he wanted to shower with her, and giggled. She couldn't get the image out of her head now, and he looked at her curiously.
"What's funny?" he asked.
She shook her head, and managed to stop laughing.
"Well, if I amuse you so much, you really should let me take you out to dinner."
Kate thought about it. Her whole body was screaming yes. She was confused. She was still sad – but maybe she could talk to him about being a detective. He might know something about it, since he wrote about it. And he made her feel so good...
"Okay?" Rick said in surprise. He had been sure she would take a lot more persuading. "Should I be worried at how much keener you are just because you've seen me with my shirt off?"
That got her laughing again, and he suggested they meet at reception.
"I'll see you there," he said, "after you go take a shower. A cold one."
She stuck her tongue out at him, and went to the women's changing room with a huge grin on her face.