Rowan walked over to the bed that had been assigned to him, and he set down his duffel bags, noting to the others, “This isn’t what I expected.”
Three other women were in the room. They had been waiting for Rowan’s arrival. They were introduced as Aimee, Tanya, and Kaitlin. All three were beautiful. Kaitlin was the Freshman among them. She looked the most innocent and vulnerable. She had a long, lanky body and moved like a dancer, with fluid grace. Aimee was a sophomore. Brown, wavy hair was draped over her face, and she looked at Rowan with drooping, sleepy eyes that fixed on him while a small smile brightened up her face. And last of all was Tanya, the junior, fully made-up and smiling with lipsticked lips. Expensive earrings dangled from her ears and her strawberry-blonde hair looked like it had been freshly styled.
The first impression that Rowan had of these women, as well as the men, was that he liked them all immediately. They made a great first impression, but as he looked around the room, with everywhere so open, with nowhere to hide, he felt uncomfortable at the prospect of living with them.
He was shown the bathroom, a single bathroom much like the one he’d found back in the dorm, with multiple sinks and mirrors and separate toilet and shower stalls.
“This building, as you might guess, was built for us,” Leo told Rowan as he showed him around, “That is, for the first crop of Daley Scholars, like eight or ten years ago. It’s cozy and very congenial. But I hope you aren’t too attached to your privacy, since there is none. Be prepared to have no secrets from the rest of us.”
Off to the side of the main room there was also a small room with seats and desks that was referred to as the study room. It had windows that looked out onto the forest, and several notebook computers had been left in the room by the others.
Once Rowan was finished with this tour, he was told the rules by Sophie: “Lights out at 10pm. If you want to stay up any later, you go to the study room. Bathroom’s reserved every morning from 8:30 to 9:00 exclusive for the women. You need to use it in the morning, you do it before or you wait after. No exceptions. Breakfast is at 9:00, and I leave with the car at 9:30. You want to get to campus at any other time, you find your own way. It’s not too long a walk, so you can manage it if necessary. Lastly, no eating in the bedroom, and no sex anywhere in the dormitory building. Not even masturbating. Not even in the showers – we don’t want your man milk caking the walls of the showers we all use. You want to do anything like that, you find somewhere else. We catch you, you sleep outside for a week; I don’t care if it’s the middle of winter. In fact, we don’t even want two people sharing the same shower or toilet stall. And I don’t want to hear any complaints.”
“No ma’am,” Rowan said.
“Don’t call me ma’am,” Sophie said. “My name’s Sophie. And one more thing. Those are all the rules for the dormitory, but Ms. Daley has her own rule, which trumps all others: that is, you do whatever Ms. Daley says. Always. No matter what. People who don’t, don’t tend to last long. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Sophie,” Rowan replied.
Rowan was allowed some time to unpack, and afterwards they led him out of the dormitory to the house for dinner. As they were walking, Rowan stopped and looked out into the woods. It was growing dark, and the light was beautiful through the trees. The thought of exploring the woods passed through his mind.
However, Leo leaned over and, with perfect perceptiveness, as if he could read Rowan’s mind, he said, “The wood’s are off limits.” Rowan gave Leo a surprised and confused look. “They don’t belong to Ms. Daley. Her property ends something like 50 feet from the house, and the neighbor that owns them doesn’t like having college students tramping around through them. Apparently, there were some incidents in the past. Nothing of interest out there anyways. Just trees.”
Rowan, however, could not share Leo’s attitude towards the woods. The hidden depths were to his eyes something like indistinct whispers to his ears, sounds that would draw him closer to hear their content and import. He knew for certain that the woods bore secrets – even if of only trivial things – and it made him curious.