1 ALEX

The campus' entrance was wide and seemingly endless, full of trees lined up until the end. Alex couldn't see that far away, but it surely looked like they kept going forever. A lot of buildings surrounded the area - they were so tall, almost intimidating.

Alex's pale cheeks were blushed and his face was sweaty. He was so excited about his first day at college, he had trouble falling asleep, making him late that morning. He had to run to get there, under a burning sun and then, he had to wait in a large queue at the entrances, as all the new students were arriving at the same time.

Inside, there were people everywhere. Even though he was annoyed at first, he then felt relieved that he wasn't the only new kid around. All of them looked like lambs trying to guess where they should go. Besides, all of the old students were rushing, annoyed with the presence of newbies, trying to get to their classes. Some of them were smoking and hanging out, and others were trying to help the new students, by giving them maps and information sheets.

A very short girl with a serious face gave Alex a map of the campus - although he had rejected it - and proceeded to walk away. The place was huge, as it had buildings for each department. But Alex already knew his way around because he took summer classes and was tutored to get better grades, so he could get in. After all, this was the university of his dreams and made the impossible to study there. He confidently started walking through the huge entrance and going into inner passages.

After a couple of minutes, he realized he was lost. Apparently, he had always taken the same path he came in, and after a while it was almost automatic. He turned around a couple of times and tried to ask people who were passing by, but no one listened to him. He felt frustrated and invisible, until he saw a very familiar face passing by. It was one of the girls he had met on the registration day. Alex remembered her because her face was almost all covered with piercings and she had a shaved head. She was really difficult to ignore.

He hoped she was going to the same place he should, so he followed from behind. Alex thought about speaking to her, but he looked creepy enough walking behind her. The pale boy followed until he started recognizing some buildings and, sure enough, a huge 'Psychology Department' sign indicated they had arrived. The girl had just turned around, so Alex quickly got away.

Alex felt immediately awkward around all the cool people. Everyone seemed to have their own style and personality, meanwhile Alex hadn't gotten over the plain t-shirt and khaki shorts look. It was something he was definitely going to work on later. He focused on finding the classroom where the newbies were supposed to have their welcoming. After, walking some more, he found the room and also the girl with the shaved hair again, who now looked at him directly. She smiled kindly and gestured him to enter. Alex just bowed awkwardly and got it.

He wasn't the kind of person who thought through his actions. Actually, he was more of act-and-react-later type of guy, so he found himself cringing at the things he did or say, a lot. The room was already full and little space was left. He had to squeeze in through some people to find a seat. Alex scanned the room quickly and saw a pair of others familiar faces from registration day.

The welcoming began with some professors and the institution's director speeches. They talked about the greatness of being part of the university and how everyone there should seize the moment. Alex felt kind of intimidated by the solemn air, but quickly relaxed as he saw some older students arrive late and smile at the director, without any care. He could quickly recognize one of the girls entering, as she used to go to pre-school with him and now only followed each other on social media. Rain was her name, but she didn't like it, so she presented herself as Rai. She had changed so much over the years, and Alex was pleased to see her. Firstly, because he felt relieved he had someone he knew to talk to, in case he lost all his social skills. And, secondly, because she was dreamily pretty.

Alex didn't feel right thinking that Rai was cute because he had a girlfriend who he loved deeply. Connie and him have been friends for a long time, and then they started dating two years ago, which took the whole relationship to another dimension. He felt really safe with her and knew that Connie would say the same, so much so he decided to enroll in the same university as her, which allowed him to keep close to her and also study where he always wanted to. It was a great win-win. In some way, this fact made Alex sure that if he had an innocent crush on Rai, it wouldn't mean anything, because Connie knew what he was capable of.

Rai was sitting next to a tall guy with long hair, who she wrapped her arm around. Although he didn't see it on social media, that guy might have been his boyfriend. In any case, he had stared for too long, so he took away his gaze and placed it in a table in front of him. Those were going to be his new classmates for the next couple of years, which made him a little bit anxious. All of them seemed so interesting but pedantic at the same time.

After a couple of speeches, the director proceeded to introduce the older students. Rai stood in front of the crowd, with the tall guy beside her.

'Hey, everyone' she greeted, waving her hands, 'my name is Rai - that's spelled R-A-I -, and this is Mitsu, my partner'.

Alex wasn't sure if they were supposed to understand it, as if she meant they were a couple or just classmates. The other guy just slightly smiled and nodded along.

'We are the class reps from the level above you' she proceeded, 'and we're here to welcome you because we're supposed to take care of you'.

Everyone chuckled for a reason that Alex couldn't understand. He was too busy worrying that his stomach growled as hunger started to arise. He didn't have time to eat a proper breakfast and he wanted to have lunch with Connie, but she wasn't going to campus that day, so he either had to settle with a lonely sandwich or wait until he could get home. He hoped the welcoming wouldn't take so long.

'Anyway' Rai continued 'you can ask us anything you wanna know...'

'But don't ask us too much, please!' Mitsu interrupted and everyone laughed. 'Great', Alex thought, 'another charming college boy'. He felt really lucky to have Connie in his life, so he wouldn't have to worry about competing with any of those type of guys, in case he wanted to date some girl there.

Finally, after some boring activities and filling some kind of questionnaire, the welcoming was over and he could go home. He started walking, until he encountered Rai, talking to Mitsu. Alex really wanted to avoid talking to anyone else for the day, but he decided if he wanted to have some type of friend there, it was probably a good idea to be polite, at the least.

'Hey, Rai!' he hailed while approaching. He froze for a split second when Rai looked at him and didn't seem to recognize him. She squinted her eyes and her face illuminated right away.

'Oh, my... What are you doing here!?' she asked in a high-pitched voice while extending her arms to hug him. Alex felt a little awkward while hugging, but then he remembered she was just nice that way. Whilst hugging, Alex took a glance at Mitsu, who was standing behind them on his phone, not paying attention.

'Well, I'm studying here' Alex replied, stepping away.

'What!? Since when?'

'Since today, actually' he chuckled as he rubbed the back of his head.

'Oh, wait' she gasped, 'were you at the welcoming?' Alex nodded in response, and then she turned around to look at Mitsu. 'Oh, nooo! How embarrassing!'.

Mitsu laughed and saved his phone on his pocket. He took a few steps towards them, but still hanged in the back. 'Don't worry about it' he said, 'you did great'.

'Said the guy who got super praised for a lame joke' she teased. Rai grabbed her face in embarrassment and look at Alex with concerned eyes.

'Yeah, don't worry' he assured her, hating to have to agree with the tall guy.

'Oh! Wait! I just remembered!' Rai exclaimed, 'Did you called asking for information last year?'

'Um, yeah' confirmed Alex, a little confused.

'I knew it! I was the one on the other end!'

'What?' Alex laughed, nervously.

'I was working for the information line when you called, and I knew, I recognized your voice' she said excitedly. Alex found this a little weird, as they haven't talked in a long time.

'Anyway, you confirmed it when I asked for your contact info, so I could send some e-mails'.

'Oh, that's why my spam folder was full out of nowhere' Alex joked. He found it sweet that she'd even remember who he was and she'd even consider him after such a long time. And she had such a cute laugh. Alex wondered if he could pass by his girlfriend's house after this.

'Anyway' Rai added, 'I'm sure you already know, but this is Mitsu. Coolest guy ever. Great student' she smiled looking at him.

Mitsu rolled his eyes and leaned forward extending his arm to Alex. Reluctantly, he raised his arm to shook Mitsu's, but when he touched his skin, he felt a tiny electro-shock.

'Oh, sorry, man' Mitsu took away his hand and rubbed it against his t-shirt. 'This always happens to me'.

'Such a mystical feature' Rai expressed with a sarcastic voice.

Alex just chuckled nervously again. He could feel his empty stomach growling again and wondered if they heard it too. All he could think about now was a nice, hot plate of home-made food waiting at his home. He started to say goodbye and walking backwards.

'Wait, did you take your ID picture?' Rai asked, making him stop.

'Sure' Alex nodded in confusion, but then corrected himself, 'No... Picture?' he asked, while frustration began to rise. If he had to take a picture now, all it was going to show was his starving face and his recently burned hair from lighting his cigarettes.

'Yeah. You gotta go to the student's hall and someone will take your picture. You need it for your ID card, so you can go to the library and stuff. It's right across this hall and then to the left. You should go now, because there's probably a huge queue". Her advice made Alex feel defeated. He really wanted to eat something.

'And they sell food there' added Mitsu with a smirk. 'In the hall, I mean'.

Alex squinted his eyes at him and started to walk backwards. With more energy and more time, he'd have defended himself or say something sarcastic in return, but, at this point, he couldn't care less. He waved good-bye and turned around instead, walking towards the student hall.

As the tall guy had commented, they had indeed different options to buy food. The first thing he saw was a vending machine and that was enough. He bought himself a couple of chips and M&M's and made the queue for the photo-taking. Luckily, it wasn't that crowded.

'Probably because everyone is having lunch' thought Alex while his stomach growled, and he chew on chips. He took out his phone and texted Connie.

'U home?'

It took her a couple of seconds to reply.

'Yea'.

'Can I come? I really need to see you babe'

'Sure' she replied, but after a long pause, she added: 'Actually, can we meet at the park?'.

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