Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Hello! I’ll assume you’re here because you’re dying to read the prequel to my debut novel The Wrong Side of Twenty-Five. In this prequel I write about what Kylie and Alexa were like before they met, how they met and how it shaped their lives. If you haven’t read my book yet, it will be a good introduction to my two main characters to have you all set and ready to read The Wrong Side of Twenty-Five. I’m calling this prequel The Right Side of Twenty-Five. Seems fitting, no?
So here are the first two chapters. Remember to follow this website and check back every Tuesday for a further two chapters. Comments and suggestions and criticism accepted.
The Right Side of Twenty-Five
By Kate Armitage
If I’d known university was going to be this hard, I would have just got an apprenticeship or something! Sure, Mum would have ten-thousand-fits, guilt-trip me for days, then try to punish me by doing something drastic like cut me out of her will, but she’s not exactly loaded so what would I be missing out on? The three-bed-semi in Boringville? Besides, she always guilt-trips me and I’ll eventually do something just as disappointing between now and up until she pops her clogs. At least an apprenticeship would save me from crippling debt and having to live in this dingy little room.
I moved out of my childhood home, the three-bed-semi in Boringville, two weeks ago to take up residence at the university student halls. The prospect of going to university had me on a high all summer but once I got here, reality hit like a cup of cold sick, and not just because of the smell. I didn’t bother to check this place out before arriving, as I figured all student accommodation looked the same. In my mind, I was imagining it to look like when Rory went to Yale in Gilmore Girls. In reality; it looks like something between prison and the kind of hotel where horror movies are set. I know that Yale is Ivy League, but this place is a red brick university, so what’s the difference? I pictured myself wandering the halls and engaging in stimulating conversation about books. I even read the Wikipedia pages of several classic authors for such occasions! It’s not like I had time during summer to start reading classic literature, but I wanted to at least know enough to make a few witty comments and fit in as an intellectual. And I was sure the nights were going to be epic, with cool music, a friendly vibe, people popping in and out of rooms, sharing alcohol and getting off with each other. Like an adult slumber party, right?
Wrong. So far, I’ve only wandered the halls in vain. Once, to look for a pay phone to call home (I was out of credit) and ask if Mum could order me a pizza (she could but wouldn’t). Another, to look for my hoodie that was taken from the dryer in the laundry room. I’ve only been approached once, to be told that I had dropped a pair of knickers out of my laundry basket. It would have been a great ice-breaker, but they were my old period-pants; comfortable but greying and frayed at the edges. There are parties at night, one thing I was right about. It’s just that they’re either closed-door or invite-only. Not that I’m bothered seeing as dubstep is played all night and then in the morning the shared bathroom sink is full of vomit.
So yes, university hasn’t even started yet and I’m already mentally drained. The amount of paperwork I’ve had to fill out has probably amounted to more coursework than I did in my final year of college! Not to mention I’ve had to sort out my own finances, only to discover that I spent way too much in IKEA when moving in and am now having to live off a diet of toast and custard-cream biscuits if I want to stay within my budget. Mum says I need to find a part-time job, but I’m spending all my spare time washing up, cleaning, and doing my own laundry. Where exactly will I find time to also work? It’s alright for her being a kept woman. This is 2008. She has no clue about how women have it in modern life.
Speaking of lives; I desperately need one! My group of friends from college all got in-to their first-choice university while I was lumped with this one. How will I make friends here? Go out and find people? And then what? Engage in small talk? The horror. How preposterous. I can’t remember how I became acquainted with any of my friends, but I don’t think it involved small talk. All my college friends, I knew from school. And all of them I knew since I was four. I haven’t made friends since I was literally four years old! I’m out of my depth in this city. Even in this tiny room, I feel small. I’m like a small ball of nothingness as I sit on this strange lumpy bed that isn’t mine, with fresh sheets that smell like the store they came from. Everything is alien. My senses can’t compute. This room is cold and bare, with white walls and accents of old blu-tac and push-pin marks. It feels like a dilapidated waiting room. This is where I’ll be waiting for an entire year to pass before I’ll be moved on to somewhere worse, if that’s even possible.
There’s a bang from the room next door, shouting, and a door slams. I watch a Paramore poster peel off the wall, as if in protest. Every part of me, even my taste in music, finds this place repellent. Well, this is just great.
This is great! I look at my masterpiece, feeling accomplished and a bit giddy. I finally have the shelves arranged just how I want them. It’s taken a few solid days of hard-work, but this place is starting to come together. When I arrived, the room was an empty shell with cold bare walls save for the odd blu-tac remnant. It was grim, and I cried myself to sleep that night. The next day I pulled myself together and set to work making this place homely and I’ve succeeded. It even reminds me of home a bit, but mostly because I had to bring everything I wanted to keep, seeing as Mum is having to downsize now that I’ve flown the nest. That meant bringing a lot of books! But it’s okay, combined with the fairy lights, it gives the room a cosy and studious feel. Oh, and I organised them by genre and then colour, for a touch of whimsy.
Of course, I started planning how it would look as soon as I got the acceptance letter for university. Many evenings this summer were spent pouring over magazines and putting together mood boards. I chose to stay in often so that I could save as much money as possible to buy everything needed to give me the best start at university and it was worth it.
I sit down in my new desk chair and give it a spin, kicking off with my foot. It’s a comfortable chair, which is good because this is where I’ll sit whilst doing most of my essays and anything else. This chair feels full of promise and opportunity. A blank desk sits before me. In many ways it feels as if my life starts now. The spinning chair slows to a stop.
The thing is, beyond decorating my room, I hadn’t thought much about what I would do here. I mean, get a degree, obviously. But university hasn’t officially started and neither has my part-time job. I’m a student who has I’ve yet to take a single class or experience anything that makes me feel like a student and I’m employed only I’m not working. I have all my possessions with me, but it doesn’t quite feel like home. I’m Schrodinger’s cat. For the next few days, I have nothing planned to do. Suddenly I feel anxious.
Or maybe it’s not anxiety, but hunger. My stomach grumbles and the thought of pasta fills my head. There’s a gorgeous Italian restaurant nearby that I keep meaning to go to, only I can’t possibly go alone, can I? It isn’t a place where lonely students go for dinner, it’s where people go on dates. No, it would be considered weird, and I don’t need to label myself as a weirdo before I’ve even spoken to anyone. Better to stay incognito, grab something from the corner shop and come back to eat here whilst daydreaming of being whisked away to an Italian restaurant on a date. As the thought enters my head, I shake it away. I’m not here to go on dates, I’m here to get an education and build up towards a career. Love can wait. Although my stomach will not.
As I’m getting up, there’s a sudden rush of noise on the other side of the door. Boisterous whooping can be heard, and girls laughing. I wait for the noise to pass as the people move on, but it doesn’t because they don’t. I let out a sigh. A congregation seems to have built up outside my room. An impromptu party of sorts. I know this is the done thing in university and we’re encouraged to mingle and experience new things, but I’d rather they did it a few feet away from my only exit. How am I going to get dinner now without completely crashing the party? I know there would be nothing wrong with me opening my door, saying hi to whoever is on the other side, making brief small talk before strolling off to find food, but I also know that I would rather starve to death.
Instead, I go to my emergency food cupboard, find a packet of noodles and switch on the kettle. Noodles for dinner it is then. Well, at least I can say I’ve had a real student experience now.