Chapter 3

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The encounter with the traffic guard played over and over again in Emery's head as she drove down the narrow street. It was probably just a figment of her imagination. Maybe the traffic guard had informed the Resident Assistant that she'd arrived. Or maybe they'd met somewhere before.

Highly unlikely.

She shook off the eerie feeling and brought the car to an abrupt halt, looking out the window at the horrendous structure before her. Piles of faded brick lay desolately on the sidewalk. The doors to the entrance of Rosemary Hall were painted two different colors-one tan, the other a deep brown-and there were still strips of blue tape where the painting was unfinished. It was almost as if the administration had started some renovations and suddenly decided to stop halfway through.

Alexis's stunned expression mirrored her own. "Well, maybe it's not so bad on the inside." She climbed out of the car, peering into the deeply tinted windows of the backseat. "You're on the third floor, right?" she asked as she walked over to the main entrance. She opened the doors to the lobby, then disappeared from sight. After two minutes, she returned, the expression on her face dismal. "Oh, Emery. You're not going to like this."

"I'm not going to like what?"

"Your dorm . . . it doesn't have any elevators."

Emery groaned. Of course. She would be the one to get the outdated building with no elevators. "That's alright," she said, trying to hide her disappointment. "See all of those people in gold and maroon shirts?" Her eyes shifted to the horde of people bustling in the parking lot. "I'm pretty sure they're here to help. They have full-size bins with wheels and everything."

"If you say so." Alexis rolled her eyes and walked to the back of the car. She popped the trunk and began to unload box after box of clothes, muttering to herself why any girl would possibly need this many pairs of shoes and jeans.

Emery smiled, trying not to laugh, when a sea of students in maroon and gold shirts caught her attention. Many of their shirts were plain, but a number of them had large logos stitched on the sleeves. Her gaze shifted to a row of buildings across the street as more students appeared. They didn't look like residence halls, and she wondered if they were administrative buildings of some sort.

A deafening slam invaded her eardrums, causing her to jump like a horse that had been spooked one too many times. She couldn't help but direct a harsh stare at her sister.

"What?" Alexis asked, resting her hands on the trunk of the car. "Don't look so jolted. Grab some stuff from the backseat and I'll go find some bins."

By the time they'd filled up four of the bins, there wasn't a gold or maroon shirt in sight. As they rolled the oversized bins through the dorm lobby, Emery couldn't help but frown. The entire building looked like it was under construction. There were concrete and plaster-covered walls everywhere, paint chips scattering the floor amongst piles of overflowing garbage bags. But the smell was the worst, like multiple sewage pipes had sprung leaks and hadn't been repaired yet. How could they let students move in when the lobby was hardly even functional?

I pray to god this isn't what my room looks like.

They stopped at the front desk, a chipper woman greeting them for check-in. She jotted down Emery's information, then pulled a shiny black key card and a gold room key from her desk drawer. The woman scanned the card to activate it, then handed both items to Emery. "Room 319 will be through the door on the right on the third floor. Welcome to Darden."

Emery thanked her and proceeded to a glass door with a large paper cut-out of the letter C taped messily to the window, as if a kindergartner had been given too much leeway during arts and crafts time. She searched the door for a second, noticing a small black box next to the doorframe with a little red light above it. A faint beep sounded as she swiped the card over the access reader, the light turning green.

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