Chapter Three

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Riley isn't in her bed when I wake up the next morning. And it's five in the morning. She must still be out partying or staying at a significant other's place. I hope she knows the city well enough to travel back here whilst most likely hungover. I will never understand why people drink alcohol for a few hours of acting out of character when they suffer the harsh consequence in the mornings.

Determined to continue my daily routine, I slide out of bed and neatly re-tuck the bedsheet into the headboard. I quickly get dressed into a plain white t-shirt and shorts. I slip on a light sweater, remembering the myth of brisk New York mornings. I don't want to catch a cold before school starts in a few days. I leave the room with a mission to find a jogging route I can safely navigate through every morning.

The cold air smacks me in the face as I step out of the building. I sigh in relief at my decision to wear a sweater. Thrilled to watch the city wake up, I take off down the sidewalk that's clear enough for its part.

I stop against a small brick-building wedged between two larger scaled buildings. It's a bookstore. My interest is piqued and I stare at the interesting books on display, but manage to switch-off my nerd mode long enough to push off the wall and continue on my jog. I used to jog every single morning in Georgia. The weather could be hot as the devil's breath or a brisk chill, my neighbors could find me running by their houses at five in the morning, like clockwork.

Most wouldn't be able to even crack an eye open at five, but I have to keep myself in shape if I want to stay on top of my game. And if that means running until my legs turned into noodles and it hurt to breathe, than damn it all, I'm not giving up. Not even for a second. Not when I am so close to my dreams.

Running in New York City is starkly different from running in Georgia. For one, there's a massive crowd of people congested on the sidewalk, making it almost impossible to weave through fluidly. After many failed attempts and bumping into grumpy people in suits and I-Love-New-York t-shirts, I decided to switch it up and head for the closest park. I promptly got lost thanks to the slow data on my phone and had to ask not-so-much-morning-people for directions. Eventually I found Central Park that's about ten minutes away and decided to run there until I really couldn't feel my legs anymore.

After an hour of running, I decide to go back to the school. I achieved my quota for the morning and I'm so exhausted my legs slightly wobble like noodles. In the elevator going up to my floor, I greedily gulp down the rest of my bottled water, which replenishes me enough to elicit a smile. The elevator slows to a stop and parts open, revealing two girls mid-conversation. They don't look up at me as I step off and the doors close behind me. I'm almost at the mouth of this floor's wing but stop walking when I hear my name being called.

I turn around and find Riley waving at me. She's sitting on one of the neon couches in the lounge, along with a few other people I don't know. Before I can say or do anything, she jumps off the couch and walks over to me, smiling.

"Hey! Come here, I have a few people I want to introduce you to," she says. Her warm smile and enthusiastic bouncing are practically impossible to turn down her offer.

So, with a nervous smile, I nod and tell her, "Sure."

She drags me over to the people lounging on the chairs. They stop talking and look up, and I try not to cringe at my sweaty and disheveled appearance. I'm a true believer in first impressions, and I'm not making a positive impression right now.

"Guys, this is Lily, my roommate. This is her first year here, so try not to scare her away." Her eyes drill holes in the back of a guy's head. But since he's wearing headphones, he can't hear his friend clear insult. Or he heard her and just doesn't care.

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