Before flying over the ocean the group of exchange students were to meet in Washington, DC, where they would stay in a hotel, get to know each other, have a few meetings about what to expect and see a few of the National Monuments. Louise and Sally took a flight to Washington and drove from there to the hotel. Sally was just as excited about this trip as Louise was. Sally told her daughter to enjoy every bit of the trip. ‘’You are going to have the experience of a life time. I knew you would be accepted for this program, I just knew it. I am so proud of you. I want you to have loads of fun, do you hear me?’’
‘’Of course’’ The flight to Washington took about a half an hour, just enough time for the flight attendants to pass out little bags of pretzels and beverages. Louise didn’t even have a chance to finish eating before the plane landed.
Sally paid for a rental car and took Louise to Starbucks before dropping her off at the hotel and saying her final goodbye. Sally got a coffee and Louise her favorite Caramel Frappuccino. The drive to the hotel was rather silent. Louise had the feeling that her mother had already said everything there was to say and that if she tried to speak now, she would probably cry. On the other hand, she was probably also happy to have the last child out of the house. All of Louise’s sibling had moved out, she was the last one.
Sally hates goodbyes, probably because they make her cry and she doesn’t like to be seen crying, so she let Louise off at the door, gave her a hug, said ‘’I love you.’’ and left. This was alright with Louise. She didn’t want to look like a baby coming in with her mother. Some of the other exchange students flew to Washington alone.
Louise sat down in the lobby and waited for someone to tell her where to go. A few other girls came over to the couches and sat down and started talking. Suddenly a girl came in yelling ‘’WOOH WOOOH!’’ She was loud and smiling big, giving everyone a hug. ’’Oh my god, we’re heeeeeeere!’’ Louise found out from what all were saying that they had already met that summer while Louise was in Germany, so no one knew her. A few older guys came in and sat down across from Louise. They asked what she was doing and said they were here on vacation, ‘’if you’re interested, we could hook up later.’’ Louise said maybe, but had no intention of seeing them ever again. She was flattered.
Louise sat drinking her Caramel Frappuccino. She tried to finish it rather quickly. She didn’t want to come across as the spoiled rich kid. About the time she finished drinking all of the exchange students were called together. It was time to be welcomed and shown to the rooms. Louise found that she was rooming with a girl named Rachel Parker, who preferred to be called Parker.
There were no plans for the first night other than dinner. Louise wanted to unpack a few things for her stay in Washington. It felt like a new beginning, like New Year’s Eve. She made a few ‘New Year’s resolutions, but similar to most resolutions they didn’t last long. She decided to read her bible every day, to start flossing her teeth morning and night and she decided that since she couldn’t go to a dance class, she would jog every morning to stay in shape.
After dinner, she got ready for bed and figured Parker would do the same, but she didn’t get ready for bed. She said, ‘’Oh, you’re going to sleep? That’s ok. Well… I invited some of the others over for a party in our room… but that’s ok if you want to sleep. I’ll just ask them if we can meet in another room.’’
Louise looked up from her Bible. She wondered how this small little girl could have already made friends and wouldn’t they get into trouble for not staying in the room? She didn’t know what to say. She was rooming with the wildest girl in the group. But to her surprise this ‘wild child’ was considerate. Louise went back and forth between saying ‘no, just let them come here’ and ‘Yes, thank you, I’m just going to go to bed’. She opted for the latter, not wanting to be kicked out of the program on the first night.
Parker went into the bathroom to shower, fix her hair and make-up, then she was out the door. Louise was left feeling, a mixture of regret and satisfaction. She wrote a few notes in her journal before flossing and turning out the lights. About that time Parker came back into the room. There was a small crowd of other exchange students behind her trying to get in. Louise could hear her roommate whispering that they should be quiet, ‘’Louise is asleep, get out. The lights are off. Quiet. Get out. I’ll be right back’’ She shut the door behind her.
That’s when Louise turned on the lamp next to her bed and looked up to find Parker tiptoeing in the dark trying to find something in her bag. ‘’Oh, I’m so sorry. Did I wake you? Were you asleep? I tried to keep the others quiet. I didn’t think that you would be asleep. I told the others about you and they wanted to come get you, so you can join the party. But you’re tired, so don’t worry about it. I shouldn’t have brought them here.’’
‘’No, that’s alright. I wasn’t asleep. I actually just turned off the light.’’ Louise said.
‘’Oh, thank goodness. Well, if you change your mind and want to come with me we’re in room 202. I’ve already scouted out all the rooms. This room has 2 boys, Sasha and Aiden.’’ She continued looking for something as she spoke. ‘’So… since you’re not asleep…do you want to come? There are a few other girls there too. Maybe just say hi? I told them how nice you are and I know they want to meet you.’’
‘’Well, I don’t know, what if we get into trouble?’’ Louise asked sitting up in her bed.
‘’That won’t happen. The adults are down in the bar and they didn’t say we had to stay in our rooms. We’re not doing anything wrong. We’re just talking and getting to know each, that’s it. Plus, all the kids are running around checking out each other’s rooms and stuff. There are only a few girls who have gone to bed.’’ She seemed to have found what she was looking for.
‘’Well, I guess, I’ll just come for a minute. But I have to change.’’ Louise said, looking down at her pajamas, pulling on her shirt.
‘’Oh, no you don’t. Most of the other kids are in their pajamas too. Just come like that. You look fine.’’ Parker assured her.
‘’Alright, I’ll be right there. I just have to use the restroom.’’ She lied.
‘’Ok’’ Said Louisa hopping out of the door. ‘’Room 202, don’t forget.’’ She said as she closed the door.
Louise went into the restroom to look at herself in the mirror. Her hair needed brushing and she wasn’t sure if she should even go. She didn’t want to be pinned as the good girl who thinks she’s better than everyone else on the very first night. It shouldn’t matter what others think of her. She decided just to go see what the others were doing. If she felt uncomfortable or if they were doing ‘bad things’ she could always say she was tired and leave. She brushed her hair, looked at herself in the mirror again, took a few deep breaths and turned around to go.
Louise wasn’t sure where room 202 was located and felt a bit lonely. That is until she saw some other kids running past her. ‘’I wonder if this is what spring break it like?’’ she asked herself. There were doors open to a few rooms, Louise stuck her head in and saw two boys unpacking. One pulled out a shirt out of his suitcase and a pile of condoms fell out with it.
‘’What in is that? Do you think you’re going to need that many condoms?’’ The other boy asked.
‘’I hope so!’’ he answered laughing. There were a few other kids in the room who Louise overheard saying things like ‘’gross’’, ‘’you’re so sick’’, and ‘’you wish’’. She was glad that this wasn’t room 202. She walked away looking for the right room.
After a while she found it. She didn’t hear anyone and the door was closed so she raised her hand to knock. At that very moment a girl came up from behind saying ‘’excuse me,’’ pushing past Louise to open the door. She walked in shutting the door in Louise’s face.
‘’Well! I wonder if I have the right room.’’ Louise thought to herself. ‘’And if I knock now, how will that look? But I can’t just walk in unannounced either. Man!’’ She stood thinking for a moment. ‘’If I stand here too long, then the girl, who just went past me, will make a ‘smart’ comment about me, standing in front of the door. What if Parker told everyone I was coming? If I don’t show up she will look like a liar. I don’t want that guilt on my back. Plus I told her I was coming. Now I’m here. I should just go in.’’ So Louise decided to knock and walk in at the same time.
She walked in to find about 5 guys and 3 girls staring at her. ‘’Oh man! Why did I come in here?’’ Louise asked herself. Parker was on the bed between a few others. One person sat in front of the window, the others on the floor or on the second bed. ‘’What are you doing here?’’ asked one of the boys, who Louise later found out to be Sasha.
Louise must have looked like a deer in headlights. ‘’Um, Parker told me I could find her here.’’ She said still standing in front of everyone.
‘’Here she is.’’ He said coolly.
‘’Oh, stop Sasha. Don’t make her feel uncomfortable.’’ Parker said, nudging him in the side. ‘’Just sit down Louise. You can be here just like everyone else.’’
Louise sat on the floor wrapping her arms around her propped up knees. She hoped that everyone would go back to whatever it was they were taking about before she came. She wondered what they had been talking about.
‘’Are you wearing your pajamas? This isn’t a sleep over.’’ Sasha didn’t seem to want to give Louise a break. She also noticed that only two others were wearing pajamas. Louise’ eyebrows lowed as she gave him a stare. It must have looked intimidating because Sasha started laughing and said, ‘’I’m just messing with you. I’m in my pajamas too.’’
Louise shook her head, making a smirk and the conversation started up again. Louise didn’t catch all that was said. She was too busy wondering what had just happened. ‘’I guess I’m in,’’ she though. She looked around at the other girls in the room. Louisa was short and blond with thick hair. It looked dyed. She was very beautiful. The two other girls were even more beautiful. Louise felt very out of place. One girl sat across the room, she seemed to be sitting on the window seal. She was tall and thin with perfectly straight hair. She was the one who had pushed Louise aside and shut the door in her face. Louise figured the two of them would probably not get along very well. She surely didn’t want to make enemies so she decided to just be polite and forgiving. The other girl sat on the floor in front of her. She was tall. Louise could tell even though she was sitting. She had the curliest most beautiful red hair that Louise had ever seen. Her skin was pale with little tiny freckles dispersed about her face and arms.
What was Louise doing here? The topics didn’t interest her that were being discussed. It seemed to just kind of be a show of who was in and who wasn’t. Louise figured she should stay for a little longer just to let her face be seen. But she was tired and she really wasn’t even sure if she wanted to be friends with this group. They seemed like trouble. Not that that is a bad thing. Louise just really didn’t want to do anything to put this trip in jeopardy. After a while she decided to go back to her room. She wasn’t sure when Parker even came back that night. It didn’t matter. She had a good feeling about this trip and went to sleep that night with a smile on her face.
© Rebekah Schmidt and Ten Years in Germany 2013, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rebekah Schmidt and Ten Years in Germany with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.