Thunderheads battled their way past the mountains, rumbling with the promise of a drenching. Aiden knew those clouds well, they never lied, unlike college pamphlets.
Among other things the Hartwell University website boasted a city of temperate skies, sunny days and even a few rare beaches on which to enjoy the weather. Aiden had been on campus all of two minutes before a bone-numbing wind started tossing his hair into his eyes. If the dark rolling sky was any indication, the Hartwell marketing department was full of shit.
Aiden pulled out his phone, ignored the text from his mom, and paid the taxi driver with a tap of his finger. The guy barely waited for Aiden to pull his suitcase from the trunk before speeding away in search of new passengers. Aiden turned to the approaching clouds with a sullen look, as if it were their fault he was now standing alone in a vast and unfamiliar campus.
But then, it kind of was. His family had offered to make the flight with him and join the ranks of the anxious parents and disgruntled siblings orbiting new additions to the Hartwell collegiate. He believed they were willing to haul cheap furniture and then take him out to whatever unfamiliar chain restaurant they found close to campus. Aiden even suspected his mother and stepfather would have liked to participate in the inane socials and welcome events the university set up. They’d eaten it up when his older step brother had done it.
But Aiden saw the relief in his mother’s eyes when he insisted it wouldn’t be necessary, and the tension leave his stepfather’s shoulders when he assured them he would be fine making the move himself.
As much as his family loved him, they were tired of the storms. They wanted a life free from eerie rolling clouds and dark whispers that followed Aiden. He didn’t blame them. The dread curling in his stomach had become a familiar companion, present whenever he looked too closely at the things waiting in the corners of his vision.
When his mother had married Aiden’s stepfather, she’d sold it to her ten year old son as a chance at a normal stable life. It had been exactly that for a good few years, which Aiden remembered through a haze of natural prepubescent angst. His mother was happy, and Aiden didn’t mind his new cadre of boorish well meaning stepbrothers terribly much.
But then the storms rolled in and it didn’t take long for Aiden to realize that his family’s chance at that normal stable life might only occur if he wasn’t in it. So he’d studied, something that he wasn’t naturally inclined to do, and applied to every school on the opposite coast. Hartwell University had promised sun, a cheery student body and the best pre-law program in the country.
Aiden shook his head, clearing his thoughts as the first fat raindrops hit the asphalt with the scent of ozone. He hefted his backpack, struggled his suitcase upright, and started off towards the closest building that might feasibly contain dorms.