How Christi Paid for College Ch. 01bygottschalk03©
"I'm sorry, Christi. You're a good student and we hate to lose you, but there's nothing I can do. Scholarship money is already allocated. If you and your parents can't come up with tuition for the semester, you're going to have to withdraw."
Christi felt that black pit in the bottom of her stomach as she sat in the office of Assistant Dean Skinner. All she had was a part-time job as a barista in a local café. Her mother's drinking had finally caught up with her and she had lost her job. Her father had been long gone, since Christi was little. She was already in student loan debt up to her eyeballs and had been turned down for further loans. She had hoped a college degree would be the ticket to a better life than her mother had known. Now the door was slamming in her face.
The tuition bill for the semester was over five thousand dollars. Skimping over the summer while working overtime, she had actually managed to save that. But that was only half of what she owed; room, board, and fees were another five thousand, and she didn't have a prayer of coming up with that, nor of off-campus rent and grocery money. She couldn't commute from home, it was an eight-hour drive away. Wouldn't do much good to stay in class if she couldn't eat or sleep. No, her college career was done.
She hoarsely croaked out an insincere thanks to Dean Skinner and tried to maintain her dignity as she left the office. The tears came as she stalked across campus to her dorm, making her eyes red and her skin blotchy. The door to her room was open when she got there. Great. People. She'd hoped it would at least be empty so she could pack and disappear in silence. She sucked in a breath, wiped her cheeks and tried to walk in casually as though nothing had happened.
Hannah was there, brown hair flying every which way in its usual crazy curls. She was camped out on the futon, and some guy was sitting on the floor. Christi vaguely recognized him from her BritLit class last year -- sandy blond hair, solidly built, but thick glasses and a bit nerdy, engineering major or something. What was his name? A-something -- Andrew? Anthony? No, it was more unusual...
"Hey Christi," Hannah said cheerily. "You remember Anders?"
Anders -- that was it. Norwegian or Swedish or something.
"Uh huh, yeah..." Christi said and made a vague wave. She tried to plot a path to the bedroom past his outstretched legs and not cry.
"Hey," Anders said. Then he caught a closer look at Christi's face. "Hey, are you OK?"
"Ohmigod Christi, have you been crying?" Hannah burst out. She was never good at being discreet. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing," Christi blurted and stormed toward the bedroom door, half tripping over Anders before he could move. While he tried to get up, though, Hannah flew off the futon and chased her into the bedroom.
"What's going on, Christi, what happened?"
"Nothing, nothing! It's just... I gotta go..." Christi hauled her suitcase from under the bed and threw it open.
"Go? Go where? What are you talking about?" Hannah cried. Anders appeared in the door behind her.
"It's... I'm leaving. I can't make tuition and they're making me withdraw. So I've gotta go. OK?"
Silence met this revelation. "Ohmigod Christi, that sucks so bad!"
"Wow," Anders said, "I'm so sorry. That really does suck."
"Can't you get financial aid or a loan or something?" Hannah asked.
"Been that route," Christi huffed. "It's all dried up. There's no more money to be had and I'm headed home to my alcoholic mom. Going to cut hair for a living or something I guess."
"Wow... Christi, I'm really sorry. I was looking forward to having you for a roomie this year."
"You know what the stupid thing is?" Christi said, warming up to the discussion -- if they were going to make her talk about it, she may as well get on a roll -- "the stupid thing is, I can make tuition, or room and board, but not both. So I can choose between studying and eating. Or go home. It DOES fucking suck! Fucking money!"
"Wait, what?" Hannah said.
"I can pay for tuition but not for housing and meal plan. Or I can pay for room and board but I won't have anything left to pay for classes with. So I'm stuck."
"Wait," Anders said. Christi stopped packing and reeled on him silently, defying him to help. Good luck. But she could see the engineer gear whirring behind his glasses. Identify the problem and design a solution. That was how his mind worked. "So if you had a place to live, you could pay your tuition and stay in school?"
"Well yah, theoretically," Christi said. "But places to live cost money. I don't make enough and I don't have it saved."
"Isn't there anybody who could let you crash with them?" Hannah asked.
"I don't know anybody with the space," Christi said. "Everyone I know is on campus."
"I do," Anders said. "My frat house."
"What?" Christi stared at him.
The gears kept clicking. "We have rooms for twenty-four," he said. "Twelve double rooms. Seven seniors graduated last year and we haven't taken new pledges yet. There's three empty rooms at the frat house. Maybe you could crash there till the new pledges come in. That's still six weeks away. Maybe by then we can come up with something more permanent."
"Are you serious?" Christi gaped. "Move in with a bunch of frat boys? Aren't there rules about that sort of thing? Not to mention... I mean, you know... I don't think I'd feel... appropriate."
Anders chuckled. "Well, I'm in Phi Kappa," he said, "We're a bunch of science and engineering nerds. Our idea of an exciting late night party is building a robot till three am. I don't think you'll find us as threatening as all that. Yeah, there's probably rules, but nobody supervises us all that closely... if I could canvas the brothers privately, they might agree to keep mum about the arrangement."
Hannah's face slowly lit up to an even brighter glow than usual. "Ohmigod, he's right! Anders you're a genius! Christi, you could totally do this! And I could come over to Phi Kappa and hang with you!" She started hopping up and down and threw her freckled arms around Anders and a huge hug, then squeezed the breath out of Christi.
"Could you really do it?" Christi asked cautiously. It seemed too crazy to actually work.
"Sure," Anders said. "I'll go do some texting and see what the guys think. I can let you know by tonight. Let me run over and see who's at the house now and if we'd need to clean a room out. I think somebody was building a chem lab in one of them, but the others should be free."
"Oh my god, thank you so much!" Christi said. She really did NOT want to go home. Anders, standing in front of her in thick glasses and a plaid shirt, seemed like an angel of salvation. She leaned over to him and hugged him, bringing a blush to his cheeks. Then, in a sudden impulse, she planted a kiss on his cheek. She had put her lipstick on thicker than usual that day and it showed. He blushed even brighter, then extricated himself and headed off on his mission.
Christi looked at Hannah and blushed. "Oops, sorry. I hope that wasn't out of line."
Hannah smiled and hugged her roommate again. "No problem. He's cute but we're not together. I thought it was sweet." Then her face turned thoughtful. "You know what..."
"It probably wouldn't hurt if you... well... helped Anders persuade the guys over there that it would be good to have you around."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you're a pretty girl and that's not a crowd that gets to hang with girls as pretty as you very much. Might make them more willing to bend the rules for you."
"Hannah! What do you want me to do, whore it up for the nerds?" Christi was partly mocking shock, but partly feeling it seriously.
"Oh god no!" Hannah cried. "Just... you know... draw their attention a little to how cute you are."
"Cute? Hannah, you're crazy. I'm not that cute."
Hannah stared at her at this comment. "You're joking, right?"
"No.... I'm pretty ordinary, Hannah. Look at me."
"I AM looking at you, and I can tell you any guy looking at you would say you're pretty hot."
"Oh god, Christi, come over here..." and taking Christi's wrist, Hannah dragged her in front of a full-length mirror behind the bedroom door. "Now let's take inventory, shall we?" Hannah stood behind her, pointing to each feature as she went.
" Hair -- smooth, straight, dark brown, silky -- very nice."
"Eyes -- holy crap. They're not even green, they're, like, yellow. Fucking YELLOW! How hot is that?"
"I don't know, is it?" Christi protested.
"Shut up. Lips, nice and full. Neck straight and smooth. I bet it's sensitive too!" Christi yelped as Hannah blew a mock kiss on the side of her throat... and she was right, it WAS sensitive.
"Boobs... oh god, girl, you're lucky. Lush natural full bosom..."
"They're bloated and dumpy."
"You are SO stupid! Wear a proper bra and you'll see different... like this..." Hannah snaked her arms around Christi's side and scooped her tits up in cupped hands... all of a sudden Christi realized that they WERE lush and full...
"Fat and hideous." Christi was really uncomfortable here.
"Bullshit. That's not some nasty muffin top. Let me see," and Hannah lifted the hem of Christi's blouse. "Oh no, sweetums. That's just a nice slight pillow. Guys love that."
"Yeah, I see 'nice slight pillows' on magazine covers all the time."
"Magazines, schmagazines. Real guys aren't fashion designers. They like a little pillowing... just a little, not too much, but they do like it. You're perfect."
"Ass..." Hannah continued as Christi tried to wrap her mind around the idea that her belly wasn't hideous, "ba-doing ga-doing ga-doing!"
"And legs ... lean but not skinny. Sorry Christi, I hate to burst your bubble, but you're a babe."
"Yeah, that's why I have the whole football team lined up at my dorm with flowers."
"You ARE, it's just that you never SHOW it. You go around all the time in sweats or PJs and flip flops with your hair up in some stupid ponytail. You're an under-the-radar girl."
"Oh?" Christi replied, turning on her former roommate. "And what about YOU, miss sex appeal expert? Let's see how you rack up." She grabbed Hannah by the shoulders and swung her around to face the mirror.
"Hair... my god, I love your hair."
"It's curly... it's like there's LIFE bouncing around in it with every step you take. Eyes... deep pools of warm brown to get lost in."
"Really. Mouth... a little pucker of your lip, like you're always ready for the next kiss... Boobs... hot DAMN girl!"
Hannah blushed but smiled, with no pretense of self-criticism. "Yeah... my tits ARE pretty awesome."
"They are! Belly... oh fuck I'm so jealous. You have that whole slim-as-a-willow thing going on. It's not fair with those big tits! Don't give me any bullshit about pillows." Hannah chuckled, but Christi carried on ticking off the inventory. "Wide child-rearin' hips! Long lanky legs! Hannah, YOU'RE the under-the-radar babe in the room, not me!"
Hannah laughed. "Tell you what, we can both be babes!"
"OK, we'll be babes together," Christi smiled. Suddenly she realized that their faces were very close together and their eyes were locked, each drinking in how beautiful the other was. They stared at each other in silence then, eyes heavy lidded and lips parted in anticipation. Neither moved.
"Holy fuck," Hannah finally said, breaking the silence.
"Yeah. Wow. Uh, do you...?" Christi trailed off.
"No! Well, not today. Maybe... I mean, I've never..."
"Me neither. Let's get some space here."
"Yeah... but damn. Wow."
"Wow. " Christi agreed. And the two roommates broke down in hysterical laughter.