Me, Cinderella?By: Aubrey Rose
“Ok, guys,” Quentin said, closing his book with a decisive thud. “See you all tomorrow at the auditorium, where I will beat every single one of you motherfuckers out for that internship.”
Mark guffawed. “You wish,” he said.
“See you guys later.” I waved to Quentin who just held his hand up in farewell as he hurried down the stairs.
“Want me to walk you back to your apartment?” Mark said. I was tempted—it was late, after all—but he had already packed up and all of my papers still lay spread out in front of me. Also, I felt like being alone for a while.
“Nah,” I said. “Gotta check out a book before I go. See you later!”
“Okay,” Mark said, a half-smile dimpling his face. “See you!”
I stood up and stretched, looking through the windows overlooking the lawn below. I half-expected to see the man standing there below, staring up at me. Eliot.
He wasn’t there. A few drunken undergraduates stumbled across the snow-crusted grass, clothed in overly skimpy miniskirts and Ugg boots. Nobody in California knew how to dress for the cold. My eyes focused on the snowflakes stuck to the window pane. It was cold. I should go home. The internship thing was Sunday, and I had been running on a sleep deficit for far too long.
This is important to you, right?
Mark’s words came back to me as I stared out the window, and the snowflakes blurred into a cottony white as tears filled my eyes. All of the junior-level math majors vied for the internship each year, but for me this prize was more personal. Sure, the free travel was tempting, and the semester abroad at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences would brighten my resume with prestige. But that wasn’t the main reason I wanted to win the internship prize, not by far.
“The pleasure we obtain from music comes from counting, but counting unconsciously. Music is nothing but unconscious arithmetic.” - Liebniz
I woke up in darkness. The clock at the side of the bed glowed green: 11:41. I rolled out of bed, pulled on some warm clothes sleepily, and tiptoed down the hall.
Four times already this week I’d woken like this in the middle of the night, not being able to go back to sleep until I’d taken a long walk. I’d read once about how humans used to wake up all the time, just like this, before the industrial age. Benjamin Franklin had written about it—the odd hours between first and second sleep where people would wake up and read, pray, or make love.
Me? I took walks. Most of the time I would walk to campus, just a few blocks from our apartment. At night the sidewalks were empty and the buildings loomed like ghosts over my head. Everything seemed older then, bigger. I would walk, think about math, and then I would be back in my bed, ready to slumber at two or three in the morning.
I tugged on my boots and slid my keys into my pocket, closing the door behind me as quietly as I could. Shannon had agreed to cover for me, and I didn’t want to wake her up the night before she worked my shift. Hurrying down the stairs, I greeted the night as a friend, not even minding the rush of cold air and the soft sprinkling of snow. Perhaps it was my sleepiness, but I didn’t feel as cold during my night walks as I did during the day, even though the temperature dropped ten degrees or so.
Passing briskly through the stone archways onto the campus, I let my mind wander to the internship test I would be taking tomorrow. Tomorrow, or today? I didn’t know the time. Six hours of the hardest math problems, or so I’d heard. I wondered if I would be up to the task.
From somewhere in the distance I heard a bell ring out, and my mind jolted back to the present. I halted in my tracks, not sure where on campus my feet had taken me. The snow had stopped falling, and everything seemed unnaturally hushed. No whisper of cars on the neighboring streets, no rustle of night birds in the eaves of the buildings. Silence wrapped the world in a cradling hold.
I blinked hard and looked up to see the music building in front of me. My body had brought me here unconsciously and now something urged me to go inside, to get out of the night. I looked around, my heart beating quickly as though expecting some predator to jump out of the shadows toward me, but nothing moved. I climbed the stone steps of the building slowly, careful not to slip on the icy granite.
Security always locked the doors for the night, but as I reached for the brass handle I knew that this one would be open. Indeed, the oak door swung outward, a gust of warm air escaping like smoke into the chilly night. I turned back to survey the deserted campus, and again felt a thrill of fear, as though some monster watched me as I moved. A wolf, maybe, though I knew there were no wolves here. Still, I pulled the door closed behind me and locked the bolt myself, shutting out the night.