Two months earlier, a prison term for burglary was not on the mind of any college student enrolled in Haven Heights University. Those students were far more focused on their first day of class - a monumental experience for the incoming freshmen and a tedious one for returning upperclassmen.
Arly York, a Business Administrations minor, was one of those poor students. She should be more excited, having just transferred to the massive university after finishing her general education at the local community college. Instead, she dreaded the next two years and what they would bring. She didn't know how to survive at a massive university, almost four hours away from home.
Still, Arly put on a brave face as she entered the massive lecture hall. Over one hundred and fifty students, each from different backgrounds and upbringings, filed inside and found their seats. She could see that most tried to sit with their friends, leaving her to feel like a fish out of water. Most of these people already knew their friends and that wouldn't leave much room for Arly to squeeze in.
Arly decided to take a seat in one of the back rows, where she could work on other assignments without drawing attention to herself, and prepared for a long semester. The other students filled the seats in front of Arly, which didn't bother her. She preferred sitting alone in class. It was less likely that other students would look over her shoulder or copy her assignments. That made this seat perfect, she thought. No one else would want to sit so far back.
Obviously, she overestimated the likelihood that others in the class would want to avoid the back row and jumped when someone took the open seat beside her. She turned her head, just enough to see a cute smile and bright blue eyes. His cheeks were a soft shade of pink, as he hadn't meant to scare her. On her other side, another guy sat down. He wasn't too much older than her, but the canvas bag he carried had a few colorful patches from another country. She jumped again when another student, one she recognized from another class, slid behind her to take a seat. He apologized but Arly didn't care; she was more affected by the fact that they ruined her solitude.
She found herself thankful when the professor entered, locking the lecture hall's door to prevent other students from entering. While sitting in a row of four wasn't ideal, Arly knew that she could deal with it.
Her attention drifted forward, where the professor introduced herself as Dr. Hadley Roswell - head of the Haven Heights business department. Already, Arly could identify that the professor didn't care much for attendance when she dropped the roll sheet in the trash and turned on the projector. She appreciated that. The Business Ethics class would be one she could skip when necessary.
Once a power-point had been opened for the class to review, Roswell looked into the crowds of students. "Look around. See the other students in the classroom with you. Most of them won't be here by the time you graduate," the professor explained, leaning against the podium. Arly felt as though a mental hit-list formed in the woman's head, evaluating who in the class would live to see the end. "Today, we'll take it nice and slow. You're going to get to know the people in your row. These are the people you'll be doing every assignment with for the next fifteen weeks. They are your life-line."
Arly groaned, realizing that she was in a row with three guys. She would be stuck with them for the entire semester and her grade in the class depended on them. These classes were the worst. It wasn't fair to grade her based on the effort put forward by the others. Only one in her row seemed to like the idea and it was the guy who'd blushed - likely a pushover, which might not be so bad.
After Roswell finished giving some basic instructions about the next class period, she took a seat at the computer to continue working on the syllabus. Arly prepared to leave when one of her group members interrupted, "Uh.. I'm Benedict, but everyone calls me Benny. This is my second year at Haven Heights."
Arly hadn't expected the shy one to be the first to speak up, but she wasn't complaining too hard about it. He was actually kind of cute, if she was looking at that kind of thing. She released the handle of her backpack and settled in to hear what the others had to say.
"I'm Kyran. I've only been back in the States for a month," the one to her left spoke. His voice was rougher than Benny's, which fascinated her. "I've been in Africa for the past seven years, working on the malaria control efforts. I'm undecided, but the campus advisor recommended I take this class first."
That explains the patches on his backpack, Arly acknowledged. Two of three isn't so bad.
The other guy in their row had his eyes on his notebook, seemingly working on a rough pencil sketch of Dr. Roswell. He didn't acknowledge Benny or Kyran's attempts to engage him. The most that they were able to get from his was a name and a major; Tom, Graphic Design. All he wanted to do was sketch. That would prove to be a problem if this class required in-depth group work.
When the men finally found themselves brave enough to look back at Arly, she decided to keep things short. They didn't need to know everything about her. "My name's Arly. You call me anything else and I'll pretend you don't exist. I'm a Business Admin student and I want to open my own bookstore," she told them, setting her chin in hand. What else could they talk about now? "I didn't know this class would be almost all group work, but I think we'll get along fine."
She looked at the group they formed, recognizing that it would be a long semester. However, Kyran and Benny both seemed like nice guys. Maybe this could work, Arly decided.
Little did they know, this meeting would change the course of their lives forever.
20 years young. Should be writing.