**I made some changes and added part of another scene.**
Emily ran her pencil over her notebook in mindless doodles. Class was always so boring. English Composition I felt like a review of her high school English classes. She didnâ€™t see the point. She did the writing and reading and turned everything in on time (if not early), but it wasnâ€™t interesting. Dr. Brandâ€™s voice, though, was the worst part. It was a weird mid-tone drone that ran on for an hour and a half every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. It felt like a punishment. A class she had to pay for. She didnâ€™t really pay, her scholarship did, but it still felt like a waste.
She could mostly tune out during class. Not completely, though. She needed to pick up on assignments and catch a few notes here and there. Things about Horace and Shakespeare and prosody. She could answer when called, but that wasnâ€™t common. Pass the tests, turn in the papers, and get through the class. Her advisor, Dr. Angleton, said to think of the first three semesters as a way to see if a student is serious about college. Easy, almost mind-numbing classes, weed out the malcontents. Classwork was non-existent. Everything was homework. She considered, halfway through the semester, while unlistening to Brand buzzing on and on about the beauty of the words â€˜whan that aprill with his shoures soote,â€™ that she might be one of those malcontents.
She could do the work. She was smart enough, she was sure, and she wasnâ€™t averse to digging in to her studies. That wasnâ€™t the problem. It was the school. The culture. She felt like she didnâ€™t belong. She was one of maybe ten mice out of six-thousand undergraduate students. There were more students in her freshman class than the entire population of the town where she grew up. And she figured that the girls in her dorm could have probably pooled their allowance to buy every house on the street where her parents lived. So she kept quiet. Turned in. Tuned out.
Emily folded her spiral shut and pushed it into her bag. The strangest thing about college was having no bells. No signal that class was over until someone started packing up and the professor called out the reading for the next class. Tasha, her roommate, said she should skip class sometime. A lot of students did. Two or three absences over a semester donâ€™t really hurt and can be refreshing. Emilyâ€™s athletic scholarship kept that from being an option for her. Someone at a desk outside her classes had a clipboard where she had to sign in and out. It was usually the rabbit girl who ran errands for Coach McEwen. If Emily missed a class, she would have to be sick or at a competition. She couldnâ€™t just skip because she needed a break. It initially seemed a small price to pay. After all, if not for the scholarship she wouldnâ€™t be there.
She sat down on the steps outside Manger Hall. There was an hour before she needed to be at Athletics for her workout. Mandatory, Coach said. Emily didnâ€™t mind the workouts. She enjoyed them, in fact. Focusing on technique and routine, controlling every muscle precisely took her mind off slog of her classes. That was also the time when she was around the most of her own kind. She wasnâ€™t prejudiced, she would say, just more comfortable around other mice.
She probably should have used that time to study or get ahead in her coursework, but she didnâ€™t want to. Those minutes between class and practice were hers. She could dictate what she did and where she went. Mostly. She couldnâ€™t go home. She couldnâ€™t go back and tell herself to not take the scholarship. Stay in Herndon. Go to the junior college and get a nursing certificate like her mother said. Closed doors are closed. The past is gone. Keep on keeping on. All those sayings her grandma used to turn to when the little white mouse with the big blue eyes would miss a quarter-turn or fall off a beam went through her head.
â€œYâ€™all OK, M&M?â€ came Lilyâ€™s slow drawl from off Emilyâ€™s shoulder. Coachâ€™s little helper. A lop-eared rabbit with creamy fur and a ready smile. There was a sort of instinct to dislike her among the athletes. She was a little on the heavy side and had a tic that made her squince up her face when she blinked behind her thick glasses. Coach was always nice to her. There were rumors. She does spend a lot of time alone with Coach. If nothing else, a common target strengthened the camaraderie of the team. Emily felt badly for the times she had been cold to her, though. The rumors were baseless. Sheâ€™d never heard Lily say something bad about anyone.
â€œIâ€™m good,â€ Emily said, nodding without turning around.
â€œYou sure?â€ Lily pressed, stepping down to sit next to Emily. Even then, sitting at the same level, the rabbit was still more than a head taller the mouse. â€œIt looks like yâ€™all are working something over in your head that donâ€™t want to be worked.â€
â€œI just need some time to think about things.â€ Emily pulled her hands into the sleeves of her sweatshirt and hugged her knees up to her chest.
Lily nodded. â€œWell, I just wanted to say that Iâ€™m good at listening.â€ She nudged Emily and flipped her long ears between her fingers. â€œI got plenty of ears to spare.â€
Emily forced a smile. â€œThanks.â€