Chapter Eight: Hard Luck Bonuses

The bus had arrived earlier than expected to the campus. The students slowly walked out into the sunshine of the late spring day. The place looked different than it had from the last time Kitty had been there. It had been evening then and Kitty was both starving and cold. Now Kitty was warm, but still a little hungry. She made her way to the main administration building. There she asked at the information booth where the weekend tours were being held. These days she looked healthier and more clean-cut, something Kitty noticed when the students she came across were much more polite to her than they had been previously. This did not stop Kitty from feeling insecure as she expected one of the people around her to get snippy at any moment. The person working at the information desk said that the tours had a sign-up sheet that had to be turned in a month ago and to wait until next time around. Kitty's shoulders slumped at the news, "Oh, I wish my social worker had told me that, I just went two hours out of my way for nothing." Kitty turned to go back to the bus stop defeated once more. "Wait you said your social worker? Were or are you a ward of the state?" Kitty in a withdrawn tone replied, "Yes, I guess I am or was, I just turned eighteen a couple of days ago, but my diploma didn't come in the mail until today, so I guess the timing didn't work out." The clerk shuffled some forms in front of her before handing them to Kitty "In this case, the timing didn't work out for someone else. We had a no-show so you're getting their place." Kitty was surprised "Really? Why?" The clerk responded with "wards of the state get head of the line privileges. Here's your information packet, meal vouchers, and the dorm number you'll be staying in. You have the weekend to turn in those forms." Kitty thanked the clerk and walked out feeling like she was living in a different world than she had been in from the last time she was there.


The dorm was a shared living space and her roommate had not checked in yet. Kitty put down her bag for a moment and breathed in the air. No Stafford to complain that she was not "working enough." No Sandy to ignore her as she scurried away from her wretched grandson. Just then she remembered Pam's letter. Kitty took it out of her bag to read it. Pam wrote that her trial was being pushed back due to her fighting with another inmate. Apparently, Pam was to be tried twice in the same week, first for the possession offense and then for the assault charge. Pam was not only facing ten years for the assault of an officer, in addition to theft and trafficking but also attempted manslaughter for choking another prisoner in the library. Kitty put the letter down feeling a little sad. It was as if every time something went well for her something terrible was happening for Pam. Kitty tried to offset her feelings of blame for Pam's fate when she realized that Pam had done all of those things on her own, no one had made her. Pam was like a wild animal that lashed out even when not provoked. Kitty never understood it, but that was who Pam was. The only way to avoid becoming Pam was to avoid Pam altogether. Kitty wondered if Pam would ever come out of prison, and sadly reasoned that Pam was safer from herself there.


For dinner, Kitty ate a lovely strawberry salad she put together in the dining hall for herself. Kitty's roommate came in just after Kitty returned from her evening meal. The girl was as shy and small as Kitty was. Her name was Cara. In a first, Kitty knew more about the campus than someone else. Kitty offered to show Cara around for a little before they went to bed for the night. Kitty was tired from all of the unexpected turns of the day, but happy that for once things seemed to be going as she hoped they would. In the back of her mind, she was a little sad about leaving Sandy, but she also knew Sandy's was a dead-end for her. She had ceased to grow as a person there. If she stayed much longer she would become like a fattened house cat, no longer able to hunt for itself, but instead totally reliant on the scraps it is given. She also considered Stafford, he was given the best that his environment could offer and in the end, he was a barely employed adult that sent people running in the opposite direction. Kitty drifted off to sleep that night cuddling with her bag containing her precious documents inside, her mind at ease for the first time in too long.


The rest of that weekend was all paperwork and enrollment for the summer and fall classes. Kitty had zero college credits, so it was easy to fit her into anything. The summer was to be English and remedial math. In the fall she was scheduled for a full load of general education classes. Kitty never saw Cara again after that weekend. Cara had said that she was planning on going to a different school that was closer to where her boyfriend lived upstate. As for Sandy, Kitty left her a message on her answering machine. Kitty didn't even bother to go back to that house as there were only a few pieces of old clothes there and nothing she needed. Cara had given her some extra make-up and a used hairbrush, while the school had a "free closet" for students to pick through. It was mostly stocked with clothing that students left in the dorms after they graduated or when they dropped out. Kitty didn't know why people didn't use these freebies more often. Cara had said that people get too proud to admit they are in need or something to that effect. Kitty laughed and said that her pride was too poor to care about things like that. For Kitty, it was to use the freebies or be naked. It wasn't just the free used clothing that Kitty was introduced to, she also received a scholarship, financial aid, and free room and board. She additionally no longer needed to use Sandy's bus pass as she now had her own. Kitty knew that Pam had social assistance from being Kitty's caregiver, she just didn't know how much or if Pam even knew all that they were entitled to. The campus even had its own clinic where Kitty went for a free flu shot once she was fully enrolled. The campus doctor gave her a massive bottle of calcium and vitamin D pills at her appointment, saying Kitty was still undernourished.


Kitty worried that she would not be a good fit in this environment, but it was Sandy and Pam's environments that rejected her. With her academics, Kitty struggled to gain footing initially, however, once she was introduced to the study hall tutors she had the leg up she was looking for. In regard to her new roommate, the girl was hardly ever there as she tended to sleep in and take later classes. Kitty only saw her when she was getting her things before she went to a different boy's room every night. Kitty didn't mind as the girl snored louder than Kitty knew a female could. To Kitty, no roommate or acquaintance could be as unlikable as Stafford. In her classes, Kitty was liked. She was a little wary that none of the people she went to high school with were ever on campus for her to bump into, she didn't know if that meant that she had done better or worse for herself compared to her peers. Kitty tried not to dwell on details like that, being out of Sandy's was like being freed from purgatory. There was no looking back.