The Greyhound trip had been further than Kitty had ever traveled before, but when Kitty stepped off the bus on that muggy Chicago summer night, she was in awe of the city lights. Her most persistent thought about her new home was that it was beautiful. The city was so much cleaner and friendlier than what she had known in Ohio. Kitty soon found that the trains were a far better mode of transport than the buses. The buildings were more polished. The Navy Pier had better food. Kitty felt love for a place like she never had before. It was her motivation to stay focused in school or to stay in her new home. The college Kitty had signed up for necessitated that she take out student loans which made her anxious. There was no getting around it as her scholarship was used up and her financial aid only covered so much. It took a hard gulp for her to reach for that pen in the school's finance office, but Kitty knew she needed to sign on the dotted line to move ahead.
This time around Kitty had her dorm room all to herself for the most part as her roommates tended to drop out or run off with their partners. Her days were busy with classes and exploring the city on the weekends when she found the time. This go Kitty was less open with the other students. Her stint at the community college was all well and good because she had been socially deprived living with Pam and then Sandy. After dealing with what felt like a betrayal by Marnie and being horrified by Stafford's inescapable presence Kitty was less inclined to reach out for friendship. Kitty did start to write to Pam more frequently to offset her lack of socializing. Pam usually wrote back in a relatively timely manner. Kitty found it hard to read the things Pam wrote about. It was as if with each letter Kitty learned more about Pam's institutionalization into the penial system. Kitty also felt guilt at all of her personal success, which she tried to avoid bringing up or downplayed entirely when she communicated with Pam. She feared Pam would resent her for going so far away from what Pam had expected her to be, which was like her.
Kitty's academic plan had been mapped out for her to finish her degree in three years if she went to school each summer. This school being a university, required more prerequisites than her community college alma mater. That first year Kitty stuck to her studies with fevered determination. Time though wore her down and her loneliness became almost unbearable by her second semester. This was palatable when at a supermarket another customer tapped her shoulder at the checkout to ask if they could cut in front of her. It was then that she realized she hadn't had human contact in months, outside of a few study groups for class projects or tutoring sessions for her math and science classes. As busy as she was, Kitty felt the sting of her ambition's isolating effects. She started to understand why Marnie a high achiever in the music community went for a pig like Stafford. It was not that Marnie was blind to Stafford's flaws, but in Kitty's mind anyway, it was that Stafford was at least a distraction from the void of emptiness that Marnie's career path had left in its wake.
In a desperate attempt to salvage her twenties, Kitty did what she never thought she'd do on the winter break, crash a campus New Year's Eve party. It was the party of another dorm resident that she vaguely knew. The girl was some business marketing major who talked about networking in every sentence. Kitty always thought of her as an overly bleached blonde who used her "networking" excuse as a premise to get away with huge parties on their floor. Kitty went in wearing a cheap black dress she got from the mall, combined with the lipstick one of her former roommates left after dropping out for a full effect. She knew she had to keep her head down while there because she had been so vocal about the need for parties to be shut down in the past. Looking back Kitty had become an old grump before her years. While at the party she found the room to be packed with the faces she had passed along the campus corridors before. None of whom had much interest in her. Kitty leaned against a wall waiting for anyone to strike up a conversation with her. Instead, she had beer spilled on her repeatedly and witnessed at least four co-eds snort cocaine off of a vomit-soaked desk. Having had her fill with what she had seen there, Kitty headed for the door after only fifteen minutes.
On her way out Kitty was surprised when a young man grabbed her arm to get her attention. She had met him before in the library, he had asked her if he could use her printer card, which Kitty denied him access to. He was not unattractive, but he was also not someone Kitty would have considered as a possible romantic interest either. He had long unkempt hair and an unshaven patchy beard. He spoke of marijuana as if it was ambrosia, a dull subject as far as Kitty was concerned. "Where are you off to looking so good?" He said as Kitty tried to quickly decide if she should continue with her exit or stay until she found someone else to talk to. "I'm heading to my room," Kitty spoke the words and wished she hadn't immediately. "Is that an invitation?" He joked. Kitty tried not to visibly show her repulsion for this person as she responded by saying, "I don't even know your name." He looked as if little wheels were turning in his unwashed head for a minute until he began again saying "That's rude, I know your name. It's Kitty. I'll introduce myself again; I'm Charlie." Kitty smiled to try to hide the awkwardness she felt knowing that he probably has spoken to her more than she remembered but had filed him mentally under undatable and never given him a second thought. "It's good to see you. Bye." She said as she bolted out of the party.
In her dorm later that week she saw Charlie again, he lived on the floor below her and often visited the party rooms on her floor. Kitty also learned more about the bubbly "networking" student who occupied the room at the end of the hall. Her name was Blair, and after finding out that Kitty had crashed her party, she warmed to Kitty. On the following Sunday Blair commented to Kitty in the laundry room, "You know, I thought you were the asshole who was snitching to the RA about me, but when I saw you the other night I knew you were cool." Kitty felt relieved that Blair didn't piece together that it was her who had "snitched" before. Blair continued to engage with Kitty saying "Charlie is totally crushing on you. You two would be such a cute couple." Kitty folding her second-hand jeans out of the dryer decided to explore this topic with Blair, "You think? I thought he was too into the party scene to be a one-girl kind of guy?" Blair swished a sip from the wine cooler in her hand around her mouth before answering Kitty, saying "He's a stoner, not a techno freak." She laughed at Kitty and Kitty uncomfortably laughed along with her not knowing why they were laughing at all. Rationalizing in her mind that he was no Stafford and that she had to have a boyfriend at some point before she was thirty, Kitty went for it telling Blair, "I'd go out with him if you think we'd be a good match." Then she walked out with her folded clothes neatly in her plastic hamper back to her room.
Less than two hours later, Charlie knocked on Kitty's door wearing his best Zumiez tee shirt. He wasn't what Kitty wanted, but he was a distraction from her own headspace for a bit. Their "date" was a trip to the movies. Kitty had to pay for him as he was broke from spending all of his money on shatter. The whole time there he tried to fondle her leg, which she rebuffed by pushing his hand away repeatedly. When the movie ended, Kitty trying not to make a scene or risk accidentally enticing Charlie to act out, said she had a headache and that they'd have to end their date early. Charlie nagged her for sex all the way to her dorm. Only further affirming Kitty's intent to never date a person she had no interest in. In front of her room, Charlie could be heard whispering under his breath some derogative terms for women as Kitty gently closed the door in his face. Kitty checked to be sure it was locked twice thereafter. Later that night she texted Charlie to come to visit her. All while they were together she thought about Stafford, wondering if he were as much of a waste of effort as Charlie was. Kitty's second year at the university would have to be better than this one had been or so she hoped. Kitty planned to string Charlie along until she found someone better. However, she never had to follow through with it because he dropped out and moved back into his parent's home before the summertime came back around.