Welcome To Billington

Before she could waste any more time stewing over the topic, she found herself distracted by a faint glow coming from the other side of the corridor. A brightly lit screen hung from the wall, its display covered in flashing headlines and keywords: room for rent, holovision for sale, and calculus tutor needed were just a few that caught her attention. Below each heading was a large red button that read click to download to scratchpad. She was staring at a digital bulletin board.

"Eve? Eve! Are you even listening to me?" Madison whined, making her way to Eve's side. "What are you doing?"

Eve kept her eyes on the streaming text. "Looking for something."

"For what?"

"A job."

"A job?" Madison snarled in disbelief. "Have you lost your MIND?"

"What? I need work. My scholarship only covers this year."

"So? Get your parents to pay for school. That's what they're for."

"My parents are dead."

Madison faltered. "Oh. Awkward."

Hayden cocked her head. "Is that how you got the scholarship?"

"Don't you dare," Madison spat, swatting Eve's hand away from the many red buttons. "Barista? Server?" She read over the job listings, her eyes wide with horror. "RETAIL? You know they make you fold clothes, right? Do you really want folding in your future?"

Eve bit her bottom lip, her patience waning. "How else am I going to get the money?"

As Eve fought to suppress the biting witticisms lingering on the tip of her tongue, she caught a glimpse of something peculiar. A young, burly man dressed in military fatigues was strolling through the hallway, his hand firmly gripping a rifle at his side. He looked over at her, their eyes locking for a moment before he turned away and exited the building. She furrowed her brow--was there a military base close by? She couldn't fathom why an armed soldier would be roaming the halls of a university, and even more strange was the fact that no one else seemed to notice, mind, or care.

Suddenly, a heavy weight smashed into Eve's back like a wrecking ball, sending her stumbling forward and falling directly into Madison's cushy breasts.

Madison pushed Eve from her bosom, her nostrils flaring with annoyance as she straightened her blouse. "God, Eve, if you can't walk in heels, you shouldn't wear them," she moaned.

Eve growled--she had had enough. She spun around in search of the bull-in-china-shop culprit and found a young man in a grey blazer, hunched over as he gathered his belongings from the floor. He looked up at Eve--at her scornful scowl--and his cheeks reddened the slightest bit.

"Sorry," he chuckled as he stood to his feet. He was taller than Eve, with chestnut-colored hair and a cleanly-shaven, chiseled jaw, and she thought for a moment that he belonged on the cover of the Billington University catalog.

"It's okay. Sometimes I forget how to walk, too," she scoffed, her words lathered with sarcasm.

"It was an accident. Just roughhousing with the guys."

"Well, lucky for you, this campus is loaded. I'm sure there's a playground somewhere. Maybe you should go roughhouse there."

The boy laughed, his eyes wide with surprise. "Ouch," he mumbled, staring back at her curiously. He smiled and rested his hand on her arm. "Please accept my sincerest apologies." He winked.

"How kind." She rolled her eyes. "Don't kill anyone on your way to class."

"I'll try my hardest."

She turned away from him--she could hear him tell his friends some nonsense about her ripping him a "new one," but she ignored it. Consumed with irritation, she hurried to her next class, hoping to leave Madison, Hayden, and the clumsy, bumbling whoever-he-was far behind, only to realize that the two girls were instead frolicking right beside her.

"Eve," Madison gasped, playfully smacking her shoulder. "You didn't!"

"Didn't what?"

"Do you know who that was?"

Eve wrinkled her nose. "Am I supposed to?"

"...Should I know that name?"

Madison huffed. "Eve, just once can you at least pretend to have some knowledge of the elite social pyramid?"

Eve stared back at her, her gaze empty and apathetic.

"Jason Valentine is the son of Senator Valentine. From New York? Ring a bell?"

"Not really into politics, Madison."

"Politics, schmolitics, that's not the point. He comes from a very influential bloodline, and more importantly, he comes from money. Not my kind of money, but money nonetheless." She pointed her chin in the air. "Our parents summer together all the time. He's one of my top ten potential husbands: number three, to be exact. It's not easy to break into the top five."

"Well, congratulations to Jason..." Eve mumbled, unimpressed.

Madison shoved her hands onto her hips. "You weren't flirting with him, were you?"

"What? I talked to him for two seconds--"

"I bet she was flirting," Hayden added, flashing Eve a look of blatant skepticism. "He touched her arm."

"Friends don't do that, you know. They don't flirt with each others' husbands."

Eve laughed aloud. "So now you're married?"

"It's not funny, Eve," Madison snapped. "Do you see me laughing? Are you laughing, Hayden?"

Hayden crossed her arms and wiggled her nose. "I'm not laughing."

"She's not laughing."

Eve sighed. "Look, I don't know the guy. I don't care who he is, or who he's related to, or how much money he has. You can have him."

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a sci-fi novel by Jenna Moreci