Within

The noise of the distant humming began to fade. A silence began to fill the room like smoke rising slowly along the dried and cracking walls of pale blue. The scent of dust and stale air hung like a cloud in the single roomed home. The summer sun began to disappear behind the distant mountains. 

 “It would be dark soon,” she thought to herself. 

Somehow the beauty of this place was always bittersweet. She glanced at the door as if it were a wild dog was preparing to attack from behind. He’d come home soon with the scent of another trailing in with him. She’d known about the affair for weeks now, but how long it had gone on was a mystery. They’d been married for eight years yesterday. His gift to her, she was allowed to roam the house freely for a couple hours.  

Her nimble body had many jagged scars and bruises, but they didn’t hurt nearly as much as her thoughts of living like this for one more day. The door knob jiggled slightly. Her body tensed. Her mouth ran dry, her eyes locked unblinking on the door, and her heart began to beat a drumming song of doom. A shadow filled where the door had once been.  

He was home. 

———————————  

Neela was rushing through her morning routine as her mother shouted she was going to be late for her first class. She swiped some pink pearl lip gloss across her lips and caught a second glance at her hair. It would have to do for today. She threw the lip gloss into her purse and grabbed her old cream colored backpack. As she made her way upstairs and to the front door she heard her mother.  

 “Don’t forget you’ll have a wonderful time. I hear college is supposed to be a breeze!”  

She smiled and replied, “Thanks mom. I love you too.”  

The sun was hiding behind a cloud at the moment sending a tiny shiver down her spine, but today would be a nice day. She hopped into her car and made her way to the college campus. It was mother’s dream to stick around for a while and help out with payments here and there. The man she was to call father had died a week before he was due to come back for their wedding. Her mother had never been the same since. 

 As Neela parked near the library of the college she whispered a little prayer, both for her and her mother. As she made her way over to her first class she glanced at her cell phone for the time. “Shoot!” She thought, “I am going to be late.” She picked up her pace a bit and clutched her bag a little tighter. Her feet were starting to hurt a little. She was thinking she should not have worn these shoes today, but they looked so…  

SMACK!  

The fluttering of papers shattered the silent halls for a moment. She and her bag were on the ground and she heard someone speaking disgustfully to her. 

 “Hey! What’s the big idea? Don’t you watch where you’re going?”  

A young man with piercing blue eyes and strong jaw was standing over her. He had a dark blue wind breaker on and some blue jeans, but they could not hide his toned body. His lips appeared to be brushed lightly onto his face.  

“Kissable”  

That was the first word that came to Neela’s mind. She was hoping she had not said it out loud when she realized she was still on the ground and he was waiting for her response. 

 “Oh! Uh… Sorry, I… I guess my mind was else where. Umm, are you okay?”  

An obviously stupid question considering she was the one on the ground.  

He smiled and sighed out a chuckle.  

“Yeah, I’m fine. But I’ve gotta get going. Are you okay?”  

She smiled, blushing and biting her lower lip. She brushed some tendrils of hair back from her face, nodded and replied, “Yeah.”  

The bells from a nearby church began to ring, clanging the time to everyone on campus. “Oh crap,” she thought. Now not only had she embarrassed herself but now she was going to be late. She scooped up all the papers in her arms and headed for the room. She didn’t even remember if he had left before she did, but it was the last thing on her mind right now, but she wouldn’t mind thinking of him later.  

 She reached a doorway and began to ascend the stairs. Developing Inner Peace: Introduction to Finding You was her first class, and the teacher was a Professor Jillian of Massachusetts. The name sounded like she would either be really sweet or one of those teachers you hoped got abducted before you next class. Room 305 was on the third floor, fourth door down the hall from the stairway. The heels of Neela’s heels clacked on the marbled floor. She glanced into the room just before opening it. There was an open chair toward the front.  

 “Great,” Neela thought, “I won’t be a distraction at all!” She inhaled a deep breath of air and exhaled as she opened the door. 

 ———————————

 A young woman in a navy blue business suit, blonde shoulder length hair, and steel gray eyes scowled at her from the back of the room. Neela tried to offer an apologetic smile and proceeded to sit down. She glanced at the clock. Well it was only a minute past. “That isn’t too bad,” she thought. The room was completely quiet for a minute as the professor made her way toward the front of the room. “As I was saying: Tardiness is a cry for attention and will not be tolerated. As for you freshmen, I will allow it to slide one time and one time only! Miss?” 

 “Oh. It’s …Mendez. Neela Mendez.” 

 “Well, Miss Mendez, I guess you’d better hope this doesn’t happen again.” 

 Neela began to feel the heat in the room rise and every eye boring a hole into the back of her head. She scolded herself mumbling, “Well, a great first impression, Neela, just great.” 

 The professor continued, “This is not high school ladies and gentlemen. And as mentioned earlier, the consequences of disregarding any of my guidelines for this class can be found in the syllabus.”  

Neela looked around the room and found it to be different than most of the class rooms she’d been in on the day of orientation weeks before. There were yoga mats along the wall and lots of candles on the main table. In fact, that was the only table in the whole room. The only things set up were a several rows of chairs. 

 “Definitely different,” Neela thought. 

 A knock on the door startled most of the class, including Professor Jillian. She gathered herself together and walked over to the door way. There was a meek figure in the entryway with deep pools of golden brown eyes gazing blankly at the class. Professor Jillian’s lips had tightened up and she realized she had begun to grind her teeth. She did not like so many interruptions. 

 She took a deep breath in, exhaled, and said, “Well, looks like you’re not the only tardy student today, Neela. Why don’t you take a seat, Miss….?” 

 “I’m… My name is Anna. Anna Simmons. I’m a late transfer from-” 

 “That’s enough Miss Simmons. As I have gone through my policies already, I’m sure you can find someone to fill you in on them. Now, as I was saying, transcendental meditation, or TM, was considered the realm of the 1960’s flower child, but research is beginning to show how quiet meditation can benefit the body, mind and soul. TM reduces heart disease. It lowers blood pressure — any stress-related disease is going to be helped because what you’re really getting is deep rest. In fact, a nine-year study by the University of Michigan found meditating students were happier, managed stress better, and fought less with their peers.

Now there are those who are clinging to old ways and Bible-thumpers who won’t even try it, but here we are wanting you to find your real self, not the self that has been formed and conformed to parents, teachers or other outside influences. Meditation specialists believe TM can help students deal with stress, improve their grades and spark their creativity.

So let’s get to know one another a bit better and help create a more relaxed and friendlier environment. First, let’s get the gentlemen to clear these chairs to one side of the room. Ladies, as they’re doing that, why don’t you grab two yoga mats from along the wall. I believe there should be enough. As you all are doing that let me tell you a little bit more about who I am.

I am a graduate of Massachusetts. The rumors of my course are illegitimate rumors started by a former colleague of mine, Mrs. Boxx. She became a crazy “honk if you love Jesus” kind of person, if you know what I mean. Mrs. Boxx started having mental break downs due to her lack of TM time. Meditation is not a joke, I will say that, but its side effects are not even close to outweighing the benefits you will reap. Okay, now that the chairs are gone and the mats are all gone, ladies pick a spot, and gentlemen pick a partner. You can not trade or exchange partners once you have chosen.”

As the guys started to wander around like blind mice searching for the last piece of cheese, the other half of the class rolled out the yoga mats and sat down. Some girls pretended to be looking through their bags or purses, while others played with their hair or looked at their nails. Neela was pulling her cell phone out, forgetting if she had put it into silent mode, when a dark haired guy sat down beside her. His eyes were as dark as hers and his lips seemed to curve his face perfectly. He had dark curled hair. His skin was sun-kissed like hers as well. Extending his hand, he said, “Hey, this mat taken? My name is Adian. What’s your name?”

She could feel her cheeks getting warm as she said, “Neela, the first one to come in late. What year are you? I can’t see you being a freshman.”

“Ha-ha, well thanks, I think. Oh yeah, now I remember, you’re the attention-getter,” he smirked. “So why are you taking a course from Professor Jillian your freshman year?”

“Hmm…I don’t know. I guess no one warned me. You never did tell me what year you are. And what was all that stuff about a Mrs. Boxx? Is Professor Jillian just trying to be creepy or what?”

“Okay. You’re right. I’m a junior, but with the messed up transfers I only count as a sophomore here until December. So the story behind Mrs. Boxx’s story isn’t a ghost story at all. Do you live on campus? I could fill you in about it after our last scheduled class today. What’s yours?”

“No, I live in town. Umm…actually this is my last class for today, but as soon as they can find a substitute for Professor Swift’s course, Psychology of Races, I’ll have another one to go to. I’m thinking I’ll head down to the school’s main office and speak to someone about other options, but what about you? When’s your last class?”

“Well you’re in luck,” he avoided looking at Neela, but he didn’t even try to hide his grin. “This is mine too.” They both were smiling now, but neither would look at each other.

 
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