I remember being so excited when the letter came. I had not told my
parents that I applied to the University of Chicago because I did
not want to hear about my ridiculous dreams of something better for
the millionth time. Before it came I was working at the drive thru
at the local fast food restaurant; there was only one. Rumor had it
I was to be promoted to Assistant Manager; the youngest one in the
history of Waterloo. My parents were so proud of me. And then
there was Johnny. I wasn’t supposed to know about him talking to my
dad about marriage, but I did. So there was the rest of my life;
married to the star football player, and the assistant manager of
the local restaurant in Waterloo, Iowa. I could not understand why
my parents thought I could be content here. Who has even heard of
Waterloo, Iowa anyway? The town where redneck Napoleon was captured
after the rodeo or surrendering in his corn field? Sheesh.
As the weeks went by, I began to panic. What if I did not get
accepted? What if this really is it for me? But six weeks later,
it came; I was going to The University of Chicago. I quietly quit
my job, went home and started packing. My mother would be at her
church group until 4:30 so it was quiet for now, but I knew I would
catch hell when my dad got home; Waterloo is so small that word gets
around fast. Unexpectedly, both of my parents came home together,
and they were furious. We had quite the row, but in the end they
realized nothing could be done to dissuade me from leaving.
The day I left, mom was sobbing in the house thinking no one could
hear, and dad just grunted to himself and refused to look at me.
Thankfully Johnny was a no-show. After a few curt goodbyes, I was
on my way. I remember driving through endless corn fields thinking
I would not miss them at all. Finally, I emerged from the corn
fields and found myself in Chicago. The campus seemed bigger than
the whole town of Waterloo. As I began to feel intimidated, I
thought of an eighteen year old married Assistant Manager with
nowhere to go but down so I gritted my teeth and tried to find my
dorm. When I got there, I met my roommate, Sarah. Despite a snide
remark about being right off the farm, she seemed nice. I asked her
if it was that obvious which made her laugh. I unpacked all of my
stuff and Sarah and I decided to go get dinner.
Spending the first night in the dorm felt
strange. There were no familiar sounds; just someone’s stereo down
the hall. As I lay here listening to Sarah’s breathing, I went
back over the campus map I had memorized so I wouldn’t get lost.
8:00 Calculus, 9:30 English …
The next morning I felt a bit of trepidation but managed to eat
breakfast. Sarah assured me I would do fine and sent me off with a
big “Yeehaw”. Calculus was as arduous as I had imagined it would
be; what is a radian anyway? In utter confusion I stumbled in to my
English class. Sitting in the middle of the room was the most
handsome guy I had ever seen. He had sandy blonde hair and piercing
green eyes. He was wearing khakis and a polo shirt; a far cry from
the guys back home in their t-shirts and Wranglers. As I got up to
leave class, he was waiting for me. With a smile that made my knees
go weak he invited me to lunch.
Over lunch I find out he was a Junior; a Criminal Justice major. He
explained that he was studying serial killers to understand how they
are able to not only fit in with society but also evade detection
for many years on end to find better ways to catch them earlier.
His father was a well-known business man with political
aspirations. I told him I am from Iowa which got a chuckle from
him, though he did not seem surprised. He had a charming, yet sly
smile and an easy laugh that made his eyes sparkle. After lunch, he
walked part of the way to my dorm with me since it was on the way to
his next class. I didn’t see him at all on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Jeremy was waiting for me after class on Friday and he greeted me
with that sly smile, and asked if I would like to go get coffee. Of
course I accepted his invitation. He eagerly asked about my
family. Were we close? Had they called a million times since I
left Iowa? He gave a strange half-cocked smile when I told him how
angry they were that I had left, and that they had not called once;
not even to make sure I had gotten there ok. Still smiling he asked
if I would like to go to a party with him that night to celebrate my
independence. Laughing I said sure.
Getting ready for my date was harder than I thought it would be;
most of my clothes screamed back woods rather than Michigan Avenue.
Sarah offered to let me wear a pretty red dress of hers with high
heels. When I got downstairs Jeremy was waiting. He smiled as he
took my hand and lead me to his Porsche. I could smell the perfume
of my predecessor.
The party was at a friend’s house and was bigger
than any house I had ever been too. The inside looked like the
houses I had seen on T.V, which made me feel horribly
self-conscious. Noticing my unease, Jeremy offered to go get me a
drink. He gave me a rum and Coke; it tasted bitter, but I assume it
would help me relax a bit so I drank it anyway. I must have
finished it too fast, because my head immediately began to swim and
I felt unwell. After several moments, Jeremy offered to take me
back home. As we started back I noticed we were headed in the
opposite direction of my dorm. I tried to tell him but I was unable
to speak. We stopped close to a lake and Jeremy asked if I needed
some air. I nodded weakly, and Jeremy helped me out of the car, and
put down a blanket for us to sit on. He said he had some water in
the car. After a drink, he said maybe I should lay down for a bit.
I agreed. I remember lying next to him watching the stars. Suddenly
everything went black.
I woke up in the same spot. It was still dark so I could
not have been out for long. The blanket was no longer under me and
Jeremy was gone. I still felt woozy but was able to get up. I was
disoriented, but after walking a short while, I saw the campus. As
I approached the dorm, I noticed my dad’s pickup parked outside.
They didn’t tell me they were coming to visit. Why do they always
have to “check up” on me? I am not a child anymore. Furious I
stormed into my room, but they weren’t there. Guess I can save my
anger for later. Hoping I could find them before they run into
anyone I know and embarrass me, I hurried out to look for them.
After wandering around campus for hours I could not find
them so I decided to return to my room. When I walked in my mom was
sitting on the bed wringing her hands and my dad was gingerly pacing
the floor still grunting. What the hell are you doing here I
screamed but no one seemed to hear me. I heard him tell my mom that
she shouldn’t be worried; I have only been missing for a few days.
He tells her I probably just needed time to decide if college in the
big city was really what I wanted or if I should come home to Iowa.
Panic overtakes me; I don’t understand what is going on. “What the
hell is wrong with you people? I am not missing, I am right here,
so quit ignoring me…it isn’t funny”, I screamed. Just then Sarah
entered the room with a police officer. He told my parents that
they found my body by the lake earlier that morning in a place where
the bodies of five other female students have been found over the
last three semesters. He says that several people have been
questioned but at this point there are no suspects.
At that moment everything about Jeremy made sense. He
wasn’t studying serial killers so he could devise a way to catch
them, he was trying to avoid being caught. I understood why he was
interested in a naive girl whose parents had not called; like the
others I was an easy victim. I recalled his charming sly smile and
how it had made my knees weak. It worked on the police too; at
least until the ninth body was found.
Copyright © 2013 Lori Rashford