Thick forests flanked both sides of the road as the car sped over the rolling hills. Envisioning herself barreling through those trails, Asia held her hand over her chest, heart racing. The campus was close.
In the front passenger seat, Mom tapped long, glittery gel nails on the arm of the minivan’s bucket seat. Her braids piled high on her head, she turned to look back at Asia, a slight frown on her face. The driver’s seat was pulled all the way forward, and Asia could only see a glimpse of bright red sunburn across the back of Dad’s neck.
Slowing, the van’s signal lights ticked, and Dad pulled into the turning lane. Ahead a giant cut stone had the words Chinook University carved into it. They had arrived!
They found the dorm and parked, unloaded some of her duffels and boxes. Two sets of doors stood open with a small vestibule between them. To the left, the glass window to the security office was darkened with a blind pulled down. Next to the window, a box hung on the wall. Its label read Free Condoms-Be Safe! The box had cut-out images of diverse couples stuck to it.
“Disgusting,” Mom said. Of course, she’d be the first to see the box. “They shouldn’t be promoting that wickedness. This is environment we’re leaving you in?” She had been in the US for much longer than Asia had been alive but had never lost her Bahamian accent.
Asia bristled, knowing where this was going. “Isn’t it better for students to take precautions, Mom? Most college students are active.” That wasn’t exactly what Mom was referring to.
Dad stifled a groan and fingered the crucifix he wore around his neck. Asia shook her head.
Mom tutted and went through the second door and started up the stairs. She wasn’t done with the topic. “I meant those pictures of the gays.” She curled her lip. “They shouldn’t be filling young minds with those unnatural ideas.” Her voice echoed through the stairwell.
A couple of girls passing them in the opposite direction gave Mom sidelong glances. They had to be athletes. Could they be Asia’s teammates? Great—she was already starting off on a bad foot.
“There are no children here, Mother. Can you please lower your voice?”
Dad briefly laid a hand on Mom’s arm. She sucked her teeth and grumbled under her breath, but she stopped embarrassing Asia for the moment.
It didn’t take long to unload all of Asia’s things and organize her side of her double within the suite of four rooms. Her suite-mates wouldn’t arrive for another couple of weeks.
When they were done, Asia walked her parents back to the van and hugged them goodbye. She had a team meeting in thirty minutes.
Mom kissed her forehead. “Behave yourself. You focus on your studies and on your running. Stay away from any funny business.”
Asia pulled away, laughed, and rolled her eyes. “I dunno, Mom. I was thinking of planning a bank heist and then maybe starting a campus drug cartel.”
“Don’t put ideas in your mother’s head.” Dad gave Asia a squeeze and then held out his fist for the private handshake they’d made up when she started running back in seventh grade.
She watched the van depart and took several deep breaths.
Freedom tasted good.