Pulling my cardigan tighter around me I stepped out of my mom’s SUV in front of the campus. The student center loomed above me, and the University of South Florida’s green and white flag waved high in the air. I stared at it until the sun hurt my eyes and I had to look down at the concrete under my worn out flats. My mom stepped forward beside me and made a noise suspiciously close to a squeal. Rolling my eyes, I opened my mouth to beg her one last time not to start the university’s chant.
A voice from behind made me turn around. A petite redhead stood two feet away holding pamphlets and flyers close to her chest. Her lips turned up at the corners and when she smiled, her freckles puddled into each other. I gave her a weak nod and stuck my hand out before my mother could jump in.
“Hi, I’m Katy Klein,” I said.
The girl looked as if she would jump out of her shoes with excitement.
“Hi Katy. My name is Bridget and I’m a junior Biochemistry major here at USF,” she said. “I can’t tell you how ecstatic the USF team is to have you here today, Katy.”
Her smile widened with each word she spoke. Before I could respond my mother stepped in front of me.
“Hi! I’m Veronica, Katy’s mom,” she said, her eyes glowing. “I’m actually an alumna. I graduated in 1994. You might know of a certain sorority, Alpha Alpha Delta Sigma that I created back in the 90’s with some friends.”
I sighed when she finished and watched my mother’s lips purse and her eyebrows knit together as if she was holding something in.
“Go Bulls!” she shouted, and held up her hand to form the USF bull salute. The girl nodded and smiled in agreement but even she couldn’t feign her disinterest. Bridget turned to me.
“So, Katy, what do you plan on studying when you come here?”
I picked at a thread on my sleeve. “Well, I’m actually not sure yet, I might come in undec-”
“Hey, Bianca,” my mom interrupted. “Is that grassy area behind the cafeteria still in good shape? I can’t wait to show Katy how to do the USF triple somersault.” I had to physically restrain myself from rolling my eyes.
“Mom,” I started. “I’m sure Bridget would like to get the tour started. I don’t think we’ll have time for strolls down memory lane.”
“Katy is right, Mrs. Klein, we do need to start the tour. But we will have plenty of time for some fun things later,” Bridget said. “Maybe I can even show you the USF backhand stand routine I learned last summer. I think I’ve almost perfected it.”
I nodded in agreement but my mother’s expression said she seriously doubted it. Bridget didn’t seem to notice and began the tour while continuing on with her excited chatter.
“Did you know that USF was founded in 1956 as the first independent state university conceived, planned, and built in the 20th century?”
I blocked out Bridget’s talking and observed the scenery around me. The campus was full of nature and student life. Large trees lay scattered in various places around the campus and many students sat outside coffee shops or milled around the grounds with friends or teachers. I sidestepped a biker and almost ran into Bridget, who had stopped in front of a tall building with a brown and orange facade. She motioned us in and we walked inside.
“This is our campus library,” she said. “It is home to many of our class’s textbooks as well as many genres of novels by bestselling authors. The first floor has the most student activity but as you go up to the higher levels the more quiet it is and the more study based it becomes.”
I gazed around the main lobby, with its computers and tables full of students. It had a nice interior, and included an array of books other than what was required for school. Bridget turned to head out but my mother’s voice interrupted her happy stride.
“Actually Bridget,” she said. “The library also has a basement, which is the accurate quietest spot of the entire library.”
Bridget looked like she had bitten into a sour lemon.
“Yes, that is true,” she said. I glanced between her and my mom and decided to break it up before they had an all-out verbal smack down.
“Hey, Bridget,” I said. “Would you mind if we take a small bathroom break here? I could really use one.” As in, I could really use a break from my obnoxious mother.
“Sure, Katy,” she said looking relieved. “I could actually use a run to the restroom myself.” My mom opted to wait outside, and I was thrilled. But my grateful mood lasted less than a minute. When Bridget and I exited, the bathroom my mother wasn’t waiting outside on the bench where we had left her.
“Ah, crap,” I said. I prayed to the university gods that my mom was just grabbing a latte at Starbucks and hadn’t purposely wandered off to go re-live one of the college experiences she had described to me on the ride here. Bridget must have felt the same way because her eyes widened at the absence of my obnoxious mother.
“I-I’m sure she’s just around the corner,” I stammered, not wanting to worry Bridget with the thousands of situations my mother could be involved in right now. We speed-walked out of the library and found the main entrance vacant as well.
“Maybe I should call her,” I began to say, but before I could finish my thought, my eyes caught a large pearl on the side of the Library. I picked it up and recognized it as one of the beads from my mom’s shirt. I froze. Bridget’s eyes narrowed suspiciously and then we were both running to the area behind the building.
A long field spread across the side of the building and stretched to the other side of the camous. In the middle of it, my mother was walking across the lawn to a huddle of fraternity boys, her stride confident and purposeful.
“Mrs. Klein,” Bridget yelled. “Please, that area is only for students who attend the college-”
“Calm down, Brianna,” my mother said as she stopped and turned to us. She waved a hand in the air at Bridget before continuing her march to the boys, who were now starting to notice the 40-year-old woman heading their way.
“I attended USF 20 years ago, what’s the difference?” my mom said. “Just think of me as a prolonged student.” She wiggled her eyebrows at a stunned Bridget, and winked at me. I stared at her, too afraid to turn around and hide, and too curious to look away.
My mother reached the very attractive and very confused group of young men and began to engage in conversation with them. I saw her make wide hand gestures and even throw her head back in laughter. They seemed wary of her at first but became more comfortable as the situation dragged on.
At one point, my mom motioned and six pairs of male eyes turned to me. I felt my cheeks blush with color as I attempted to hide behind whatever dignity I had left. A lifetime later, my mother made her way back to Bridget and I, looking thoroughly satisfied with herself.
“I got you a date with the blonde one,” she said, standing in front of me again.
My mother closed my gaping mouth and patted the cheek of a stunned Bridget. Moving past us she placed her hands on her hips.
“Where to next?”