#BookbedFictory 040: ‘First Day Jitters’

by Christianne Fayth Ong
This year’s Fictory is in partnership with BRUMULTIVERSE, a fictional multiple universe with dimensions, realms and parallel realities where amazing stories happen. All fics use the prompt: “The Main Character wakes up on the first day of school, late for their classes in a university to which they don’t remember enrolling.”

“Welcome to Berkeley-Reagan University, freshmen!” the man announces.

Mayari’s gaze wanders around Bayanihan Hall.

“I am your Dean, George Whitman. It is an honor to be with you at our Freshmen Orientation. We are fortunate to have our sophomores guide you today. If not, you would have been scattered all around the campus by now.” 

The dean’s deep voice reverberates across the hall. “Now, to get on with things quickly. Surely, you are bored, as all students are, with the rules, mission, and vision, but we better discuss it now.”

Mayari studies Dean Whitman as he walks across the stage. Her eyes dart to the cane the Dean is holding. The cane is black and long, with a blue gem attached to its handle.

“And for attending the freshmen orientation, you will be rewarded with a ‘Welcome to School’ buffet at the Mess Hall!”

The crowd breaks into applause once again, but the blue crystal hypnotizes Mayari, her eyes sinking into its jagged texture. For a split second, the walking stick emitted a blue glow. Mayari rubs her eyes. The blue glow disappeared. 

Perhaps her eyes are playing tricks on her.

She looks up and sees the Dean locking his eyes with hers.

“So,” George Whitman grins. “Shall we begin?”

Mayari tears away from his gaze as her mind begins to wander.

How did I get here?

She recalls the moments leading to the Bayanihan Hall.

“Mayari, wake up.” 

Mayari’s eyes opened slowly. Her hair was disheveled, her mouth dry. A girl with red hair woke her up. Her hand was on Mayari’s arm, shaking her gently.

“You need to go. It’s Freshman’s Orientation time!” the girl said in a cheerful tone. 

Mayari closed her eyes in annoyance. She groaned and covered her head with the blanket.

Wait a minute.

Why is there a girl in her room?

Mayari jolted awake, sat upright, and scanned the room. It wasn’t her bedroom.

Where was she?

“Where am I? Who are you?” Mayari asked, her voice rising. 

Was she kidnapped? Why couldn’t she remember anything? Who was this girl in front of her?

The girl only laughed. “You were just like me when I was a freshman. I couldn’t remember anything!” She smiles and puts her hand out in front of Mayari. “I’m Hana. I’m a sophomore, and I’ll be your roommate.”

Mayari shook her hand.

“You got here late last night. No wonder you didn’t hear the alarm.”

Hana tossed some clothes to Mayari.

“Get up, get dressed, breakfast is on the table. We’re leaving in twenty minutes.”

Mayari stayed silent. She still had so many questions. 

“Come on, you’re going to be late!”

The sophomore walked out and closed the door, leaving Mayari to change into her uniform.

Mayari looked at the clothes. It was a long-sleeved cotton blouse with a purple patterned skirt. Her blue vest was laid out along with the rest of her uniform. She quickly changed and then ate breakfast. 

A few minutes later, Hana emerged from the dorm room, wearing the same uniform as her. “Are you done?” she asked Mayari.

Mayari nodded, swallowing the last of her food.

Hana smiles. “Good! Time to go. I’ll walk you to the Bayanihan Hall for your orientation, then I have to go to class. Okay?”

Mayari forced a smile and nodded. 

The two headed outside and walked in silence. Surprised, she looked at Hana. Her roommate’s lips were in a straight line. Her eyes lacked emotion. She noticed the same thing in the other students. The cheerful girl who woke her up minutes ago looked solemn, her mood unreadable. Mayari opened her mouth, but Hana shushed her.

“Don’t talk to anyone. Stay quiet.”

Mayari closed her mouth. She looked away from Hana and stared straight ahead. After an endless walk, the two stopped in front of the Bayanihan Hall.

Hana let go of Mayari’s arm. “Now, anything and everything you need is in your bag. If you need anything, call me on your cell phone. My number is already there. Don’t talk to other freshmen until after lunch.”

“Wait, what?” Mayari asks.

Hana cut her question off with a sharp look. 

“And remember to ALWAYS follow the rules. See you later at the dorm before you go to sleep, okay? I want to hear all about your adventure.” 

“Freshmen students of Berkeley-Reagan University, please proceed inside the Bayanihan Hall. The orientation will begin shortly.”

Mayari stared at the looming building in front of her. One question answered: She was at Berkeley-Reagan University.

But how? When did she get here?

This was one of the most prestigious universities in the Philippines. How could her parents possibly afford to send her here? Did she get a scholarship? If so, how?

Mayari walked into the building. More people guided them to a massive hall, which was filled with empty seats. Taking her seat, no one bothered to speak or even look at each other. 

Were they also given the same instructions?

Mayari brings her attention back to the deep voice. Dean Whitman has finished most of the rules and is onto the announcements.

“And one final announcement: There are several rooms and halls under renovation. You are NOT ALLOWED to enter these rooms.” 

Murmurs rise and the atmosphere tenses. Mayari catches the dean’s eyes again and he breaks away first.

“And now, that all these ‘shenanigans,’ as you say, is done, off to the Mess Hall! Your first class will begin at 2:30 p.m. Enjoy your lunch and have a great time at BRU!”

Her mind still wandering, Mayari stands up and gets her bag. The teachers guide the freshmen to the Mess Hall. None of the students have started any conversation yet. Her mind drifts back to what Hana said. 

Don’t talk to other freshmen until after lunch.” 

Arriving at the Mess Hall, she lines up for food. The servers smile warmly as she looks at the selection.

“What would you like for your lunch, dear?”

Mayari pointed at the okonomiyaki.

“Excellent choice.” The server then smiles and hands her the bowl.

Mayari thanks the woman and turns to face the hall. The noises she hears are only clangs of utensils scraping the food. For a food hall, the place is eerily silent, devoid of conversation and laughter.

She spots an empty seat beside the window and settles to sit by herself. Her mouth waters at the sight of the meal in front of her. The combination of mochi with the cabbage and the fried egg makes her stomach grumble at the thought of eating the food. She takes her spoon and proceeds to take a bite from the okonomiyaki. Her mouth sizzles and sings in joy with the unique taste. The savory and sweet flavors mix and tangle together. She sighs in satisfaction, enjoying her lunch.

Halfway past eating her food, she feels a tap on her shoulder. She turns and looks up. A gray-haired woman, possibly in her sixties, smiles at her.

“Hello, dear! Welcome to Mess Hall. How is your first day, so far?”

Mayari pauses, pondering on her words before answering. “Confusing, I guess.”

“That’s normal. It is your first day. What’s your first class?”

“I haven’t checked yet.”

“Ah, first days are so funny! Not for the freshmen of course, but for the spectators.”

Mayari smiles at the woman. Her mind questions what the woman said. 

“Spectators?”

“Well, check after you eat. It’s probably in your bag. In the secret pocket.” 

Mayari stares at her, aghast at how she could know the small detail.

“How did you know I have a…?”

“Oh,” Manang Tey-Tey interrupts her. “And if you need or want to request any food, just call for my name, it’s Manang Tey-Tey.” Then she walks away.

As soon as the woman is out of her sight, Mayari gets her bag. She opens the main pocket and grabs the zipper of her hidden pocket. Her hand trembles as she pulls out her enrollment form, along with the school book, manual, map, and guidelines in her pocket. She unfolds her enrollment form, opens it, and scans her schedule. 

She has Literature class at 2:30 p.m. every Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

After she finishes eating, she picks up her tray along with the bowl and leaves it in the “to clean” area. She looks around the hall again. Noise is picking up. 

“Mayari?” 

The voice comes from a girl with almost the same uniform as her. Her black hair waves down to her waist. What caught Mayari’s eye, though, was the bracelet. A simple design, with a key dangling and attached to it. She looks at the girl again and gasps.

“Annie! Oh my god, you’re here!”

Mayari rushes to Annie and the two hug each other. 

Letting go, Mayari looks at her friend and asks, “I thought you’re going to Saint Claire?”

“BRU offered a varsity scholarship. So I decided to transfer.” 

“Weren’t you supposed to take Child Development?”

“Yup! But I’m taking Psychology now, so it’s not that far off a course. What about you?”

Mayari freezes. Her smile glued to her face, she scrambles her brain to recall her program.

“Literature! I’m taking literature.”

Annie laughs. “Why does it look like you’re aren’t sure?”

Mayari lets go of her friend’s hands. Her smile fades.

“Mayari, it’s just a joke! Are you still in your first-day jitters? You’re a nervous wreck!”

“Can I tell you something serious?”

“How about we talk it out over boba? I know a good place on campus,” Annie suggests. 

“Sounds good.” 

* * *

“Hello, welcome to Huchi-Fuchi, Hearthy Milk Tea for you!”

“What will you have?” asks Annie.

“Milk Foam Green Tea. What about you?”

“Milk Foam Brown Sugar Oolong.”

The two walk to the cashier and place their orders.

“I have class in a few minutes,” Mayari informs Annie. “Is it okay if we walk while taking our drinks?”

“Sure! But you still owe me your story.”

Mayari grins. “You got it.”

“Milk Foam Green Tea and Milk Foam Brown Sugar Oolong for Mayari and Annie!”

The two get their milk teas and thank the cashier. The two exit the place and walk to Rosal Hall. 

“So, your story?” Annie asks.

“Right. It’s so weird,” says Mayari, and then she tells her friend what happened so far in the day.

“Huh, that is weird,” Annie replies. “So you don’t remember anything?”

Mayari shakes her head in silence.

“Gosh,” Annie says. “Should we go to the clinic?”

“Isn’t it odd though that I remember everything about my senior year except how I got into this university?”

Annie stays silent.

“I don’t remember how I enrolled here. I don’t remember how I came here and woke up in my dorm. And I don’t remember what program I applied to. Isn’t it strange that I can’t remember all of this important information, but I can clearly remember the school you were supposed to go to and the program you would have been studying?”

Annie shrugs.

Mayari sighs and looks down, feeling overwhelmed. “Let’s keep it between us for now, okay? It’s time for me to go to class.”

Christianne Fayth Ong is a preschool teacher, an aspiring writer, and an amateur skipper. She is known for her achievements in writing as two of her writings were published by CSM Publishing, entitled Take Heart: Letters of Faith, Hope, and Love in September 2019, and by ForgeFiction on Amazon titled QuarantineFiction Anthology: Written Stories and Memoirs from People Across the Globe.
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