Read the opening of Rainbow Rowell‘s Fangirl…
There was a boy in her room.
Cath looked up at the number painted on the door, then down at the room assignment in her hand.
Pound Hall, 913.
This was definitely room 913, but maybe it wasn’t Pound Hall – all these dormitories looked alike, like public housing towers for the elderly. Maybe Cath should try to catch her dad before he brought up the rest of her boxes.
“You must be Cather,” the boy said, grinning and holding out his hand.
“Cath,” she said, feeling a panicky jump in her stomach. She ignored his hand. (She was holding a box anyway, what did he expect from her?)
This was a mistake – this had to be a mistake. She knew that Pound was a co-ed dorm…. Is there such a thing as co-ed rooms?
The boy took the box out of her hands and set it on an empty bed. The bed on the other side of the room was already covered with clothes and boxes.
“Do you have more stuff downstairs?” he asked. “We just finished. I think we’re going to get a burger now; do you want to get a burger? Have you been to Pear’s yet? Burgers the size of your fist.” He picked up her arm. She swallowed. “Make a fist,” he said.
“Bigger than your fist,” the boy said, dropping her hand and picking up the backpack she’d left outside the door. “Do you have more boxes? You’ve got to have more boxes. Are you hungry?”
He was tall and thin and tan, and he looked like he’d just taken off a stocking cap, dark blond hair flopping in every direction. Cath looked down at her room assignment again. Was this Reagan?
“Reagan!” the boy said happily. “Look, your roommate’s here.”
A girl stepped around Cath in the doorway and glanced back coolly. She had smooth, auburn hair and an unlit cigarette in her mouth. The boy grabbed it and put it in his own mouth. “Reagan, Cather. Cather, Reagan,” he said.
“Cath,” Cath said.
Reagan nodded and fished in her purse for another cigarette. “I took this side,” she said, nodding to the pile of boxes on the right side of the room. “But it doesn’t matter. If you’ve got feng shui issues, feel free to move my shit.” She turned to the boy. “Ready?”
He turned to Cath. “Coming?”
Cath shook her head.
When the door shut behind them, she sat on the bare mattress that was apparently hers – feng shui was the least of her issues – and laid her head against the cinder block wall.
She just needed to settle her nerves.
To take the anxiety she felt like black static behind her eyes and an extra heart in her throat, and shove it all back down to her stomach where it belonged – where she could at least tie it into a nice knot and work around it.
Her dad and Wren would be up any minute, and Cath didn’t want them to know she was about to melt down. If Cath melted down, her dad would melt down. And if either of them melted down, Wren would act like they were doing it on purpose, just to ruin her perfect first day on campus. Her beautiful new adventure.
You’re going to thank me for this, Wren kept saying.
The first time she’d said it was back in June.
Cath had already sent in her university housing forms, and of course she’d put Wren down as her roommate – she hadn’t thought twice about it. The two of them had shared a room for eighteen years, why stop now?
“We’ve shared a room for eighteen years,” Wren argued. She was sitting at the head of Cath’s bed, wearing her infuriating I’m the Mature One face.
“And it’s worked out great,” Cath said, waving her arm around their bedroom – at the stacks of books and the Simon Snow posters, at the closet where they shoved all their clothes, not even worrying most of the time what belonged to whom.
Cath was sitting at the foot of the bed, trying not to look like the Pathetic One Who Always Cries.
“This is college,” Wren persisted. “The whole point of college is meeting new people.”
“The whole point of having a twin sister,” Cath said, “is not having to worry about this sort of thing. Freaky strangers who steal your tampons and smell like salad dressing and take cell phone photos of you while you sleep…”
Wren sighed. “What are you even talking about? Why would anybody smell like salad dressing?”
“Like vinegar,” Cath said. “Remember when we went on the freshman tour, and that one girl’s room smelled like Italian dressing?”
“Well, it was gross.”
“It’s college,” Wren said, exasperated, covering her face with her hands. “It’s supposed to be an adventure.”
“It’s already an adventure.” Cath crawled up next to her sister and pulled Wren’s hands away from her face. “The whole prospect is already terrifying.”
“We’re supposed to meet new people,” Wren repeated.
“I don’t need new people.”
“That just shows how much you need new people. . . .” Wren squeezed Cath’s hands. “Cath, think about it. If we do this together, people will treat us like we’re the same person. It’ll be four years before anyone can even tell us apart.”
“All they have to do is pay attention.” Cath touched the scar on Wren’s chin, just below her lip. (Sledding accident. They were nine, and Wren was on the front of the sled when it hit the tree. Cath had fallen off the back into the snow.)
“You know I’m right,” Wren said.
Cath shook her head.
“Please don’t make me do this alone.”
“You’re never alone,” Wren said, sighing again. “That’s the whole fucking point of having a twin sister.”
You can Reserve & Collect Fangirl from your local Waterstones bookshop (http://bit.ly/1hRoUJK), buy it online at Waterstones.com (http://bit.ly/1hRoRxB) or download it in ePub format (http://bit.ly/1iPrSC9)
Don’t Come In!
When things get tough for Cath, the main character of my novel, Fangirl – she turns to Kanye West. I seem to give all my main characters at least a few things directly from my own life, and Cath’s Emergency Kanye West Dance Parties come straight out of my repertoire. I listen to Kanye when I’m upset; I listen to him when I’m celebrating. I listen to him when I feel like whatever I’m feeling is too big to process with the volume turned down. It works because his songs are so often about big, complicated (sometimes conflicting) feelings. I wish that, like Cath, I had a built-in best friend to have emergency dance parties with me. But I’m usually dancing around the living room – or in the front seat of my car – by myself.