She closes the final goodnight message with her friend, her last connection to actual human interaction for the night. It’s like closing off another world. He’s hundreds of miles, so many hours away, the only comfort that she has left, because he’s just as unhappy as she is. Except he has his boyfriend. Then again, she has…people. They’re not quite friends, but they’re something.

But they’re not here right now. They don’t try to be near her. They probably don’t want to be, her voice spits back.

Her mind goes blank as she stares out at the patch of untamed marsh in the middle of the well-trimmed lawns separating her dorm from the others. The stoners are getting high in the amphitheater at the end of it. She can’t even hear them.

A song comes on, a quiet, dark song about lust and not much else. It doesn’t help her mood, but she wallows in it, letting the words get lost in her head, just another reminder of what she doesn’t have, can’t have, never has, along with images that are quickly pushed back, locked back in the vault of memories she doesn’t need now that she’s moved on.

She’s never been more alone, even with the people just a few hundred feet away.

The cold bar of the railing she’s leaning on digs into her stomach. The breeze blows across her bare shoulders, her just a bit too big jacket somehow ended up settled around her elbows on her walk there. Everyone around her is running around in long sleeves and long pants, while she stands in a tank top, ignoring the one thing that could keep her warm. She’s colder than she’s ever been since she got here, and she hasn’t even noticed.

Words start pouring out of her mouth, the lyrics of the song, without her permission. She doesn’t stop them. No one is there to hear her.

The cord of her headphones gets twisted in and out of her fingers as the song fully pulls her out of reality, and she watches the way her nails, freshly painted in a clear gloss, shine in the moonlight, or maybe she should say lamplight, and the way the cord curls back in on itself when she lets it go. It’s the simplest form of entertainment, but it holds her rapt attention. If the stoners saw her now, they would probably wonder what she was on.

A gravelly rushing sound breaks her focus, and her head slowly shifts back up. She manages to catch a glimpse of the skaters before they disappear. She counts slowly to five, knowing that they’ll pull a circle and come right back again. Her eyes are glazed as they slide past again, barely giving her a glance. They don’t come around again.

The song changes.

The reverie is broken.

She shivers.

The tall grass rustles, the stoners giggles rising above the rest of the ambiance.

It’s time to go back in, she decides, bringing herself back to her senses, pulling the jacket back up around her shoulders, and turning towards the dorm directly behind her. The light and laughter of the party is noticeable from the ground, even though this is its dying phase. It’s nearly midnight on a Thursday, after all.

She heads towards it, knowing she won’t be joining them.

The clack of the door shutting behind her, the click of her pass swiping through the sensors are the only things that actually register, not even her music is getting a second thought. The smile she shoots someone as she passes them on stairs is an afterthought that looks just real enough, is just close enough to being timed properly.

She’s thinking about what to do when she gets back up. Maybe she’ll just write.