Free to Fall

Free to Fall by Lauren Miller Read Free Book Online

Book: Free to Fall by Lauren Miller Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lauren Miller
down the far left aisle to the second row, which was blocked off with orange tape and a sign that said RESERVED FOR STUDENT COUNCIL MEMBERS . Liam lifted the tape and gestured for us to sit.
    “You’re sure it’s okay for us to sit here?” I asked.
    “A perk of being class president,” he said, crumpling the sign in his hands.
    The row in front of us was occupied by faculty. When we sat down, the woman on the end turned her head. She had flawless black skin and one of those stylish Afros that only the excessively attractive can pull off. She was striking, with sharp cheekbones and deep-set green eyes that locked on mine and didn’t budge. I smiled. She didn’t smile back.
    “Just in time,” I heard Liam say. I looked up and saw Dean Atwater approaching the podium. He didn’t wait for the room to get quiet before he began to speak.
    “You are here because you have two things your peers back home do not,” he declared, his words reverberating off the pipe-lined walls. “Qualities known by Ancient Greeks as ethos and egkrateia .” He overenunciated the Greek for emphasis. “Character and strength of will. Here you will put those qualities to work in the pursuit of something more noble. Sophia. Wisdom.” He gripped the podium now, leaning forward a little. “But wisdom is not for the faint of heart. Not all of you will complete our program. Not all of you are meant to.”
    I looked at my hands, the anxiety I’d felt on the plane rushing back. My mother didn’t have what it took. Maybe I didn’t either. I was the daughter of a high school dropout and a general contractor. What made me think I could even keep up?
    “I know what you’re thinking,” Dean Atwater said then, as if he’d read my mind. But he was gazing past me, into the center of the crowd. “You’re second-guessing your fitness for this program. You’re questioning our decision to let you in. Could the admissions committee have made a mistake?” The crowd twittered with nervous laughter. Dean Atwater smiled, his face kind. “Let me assure you, students”—he looked directly at me—“your presence here is no accident.”
    It was meant to be comforting, but I squirmed in my seat.
    The dean’s gaze shifted again. “Now, for some housekeeping matters. Each of you has been assigned to one of twelve small sections. Section members share a faculty advisor and will meet together daily for a reasoning skills intensive, which you’ll learn more about tomorrow. Your section assignments will appear along with your course schedule under the ‘academics’ tab in the Theden app.” There was much rustling as people pulled their handhelds from purses and pockets. “I said will appear,” Dean Atwater added with a knowing smile. “When you’re dismissed for dinner. We’ve got one more announcement first. Please welcome your student-body president, Liam Stone.”
    The room erupted in whistles and applause as Liam joined Dean Atwater at the podium. “On behalf of the student council,” Liam’s voice boomed into the mic. “I’m happy to announce that a date has been chosen for this year’s Masquerade Ball. Mark your calendars for September 7.” The room erupted into loud cheers. “For you first-years—the Masquerade Ball is a black-tie fundraiser for all alumni and current students. As is tradition, a shop in town will provide the tuxes and dresses, and we’ll all be given masks to wear. Though, as we second-years can attest, the word mask is a bit of a misnomer. They’re more like gigantic papier-mâché heads, most of them more than three hundred years old and worth more than your parents can afford.” He grinned. “In other words, make it an idiocy-free evening, guys.”
    Dean Atwater chuckled as he took back the mic. He looked over at Liam. “Anything else, Liam?”
    “No, sir.”
    “Well, then,” Dean Atwater said, clapping his hands together. “Let’s eat!”
    Sleep came easily that night, partly from physical

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