Tracing Scars Chapters 3 & 4: Freshman Year of College (1985-1986)

On a beautiful, sunny Saturday in October, Samantha hopped into the back seat of the Chrysler LeBaron next to Andrew. Patrick’s wish for a Cub-fan roommate didn’t materialize, but Andrew turned out to be a baseball fanatic and card collector, so Patrick let it slide. Dana and Samantha, and Andrew and Patrick, bonded quickly. Occasional tiffs take place over who drank the last beer from the mini fridge and whose turn it is to get up to adjust the rabbit ears on the television set when the screen goes wonky, but those disagreements are to be expected. Surprisingly, with such cramped quarters, they adapt with no major roommate issues.

The wind whipped Samantha’s curls into her face. She removed the lime green scrunchie from her wrist and tied her hair back. The air is crisp with a refreshing edge to it. Summer is over and the leaves changed colors. With the change in season, Samantha thinks about how different her life is this year compared to this time last year. No curfew. No one breathing down her neck telling her to do her homework. She relishes in her independence and her maturity. Making her own grown-up decisions empowers her.

Although it’s only been a couple of months since arriving on campus, Samantha already falls into a routine. All week she attends classes and studies mostly at the library until closing time because it is the only quiet building she can find on campus. With paper thin walls, the noisy dorm makes it near impossible to concentrate there.

When she needs a study buddy, she goes to the Union where silence doesn’t exist, and bad behavior often prevails. One day, a food fight broke out and her Western Civ book got caught in the crossfire. She never did get the gravy stains out of the pages. The campus bookstore won’t buy back a damaged book. Too bad for her too—extra cash is hard to come by.

Fridays at 5 pm until mid-afternoon on Sunday—she reserves for letting her hair down—whether that means partying, concerts, movies—anything that doesn’t involve her head in a schoolbook. Sundays often end up being recovery days where she sleeps until noon, but then forces herself to get up and pick up a book again by early evening.

“Where are we going?” Andrew asked.

“You’ll see.”

“Nice car,” Samantha called from the back seat.

“Thanks. It gets us from point A to point B.”

“In style, too.”

Patrick shrugged his shoulders as if the car wasn’t that great. Samantha could only dream of a car like this at 18.

“Let’s roll,” Dana said as she slapped the back of Patrick’s seat.

Samantha threw on her oversized sunglasses, feeling like a movie star. Patrick turned up the volume on the radio. “Papa Don’t Preach” blared from the stereo. Dana tapped her fingers against the inside of the car door and sang loudly.

“Hey Dana, who sings this?” Patrick asked.

“Madonna, duh.”

“Let’s keep it that way.”

Dana smacked the side of his head. Samantha giggled. Dana effortlessly carried a tune. She clearly had taken singing lessons. No one Samantha knew naturally sounded that good.

Patrick turned onto Lake Drive. Samantha gazed out the window at Lake Michigan. She took a deep breath. Several sailboats lined the shore. She watched the waves break against the rocks.

“Y’all need to come to Florida. Let’s plan it for spring break,” Andrew said. “This is pretty and all, but the ocean, now that’s something to see.”

“I’m in,” Dana said.

Samantha kept quiet. She would love to go, but she didn’t know if she could afford the flight.

“Road trip,” Patrick chimed in.

Samantha’s heart fluttered. Leave it to Patrick to come up with a solution. “If you’re driving, I’m in,” Samantha spoke up.

“We can share the driving. We’ll drive straight through.”

“It’s a plan. We can stay at my family’s beach house,” Andrew said with a huge smile.

“Then it’s settled. Florida here we come,” Dana screamed and threw her hands up.

“Spring break can’t come fast enough,” Samantha said.

Patrick turned left into a long driveway. Dana jumped out and opened the massive gates. Samantha admired the tall trees lining the property. They reminded her of two rows of soldiers in formation. The road curved up toward a humongous estate. Samantha’s mouth hung open like a dog eyeing a steak. She took in the stone mansion with four gables and three chimneys.

“Who lives here?” Someone with a rather large wallet, she thought.

“Our aunt and uncle,” Patrick answered. “But they’re out of the country. We said we’d check in on it for them. Although, they do have an elaborate security system. Did you pack your bathing suit? There’s an Olympic-sized pool.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Nope.” Patrick laughed and parked the car near the front door. He made his way up the five steps to the intricately carved wooden door and punched in a code.

“Now this is the life,” Andrew whistled. “How long will they be gone?”

“A month,” Dana said. “Don’t get any ideas though.”

“Dana, we are the first to get here,” Patrick smiled.

“What?” Dana shot him a stern look.

“Don’t be such a wuss. I just invited a few friends.”

“How many is a few?”

“Five, but I told them to pass on the word. We can stay in the basement.”

Samantha didn’t know which twin should win the title of rebel. Between Dana stealing a bottle of Jameson from their parents and Patrick using his aunt and uncle’s mansion for a party, they both took risks Samantha would never take in a million years.

Samantha slid off her shoes. The shiny wood floors felt cool to the bottom of her bare feet. A large dining room sat to the right with a stunning crystal chandelier hanging over a cherry stained wood table with enough place settings for ten.

“What do they do for a living?”

“My aunt is an author of children’s books and my uncle is an executive at Miller Brewing,” Dana said.

“Their refrigerators are always stocked with beer. They won’t even miss it,” Patrick chimed in.

“Uh, if you clear them out of their beer, they’re going to notice,” Dana said.

“I’ll restock it with the cases in the cellar.”

“Patrick, I don’t like this idea.” Dana bit the side of her lip.

“Then leave.” Patrick held the car keys in front of Dana’s flushed face. She shoved the keys back at Patrick and turned to Samantha. “Let’s go upstairs. You have to see the master closet.”

Within the hour, at least two dozen people arrived. Patrick ushered them into the basement. Miller Brewing signs adorned the walls. Two pool tables, an air hockey table, shuffleboard, darts, a ping pong table, and a long bar with ten stools completed every college kid’s dream basement.

“This is amazing, bro,” Fitz slapped Patrick on the back.

Samantha sat at the bar playing dice with Andrew.

“That hot R.A. who swiped our Jameson bottle is here. Do you think he’ll rat us out?” Dana whispered to Samantha.

Samantha scanned the room and locked eyes with the stocky R.A. He smirked like a sly fox and raised his beer bottle to her.

“I don’t think he’ll say anything. He could get into as much trouble as us by being here and drinking underage.”

“You’re right. I think I may just have to see if I can persuade him to give my Jameson bottle back. He’s really something to look at,” Dana said moving toward the R.A.

“Take a pool stick just in case you need to shove it up his ass,” Samantha called after her.

Dana shot her a disapproving look. Andrew snorted.

Samantha shrugged, “What? You can never be too careful.”  She rolled the dice. She didn’t see what Dana saw in the R.A. He reminded her of a used car salesman with his greasy hair and cheesy smile.

The group hung out for an hour, rotating to different games and slamming beer. At some point the party moved to the pool. Some of them ended up fully clothed in the water. Samantha and Dana stripped down to their bra and panties and most of the guys swam in their boxers. One drunk, fat guy decided to skinny dip. Samantha wondered in this case if it could be called “skinny” with someone of his size. She faced away from him, wishing he looked like Johnny Depp.

“Cannon ball,” someone yelled and catapulted into the pool.

Suddenly, a screeching sound filled the air. Samantha threw her hands up to her ears.

“Shit! The alarm.” Dana yelled. She screamed at the top of her lungs. “Everyone out!”

People flung themselves out of the pool, slipping and sliding, and tracking water everywhere.  A boy slammed his knee off the floor and limped out.

“What’s going on?” Andrew asked Patrick.

“I have no idea, but you and Samantha stay here. I’m going to make sure everyone else leaves.”

Samantha and Dana emerged from the pool and wrapped themselves in plush, white towels—the kind you’d find in a luxury hotel—while Patrick ran to answer the telephone that now rang off the hook.

“Hi, yes. I’m the house sitter. I accidentally opened the back door and the alarm sounded. The code is 5874531. Yes, everything is okay. Oh, I don’t think that’s necessary…Ah…I see. Alright.”

He hung up the phone as three cars peeled out of the driveway. The rest of the kids sprinted away from the house, holding tightly to their clothes.

“The security company called. They insisted on sending the police because the owners are out of town.”

“Shit! Grab more towels, we need to clean up as much of this water as possible,” Dana urged.

They worked hard and fast wiping up pool water and clearing beer bottles.

As Patrick answered the door for the cops, Dana’s eyes caught something sparkly on the stairs. She reached down and picked it up.

“Uh Patrick, we have a big problem.” Dana shoved a large, diamond earring in Patrick’s face. “I told you we shouldn’t have had a party.”




“So, any news on the burglary at your aunt and uncle’s?” Samantha shivered, feeling tiny icicles forming on her eyelashes. She gazed into her cup, wishing it were coffee and Bailey’s instead of beer with a thin layer of ice over the top of it. Samantha wondered why she had agreed to watch this ludicrous spectacle.

“No leads. They didn’t have any cameras in the house at the time. They’ve installed them now, so no more parties for us there,” Dana said.

“I’m really sorry that happened. How much was stolen?”

“Most of my aunt’s jewelry.”

“Crazy. It’s too bad we don’t know everyone who was at the house that day.”

“Lesson learned the hard way.”

“Do they blame you?”

“I don’t think so, but I’m sure they won’t be asking us to watch their house any time soon.”

Fitz jumped from foot to foot in the cold sand and rolled his shoulders back like a boxer warming up for a fight.

“He’s not going to do it. Is he? I can’t watch this.” Samantha shifted her head down and tented her eyes with one hand, blocking Fitz out. She raised her plastic beer cup to her lips, stifling a giggle.

“Oh, yeah he is.” Dana said and pulled her hood over her winter hat. “It’s fricken freezing out here.” Dana took a swig of liquor from a bottle covered in a brown paper bag.

“No worries ladies, Fitz is from Green Bay. This is amateur hour for him.” Patrick pulled down his ski mask.

Samantha recalled Fitz telling her about the time he fell through the ice while fishing, but that had been an accident. This was by choice. Fitz stripped down to his tighty whiteys and stood at the edge of the icy lake.

“Yuck. That water has got to be 30 degrees and full of poop,” Samantha said and held her nose.

“I think the amount of alcohol he’s had has warmed him,” Dana said.

“And, taken a few brain cells,” Samantha said.

“A bet is a bet, ladies.” Patrick blew his breath into his cupped hands and rubbed them together.

“You could’ve bet him to do something else, Patrick.” Dana gave her brother a smack. “It’s November!”

“I take my sports very seriously and the Bears spanked the Packers. Didn’t they, Fitz?” Patrick ribbed Fitz.

“Hardly. It was two points,” Fitz called out over his shoulder.

“A win is a win.”

“I’m glad Nebraska doesn’t have a football team. Y’all are brutal.” Skip shook his head and then drained his beer.

Samantha looked away as Fitz dropped his underwear.  He let out a loud yelp and dove into the water.

“There you have it, folks—the polar bear plunge at its finest.” Patrick clapped.

Samantha pressed her gloved hand to her mouth as the others whooped and screamed. She held her breath, hoping Fitz surfaced soon. She tried not to imagine him trembling and turning blue. She pushed the thought from her mind. In a matter of seconds, Fitz shot up like a champagne cork, “Come on in! The water’s warm.”

“No, thanks.” Andrew called out. “It’s all you.”

Hailing from Florida, Andrew wanted nothing to do with frigid temperatures or freezing water. It was a wonder he decided to attend school in Milwaukee, but his father was from the Midwest and had gone to college here, so he followed in his footsteps.

“You better get him out of there before he gets hypothermia,” Dana screamed at Patrick.

“I’m sure he sobered up really quick now.”

A bright light flashed over the sand.

A voice blared through a bullhorn, “Stay where you are. You’re under arrest.”

“Run!” Dana dropped her booze bottle.

Samantha grabbed Dana’s hand and they took off toward the trees. Patrick, Skip, and Andrew scattered in different directions.

“My dad will kill me if I get caught,” Dana said.

“Yours? Mine’s a cop!”

“At least you have a get out of jail free card.”

“Unlikely,” Samantha huffed.

Dana tripped over a rock and fell hard on her knees. Samantha reached down and pulled her up.

“Are you okay?”

“No, but I’ll live.” Dana hobbled as she leaned into Samantha’s arm.

Samantha looked over her shoulder in time to see Fitz being dragged out of the lake by a cop. They didn’t stop running and hobbling the eight blocks until they reached the dorm. Samantha doubled over, trying to catch her breath.

After a minute, she raised her head and looked up at the tall, cylindrical building. The co-ed freshman dorm had been nicknamed the beer can because of its shape. After living there for nearly three months, Samantha also realized the name stuck for another reason, too, and it had nothing to do with shape. She caught a movement off the side of the building and strained her eyes.

“Dana, look!” Samantha pointed toward the top of the dorm.

“What the…?” Dana stopped her question in mid-sentence and threw her hand to her mouth.

Someone’s legs were swinging outside of a window.

“Do you think the person is considering jumping?”

“We better get help.”

They ran into the dorm lobby. Samantha’s heart raced. Patrick sat comfortably on one of the couches, staring at them with one leg crossed over the other.

“What took you so long?” Patrick burst out laughing.

“Someone’s hanging out the window from the top floor,” Dana blurted out.

“What?” Patrick scrambled to his feet and headed outside. Samantha followed him. Patrick looked up and counted the floors.

“That does look like the top. That’s my floor,” Patrick said.

“Where are Fitz, Andrew, and Skip?” Samantha asked nervously. She hoped it wasn’t one of them up there. They all had quite a bit to drink tonight. And, she knew crazy shit went down when they got wasted. This, however, was a little too crazy even for them, she thought.

“Fitz is fine. The cop just dropped him off with a warning. My guess is he went straight into a hot shower and to bed. I didn’t see Andrew or Skip come home. I think I was the first one back. I hopped a bus.”

At that very moment, Skip came up from behind them. “Y’all left me out there to fend for myself. Not cool. Not cool at all.”

Skip’s chubby cheeks were red from wind burn. His curls stuck to his sweaty forehead.

“Look up,” Patrick said.

“Holy shit. Who the hell would do that?”

“We were wondering the same thing.”

“I’m going up there.” Patrick hurried away.

Well past curfew now, Samantha knew she wasn’t allowed on the boys’ floor at this hour, but she decided to go with him anyway. This had to be the one exception to the rule.

Dana knocked on the resident hall director’s door as Patrick and Samantha rushed past her to the elevator.

“I’m going to talk him down,” Patrick called to Dana.

The elevator reached the twelfth floor and they swiftly exited into the curved hallway. Patrick banged on door after door and took the liberty of opening any unlocked ones. He peered into each of the rooms looking for the dangling boy. After alarming most of the students on the floor, they found the room they were looking for. A crowd began to form outside of it. Another boy pushed his way through.

“What the heck is going on?”

Samantha recognized him as the R.A. that had taken the bottle of Jameson from them.

“This is my room. I’m Casper. Casper Wilkins.”

At that moment, Samantha realized he’d lied on move-in day. R.A.s don’t share rooms.

“Well, then I’m assuming he’s your roommate.” Patrick pointed to the window. “Oh, and you owe my sister a bottle of Jameson.

Patrick moved slowly toward the window. He tries to get the attention of the boy on the ledge. “Hey, buddy. Can I join you?”

“Uh, are you sure that’s a good idea?” Samantha whispers. Patrick shrugs his shoulders.

The boy doesn’t even turn to look at them.

“Don’t jump,” someone yells from the doorway.

At the same moment, Patrick lunges forward and flings his arms around the boy, dragging him into the room.

Cheers erupt from the hallway.

“Let me through!” The resident hall director rushes in. “Go back to your rooms. There’s nothing to see here. You, Patrick McCarthy, stay.”

Someone yelled, “Wow, McCarthy, you saved his life.”

“He’s like Superman.”

“It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Super MACK!” Fitz screams.

The resident hall director waves his arms. “I mean it. Whoever is still standing here in ten seconds is getting written up.”

The students scurry back to their rooms. Samantha stands in shock at the doorway, staring at Patrick. Dana grabs her by the arm.

“Come on. He’s not really Superman. Ya know.”

Samantha snaps out of her starstruck gaze. “I know. It’s Super Mack.”

Dana rolls her eyes. “Well, he’s not worth getting written up over.”

After the incident, for the next few weeks Patrick is hailed a hero. The nickname Super Mack catches on like wildfire.

Read on Wattpad

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