There had always been something different about Vanessa Delaney, even as a child. She had no idea who her parents were and was brought up by a lady she called Auntie Lorraine. From the beginning, Vanessa loved being outside. The clean, fresh air, surrounding greenery of her aunt's back garden, and the woods beyond, captivated her like nothing else.
She made friends with the tiny creatures that lived within the flowers and plants. Sometimes she would look up at the sky and wish she had wings. Lorraine found Vanessa to be an easygoing, kind of shy, but very well behaved young girl. No trouble at all. Her aunt often wondered how someone could have left this child on her doorstep and then dissappear without a second thought.
Growing up, Vanessa did try to fit in with the other kids who went to both primary and high school with her. But there were two strikes against her; she had slightly pointy ears, hair that wouldn't tangle, a mark on her forehead(carefully hidden by her fringe) and strange ice blue eyes.
She was also being raised by a woman who had long ago been branded a witch. Lorraine called her a fairy child, which she loved. Shame there was no way to prove it. People usually avoided her aunt like the plague. There were many rumors whispered around town. They got even more ridiculous as time went by. It made no difference to Vanessa whether the rumors were true or not.
She had seen for herself, the herbs that Lorraine collected and the various potions she brewed up in a black cauldron. She knew her aunt kept a book of handwritten notes, which could very well have been spell incantations. Charms, dreamcatchers, silk veils and pieces of antique looking furntire decorated each colourful room. Freshly cut roses always sat in a pretty vase in the centre of the kitchen table.
Handcrafted accessories and products, plus some vintage style jewellery, made a tidy sum for Lorraine to share with Vanessa. A few residents used to sneak up to the house, asking for solutions to various problems. But nobody would talk about that. During the day, her aunt worked a second hand bookstore, which just about paid the bills.
Every month, Lorraine would return to the same forest clearing, clad in a pure white dress, and dance under the full moonlight. She sang songs without words and drank expensive wine straight from the bottle. She never failed to pick a bunch of wildflowers and place them, along with a silver charm, inside a small circle of rocks, before leaving in the morning.
Vanessa spent her early years on her own, more or less. Given the attitudes and prejudices of the locals, it soon became like second nature. She had her books and her music to keep her occupied. And of course Lorraine was always there for comfort and support. Animals were drawn to Vanessa. The wild ones she encountered, didn't seem to mind the girl waltzing through their territory one little bit.
There was a population of deer, occasionally hunted down for food. A bear and her cubs would visit the same river stream that Vanessa liked to swim in. There were also foxes, beavers, birds, snakes and insects, among other things. She welcomed them all with open arms,even helped some of those who were injured or sick from something. Lorraine's potions did indeed work wonders...
Several months after she graduated from high school, Vanessa and her aunt were debating on two different universities that had accepted her. In the end, both thought that the one closest to home called Evandarel, was the right option. It had on campus living, which could be somewhat of a challenge.
Vanessa chose Writing, Art and Interior Design, but also added more practical classes like Business and Finances. Four years of study in total and she should be able to get a foot in somewhere. Lorraine made the call to find out about payments and whatever else her neice would require.
Monday morning, January the 12th, they were up with the rising of the sun and double checking the luggage situation. Lorraine hired a car, since she didn't have one of her own. It was a two and a half hour drive. Vanessa could carry her bags herself, but her aunt insisted on following her to the dormitories. Room 201, second floor.
Someone was already in there. Vanessa took a deep breath and knocked politely. The door flew open to reveal a teenager, dressed in jeans, flip flops and a band t-shirt. She wore mismatched earrings and a bunch of bracelets on each arm. She also had a bright and welcoming smile. "Hey! You must be my roommate. I'm Rita. Come on in."
If the girl noticed the pointy ears, she didn't mention it. She filled the silence with her chatter, which neither of them actually minded. "I love your tunic dress and the patterned leggings. Would you mind if I asked to try on your boots sometime?" "Not at all." Her aunt smiled at the two of them. "I see you're in good hands. Call me at the end of the week, so you can tell me how everything went."
Vanessa hugged Lorraine tightly. "Sure thing. Thanks for dropping me off." "Not a problem. The house is going to feel so empty without you." "I'll be home before you even know it." The new roommates watched her walk away. "Nice lady. " Vanessa agreed. "She's the only family I've got." Rita ran her hands through her short curls. "I have divorced parents and four siblings. It can get crowded. " "No doubt."
The girl helped Vanessa put some of her stuff away. "Are you hungry?" Just then both of their tummies grumbled. They cracked up laughing. "I could go for some food." Rita got up from her bed and grabbed a denim jacket. "Then allow me to show you around. I've been here for a while now, and I'd like to think I know it well." " Lead the way."
Vanessa was happy to make a new friend so quickly. It was definitely much better than trying to navigate the univeristy by herself. As they moved from one area to another, she realised at once that her peculiarities wouldn't be so much of a standout in this place.
People of all ages and types, wore whatever they wanted. Some even had their own weird physical traits, which they displayed publicly without shame. It was encouraging to witness, and her confidence was growing stronger by the minute. She felt none of the hostility that she'd experienced back home. In fact, every person who happened to know Rita, was also nice to her.
So Vanessa's first week passed without any issues. She soon got into the university routine. She finished her homework well before the due date. The teachers in all of her classes, were dedicated to their jobs. They seemed to genuinely want their students to excel and did not hide their disappointment, when somebody fell behind.
Vanessa had also found her voice, and was now speaking in fuller sentences, instead of just keeping quiet and listening to other peoples' conversations. Gaining a whole group of friends, was unexpected, but not entirely unwelcome. Sure it wasn't all sunshine and roses, but she knew could manage just fine. A brand new world had opened up for her and she was more than willing to step through that door.