The place was old to say the least. It was built around the 1920s, long before Madison Palmer graced this earth. The dormers were bleak and plain, nothing distinguishing the first from the next. Madison hadn’t really known what to expect before today, having never set foot in South Africa, much less Stellenbosch.
It had been her mother’s idea, sending her to college in this vile country. A place where she could get away from the dreadful influence of her lower class friends. Madison and her mother never quite agreed which company she should keep, a matter that was responsible for most of the numerous arguments that could be heard of in nr 5 Hail Street.
Now that she had been shipped off to the Cape, Madison felt an increasing sense of foreboding. Her old fiends often talked about their holidays to South Africa with the utmost indifference, it meaning nothing more than a stamp in their passports. However to Madison, it felt like a prison to which her mother condemned her. Mrs. Palmer had grown up in South Africa, and went to the same university Madison stood in now. She thought boarding school built character, something that Madison (in her opinion) sorely lacked. Mr. Palmer had had nothing to say about the manner, as was usual.
“Right this way,” a burly man told her, indicating to the stairs that led to the levels above. He was colored, with a small black goatee and moustache. He seemed friendly enough, but had crudeness to him that Madison couldn’t quite place.
When she stepped on the stairs, a loud creak issued from underneath her foot.
“Nice little tool for telling who’s awake,” the man grunted. He smiled nastily, exposing brown teeth.
“I’m sure,” Madison said, taking another step.
The stairs were short little steps, two sets leading to one floor. They were white with dark wood trimming. The railings were wood also. Between two sets of steps, an ugly faded red carpet matted the floor. She could see the next landing from the third step. It was small and kind of square. When they reached it (which took a very short amount of time), Madison saw a little kitchen, complete with fridge and cupboards. She frowned at the glasses standing in the sink.
“I thought I was to be the first here,” she told the man. It wasn’t that she minded, but it surprised her.
“One of the other students arrived back early,” he said shortly.
He led her through a set of thick doors. They were the sort you’d find in restaurants, the one’s through which the waiters enter the kitchen. These had a small circular window set in them, somewhat like a porthole, big enough to frame a face.
Through the doors was a small hall, from which four doors led off. These doors were made of the same as the previous ones, with dull metal doorknobs. Locks were fixed a little below these knobs, and the man handed Madison a lock and two keys.
“One is for the lock, which is for the door,” he explained, “the other is for the front door to the dorms.”
“Thank you,” she said as she grasped the keys and lock.
The man smiled his brown smile again and said (somewhat unpleasantly), “Good night.”
“G’night,” Madison said. She waited until she could no longer hear the creak of the mans feet on the stairs. When all was silent she looked at the lock in her hand. A number (66C) was written on a sticker on the lock. She looked up at the nearest door.
63C, the first one read. The next continued 64- and 65C. The last door off the little hall was the one matching the lock.
“Right, guess you’re mine,” she said with a sense of apprehension. Judging by what she’s seen so far, her prediction for the room was not a pleasant one.
With a tired resentment, she pushed open the door. The walls were white and bleak. The same ugly tiles that spread through the hall and kitchen adorned the floor. There were two beds and two desks. The looked plain, both different faded colors. Beige sheets and pillowcases and stuff were folded neatly and laid on a pile at the foot of each bed. The desks were both the same old oak, with plastic chairs.
Madison sighed and walked to the bed under the window. Her luggage was to be brought up in a moment. With a feeling of utmost isolation, she opened her shoulder bag and took out a book. Leafing through it lazily she muttered, “So this is your prison mother.”