I chose the image of the courtyard on a university campus for my twenty-minutes sprint today. Just playing around with a couple characters. I hope you enjoy.
Valerie checked to make sure she had her ID and her office key on her before stepping out into the cool evening air. She took a deep breath and walked to the path and slowly down toward the end of the little courtyard. She’d been in her office all day. First for office hours and appointments with students, and then working on writing up the results for her dissertation.
This was her last semester and the research was all done, so it was just a matter of getting everything written up, edited, and polished. She reached the end of the courtyard, rolling her shoulders before turning back to pace the other way. It was important to take breaks to clear her head and the courtyard was one of her favorite spots for that.
At least, it was during the day. As she began walking back in the direction of the door she realized just how secluded and dark the place was in the evening. The sun wasn’t quite set yet, but the courtyard was already in heavy shadow. There was light from a few classrooms and offices that were still occupied in the evening, but the usually bright and cheery plantings were hulking shadows in the dark.
She patted her pockets, reassured to have her phone with her. She often forgot and left it on her desk. Not that she should have anything to be afraid of really. Campus was a pretty safe place overall and this courtyard wasn’t something most people were aware of, tucked away as it was. You had to get into the building to get to it and only one of the doors was unlocked after six. There were only a couple night classes scheduled and everyone else with access with faculty or a graduate student.
Valerie did a few more shoulder stretching moves as she walked back toward the door, which was when she noticed the figure. They were sitting on the bench nearest the door, their butt near the end of the bench as they leaned back, one leg propped up on the other at the ankle. Had they been there when she came out? Her eyes hadn’t been adjusted to the dim lighting then.
“Don’t let me interrupt your walk,” the figure said, their voice a light alto and the pronunciation hinting at another language.
“I’m not used to finding anyone out here,” she replied. At least not after three in the afternoon. Students tended to use it as a quiet place to eat or study during the earlier parts of the day, but they were pretty scarce near classroom buildings after midafternoon.
“I like to enjoy a little quiet here in the evenings,” the figure replied. “It’s my first semester here so I’m still finding all the little quiet places.”
“It is usually quiet in the evening,” Valerie agreed.
“I’ve seen you around the building,” the figure said. “Are you faculty or a grad student?”
“PhD student,” she replied. “It’s my last semester.” It was so easy to fall into the standard conversations about studies and progress, even with a complete stranger.
“I hope it’s going well,” the figure replied.
“So far,” she replied. “Just finishing up the data analysis and starting to write the results section.” She’d written the introduction and the procedure as she was getting things set up for data collection. It was so much easier to write all that while she was actively doing the procedure. Once she had the results written up she could work on the conclusion, update the introduction, and get the abstract together.
“I’m not sure if I should congratulate you or console you,” the stranger said. “I’m only two semesters away from mine and I remember everyone having strong opinions about whether the work of the experiment or the writing were the worse part of the process.”
“I like both,” Valerie replied. “Writing has always been a bit of a hobby, so I don’t mind it as much as a lot of my classmates.” She loved to write fiction when she could carve out the time. Writing up her research was different, but not distasteful.
“Sounds like a good place to be,” they replied with a laugh. “I’m Sam Black, by the way. They just hired me into the open faculty line in Linguistics.”
“Valerie Carver,” she replied. “I had to miss all the meet and greets for that because they ended up scheduled during my class or office hours.” She was in the department, and going to things like that was encouraged for the graduate students. They actually seemed to care about student opinions when they were hiring.