Out of Her League(8)

By: Samantha Wayland

Lachlan rubbed his hand over his eyes. “That’s really, really awful.”

If he’d been put in a position like that, Lachlan didn’t think he’d have left the house again, ever, let alone gone on to run a major philanthropic trust and—shit—enrolled in law school, just a few blocks away from where he sat now.

Michaela walked across campus, head high, her laptop and notebooks bouncing off her hip in their new messenger bag. Her first class of her first semester was set to begin in just a few minutes and she was more nervous than she could remember being in years.

This had been a really stupid idea. How had she not figured out before today that this was a really, really stupid idea?

She marched on, eyes forward, and tried to ignore the looks cast her way. They weren’t unusual, of course, but she realized with a sinking heart that she hadn’t really thought about what they would mean here. This wasn’t just random people on the street in a huge city she could get lost in. This was a campus. A large one, but still a closed community, and she was the outsider in their midst.

She could guess what they were thinking. That she’d paid her way in. That she didn’t deserve to be there. They saw themselves as the best and the brightest, and viewed her as something else entirely.

And maybe they weren’t wrong. But she was here to learn just like everyone else. She didn’t want special treatment, and would readily refuse it if it were offered. Her time here wasn’t supposed to be about her name or her notoriety. She’d gladly leave both behind if she could.

Her sole purpose here was to learn everything she could to help grow and protect the Price Foundation. Her brothers were both in business, MBA’d up to their eyeballs and capable of making money in their sleep. They were responsible for managing the Foundation’s funds, and they did an amazing job.

Between Michaela and her two brothers, they’d more than doubled what the foundation gave annually over the past five years. With that came a lot more contracts, negotiations, and responsibility. This, more than anything, was what kept Michaela moving forward and had brought her here.

Her parents didn’t really understand why she felt a law degree was necessary. They’d handed the reins over to her years ago and were delighted with how things were going. Michaela thought they could be going better.

Her brothers, at least, understood. They’d been on her case for years to get out and do something. To get a life. Going back to school, as far as they were concerned, was as good a place to start as any.

They were kidding themselves, of course. She’d never have a normal life, no matter how much she wanted to be a regular student, stuck with hours of homework and freaking out about exams. Her undergraduate studies had ended as a circus, the scandal breaking right before the start of her senior year. She could barely remember how she’d gotten through those last two semesters. Her friends, who’d been happy to party across the city with her, using her name and fame to get into places most students could never dream of accessing, had abandoned her. The faculty and staff had made it clear they had no interest in her being at their school. The press chasing her across campus.

It was a miracle she’d finished school at all.

She looked at the groups of students sprawled out over the lawns and each other with raw envy. She’d had that once. But she’d blown it. And there was no way to get it back.

She wished, briefly, and not for the first time, that she could go incognito. But the press had gotten wind of her enrollment months ago, and people clearly knew she was here. Any hope that her fellow students wouldn’t notice or care, that they might just ignore her, was futile.

As usual, her name and her reputation had preceded her. She’d contemplated going full-on Legally Blonde and just embracing the attention—garnering more of it, even. That way, at least, the stares would make sense. Would be expected. And if people weren’t subtle—which they rarely were—she could pretend it was how she wanted it.

Most times it was a lot easier to be who people expected, rather than who you truly were.

She’d coped with unwanted attention that way for over a decade, and it had worked for her. Mostly. Her notoriety had brought a lot of attention, and through that, donors, to the Price Foundation and the charities it supported.

But she was also exhausted by it.

So today she was marching across campus in jeans, a t-shirt, and sandals, her hair in a pony-tail, much the same as everyone else. It felt a lot like going to war without her armor. Or maybe to sea without a boat. How hard would she have to keep swimming just to keep her head above water this way, alone in an ocean of fellow students who saw her as “other”?