Savage Delight

Page 22


“MJ’s table lamp aside, we should visit. Maybe not her actual house. Because that would be trespassing. So instead we’re going to lightly trespass around her house. Do you think you can remember the way to her cabin?”
“Did Chanel’s spring/summer 1991 collection redefine post-modern feminism in the fashion world?”
There’s a pause.
“Translation?” I try.
Kayla throws her arms up. “It means yes!”
“Awesome. Saturday, ten am, my place. I’ll drive. You provide the atmosphere. And Gatorade.”
“Saturday? I’m going with my mom to get her haircut. Why not Friday?”
“Trial,” I grunt. Kayla’s eyes widen.
“Oh. Right. I forgot about that.”
“I didn’t.” I singsong.
“Do you…do you want me to come? I could – I don’t know. Provide moral support? And Gatorade?”
I chuckle. “Yeah. I’d like that. A lot.”
Kayla laces her arm in mine, and smiles. There’s a nice quiet as we walk, the quiet that settles between two people who’ve said everything they’d been burning to say, only cool ashes floating to the ground. It’s peaceful, and comforting, and it helps calm my first-day-back nerves like a soothing balm.
And then Kayla promptly starts lecturing me on the fine points of Chanel’s spring/summer 1991 collection, and why I should care about extended shoulder pads and Technicolor peacoats.
And somehow, that’s even more comforting.
The world changes, and I change.
But some things always stay the same.
Mom isn’t home after school, so I take my pants off the second I walk in the door and sigh with relief. Hellspawn glares up at me with his big yellow eyes.
“Don’t give me that look. I know where you poop. And sleep. Sometimes both at once.”
He slinks upstairs to vomit in my dirty clothes basket or something equally elegant. I chuck my jeans after him and they land on the railing with a sad thunk, and then I plop down on the sofa and stare at the envelope Evans gave me. The Stanford logo peers up at me in red and white. It reeks of pretentious and I haven’t even opened it yet. I can smell the pretense gunk oozing up from the crack in the envelope.
It’s taunting me. So I get up and throw it in the fireplace.
The cold fireplace. With no actual fire in it. But in all fairness, if I was made of paper the mere presence of old coal ash rubbing up against my white butt would make me poop ink for days.
“Scared yet?” I ask. The envelope remains cheeky. By the time I work up the courage to open it, I’ve spent a half-hour staring at it. Just staring, and watching a bunch of terrifyingly important life choices flash before my eyes. Mom needs me more than Stanford does. But it’s Stanford. Stan-freaking-ford. Stan-is-so-loaded-his-last-name-might-be-Ford-like-the-guy-who-invented-that-one-car-Ford. They’ve got money out the butt and they’ve contacted me early. It’s a rejection. It has to be. A place like Stanford would never want a regular, boring mid-western white girl like me. I get good grades – so what? I don’t do a million charity after school things like Wren, I’m not Mensa-status like Jack, and I’m not loaded like Avery. There is literally nothing to set me apart from everyone else.
But if they accepted me – just if – then Evans is right. I hate the taste of those words on my tongue, but he’s right. Stanford would transform me. I’d go there, and learn so much, and become so much more. Or less. Or maybe I’d flunk. I’d fail, probably. But if I didn’t, places like Europe and things I’ve always wanted to do, like learn Spanish fluently or dive into Women’s Studies or peruse the mysteries of microorganisms – all that would be in my grubby little hands.
The sight of the bills piled on the table hits me like a ton of lead bricks. Who am I kidding? Even if this is an acceptance letter, there’s no way Mom could afford it. I’d be working my ass off 24/7 just to make tuition. I’d probably be miserable. It’d be smarter to just stay home, here, with Mom, and get a job and attend the local community college. It’d save both of us money.
I grab the envelope and make a mad dash for my room. I belly flop onto my bed and pull Mrs. Muffin to my side.
“Okay, you open it.”
I manipulate her little paws, my hands shaking, and she opens the envelope and extracts the letter. It flops open on the bedspread. I choke on my own saliva.
There’s more than just a letter. There’s a form of some kind.
‘Don’t be such a wuss!’ Mrs. Muffin seems to chime. ‘But don’t get hasty! Read the letter first!’
“Dear Ms. Blake. Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you you’ve been accepted to Stanford University for the Fall 2012 semesterOHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD.”
‘Breathe!’ Mrs. Muffin wails. ‘Don’t forget to breathe! It is kind of required!’
My mind is blank – all thoughts of Jack, and what he said about ‘which kiss’ flying out the window. I temporarily forget about Lake Galonagah, and Sophia’s anger. I just have a minor coronary and collapse in on myself like a dying star. The peach tree outside my window is summarily impressed.
“I got in! I got into Stanford!” I shout at the ceiling. The letter shakes in my hand as I eagerly devour the rest of it. There’s something about a housing form, and a financial aid form, and at the very bottom is a mention of a grant. Grant? I never applied for a grant. Did Evans…?
And then my eyes widen at the amount on the attached paper. Thirty thousand dollars, for four years or until I get my bachelors, on the terms I keep a 4.0 average. It’s not a lot to Stanford, but it’ll put a huge dent in the tuition costs for me. I could actually keep afloat, if I got some more scholarships and worked. It’s doable. My heart squeezes and unsqueezes rapidly. I can do it. I can do something different, something wild and massive and incredible –
“Isis?” Mom’s voice filters up from downstairs. “Isis, are you home?”
I jump up and rush down the stairs, slipping on the bottom one but catching myself gracefully and launching into her chest.
“I got in!” I scream. “I got into Stanford!”
Mom’s eyes widen. “W-What? Stanford? How –”
I shove the letter in her hands and quiver on the edge of a knife for an entire ten seconds as she reads it. Her face lights up from the inside, like a candle through a frosted pane, glowing in all directions at once. She hugs me, harder than when I woke up in the hospital, harder than when I came home from the hospital, harder than when I arrived at the airport in Ohio from Florida.
“Oh sweetheart. I’m – I’m so proud. This is amazing! When did you apply to Stanford? And without telling me?”
“I just…I just put it in for kicks. I didn’t expect anything to actually happen,” I lie. Mom’s joy is overshadowed by worry lines, but she’s trying hard to hide them for me. It’s then I notice her coat, and the new prescription pills sticking out of her purse.
“Let’s talk about this after dinner, alright? Call your father and tell him!” Mom insists.
Dad’s just as thrilled. He offers to help me with some of the costs, the pride in his voice unmistakable.