It took me forever to decide what to post today- I didn't feel like anything was quite ready to be seen yet. I'm still not sure it is, but since I won't get my NaNo novel edits for awhile, here's another excerpt from The Other Side of Light.
Mr. Ambrose is waiting in his office when I get there. “Sit down, Lyddie,” he says.
I do. “I’m so sorry I missed our meeting this morning. I completely blanked; it wasn’t on purpose.”
“Don’t worry about it. I just wanted to discuss the choices we had been talking about last time we met.”
“Choices?” I can’t seem to figure out what he’s talking about. I really need to get more sleep.
“For college?” Mr. Ambrose says, looking at me curiously. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah, sorry. I didn’t sleep well last night.”
Mr. Ambrose stands up and goes to a filing cabinet. “I saved a few brochures that landed on my desk in the last week or so. I know you’ve already got your top choices, but I thought these might be a good match for you as well. Did you bring the one from Lassiter?”
Oh, no. This whole day is sucking and it’s only ten in the morning. I was supposed to bring the application stuff for my top school choice, Lassiter University. That was the whole point of this meeting. Then I remember something much worse – that my forgetting the application doesn’t matter anymore because I won’t be filling one out. Not for Lassiter or for any school. Because, thanks to my sister, instead of studying Latin and literature, I will become a crazy cat lady, staring at a couple of lanterns.
“What? No, sorry. I… forgot it.”
“It’s all right.” Mr. Ambrose sits at his desk again and jiggles the computer mouse to bring up the screen. “We can just look it up online.”
I can’t let this go on any longer. “Mr. Ambrose, you don’t have to do that. I -” I stop and take a deep breath. “I don’t have to worry about applying to schools anymore.”
He slowly turns to face me, his eyes wide. “Lyddie, you’re not telling me -”
“Yeah, I am. I’m sorry you did all this work just for me to come in here and tell you this, but I had to make a decision kind of fast. I’m really sorry.”
“But – but…” Mr. Ambrose looks so stunned that I feel like I’ve personally let him down. Great, now I feel worse.
“I know, I know. It’s different than we talked about, but my aunt’s been saying that we might still be able to make something work. I mean, the opportunities will definitely be less, but - ”
“The opportunities will be less? Oh, Lyddie, they won’t at all. This is – this is wonderful. I’m so, so proud of you. All of your hard work is paying off.”
I gaze at my guidance counselor in confusion. “Um… what?” Something tells me we’re not on the same page. How could he possibly be this excited about my not going to college?
“The Arleen Brown Scholarship. You got it, didn’t you? Lyddie, you have no idea just how big this is. I know that Principal Franklin will want to congratulate you personally.”
Oh, no. This is so, so, so much worse than I could ever have imagined. “No, Mr. Ambrose. It’s not that. I didn’t get the scholarship.”
He stops talking and stares at me. “What do you mean?” he says finally.
“I didn’t even apply for it. I mean, I wanted to – the form’s half filled – out on my desk, but there’s been a lot of stuff going on. And some of the stuff – or, well, most of it – is the reason that I’m, um…” God, do I have to say it? “I’m not… going to college.”
Dead silence follows my announcement. Mr. Ambrose looks so crushed that I can’t bear to make eye contact. I shift my gaze to anything else – my hands in my lap, my shoes, a tiny scrap of paper by the leg of the desk, the clock. Wow, it only took me seven minutes to drop the bomb. Soon I’ll be able to do it in under five without flinching.
“Okay…” Mr. Ambrose finally says. “You’ll forgive my reaction, Lyddie, but this is just such a shock. The last time we talked, you were nearly finished with the application process.”
Yes, well, the last time we talked, my life was a little more normal than it is now. But I can’t say this, of course. In fact, I realize, I can’t say anything about the lanterns at all. So what am I supposed to tell him? I can’t say I just decided not to go – he’d never buy that, not when my entire school career has been working toward getting accepted to my dream school. And now I’m going to cry. Fantastic.
“I just…” Do not cry. Do not cry. Do not cry. “There’s been some stuff going on at home and I think it’s better if I don’t go.”
I hate this. I hate this so much. This isn’t even my fault and yet I have to sit here and watch my teacher form the belief that I’ve become a directionless slacker overnight. This. Sucks.
Mr. Ambrose switches into guidance counselor crisis mode. “What’s going on, Lyddie?”
“Nothing,” I say, though it’s pretty obvious that I’m lying since I’m blinking so rapidly, trying to keep back my tears. “My aunt really needs my help and she asked me to stay home instead of going to school.” And that, Mr. Ambrose, is the extent of what I can tell you.
“Is your aunt sick?” he asks, concerned.
I can’t tell him the truth. These stupid, ridiculous rules. So, feeling like the worst human being on the planet, I say, “Yeah. She is.” Now I’ve not only disappointed him, I’ve lied to him, the man who made sure that I was allowed to take all the classes I for which I was actually suited my entire high school career, who convinced the school that taking college classes as a sophomore would be asset to them rather than a burden. All for nothing.
This is too painful. I can’t sit here awash in guilt for another minute. “May I go?” I ask, my hand already grabbing for the strap of my backpack. “I have a test in Mrs. Klein’s.”
“Yes, go ahead,” Mr. Ambrose says, and I’m out of there like a shot.