The Force of Gravity(9)

By: Kelly Stevenson

“Well,” says my mom, “it’s a really hard school to get into, Kay.”

Her sympathetic voice masks the truth behind her words, and it takes me a moment to process.

“You guys didn’t think I’d get in,” I say, my voice faint. Confirmation flashes across their features, and I don’t wait for them to reply. “Well, I did get in,” I cry, rising to my feet. “So what now? That’s it?”

“Sit down,” warns my dad. “Since when are you too good for Arizona State?”

“What is your obsession with ASU? Quit turning it around!” My nails dig into my palms as I tighten my fists. “Newsflash! Your daughter isn’t a moron! You lied to me—you both lied to me!”

“We didn’t lie to you,” says my dad, his voice stern. “Now sit down.”

I cross my arms and remain standing. “Is this what you guys fight about every night? Money for my tuition?”

My dad lets out a loud sigh. “No,” he says, sounding defeated. “That has nothing to do with you.”

Nothing about that statement makes me feel any better.

“I’m going to USC,” I demand. “I’ll take out student loans; I’ll get a job.” I’ll be damned if I let their lack of responsibility and preparation ruin my life.

My dad leans back in his chair, his face pained. “Kaley. We’d have to co-sign. We just can’t do it. I’m sorry.”

The truth is, he looks sorry. Painfully sorry. They both do.

“Can I go to my room, please?” I ask, my legs starting to weaken.

“We’re not done talking about this,” says my dad.

“I just need a moment, okay?”

“Let her go, Don,” says my mom, her voice soft.

As soon as he nods for me to go, I sprint up the stairs and into my bedroom. My acceptance package stares back at me from my desk, and I collapse onto my bed. My phone chimes with a text from Emily:

I’m on the waiting list! Not what I was hoping for, but I have a good feeling. Our dream will happen, Kay!

That’s awesome, Ems, I reply. Keep me posted!

I toss my phone aside and burst into tears.


“DAMN, I’M SORRY, BABE,” SAYS Tommy after I get done telling the group how my parents blindsided me last night. I left out the part about how they never expected me to get accepted. Tommy sets down his sandwich and wraps his arms around me.

“Yeah, Kay,” Derek agrees. “That sucks.”

Emily looks like her whole world has crumbled. “There has to be some way,” she says.

“Nope, I’m destined to go to ASU,” I say with a heavy sigh. “All by myself.”

“You’re going to ASU, Kaley?” Avery says as she slides into her chair. “That’s where I’m going!” She beams.

“Great,” I mutter, exerting a smile. I know she means well, but can’t she see I’m devastated?

“Don’t give up,” says Emily. “We’ll figure something out.”

“Like what?” I say, hopeless.

“I don’t know yet, but it’s going to happen.”

“Ems, you don’t even know if you’re getting in or not.”

“I know two people who were on the waiting list, and they already got their acceptance letters. I’m going to get in. And you’re going too, I promise.”

I shake my head. Sometimes my best friend can be positive to a fault.

THE WEEK GOES by without any more embarrassing incidences in front of Mr. Slate. On Thursday after school, I’m the first one to arrive at our usual meet-up and take a seat on the old wooden bench. Emily walks over with a bounce in her step and practically hurls herself on top of me.

“So, I found out some stuff about Professor McHottie,” she says, grinning.

“Don’t you mean Mr. McHottie? He’s just a high school teacher,” I say, trying to hide my thirst for details about his life.

“Nope. Professor. He’s going to be teaching a math class this summer at the community college. So technically, he’s Professor McHottie.” Emily beams. “Doesn’t that make him even hotter?”

“I guess.”

“Come on! Don’t you think he’s sexy? I can barely concentrate in his class, and it’s already a boring subject.”

“You have a boyfriend.”

“So? He probably has a girlfriend, or a freakin’ fiancé,” she blurts out.

My insides cringe.

“He’s also your teacher,” I remind her.

She giggles. “Duh! It’s not like I can actually boink the guy, but I can dream about it.”

Jealousy sinks into me, viciously spreading its venom. I don’t want her fantasizing about him. I don’t even want her thinking about him. Emily is so confident and beautiful, I bet she could boink him if she really tried. I shove my insecurity down and try to appear indifferent.

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