Today, Romance, She Wrote is pleased to host guest blogger Laurel Gans.
I love winter time on a college campus! The trees are all lit up and every coffee shop in a ten mile radius has Glee’s Christmas album on repeat. I even enjoyed pulling out last year’s fluffy coat and boots to brave the first winter snow. This is mostly because I found thirty bucks in my coat pocket, and my favorite socks in the boots! I’m going to have to run those through the washer a couple times…
However, all the decorations in the world can’t ease the frustration of that one last hurdle students have before heading home for a nice long vacation —Finals week.
Finals week. ‘Tis the season of giving up.
In just days I had four regular finals, two cumulative finals, two practical exams, five caramel light Frapuccinos, two shots of espresso and half a dozen mochas. I like to think this will add up to success but all the math majors were too stressed to talk to me.
The thing about finals week is every year I swear I won’t let it happen again. I promise myself that next year, I’ll stay on top of things. I’ll do the readings, go to class, and spend Thanksgiving break studying to make sure come finals time I only have to do a quick review.
Yet every year, as I shuffle through piles of untouched power points and ‘review’ the readings from September, I have memories of the Macy’s Parade and Black Friday shopping dancing through my head.
Maybe next year…
In my new novel, Waitlisted, my main character Kacey Barlow could have studied a little harder herself. She’s been kicked out of the grad school her family has been attending for generations. She’s mortified to tell her parents and can’t stand the thought of her friends learning her little secret. She’s forced to jump through every hoop the admissions process has to offer. As if applying once wasn’t bad enough…
In this scene, Kacey has just discovered she lost her seat in dental school. Upset, she travels to the one person she thought she could tell…
I hop on the freeway, speed for nearly an hour, and roll past three obvious stop signs to get to my destination.
My tires screech to a halt and I attempt to mask my emotions as I casually walk into the newish brick office building. I take a quick ride in the elevator up to the third floor. I walk down the hallway and see a familiar glass door on my right. Etched in the glass is a picture of a tooth and the words “Diane Barlow, DDS.” A sense of pride flashes over me. That’s my mom.
I enter and the new face working behind the front desk catches my eye. That’s strange. I wonder where Julie is today. She’s always here! I love seeing her. Every time I stop by she makes me wear a sticker that says, “I got my teeth cleaned by Dr. Barlow!”
The new lady’s wearing multi-colored scrubs and talking quite loudly on the phone to a patient. Hasn’t this lady ever heard of HIPAA? Now the whole world knows some poor guy needs to have his cavity filled next Wednesday at noon. As soon as she hangs up the phone, I politely cut in.
“Excuse me. I’m here to see Diane Barlow.”
“She’s busy. Do you have an appointment?”
An appointment? I don’t need an appointment! I’m her baby!
“Well no, but—”
“Then I can’t help you. She’s booked all day.”
“No, you don’t understand. I’m not a patient—”
The phone rings. The evil lady picks up the phone with one hand and holds up one finger with the other. She gave me the finger! Well, not that finger but it’s still very rude!
“Mmmhmm…mmmhmmm…yes…no…OK…We’ll get back to you. Buh-bye”
The lady slams down the phone and seems to ignore the fact that I’m still standing here. I give her a second out of courtesy… Yep, she’s definitely ignoring me.
OK, one last chance, lady.
“Could you please tell Diane Barlow to come to the front desk? It’s important.”
“You don’t understand…”
All right, it’s time.
“No, you don’t understand. My name is Kacey Barlow. I’m her daughter.”
A fake smile grows over her face. Suddenly, she’s as friendly as Barney the Dinosaur…with a few drinks in him.
“Oh, you’re Kacey! Oh, you are adorable! I’ve heard all about you. Hang on, hon. I’ll get your mom.”
She presses a button on the phone and like magic my mom appears. She’s dressed in her green scrubs and tennis shoes. Just the sight of her makes me feel better.
“Kacey, is everything OK?”
“Yeah. I had the afternoon free so I thought I’d come visit!” I say.
She gives me a big hug. “Well, it’s great to see you! I see you’ve met Paula.” She gestures to the front desk lady.
“Yes, we have! She’s a doll!” Paula says.
“Come on, I’ll take you to the back.”
She puts her arm around me and we walk toward her office. It takes every ounce of energy in me not to turn around and give Paula a little glare. What a phony.
* * *
I love my mom’s back office. She has this huge oversized cherry desk in the center which, I must say, looks absolutely perfect. Whoever picked it has great taste (Hint hint…it was me!). On it, she has her new upgraded laptop, an adorable bronze desk lamp (again, all me!) and some silk plants (we’re not really gardening people). On one wall, she has her diplomas all framed. On the other, she has pictures of (you guessed it!) me dating back over two decades. I was so cute!
I sit down on one of the chairs across from her desk. My mom closes the office door and takes a seat next to me. The only thing left to do is get it all out in the open.
I have to tell her everything from the beginning, starting from when that idiot Mark Boyd interrupted my perfect afternoon off. I’ll leave out the part about the burnt waffle, the tight pants, and the illegal parking. That would be superfluous.
Once I get it all out, I know I’ll feel better. Moms have a way of making everything all better no matter what it is. I’ll say, “Mom, UI said they don’t want me anymore.” Then my mom will give me one of those big reassuring hugs and say, “Baby, it’s their loss! A better school will accept you and you’ll go there! Let’s go get some ice cream.” Then we’ll go to Dairy Queen and I’ll at least get a free hot fudge sundae with nuts and sprinkles out of this whole mess.
“So, how’s school going for you?” my mom asks.
“Yeah? All your classes are going well?”
“Yeah. I took my physics test yesterday. I think it went really well!”
“And how’s o-chem? Still giving you trouble?”
I shrug. “Eh, a little but I’m getting through it.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s not like any of these grades matter.” She gives me a smile. “You’re already into grad school.”
My eyes widen. There’s my cue. Should I take it? Maybe I can tell her later.
No, Kacey! It’s now or never. OK, deep breath. You can do this.
“I actually wanted to talk to you about that.”
“About your grades?”
“No, about grad school.”
“Sure. What is it?”
I look down at my lap and try to hope for the best. It’s not like she’ll be mad. How could she be? I didn’t really do anything wrong!
“I’m not… I mean…”
Just say it!
“The thing is… What would you think…”
Come on, almost there.
“What would you think of…me applying to a couple other schools?”
All right, that didn’t really come out as planned but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
Here’s the plan. I’ll get accepted to an even more exclusive school. Then one day, months from now, maybe over dinner or coffee, I’ll casually mention this whole Indiana debacle. Then we’ll laugh about this whole situation at my white coat ceremony at some other (way better) school.
“You don’t want to go to Indiana anymore?”
Oh no! She looks hurt—like really hurt—like I personally offended her. I need a quick recovery now!
“No, no! It’s not that. It’s just…I want to look into all my options. That’s all.”
“But, I thought you loved UI.”
“I did! I do! I just want to do a little research before I make anything final. That’s all.”
I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but when my mom wants me to do something, she tells me so in some sort of mom code. It’s like she pretends she’s not telling me what to do but in reality, she knows I’m getting the message loud and clear.
“You should do what you want, Kacey. It’s your life, not mine.”
Yet somehow the words she’s saying and the look on her face don’t match up.
“So, you don’t care if I apply to other schools?” I say.
“No! I mean at Indiana you’d be third generation on both sides of the family at one of the top dental schools in the nation but that shouldn’t be your deciding factor, sweetheart,” she says.
“So, you don’t mind?”
“No. Just because at Indiana you’d be close enough to home that your parents can still see their only child whom they love… Why should that affect your decision?” she says.
“So, it’s OK if I don’t go to Indiana?”
“Absolutely! It’s not like you’d be the only member of this family not to. Your Great-Uncle Harry didn’t and look where he ended up.”
I can’t look where he ended up. Uncle Harry went missing five years before I was born.
“If you don’t want me to, I’ll stick with Indiana,” I say.
“I want you to do what makes you happy,” she says.
“So it’s OK if apply to some other schools?”
“Yes. I’m sure there are lots of other schools where both your grandfathers’ work is on display in the library. You should apply there.”
I am so screwed.
Thanks so much for having me as your guest today! You can find more information about Waitlisted at the following links!
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