Sara’s white car slowed down as it approached the illuminated high school in the dark night. In the passenger seat, was her younger sister Kayla, who was in her sophomore year of high school. Kayla was wearing too much eyeshadow, too much eyeliner, and her bleach blond highlights looked artificial against her straight black hair. Sara glanced over at her younger sister as she turned into the high school parking lot. Kayla didn’t look up from her phone as she sat texting her friends. Her dress is so low cut, Sara thought disapprovingly of her sister. Kayla looked up obliviously, and unbuckled her seatbelt. “Remember Sara, I will call you when it’s time to get me, don’t come until I call!”
“I know,” Sara rolled her eyes at her little sister. “Don’t you worry.”
Balloons were anchored to the cement floor at the outside, front entrance of the school. A dark green canvas reading Spring Fling 2019 was draped across the top of the doors. The bright lights of the school illuminated Kayla’s crew of friends, who were all waiting for Kayla in a huddled circle. Sara reminded herself that soon Kayla would get her license, and this would likely be one of the last times she would have to drive Kayla.
Kayla enthusiastically waved through the window to her friends who spotted the car. “Okay BYE!” Kayla didn’t look at her sister as she unbuckled the seatbelt and jumped out of the car.
“Okay bye.” Sara strummed her fingers on the steering wheel. She watched as Kayla ran to her friends, and excitedly hugged them giggling, before all walking into the school as a clan.
Aware of the long line of cars behind Sara, all of whom were parents also dropping off their kids, Sara drove forward. She rolled to the exit sign and stopped. Just as she was finally about to exit the premises and turned on her blinker, she noticed something on the seat. Kayla’s cell phone lay on the passenger seat.
“Omg,” Sara said to herself annoyed. She looked behind her and reversed back into the parking lot. After parking in the lower parking lot, Sara got out of the car and trudged up the grassy hill to the front doors of the high school again. As she walked up the hill, groups of boys and girls excitedly rushed by her, leaving a strong smell of cologne as they passed.
Sara weaved in between the cars at the parent drop-off line and entered the school. As soon as Sara stepped inside the school, she was blocked by a barricade of parent volunteers.
“Excuse me, are you a student? We need your student ID.” The woman looked intensely at Sara with a stern and protective face.
“Oh no, I’m not a student, I’m just here to return my sisters phone, she left it in my car.”
The woman relaxed. “Oh okay then, let me stamp your hand and you can go into the gymnasium.”
“Ok thanks.” Sara held out her hand as the woman stamped it. Before Sara even stepped forward, she heard “Next!” and was bumped in the back by a thin teenage boy.
As Sara entered the school gymnasium, she saw white twinkling lights around the perimeter of the ceiling, and little clusters of colorful lights hanging down in clumps throughout the room. Wow impressive. Sara thought to herself. They didn’t have this nice of a setup when she was here.
The room was crammed with teenagers, and the music was upbeat. She scanned the room for her sister, or at least one of her sister’s friends, but it was proving to be harder than expected. She roamed around the floor scanning the faces. It was then that she had the idea to call her sisters best friend who was with her. It rang and rang, but no answer. This music is so loud, she probably can’t hear it, she figured.
Slightly embarrassed to be in the middle of a high school dance at the age of twenty-one, she turned to walk to the back of the room for a little privacy. As she started to walk towards the back, she saw a familiar face smiling brightly towards her. Her old Biology teacher Mrs. Andrews. “Sara! My dear! What are you doing here?” She held her by the shoulders smiling, “But great to see you, I am glad that you are here!” She laughed at her own self, and hugged her as you would an old friend.
Sara instantly flushed red and her heart was racing, she wasn’t expecting this. “Hi! Well uhm,” she was awful at lying, there really would be no point to trying. “I’m here to drop off Kayla’s phone, but I’m here in town because I had a hard semester and unfortunately, I’m no longer attending University of Maine.” She stared at the floor ashamed.
The teacher dropped her arms and her face fell. She looked in her eyes intently, and then, sensing everything she needed to know.
“Oh I’m sorry to hear that, but you know this isn’t the end, this happens to everyone. So you need a new plan, that’s all. Plenty of other schools will do the same thing for you as University of Maine,” she said positively.
“Yeah, I know, thanks.” Sara faked a polite smile. “Well anyway, it was good to see you again, I need to go deliver this phone to Kayla, and then be on my way.” she gave a big wave, giggling madly out of nervousness, and turned to walk away.
“Oh Sara?” the teacher called, she was persistent. “I will help you find Kayla, I’m here anyway.” She waved her arm towards the dance floor and laughed.
“No it’s ok, I’m fine!”
Mrs. Andrews looked concerned. “Well then, before you return the phone can we get a soda quickly?”
“Uhhh ok.” Sara was embarrassed.
The bass was thumping loud, but at least with the teacher at her side, Sara felt a little less out of place. They grabbed Pepsi’s and sat at a table in the back of the room, near the snack bar.
Another teacher, Sara thankfully didn’t recognize, happily waved to Mrs. Andrews. Mrs. Andrews just smiled back, and turned back to Sara.
“I will see her later.” She smiled at Sara, “So tell me again, what was your major? It was Biology right?”
“Well yes, but it was the math class that really got me, and one unfortunate roommate.”
“I see.” Mrs. Andrews said while sipping the can of Pepsi and looking out at the dance floor. “Hey! Hey! Hands above the waist! Daniel!” She yelled towards the boy.
“Sorry” she turned back to Sara. “Anyways Sara, I remember your grades, and your research report on Mitosis! My goodness.” She smiled, “How can I forget my top student. You were brilliant in my class and I hope you don’t let this take away your goals.” She studied Sara’s face, “Is it still Pre-Med?”
“Wow, good memory,” Sara said impressed. “Yeah, well no, like- it was- but I’m not sure now.”
“Well I think it should be, and if you remember from my rants in class, my husband is Professor of freshman Bio at Merrimack Community. Now, I know you don’t want a two-year school, but it could be a good way to boost up you grades, and they have a fantastic intramural Row team. The team camaraderie is great there.”
Sara was shocked. Row team, team-mates, freshman Bio.
“Wow Mrs. Andrews, I honestly never really thought about that, maybe… yeah maybe that could be something. Can I get back to you?”
“Of course!” Mrs. Answers opened her purse and pulled out her phone. “How about I text you my email address and if you’re interested, you can email me? I can arrange with my husband to give you a walking tour around campus and introduce you to a few teachers from the science department. I really do think this can open some good doors for you Sara. Such a bright science student.”
“Yeah, thank you.” Sara was getting excited at a possibility that she had never knew existed.
Sara looked at her phone as it lit up with the received text from Mrs. Andrews.
“Ok Sara,” Mrs. Andrews stood up, “I should get back to the chaperoning of these kids, but I am glad to see you.”
“Yes, you too. Thank you, Mrs. Andrews.”
Sara stood up, still holding Kayla’s phone, just then, she spotted Kayla’s friend walking by holding a boys hand, one who was shorter than her.
“Molly! Hey Molly!”
Startled, Molly stopped in her tracks looking like a deer caught in headlights and dropped the boys hand.
“Sara? Hi- uh- what are you doing here?”
“I’m only here because Kayla forgot her phone in my car! I tried calling you, but you didn’t answer! Can you please just give this to her? I’m going to Target, tell her to call me when she’s ready!”
“Sure.” Molly took the phone, still looking confused.
Sara spun on her heels, and finally, left the school.
It was just as Sara was entering the front doors of Target, when Kayla called her for her ride home.
For a third time that night, Sara entered the school parking lot, but this time she drove up to the school’s front doors, instead of trudging up to the doors. Kayla happily waved goodbye to her friends and hopped in the car.
“That was soo fun!!!” Kayla said, while still waving to her friends outside the school.
“Oh good, I’m glad.” Sara drove towards the exit of the parking lot, also for the third time.
“Thanks for bringing back my phone, I think I put it down when I unbuckled my seat belt.” Kayla fiddled with the radio. “But you know, I saw you with Mrs. Andrews. I didn’t know why you were there, so I just kept walking. I didn’t want to interrupt whatever you guys were saying.”
Sara looked at Kayla in shock.
Kayla continued with the car radio, “I don’t know why she likes you so much, but she always tells me to say hi to you in class.”
“What! You never told me that!”
“Oh yeah, sorry.” Kayla shrugged, she looked down at her phone to respond to a text.
“Don’t worry, I always tell her that you say hi back too.”
“Ok.” Sara remained looking forward at the road.
“She felt really bad when I told her you flunked out, but I told her your good, you will find another school soon.”
“What! You told her!?”
“Yeah, so what? It’s the truth you know. Besides, she didn’t judge you. She said it happened to her daughter too. Sometimes dorm living is hard. That’s what she told me”.
“Oh wow, thanks for finally bringing it up. Not that it matters now I guess.”
“Yeah, it’s not a big deal.” Kayla looked out the window at the plazas outside.
“So, Johnny kissed me tonight! Although to be honest I don’t really like him. I like Tom better.” She looked at her phone and started texting someone again.
“Okay. Cool.” Sara kept staring straight ahead at the road.
Sara pulled into the driveway, and the two girls quietly walked into the house. It was 11:30 pm when Sara got into her room. She went to her laptop and opened Facebook. There on her newsfeed, were the latest pictures of her college friends with three handsome boys. They were holding cans of Budweiser and smiling attractively.
Sara closed out of Facebook with a little bit less of that devasted feeling of missing out, that she had grown so used to these past two months. She opened up her emails and clicked new message. She wrote a rough draft.
Good morning Mrs. Andrews, I think what you mentioned is a very good idea. Would you be able to speak to your husband for me?
She left the sender line blank and saved to drafts. She would proofread in the morning when she was well rested. She was never one to email without careful review first.
As Sara plopped onto her bed, she thought again about the college party she was missing, but tonight, she felt okay for the very first time since leaving the college. She drifted off to sleep without crying, and with a small sense of hope, for the first time in two months.