She made it to the fridge and latched onto the door. She took a steadying breath.
She fumbled her way down stairs. She was feeling kind of light and shaky and each step rebounded through her, like the whole house had turned into a giant inflatable. She fumbled her way to the kitchen, banging into bits of furniture she usually managed to avoid without even thinking about it. She made it to the fridge and latched onto the door. She took a steadying breath.
“So?” her dad asked.
She jumped. She’d not noticed him sitting at the kitchen table, even though she’d walked right by him. She pulled open the door and felt for the carton of orange juice. She didn’t look at the fridge or him as she tugged it out.
“I didn’t get in.”
The words seemed so small. She’d been so certain she’d be packing her bags in the next few weeks that the idea of not felt like a crushing weight. How could she have messed this up so badly? All she’d done for the last 5 years was launch herself from milestone to milestone: her final school grades, each year of university, the master’s program… However high her grades, however stiff the competition for places, none of them had felt like real achievements.
They were just things she ‘was capable’ of so it was only doing the bare minimum to reach them. Now she’d missed one and she felt like she had been smacked in the chest. What did that say about her?
“That’s too bad,” he said, fighting to keep his voice neutral.
“Yeah,” she said thickly.
She pulled a glass towards her (she had no idea if it was clean or not) and began to fill it, the liquid splashing into it in an uneven stream.
“You worked so hard….” he said faintly, “Can’t remember the last time you slept in.”
The glass over filled and she belatedly put the carton down.
“Tell you what,” he said, standing up, “Why don’t we go for a walk.”
“Why not? We can pick something nice up for dinner.”
She felt that empty, panicky feeling inside her chest that had filled her every time someone made a suggestion that would take her away from her books. Only now she didn’t need to study every night.
Not for a while anyway, not before she made a new plan about where she was heading next. She began to feel a whole new kind of lightness, one that made irrational laughter and tears bubble up inside her. She choked both down and settled for a shaky smile.
“Yeah,” she said, turning her back on the orange juice, “Why not?”