I like the Whately Prep campus. I could really see myself going to school here. The best thing of all is the gym. I would be able to compete on the Whately Prep Swim Team. In California, both Kayla and I have been on swim teams since we were about seven years old. My mother said it was going to be swimming, dance or tennis. We liked the bathing suit colors and chose the sport simply because of a little purple and a lot of teal. The irony that Whately Prep's school colors are purple and teal does not escape me. I want to get away from my parents, in particular, I am over arguing with my mother. The surprise is going to be on her. I think Mom believes that I am trying to legitimize running away from home. There is so much more. We have not been getting along. She has been more controlling than ever before. I means, she came down to the pool two weeks ago because she was calling me and I didn't pick up. I was in a meeting with Coach -- who, by the way, does not allow us to have our cell phones on when we are in team meetings. You would think she'd be embarrassed, but no, she SAT DOWN and stayed for the rest of the meeting. I wanted to disappear into the floor. She and Dad have been arguing a lot lately, too. I think it's because she can't just leave him alone. She is always following him saying, "Why are you doing it (mowing, doing a crossword puzzle, loading the dishwasher, addressing bills) like that? Let me show you how I do it."
So Whately Prep, where kids rule, that sounds cool to me. I met some students who are ambassadors. They live near campus and they come a couple hours every day to take visitors on tours. Their parents go talk to the Dean of Admissions, and the ambassadors talk to the visiting students. I was there on International Day. I was the only native English speaker in the bunch of students. But, weirdly, it was fine. I felt humbled by how worldly these kids from Russia and Korea and China were. I guess I kind of appreciated my life a little more when this Russian girl said in her heavily accented English, "Are there this many choices every day?" when we went to the dining common buffet.
The student ambassador leading my tour took us to hang out at the Student Center. We grabbed sodas and candy bars (and the school paid)! He told us that Northampton is the closest town - about eight miles straight down the road. He said we should try to visit - it's got a lot of restaurants and bookstores.
Julia said something about us moving to the Hotel Northampton this afternoon, then BAM!
We are checked into the Hotel in two rooms. Mom is letting Kayla and me walk around downtown. She handed us each a twenty to spend. I barely recognized her on this trip.
As we are leaving the swanky hotel lobby, Kayla spies a store called A 2 Z. It's a combination toy, book, game, science store for kids. I promise her we'd come back after we get the lay of the land. No use spending all our cash at the first store. There is an extensive art store I like; it holds so much possibility. Kayla drags me into what looks like the first mall ever. Thorne's Market. It is about four stories high and filled with shops and services. The wooden floors creak when we walk on them, but the place is kept up. Again, Kayla almost spends her money on earrings, but thinks better of it when I remind her to keep looking. We see an Urban Outfitters on the other side of the street. We do not cross. The local stores are so much more interesting to us. We walk up Main street until we come to the main gate of Smith College. I stand at the gate for a long time, thinking about my chances for getting in. Would they be better if I graduated from Whately Prep or my high school at home?
Kayla tugs on my sleeve, "Let's goooo...."
We stop in Starbuck's and treat ourselves to lavish, frozen drinks with piles of whipped cream. I pay for both of them, using my twenty. After tip, that leaves me with eight dollars. Kayla drags me into this store called Faces. It has stuff. Lots and lots of stuff that, when you see it, you want it. There are clothes and books and toys and novelty gifts and greeting cards. I buy a magnet that says, "Rubber duckies do it in the tub." Mom will either laugh, or take it away from me. No in-between ground.
Kayla buys a lacy purple tee shirt from American Apparel. Good choice. She has exactly a nickel left. I shake my head. When we get outside, she hands me the bag. "Here," she says, "that's for you. It's a going away gift."
"I'm not going anywhere!"
"Yes, you are. You are going to Whately Prep."
"I haven't even gotten in."
"You're going. Face it."
I suddenly feel like I have let Kayla down by dreaming my own dreams.
"Wherever I go, wherever I am, if I wear this tee, I'll think of you. Hugs?" We pantomime hugs and air kisses. The moment passes.
When we get back to our room at the Hotel Northampton, Julia offers to take us to dinner anywhere we would like. She suggests Indian, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Vegetarian options. Timidly, Kayla asks,
"Was that a diner we drove by when we came into town?"
"The Blue Bonnet? Yes. Why, does that appeal to all of you?"
With heads nodding all around, she says, "Blue Bonnet it is." She leans down to whisper to Kayla, "I love diner food, myself. Good call!"