This week the prompt is to use three of the following words in the story: ridicule, laugh, spellbound, following, letter. This week’s post is written by Val Muller, who you can stalk at www.ValMuller.com
By Val Muller
“Everything happens for a reason,” Mom said, pushing the milk over to Allie.
“Easy for you to say.” Allie gritted her teeth. “You’ve already been to college. Besides, it wasn’t so competitive when you were a teenager. Parents don’t understand how much pressure is on us these days. If you had my qualifications back in your day, you’d probably be offered a full scholarship to the Ivy of your choice.” She checked her phone.
“Allie, the email said the decision would be posted at 5 p.m. It’s barely past breakfast time.”
Allie sighed. “I know. But all the kids are Tweeting about it. Last year, they posted at 3:00. They did it early because the server always crashes when everyone logs on at once to check. So I thought I’d keep checking.”
“Honey, you might single-handedly crash their server before noon.” Mom sipped her coffee. “I still say everything happens for a reason. Whatever the decision today, it’s the right one. That’s why I say it’s dangerous to get your heart set on something.”Her eyes got far away and dreamy. “I remember going to the mailbox every day senior year. I knew the decision wouldn’t arrive until April, but I checked for a letter nonetheless.” She laughed. “When we were your age, we looked at the size of the envelope. If it was a small letter, it was a rejection. If it was a large envelope or a packet, it was an acceptance. From her bedroom window, my sister always watched me get the mail, and every day I held my hands up, empty, to show her the decision hadn’t come.
“One day, I awoke and I just knew the letter would arrive that afternoon. When I got home from school, I was so nervous that I couldn’t even check the mail. I sent my sister out in my stead, and I watched her carefully, spellbound. She opened the mailbox, her eyes wide. I was so excited, you would have thought she was about to discover the fountain of youth. Her face melted from possibility to despair as she held up a tiny envelope from the college that had stolen my heart. My grades weren’t the greatest, but my guidance counselor told me I had a fair shot at admission. Guess she was wrong.
“I didn’t cry right away, but it hit me later that night. The despair lasted a while. For weeks and months afterward, I didn’t see the good in my life because I was so upset about one thing that I thought was the end of the world. I didn’t appreciate it when my second choice school offered me a half-scholarship. I mean, half off tuition? It was for the birds, I told myself. In fact, I wasted that whole summer—the summer after my senior year, the one that should be happy and carefree—pining away for a school that didn’t want me.
“Looking back on it now, though, that decision was the right one. Everything happens for a reason. After all, if I hadn’t been rejected from my first choice, I would never have met your father. And then you and your brother would never have been born. The world would be a different place. It was meant to be.”
Allie shrugged. “Easy for you to say. What if my future husband is at my first choice school?”
“Hindsight,” Mom said. “We can’t know what’s meant to be until we experience it and see fate’s true plan for us. You just have to be patient.”
Allie huffed and checked her phone again. “Nothing yet.” She took a bite of her cereal and sent out the first of many Tweets. “It’s gonna be a long day.”
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Catherine A. MacKenzie