I would like to give special thanks to a few people in helping me both with this book and getting me to where I am today:
Teresa Banschbach—for being such a great beta reader for me and helping me get better and better with your feedback, one word at a time!
Cheryl Maddox—for helping me a great deal in the time I have known you with many minor things that don’t seem like a lot but are!
And last but not least, Lauren Landish—your guidance and mentorship is something I don’t know how to repay! You have helped me in almost every step of the journey, and answered every single question I have had, no matter how trivial it was. Thank you so much for being you. If you would like to check her books out, click HERE. She is a great author, and a truly great person!!
The clock was striking three and I was still sitting outside the dean’s office.
I could feel my insides churning as my heart beat loudly in my chest. It was throbbing in my ears as though a passionate drummer had forgotten himself and was still beating the drums even though the song had ended. My heart was ready to climb up my throat so that I could throw it up onto the ground. These thoughts were seriously not helping me. What the hell was I doing to myself?
A floor-to-ceiling mirror was just across from me. It made the situation even worse. Ugh! I had to look at my own nervous reflection the entire time which just caused me to panic even more.
I had applied for a post-grad scholarship a while ago to Princeton, an Ivy League university. It had been my biggest wish ever since I had learned what the Ivy League actually was. I could envision my younger self, Kayla Vaughn, running around the house telling my parents that I wanted to join Princeton University. And now, here I was staring at the golden plaque on the door of the dean’s office and looking back at my uninteresting life. Everything I had done up until now had been to get here. To this very spot. On this very chair I was sitting.
I had been sitting with a couple of my best friends when they had told me to enroll. We were finishing off the semester and everyone was thinking about their post-grad studies. It was practically the only thing that could be heard on campus. Instead of asking each other “How are you?” instead we were asking “Where are you applying?”
“Try, Kayla,” they had said. “Surely you’ll be accepted.” You betcha!
I had been confident all year long, all my life for all I knew. But now I’d kind of retreated inside myself. Yet still, I had applied. I saw my grades and recommendations and that had been enough to boost my mood. You can do it, girl, I shouted to myself. I was going to make a great impression! I just had to.
Step after step I had taken to get here, and now I was here, waiting on the doorstep to my dreams. Kayla was here to win! Wasn’t there someone who said “I came. I saw. I conquered?” They had obviously said that for me, duh! I was being interviewed for a post-grad scholarship to the best university in the world!
I put my head in my hands and for the hundredth time that day I began to rehearse my answers. Of course, I had absolutely no idea what they would be, but I had done my homework and had asked a friend or two. I had a clear outline in my head of what to say, how to sit, when to smile. I had prepared for this my whole life.
And then all of a sudden, a head popped from the door. “Kayla Vaughn?” She spoke in a tiny voice.
“Yes,” I answered. “That’s me.”
“You can come in now,” she said and smiled pleasantly to encourage me.
“Okay. Thank you,” I replied and offered her my best smile. She seemed like a nice woman.
I looked one last time in the mirror. My dark brown hair was up in a bun, framing my pale face perfectly. I had put on some light make-up accentuating my brown eyes and some lipstick on my full lips. I had had a real problem figuring out what to wear, but finally had settled on a feminine black suit and a white shirt. It left a professional and serious impression. Precisely what I was going for.
The suit fit perfectly and I smoothed it down my slender figure. I tried to keep it that way. Everything I wore screamed “Princeton” and for once I was proud of myself. My nervousness was starting to get the better of me, and I rubbed my damp hands down the sides of my pants.
I went through the door and once again faced the dean’s secretary. She was a kind, blonde-haired woman of perhaps thirty-five years. I nodded to her and knocked on the dean’s door.
“Come in,” a voice said from the inside and I turned the knob and entered a spacious office with the dean himself, Mr. Raymond.
“Hello, Mr. Raymond. My name’s Kayla Vaughn.” I shook hands with him. He smiled at me. I had imagined him as a guy dressed all in black with a grim expression on his face and a scythe next to him. But I was relieved when he turned out to be a tall man in his late fifties with gray hair and comforting blue eyes. He was someone you would want as your uncle.
“Hello, Kayla. How are you doing today? Nervous?” he asked in a deep voice. My whole body was trembling, but I concealed my emotions nicely. “Have a seat,” he said.
“I’m splendid today, sir. A bit nervous, but it’s just a little stage fright. It probably happens to everyone coming in here.”
He chuckled at that. That was a good sign, right? I couldn’t help but chuckle as well.
“Let’s get straight to the point … I’d like to ask you why you think you are fit for Princeton University?” he asked in a serious tone.
My mind went blank and I took a few seconds to clear it and get my thoughts in order. Wake up, Kayla! It’s not like you get a chance like this every day! “Honestly, everyone answers this question with a quote from Albert Einstein or Martin Luther King Junior. It’s simply expected of them. They need to say how this quote motivated them and pushed them forward. I won’t be that kind of candidate. Instead, I’ll use my own quote. A sentence I said one afternoon when I was barely ten years old. I came home from school and I told my parents, ‘Mom, Dad, I want to study at Princeton University.’ And do you know why? Because it is the best university in the entire world and I believe that everything I have done in my life has been a stepping stone to this very moment, sir. That is why I know that I am fit for Princeton University.” I exhaled, panic rising in me. What did I do?