Everyone always said I was too sheltered, that I'd become a rebel, and be "dancing on tables" when I got to college, she thought to herself. Well look at me now: I made it to Harvard -my dream school - I'm not even close to a rebel or table dancer and I'm perfectly content.
She did feel content at that moment, but her thoughts were soon bombarded by memories of high school, like a home video playing in her head. She pictured herself getting up at the crack of dawn to get on the bus, going to school and having lunch with friends, and studying frequently. The problem was, she always thought she was content. She wanted to believe her life was great. But just like every other teenage girl, there was a wistful side of her that wanted change. Something more.
Sure, people were right, she was sheltered. Somehow she managed to get through America's wonderful public school system without becoming entirely corrupted. Somehow she avoided all those pot-smoking, beer-drinking, teenage influences. She was pretty much a good kid when she was younger; her parents nagged her all the time to "Stay motivated Honey! That's the best way to live life." Apparently they succeeded in getting through to her because she always got decent grades. And by decent, that meant she never made a B in her whole life.
Outside of the academic world, she actually had a social life. She was never known as "popular" but she did have a few close friends she could always count on for comfort and support.
But as well as her friends and family thought they knew her, they never really did. No one did. She was always shy in that confident sort of way - put together on the outside but a wreck on the inside. She longed to be noticed, to be complimented more often, to be in the thick of the popular crowd. But deep down she knew that that group of people didn't have the capability to make her truly happy. After all, weren't most of the preps and jocks just a bunch of backstabbing people who supposedly had a lot of friends, yet everyone actually hated their guts?
Looking back, she was confident that she never wanted to become that kind of person. She didn't like materialistic girls anymore than she liked chopping wood, her best friend excepted.
Anyway, high school was a breeze for her - at least academically. Though she was never completely satisfied as a teenager, turning 18 and moving away to college gave her a chance to start fresh, be more carefree and just have fun.
As a senior, she applied to several schools - Harvard, Yale and Princeton among them. She knew that her grades and SAT scores could get her in virtually anywhere; they did, and she chose Harvard. When she was six, she once asked her dad what the best college in the country was: his response was Harvard. From then on, her mind was made up to go there. With one huge dream accomplished, she had a few more desires to figure out along the way.
So here she was, back from her little rendez-vous with the past and sitting comfortably in the present. It was about five in the evening on a cold rainy day in March, and she had just gotten back from her last class of the day: sociology.
She was sitting on the sofa, in the common room she shared with her roommates, contemplating whether or not she should pick up the book sitting right next to her. As much as she loved reading, she felt worn out from a stupendously long and boring lecture about something to do with how the human brain works; she didn't exactly feel awake enough to start reading the voluminous pages of Sense and Sensibility.
An English major, she had wanted to take Sociology class simply for fun - a crazy idea to begin with -- but upon meeting her ancient, and extremely dull, professor, it had become the drag of the semester. Her true passion was writing; at the age of 13 she had discovered that writing was all she wanted to do - it was her outlet to the world. It was her middle school English teacher, Ms. Kendle, who had really inspired her. Ms. Kendle had shown her that reading and writing could be fun instead of an annoying chore. I wonder how she's doing now, she thought. I bet she's still-
Suddenly Ella's thoughts and memories were abruptly disturbed when Kim, her roommate opened the door and proceeded to plop down on the sofa beside her friend.
"Hey Elle!" Kim's perky voice announced her presence.
Ella and Kim had known each ever since they were kids in elementary school. It was funny they were best friends because they had such strikingly different personalities - the saying opposites attract had turned out to be true in real life.
In all the years they'd been friends, Ella had always been the shy, modest and studious one, while Kim was more of the wild partying type. Set on becoming valedictorian, Ella had achieved her goal while Kim's dream of homecoming queen never quite came true; Carole Ann Mason had won by two votes their senior year. But for Ella, being valedictorian didn't make life all rosy. It was just one more thing on her long list of accomplishments. What she really wanted, was a reason to smile.
"Sense and Sensibility?" Kim was saying, a look of disgust on her face. "Why would you want to read that?" asked the business major, the queen of doing anything but reading or writing.
"We have to read the first half and write an essay about analyzing Austen's craft."
"Oh....how fun," said Kim, rolling her eyes. "So, anyways, I've got tons to tell you," she began excitedly. "I'm so mad! Chad, you know the guy I've been dating for a couple weeks, came up to me today and dumped me! He actually had the nerve to tell me he's ‘lost interest' in me. I mean, what kind of person does that anyway?!"
"Clearly, someone shallow and short-sighted," Ella looked sympathetically into the blue eyes of her best friend. "I don't think he was much good for you anyway. Whenever I saw you guys together it seemed like all you ever did was make out. Relationships without real substance never last long anyway. It's probably good you're through with him now instead of later."
"Yea Elle, you're right, like always," Kim responded, a slight hint of jealousy in her tone; Ella was completely oblivious. "Chad was too much of a jerk for me," Kim continued. "He probably dumped me just to make out with some new girl. Ugh."
"Kim, I think what you need to do is go take a nice long hot bath, watch a funny movie and eat as much Cherry Garcia as you want. I just bought some from the corner store yesterday. That should get your mind off of this good-for-nothing Chad." While Ella was making a genuine attempt to comfort her friend, the other half of her just wanted to get this assignment overwith without anymore distractions - she still had four other suitemates that weren't back yet, but she figured she'd just deal with those distractions when they happened.
"You know Elle, that's a great idea," Kim said, getting up from the sofa and heading off to get started with the hot bath. So while Ella diligently did her work, Kim tried comforting herself with ice cream and movies, homework the farthest thing from her mind.
The rest of the night was pretty boring; Luckily, Ashley, Jen, Danielle and Jessica - more partiers like Kim-hadn't gotten back until 9:30, right when Ella had finished her paper, and was getting ready to pop some popcorn, get her pajamas on and hop into the bed she shared with her roommate. Kim had just finished "Bring it On," one of her favorite movies from high school, and since Ella wasn't tired yet she suggested they watch "Someone Like You," Ella's favorite chick flick.
It was almost midnight by the time the movie was over, and just as Ella was about to turn out the light, the phone rang. "I'll get it," she said, getting up and picking up the phone on her desk.
Who on earth is calling me this late at night? she wondered. The second Ella heard the voice, she recognized it as that of her loving but clearly stressed out father. "Hey Elle, it's Dad. I'm at the hospital now and I need you to get here as soon as you can."
"What's wrong Dad? It's almost midnight. I was just about to go to sleep. Is everything OK there? Are you all right? Why are you at the hospital?" There was obvious concern in her voice as she asked question after question.
"Well actually honey, it's Mom. Now don't freak out, the doctors are positive she'll be fine, but I just really think you should be here."
"What happened?" She felt as if she had just been run over by a truck.