I get up to hug her. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Just make sure you’re using protection.”
“Ugh. I knew it was too good to be true,” I reply, horrified as I settle across from her.
Shrugging unapologetically, she says, “I wouldn’t be a good parent if I didn’t at least say it.”
“You’ve always been a good parent, Mom.”
“Thank you. Now about your dad—”
Worry clenches my gut. “If it’s okay, can we not talk about him right now? I just want to enjoy this time with you instead.”
“Of course.” Leaning over, she rubs my arm. “I’m so happy for you, Chloe. I just have one question.” I wait for her to ask, “Why is a towel hanging over the window?” I start laughing, wholeheartedly.
Knowing she supports not only me but also Joshua and me as a couple has me feeling lighter. I was prepared for her to react to me being in love, to dating a man who has become a part of my plans, but what I never expected was to find an ally, and today we did.
A few months was all it took for this little apartment a few streets from campus, the shops, and the diner to morph from mine into ours.
I’m not sure when he stopped returning to his mom’s, probably when Dwayne Evans moved in. He found a new home next to Frankie on the windowsill, and Joshua found one with me. It probably happened quick, like we fell for each other. We were caught in the tide and pulled out to sea before we realized how deep we had gotten. We lost our bearings as we lost ourselves in each other.
I don’t have one regret.
Except one that forms a lump in my throat as I report to the front of the auditorium after class as requested. Again. Gripping the straps of my backpack, I say, “Hi, you wanted to talk to me?”
“Yes,” Professor Tracey says, appearing frazzled as she flips through her bulky bag. Finally looking up, she stills her hands. “I was surprised to see the last assignment you submitted. It wasn’t up to your usual standards.”
Panic sets in as I ramble off an excuse, “I fulfilled the essay requirements. I even went over it twice.”
“I’ve not known you to settle for the bare minimum and wanted to check in with you. Is everything all right?”
“I’m fine.” My voice squeaks defensively. “I thought the requirements were met.”
“I give a lot of room for interpretation in the requirements of my class, but your grades have been slipping with each assignment.” She pulls a folder from the bag. I recognize it instantly by the title as mine. Although we submit projects online, she’s old-school and prints everything out. “Actually, you’re missing the key sheet, which was vital to the explanation of the topic you decided to pursue. Due to that missing element, I’ve had to fail you on this assignment.”
My gut twists. “Fail me?” I ask, staring at the red F marked on the front.
“There’s time to bring it up. I suggest you spend more time on the remaining syllabus and making sure you’re better prepared for the tests.”
Wrapping my arms over my stomach, I feel my legs go shaky underneath me. “Can I still get an A for the class if I do that?”
Her shoulders fall, matching mine. “This particular assignment was weighted heavier than the remaining ones. So unfortunately, no. You can earn a B if you work hard, though.”
“That’s all, Miss Fox.” Her attention pivots to another student waiting a few feet away, leaving me standing there.
With the folder in my hand, I walk toward the door, numbness setting in. My steps are slow at first and then pick up until shame drives my motivation to get home.
The door has barely shut when my phone rings, giving me time to collapse and process this. Dropping my stuff on my desk, I dig out my phone and pause. Dad.
It’s about to go to voicemail, and I’m tempted to let it. The timing couldn’t be worse, but I have a feeling it can’t be better for him. I answer because I know he won’t stop calling until I do. “Dad, hi?”
“Glad I caught you, Chloe.”
Heading into the kitchen, I stop to ask, “What’s wrong?”
“I have a consult in five minutes, but this is the only break I have. Busy day.”
He’s a workaholic, another reason for the marriage to my mom failing. “Aren’t they all?” I try to humor him, but it doesn’t work, so I add, “What’s going on?”
I smile when I see the bonsai trees sitting next to the sink. Joshua takes such good care of them. I pick Frankie up in one hand and return her to the sill.
“Your score arrived today,” he replies.
“What score?” I retrieve Dwayne Evans.
“The MCAT practice test you took last month.” My feet stop, leaving me shocked between the couch and the coffee table. Oh, crap. How could I forget the scores are sent to permanent addresses. He continues, “I’m concerned, Chloe. You only have a few months before the test. With this score, you’ll be lucky to get accepted to any of the top medical schools.”