ℙ𝕙𝕠𝕖𝕟𝕚𝕩, 𝔸𝕣𝕚𝕫𝕠𝕟𝕒 - 𝕁𝕦𝕟𝕖 𝟛
The envelope drops through mail slot like a love letter.
The familiar purple insignia - the four-petal flame spreading like a dancer's fan - sends me a plunging down the marble tiles of our stairs. I text Wendy:
𝕣𝕦𝕟𝕟𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕝𝕒𝕥𝕖, 𝕓𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕣𝕖 𝕚𝕟 𝟝
Then I pick up the letter before it touches the floor.
My thumb traces the school's name in the upper corner. This can't be real. The last time an identical envelope arrived, crisp-cornered, smelling of new paper and ink and smudged with fingerprints, was two months ago. Like a full-colored dream breaking into a gray reality: of the pink swish of tulle skirts, stain-rose ribbons unfurling, the weightlessness of leaps toward a blue sky.
Can it be-?
"Suzy, there you are."
"Eomma!" I turn around, hitting my arm aginst the rickety bookshelf Appa built. I fold the letter out of the sight behind my back as Eomma charges from the kitchen, waving a printout. Her emerald-green blouse is buttoned to its modest neckline, as usual. A familiar panic digs into my gut. "Eomma, I thought you were out."
"The church has extra volunteers today. I have good news." She waves the page, covered in Korean characters. Another ancient herbal concoction to improve my circulation? I don't want to know, and anyways, she'll be making me drink it soon enough. "We applied for you and- are you wearing makeup?"
Damn. I seriously thought she was out. Normally, I'd have waited until I was down the block to pinkie on my microscopic touch of lip gloss.
"Just a little," I admit as she snatches a tissue off the side table. Behind my back, the envelope cuts into blisters on my palm.
"Eomma, I'm late to meet Wendy." I try to angle past her to the stairs, but the hallway, crammed from floor to ceiling with portraits of Sihyeon and me at every age, is as tight as the inside of a suitcase. "She's at the field already."
Eomma sets my tank top more securely over my bra strap, lips pursing, as they do whenever I mention Wendy. She'd rather I spend my hours getting ready for University of Arizona because my brain and the Krebs cycle don't get along. I barely scraped a B in AP Bio-and that tumor on my report card might be malignant.
The tissues comes at me. It doesn't even occur to her she's invading my space. "Yes, but I need to tell you-"
A soft crash in the kitchen is followed by a wail from Sihyeon. "I'm sorry! My hand slipped!"
A moment later, my little sister's head pokes from the doorway behind Eomma. I hide a smile as she bites into a spear of peeled grapefruit. Her eleven-year-old face is mine in miniature: same long black hair and an oval face, but with doe-brown eyes like Appa's, reflecting her infinitely sweeter disposition-and a mischievous glint as she meets my gaze. "Eomma, help! I spilled the brown sugar."
"You didn't hurt yourself?" Eomma's already heading for Sihyeon.
"No, nothing broke."
Appa appears at the top of the stairs. "Everything okay?" The steps squeak as he descends, belly straining at his favorite sweatshirt. Under his elbow, he folds the World Journal, the Korean-language newspaper for North America, that covers everything from global politics to the ten-year-old Korean American global mathethican champ to the Yale-bound former child prodigy who is the bane of my existence.
"Grab the broom, will you?" Eomma asks me.
"No, I've got it," Sihyeon says. "Look, sugar's mostly on the napkin. Still clean."
Not a penny wasted. Five years of running interference for each other, and Sihyeon has it down to a science. I mouth thank you at her then squeeze past Appa, sliding my arm around to my stomach, keeping my letter out of sight.
"I'm sorry, I gotta run." My feet scarely dent the carpet pile as I race upstairs. Near the top, my shoulder sets the family portrait swaying on its nail, and I grab hold to still it.
"Suzy, I need to tell you something." Eomma never lets go-Sihyeon and I know better than anyone. "This summer -"
"Sorry, Eomma, I'm so late!"
The slam of my door flutters the old test papers on my desk and sets my pink pointe shoes, hung by their ribbons, swaying on my bedpost. My room holds my twin bed, my dresser, and a few dozen pieces of dancing gear: jazz shoes on the floor by my closet, my dance squad flag in the corner, leotards and tights and skirts.
I lean my back against the door and clutch the letter to the pounding in my chest.
Can it be-?
I'd applied to Tisch on a whim, in secret. My parents tolerated all my dancing only because my guidance counselor reassured them I needed diverse interests for college applications. Buried under the mountains of medical program applications, Tisch was a shot in the dark. When the wait-list letter arrived, I figured that was what they told all their applicants: Thanks, but you can go on without us.
Downstairs, Eomma's impatient voice mixes with Sihyeon's lighter tones. My stomach does a backflip-I have about a minute before Eomma breaks down my door.
With a trembling finger, I rip open the envelope.