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It was early dawn, the morning star just beginning to appear over the horizon. She sat promptly upon the white sand, scratched knees tucked under her chin, her toes gently meeting the edge of the water. Her brown eyes seemed to be stuck in a hypnosis, trapped in the rhythm of the glimmering turquoise waves that rose and fell like her scattered inhalations and exhalations. She was cold from the salt breeze that blew towards her, pricking her delicate skin like a thousand needles leaving her with the scars of goosebumps. Yet at the same time, she never felt warmer. This was the way she loved to be. They called this place Laguna Beach, and she had never really known much about it except for the fact that nothing really ever seemed to bother her when she was here. She could let her mind wander to endless places with no worries of anyone holding her back or voicing an opinion of which she did not agree. She was free to observe her thoughts, her body, and the world, in its quietest and most tranquil state. She could see herself in the ocean, in the ways it would change and respond to its surroundings. It never broke, it would only ever bend. That was how she aspired to be. Most of all she loved that she could watch as the sky would change colors welcoming the day. Shades of pink, purples, and blues would paint the canvas around her, and that was what brought her the most peace. Knowing that no matter who she was, or where she’d go, this place would always stay the same. Beautiful and pure. Suddenly snapping out of her gaze she quickly tucked a loose piece of silk black hair behind her left ear and gathered herself up to a stiff yet upright position. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and saw that the time read 6:52am, and she figured she should probably head back soon, as her mother would most definitely be wondering where she was at this hour in the morning.
It was a long walk back to the house. The strides she took seemed to get her nowhere, yet eventually, she reached the top of the valley, where her family’s dream stood. They cherished that house with every last bone, and worked through all that they could to get to where they were. It resembled a modern lakeside villa, tall and open, with accents of wooden columns and centered white lights. Many would assume from looking at the stature that the family had wealth, which wasn’t incorrect. The mother was a brain surgeon, a highly respected one at that and quite well known one across the state. The father made well for himself too, as a scientist conducting research on the mating patterns of dolphins. This also revealed the reason as to why they resided in California. The sea life scene was of course quite present amongst the ocean.
When she approached the tall double glass doors she pulled the metal handles and followed them inside. Making her way to the kitchen she saw her mother where she thought she would, hastily creating what she called her “supermom smoothie,” while holding what looked like six notebooks and clipboards, her cell phone, keys and a lab coat.
“Oh my! Luna, I did not know you were going to be up so early. I’m sorry, I, I would’ve made you something. Coffee?” Her mother seemed to feel guilty, as though she wish she’d know her daughter would be up at this hour.
“No worries, mama. I was just viewing the sunrise. I’ll make something for myself and Kehlani in a few hours.” Luna replied, hoping to keep her mother at ease, as she did not need to carry any more stresses or tasks on her already busy to do list.
Luna looked nothing like her mother. The only feature that just barely held a resemblance was her straight thick and long black hair. Other than that, with her large green eyes and freckled skin, she didn’t appear to be anything like her slim faced, beautiful mother. Her mother had come from Japan in the late 1990’s, when she came to live with Luna’s father, who was originally doing research in Tokyo when they first met. Her father was a wise yet stubborn man, who always found a way to get his way, and to make sure his wishes were secured. Speaking of her father, just as Luna had said her goodbyes to her mother for the day, she turned around to see him standing at the corridor, leaning his head against the wall, a chipped mug in hand. He appeared to be disappointed, he probably tried hard to bring himself downstairs to give his wife a goodbye kiss before he wouldn’t be seeing her for around twelve hours that day.
“You’re up early,” he exclaimed, followed by a long yawn.
“I wanted to catch the sunrise. I was just heading back upstairs.” Luna replied, trying hard not to make eye contact with him, as she knew that if she did, their conversation would seem to last a lifetime, and at this hour, she was far too tired for a lifetime.
As she started to turn towards the stairs, she could feel his shadow looming over here. She didn’t know why he couldn’t just hold this conversation until later but she knew what he was going to say.
“So how’re those essays coming along, kiddo?” The dreaded question.
“Fine,” she replied quickly, hoping to get away on just a single worded response, “they’re going fine. I’m almost done with my fifth,” she added, but she knew he wasn’t done.
“Well, if I were you, I’d spend a little more time on those essays and a little less time outside before the sun’s even up, ruining your sleep schedule.” He replied snarkily.
She didn’t know why he’d needed to add that comment in. He always seemed to add in unnecessary comments in about useless or unrelated things that often times didn’t even have any true relevance in the discussion. This was why she hated their conversations. She gave him a look of irritation followed by a gentle sigh and quickly ran up to her bedroom. She opened the door and winced as the golden light poured in through her windows onto her pale face. She didn’t realize how long it had been since she was at the beach, in fact she checked her phone again which now read 7:47am. The sun was in broad welcome. She sat down on her unmade twin and resumed a relaxed position with her head pressed up taught against two pillows she smooshed together. She didn’t understand why everything felt so hard when she was in this house. It was like her mind couldn’t enter any form of relaxed state as long as she was within 10 feet of her home. Of course many would be confused by this, since Luna Carson’s life appeared to be a dream. How could a girl be unhappy in such a beautiful house with such hardworking parents, with the funds to have and do whatever they could ever desire. The problem wasn’t what they had, but rather what they didn’t. Not only were her mother and father never really home which meant it was Luna who was left to take care of her younger sister Kehlani, but her parents also seemed to have always had the perfect path cut out for her. They knew exactly what she was going to do and how she was going to do it, or at least what she should be doing, as that wasn’t exactly Luna’s plan. Her father more specifically had hoped that Luna would follow in his exact footsteps, so far as to basically planning that she would be the one to continue his research when the time would come where he would pass. She was essentially his only hope. Kehlani would have been a good runner up, however with Luna’s close to perfect grade point and genius level standardized test scores, there was no doubt in his mind that she would be an amazing asset to his lab one day.
Before she knew it she had fallen back asleep, and later woke up to the sounds of chirping tropical birds outside of her open window. She gathered herself up and rubbed her eyes aggressively and stared at her reflection in the vanity mirror across the side of her bed. She stood up and walked over to the pile of loose photographs which lied in uneven overlapping patterns on the table, and she began to pick them up one by one. She examined each one delicately, tracing each pixelated line of image with her fingers, looking at each one with a critical yet appreciative eye. She had taken these over a course of a few months since she had gotten her first camera for her sixteenth birthday, so they were some of her earliest images. They consisted of beach pictures, mostly sunsets, a few sunrises from when she was able to wake up early enough to catch them, like she did this morning. She loved taking pictures. She loved the act of capturing life in its truest form, almost freezing time in a sense, and allowing a memory, a moment to last forever. In fact, if she had a choice, she would choose to pursue a career in photography. But again, she couldn’t exactly do that because she didn’t exactly have a choice. She put the photos down and made her way over to her laptop, which was lying on the foot of her bed. She opened it up and quickly signed into her email. Clicking on her inbox she checked to see if she had gotten any more acceptances. It wasn’t really anything special anymore, especially since she had already gotten accepted into 6 school, which all in fact happened to be ivy league or highly prestigious institutions. But she wasn’t particularly impressed with any of them yet. The one answer she had been waiting for was the one she wanted to hear a yes from the most. That school was New York University. She knew her parents would never approve or even consider the idea of her moving across the country especially to study what she truly wanted to, but she figured there would be no harm done in applying. She saw nothing in the inbox. She was disappointed, yet sort of expected to see nothing. Just a few more days, she said to herself.
The next day was a Tuesday, and the usual routine was what took place. Luna woke up early again to watch the sunrise and came in just in time to say goodbye to her mother and greet her father with another eyeroll following his snarky remarks regarding how she spends her time. It was around 2:00pm when she turned her head at the sound of her name being called by her sister.
“Hey Lu, Jack came by to see you. I told him to wait by the door.” Kehlani looked tired, which she probably was.
“Huh? Oh, um okay. Be there in a sec.” Luna replied confused, she didn’t expect a visit.
When she walked over to the front entrance, she saw Jack, who was her much loved boyfriend and best friend, standing with his hair wet and swim trunks peaking out of his jeans. He most likely had just gotten back from a surf and wanted to stop by on the way home.
“Hey, Lu. I just wanted to stop by, I missed your beautiful face.” He exclaimed, his blue eyes shining like water droplets under the sun.
Luna blushed. She hated when he said cheesy lines like that, yet at the same time it was like she couldn’t help but love it too.
“Aw hey Jack. How was the water?” She replied.
He pushed his hair back with his fingers and flashed a gentle smile.
“Absolutely amazing. the waves were literally perfection. I wish you’d stop being such a little bitch and join me sometime.”
“You know that’ll never happen. But I’m glad you had fun.” Luna looked down at her hands in a sense of embarrassment. She had always loved the water, looking at it that is, she liked touching slightly with her fingertips and toes. But she was far too afraid to ever set foot in it. As in she would never be caught swimming in it. She was far too afraid of the sharks and sea monsters that she new resides within the waves. She had heard too many stories from her father to ignore them and just “go for it,” as Jack would always say.
“You just gotta let go and live a little.”He said, breaking Luna’s silence.
“I do live, silly, behind the camera. I’ll go with you next time and take as many pictures of you as you want.” She said.
“But I want you out there with me. Anyways, can you let me in?” Luna realized that they’d been standing at the front door for a while, and she felt bad for not automatically letting him come in.
The two of them made their way into the kitchen where Kehlani had been sitting on a stool munching on some potato chips.
“Whatcha guys doin?” Kehlani asked curiously. Kehlani was two years younger than Luna, and at fifteen, she seemed to have the intelligence of a much older person, yet the light hearted and curious tone of a much younger child.
“Nothing really, I just wanted to stop by to chill with Luna for a bit. Missed her at the beach.” Jack replied knowingly.
“Actually,” he continued, “I also wanted to tell you something. Both of you.”
Luna looked surprised, and Kehlani looked even more curious than before.
Jack opened up the fridge and seemed to be looking for the usual orange juice that he would always take out, but then closed the door when he found that the jug was empty.
“I got into UCLA!” Jack exclaimed, with the biggest and brightest smile he’d probably ever brewed up.
Luna smiled instantly. She knew that was his dream school and she couldn’t be happier for him.
“Oh my god! Jack, that’s amazing! Congratulations!” She replied, now with an even bigger smile across her cheeks.
Kehlani was glowing too. Everyone had always known that UCLA was Jack’s dream school. Ever since he was a young boy he’d always carried the same dream of hoping to become a marine biologist one day. He of course loved being in and out of the water, but he’d also always specifically enjoyed monitoring and learning about the sea life around him. So the fact that he had gotten into his dream school, that had the dream program for him to follow, this was all a pretty big deal.
“I just can’t believe it,” he said in shock, “I, I honestly didn’t think I had the grades to make it in. They even offered me a $4,000 scholarship for that internship that I did with my uncle last summer,” Jack was glowing, he was absolutely in awe of the fact that this had all happened to him.
Luna wasn’t really surprised of course, Jack was amazing, and even if he wasn’t at the very top of his class, he still had so many other things going for him, like that internship. He actually had multiple experiences working in the field, many of which had to have had a big impact on enhancing his application.
All three of them were in a good mood now. Jack was still beaming, Kehlani happy as usual, and even Luna was truly distracted from her own problems by her boyfriend’s exciting news.
“So what about you, Lu? Have you committed to your favorite ‘Harvard’ yet?”
“Harvards” were what Jack called all Ivy League schools. Luna laughed,
“Um, actually, no. I haven’t. Besides, I still have a few more applications to finish up, and I’m waiting for one school in particular to get back with me.”
“More schools, seriously? Lu, you’ve literally gotten into every f***ing school in the nation that have like a zero percent acceptence rate. Can you just pick one already?” Jack exclaimed.
“Okay, woah. You know it’s not that simple. My dad’s forcing me to apply everywhere anyway just so that he can say I got into like every single one in the book. But still, I haven’t heard back from NYU yet,” Luna continued.
“NYU? That’s the school you’re worried about hearing back from? Why? That’s not even one of the top ones. Besides, there’s no point in even considering going there, right? I mean, it’s on the complete opposite side of the nation, and what would you even major in? Cali is where all the good marine sciences are anyway.”
Jack was clearly on the same planning track for Luna’s future as her parents were. It was like they had all gathered together and held a meeting where Luna’s future was just decided right then and there. Where she was going to go, who she was going to go with, and who she was going to be. Her parents loved Jack anyway so if he had any difference in opinion, even if large, they probably would’ve made accommodations. But it didn’t even matter because Jack was always on her parents’ side.
Luna just held her breath and tried to think of a way to change the subject. Because she knew that if she didn’t, she’d end up back at square one like how she was with her father the night before. She and Jack would just end up arguing over what Luna should be doing with her time and what she should be doing with the rest of her life. By this point, Kehlani could sense the slow building tension that was beginning to form between Luna and Jack, so she figured this was her queue to go into another room.
“Well, I’ll let you two be, I think I have some homework I need to finish. Bye Jack,” and with that, Kehani was out of the kitchen in the blink of an eye.
Luna turned back towards Jack. She took a deep breath and let out everything that she had been keeping in on her mind.
“Jack, look. I know you’ve talked to my parents, and I know you guys have this, like, carved out path for me where I follow your dreams and marry you and work for my dad and all this. But, if I’m being completely honest that’s not what I want.”
“What do you mean?” Jack looked confused, almost like she was joking.
“I mean, you know that I love you guys and of course I’d love to stay here with you guys forever but I don’t want to go to school here and I don’t want to work for my dad. I like taking pictures, and I want to do just that, in the city. In New York,” Luna replied, lips quivering as she did.
She was afraid. She hated confrontation, and this was her most trusted best friend. Imagine having to discuss this again with her parents. With her father.
Jack looked lost. He looked hurt too, but mostly lost. Like he’d just been hearing all of this for the first time, which technically, he was. But in Luna’s defense, she did feel that she’d made it pretty obvious that she always loved NYU and it’s fine arts programs, and she never really showed any true interest in her father’s field.
“Lu, why can’t you just make any rational decisions in your life. My god, sometimes it’s like talking to a wall with you!” Jack seemed angry now. “It’s like your family and I provide you with the support that you need and you do all of this hard work in school to get you somewhere big, and you do nothing with it. Don’t you realize how f***ing lucky you are? I had to do real work outside of school to get where I got. You got into Harvard, Yale, and Princeton no problem and it’s like for what? You seriously don’t even care.”
Luna stared at her boyfriend in disbelief. She couldn’t believe he’d gotten so angry over this. I mean sure, it’s not exactly what he wanted but she never would’ve thought he would’ve taken any true personal offense to her decisions. It was almost as if he were trying to make her feel bad that she was deciding to wait for her dream school first. Even if that dream school wasn’t a typical “dream” in comparison to the others that she had already been accepted into.
“Jack, why are you, I didn’t mean to-” just as Luna was trying to respond she felt a vibrating sensation in her right jean pocket. She grabbed her phone out of it and stared at the screen. It was an emailed notification, which at first glance she could read easily clear that it said the words, “Congratulations, you’re a Violet. Welcome to NYU.” Her mouth dropped. It was instant, the rush of excitement, relief, and fulfillment flooding her body. This was exactly what she wanted and before she could even realize it, everything was falling into place in front of her eyes. She could see her ideal life in her mind, studying her passion in the place of her dreams, then reality hit.
“You need to go,” she said sternly to Jack.
“What? Why?” He replied.
“I’m tired, and I want you to go, and I’m done talking.”