The Unexpected Everything(4)

By: Morgan Matson

“Thanks,” my dad said after clearing his throat. “I know that can’t have been easy for you.”

It was only years of practice and ingrained media training that kept me from rolling my eyes. As though my dad had ever cared about what was easy for me. “It was fine.”

My dad nodded, and silence fell between us. I realized with a start that we were alone—no Peter, no constantly buzzing BlackBerry. I tried for a moment to remember the last time it had been just me and my dad, together in a way that hadn’t been staged for the cameras, engineered to appear casual. After a moment I realized it had probably been December, my dad and I driving together to a post-holiday charity event. He’d tried to ask me about my classes, until it became painfully clear to both of us that he had no idea what they were. We’d given up after a few minutes and listened to the news on the radio for the rest of the drive.

I glanced up and saw our reflection in the hall mirror, a little startled to see us standing next to each other. I always wanted to think I looked like my mother, and I had when I was little. But I was looking more and more like my dad every year—the proof was being reflected right in front of me. We had the same freckly skin, same thick auburn hair (more brown than red, except in the light), same thick dark brows that I was constantly having to tweeze into submission, same blue eyes and dark eyelashes. I was even tall like him, and lanky, whereas my mother had been petite and curvy, with curly blond hair and green eyes. I looked away from the mirror and took a step back, and when I looked up again, it was just my dad reflected back, which felt better—not like the two of us were being forced into a frame together.

“So,” my dad said, reaching into his suit jacket pocket—undoubtedly for his BlackBerry. He stopped after a second, though, and dropped his hand, when he must have remembered it wasn’t there. Peter had confiscated it so that it wouldn’t go off during the press conference. He’d taken my cell phone too, which even I had to admit was a good idea—my three best friends had a tendency to start epic text threads, and even if my phone had been on silent, its buzzing would have been distracting and probably would have spawned a story of its own—This press conference is like sooooo boring! Texting daughter can’t even pay attention as Walker’s career hits the skids. My dad stuck his hands in his pockets and cleared his throat again. “So. Andie. About this summer. I—uh . . .”

“I won’t be here,” I reminded him, and even saying the words, I could feel relief flooding through me. “My program starts the day after tomorrow.” My dad nodded, his brow furrowed, which meant he had no idea what I was talking about but didn’t want to tell me that, just wanted to look concerned and engaged. I’d been watching him do it with opponents and voters for years, and tried not to let myself be surprised that he hadn’t remembered. “The Young Scholars Program,” I clarified, knowing telling him was the simplest path out of this. “It’s at Johns Hopkins.”

“Ah,” my dad said, his brow clearing, and I saw he actually was remembering, not just pretending to remember while waiting for Peter to whisper something in his ear. “Of course. That’s right.”

The program at Johns Hopkins was one of the best in the country, designed for high school students who were planning to be pre-med in college. My friend Toby insisted on calling it pre-pre-med-med, and the fact that I kept telling her not to only seemed to be making the name stick. You stayed on campus in the dorms, took advanced math and science classes, and got to shadow interns and residents on their hospital rotations. I’d known I wanted to be a doctor since I could remember. I had a story I told to reporters about my dad giving me a toy stethoscope for Christmas when I was five that actually wasn’t true, but I’d said it enough now that it felt true. When I was applying to the program, I was confident I’d get in based on my grades—I did well in all my subjects, but I did great in math and science; I always had. And it didn’t hurt that one of my dad’s biggest supporters was Dr. Daniel Rizzoli, who was the former provost of Johns Hopkins. When he’d handed me my letter of recommendation, handwritten on heavy, cream-colored paper, I’d known I was in.

I’d been looking forward to it all year, but with everything that had been happening, I was practically counting down the minutes. My dad could stay here and sort things out on his own, and hopefully by the time I came back in August, things would be settled. But either way, in two days this would no longer be my problem. In forty-eight hours I would be gone. I would be in a dorm room in Baltimore, meeting my new roommate, Gina Flores, in person for the first time, and hoping that her tendency to never use exclamation points in any of her texts or e-mails was a weird quirk and not actually indicative of her personality. I would be reading over my syllabus for the millionth time and getting my books from the campus bookstore. I would hopefully have met someone cute at orientation already, halfway to my summer crush. But I would not be here, which was the most important thing.

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