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She looked around the room nervously. The room was filled with twenty somethings in their scarves and ironic, square shaped glasses. Lilith wasn’t sure if she belonged. She had crossed the thirty line and was still astonished that she was here at all.
It started out as an idea, a terrifying itch in the back of her mind that she needed to do more. Her day job chipped the hours away and paid the rent, but she didn’t want to be someone’s assistant forever. Her undergraduate had been fun, but she had little use for her music degree. Back then, she had dreams. Dreams of flowing hippie hair like her mother's and calloused musician's hands as she sang the world awake. Like any childhood fantasy, they faded into the dark oblivion of reality. Her guitar gathered dust in the closet, remnants of a life unlived.
When she got the brochure in the mail, she set it on her counter with the rest of the junk mail she received. When she say their name everywhere she went she called it a coincidence. But when she was praying about the direction of her life and the university happened to call, she couldn’t ignore it anymore. She filled out the application, crossed t’s and dotted i’s, and sent it in.
Her acceptance was as much as a shock to her as anyone else. “But you don’t even write,” her mother said. She had traded in her long hair for a cropped cut and her bare feet for nurse’s shoes.
“Let the girl do what she needs to do, Mae.” Her father was her eternal cheerleader. “If she wants to write, she can go write.” He turned to his daughter. “Do you remember the story you wrote me when you? I’ve never forgotten it.”
She blushed. “Dad, I was twelve. And I’ll probably teach. I don’t know if I can write a book.”
He smiled at her and patted her arm. “I know you can.”
She knew she could, too. It was there in the top drawer of her desk. It was there, taunting her, calling her name. It was the story she wanted to tell, but didn’t quite know how. It was those first chapters that got her into the school in the first place. It was that story that was responsible for the letter that came a week later, congratulating her on her fellowship award. And it was that story that she packed with her books and guitar case as she made her way to a new city, and a new life. She even smiled as she turned in her two week notice, knowing that she was going to the place she was supposed to be.
That confidence left her now, as she frantically reminded herself that she was here because of her writing, because she belonged. Looking down at the spiral bound notebook and black and blue ball point pens on her desk, she wished she had brought her laptop. The boy- the man- in front of her leaned back in his chair and brought a single, loafered foot onto the desk. He wove his fingers between his tawny, tousled hair and asked a question without raising his hand that she could barely determine in English. Several people surrounding him voiced their agreement. Lilith frantically tried to take notes, to keep up. She didn’t know the names of the books they mentioned. The last thing she read was a Jodi Piccoult novel; and she had cried for days after. Her notes turned into scribbles as her confidence drained like water in a sieve.
She couldn’t do this. She would never be able to do this. It would all be like the dusty guitar and she’d have to go back to her old job and file papers and answer phones and count down the minutes until five o’clock. She tapped her pen nervously against her notebook. She could leave now. She could save herself the shame and embarrassment of failure. Her mother was right.
Dr. Floyd lifted his hands, waiting for silence to permeate the room. “’Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.’”
“Yeats,” Lilith said quietly.
He pointed at her and nodded. “That’s what we’re here for, to achieve dreams. And whether you plan on writing the next American novel or Twilight or mold minds like I do, we are all here for a reason.”
For a moment she forgot that there was anyone else in the room, that he was speaking to anyone else but her.
“What matters now, is that we’re all here together. In five years, if you stay with this program, you will have your doctorate. You can pursue a career in academia or you can write or you can go back to your old life. The point is, you can.”
I can, Lilith told herself. I can do this.
He took a stack of papers from beneath is arm. “Take a syllabus and pass it back. This will be your bible for the semester. It traces my expectations which will determine your grade in this class. Participation will earn you a C. Excellence will earn you an A.”
She was determined for the latter. She took a syllabus from the loaferman in front of her and passed it back. She absorbed the words quickly and carefully, trying to catch her heart as it raced within her chest. The books to read, the words to write, the thoughts to think. This was her life, and she was taking it by storm. She was here for a reason, God had placed her in this school because there was something he wanted to achieve here.
Don’t tread on my dreams, she told herself, packing away her insecurities. She promised that she wouldn’t again.
965 words that time, just of one thousand! This one was happyish, which means I'm probably dying.