Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Sneak (05/12/16)
TITLE: The Shortest Visit
By Sara Harricharan
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A normal day, for an honors student at the Braxton Academy for Gifted Children.
Tears stung her eyes once more and she twisted to lie flat on her back, staring up at the dark, blank ceiling.
Yes, she had chosen the stupid Academy out of her own accord—but everyone who graduated from there had dream jobs! Everything was perfect! They could do whatever they want and got paid for it, because they’d studied it.
Well, they’d studied what the academy offered and were thus deemed experts. She was halfway through her curriculum. It was interesting, but challenging.
Worth the hassle.
Except for times like now.
Crying into her pillow was such a tired, lonely habit that it even made her heart ache.
Not as brilliant as her older brother. Not as pretty as her older sister. Just plain old Mari.
Sort of smart, but a little dumb.
Sort of cute, but a little ugly.
A quivering breath helped her to hold it together. She willed the tears back. She had a presentation tomorrow and she would ace it or so help her GPA.
She’d won a scholarship for the next semester by pure luck. Maybe a smidge of talent.
She’d called home to share the news. Her parent’s lack of enthusiasm or acknowledgement had shattered that happy achievement in one blow. The rejection twisted deeper into her heart before she could second-guess herself.
“…Is this her room?”
“Shh! What if she hears you?”
The whispered voices outside of her bedroom door made goosebumps dance on her arms. Mari strained to hear a bit better.
Those voices were familiar—almost.
Something beeped and the electronic door began to slide open.
Mari squeezed her eyes shut and began to pray. Only the headmistress and chief security officers had additional keys to student’s private living cubicles.
And visiting parents, if they applied for a time-sensitive temporary permit—but those were impossible to get on a short notice.
“She’s sleeping, Liam! I told you she would be—“
“Doris, dearest, I am not the one making-“
Whispers stopped and the quiet footsteps crept into the room.
Sneaking, one at a time, her parents stepped into the tiny room. There was scarcely space for them, but the door remained open, a security precaution.
“Put it on the desk,” Doris prompted. “Stop lingering. You know we can’t stay.”
Liam deposited the armful of neatly wrapped presents on the small desk. “…Doris, look.”
“Top in her grade and class. Second place in the academy overall. A full scholarship for the next semester.”
“Is that what she was talking about? Oh, Liam!”
“Our baby girl is growing up,” Liam said, hoarsely.
Doris traced a finger over the base of the chiseled award. “I knew she could do it.”
“She’s never given us any trouble. Calmer and smarter than those other two put together.”
“Yes. Yes. I love all of our adorable children equally,” he grumbled. “Still. She’s a good girl.”
“Did you sign her travel slips for the end of the year?”
“No. I thought you did.”
“…When would I have done that?” Doris sighed. “We’ll have to go back to the headmistress’s office. You’re lucky we managed a permit on such short notice.”
“I thought she’d found us out,” Liam said. “Stand over there.”
Doris moved to stand on one side of the tiny bed. “She almost did. You weren’t supposed to answer the call.”
“I couldn’t ignore it!”
“We might have actually gotten to see her, if you had. Nine hours detainment for taking a personal call on a private transformation-“
“Yes—sweetheart, I know. I know. We’ll try to come and visit her again, alright?” Liam held out his hands. “Please—just—for now?”
A smile tugged at his wife’s face, before she accepted his hands, her head bowed in prayer. They began to pray, whispering birthday blessings over their youngest child.
The earnest, heartfelt please of a parent wishing for the best, brightest future they can dare to ask for.
It ended with a tentative pat to Mari’s damp hair and a warm kiss to her cool forehead.
“May His light and love, guide you always” they said, sneaking back out—the same way they’d come.
The door closed.
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