CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR
I lie on the couch under a blanket staring at my broken project. It’s been a few days since Kyara cracked it to pieces and shattered my dreams. Rio and Deq tidied up around it and then made efforts to put it back together but I stopped them. It won’t work and I’ve given up hope. My eyes are still sore from my tear ducts over working. I feel ill. Heartbroken. All this time I actually thought I would become an astronaut. All this time I had so much faith in my dream, in my education and in my friendship. I was living in a dream. I’ve wasted my time. I don’t know why we even thought of this whole dream chasing thing in the first place. I was ready to forget my dream when I started university. I was prepared to let it go, I was prepared to embrace English literature for the rest of my life, but then I found a new hope, a new way with Kyara. I achieved so much in three years and everything was going to plan, opportunities came my way, I was believing in dreams. I got so attached, that now seeing my final project broken, seeing my last hurdle impossible to overcome has destroyed me. It all gets worse when I think that my own friend, my sister, the one I trusted more than myself broke that trust. I hate Betty for what she did to Kyara, but Betty was right all along, Kye is jealous, she’s an actress, she needed my help to get her writing going. Argh! I hate saying stuff like that about Kye. I know her, but then why did she ruin my project and pretend it was an accident? I don’t know what to believe anymore. My hope is lost. I’m just going to concentrate on literature now, graduate and get out of here. No more astrophysics, no more astronaut shit, no more dreams.
Kye walks into the kitchen. I haven’t spoken to her since the incident. I don’t want to be around her. It hurts me when I see her. She hasn’t even tried to speak to me, why is she in a mood with me? She’s the one crushing dreams. I understand she’s been through a lot. I get that and I feel for her, but that does not mean she can get angry over her own life and ruin mine. I kind of wish I never met her. I get up and leave before awkward eye contact is made. I find Brian playing on the PlayStation in their living room. Marcus seems to have gone out. As soon as he sees me, he switches off the game. It’s odd, because of this situation, even the boys have gone quiet. It’s uncomfortable and I don’t like it, but every time I see my project, it just reminds me of my unworthy journey. Brian still talks to Kyara, I’m not the kind of girl who will stop her boyfriend from talking to other people. That’s his choice and I respect it.
“You okay?” Brian asks, making space on the couch.
I join him, “Yes I am.”
He sighs and moves my knees towards him, so that we’re almost face to face, “Why are you doing this Jen? You are only hurting yourself.”
“What? What do you mean, what am I doing? Brian, I am hurt. Everything that I worked my ass off for has been destroyed by my best friend.” I keep my cool and explain softly trying not to yell or go moody.
“I know you’ve worked hard but you can still rebuild it and I know you are hurt, but doesn’t a little part of you think that Kye didn’t do this on purpose? That maybe it was an accident?”
“It wasn’t an accident. I told her very clearly to watch that wire. It took me weeks to build Brian. I can’t rebuild it now, I have no time and no material,” I stick with my decision.
“I don’t want to argue with you but I’m going to tell you my opinion – I think it was an accident. It’s Kye, Jen. Our Kye. She would never think of tarnishing your project, she is the one who brought the project to you. She is the one who told you about it, for heaven sake she is the one who came up with the crazy idea of stealing the equipment!” his voice slightly increases in tone. “And you still think that she did this on purpose, she fell in her crutches with a broken leg on purpose?”
What he’s saying makes sense, but my mind is not ready to accept it. Since she got back from the hospital she’s been getting around fine with the crutches, she hasn’t once fallen over. So why did she fall on my project, especially when no one was in the room? “People change Brian. Their circumstances change them.”
“Yeah, people do change,” he says, coldly.
I feel a negative vibe from him and I’m annoyed by his statement. I wonder if that was meant for me. Is he trying to say I’ve changed? I feel my heart beating faster. I want to question him on what he meant, but I really don’t have the energy to argue.
Before I can think of something to say, he holds my hands and looks at me again, “I just think it’s unfair that you are not talking to her. You two have shared dreams together. In just a few days of meeting each other you guys bonded like… like covalent bonds,” he tries to make me laugh and I do. “You’ve lived together for just three years but it feels like much longer. You guys fight and argue and then happily gossip and do girly stuff all the time, but this, this you’re taking way too far. It has been blown way out of proportion. You two have something so special and do you know what that is, Jen?”
I wait for the answer.
“Friendship. True friendship. Friendship is the strongest relationship anyone can ever have. It can be with anyone; mom, dad, brother, sister, cousin, uncle, boyfriend anybody because it is made by you, but the most precious friendships are those who aren’t related by blood or attraction. Those that form from nothing. Those that are genuine. Those that are solely linked by one another and those that don’t have another name except for friendship. That’s what you and Kye have. You are lucky to have that.”
I look down thinking about the deep, meaningful things he is saying.
“Do you wish she hadn’t recovered from that accident? Do you wish… it was worse?”
My heart jumps and I respond quickly, “What! How can you say that?”
He smirks, “I thought so. So how can you think she wanted to hurt you?”
I close my eyes and sulk. Brian wraps his arm around me and pulls me close to his chest. I absorb his comfort. His sweet scent and his soft hoodie fill my senses and relax me. I sob but I don’t know if it is for my project or for… Kyara.
Brian’s words have been wandering around my head for the past couple of days. I’m so lost in my own thoughts that I’m having trouble sleeping. It is Kye – Kyara’s call back today, I left for my literature class (that I didn’t really need to attend) and Lia’s there helping her prepare. That would usually be me. She did look at me before I left. Her eyes were sorrowful but I left anyway. Thinking about it, I now feel bad, I don’t know what I am supposed to do with my life. I hold tightly onto my books in my hand as I make my way to my last literature class ever through a dull, windy day.
Dr. Kennedy – the literature one - explains some final tips for the essay, she points at the board using a laser light. I take a picture of the board with my phone just in case she changes the slide and then I write everything down, taking in all the advice. My focus is on my notebook, for the first time ever in a literature class I’m not thinking about astrophysics. I’m actually concentrating, a little late but nevertheless. My attention is on my notes when I notice a figure walking in from my peripheral vision.
“Julie, sorry to interrupt might I… have… a…. word.”
I recognize the voice instantly. Why is he slowing down? My eyes widen. I slowly look up to find Dr. Kennedy standing right in front of my desk. Physics’ Dr. Kennedy. The man. There he is standing in his cream shirt and brown tie with white, wispy hair looking through his glasses and down at me, then at my phone and then back at me. I freeze, praying that he doesn’t recognize me but who am I to fool the Kennedys. I figure it out. They are married. Of course they are! Husband and Wife. Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy. How did I miss that? The entire class stop their chatter and stare at our interaction.
“Is everything okay Kyle?” Julie asks him.
“Is this your student?”
“Yes, this is Jennifer,” she smiles.
“How long have you been coming to this class?” he asks me.
I’m still a statue. Merely breathing.
“Her attendance is decent, she’s here almost every class,” Julie kindly answers for me.
“She’s a literature student?” he questions still glaring at me and then my phone, cooking something in his brain.
“Yes, yes she is.” Julie, still smiling doesn’t seem to understand what is going on.
If only the literature classes had more people in them, maybe I would’ve stayed hidden.
“Jennifer, follow me to my office. Immediately,” he orders, pushing his glasses up and turning around. “Julie, please come along once you’ve dismissed your class.”
I blink sharply and then pack my stuff away, quietly and fearfully. Julie or should I say Mrs. Kennedy looks at me confused. I hear her wrap up the class as I follow yards behind Mr. Kennedy. I am so dead.
We reach his office and he tells me to take a seat. I am scared but not as much as I should be due to my recent experiences, which in turn, is scaring me more. I try to think of an excuse, but I don’t know what for! Should I say I just attended astrophysics classes out of interest? Or should I say I attend literature classes for fun? I can’t say that, he’ll see my details and that I’m registered to the literature course! Argh! What have I got myself into! It’s all over anyway with the astrophysics, so I should stick to literature. That is what I came here for. I want my Literature degree. I want to graduate in that. I am sick of everything else. Yes, I will stick with literature. I prepare myself.
Dr. Kennedy takes his time. The wrinkles on his forehead are as deep as his thoughts. He looks quite intrigued but also pissed off. Obviously he’s angry that I’ve been sneaking into his classes but that’s not bad, is it? I still don’t actually know why he has brought me here. Maybe he doesn’t recognize me. Maybe it’s for something else. He takes a seat in his leather chair, then leans forward, hovers his hand over the phone and then picks it up and dials a number as my blood pressure begins to increase rapidly.
“Vice Chancellor, could you please come to my office, this is urgent,” he talks with firmness through the phone, “Thank you.”
I feel like my heartbeat can be heard in the whole room, increasing so quickly that it may explode.
“Is everything alright?” Julie walks in and stands next to Dr. Kennedy’s chair opposite me.
A few seconds later we are joined by the Vice Chancellor, I’m not even going to lie, I don’t know his name. I can feel sweat dripping from by back and absorbing into my shirt. All I have to do is explain why I’m in both classes. Make it quick and simple Jen. How bad can it possibly be? I just need to act confident and prove I’ve done nothing wrong. I try and calm my mind and body to display a more self-assured look.
Dr. Kennedy begins, “Jennifer… your surname?”
My confidence goes bust as soon as he asks a question, “Err… Jennifer…sorry, it’s… it’s Kost… Jennifer Kostigan… Sir,” I stutter.
“What do you study Jennifer?” he unsympathetically asks.
I look away from them and my eyes wonder for an answer, “Literature, English literature.” I say it clear with a burn in my chest. No more astrophysics! That is enough!
Dr. Kennedy looks at the Vice Chancellor and his wife before looking back at me, “Do you attend your classes?”
“Yes Sir, I do,” my gaze slightly turns to Julie, afraid she’ll say that I don’t turn up all the time, but my grades are good, so I pray she keeps her mouth shut.
“Do you attend any other class, Jennifer?”
I’ve been caught. I clench my fists under the desk, “Yes.” I tell the truth.
“Which class? Or rather, which course?”
I gulp, stay strong Jen, “Astrophysics.”
“Vice Chancellor, could you please confirm which course Jennifer Kostigan is enrolled on to,” he tilts his screen towards the Vice Chancellor.
“English literature,” the Vice Chancellor frowns at the screen and then at me.
“Is Jennifer a final year student of yours Dr. Kennedy?” he asks his wife.
“Yes she is.”
“Well according to the records, she certainly is not a student of mine, isn’t that right Jennifer?”
I stay quiet.
“Vice Chancellor, is it acceptable for a student to be enrolled onto an English literature course yet study astrophysics?” his voice is getting angrier.
“No, it is not acceptable,” Vice Chancellor seems disappointed but not angry.
“And it is not acceptable for a student to sneak into another class at all, let alone for almost three whole years. It is unacceptable to study any course other than what you are enrolled onto. It is also unacceptable to lie to the lecturers at any university. It is unacceptable to use resources and teaching that you have not paid for. Furthermore, Jennifer Kostigan, it is unacceptable to steal equipment and material from any school or building especially one that you do not belong to!” he shouts standing up from his seat and throws something onto the table.
My entire body loses its senses. All I can feel and hear is a light ting sound. How? How! I see what he threw, its Jupiter to Pluto. The other half of my phone case!
The Vice Chancellor and Julie gasp. Julie looks at me in disbelief. Dr. Kennedy sits back into his chair.
“That does belong to you doesn’t it, because I’m sure if you pull out your phone we can prove it,” he viciously smirks. “Would you like to see proof Vice Chancellor?”
“Yes, yes I would,” the Vice Chancellor replies. “Miss Kostigan, if you would, please.”
I unclench my fists into trembling hands and reach into my pocket and pull out my phone, with half of the smashed case still on – The Sun to Mars - thinking how injudicious I am to still have that on my phone. It quivers as I place it on the desk. Dr. Kennedy pics up his found piece and joins it perfectly to mine revealing the solar system and the planets in order, before chucking it onto the desk again, making me jump out of my seat. There’s silence in the room. My breathing gets heavier and cold sweat takes over my body, hands and face. I feel faint.
“Miss Kostigan, this is improper behavior,” the Vice Chancellor speaks softly. He is bursting with disappointment and looks ashamed. He seems like a kind hearted person, but the circumstances are such that I am causing him distress. “This has never occurred in our university before. You are not permitted to attend any other classes but the ones that you are timetabled to. I don’t seem to understand how you gained access to the astrophysics class timetable. Furthermore, stealing? Breaking into the labs? This is not what I expect from a student, an academic. University is a place and a stage of life where people are allowed to make their own choices, because they are wise enough to do so. You, however have made some very ill decisions, childish and quite foolish. Education is supposed to lead you on the right path, a sensible path. We select our students very carefully upon application and we choose those that are highly intelligent, sensible and those that will bring a good name to our university, but you have done the opposite of that. You have taken the privilege of being a student here for granted. I don’t know what to say. Did you not think about the consequences of your actions Miss Kostigan?” he shakes his head and fold his arms. “The protocol for this would be suspension or worse, but we are almost at the end of the year-”
“There are no excuses Sir. We are appalled!” Dr. Kennedy responds to the Vice Chancellor in a high tone. He points is fingers at me, “You have brought disgrace to yourself, your family and this institution!”
“Kyle, I think we should hear her out. Jennifer is there something you would like to say or explain? Why did you steal the equipment?” Julie touches my shoulder. Her eyes plead for an explanation.
I don’t know where to begin to explain everything and even if I did, they would all think I’m crazy, including Julie. Nothing about this whole dream situation is logical, nothing is sensible, everybody on this planet thinks dreams are just dreams, we’ve all been taught to dream and then forget about them and move on in life, ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ or ‘start living in reality’. Even my own parents have been saying that! These guys don’t stand a chance at understanding, they’re academics! They study what they love! My thoughts take time, too much time.
“She doesn’t have an excuse!” Dr. Kennedy yells.
“Dr. Kennedy, we are so close to the end of term now-” says vice Chancellor.
“Simon, she stole from our labs! She’s a criminal! This should be a police situation.”
I feel nauseous.
“Kyle, I don’t think we need to take it that far,” Julie insists.
“We will not take it that far, Kyle,” Vice Chancellor orders.
I exhale. My mouth is dry and I see the waterline in my eyes fill.
“However, I understand Miss Kostigan has made some grave mistakes, therefore since the two of you know her best. I will leave the decision on Miss Kostigan’s consequences of her actions up to you.”
Dr. Kennedy eyes me. I don’t think Julie will have much of a say in this. I am suspended. I know it! I can see it in his angry face, he wants to break me.
“Jennifer Kostigan, your actions are unforgivable. You do not deserve to be here, you do not justify to be an academic and you certainly are unworthy of a degree. Hence, we have no other option but to… expel you… immediately!”
I look up at Dr. Kennedy in shock. Expel! It is like something has exploded in my brain. I can’t even believe what is happening.
“No! Please!” I beg, tears find their way out of my eyes.
“Kyle, she has worked very hard, she’s a bright student and her grades in literature are good. I can vouch for that,” Julie appeals.
“She has committed a crime. If we were to let her continue and allow her to graduate with everything she has done, what influence do you think that will have on our students? Everybody will go around stealing, lying and sneaking into other classes and still expect to graduate! We will be setting a terrible example. This is a lesson for everybody! To teach the future generations to be truthful!”
I’m losing everything! I need that degree for me, for my family. My heart speaks out, “Please Sir. I only attended the astrophysics classes because… because I… I wanted to become an astronaut.” I weep at the truth that now sounds so pathetic, I wish it never said it. “I thought I could. I did not mean for this to happen. Please don’t expel me. I’m happy with literature.”
“Ha! You wanted to become an astronaut?” Dr. Kennedy laughs a pitiful, icy laugh, “With what entry grade? A grade B in physics? She wants to become an astronaut with a literature degree!” he sniggers.
I am actually scared. I wish my friends were here, my mom, anybody! God! Help me! Please!
He stops the laughing and leans forwards seriously, “Dreams do not come true!” he shouts.
Now I get angry. I knew he would say that. That’s what everyone says. But why am I getting so mad over it. He is right. That’s the truth Jennifer. Wake up! Dreams do not come true!
“Does your friend, what’s her name… oh yes, Kyara, have anything to do with this?” Dr. Kennedy questions.
My hairs stand on edge. My tears stop. I’m quick to answer, “No Sir. No. She doesn’t.”
“Not even in the stealing incident?” he cunningly asks.
I shake my head, “No. She doesn’t know I study literature,” I lie ironically.
“Alright, I’ll tell you what Jennifer, give me the names the four others involved in that stealing hoax and you will not be expelled. We will allow you to continue to graduate in English literature and all of this can be forgotten. What do you say?” Dr. Kennedy proposes a deal.
Julie and Vice Chancellor sigh and wait for my response. I reflect on my friendships, my friends and what Brian said to me the other day. I feel the pressure around me. On one side is my graduation, my hard work and my future and on the other side is my friendship, their degrees, their hard work, their futures and most of all, their trust.
“Obviously, you used someone’s ID to get into the labs and possibly someone helped you hack into the system. They all seem like students to me, the way they were wondering around the labs. What’s you decision Jennifer, is it your degree or theirs?” he sneers swinging in his chair. “Friends don’t last forever, you know.”
I gently look at Julie and then the Vice Chancellor for help. They both seem sorry but helpless. The pain in my chest is indescribable. My head aches and I can feel blood thrusting through my veins. God! I scream in my head. I can hear his clock ticking on the wall. Time is running ahead and I’ve been left far behind it, so far that it has over taken me more times than I ever imagined.
“I have no names Sir. This was solely my doing. I’m… I’m sorry,” I cut him off and get over with it quickly.
Dr. Kennedy frowns, “Then you are dismissed. You will receive written notice of expulsion by tomorrow afternoon. You shall no longer attend any classes or exams. You are to leave immediately,” he stands up and points to the door.
“I’m sorry Miss Kostigan,” Vice Chancellor bids his farewell.
I begin to walk out.
“I think you’re forgetting something,” Dr. Kennedy calls holding my phone out towards me.
I take it and leave.
The world around me seems emotionless, my heart is distraught and my brain is traumatized. I find my way outside. I feel cold. I feel like I’ve lost, lost to life. The wind blows strongly but I can’t feel it. Everything around me seems slow and motionless. I can’t hear anything. My sight is blurred and I can just about see where I am going. What have I done? Where will I go? What will I tell people? What will I tell my parents? Questions bung up my mind. All my efforts have gone to waste. Worse! They haven’t only been wasted they’ve been punished. I once thought I’d been coming out with two degrees, two subjects of knowledge, yet here I am coming out with nothing. Empty handed. I came here with such hope, then I found more hope and believed it, my dreams were coming true. I was so close. But those hopes and dreams have been shattered like a crystal glass shattering on a marble floor. Life has hit me hard, so hard that I can no longer feel it. Tears fall from my face. I am not able to show my face to anyone now. All hope is lost. It was all too good to be true.
I’m sorry, Diary. Forgive me, God.