Sunlight hit my face and I covered my face. “What time is it,” I grumbled as I rolled over on my bed and checked the time. 7:46. Four more minutes before I have to get up, I thought as I laid on my back. Foreigner. You can’t throw away your heritage. Foreigner. The remnants of my conversations bounced around in my head. “Go away,” I mumbled as I placed the pillow over my head as if that would shut the voices out. Foreigner.
I threw my pillow across the room. “Screw this,” I thought as I got up again to look at the clock. 7:47. Well, there’s no point in sleeping for three minutes, I thought as I lifted myself out of bed and headed to the bathroom. Cold water doused my face. Tooth paste foamed in my mouth. Another hoodie went over my head and I headed downstairs. Ma Ma’s room light was on. She was still getting dressed. I opened the fridge and grabbed the last container of peach yogurt. The peel came cleanly off and I dug in. A dog barked somewhere outside and the sun appeared between cracks of clouds.
“Morning,” Ma Ma said as she walked down the stairs and came to the kitchen to pour a cup of hot water, “Someone’s up early. Glad you think breakfast is important today.”
“Ehhhh,” I said as I threw the empty yogurt container away and grabbed a banana for Ma Ma to eat. I went back to the fridge and quickly made myself a sandwich. Ma Ma stood and watched.
“Add a piece of lettuce,” she said before turning her back to get herself a cup of tea. We stood in silence in the kitchen room as I finished up.
“Get your stuff. We are leaving in a minute,” she said, “don’t want to be stuck in the traffic on a rainy day.” I nodded. Most drivers seem to automatically forget how to drive on rainy days. I headed up the stairs and stared out the window. Rain was falling down, gradually harder, drowning the newly planted roses in our front yard. I slumped my backpack over my shoulder before gently running down the stairs, careful not to wake Ba Ba and Edward up.
Ma Ma started the car and backed out. The rain immediately begun to hit the car and the water traveled along the window like little fish across the sea. The radio blared in the background as Ma Ma and I, both tired, drove in silence.
As we pulled into the parking lot, the wind began to pick up. I opened the door. Cold wind rushed at me, slapping hair in my face and sending shivers down my spine. A scarf landed on my head.
“Stay warm,” Ma Ma said, “You don’t want to get sick. Take this pack of vitamin C too.” I obliged and took the scarf and vitamin c packet before running across the parking lot and into the warm, heated school hallways.
As I entered the hallway, the sound of squeaky shoes reached my ears and I grimaced. Not a pleasant sound.
“Hey girly. Stole your mom’s scarf,” Sydney said as she turned the corner and pinched my cheek.
“Yes. Definitely,” I replied giggling before swatting her hand away, “It’s freezing out there.”
“You don’t say,” she said as she took off her coat and shoved it into her backpack, “anyhow, I gotta go check on my artwork in Jenkin’s class. I’ll catch you later. Don’t forget its second period first today.”
“Yea I know. See ya,” I said and my best friend disappeared around the hall. Ugh. I hate Wednesdays, I thought. Having calculus first thing is not a mood-lifter.
I entered the classroom, dreading my calculus grade.
“Ms. Wang, may I speak to you for a second,” my teacher, Mr. Wilbert, said. A few students looked up at me before quickly looking down when they made eye contact with me.
“Oh..sur-re,” I stuttered as I quickly dropped my stuff at my desk before walking up to my teacher.
“Ms. Wang, I hope you know that you didn’t do so well on your last test,” Mr. Wilbert begun to say. I shifted from foot to foot. “Now, I know that high school may be hard, but good grades are still important, especially if you are considering for those competitive schools we talked about.”
“Yes, sir,” I said as a group of guys walked in talking and laughing.
“Boys, quiet down,” Mr. Wilbert said before redirecting his attention back to me, “Aubrey, there seems to be a repeating issue here. If you need any academic assistance, you know that my office hours are available.”
“Yes, sir,” I said as I grabbed my test from the desk. My face grew hot as I felt my classmates staring and listening in on the conversation. Oh great, I bet I look like a tomato, I thought as I tried my best to ignore everyone. f
“You are a bright girl. If you do well on the last test before progress reports, you can still get an A-, okay? Don’t waste your high school years,” he continued.
“Yes, sir,” I responded, staring down at my test.
“Okay. Go have a seat. Class will begin in a few moments.”
I nodded and headed back to my seat, looking downwards. I sighed. I really did try, but math was just so hard. I knew everything every single time I opened my workbook and did the homework, but for some reason, whenever I take a test, my brain becomes a clean, clear slate.
“I thought Asians were supposed to be good at math,” one of the soft boys, Kendrick, said, staring at me. I looked up at him, then back down.
“Oh, come on. I’m just teasing you,” he said, “cheer up. I’m sure all you got was a B+.”
I rolled my eyes and look back down at my test. A fat C- stared at me. Not all Asians are good at math, I thought, it’s not like it just comes effortlessly. I sighed. I guess, all those years of Kumon really went to waste.
The day went by in a blur and before I knew it, I was back on Ma Ma’s car and heading out to dance. The rain had already stopped, but the brisk winter wind continued to nip at my nose and cheeks. Puddles covered the roads and the occasional deep puddle would splash water all over the car. The sun finally managed to come out, peaking between the cracks of the clouds, but the air was still cold.
“Make sure you stay warm,” Ma Ma said as she dropped me off at the studio.
“I know,” I said.
“Don’t forget we have dinner with Nai Nai and Yéye tonight,” Ma Ma reminded again, “You have a little bit of time before class starts. Try to get your homework done.”
“Okay,” I said as I grabbed my dance bag and headed inside. The studio was empty except for Lao Shi who gave me a quick nod before returning back to her computer, arranging the final touches to our show that weekend. I entered the bathroom. Sneakers were switched into heels. My sweats and hoodie were switched into my costume. I stared at my face in the mirror. No makeup was needed today. I brushed my hair and tied it back up. Foreigner. Asians should be good at math. You can’t throw away your heritage. Bits and pieces of the conversations gurgled up into my brain again and I felt the corner of my eyes fill up with tears.
“No, NO, stop,” I said as I shook my head and doused my face with cold water, “You’re stupid. There’s no reason to cry. I needed to focus.” I looked back up at the mirror and took a deep breath.
“One, two, three, four,” I counted, closing my eyes. I was calm again. I grabbed my stuff and headed out the bathroom to a quiet studio. I checked the time. I still had thirty minutes. I headed to the cabinets and put all my belongings away except for my homework. Might as well get some of it done, I thought as I headed to a corner of the studio and plopped myself down. I grabbed my phone and plugged in my earbuds. A gentle piece of classical music soothed me as I slowly lifted my pencil and begun to do my homework.
My alarmed sounded and I looked up. My dance friends were all piling into the classroom. Wet sneakers, boots, and any other shoes were left at the doorway. Normal clothes were all switched out for costumes. A few of the girls were up near the mirror, practicing some twirls and tricks. I checked my phone. 4:28. There were two more minutes before class started. I gathered my books and headed towards the cabinets.
“WHAT IS UP,” a friendly voice scared me, causing me to hit my head against the cabinet.
“Cherylll, I told you to stop sneaking up on me like that,” I said rubbing my head. She laughed.
“You’re wayyy too easy to scare,” she said, “On a different note, check out these clothes at this new store. These are totally in, right now. All the white girls at my school wear this.”
I stared at her phone. Pictures of cute, blonde girls covered the website. A short strapless black skirt. A dark blue, jeweled pair of stilettos. A cute pink and white tube top.
“I want to get the shorts,” Cheryl said, pointing at a pair of bright blue booty shorts with rips on the side.
“Kinda hot,” I said laughing as she rolled her eyes.
“Whatcha looking at,” another one of my dance friends, Amanda, said popping up from behind us.
“Just some clothes from this new store,” I said as we all huddled closer, looking over at Cheryl’s phone. Amanda rolled her eyes.
“Way too adult for me,” she said.
We laughed. It was true. Amanda was almost 5’8 and she wasn’t even in middle school yet. The only reason she happened to be in our class was because this girl was super good at dance and she was way too tall with the other girls her class.
“Anyhow, send me link, Cher-bear,” I said, “It’s time for class.”
“Yea, check your Instagram later,” Cheryl said as she dropped her phone in her bag just as Lao Shi walked out of her office. We all scrambled to our places at the bar and the music started.
Class continued, just like any other day. We warmed up and then, practiced for the upcoming show. Lao Shi was even stricter than yesterday, calling out even the tiniest mistakes. A hand needed to be raised just a centimeter higher. A foot wasn’t turned out enough. Someone was off-beat by half a second. Again and again Lao Shi drilled us until we were all dripping in sweat. Thunder roared and the lights flickered on and off, but Lao Shi wasn’t bothered. At one point, Amanda sat on the floor.
“Get up,” Lao Shi said and Amanda immediately jumped up, leaving a circular sweat stain. Cheryl and I looked at each other, unable to contain our laughter as Amanda stuck out her tongue at us from her position. We continued to practice until at last, Lao Shi didn’t say anything else, but nodded in approval. We all exhaled sighs of relief.
“Thank you, Lao Shi,” we said in unison before quickly running to the cabinets and gathering our stuff.
“See you next week,” Amanda said as she grabbed her bag before disappearing in the rain. Cheryl and I waved a goodbye and the girl quickly disappeared.
“Ugh, finally! I thought Lao Shi would never let us go,” Cheryl said as she slowly took off her shoes and sat on the floor.
“I know right. I’m exhausted,” I said, peeling my sweat-soaked costume off my body before folding it gently into my bag, “I still have to go to dinner later with my grandparents.” Cheryl laughed.
“I feel you. My grandparents came yesterday though,” she said.
“Yikes,” I said, laughing as she and I walked out of the studio together. Ma Ma started the car as soon as she saw me. I quickly ran into the rain, covering my face.
“Bye, Cheryl,” I yelled before closing the door.
“See ya,” she said as she grabbed her bag and disappeared into the comfort of her own heated car.
“How was dance,” Ma Ma asked as we slowly backed off and drove into the streets.
“It was good,” I said as I reached over to plug in my phone, “Is Nai Nai and Yéye already at the restaurant waiting?”
“Yes. We already ordered Bejing duck, tofu soup, sugar buns, and a vegetable mix. Is that okay,” Ma Ma asked.
“Yea. It sounds good,” I said, my mouth already watering at the thought of a perfect, roasted duck. Ding! My phone ringed.
Brian: Wanna go over calc today. Last test before progress reports :(
Me: Can’t sorry :/
Brian: Your capping :o
Me: Wish I was. I’m having dinner with my grandparents
Brian: Aight. Gotchu. Good luck though :)
Me: Thanks. Probs gonna need it
“Put your phone down,” Ma Ma said, staring at me through the rear-view window, “It’s bad for your eyes if you look at it on the car.”
“Sorry, Ma Ma,” I said, as I put my phone to charge some more.
“Did you study enough for your last calculus test,” Ma Ma asked.
“Yea, I think so,” I said as I leaned back and closed my eyes. The wind outside began to pick up. The leaves twirled around and around in circles. The sky got a little bit darker as the sun went back to sleep. Ma Ma turned right into the plaza and I grabbed my phone, getting ready to run into the restaurant to avoid the rain.