Tawny Matthews stood before the mailbox in front of her house with bated breath.
The fifteen year-old blonde had been waiting patiently for weeks for a response, only to be disappointed every time the mailman paid a visit.
This time was different, however. As Tawny slowly pulled down the little door of the mailbox, her green eyes widened at the sight of a small, nondescript envelope laying sideways in its interior.
Tentatively, Tawny grabbed the envelope, as though she were afraid that if she made any sudden movements it would fly out of her grasp and vanish into the ether.
She looked at the return address: Ivoree Gates Institute.
This was what she had been waiting for.
She used her finger to slice open the top of the envelope and pulled out a single, folded sheet of paper.
She could feel the sweat from her palms dampen the letter.
Well, here goes nothing, Tawny said to herself.
Gingerly she unfolded the envelope, then involuntarily squinched her eyes shut out of fear. It took all of Tawny’s willpower to force herself to reopen them.
We are writing to congratulate you on receiving a full academic scholarship---
“YES! YES!” Tawny jumped up in down in elation, no longer caring if she was crumpling the paper. She then ran back to her house and burst through the door. “Mom! Mom! Guess what? I’m in!”
“What’s that, dear?” Tawny’s single mother, a woman that looked almost like an older facsimile of her daughter with the same blonde hair and green eyes, emerged from the kitchen drying a plate with a towel draped over her shoulder. “What’s going on?”
Tawny grabbed her mother, trying her hardest not to burst from excitement. “Mom,” she said evenly, “I just got the letter today. I’ve been accepted! I’m going to Ivoree Gates boarding school!”
Unable to contain her excitement anymore, she jumped up and down and squealed.
“Oh honey - that’s fantastic news! I’m so proud of you!” Mrs. Matthews set the plate on a nearby table and embraced her daughter.
They reveled in the moment for several seconds before Tawny pulled herself free. “There’s so much I need to do. I’ve got to call Ally and tell her the news. I’ve got to pack. What do I bring? What do I wear? What’s the dress code for a private school?”
“Tawny, breathe,” her mother instructed. Tawny obeyed, taking in a deep breath and slowly exhaling. “We’ve got plenty of time. School doesn’t start until September. You’ve just finished the tenth grade! Try to relax...maybe call your friend first.”
Tawny nodded. “Right,” she said, before bounding up the stairs two steps at a time.
Mrs. Matthews could hear her daughter scream with excitement all the way to her room; she smiled, grabbed the plate she was drying and returned to the kitchen.
“I can’t believe you’re going to Ivoree Gates!” said Ally, Tawny’s best friend.
Summer came and went for the girls faster than they would have liked. It was now September - a few days before school would begin.
Ally and Tawny had been in the same class since kindergarten, so it was hard for them to come to terms with living in separate states in the fall, much less separate schools.
A final sleepover before the start of the semester allowed the girls to properly celebrate the changes that were taking place in both their lives.
Tawny stretched out on the bed and let out a loud yawn. “I know. This summer just flew by.”
Ally rolled over in her sleeping bag beside Tawny’s bed and looked at her best friend earnestly. “Are you excited?”
“I’m excited...and anxious...and nervous...and giddy,” said Tawny. “Heck, I have so many emotions about what’s going to happen, I feel like I’m gonna burst.!”
“It’s gonna be so good for you, though,” reassured Ally. She smiled weakly, but then her face fell somber and she looked away.
“Hey, hey....” Tawny sat up from her position on the bed. “What’s up?”
“Nothing,” sighed Ally. “It’s just...you’re to be gone for so long. I’m going to miss you....”
“Aww, Al....” Tawny slid off the bed and sat beside Ally so she could give her a hug. “I’m gonna miss you, too.”
“What if you find a new best friend while you’re at Ivoree Gates, and you forget all about me?”
Tawny scoffed. “Not likely. Who else am I going to find that’s as big a weirdo as you?”
“Hey!” said Ally, feigning offense. “Weirdos of a feather flock together!”
They both laughed and hugged again.
“Just take care of yourself, okay?” said Ally.
“I promise,” said Tawny.
“And if you see any cute upperclassman while you’re at that school, be sure to give me their numbers.”
Ally rolled her eyes. “Oh please...!”
“I’m serious! Like they say, ‘there are plenty of fish in the sea’, and honestly you are in the sea with the biggest, most eligible fish in the country!”
Tawny laughed. “Honestly, Ally - you thing about boys way too much.”
“Oh yeah?” countered Ally. “Well, I don’t think you think about them nearly enough!
It was dawn. The car was packed and ready to make the long journey to Ivoree Gates.
Tawny’s mother and best friend were all smiles and laughter during the morning breakfast, but once they stood outside the Matthews’ old venerable minivan, reality finally hit that it was time to say goodbye.
“Wait! Before you go...” Ally pulled off the backpack she had brought for the sleepover and unzipped it.
She pulled a medium-sized pink ceramic bunny; in the bunny’s paws it held a photo of Ally and Tawny together. “I made it myself over the summer. So I’ll always be there with you.”
“Oh, Ally, I love it! Thank you so much!” She gave her best friend and embrace. “I promise to call every day.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” said Ally.
“Come on , Tawny, it time to go,” Mrs. Matthews placed her infant daughter in the carseat and entered the driver’s side of the vehicle. “We’ve got a lot of road to cover today.”
“Okay, mom,” Tawny looked at her best friend. “I guess this is it...”
“I guess so,” replied Ally. “Try not to forget us little people while at your fancy new Ivoree Gates.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll see you around Thanksgiving, okay? Bye!” Tawny entered the car and as the minivan pulled out of the driveway, Ally waved farewell.
Tawny watched her friend until the car turned the corner and her old friend, old house, and old life was out of sight. She sat back in her seat and took a deep breath.
“Ivoree Gates, here I come. Hope you’re ready for me.”