The hot Arizona sun beat down on her blonde hair and tanned skin as Colette soaked up the warm rays and lounged by the pool. Her blood heated up as she recalled Andrew’s lips on her body the night before. That boy had a talented tongue, and he wasn’t afraid to use it. She squirmed at the memory, but her flashbacks came to a halt as a dark shadow moved across her body and made her cold.
“Hey!” Her eyes fluttered open. “You’re blocking my sun!”
Colette’s roommate, Marie, hovered over her. The girl’s presence cast a long shadow over the yellow and white striped chaise lounge.
“You got mail.” Marie dropped a pile of paper onto Colette’s impeccably flat stomach.
Colette flinched. She hated the mail these days, dreaded it actually. Her graduate school applications in psychology had come back with flat turndowns from everywhere. The few schools she still waited to hear from made her cringe at the idea of the next rejection, and the next.
For as long as she could remember, Colette had wanted to be a psychologist. The human mind fascinated her, and she had been born with a natural curiosity about what made people tick. In high school, a speech teacher introduced Colette to different personality types, and Colette was hooked on the science of human behavior.
Getting into college had been a breeze, and she had been an above average student, if not a stellar one. But Colette had been completely unprepared for the rigorous process of graduate school admissions. She had thought going to her college classes and making good grades was all she would need to do to get into graduate school. No one at Arizona State told her it would take more than that.
At least not until now, when it appeared to be too late.
Colette wasn’t one to go above and beyond. She made good grades without trying, and she had always been popular with her peers. She had always been about having a good time, at least that was her take on it. Life was fun, and she enjoyed it. Her parents had paid for this extended vacation some called ‘college’, as well as for her bright yellow Jeep. And she always had a great time partying with her friends.
Now she was screwed. Once the rejection letters started rolling in, Colette did a little research. She found out that while she had been playing around, the students who were now getting into graduate school had been working their asses off. She learned that she needed to be doing volunteer work or to be working “in the field” of psychology. It was a prerequisite that she have excellent grades and years of “research experience” under her belt.
It came as a shock to Colette that she was competing with thousands of psychology students from across the country for a small number of spots in a small number of graduate programs. And those students had been preparing for the application process since they were practically in diapers. Meanwhile, Colette had been running around in a bikini at keg parties and having more fun than ought to be legal.
“Sorry,” Colette told her roommate. “I’m a little grumpy.” Colette knew she had been more irritable since she had realized her days of playing hard were drawing to a close.
Marie shrugged and walked away. A serious student, Marie disapproved of Colette’s party girl lifestyle and did little to hide her feelings about it.
Colette gathered up her towel, sunscreen, and the stack of mail. She dragged herself off her perch and slowly trudged inside. Her heart sank as she recognized the name “Chicago Professional School of Psychology” in the top left corner of a thin envelope. Damn! That was one of her first choices.
Once inside her apartment, she picked up her cell phone and dialed her best friend, Chaz.
“Come over,” she commanded. “I got another one. I don’t want to be alone when I open it.”
“Marie’s not there?” Chaz asked.
“Don’t be cute,” Colette said. Chaz knew Marie was not exactly a warm shoulder to cry on.
“Who is it from?”
“The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. It should have been easier to get into. They accept lots of people, not just four or five students a year,” Colette groaned. “I don’t know what I’m going to do if I don’t get in anywhere. You have to come help me!”
“Okay, I’ll be there in thirty minutes,” Chaz said.
Colette set the offensively thin envelope aside on the table and hopped in the shower.
Afterwards, she felt a little better. She always felt best with some sun on her cheeks. Maybe Chicago was the wrong place for her anyway. She loved the sunny lifestyle Arizona provided.
Her cousin had moved to Chicago and once told her that it got so cold there that his snot froze in the winter. Disgusting. Perhaps it was preferable to miss out on frozen nasal secretions.
Colette brushed her wet hair and donned jean shorts and a white shirt that showed off her tan. As she gazed at herself in the mirror, her annoyance with herself grew. Why had she not taken care of business? She should have talked with some sort of academic advisor earlier or researched graduate school admissions more… something.
With a sigh she sat down on the couch and painted her toenails. She chose a bright blue color that both set off her tan and reflected her mood.
The doorbell rang.
“Come in,” Colette hollered across the apartment.
Chaz strolled through the door.
“Hey. You look great, like you got some sun,” Chaz said.
“Thanks.” She could always count on Chaz to make her feel good about herself.
“You might not want to just let anyone ‘come on in’, ya know,” he said.
“I can’t get up while I’m working on my toes.” Colette wrinkled her nose.
Chaz rolled his eyes. “Fine, but when a serial killer gets you, don’t blame me.”
Colette ignored him. He was sweet to care, but Chaz was always being melodramatic.
“Where is it?” Chaz asked.
“On the table. I really couldn’t bear to open it. You do it,” Colette said.
“Oh hey, Marie,” Chaz said when Marie walked into the adjoining kitchen.
“Hey,” Marie said. Not looking up, she opened the refrigerator and poured herself a glass of orange juice.
Chaz picked up the envelope off the table, walked over, and sat next to Colette, whose toenails were now an aqua color.
“Are you sure you want me to open it?” he asked.
“Yes. Just get it over with,” Colette said.
“Yes, please get it over with,” Marie rolled her eyes. Unsupportive as always, she stood in the doorway sipping her drink.
Colette set the nail polish on the coffee table in front of her. She put her feet up and admired her new pedicure.
“Okay.” Chaz ripped open the envelope. He glanced at the words on it and frowned.
“What is it? It’s a no, isn’t it? I knew it!” Colette wailed. “Acceptance letters are always fat. The thin ones are always bad. Let me see that.” She snatched the letter from Chaz’ hand.
“You already knew it was going to be a no. I don’t know why you have to be so dramatic about opening your mail,” Marie said disapprovingly.
“Why are you so mean?” Colette snapped.
“I’m not being mean, Colette. You need a big dose of reality.” Marie marched to her bedroom and closed the door behind her.
“I will never understand why you live with her. She’s such a bitch,” Chaz whispered the word “bitch”. He was afraid of Marie and avoided her like she was a two-year-old with a stomach virus.
“I don’t know. I guess it’s easier than finding another roommate. She’s always in her room studying. Plus, she’s such a neat freak that she cleans everything,” Colette said.
“Except your room,” Chaz laughed.
Colette threw a pillow at him. “Hey!” She was messy, but he didn’t need to mention it.
“Just sayin’,” Chaz smiled.
“Enough about her—what the heck am I going to do?” Colette asked. “I’ll be graduating in a few months, and I have no idea what I’m going to do then. I always planned to go to grad school. Now it’s not looking like that’s going to happen.”
“How many more schools do you have left to hear from?”
“Only one. I haven’t heard from the University of Memphis.”
“Do you want to go to that one?”
“Chaz, I want to go to any of them! I don’t care which at this point.” Her shoulders drooped.
“Okay. Sounds like it’s time for a Plan B.” Chaz patted her on the shoulder.
“You’re right. I really want to go to grad school, but maybe I will have to work “in the field” or do some research or something. Then I can re-apply once I’ve improved my resume.” Colette raised her eyebrows. “There is this one professor I know who does lots of research,” she said, her thoughts turning to Professor John McGill. She’d taken his Individual Differences the year before and had been fantasizing about him ever since.
“Psychology research?” Chaz gave her a dubious look.
Colette laughed. “Yes, psychology research! Something to do with rats, I think. I just remember he mentioned it when I was in his psych class. Maybe I could do something to be part of his research project.”
“Wouldn’t hurt to ask, I guess. Do you know this professor?” Chaz knitted his brows together suggestively.
“What do you mean?” She’d spoken with Professor McGill a few times, but only about matters that related to his class.
“You know, biblically?” Chaz raised his eyebrows.
Colette giggled. “No, silly. Nothing like that. I was just in one of his classes. I’ve never slept with any of my professors!” Not that she hadn’t thought about it.
“Just checking. You need to be professional if you are serious about this,” Chaz said in a worried tone.
“Now you sound like Marie!” Colette said through clenched teeth. She smiled. “But he is cute.” The professor was sexy in that strong, quiet kind of way.
Chaz threw the pillow back at Colette, and they both chuckled.
Colette felt better than she had in weeks. She would get accepted after all. It might take her longer than she originally planned, but she knew if she put her mind to it, she could make it happen.
She began to formulate a plan.