chapter one

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"Mom, for the last time-"

As usual, my mother's shrill voice cuts over me, managing to override my words even though she's not even standing next to me. While I listen to her unstoppable tirade, I clench my fingers tighter around my phone, grasping it so tightly it's quite possible it could shatter in my hand. I'm curled up in the bed of my new dorm room, clad in a pair of pajamas, hair a squirrely bun atop my head. Originally, I'd woken up excited to begin my first day of work at my new intership. But right now, all I want to do is hang up the call and let the blankets envelope me, burying deeper and deeper, till at last I disappear altogether.

"Amber Leah Faye, don't you dare try to talk back to me. I honestly cannot believe you, Amber. First, you say you don't want to go to medical school. Fine, okay, I can deal with that. I can deal with that if you at least choose a proper career instead. But you refuse to do that, don't you? You want to pretend the world isn't a place where you need money to survive. You want to build your aircastles, and you expect me to pay for them-"

Tears prick the backs of my eyes, and I try to think straight, holding my cellphone an inch away from my ear while I take a deep gulp of oxygen. It helps clear my mind, at least a little. "I'm quite aware of what the real world is like," I say in a tense voice. "And I want to be a biologist, okay? The 'real world' needs biologists, too."

"It needs doctors-"

"Well, I refuse to be one of them."

She gives a withdrawn sigh. "Amber," she says quietly, and I feel my heart stutter. I know what's coming; she's about to pull out the biggest card in her deck of guilt-trips and whining. "Your father would've wanted you to follow in his footsteps. He would've wanted you to be a doctor."

There is complete silence on both ends of the line. Knowing she can't see me, I slowly lower my head till my chin is resting on my knees, despair settling over my face.

My father. Charlie Faye. A smiling man with a kindly-lined face and eyes bluer than the sky. He'd died in a car crash four years ago. And yeah, he had been a doctor, but...

I'm suddenly uncontrollably angry. How dare she try to insinuate that I'm a disappointment to my father, just because I want to be a biologist?

"I'm not my father," I finally say, my voice so quiet that at first I don't think she hears me.

When she does speak up, her tone is hostile. "Maybe not, but regardless, you have no right to act like this. Lying to me? Saying you have summer school, and then sneaking off to a biology camp-"

"It's an internship, actually. A science internship," I correct her. "At Priory Inc. One of the most well-respected research labs and institutions in the country. Most parents would be proud."

"That their daughter is a cunning liar who decieved them and ran off to biology camp?"

Ridiculously, I feel the urge to laugh. Oh Amber Faye, you ran off to biology camp! You're so going to hell for this, I mentally chide myself. 

Aloud, I snap, "I have to get to work. Bye, Mom."

"Amber, you will not hang up on me. You'll resign from this so-called intership, and come right back home, missy. Don't you-"

"This conversation is over. I'm staying at Priory. It's an opportunity of a lifetime, and if you can't understand it-" I break off abruptly, realizing the volume of my voice is climbing a bit too much. "If you can't understand, then I'm sorry. I'll see you in September, once the summer's over."

With that, I hang up, throw my phone onto the blankets, and fall back into the fortress of pillows on my bed, letting a frustrated groan escape my lips.

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