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*Time Skip Chapter*

Time goes by strangely when you are at a cross road. I was finally in my last year of school and exams were hell. No, studying for exams was hell. It also meant I could avoid having that conversation with Mark until I was ready. My friends all banded together to form a study group and we hammered through the material over and over until my dreams were more about my homework than Mark for the first time in months.

I had to decide my future this year too. After careful consideration my applications were in to my top three universities, and I was waiting nervously to hear back from them. William felt my pain and asked me every night before dinner started if I had heard anything back yet. I usually just shook my head. Our conversations were geared around mother and her latest projects usually, except that first night back from her trip.

She had asked if I got everything I wanted for my birthday. I said yes and couldn't keep the grin off my face. She wanted to know what made me so happy, and Mark had looked rather alarmed at that. That made her very suspicious, so I told her that I had a taste of alcohol. That wasn't a lie, I had tasted the alcohol on Mark's lips.

Mark had given me a strange look. My mother had asked if I liked it and I nodded a little. Then I told her it was a bit strong for me though, and I would wait a bit before having some more. I had looked right at him when I said it, and he had smirked. I think he got the message. This wasn't over, but I knew I was not ready to go chasing him just yet.

Especially not when I was still under her roof. I was desperately in love, not stupid. I had to secure my university education, but I was sure I could date him on the side. I knew I didn't have to worry about money. Now that I was eighteen, I should have full access to all the accounts and investments that had been set up for me. I could pay for my own schooling; within reason I think.

If I did well on my exams though, there was a chance I could apply for scholarships to help pay for it. Then I knew without a doubt that I didn't have to rely on my mother. That is why I was so crazy studying for end of year exams. I didn't leave my room sometimes for days at a time in the weeks coming up to them, instead having Maria bring me sandwiches to the den while I pored over my textbooks.

Mark was watching me closely with interest as I worked hard to finish my schooling. I knew he wanted to talk to me about my birthday, but I wasn't ready yet. Soon, but not yet. I needed to answer some questions in my life before I could talk to him about that part of it. He was being very patient, like he always was with everyone. I was very excited the day I gave my first nod to William.

I had the email sitting in my inbox already, and now I had the printout to confirm it was not a dream. One university accepted me, on condition of final marks of course. They were recommending me for an entrance scholarship as well based on my midterm achievements. I was still waiting for two more though, well one in particular.

I finished two exams and waited for the others. My account online still had 'pending' showing and I was nervous. I knew I had done well, just not sure if it was going to be well enough. As each test was completed, I got more nervous with the ticking down of the clock. I got a second email just before my last exam and it was the perfect encouragement.

I was accepted to two very good universities. Both were offering entrance scholarships based on merit. They were not the one I was waiting for though. That one was the last I was still waiting for. I went into my exam optimistic though. Hoping beyond hope that my marks would be enough. Hoping they would give me something to help with my costs.

My marks went up and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was graduating with honours. I met the requirements for my universities. The third letter came in and it was everything I hoped for, and more. I took all three letters down to the dinner table with me, and a copy of my final grades. I was elated for my own accomplishments and couldn't wait to show Mark.

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