Chapter Three

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Welcome to Woodcreek

I got the email on a Sunday night; I remember it clear as day. The sound of waves crashing onto Clearwater Beach seeped through my open window and, every few minutes, car engines rolled along the street.

Spots of rain fell from dark clouds and the smell of dinner – roast chicken with mashed potato and veg – still lurked in the air. The house was quiet. To Mum's dismay, Elliot had just left to go back to college and a silence settled like dust in his absence.

Afraid to disturb it, I was in my bedroom trying not to get distracted as I finished my book report for English. It was due the next day and I'd planned to have it done by then, but as per usual, Elliot's presence made me forget, just for a little, my academic to-do list.

I'd say this was the first time it happened, but my Mum didn't raise a liar.

I was just finishing the paragraph on female oppression when there was a ping on my laptop. An email. The screen lit up for a second like a beacon and then fell back into darkness.

Sitting across the room with my notepad in my lap, I tried to ignore it, I really did – this report needed to be finished for first period. But something in my gut pulled me like a rope.

That week, my group chat with Olivia and Maddison had lit every day with screenshots of their acceptance letters. They were my best friends, so of course I was happy for them, but I couldn't help the sinking of my heart every time a photo was sent through.

It'd been nearly two months since I sent my applications and I'd heard nothing. Not from Penn, Princeton or even Woodcreek. It made my skin tingle with anxiety. What if no colleges wanted me?

Although, I wasn't surprised about not hearing from Woodcreek. I'd applied on a whim after hearing about it from one of my friends online. She'd read some of my work and insisted it was exactly what the college were looking for: a breath of fresh air, she'd said.

After a little research, I knew there was absolutely no chance in hell – their acceptance rate was almost as low as my bank balance. But then I saw the pictures.

Woodcreek's campus was so beautiful it could've been taken from a post card. High in the mountains of Colorado, green hills rolled by like waves in the sea, extending from the treeline all the way to its library.

Trees of every colour – green, yellow, orange – rose from the ground like fire and patches of blue lakes shimmered in the sunlight's haze. In the distance, grey mountains peeked above the skyline and, to put it bluntly, it was a writer's paradise.

So, I attached my portfolio of work, tightly closed my eyes and clicked the apply button.

Two months later, sitting in the corner of my bedroom with spots of rain knocking against my window, never in a thousand years did I think it'd be Woodcreek emailing me.

If anything, it was probably a rejection – because all the acceptances were sent out last week, right? If any college had good news to tell me, wouldn't they have already emailed?

I was being stupid. For all I knew, it could be junk mail from Body Shop. Hell, it probably was – and this essay really needed to be done. But all it would take was a simple glance. Right? So, with the promise to go back to work in a second, I stood up and put my notepad down.

My feet padded against the carpet and, once I reached my desk, my fingers shook so hard I could barely use the keyboard. But then I saw it. The email that changed my life.

Not only was I accepted to Woodcreek, but I'd been given a damn scholarship, too! As I stood there, my heart pounding against my chest, it felt too good to be true. The house nearly shook with my shriek.

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