Mom doesn't show up.
I shouldn't be surprised—she never shows up—but I can't get rid of the empty, twisted feeling in my stomach. Emery always says that being alone isn't the same thing as being lonely, but sometimes it feels like they're exactly the same thing.
My mermaid teapot is sitting on the shelf in front of me. I flick my finger against the purple ribbon dangling from its spout. When I made it in ceramics class two months ago, it looked vibrant and smooth. Now all I can think about is how the blue glaze looks more gray than cerulean, how the torso is so unrealistically long, and how bad of an idea it was to make a mermaid teapot at all.
It doesn't matter that the ribbon says "Honorable Mention." All I see is "Not good enough to get into Prism." All Mom would see is "Not good enough."
Maybe I should be happy she isn't here.
I pull the ribbon from the spout and shove it into my bag, burying it beneath a graveyard of almost-used-up pencils, a sketchbook, and a pack of cinnamon chewing gum.
When I hear laughter, I look up to see Susan Chang—the only other half-Asian girl in our school—clutching a blue and gold ribbon like she's afraid she might lose it. Her mother's hand is wrapped around her shoulder, and her father is pointing at her acrylic painting—an image of a house on a lake, with several geese dipping their toes into the water. It's a sensible piece. It has mass appeal.
Not like my stupid mermaid teapot.
If I could feel anything other than sorry for myself right now, I'd feel happy for her. I've always felt a weird connection to Susan, even though we aren't friends and even though the only things we have in common are our part Asian-ness and a love of art. I guess I always thought we 'could' be friends, if either of us had bothered to try.
It's not that I'm desperate for friends or anything. I mean, I do have friends. I have Emery Webber, who rescued me from having to eat lunch by myself on the first day of freshman year. And there's Gemma and Cassidy, who are technically Emery's friends, but we all sit at the same lunch table so I think they count.
I had a best friend once too. The kind you see in movies or read about in books. We lived in a different world than everyone else—a world that always made sense, even when everything around us didn't.
We were like two halves of a snowflake—we matched.
But he moved away, and I've been half of a snowflake ever since.
The truth is I'm not really good at talking to new people. I'm not really good at talking to people, period.
And anyway, it isn't a friend that I need. Not right now, when I prefer painting to trying
to fit in. I need a mom who doesn't look at me like I'm a worn-out piece of furniture that doesn't match the rest of her house. I need a fresh start. I need a real life.
I need Prism.
But a purple ribbon isn't going to get me admission to Prism Art School in New York.
And it's certainly not going to make my mother proud.
My chest feels heavy, and I try to think of what I'm going to say to her when I get home.
• • •
Mom is sitting on the couch painting her nails bright red with a gossip magazine propped against her knees. She isn't looking at me, and she definitely isn't looking at the teapot in my hands.
"How was school?" Mom asks from a thousand miles away.
"Fine," I say. I tighten my bag over my shoulder. Maybe she forgot about my art show, even if I did remind her this morning. And yesterday. And every day before that for three weeks. But maybe she was busy and it slipped her mind. Maybe something came up.
She brushes another layer of candy-apple red over her toenail.
I feel my stomach knot over and over and over again.