The exam room is so quiet that I can hear the second hand counting down. I handed in my Chinese final half an hour ago and I have to sit in silence until two o’clock. That’s 15 minutes away. I can’t even imagine the person I will be in 15 minutes. Some of the room is still working, other people are also staring intently at the clock or scribbling on their desks or trying to text subtly without the proctor’s noticing.

My mind is absolutely blank. I feel like I’m in limbo, waiting. I am underground, traveling up, and I don’t know what will happen when I surface. The clock keeps ticking but no matter how many times the smallest red hand goes around, the other ones don’t seem to budge.

My phone rings. I mindlessly answer.

“Hey, Ruby! Guess what?”


“We’re all done, that’s what! Where are you?”

I realize that it’s Sam. “I’m actually in the middle of an exam right now,” I say, suddenly realizing the people around me staring at me with disbelief. The proctor doesn’t seem to notice. “Yeah, people are starting to stare, I’ll call you back,” I say.

“OK, uh, bye.”

And then it is two o’clock.

There is no bell. The proctor just lets us go. I step through the doorway, through the hall. I begin to run. My skirt begins to sail behind me, and then my hair. My feet are flying, no longer touching the ground. My normally heavy boots are full of helium as I soar through the hallways at unimaginable speed, past the cheering and flying papers and hugging and yearbook-signings. I can feel my worries pouring out of my chest with every stride. Some jockish junior jokingly steps in front of me, grinning at his friends, and I crash into him. I shove them out of the way with a burst of sudden strength. I continue to run.

I burst through the doors.

The sky is bright and crystal clear. It is hot outside. I can breathe. I can finally breathe. I have left hell. The school year is over. I made it. I survived and I can have a break. I get to have a break from all this. I begin to cry. This is the happiest moment of my life. ♦