On the plane, I wrote a little fic that was dancing around my head. So I put it down on paper for cheekymice because she is strong and trying to save her lungs.
Title: Paying for College
Summarry: Ryan realizes that college is really really expensive.
This is totally unbetad and I was very sleepy while writing and proofing.
Ryan sits on the edge of his bed, shuffling through the papers, trying to digest what he’s reading. It’s his acceptance letter to Berkley. It wasn’t that he didn’t think he could do it, he knew his grades were admirable and his SAT scores were impressive, but sometimes Ryan needs to pinch himself when he realizes that he’s going to go to college.
Leafing through the papers, Ryan’s eyes land on the sheet that discusses the payment schedule. Housing fees. Tuition fees. And he knows that textbooks are a fortune of money too. As his eyes scan the paper, and the figures register, his stomach drops. He knows college is going to be expensive and beyond his means. He just hadn’t let himself think about how expensive it would be. Instead, he’d just kept saving whatever he could, putting a bit aside from the Cohens’ generous allowance each week and saving whatever he could from the odd jobs he’s done and gifts. It’s not enough. Not nearly enough.
His lips turn down into a frown. His forehead wrinkles with concentration. He wants to find a solution. He’s practically tasted college this last year even with all of its turbulent ups and down. Ryan doesn’t feel like tasting the bitter defeat of the bill collector. There are some papers attached about financial aid and available scholarships. Ryan’s not sure what he’s going to do.
Sighing, Ryan leans back on his pillows and grabs the remote on the side of his bed. Sandy had assured him that this would always be his home. That he would have a place to come back to during vacations. And Ryan has started to think of this as his home. He can’t imagine going anyplace else. But the Cohens have done so much for him – paid for three years of private school tuition. He can’t ask them to pay for college too. It was always his deal with himself that somehow he would do it on his own.
He flips on the television, setting aside the packet from Berkley and lets his mind wander into the mindless world of network television. He’s not sure what he’s been watching or for how long, but the idea comes to Ryan during a commercial break for the armed forces. They could pay for his education.
Ryan doesn’t tell anyone where he’s going early the next morning. He pulls his bike out of the garage, which has been gathering dust these past few months, since he and Seth practically have full access to the Rover. He just doesn’t want to have to ask for the keys and explain where he’s going.
Two hours later, Ryan pedals back up the Cohens’ driveway, sweat dripping from the top of his head. He wipes his face with the bottom of his tee shirt and leans his bike on the side of the garage.
“Good Morning.” Kirsten’s cheerful greeting makes Ryan jump. He hadn’t seen or heard her. She’s wearing a big floppy sun hat and thick white gloves meant for gardening. She’s holding a basket that’s brimming with flowers he can’t name. He notices a bead of sweat on her forehead. It’s a hot day. “Where were you?”
Ryan shrugs. “Riding around. Doing nothing special.”
She quirks her brow. “Really?” She smirks. Ryan hates when she can tell he’s lying. “Was Marissa involved in this riding around?”
“Marissa and her mom are trying to find a small apartment now that Kaitlyn’s home.”
“Oh.” She pushes up the sunhat so that she can get a better look at Ryan’s face. She can tell he wants to move on and that he’s waiting to be dismissed, but she doesn’t feel like letting him off the hook so easily. “I noticed you received a very fat envelope from Berkley.”
He ducks his head and stares at the ground, unable to hide his sheepish grin. He’s proud of his acceptance. He worked hard for it. He knows it would never have happened without Kirsten and Sandy, but he did most of the work. They just gave him the tools to work with.
“Come on,” Kirsten urged. “Sandy’s been dying to find out what it said. He was devastated when you didn’t share the news with us last night.” She tugs at the corner of his sleeve and pulls him towards the house. “He’s in the kitchen.”
Ryan follows, dragging his feet along the patio.
Sandy’s standing at the island counter, head bent over a newspaper and the coffee mug raised, grazing his lips. He looks up at the sound of the door opening and a chair scraping against the floor.
Ryan sees the signs of Sandy’s early morning surf. His hair is still damp, and he’s wearing his board shorts with an oversized blue sweatshirt. Most of all, Sandy looks relaxed and ready to take on the day.
“Ryan has some news.”
Sandy sets down the mug on the counter and turns to Ryan giving his son his full attention.
Ryan slips into a stool and slides his arms across the counter, leaning his body forward. “I was accepted into Berkley.”
Sandy steps forward and slaps Ryan on the back. “I knew you could do it. I’m so proud of you.”
For a brief moment, Ryan basks under the praise. But he knows he has to tell them everything and avoiding the inevitable will just make things harder. He takes a deep breath. “I’m going to defer my acceptance for a couple of years. If Berkley will let me.”
“What? Why?” Kirsten steps around the counter so that she’s standing next to Sandy. They’re both facing Ryan with concern and bewilderment etched on their faces.
“It’s too expensive,” Ryan starts. “I don’t have enough saved. I decided I was going to join the armed forces. They’ll pay for my education.”
“Over my dead body.”
“Excuse me?” Ryan picks up his head so that his chin isn’t hanging against his chest. He can see Kirsten’s shoulders have squared back. Her back is rigid. She’s in fighting mode.
“No child of mine is joining the army. I don’t care how unpatriotic that sounds, but we’re at war, Ryan, and you’re going to be deployed to Iraq if you join. Absolutely not.”
“I can’t afford Berkley.” Ryan’s voice cracks. He hadn’t thought much about Kirsten and Sandy’s reaction, but this had never entered his mind. In the back of his mind he had hoped or rather thought they’d understand and would —
“What? Did you think I’d just pat you on the back and send you on your way?”
“I’m going to turn eighteen —“
“I don’t care. I’m still your mother.”
The words fly out of her mouth. Kirsten doesn’t want to take them back, but she’s not sure how Ryan will react to them. She doesn’t know if he realizes how much she’s grown to love him. She bites her lip. No. How could he know? She’s never really told him. She thinks that she’s shown him, but that was all thrown out the window at the intervention last summer. They’ve never regained their footing since then.
Silence fills the kitchen.
“It’s the only thing I could think of,” Ryan breaks the stillness in the room. “What I’ve saved will barely cover books.”
“We thought you understood.” Sandy finally speaks, recovering from his initial shock. “You’re our son now. We’re going to pay for college.”
“I can’t ask you to do that. It’s too much. Especially after three years of private school.”
“That’s what parents do.” Sandy rubbed Ryan’s arm. “We want to do it for you.”
Ryan shakes his head. “No.”
“Then it’s a loan!” Kirsten jumps in. “No due date. No interest. But I’m not going to argue with you anymore. You will not defer your acceptance to Berkley and you will certainly not join the army.”
Ryan looks up with an imploring look at Sandy, thinking his foster father would understand. Sandy is always saying how he and Ryan are cut from the same deck. That Sandy made it on his own. Sandy knows where Ryan is coming from. But there is no comprehension in his guardian’s eyes.
Understanding Ryan’s look, Sandy shakes his head. “Sorry kid. I’m with Kirsten on this one. I don’t want you joining the army or air force or whatever. Not when we have more than enough money.”
“It’s too much.”
“You earned this, Ryan.” Kirsten put a hand on Ryan’s shoulder. “You have worked so hard these past few years to pull yourself together and to make something of yourself. I’m not going to let some extremist terrorist in Iraq end that. I’m too selfish for that. It’s hard enough letting Seth go East and you move eight hours away. I’m still trying to figure out how I can make both obf you attend USC while you still live at home.”
Clearly not comfortable with how the conversation is going, Ryan sighs.
Kirsten squeezes his arm and smiles to soften her harsh tone of voice. “If I have to, I’ll bribe your doctor to lie on your medical history. I’ll make him write you have epilepsy or something that won’t make you fit for service.”
Looking into her eyes, Ryan thinks she would do that. He sits up straight as if throwing in the towel. “Okay, you win. I’ll take a loan from you.”
Kirsten flings her arms around Ryan’s neck. Red rushes to his face. Her bursts of physical affection, still take him by surprise.
“Good. Because Dr. Garvey is highly ethical and bribing him would have taken most of what we’ve put aside for your tuition.”
Laughing, Ryan tries to figure out a way to become comfortable with this choice.