Run, Girl (If You Can)

Chapter 20 - Keeley's Dream

Keeley changed out of her uniform in favor of a worn, comfortable pair of jeans and a purple and white polka dotted sweater and put on the winter gear necessary to combat the chill before heading back to the subway after texting her dad that she was meeting a friend to celebrate.

Sometimes it felt like she spent more time on the subway than off it but she didn't really mind. Keeley was a New Yorker through and through. She loved the bustle of the city!

Anywhere else would be far too quiet. Even though Boston was a large city, her years there didn't feel quite the same. It was comforting knowing she didn't have to leave her home this time.

Mom and Pop style pizza joints were a New York staple and something Keeley missed fiercely when she went away for college. It seemed fitting to celebrate changing which university she went to by going to one now.

She waited about fifteen minutes for her friend to arrive and passed the time people watching. Keeley always wondered what people's stories were as they hurried by.

Where were they going? What was the rush? Sometimes she even imagined scenarios for them, like how maybe the woman in the long red scarf and beret was trying to make it to the airport and escape to France because she was an international jewel thief.

"Keeley!" Lydia shouted as she opened the front door with an accompanying blast of wind.

"You made it! Let's go get a table."

Ten minutes later, the pizzas were ordered and they toasted to each other with their root beer floats.

"To Lydia's glorious escape to the beaches of California! Not only did she get into a prestigious school, she got a half-tuition scholarship so her parents can't complain about it!" Keeley giggled, a little giddy with success.

Lydia was caught up in the moment too and clinked their glasses together so forcefully a bit of foam spilled over the sides.

"To Keeley's future success staying the craziest city in the world!"

They both gulped down half their floats in one go and grinned at each other.

"So remind me what you want to study again."

Lydia stirred her straw around before answering. "Sociology. Eventually I want a master's in public administration so I can do something about trying to make life easier for people who need to utilize welfare programs."

Keeley smiled, thinking of her friend's passionate nature. "You'd be great at that."

She seemed pleased. "You think so? Oh yeah, you're doing something with biology, right?"

"I want to get a PhD in developmental genetics eventually so right now I'm torn between majoring in genetics right off the bat or doing biotechnology instead. They share similar classes so I might just do biotech and minor in genetics."

"Dang girl. That's a lot of science."

"I know, right?" Keeley asked happily.

Her little brother Kaleb was born with cystic fibrosis and spent his short life constantly going in and out of doctors' offices. When she learned about Punnett squares and recessive genes in 7th grade biology and the teacher used the disease as an example, she was fascinated and decided to look up all the information about it that she could. She wanted to try and find a cure when she grew up so Kaleb could have a better quality of life.

Keeley was devastated he didn't live long enough to see that happen. Her sweet brother was only ten years old when he and their mother were shot by an addict looking for drug money on their way home from the hospital. If he hadn't been so sick, they wouldn't have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

She existed in a hazy cloud of grief for the next three years before coming back to herself. Once she did, Keeley devoted herself to studying science so she could find a way to prevent diseases like cystic fibrosis from ever happening in the first place.

What began as a personal mission turned into true passion over time. Her love of science saved her from drowning in her loss.

She mentally berated herself for giving all of that up for someone so ultimately insignificant in the end. An entire life wasted.

Lydia shook her head indulgently. "I've never met a bigger science geek than you so you should be okay. But we both have a lot of sleepless nights ahead of us. I've heard college is ten times harder than high school."

"I say bring it on," Keeley said confidently. The conversation stopped momentarily because the pizza arrived.

In between slices of pizza they speculated about what college life would be like.

She missed out on a lot of the college experience by spending all her free time chasing after Aaron. Whenever she wasn't studying, working, or sleeping she was with him.

She had no interest in love since it burned her so badly before but at least she could join a club or participate in campus events. Lydia, who had no such worries, looked forward to meeting college boys.

"I've heard boys in California are hot," she said dreamily.

Keeley laughed. "Where did you hear this exactly?"


"Because you can totally trust everything you see on television," she said dryly.

"How would you know anyway, you've never been interested in boys," Lydia sniffed before something dawned on her. "You aren't gay, are you?"

"No, I'm not gay. I'm just...not over my first love, I guess."

Her friend's eyes widened and she leaned forward with her elbows on the table in anticipation. "Do tell."

"There's not much TO tell," Keeley hedged. She should've known better than to bring that up. Lydia was the nosy type. There was no way she would believe the truth.

"It was a long time ago. I was young and naive, following him everywhere until he got used to having me around. I gave up everything for him but in the end he cheated on me and threw me away. So now I'm focusing on getting my dreams back. I have no desire to be tied down again."

"Guys can be such jerks," Lydia muttered as she clenched her fist on the table. "But just because one guy was bad doesn't mean they all are. You're still so young; you'll definitely meet someone better someday!"

Could she really? Keeley didn't love him anymore but she had never loved anyone else. All she wanted was to reach her previously unfulfilled goals.

Maybe once she had she might meet a man who accepted her the way she was and could make her heart race. She had her entire life ahead of her—she had no intention of dying again at thirty-one.

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