Home > The Sun Is Also a Star(4)

The Sun Is Also a Star(4)
Author: Nicola Yoon

I walk through the door quickly before he changes his mind. He doesn’t look at me, just turns and starts down a series of hallways. I follow silently until he stops in front of Karen Whitney’s office.

“Wait here,” he says to me. He’s only gone for a few seconds, but when he returns he’s holding a red folder—my file.

We walk down another hallway until we finally come to his office. “My name is Lester Barnes,” he says. “Have a seat.”

“I’ve been—”

He holds up a hand to silence me.

“Everything I need to know is in this file.” He pinches the corner of the folder and shakes it at me. “Do yourself a favor and stay quiet while I read it.”

His desk is so neat you can tell he prides himself on it. He’s got a matching set of silver-colored desk accessories—a pen holder, trays for incoming and outgoing mail, and even a business card holder with LRB engraved on it. Who even uses business cards anymore? I reach forward, take one, and slip it into my pocket.

The tall cabinet behind him is a landscape of color-coded stacks of files. Each file holds someone’s life. Are the colors of the files as obvious as I think they are? My file is Rejection Red.

After a few minutes he looks up at me. “Why are you here?”

“Karen—Ms. Whitney—told me to come back. She’s been kind to me. She said maybe there was something.”

“Karen’s new.” He says it like he’s explaining something to me, but I don’t know what it is.

“Your family’s last appeal was rejected. The deportation stands, Ms. Kingsley. You and your family will have to leave tonight at ten p.m.”

He closes the file and pushes a box of tissues toward me in anticipation of my tears. But I’m not a cryer.

I didn’t cry when my father first told us about the deportation orders, or when any of the appeals were rejected.

I didn’t cry last winter when I found out my ex-boyfriend Rob was cheating on me.

I didn’t even cry yesterday when Bev and I said our official goodbye. We’d both known for months that this was coming. I didn’t cry, but still—it wasn’t easy. She would’ve come with me today, but she’s in California with her family, touring Berkeley and a couple of other state schools.

“Maybe you’ll still be here when I get back,” she insisted after our seventeenth hug. “Maybe everything will work out.”

Bev’s always been relentlessly optimistic, even in the face of dire odds. She’s the kind of girl who buys lottery tickets. I’m the kind of girl who makes fun of people who buy lottery tickets.

So. I’m definitely not going to start crying now. I stand up and gather my things and head toward the door. It takes all my energy to continue not being a cryer. In my head I hear my mother’s voice.

Don’t let you pride get the better of you, Tasha.

I turn around. “So there’s really nothing you can do to help me? I’m really going to have to leave?” I say it in such a small voice that I barely hear myself. Mr. Barnes doesn’t have any trouble hearing. Listening to quiet, miserable voices is in his job description.

He taps the closed file with his fingers. “Your dad’s DUI—”

“Is his problem. Why do I have to pay for his mistake?”

My father. His one night of fame led to a DUI led to us being discovered led to me losing the only place I call home.

“You’re still here illegally,” he says, but his voice is not as hard as it was before.

I nod but don’t say anything, because now I really will cry. I put my headphones on and head for the door again.

“I’ve been to your country. I’ve been to Jamaica,” he says. He’s smiling at the memory of his trip. “I had a nice time. Everything is irie there, man. You’ll be all right.”

Psychiatrists tell you not to bottle up your feelings because they’ll eventually explode. They’re not wrong. I’ve been angry for months. It feels like I’ve been angry since the beginning of time. Angry at my father. Angry at Rob, who told me just last week that we should be able to be friends despite “everything,” i.e. the fact that he cheated on me.

Not even Bev has escaped my anger. All fall she’s been worrying about where to apply to college based on where her boyfriend—Derrick—is applying. She regularly checks the time difference between different college locations. Do long-distance relationships work? she asks every few days. The last time she asked I told her maybe she shouldn’t base her entire future on her current high school boyfriend. She did not take it well. Bev thinks they’ll last forever. I think they’ll last through graduation. Maybe into the summer. It took me doing her physics homework for weeks to make it up to her.

And now a man who has probably spent no more than a week in Jamaica is telling me that everything will be irie.

I take my headphones off. “Where did you go?” I ask.

“Negril,” he says. “Very nice place.”

“Did you leave the hotel grounds?”

“I wanted to, but my—”

“But your wife didn’t want to because she was scared, right? The guidebook said it was best to stay on the resort grounds.” I sit down again.

He rests his chin on the back of his clasped hands. For the first time since this conversation began, he’s not in charge of it.

“Was she concerned about her safety?” I put air quotes around safety, as if it weren’t really a thing to be concerned about. “Or maybe she just didn’t want to ruin her vacation mood by seeing how poor everyone really is.” The anger I’ve suppressed rises from my belly and into my throat.

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