You Asked for Perfect

You Asked for Perfect

Laura Silverman

      For Raya Siddiqi—

   You brightened up my life.

   Rest easy, sweet girl.


My feet pound the ground, and sweat drips down my face. With four miles down and one to go, I ease my pace to a comfortable jog and switch from my Crime and Punishment audiobook to The Who. All around me, the neighborhood yawns awake, people walking dogs and piling their kids into cars. The sun, which was creeping out of darkness when I left home, now lounges low in the sky.

Finally, I make it back to my driveway. Breathing hard, I massage a stitch in my side and check my phone to find I ran a minute faster than average. Nice. I crack my neck, then head into the house. Mom left early this morning. She’s a journalist for the Atlanta Standard and was muttering something about a two-faced politician as she rushed to get ready. And my sister is already at elementary school, so Dad and I are the only ones home.

I find him futzing around in the kitchen, already dressed for work in gray slacks and a lavender button-up. “Morning, Ariel!” He spins to face me. His hair, dark and curly like mine, probably should’ve been cut weeks ago. “Eggs? Oatmeal? Smoothie?”

“Smoothie would be awesome,” I say. “Shower. Be back down in a minute.”

“You can take five minutes if you want!” he shouts after me as I climb the stairs two at a time. In my bathroom, I strip then step into the shower. Icy water blasts me before it has a chance to warm, and my muscles protest the cold. “Crap, stretches,” I mutter.

I press both palms against the shower wall and stagger my legs, bending my right knee and extending my left calf. As the water warms up and cascades over me, I bow my head, taking a few long breaths and stilling for a moment. But then it’s time to switch legs, then time for my quads. I wash quickly after.

A few minutes later, I’m back in the kitchen, a bit uncomfortable in damp jeans and holding my Fleetwood Mac T-shirt so it doesn’t also get wet.

“New look for school?” Dad asks, sliding a berry smoothie across the counter. He’s drinking a kale one. Nasty.

“Yeah, all the cool kids are going shirtless these days.” I climb onto the stool at the breakfast bar. My calculus textbook is on the counter, notebook wedged between the pages. I open it with one hand while checking my phone with the other. Water from my damp hair drips down my neck as I read a message from Sook, my best friend.

Running five minutes late

I text back: No problem

And it isn’t a problem. She’s always late. I’d only be screwed if she got here on time. I copy a problem down in my notebook. Usually I do well in math, but there’s a long summer between Calculus AB and BC, so it’s hard remembering old material.

“Any plans for the weekend?” Dad asks.

I register the question in the back of my head as I stare at my notebook. “Um, usual, I guess.”

“We have synagogue tomorrow. And your sister’s soccer game is Sunday. Should we make signs since it’s the first game of the year? Embarrass her a bit?”

My pencil inches down the page. Crap. What’s the next step again? There’s a quiz today. I thought I had this down last night. I glance back at the book, while grabbing my graphing calculator. I already did—

“Ariel, signs? What do you think?”


Dad stares at me like I came from an alien planet and not his own sperm. “You know,” he says, “I read an article that said too much studying is detrimental to learning.”

“I don’t study too much,” I reply. “Besides, you were the one up at midnight working last night.”

“Yes, but I’m an adult, and my brain is already developed. Can I at least help you out with anything?”

“I’m good, Dad.”

Workaholics shouldn’t try to convince other people to work less. Dad is a civil rights attorney, and he’s been known to disappear until three in the morning to work on a case.

If he can stay up late, so can I. Besides, it’s just sleep. It’s not like I’m taking pills to stay up like some kids at school. That stuff is dangerous.

“Drink your smoothie,” Dad says.

“I am.” I glance at the glass. It’s full.

Dad raises an eyebrow.

I take a sip as my phone buzzes. An email from my safety school. Seems like a mass email, but better safe than sorry. I save it to my college applications folder, then tap my calendar to stare at the only date that really matters. November 1, less than two months from now, when my Harvard application is due.

My phone buzzes again.

Sook: I’m here

I slap my textbook closed and shove everything into my bag. “See you tonight,” I tell Dad, sliding off the stool.

“Ariel, smoothie. Please?”

Crap. Forgot. My stomach growls. I pick up the cup, push the straw aside, and chug the whole thing. “Ugh.” I squeeze my eyes shut. “Brain freeze.”

I’m heading out the front door when Dad’s voice calls out again. “Ariel. Shirt!”

I glance down at my bare chest. Oops.


“Coffee?” Sook asks, passing me a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts.

“You are”—I crack a giant yawn—“the best.”

Laura Silverman's Books