To Ms. Anna Jin Sun Moore, 8372 California Street 94118, Anna read on the off-white envelope. The return address read PACOMA and had some sort of special stamp next to it, nothing else. She dug her nail under the corner of the seal and pulled out several sheets of three-fold paper. The first was a short letter that read:
Dear Ms. Moore,
Congratulations! You have been recognized as an outstanding student by the evaluators at PACOMA. Enclosed is an application should you wish to attend our prestigious school. However, before you apply, it is very important for you to understand the nature of the education you will be receiving at PACOMA. PACOMA is a school for the magical arts. You’re magical talent has been recognized by the board of muggle admissions. At our school you will receive two years of general magical training and then will be tested for Ordinary Wizarding Level. After completing your OWLs, you will choose a specific magical profession to focus on in the continuation of your studies. If the appropriate credits are met, you will graduate and receive your MD (Magical Degree). Because of the unfortunate Joanne Rowling incident in the UK the muggle relations sector of the US National Magical Government asks you to keep this letter a secret from your parents, friends, siblings and any other muggles or undefined persons. Please think carefully through your options.
Deborah McDonald (head of Muggle Admissions Office)
~Palo Alto College of Magical Arts~
Anna gaped openly at the letter and sat down on her bed, reading it through several more times. She had been waiting for this letter since she was 9, but she thought the dream was lost. You don’t get a Hogwarts (wait, PACOMA) letter when you’re seventeen! You get one when you’re eleven. She had spent seven years waiting for this letter without even knowing there was still hope. Wait—did this mean she believed the letter? She wasn’t sure what to do with herself. Just as she did with all her other problems, she slept on it. But this time, she didn’t read Harry Potter first. She didn’t need to. She dreamt of him anyway.
The next day there was another letter waiting for Anna on her bed. She picked it up wondering sleepily how it had gotten there. Maybe by owl, she thought.
This letter had the same little stamp in the return address corner, but there was something different about it. She frowned at the handwriting. Yes, she decided this was definitely in Kate’s handwriting. She sat up in alarm. Did the PACOMA people kidnap her sister? She tore the letter open and read through it in about three seconds, the frown on her face deepening as she read.
Sorry I couldn’t call, but I need only you to know about this. I heard from a friend that you would be getting your PACOMA letter soon so I wrote you as soon as I could. I just want to make sure you fill out the application. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you earlier that I actually attend PACOMA and not Stanford, but we didn’t know if you were a witch yet. I’m sure you are doubtful of the seriousness of the letter just as I was when I first received it. I think I would have just recycled it if Abby hadn’t gotten one too (She saw the envelope on my desk and pulled the same one out of her pocket). So I am writing you now to make sure that you don’t just throw away the letter. Anna—live your dream. It has been handed straight to you.
Anna’s thoughts were a furious labyrinth of logic and childhood dreams. She was a smart girl. Really smart actually. But she was also a dreamer. It sort of came with her writing skill, or maybe the writing came with the dreaming. Her futile attempts to untangle her thoughts were interrupted when her mother walked into the room with a basket of laundry.
“Oh, sorry, sweetie, I didn’t realize you were in here. Just putting away some laundry.”
“Mmhhmf,” Anna mumbled.
“What are you reading?” her mother asked nonchalantly.
“Uh…” Anna snapped back into the real world. “Just a note.”
“Someone at school”
“Ooooh,” her mother sang, wiggling her eyebrows.
“No, ehhh, Mom, it’s not that,” said Anna, “You know I’m not into the culture of high school relationships. They’re so fake and shallow. I’m waiting for something real.”
“I see. That’s very mature of you. Here are your cloths.”
“Thanks I’ll put them away myself.”
Ew. Embarrassing, she thought. Anna opened Kate’s letter again and reread it. She paced the room, massaging her aching head. Well, she thought, what was there to lose? She dug into her deepest desk drawer and pulled out the PACOMA application.
That was the easiest application she had done that year. The only part that was different than normal was that at the end it told her that the PACOMA people would send her an acceptance letter from Stanford to give her parents. That was a relief. If it was a letter anywhere else her family would have freaked.
“So,” said Madi suggestively. Anna gave her a suspicious look. “When’s the celebration party?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Anna replied, defiant. Madi made a pouty face.
“Kate threw a huge party when she got accepted,” Madi whined. “Come on I know your parents will let you have one!”
“Please, please, please Annie Bananie.” Ooo, she pulled the Annie Bananie card. That is some pretty intense begging.
“Only if you don’t call me that,” Anna said through gritted teeth.
“Yay! I love you too, buddy.” Madi hugged and nuzzled Anna simultaneously. She rolled her eyes.
Nora, always the sensible, stable one, said, “I think some relaxation will be good for you, Anna. Have a chill hangout, not a full on party.”
“Alright,” Anna said, “but only after Kate gets home for the holidays.” She was starting to get used to the idea of an acceptance party, even if she wasn’t really going to Stanford.
Her acceptance letter to PACOMA was lying on her bed when she got home from school. She tore it open to find a surprisingly normal acceptance letter. The only difference was that the letters in the PACOMA logo danced around the page and spelled themselves out randomly. Anna smiled at them as they gathered where her fingers bent the paper. It was like on a computer screen except they followed no pattern. She had expected to be more surprised when she encountered magic for the first time. But her lifetime of hope, her childhood of dreams, for the world of a book had helped her to accept what few others could with hardly a wince as she transitioned for good.
December came more quickly than Anna could have thought possible and then Kate was home again.
“I missed you so much,” said Anna, embracing her sister, “especially in the past few months.”
“I missed you too. I’m so sorry you had to go through all this without me. I was distraught for weeks, even after I got the acceptance letter with the moving logo on it. I just couldn’t figure out why my world had been so rudely uprooted. It was so hard to get through it.”
“It’s ok, Uhn-nee. I got through it pretty easy. All the years of hoping and pretending that I was going to get my letter made it a lot easier when I actually got it,” Anna laughed. “Your letter helped out a lot, too,” she added.
“That’s good,” she glanced at Anna warmly. “Here comes Abby. She’s staying with us for a while.”
“Her parents moved into a smaller house when she left and she wants to have a bed to sleep in.”
Anna nodded and skipped down the stairs to help Abby with the rest of the luggage.
“So, guys, I know you are expert party planners,” Anna said when they were both inside with all their things. “I need an amazing but chill acceptance party to happen in two weeks.” She dropped her voice to a whisper, “and maybe I was thinking that you guys could invite some of your friends. If you know what I mean.”
Kate and Abby looked at each other as mischievous grins spread across their faces.
“Uh, guys,” squeaked Anna, now apprehensive at her request.
“We were hoping you would ask us that,” said Abby. Kate giggled.
“You’re kinda scaring me here.”