The streets of New York were already abuzz with pedestrians at an early hour on a Friday morning. As always, it was difficult to maneuver between the masses, many of whom were not in the mood to be bothered. Most were on their way to their various occupations and others were heading home from a long night on the job. The heat was steadily increasing as the sun rose higher in the clear, cloudless sky.

The anthropology classes at New York University began in approximately one hour, and its most dedicated student still lay in bed. Whitney Everlette moaned as she flipped over onto her back, caught in a deep, vivid dream. The comforter that had been neatly made before she folded it back to sleep the previous night lay in a heap on the carpeted floor. The sheet that remained on the bed was tied in knots about her legs. Whitney, however, was completely oblivious to the situation. She moved once more, only this time onto her side.

"I don't know how much more I can take of this, Jeff…" Bitter sobs formed about the words. The voice was pained far beyond that of dejection. It was a profound sadness induced by years of hardships and unheard prayers. A woman bowed her head, trying her best to conceal the tears she was so ashamed of showing. Her heart ached, the evidence of which was etched onto her face. Every day was a trial. Every day was harder than the previous one.

"Oh, pull yourself together, Eileen," a voice from the other room replied. It wasn't entirely cold, but it wasn't exactly comforting either. "You go through this every time you speak to your boss, every time the mortgage is due, every time you get caught in downtown traffic..." The man started the coffee maker. It was going to be a long night. His wife wouldn't stop complaining until far into the night. When the tears started, the frustration would start soon after. And then after that, the threats…

"I'm serious, Jeff." She looked up for a moment, tears rolling down her cheeks. "How is it that you can be so calm about this? Our house is going to be repossessed if we don't find someone who will give us a loan soon…And my boss refuses to give me any sort of raise, no matter how much I work." Again her head fell into her hands.

"Eileen," the man's voice grew more frustrated, "I told you already, we'll find a way to work through this. We've been in worse situations and managed just fine."

Whitney groaned as she turned back over onto her back. Despite how much she moved, her mind could not be drawn from the captivating scene in her head. It was one that she knew so well. One that, no matter what she tried to do, could not be changed. After all, it was impossible to change the past. A shiver ran down her spine and into her toes as she subconsciously groped for the sheet without any success.

"How can you call living off welfare and food stamps 'living'?" she questioned. Not only were her tears bitter now but her voice was, too. "If we don't get some money coming in soon, we'll be eating in a soup kitchen."

"I already told you," his voice was firm, as if he were quickly losing his patience with the argument and the woman in the other room. "Things will work out."

"Perhaps things wouldn't be so difficult if you would actually go out and look for a job," came the cool response. The tears had temporarily stopped, but it didn't hide the fact that they were still pooling in her eyes.

Jeff straightened his back and locked his jaw. He tried his best to keep control over his temper. He laid aside the coffee cup before he had a good mind to fling it across the kitchen. "What do you suggest I do?" he replied. "I can't just snap my fingers and receive a new job. I've been to the unemployment office three times this week already." He paced the small area between the wall and counter, kneading his forehead. "Like it matters, anyway," he continued. "Any money that I do manage to bring through the door, you spend in a heartbeat."

"So now it's my fault?" Eileen retorted. Any substance of sadness present in her voice was now gone and replaced by annoyance. "I see groceries as a necessity, Jeff. And I had to take Whit shopping for the new school year. She's out grown all of her clothes and the ones she hasn't are riddled with holes. Goodwill only has so much to choose from."

Jeff stalked into the living room, glowering at his wife. "You know Whit isn't the problem here," he replied. "I'm sure our budget is waning more from your frequent trips to the bar rather than a few pairs of jeans." He didn't bother to keep the animosity from his voice.

The words had stung, that much was evident. Eileen, who could think of no words to defend herself, dropped her gaze to the floor, a thoroughly hurt expression on her face. "You know I've been trying very hard to quit…" Her voice was no louder than a whisper.

Jeff could not bring himself to feel any remorse. "Sure," he agreed, his voice dripping sarcasm. "You've been trying very hard. You've only been to the bar…what? Three? Four times this week?"

Eileen was on her feet at once, enraged. "What the hell do you want from me?" she declared. Her voice rang throughout the quiet room. "I've been trying my best to cut back. I've been to AA meetings. I checked myself into Rehab four months ago!"

Jeff's voice was stern, though he dropped his sarcasm. "You were doing so well, Eileen." There was pain in his deep blue eyes and a genuine love for the alcoholic before him. "You were so close. Even though I lost my job and things look difficult…you can't just run to the bottle every time the road gets a little bumpy."

"A little bumpy," Eileen echoed. "Things are worse than that, Jeff."

"I know, I know," he replied, running thin on patience. "But my point still remains. You're too dependent on a buzz to keep you from hurting." He shrugged. "You could have kept going to church with Whit and I. You seemed to like it there, and it was helping you…drastically. I noticed, believe me. Whit and I both did."

"Church," Eileen scoffed. Bitterness resounded in every fiber of her being. "Nothing but a bunch of crap and fairy tales. You know that as well as I do. There was never such thing as Eden. Noah could have never fit every animal onto the ark. No one could ever survive in a whale or a lion's den or a furnace. There's no such place as heaven or hell, and even if there was," she spat, "I definitely wouldn't pray to some imaginary being for forgiveness for something I didn't even do."

Eileen's words hurt Jeff nearly as bad as his words had hurt her. He would have been furious if he didn't feel so sorry for his wife. She had been doing well. He had been able to see an almost immediate change in her demeanor after her first Sunday service. She smiled more than she had in a long time. There had been a purpose in her stride. She had laughed her contagious straight-from-the-stomach laugh. He had been able to communicate with her without an argument surfacing. She had been the woman he had fallen in love with again. He stared at her, the frown deepening. What had happened to his Eileen? Had the years really taken that much of a toll on her nerves? Or was it something more?

He sighed. "It's a pity you think that way," he replied, his tone even. He couldn't bear to be angry with her when he knew that the love of his life would be damned to hell if she didn't change. The sheer thought was almost too much to bear. "Maybe one day you'll understand God's love for you. Despite the fact that you don't believe, I haven't given up on you, honey. And neither has Whit. She prays for you every night."

Eileen gave a humorless laugh. "We'll see how much good that'll do. If AA and Rehab aren't helping, prayer sure isn't going to."

"It's not helping because you have to change, too, Eileen. You have to put some sort of effort into it."

"You know, if you had as much faith in me as you have in that imaginary god of yours, perhaps we wouldn't be having this conversation."

Jeff threw her a glare, "What is that supposed to mean?"

"It means that I'm done. I'm finished. I'm through. I can't take it anymore!" Her voice rose with each declaration. "You have to have noticed that our marriage is stale. Hell, other than a document it's practically nonexistent. We haven't touched each other in months."

"Are you saying you want a divorce?" he asked after a few seconds of silence.

"No, I already told you. I'm finished." And with that Eileen turned on her heel and headed upstairs to her bedroom.

BAM!!!

Whitney gasped for breath as she sat bolt upright, her dream coming to an abrupt end. It took her a few moments to regain her composure. She ran a hand through her disheveled, short, sandy-blonde hair and willed her heart to return to a steady rhythm. Swallowing, she wiped the perspiration from her brow. The dream had been more vivid than the previous ones. No matter how many times her mind went back to the memory, it never failed to surprise her how much she seemed to have forgotten over the years.

It was then that the honking from out on the busy streets caught her attention, as well as the unusually bright sunlight emitted into the room. For the second time that morning, fear ran through her as she chanced a glance at the alarm clock that rested on the side table: 7:32. Whitney muttered a curse under her breath as she jumped from her perch on the bed, ignoring the sheets that had piled onto the floor. She would have to fix her bed later. With less than forty-five minutes to make it down to the university, she couldn't spare any time. Without taking the time to rummage through her dresser drawers, Whitney dressed in the clothes she had worn the previous day, as they were on the top of the clothes pile in the hamper. She stepped into a pair of sandals as she ran her fingers through her hair and snatched up her textbooks that lay open on the floor by the bed. With one last apprehensive glance at the clock, she threw her books into her backpack and ran out of the room and out of her apartment, barely taking time to lock the door behind her.

Whitney settled her backpack over her shoulders as she walked outside and onto the busy sidewalk. Immediately she regretted her choice of attire for the day. With the sun beating down and a long walk around the university, she wished that she would have dressed in shorts or at least capris rather than jeans. The tank-top would keep her cool, though, if she didn't get sunburned beforehand. She made it a couple blocks down the sidewalk before reaching her regular bus-stop. Since she was running slim on time, she wouldn't be able to walk the entire way. Hopefully, there would be another bus coming by within the next few minutes. She nervously looked both ways down the street, while checking in with her wristwatch every few seconds. After what seemed an eternity – and was in reality only eight minutes - a bus pulled up.

Whitney pushed her way past a few pedestrians and swiftly stepped onto the bus. With a grimace, she noticed that she had boarded the bus driven by her least favorite driver. He wore a frown as he watched her and a couple others climb on. Whitney smiled at him, though it didn't do anything to brighten his disposition. She flashed her bus pass and went to take a seat near the front, so that when the school came into view, she could jump off and race to her class – at least that was her plan.

By the time the south side of the university came into view, over thirty minutes had passed by and Whitney had given up hope of getting to class on time. She stood from her spot – along with several others – when the bus came to a halt in front of the stop. Immediately, Whitney flew off and entered the NYU campus. There were few people walking about, as most classes were now in session. She glanced down at her watch as she half-walked and half-ran, and her frown deepened. Dr. Morrison wasn't one to condone tardiness, especially while refreshing the class for finals the following week. In fact, it was written on the syllabus that if you couldn't stay still for the entire class, it was best not to come at all. When she reached the anthropology building and climbed the stairs to room 419, she hoped that she wouldn't be interrupting anything too important – and that her professor was in a good enough mood to tolerate the interruption. Out of breath from running up the stairs with a thirty pound backpack weighing her down, she tried the knob and, as expected, the door was locked. She knocked with a groan.

From the window outside the classroom, Whitney saw that the student sitting nearest to the door seemed to take pity on her and opened the door. He frowned, took a quick glance towards what she supposed was Dr. Morrison and opened the door. She thanked him barely above a whisper as she stepped in. As she feared, Dr. Morrison had already started his lecture for the day. He stopped in mid-sentence, his face darkening a bit. Whitney held her breath, hoping she wouldn't be thrown out of class after a semester of perfect attendance. When Dr. Morrison saw her, however, his expression changed to one of surprise.

He spoke, a brow raised, "It's nice of you to join us, Ms. Everlette." His tone was one of disapproval, but she knew from other stories that his greeting was almost angelic compared to what others had gotten.

Whitney bit her lip. At least the situation was showing some promise. He wasn't yelling at her…yet. "Sorry, sir. There was quite a bit of traffic this morning." No need to tell him details that weren't any his business.

"You are aware of my tardiness policy?"

"Yes, sir," she replied, refraining from spilling out any further excuses. It wasn't very becoming for a soon-to-be college senior.

Dr. Morrison narrowed his dark eyes and watched her for a moment. Whitney met his gaze, straightened her back, and remained stationary at the door. She wasn't going to leave unless absolutely necessary. Dr. Morrison finally dropped his brusque façade and motioned her to sit down. "Don't be late again, Ms. Everlette, or you'll be locked out for good."

"Yes, sir." Whitney was smiling as she answered, however. She knew she would get her way the moment she stepped through the door. Dr. Morrison was not only her professor for her Religious and Cultural Anthropology classes but her academic advisor as well. They knew each other on a more personal level, as they had spent the last several weeks in meetings narrowing her thesis ideas. There was no way he could have turned her away, especially since it was her first offense.

Whitney sat down in her usual spot as Dr. Morrison once more continued with the lecture. Near her were her two best friends she had met through the department: Melissa and Ethan. Ethan sat to her right and Melissa directly behind her. Whitney half-listened to the lesson while she pulled out her notebook. "Now, what is so unique about the English language," Dr. Morrison started, "is that we can use certain words to describe two completely different areas of knowledge. As most of you learned in fifth grade English, we also refer to this as a metaphor. Two anthropologists, Edward Sapir and James Lee Whorf, were especially praised for their works on extending this to other cultures…"

Whitney's attention turned to her note-taking. With a fast hand, she scribbled the words down, hoping to get the main facts before the professor turned the slide of the Power Point. Before she could finish, though, Ethan, who had been bent over his own notebook, shoved a piece of paper in her direction.

What took you so long?

Whitney glanced up at Dr. Morrison before reaching for the proffered letter. With a small sigh, she quickly wrote a reply.

I accidentally slept in.

Really? That's not like you. Something the matter?

Whitney was beginning to grow a little irritated. Not so much with the notes but the content within them. She had known Ethan for over two years and even in the beginning of their friendship, he was able to tap into hers and Melissa's emotions alike. If they weren't so similar in personality, Whitney might have even thought him datable. She pushed the thoughts aside and turned again to the note. It was best to lie rather than recall her dream at the moment.

No, I just stayed up late studying for finals is all. I really need an A in Anatomy to keep up my scholarship, especially with grad school coming up, too.

Finals are still a week away – and a free weekend included. You have plenty of time to study. Are you sure it's not something else?

You can never start studying too early. And I'm fine. Really.

Ethan gave her a pointed look after reading, scribbled something down, and gave it back to her.

I don't believe you are telling me the whole truth.

Can we just get back to work?

Fine, fine…

*************************

Three hours and two classes later, Whitney was thoroughly tired from sitting too long and was certain that she would succumb to Carpal Tunnel by the time her graduation rolled around. She flexed her fingers a bit as she retraced the steps of the anthropology building she knew so well. She had learned from Dr. Morrison that he needed to talk to her during his office hours. At first she had worried that he was still angry due to her tardiness, but, when she asked what the meeting concerned, he was willing to divulge that it concerned her thesis. It was both exciting and unnerving at the same time. If her thesis was approved, she would be able to get to start on her research officially. However, if it was declined, which was quite possible as well, she would have to rethink what exactly she wanted to do.

There were few people at the building since it was so close to lunchtime, for which Whitney was thankful. No one was around to see her wring her hands and constantly brush her fingers through her hair in apprehension. She made a sharp left turn and arrived at Dr. Morrison's office door, which was slightly ajar. She could see him from outside. He was bent over a few papers and completely oblivious to the visitor. She gave a slight knock and pushed the door open a fraction.

"Dr. Morrison?" she questioned. "You wanted to see me?"

He looked up and this time gave her a slight smile before motioning her inside. "Yes, Ms. Everlette. Come on in."

"About earlier this morning," she started as she entered and sat down in a chair opposite her advisor. "I'm very sorry. I - "

He held up a hand, gesturing for her to stop in the middle of her explanation. "If it had been anyone else but you, I would have sent them back out. You best be glad you are one of the department's best and brightest students."

Whitney nodded, knowing that the matter would be put behind them. "You said you got some information about my thesis proposal?" She furrowed her brow. "Please tell me it's good news?"

The professor leaned against his desk and heaved a deep sigh. Whether it was from fatigue or regret, Whitney wasn't exactly certain. "Well, I do have some good news. I spoke with the Anthropology board and your thesis has been approved." Whitney immediately brightened. So, she would be able to research what she wanted after all! And after so much planning and thought put into it as well. Dr. Morrison shuffled a few papers on his desk until he found an envelope and handed it over to his student. "I also had this delivered to my mailbox here at the university."

It was then that Whitney realized why his tone was so serious. The envelope was a professional one with her name printed across it in a fine print script. A seal was stamped onto the corner and read "New York University Research Grant." She felt the blood drain from her face and fall completely to her feet. Over three weeks ago, she had filled out several pages, written a paper, and gotten together a few recommendations from some of her more well-known professors. The grant would provide her with over 10,000 dollars in which to put toward her project…and it was the only way she would have enough money to do her thesis.

With a trembling hand, Whitney slid her finger through the corner and created a clean rip across the top. She held her breath as she pulled the letter out. Just read it quickly, she told herself before she could hesitate further. After unfolding the letter, she scanned the top of the paper, her heart pounding in her ears:

Ms. Everlette,

We appreciate your interest in the New York University Research Grant program. As you probably know, this program is very popular among many at the university. We received over five-hundred applications this year from many talented students such as yourself. However, there are only so many grants we can bestow. We regret to inform you that you were not chosen as a recipient, but we do encourage you to apply again next year…

Whitney groaned as she stopped reading. So, there went any hope of researching her thesis…So much work put toward coming up with a topic and then putting it in front of the board. She had gotten her hopes up only to be smashed down before she even had a chance to rejoice over an accepted research topic. It hurt to say the least. All her work had been in vain. I should have seen this coming, she chastised herself. I never should have gotten my hopes up. Tears stung her eyes, but she blinked them back as she balled up the piece of paper. She clenched her teeth and threw the paper wad in the wastebasket beside her.

Dr. Morrison frowned, and silence filled the room for a moment. "I'm sorry, Whitney," he offered, folding his hands in front of him.

Whitney shrugged. "It's not your fault," she replied. "I'm the one who should have put more effort into the classes. Maybe that's why I wasn't picked." Honestly she didn't know why she had been overlooked as a recipient. She had an Honor Roll average in all her classes since her freshman year. She was involved in a few volunteer groups. She had nothing but a good reputation among the anthropology department. What had gone wrong?

Dr. Morrison shook his head, trying to convey to her a point he had been throwing at her ever since she applied. "Whitney, it's not you and it's not your schoolwork. You applied for a grant intended for graduate research and the board reviews the thesis projects. What played against you was your age and the fact that you haven't graduated yet. That and your thesis is more intended for a higher level of schooling."

Whitney was quiet as she digested the information. "But I thought you said that my thesis was commendable."

"It is," the professor replied. "I believe you could do it if you had the means, but not many undergraduates get the chance to work out of the country. I know your interest is in the Latin American countries, but perhaps you could limit your interest to peoples within the United States. If you do, I think that many of the grant providers will seriously consider your application, as it's a little more attainable for younger students."

Whitney listened to his words, but her spirits had been destroyed by the rejection. "It doesn't matter now, though," she replied. "Even if I do switch where I want to study, they've already chosen who to give the grants to."

Dr. Morrison grinned, "They've only chosen the recipients of the graduate grants." He stood from his seat and went to a nearby filing cabinet. "I've been consulting with some of the other major advisors and," he pulled a pamphlet from storage and handed it over to her, "they said that the university is once again starting to offer up an undergraduate grant as well."

Whitney took the pamphlet from him and skimmed through the contents. The program seemed to have gotten quite a bit of attention over five years back when they had first introduced it, or at least that's what the brochure claimed. They had given grants to students from all sorts of majors, many of which went on to very fine graduate programs. She gave a faint smile as she read through a few paragraphs. So, her thesis wasn't completely out of the question after all. A smaller version of her study perhaps, but she could still research culture rather than simply write an enlightened paper. "And you say they're still accepting applications?"

Dr. Morrison nodded, "Yes, they are. Now, granted, you don't receive as much money for this one as you would have the graduate reward. The most they give out for this one is 5,000 dollars. It's not much, but it'll help nonetheless."

Whitney flipped the pamphlet over and saw that his words proved true. Money was money, though. A little bit was always better than none at all. She glanced back up at her professor, "Do you think I'll have a better chance at this one?"

"Absolutely," Dr. Morrison replied. "Your work within the department is impeccable. You're GPA is well over the 3.25 requirement. That, and since you've already had a bit of experience from summer field schools, your application will look even better." He took another sheet of paper from his desk. "Here's the form you'll need to fill out."

Whitney tried to keep from blushing while she took the paper. She loved the fact that her hard work was paying off in more ways than one and hadn't gone unnoticed. Many all-night study sessions and hours among hours in the library dedicated to research had helped morph her into the student she was, admirable reputation and all. She looked the application over. It wasn't unlike the several others she had filled out. She would need to write a paper (already she was deliberating recycling the other one she had written) and needed at least three recommendations from past professors. "It says I'll need some recommendations," she stated. "You wouldn't mind writing one up, would you?" Already she felt a little guilty for even considering the idea, especially after asking three times in the past.

Dr. Morrison chuckled. "I'd be delighted," he replied. "Just keep in mind that the due date for submissions is in three days, too. All of the preparations have to be complete by then. Also, I think it would be best to rethink your original thesis. Try to bend it a bit to where it can fit within the United States population."

Whitney nodded. Perhaps that was the best way to go about trying to start her project. After all, the familial relations within the Latin American countries could no longer be an option, especially since – even if she did get the grant – 5,000 dollars was all she would be allotted. She warded off a sigh as she gathered the papers Dr. Morrison had given her. "Thank you," she told him. "I really appreciate all you're doing for me."

He chuckled. "I'm your advisor. It's my job." He glanced over at the clock on his computer. "You best be heading out if you want to get to lunch."

Whitney glanced at her wristwatch and nodded. Ethan and Melissa would already be at the cafeteria. "You're right." She stood and threw her backpack over her shoulder. "Thanks again. I'll be by in a few days with the papers and a new thesis proposal." The thought of reorganizing almost made her groan.

Dr. Morrison nodded, "See you then."

**************************

The walk over to the cafeteria took longer than usual. Not only was it due to the fact that the noon classes were just getting out, but Whitney's thoughts were also caught up in what had been discussed in the meeting. Sure, she still had a chance to do her thesis work, but it would have to be seriously toned down in order to meet her money standards – and that was if she received the lesser grant. Whitney was still debating other alternatives, with little to no luck, as she opened the cafeteria doors. The strident talking and laughter brought her back to reality. Since she was not that hungry, she decided against standing in the long lines for food. Her gaze fell across the large room, searching for her friends. Finally, she spotted them in the far corner, sitting in one of the few booths.

"So you finally decided to show up," Ethan joked when he looked up from his tray and saw her. Melissa followed his gaze for a split second and gave her a small wave, before quickly turning her attention back to the advanced statistics book laid out in front of her.

Whitney returned the greeting and sat down next to Ethan, as his side of the table was free of notes and textbooks. "Test coming up, Mel?" she asked as she dug through her backpack and extracted a granola bar.

"Quiz," she replied flippantly, "but you know Dr. Brooks' reputation. Her quizzes may as well be tests…" Melissa's voice trailed off, her attention once more on the highlighted text before her.

Whitney realized that she wouldn't be getting anymore words out of her female companion and instead went to finishing off her small snack. Ethan finished chewing before he addressed her, his crisp blue eyes questioning. "So, Whit, did your last class run late or something?"

She shook her head. "No. I had a meeting with Dr. Morrison."

Both friends' heads turned towards her. "And how did it go?" Melissa asked.

Whitney bunched up the granola bar wrapper, trying her best to keep the frown from being too evident on her face. "Eh, not so good," she admitted. "My thesis was approved, but I didn't receive the grant money, so my idea of studying in Central America is out of the question. At least for the time being."

Melissa and Ethan exchanged nervous glances before turning back to their friend. "Did your advisor give you any instruction on what to do next?" Melissa pressed. "I mean, this is a big problem. You're going to have to figure out something within the next couple weeks or else your graduation could be delayed."

Whitney groaned. It felt even worse to have her fears voiced aloud. After putting so much effort into her schoolwork, she hated to even think of the prospect of her graduation being delayed by even a semester. "Don't remind me," she retorted. After a sigh, she continued, "Dr. Morrison said that the department is offering an undergraduate research grant that I should apply for. He said it would be a good deal easier for me to get. That and he recommended rethinking my thesis to include work within the United States…"

Her friends seemed to share her pain. Though both Ethan and Melissa were majoring in anthropology as well, they had decided to stick to a more traditional thesis that wouldn't encompass cultural emersion. "Well," Ethan offered, "maybe it was for the best. Now you can spend even more time in Central America when you write up your dissertation."

Whitney managed a small smile, knowing that her friend was trying to cheer her up – though he didn't quite succeed. "Thanks, Ethan, but I don't think it'll actually help me at the moment. My dissertation is at least three years away and my thesis proposal is due within three weeks at the most."

Melissa placed a highlighter in her statistics book and finally closed it, her full attention now on her friend's plight. "Let me get this straight," she stated, "Your thesis was approved, but, because you didn't receive the grant, you don't have enough money to make the trip?"

Whitney nodded, "Right."

Melissa shrugged, as if the problem was easily solved. "Then why don't you try to get a loan from the bank? Or use your student loan money?"

Whitney shook her head and crossed her arms, her elbows resting against the table. "I've already spent so much money from my student loan that I'll probably be paying bills on it till I'm retired. And I've already checked with a few banks, just in case something like this happened, and they won't give me a loan without a co-signer."

"What about your father?" Ethan suggested.

Whitney shook her head. There was no way that she was going to go to her father for a favor like that. She would rather drop out of school completely before she picked up the phone and dialed his number. "That's out of the question."

The table fell into a pensive silence, at least as much silence as was possible within the rowdy cafeteria. Ethan and Melissa knew better than to press their friend to call her father. Not unless they were prepared to deal with the repercussions for the next several days, and with finals on the horizon, they didn't need anything else taxing their nerves. The two girls seemed deep in silence. Ethan held his chin in one hand and drummed his fingers on the table. "So," he interrupted the stillness, "you plan on completely scraping your previous thesis idea?"

"I'm going to have to," Whitney replied. "I have no idea what I plan on doing, but my last idea isn't going to work now…"

Melissa shrugged, "You can do family relations within a group in the US."

Whitney shook her head, "There just isn't enough diversity within the States. That and if there is a group I can study, it wouldn't be entirely natural…"

"Alright," Ethan continued, rubbing his chin in thought, "you've taken forensic and religious anthropology as well. Since the US – especially New York – is so urbanized, you can do something like a compare and contrast between the city and rural areas. And there has to be at least a ton of religions to study."

Whitney frowned. "I dunno. One thing's for sure," she admitted with a sarcastic smile, "if I don't come up with a legitimate thesis soon, I won't receive the undergrad grant, either…" She didn't even need to voice her deepest concern. Without a thesis, her three years at NYU would have been a complete waste of time – and money. Without a thesis she wouldn't be able to get out on her own, and escape what she had been running from for the past ten years.