- Author: Dahlia Adler
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This may not be a “sister” book,
but what fiction could compare to the real thing anyway?
All things considered, high school’s been pretty good to me. Granted, if ever I get too whiny about anything, my mother will start comparing my woes of not having my own car to her woes of not having her own shoes growing up in Russia, but even in my worst moments of spoiled bratdom, I know that having good friends, decent grades, frequent party invites, and perpetually clear skin makes me one of the luckiest of the lucky.
Sure, my dad’s a disappearing shithead and I didn’t get the pony I wanted for my ninth birthday, but overall, I’d say life’s delivered pretty nicely.
So why is it, when I walk into Stratford High on the first day of senior year, I am immediately reminded of what I don’t have? Why must all six feet three inches of Chase Harding, unreciprocated love of my life, be the very first person I see? Why must he be right down the hall from the school’s entrance, cracking up guys from the football team, stupid-hot calves on blatant display of stupid-hotness?
How dare, universe. How dare.
“Watch that drool, Rissy. Someone might slip.”
“I was hoping you would,” I reply without shifting my gaze one iota. I don’t need to look up to know that Shannon Salter is speaking. She’s the only one who’d dare to call me Rissy. The only one who could without taking my gel manicure to the eyeball, really.
Still, after another beat, I turn away. Even I know I’m bordering on pathetic.
“I missed you, you bitch,” Shannon says, pecking my cheek. “I hate your tan.”
“You wish you had my tan.”
“Of course I wish I had your tan.” Shannon winds one of my shoulder-dusting butter-colored curls around her index finger and tugs. “And look how cute this haircut is! And how blond! How dare you spend the summer at the beach without me.”
“You were literally in Paris, Shan.”
“Oh right, I was.” She smiles widely enough to make dimples pop on her peaches-and-cream-skinned cheeks. “Shit, I am cool.”
She is, unfortunately. Even during this brief conversation, randos have dropped little “Hey, guys” in our direction, but mostly it’s “Hi, Shannon!” with a wave or a smile, careful not to disturb our post-summer reunion, but eager to start the year off right by cozying up to the most popular girl at Stratford.
As if Shannon’s desperate for new friends.
It was weird spending the entire summer apart. We haven’t done that in years, and certainly not since high school began. But then, my mom had never been asked to accompany her boss to the Outer Banks for the summer. And she’d never dragged her daughter with her, rather than let her stay home alone in Stratford.
It was a summer of firsts.
“So cool,” I confirm, giving her a smooch on the cheek that leaves a coral lip print. “And we’re reunited, so that’s what’s—”
The greeting isn’t a tentative drive-by like the others, and it comes complete with a shadow. A six-foot-three shadow. I am not the squeeing type, but if I were, I’d be shattering some eardrums. “Hey, Harding.” Do I sound too flirty? I might sound too flirty. But the way he’s leaning against my locker is definitely flirty, so really, I’m not being weird. “Did you get taller over the summer?”
Okay, now I’m being weird.
“I did, thank you for noticing.” He squints at me like he’s scrutinizing my face. “You look different too, Bogdan.”
“In a good way?”
He flashes me a smile, revealing the crooked teeth that only make him cuter. “In a very good way.”
“That’s what I was just telling her,” says Shannon, looping an arm around my shoulders. “Look at this hot bitch.”
“I am, I am,” Chase says with a grin, but I barely hear him. A ghost is walking through the door of the school. A ghost with smooth bronze skin and full lips and lush dark waves and amber eyes that I know from experience can convince you to do things you never, ever dreamed you would.
Things you liked. Things you loved. Things you’ve thought about with the lights off every night since.
Why is there a Jasmine Killary–shaped ghost haunting Stratford?
“Yo. Bogdan.” Meticulously manicured nails snap in front of my face. “Where’d you go?”
I blink, expecting my vision to clear, but Jasmine’s still there, a flesh-and-blood being whose face may be partially obscured by a phone, but whose very real existence is as undeniable as the thunderous pounding in my chest at the sight of her.
Where’d you go?
How do I tell my best friend I don’t even know where to begin answering that question?
The air is different in the Outer Banks, but then, everything is. The houses are all elevated on slats of wood to prevent destruction by flooding. The main road spanning southward from Sea Level is wide and flat and lonely. Nothing is more than two or three stories, tops. It’s a far cry from the suburbs of New York City and the summer I am supposed to be spending handselling books, consuming my weight in frozen yogurt, babysitting the Sullivan triplets, and glaring jealously at Instagram selfies of Shannon posted from the top of the Eiffel Tower.
It wasn’t a dream summer plan, but it was mine, wrecked the instant my mom swept into our apartment and announced I had a week to