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Places We've Never Been
Author: Kasie West

 

CHAPTER 1


   “Norah, breathe,” Willow said with a laugh. “I swear I’ve never seen you this excited in my life. I’m starting to get jealous.”

   I swatted her arm with a folded blue sweatshirt, then added it to the open suitcase on my bed. “You should be jealous,” I teased. “He was my best friend for most of my life. You only just passed three years.”

   “I think was is the key word there.”

   She was right, of course. I hadn’t seen Skyler since the summer before eighth grade. That’s when he and his family moved across the country to Ohio. We’d Snapped and messaged and texted a lot that first year, but every year since, we’d drifted more and more apart until we basically had zero communication. Now all we did was occasionally like each other’s posts on Instagram.

   “I was kidding,” Willow said. “Bring back your super-cute excited face. Tell me more about taking over Pokémon gyms and gummy worm dioramas and video game marathons and how you did all this without kissing this boy, not even once.”

   I laughed. “He left when we were thirteen.”

   “And?”

   I dug through the top drawer of my dresser and scooped up a handful of socks. I threw them in the air like confetti. “And now he’s coming back!”

   “For three weeks,” she reminded me. “Where you will be crammed in an RV together. Sounds”—she picked up a sock ball from where it had landed on the floor next to her and half-heartedly threw it in the air—“fun?”

   “This trip is going to be amazing. I get to see my childhood best friend. I get to visit my future college. It’s like my past”—I held up my left hand—“and my future”—I held up my right—“are coming together!” I joined my hands in a dramatic clap.

   “What did you just do with your hands? That didn’t look good. Are you getting in a major traffic accident on this trip?”

   I frowned at my hands, which were still clasped, fingers intertwined. “No, it represents a magical combination where magical things are going to happen.”

   “It looked like a major collision—glass and twisted metal everywhere.”

   I rolled my eyes. “You really are jealous.”

   “Yes, I am. He will not take back best friend status from me. I will fight him to the death for it.”

   “Weapon of choice?” I asked, collecting the socks, then dropping them in my suitcase.

   “Probably a long sword. Or a throwing ax. It depends. Is he tall?”

   “He wasn’t four years ago.”

   My phone buzzed on the bed with a text. Behind me, Willow’s phone buzzed too. It was a message from Leena in our group text. Who’s going to the party this weekend?

   My initial instinct was to type, Not me, I’ll be in a magical collision with my childhood friend. But that was dumb. Nobody else would get that and I’d sound ridiculous. I only said stuff like that around people I felt perfectly comfortable with, like Willow…and Skyler. I never worried about how I sounded around Skyler; he was just as weird as I was.

   I looked out the window again, my anticipation almost unbearable now, but the street was still empty. My phone buzzed.

   I’m in, Willow had answered. She wasn’t one to analyze everything she said.

   I’ll be out of town, I finally typed. A perfectly normal response.

   “You won’t have to fight him,” I said, back to our conversation. “Like you said, it’s only three weeks. And technically we won’t be crammed anywhere together. He’s going to be in an RV with his mom and siblings, and I’m going to be in our RV with Mom and Ezra.” But Skyler was coming to see me! Well, not specifically to see me, but it felt that way.

   “Why now?” Willow asked.

   “What?” I studied my suitcase and the backpack beside it, trying to decide if I had remembered everything I’d need. I had my sketch pad and pencils. Skyler would want to see all my drawings. He’d be surprised at how much better I’d gotten. I hoped he brought his sketch pad, too, so we could draw together like we used to. I’d even brought the charcoal pencil he’d loaned me before he left that I’d forgotten to give back.

   Willow’s voice drew my eyes out of my suitcase. “You said your moms have been talking about doing an RV trip since they were in college.”

   “Yeah.”

   “So why spring it on you now? After all these years?”

   “They miss each other. Apparently, they’ve been planning it for months. They wanted to surprise us.” I pulled my stack of flash cards from my back pocket and held them up. “Plus, I told you, I have my college interview thing.”

   “That’s a weekend trip, not a three-week, multi-stop, bring-two-families-together-who-haven’t-seen-each-other-in-years kind of thing.”

   “It’s just another good excuse to do it now. That’s all I’m saying.”

   “Truuue…” Willow crawled over to my bookshelf in the corner and started running her finger along the spines of books, pulling several out as she did and setting them aside.

   “Why did you say true like that?”

   “That’s how I say true.”

   “That was a suspicious true.” I pocketed my cards again. “Speaking of my college tour and interview, what do you think of this outfit?” I grabbed the hanger from my closet that held the pencil skirt, button-down, and blazer my mom had bought me the week before.

   “Are you applying to be their librarian? Or maybe just run the school?”

   “I’m serious, what do you think?”

   “I think no wannabe video game animator I know would ever wear that.”

   “How many do you know?”

   “Just you. And you don’t wear that.”

   I laid the outfit flat across the contents of my suitcase. “You want me to wear a T-shirt and leggings to the interview?”

   “Yes, your Super Mario Bros. Princess Peach shirt would be perfect.”

   I didn’t even wear that to school. Besides, this was an interview. I needed to be professional, show I was serious. “Maybe Dean Collins hates Super Mario. Maybe she’s more a Street Fighter fan. I can’t create controversy from the very first impression.”

   She rolled her whole head to show she disagreed, then pointed to the stack of books she had created. “Can I borrow these while you’re gone?”

   “Yes.”

   “Cool.” She stood and slid the books into her bag by the door. “And you were right about my true. It was suspicious.”

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