The Robert Watson Literary Prize Story THANK GOD WE’RE YOUNG, OTHERWISE THIS WOULD BE TERRIFYING

Spring 2011: Issue 89

Emily Gilbert

I

The summer has been so lazy—one week bleeds into the next and congeals into a sticky pool of cigarettes, weed, Smirnoff Ice, boys, being fifteen and unable to drive. The arc of days begins filled with the possibility of what will happen at night: a movie, a party, smoking a joint down by the river, eating ice cream at Kimball’s, maybe swimming in Sarah’s pool. Life can’t be more full of vigor and youth. The girls are young and slim and smell like cheap perfume and their mothers’ body wash. They wear too-tight jeans that pinch the slight pudge of their lower backs; it spills over the tops of their pants but is reigned in by the spandex of their tank tops. They travel in packs of three or more, giggling loudly and shrieking when they meet other girls who are cooler than them. In a sad, obvious way, their heavily made-up eyes stare longingly at the models in Cosmo and Glamour and they wish to be tall and thin like that, have a mane of shiny hair like that, have lips glossed and pouty like that.

The summer becomes hotter and their skirts grow shorter. They convince their mothers to leave them at the town beach for the day where they lay out in Victoria’s Secret bathing suits and suck on Blow Pops and the married men try not to stare. They want to lose their virginity but are scared. Emma had a babysitter who told her that it hurt, that it wasn’t much fun but that it was better if you are drunk. The boys they would do it with are part of a crowd more popular than theirs. These boys golf at Greene Valley during the day and go to Bobby March’s house later to play video games and get stoned. Sometimes the popular girls join them. Emma thinks Bobby March has the most luscious brown eyes and she tells this to Allie and Sarah who laugh at her, but she takes some comfort from the fact that Bobby March’s birthday is the same day as her half birthday. She can always talk to him about this if she ever gets the chance. When they hang out with the Powder Mill boys, they sprawl on their backs on the couches and beds so that their stomachs look flat. They wonder if Mike thinks they’re as hot as the Playboy girls he has tacked to his walls. When the boys talk about sex, the girls pretend to have done more than they have—a silent pact between them not to reveal their ignorance. Later that night they get high on Allie’s trampoline. The air is warm and the girls are wearing T-shirts and boxers, the three of them: Sarah, long-limbed and golden; Allie, petite and curvy; Emma, average and freckled. They swish their hair and talk about boys and Sarah says she wishes she hadn’t eaten so much pizza for dinner. The fireflies spark and extinguish in the tall grass and each stoned girl wants to be better.

 

II

Emma sleeps over at Sarah’s house and they walk through Macdowell at three in the morning. The town is deserted, not even a dog barking. Empty parking spaces like missing teeth line the main street. It feels good to sneak out. It feels best to smoke the Marlboros stolen from Delay’s. Sarah is so beautiful and she doesn’t see it. They imagine tomorrow’s headlines reading Two Underage Girls Brutally Murdered, Found with Cigarettes. I wonder if our parents would be at all concerned that we were smoking, says Sarah. Mine would, says Emma. Ugh, this weather is awful for my hair, says Sarah, It’s frizzing everywhere. Mine too, says Emma. They think about what life is like outside this town, a small cage on the Eastern Seaboard. If their conversations are being duplicated by other girls in other places, would those girls have frizzy hair too? But the talking only brings them back to Sarah’s for sleep and pancakes the next morning. Emma always flips them too soon—she likes them gooey on the inside—and Sarah won’t let her near the pan.

They go to the mall and try on expensive dresses at Arden B. and Jessica McClintock. At CVS they buy Nair and waxing and highlighting kits and yellow nail polish. The dressing room mirrors depress them; nothing fits right and no one speaks on the drive home. Allie’s a double D, Emma only a B, and Sarah a C verging on D. I have the best grade, says Emma. That night they burn themselves from leaving the Nair on too long. Emma tries to dye Sarah’s hair but all she does is bleach a large circle in the middle of her head. Sarah doesn’t notice in the dim light of Allie’s room. Allie’s older brother is visiting for the weekend and is sleeping downstairs with his girlfriend. They drop pennies through the heating grate and giggle and don’t open the door when he comes upstairs to yell at them. Before they go to bed they tell each other what-if stories. What if I go to prom with Bobby March? says Emma. He would pick me up in a black Cadillac limo and my dress would be yellow. He would keep his hand on my lower back the whole night. Yeah, says Sarah, and then you would puke all over him at the after-party. What if, says Allie, I fall in love with the German exchange student next year and I end up moving to Berlin? We’d all go visit you, duh, says Emma. But that would never happen.

Sarah sees her hair and is upset and things are tense for a little while, but the next weekend Mike’s dad is out of town and everyone is drinking in his basement. Emma tells her parents she’s staying at Allie’s. No one knows how to play pool but the girls lean over the table and run their hands up and down the cues. Zeb, the pot dealer, is there. He tells Emma he burned his eyebrows in an accident in chemistry class. It’s bullshit, says Sarah to Emma. Everyone knows he plucks them. Allie sits on his lap and giggles for most of the night. The Powder Mill boys are on the porch talking about football and joining the Army. Travis wants to be a Navy SEAL. Emma’s shirt is small; she tugs it down every other minute. Jake has been looking at her all night but she ignores him because he can’t make it better. She drinks too much Twisted Tea and Mike teaches her what cum tastes like.

 

III

The girls are more assured. They walk with a pronounced swing in the hips and begin to order coffee from Twelve Pine. Their parents’ liquor is mostly water by now, but no one has gotten in trouble for this or for the conspicuous absence of cereal the mornings after they’ve been smoking at Emma’s. They go down to the river behind her house and watch headlights disappear into the covered bridge and then reappear a few seconds later. They buy weed with their small paychecks and allowance money. Allie convinces her stepbrother, Jake, to give them beer and cigarettes and to tell them about strip clubs and fake IDs. They get buzzed from red wine in plastic water bottles before barbequing with Allie’s parents. They smoke out of apples and bent aluminum cans. Emma cuts her hair short and it looks like a triangle of poodle curls around her face. She feels fat and dumpy most of the time and when Jake tries to hold her hand she pulls it away. Their parents are saddened and confused by their daughters’ behavior. The girls hear the murmured worry at night as their parents try to understand how smart, beautiful girls can act so rebellious and ungrateful. Allie’s parents are at work and Zeb comes by. It does hurt, Allie tells them. There wasn’t any blood, though. It would have been hard to get it out of the sheets. Emma writes a poem called “Virgin,” because that is what she is, but does not show it to Allie.

They get high in Emma’s attic and Alex is there. He tells Emma it’s her fault that Marley dumped him in the eighth grade and Emma cannot stop crying because when Marley died it made a hole somewhere in her that she can’t repair with drugs or alcohol or boys. It hurts so much that sometimes she plays Korn as loud as possible and sobs on her bedroom floor. The movie that week is Varsity Blues and the girls snap their gum standing in line outside the theater, tugging on their hair and eyeing the boys. Sarah flirts with Alex and Emma’s stomach drops out because she likes him. She watches him flirt back. Before the movie starts Sarah gets up and slowly slides her body against the seats in front of them. Her ass is in Alex’s face as she excuses herself to get a Coke. Bobby March and Tessa Johnson make out loudly in the front row and Emma is miserable. Pop quiz, says Sarah after the movie. Shoot, says Emma. Where’s my pink Cadillac parked? In your basement, yells Emma. Gold star, says Sarah and it’s a little better.

They go to a party that is busted by the cops. They run into the woods and the next day Sarah is covered in poison ivy. Allie and Emma bring her vanilla ice cream and ginger ale and watch reruns of Daria and Undressed for hours on her couch. Remember when we ran onto that lawn and the guy came out with a shotgun? I thought that only happened in movies, says Allie. We’re in the middle of bumfuck, mumbles Sarah. Her face is so swollen they can barely understand her. I need to start running for preseason, says Emma. It will be strange to play soccer without Marley. Emma remembers how she was getting on the bus when Marley went by and said she was riding home with Austin and Celia.  Love ya babe, Marley said.  The way Marley was, Emma could see the curlicued bubble letters written in pink glitter pen spelling out the word Luv over Marley’s head.  That night Emma’s mother woke her up and told her about the car accident.  Now her parents make her go to therapy but in the office she doesn’t have anything to say and when she finally speaks it is to tell the therapist that she has sleeping problems which is so far from the actual issue it’s as if Emma is saying nothing at all.  Before the funeral she put on eyeliner and mascara so everyone would know she’d cried because she loved Marley as much as they did but also because it was Marley who taught her how to wear makeup when they were nine, it was Marley who became popular freshman year but still talked to Emma about boys and secrets, it was Marley who was really everything Emma wants to be.

Allie goes to bed early and Emma stays up with Jake and they make out. Emma tells Sarah first—tells Sarah that he ground his mouth down on hers and Sarah tells Allie and Allie doesn’t speak to Emma for three days. When she does speak it is to say that she is kind of pissed because Jake is her stepbrother. They both know that Allie likes Jake but can’t do anything about it because if it was weird and icky in Clueless it would be even ickier in real life. They both like how Jake taps his thumbs on the steering wheel in time to the music. They both want the flannel shirts he wears that smell like Barbasol and chain-saw grease. I will give you this whole beer, he tells Emma, if you can sing all the words to “Ain’t Going Down (Til the Sun Comes Up).” And then he teaches her about country music and she is in love. “Fishin’ in the Dark” is her favorite song now so she stops playing Korn but still is sad. She smokes a joint out of her open window at night and a few times an owl hoots in the hundred acres across the dirt road. Why does your room smell? her mom asks the next morning. Incense, she tells her. And then later she tells her mom that she hates her and her mom says, I don’t have anything to say, but Emma keeps screaming at her because she just doesn’t get it because she’s so old and didn’t have sex until she was in college and doesn’t understand that this is already a big deal. Sometimes you’re a bitch! says Emma. There’s a long silence. I don’t want to see your face, says her mother. Emma doesn’t call Allie or Sarah. She calls Jake and he takes her to the railroad tracks and she balances on the thin rail and falls into him. The night is muggy and full of crickets and peeping frogs and he wraps his arms around her and she wants it to last and last and last.

The girls have French-braided hair. It escapes in wisps around their faces and their lips smell like strawberries. They wear denim skirts and foam sandals that make sucking noises when they walk. They keep close together through the crowds of people. Their skin is smooth and covered in glitter. They share fried dough drenched in powdered sugar and cinnamon sugar and eat soggy salty french fries from cardboard bowls. They buy glowstick bracelets and necklaces and when boys spray them with neon Silly String they scream loudly but love the attention. Boys with T-shirts stuffed into back pockets of baggy jean shorts walk in groups with sneakers unlaced and hats to one side. They spit next to where they stand and talk loudly, jeeringly, about girls. They boast about who or what they’ve done but when a girl stands too close to one of them the boy becomes silent and unnerved. They walk with legs spread, pants below asses, boxers around their hips. Emma stares at one of their stomachs where the muscles begin to v and when he catches her she blushes and looks away. The girls eat soft serve and hope they are licking the cones suggestively. Emma vaguely wishes she were young enough for the bouncy castle they passed further back in the fairgrounds. Mike comes over and says that they should sit with all the guys. They follow him up the grass hill and there are Travis Donnely, Joe, Dave, and Jake eating hotdogs dripping greasy and mustard-ketchup, drinking whiskey and Coke from soda bottles. Travis offers Emma a sip. She takes it but there’s too much whiskey and then she watches Jake tug Allie’s braid so she takes another. The air is saturated with propane and voices, shrieks, laughter, smells like fried food and beer. A little girl skins her knees and is crying. Lost children are announced over the loudspeaker and a man says the fireworks will begin in half an hour.

When dusk comes the sun falls quick this late in August. The sky blue as dark glass stretches vast over the crowd. The girls must sit awkwardly on the ground with their legs crossed because of the skirts they are wearing. Mike flicks pebbles at Sarah and they talk about going swimming in her pool later. The fireworks explode in bursts of bloodred peonies, electric blue dahlias, weeping gold willows that cascade so low Emma thinks the sparks will fall on her, crackling white crossettes and horse tails. She leans against Jake lightly and he tickles her right ear with his fingers. Her breath hitches completely and she can’t help looking at Allie to see if she is watching but she is staring up at the bursting chrysanthemums and humming to herself along with the music.

 

IV

The girls wear their sweatpants low, and tight shirts expose a strip of pale skin just above their pubic hair. They paint their nails black or dark purple and never leave the house without mascara and eyeliner. Their key rings are noisy with charms and bottle openers. They snap gum with authority and walk with backs arched, flat bellies sticking out, their hands shoved into pockets, purses slung over their soft shoulders. When they go shopping it is for bumper stickers and for hemp to make anklets. The walls of their rooms are covered with song lyrics and movie quotes. They try to stay out of their houses as much as possible. They buy coffee and sit in the park downtown and talk about going to the city one of these weekends or about how awkward it would be to buy condoms from the pharmacy where they know the cashier. The girls are fuller in the face, more conscious of the attention to their bodies. They pierce their cartilage, navels, noses, lips, eyebrows. Allie buys a glass bowl from Zeb and they inaugurate it by smoking in her car with the windows rolled up while they listen to the Backstreet Boys, Greatest Hits: Chapter 1. Emma washes dishes for a catering company. Her boss sits her down and asks her why she is tired all the time. She doesn’t tell him it is because she stays up late on AIM talking to boys about the things she would do. She buses weddings in the sticky July heat and loathes the sweat that yellows the armpits of her white shirt. She loves-hates the beautiful older boys who work with her. She knows she is ugly because they flirt with Abby Birch, Lauren Stevens, and Ashley Dumont, but not her. Somehow those girls manage to look sexy in black pants and awkward shoes and button-up dress shirts while Emma eats the leftover desserts as she clears the plates. She spends her paycheck on cheap hoop earrings from Claire’s and a new bra but Travis rips the lace and she loses an earring on the same night.

The girls look down on the freshmen who come to parties wearing tight pants and oversized black sweatshirts with too-dark makeup and who get too drunk too fast and command the attention of the boys. The freshmen who think they’re better because they’re younger but who are actually just dumb bitches. The girls are possessive of each other and talk loudly in a diner about parties and boys and concerts. Allie comes over to watch Emma’s TV because Allie’s stepmother, who is the wicked kind, always says the volume is too loud. Sarah doesn’t like to talk about sex because she is afraid of having it but Allie’s already had anal and couldn’t go to Boston the day after because it hurt too much to walk. They remember when they went to Sarah’s to get ready for the first seventh-grade dance and how the teachers made them stop grinding with Mike and Travis. How Emma plucked her eyebrows too much and looked surprised all the time. How there’s nothing to do late at night but at least now they can drive to Wilbur’s for Pringles and cookie dough.

Sarah does things with boys because they are her friends and she thinks it would be rude to say no. Emma tells her this is fucked up. Sarah says, Yeah, but it’s never as simple as just saying no. Their mothers feel uneasy when the girls leave the house at night on the weekends. We wish you would say no, their mothers tell them. The girls avoid their fathers because it is weird to hug them now, knowing all that they shouldn’t. They go to Wal-Mart after the movies and push each other around the store in shopping carts and are yelled at by security. They steal stickers and lip gloss and twenty-cent Dots candy. Everyone is looking at them all the time and it’s exhausting. Allie says, Thank God we’re young, otherwise this would be terrifying. They drive the back roads with the windows down and the summer air rushing in with the cicadas and the sweet cloying smell of manure past the cow pastures and crumbling barns whose frames are filled with a blackness thicker than the night’s. Tree branches reach out, heavy with green, and the stone walls have disappeared beneath aggressive ferns. I could write the summer night, says Allie, and I would write it with cars and joints and beer and boys, write it with my eyeliner and my nail polish scratched on the page. I would write it with late night swims in my pool, says Sarah, and with snacks made in my dark kitchen and with stopping by the side of the road to pee. I would write it with us, says Emma. They all agree that this is best.

The summer has been lonely. They move apart in small ways but by the end it has added up. There is a time when Emma tries to throw herself out of the car her father is driving. He locks the doors. What do you think I’m going to do? he asks. She looks at him. I don’t know, she says. Allie vacuums the living room carpet and her stepmother is upset because she missed spots and so Allie doesn’t vacuum the next time and her stepmother tells her she is lazy and her perfume is too strong. Sarah is overlooked for the sister on either side of her. Allie and Sarah both think Emma is mean to her parents. Emma thinks Allie and Sarah can’t understand because they don’t live with her parents. Jake likes Emma but she can tell he doesn’t want to show it when he is around his friends and Emma does the same around Allie. Allie sleeps with Zeb more often and with another kid named Dan and with a girl named Lucy until Lucy gets sent back to California for drugs.

This is the summer Jake finds Brandon Valance by the side of the road with his truck on top of him. This is the summer that Allie’s house is so hot they sleep on the trampoline more often than ever, and tracing the stars with their fingers they show each other all the ways they are connected. Emma cuts pictures and poems from magazines and collages her walls, looking at them critically as if a boy she likes is in her room. She wonders if he would think this stuff is cool. She tells Allie and Sarah about doing shrooms with her half brother when she visited him at college last spring but she is lying just to be cool and this is obvious to all of them. The popular girls have become more popular, their waists tinier, skin clearer. Tonight Emma has straightened her hair but it’s already beginning to frizz in a halo around the crown of her head. It’s so hot her jeans are damp where her thighs rub together.

The girls drive through the center of Powder Mill. Eleven at night and the town looks abandoned. The orange caution light blinks despondently to the empty intersection. Beautiful dark. Mass of stars. Clear air. Allie’s backpack is full of things they never go to a party without: mirror, flashlight, Swiss Army knife, lighter, water, alcohol, weed, rolling papers, pipe, cigarettes, cell phone, Band-Aids, Blistex, tissues, Tampax, dry socks, extra batteries. They exit the car into the humid night and smoke cigarettes and wait for the boys to come get them.

 

V

If this is what falling in love feels like then none of them want it. It hurts too much for the price they are paying. Jake comes down with Travis in his truck and the girls pile in the bed. Emma sits in the middle of an old tire and they laugh and watch the sky blur through the branches above. Country music pours out of the cab as the truck bumps hard through the ruts in the abandoned logging track. Jake is driving fast to scare them and they almost tip sideways into a ditch but they make it up to the party where they see by the light of the bonfire that everyone is already there. Three kegs are in the back of Mike’s truck and Dave and Joe are playing Beirut against Bobby March and Dylan Stanton but they keep losing the ping-pong ball and someone bumps into the table, knocking over cups of beer. Boys lean against trucks with their arms around girls and the freshmen stand in clumps laughing too loudly. Even the dangerous boys are here, the boys who are written about in the local police logs for having coke in their cars at traffic stops and the guys who never graduated but stuck around to sell drugs to the younger kids. Chevy Bouchard has just finished his sentence for possession of a controlled substance but he is already wasted and standing on the porch. Fuck you! he is yelling to Tobey Hames. It’s intimidating to walk into this, as if they suddenly don’t recognize anyone, all these people they’ve known since kindergarten are drunk or high or both and talking about shit and shit and more shit.

Let’s get wasted, says Allie. Agreed, says Emma and Sarah passes the bottle of Parrot Bay and Diet Coke around their triangle. Whatcha drinkin? asks Jake leering at them. Have some of this, he says and he hands them straight tequila. Emma takes the biggest gulp so that it feels good when Jake slides up next to her and asks her how she’s been. Fine, she tells him. Hangin in there, ya know. Yup, he says, Sure do. He passes her the bottle again and she feels Allie looking this time so she swallows even more. Go easy, says Sarah, I’m gonna be the one taking care of you. That won’t happen, says Emma. 

In the small hunting cabin there is a generator and a flood lamp set up. The Tremont boys are on the couches rolling on MDMA. The girls sit down next to them and it’s entertaining for a while to listen to the boys tell them how wonderful and fantastic life is. Jessica comes in with some whippets and everyone does a few hits. Turning their heads takes five million hours and voices sound like molasses. It’s hysterical, everyone is hysterically laughing, the boys on molly especially and people are writhing on the dirty floor it’s so effing funny but then Austin has a mini freak-out and that brings people back down until they’re all hiccupping softly. Someone offers salvia and Sarah tries it. For five minutes she speaks nothing but gibberish and drools and yells loudly and falls down when she tries to stand up and then she starts crying a little. Emma can tell people are kind of feeling weird about it so she convinces Sarah to follow her outside where they find a quiet place at the edge of the field. They sit on the tailgate of Mike’s 4Runner and Emma rubs Sarah’s back while she talks through it.

It felt like . . . it felt like everything was being ripped away from me and this reality . . . this reality was just a bleeding chunk of meat and I was wrapped up in it and I completely forgot myself and that I even smoked salvia. I just thought this is how things are and I just thought that I would rather be dead. Oh it was so bad. Here, drink, says Emma.

By the time they go back they are both more than buzzed but not yet sloppy, which they agree is right where they want to stay so they don’t do anything else stupid, but now they can’t find Allie and after a while they become sidetracked by the Beirut game. They play against Jake and Mike who beat them, but it’s close and the girls feel the stares of the guys who are standing around watching. Jake and Mike start mooning the girls as a distraction so Emma and Sarah bend down low and their tits almost fall out but they still don’t win. They sit on the porch railing and Travis, Mike, and Joe ask them about Allie. She let Pat put it up the butt, didn’t she? Right in the pooper, says Travis. The girls laugh. I can’t say, says Emma. She didn’t tell me. That’s a lie, says Mike. You know. It’s yes, isn’t it? Allie let Pat fuck her in the ass. Emma wants to explain that it wasn’t so much of a let situation, but she giggles and pinches Sarah’s shoulder. Come on, says Joe. Just say yes. We know it happened. Sarah shakes her head, No, but Emma nods consent and then the boys begin to yell, I knew it! Holy shit! Oh Emma, says Sarah, really? I mean, says Emma, it’s not as if they didn’t know. This is bad, says Sarah. I know, says Emma watching Jake’s back as he walks out to his truck. Where is Allie anyway?

The stars whirl overhead and in the field the grass is cold and damp with dew. They are running, running through the grass and stumbling over the dips in the ground. They are high and drunk and yell loudly because no one can hear them. They crash into each other and move apart again and chase each other in circles. They lie down and the grass swallows them. The crickets jump over their heads, dark little blurs in the night, and the stars are shining fiercely above.

 

VI

The girls find each other in Sage Park. They look hungover. Dark-circled eyes shaded behind sunglasses and hair greasy and matted from the night before. It is a gorgeous day—light breeze, blue sky, maybe eighty degrees. Emma feels guilty because of what she told the boys about Allie last night and because she ended up going home with Mike and doing things she wishes she hadn’t. The girls pull three chairs close together. What’s up? says Emma to Allie. We couldn’t find you.

I know, says Allie. I was in Pat’s van with him and Dan Miller.

Emma watches a bee moving sluggishly through the thick surrounding silence.

Doing what, exactly, in Pat’s van with him and Dan Miller? asks Sarah.

Allie sighs. Well, you two went off somewhere together and I stayed and drank more and the boys convinced me that taking molly would be a good idea . . . or, I mean Pat told me it would be, not that that’s a reason to do it. But I did.

Allie! says Emma.

I know. So when it started working I was still on the couch and Pat was rubbing my back and telling me how beautiful I am and I started to get into it a little. So then he tells me we should go out to his van and inside on the floor he has blankets and sleeping bags because he’s taken out the seats. And then . . . he starts making out with me, which isn’t so bad. I kind of wanted to do it anyway, even if I hadn’t been rolling. We did that for a while and it felt really nice but then he puts his hand down my pants and it kind of hurts and then the door opens . . . and it was just Dan, or that’s how I thought of it at the time because I was so fucked up. Like, oh, it’s okay. Just Dan coming to say hi, I guess.

Was he? asks Sarah.

Was he what?

Was he just saying hello?

Not exactly . . . I think he started watching me and Pat for a bit but you know how when you’re wicked drunk sometimes something starts happening but you have no idea when and you’re kind of suddenly just in the middle of it? So, okay. So the next thing is Dan’s dick is in my mouth and Pat’s still got his fingers inside me and then we’re all having sex and I just couldn’t really do anything to stop it . . . I mean, it wasn’t ever two at once or anything, but Pat would be doing it from behind while I’m blowing Dan and then they switch or I was on top of one and the other kisses me or whatever . . .

Emma and Sarah are both looking at the ground. For how long? asks Emma.

For a while, because on molly you’re up for like four hours.

Aren’t you sore?

Yeah, kind of.

How’d you get home?

Jake drove me and then took me to get my car this morning.

Damn, says Emma and she hesitates before asking, So . . . do you feel okay?

No. I mean . . . I just know that I didn’t want to do it and it’s awful because people definitely heard. Or if they didn’t hear it last night, then they’ll hear about it today and I feel like . . . just raw and dried out and exhausted. I don’t want to think about it anymore, but I wanted to tell you because it’s too much to keep quiet about.

This is Allie, the girl whose Christmas tree they hike miles into the woods—just the three of them—to chop down and who insists the strings go popcorn-cranberry-cranberry-popcorn, who calls down comforters puffs, who thought ketchup was made from potatoes until she was fourteen, who lies on her bed with them while they read their own poems, poems each can date for the other. Allie, the girl whose trampoline they sit on for hours, talking and connecting the bright white stars above. No, says Emma. We’re glad you told us. She glances at Sarah, who nods, but now Emma doesn’t know what else there is to say because this will be what they remember about the summer.