Sacred
made of soft stretch cotton, with elbow-length sleeves and a pretty lettuce hem. It hung just above the knee. As an afterthought I pulled my jeans on, too. Andy loved to mock my penchant for wearing jeanswith dresses. He preferred bare legs, but I felt better in my jeans, less vulnerable.
    My standard flip-flops completed the outfit. It occurred to me that I could turn my mirror around to see how I looked, maybe apply a layer of mascara, but my stomach started to feel like I was on a roller coaster, so I just shoved a few dollars into my pocket and yanked a brush through my hair. It was fairly compliant today; I twisted up the front and stabbed it with a couple of bobby pins, then let the rest alone, swinging on my back.
    My mom was still in her bedroom—no surprise there—but in the kitchen, my father stood with a cup of coffee, gazing out the window over the sink. When I entered, it took him a moment to focus on me, and then he smiled.
    “You look nice,” he said. “I like that color with your eyes.”
    “Thanks, Daddy.”
    “Do you want me to cook you a couple of eggs?”
    I shook my head. “I’ll just grab an apple,” I said, heading to the refrigerator.
    “Just an apple? That’s not enough for breakfast … especially not on a school day.”
    “Lily’s going to bring some of her mom’s famous muffins to school,” I lied. “You know, like to celebrate the beginning of the school year?”
    He nodded. “That’ll be nice.” His gaze wandered out the window again. I started to leave, but his voice stopped me. “How are you holding up, honey?”
    I rolled the apple I’d taken from one hand to the other, then back again. I didn’t turn to look at him. I didn’t wantto start crying, not now, right before school. “Okay,” I said. “I guess.”
    “All right, baby. We love you. Have fun out there.”
    I nodded, waiting a minute to see if he was going to say anything else. When he didn’t, I left our little kitchen. I couldn’t get down the steps and out the door fast enough to suit me. I couldn’t think about all that—not now.
    “ Ciao, amica mia! ” called the voice I so loved.
    I turned to see Lily—at least, it had to be Lily—standing on the sidewalk, clutching a leather satchel.
    The outfit she was wearing did not belong in our school. Let me clarify that: the outfit did not belong in our lives . Lily was dressed from head to toe in some kind of buttery ivory leather suit. The jacket was nipped in at the waist and seemed to have at least a half-dozen zippers, along with … shoulder pads, something I’d seen in old movies from the late 1980s but had never worn in my life. There was a matching skirt, of course, several inches above the knee, and her feet were encased in the hottest leather booties I’ve ever seen. I didn’t think I could have walked the length of a classroom in those shoes, but it appeared that Lily planned to wear them all day.
    Her black curls were bouncing saucily about her shoulders, and they seemed to shine even more than usual. Her mouth was painted a daring shade of red, and who knew what kind of eye makeup she’d applied; her eyes were hidden behind sleek gold aviator sunglasses.
    I grinned. Only Lily.
    She clapped her hands, tucking her satchel under herarm, and ran toward me. Embracing me quickly, she kissed my right cheek, then my left, then my right, then my left again. I was starting to feel dizzy.
    “I missed you too!” I said.
    “Oh my god, Scarlett, that’s how you say hello in Italy. Can you believe it? I mean, you can totally go up to, like, even the hottest guy and just start kissing him! And he’ll kiss you back! I mean, Italy is so civilized! It cuts out all the crap, do you know what I mean, and it just gets right down to the good stuff.”
    “Umm … I’m pretty sure you’re only supposed to kiss the people you already know,” I said. “I read that you just shake hands there the first time you meet. The kissing isn’t supposed to

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