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We walk in silence for a couple of minutes, giving the subject time to dissipate. Once it does, Macy bounces back to her normal self and asks, “Are you hungry? You didn’t eat anything at the party.”

I start to say yes—I haven’t eaten since the bowl of Frosted Flakes Macy poured me this morning from her stash—but the altitude sickness must be back, because the mention of food has my stomach rumbling, and not in a good way. “You know, I think I’m just going to go to bed. I’m not feeling so great.”

For the first time, Macy looks worried. “If you aren’t feeling better in the morning, I think we’d better stop by the nurse. You’ve been here more than twenty-four hours now. You should be starting to get used to the altitude.”

“When I googled it, it said twenty-four to forty-eight hours. If I’m not better after tomorrow’s classes, I’ll go. Okay?”

“If you’re not better after tomorrow’s classes, I’m pretty sure my dad will drag you there himself. He’s been frantic about you since you asked him to leave you in San Diego to finish up your quarter.”

Another awkward silence starts to descend, and honestly, I just can’t take it right now. So it’s my turn to change the subject when I say, “I can’t believe how tired I am. What time is it anyway?”

Macy laughs. “It’s eight o’clock, party animal.”

“I’ll party next week. After I finally get some sleep…and after this gross altitude sickness goes away.” I put a hand to my stomach as the nausea from earlier returns with a vengeance.

“I’m such a jerk.” Macy rolls her eyes at herself. “Planning a party on your first couple of days here was a bad move on my part. I’m so sorry.”

“You’re not a jerk. You were just trying to help me meet people.”

“I was trying to show off my fabulous older cousin—”

“I’m older by, like, a year.”

“Older is older, isn’t it?” She grins at me. “Anyway, I was trying to show you off and help you get acclimated. I didn’t think about the fact that you might need a day or two to just breathe.”

We make it to our room, and Macy unlocks the door with a flourish. Just in time, too, because my stomach revolts about two seconds after I walk in the door. I barely make it to the bathroom before I throw up a noxious combination of tea and Dr Pepper.

Looks like Alaska really is trying to kill me after all.



Knock, Knocking

on Death’s Door

I spend the next fifteen minutes trying to throw up the inside of my stomach and hoping that if this godforsaken place is trying to kill me, it just gets it over with already.

When the nausea finally stops about half an hour later, I’m exhausted and the headache is back in full force.

“Should I get the nurse?” Macy asks, walking behind me, arms outstretched to catch me as I make my way to the bed. “I think I should get the nurse.”

I groan as I climb under my cool sheets. “Let’s give it a little while longer.”

“I don’t think—”

“Older-cousin prerogative.” I shoot her a grin I’m far from feeling and snuggle onto my pillow. “If I’m not better in the morning, we’ll call the nurse.”

“Are you sure?” Macy dances from foot to foot as though unsure what to do.

“Considering I’ve had more than enough attention since I got to this school? Yes. Definitely.”

She doesn’t look happy by my refusal, but eventually she nods.

I drift in and out of sleep as my cousin washes her face and changes into her pajamas. But right around the time she turns off the light and crawls into bed, another wave of nausea rolls over me. I ride it out, trying to ignore how much I wish my mom were here to baby me a little, and eventually fall into a fitful sleep, one I don’t wake from until an alarm blares at six thirty the next morning. It goes off just as abruptly as someone hits Snooze.

I wake up disoriented, trying to remember where I am and whose godawful alarm was beeping in my ear. Then it all comes flooding back. After one additional trip to the bathroom around three to dry heave my guts up, the nausea receded, which was a giant plus. And everything else feels okay now—my head has stopped spinning, and while my throat feels dry, it doesn’t hurt, either.

Huh. Looks like the internet was right about the whole twenty-four to forty-eight hours to acclimate thing. I’m good as new.

At least until I sit up and realize the rest of my body is another story. Nearly every muscle I have aches like I’ve just climbed Denali—after running a marathon. I’m pretty sure it’s just dehydration combined with how tense I was yesterday, but either way, I’m in no mood to get up. I’m certainly in no mood to put on a happy face for my first day of classes.

I lie back down and pull the covers over my head, trying to decide what I want to do. I’m still lying there ten minutes later when Macy wakes up with a grumble.

The first thing she does is slap at her alarm until it stops again—something I am eternally grateful for, considering she picked the most grating, annoying sound ever created to wake up to—but it takes her only a second to climb out of bed and come over to me.

“Grace?” she whispers softly, like she wants to check on me but doesn’t want to wake me up at the same time.

“I’m okay,” I tell her. “Just sore.”

“Yuck. That’s probably dehydration.” She crosses to the fridge in the corner of the room and pulls out a pitcher of water. She pours two glasses and then hands me one as she settles back onto her bed. She spends a minute texting—Cam, I figure—before tossing her phone aside and looking at me. “I have to go to my classes today—I’ve got tests in three of them—but I’ll come back and check on you when I can.”

I’m pretty much loving her assumption that I’m not going to class, so I don’t argue. Except to say, “You don’t have to go out of your way to check on me. I’m feeling much better.”

“Good, then you can consider this a mental health day, of the Holy crap, I just moved to Alaska! variety.”

“There’s an actual mental health day for that?” I tease, moving around until I’m sitting up with my back against the wall.

Macy snorts. “There are whole mental health months for that. Alaska’s not easy.”

It’s my turn to snort. “No kidding. I’ve been here less than forty-eight hours and I’ve already figured that out.”

“That’s just because you’re afraid of wolves,” she teases.

“And bears,” I admit without a flicker of embarrassment. “As any sane person should be.”

“You have a point.” She grins. “You should take the day and do whatever you want. Read a book, watch some trash TV, eat my stash of junk food if your stomach feels up to it. Dad will let your teachers know you’ll be starting tomorrow instead of today.”

I hadn’t even thought of Uncle Finn. “Will your dad be okay with me skipping class?”

“He’s the one who suggested it.”

“How does he know—?” I break off when a knock sounds at the door. “Who—?”

“My dad,” Macy says as she crosses the room and throws open the door with a flourish. “Who else?”

Except it’s not Uncle Finn at all. It’s Flint, who takes one look at Macy in her tiny nightshirt and me in last night’s dress and smeared makeup and starts grinning like a dork.

“Looking good, ladies.” He gives a low whistle. “Guess you decided to take the tea party up a notch or four last night, huh?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Macy taunts as she makes a beeline for the bathroom and the privacy it affords. I don’t bother to answer, just stick my tongue out at him. He laughs and raises his eyebrows in response.

“I would like to know,” Flint tells me as he crosses over to sit on the end of my bed. “Where’d you run off to? And why?”

Because telling him the whole reason involves trying to explain my bizarre reaction to Jaxon—not to mention everything that came after—I settle for part of the truth. “The altitude really started getting to me. I felt like I was going to throw up, so I came back to the room.”

That wipes the smile off his face. “How are you now? Altitude sickness isn’t anything to fool around with. Can you breathe okay?”

“I can breathe fine. I swear,” I add when he doesn’t look convinced. “I’m feeling almost normal today. Just had to get used to the mountains, I guess.”

“Speaking of mountains.” Flint’s appealing grin is back. “That’s why I came by. A bunch of us are having a snowball fight after dinner tonight. Thought you might want to join in…if you feel okay, I mean.”

“A snowball fight?” I shake my head. “I don’t think I should.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t even know how to make a snowball, let alone how to throw one.”

He looks at me like I’m being silly. “You pick up snow, you pack it into a ball, and then you throw it at the nearest person.” He uses his hands to mime his words. “It’s not exactly hard.”

I stare at him, unconvinced.

“Come on, New Girl. Give it a try. I promise it’ll be fun.”

“Careful, Grace.” Macy comes out of the bathroom, her hair wrapped in a towel. “Never trust a…” She trails off when Flint turns to her, brows raised.

“They’re having a snowball fight after class today,” I tell her. “He wants us to join.” He hadn’t invited Macy in so many words, but there’s no way I’m going without her. And from the sudden smile on her face, I’m guessing I made the right choice.

“Seriously? We have to go, Grace. Flint’s snowball fights are legendary around here.”