Mom’s brow immediately went down, and I could tell she was trying to reason through that, hope for some other solution than her needing to go to the library with me. “I don’t think they need me there. Kids have library cards, right? I don’t need to go.”

“There’s not very many people in the library, Mom.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Plus, it’s only five minutes away,” I said.

“By car.”

“Yes, by car.”

“I’d rather walk.”

“I know. But that’s a long walk.” One I knew she couldn’t make. “It’s fine, Mom. It’s just been a while since you pushed yourself a little.” I usually didn’t say things like this to my mom. I usually let her off the hook easier. I didn’t want to upset her or make her more anxious about life. But maybe clinging to Cooper on the back of that quad the day before made me realize that pushing yourself to do hard things was actually pretty liberating. There was a sense of accomplishment about it, after the fact.

She sighed. “I’ll call the library and see if they need me there for you to get a card.”

Blasted phones, I thought, always ruining my best-laid plans with their usefulness.

I pulled out my useful phone and sent Cooper a text: I’m going to the library to pick out a classic. You want to come?

Can’t. Family BBQ at my dad’s work. Call me with an emergency in about an hour.

What kind of emergency?

The best friend kind. I don’t know. You’ll think of something.

I’m sure your parents will love me even more for that. I’m not faking an emergency. I’ll be reading Crime and Punishment. I had looked up a list of classics, and that one sounded the most interesting to me.

What crime are you planning to commit?

That’s the title of a book.

Cool. Get me that one too. It sounds awesome.

We can’t read the same classic. We need to read different ones and then tell each other about them. It will be double the depth.

Okay. I call dibs on Crime and Punishment.

You are a brat.

This is true. I have to go now.

Okay. Have fun.

He added: Call me in one hour.

No.

I put my phone in my pocket and looked up just in time to see my mom come back into the kitchen.

“Good news,” she said. “You can sign for your own library card.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Don’t look so disappointed, hon. I’ll walk to the park with you after dinner tomorrow. How about that?”

“Promise?”

She hesitated a moment, then nodded resolutely. “Yes.”

“I’m holding you to that.”

“I heard it too,” Grandpa said from the other room.

“I’m being ganged up on now?” she asked.

“Not ganged up on, Mom. Supported. You have lots of support.”

She smiled and hugged me, then handed me a bottle of antibacterial hand gel.

“What is this?”

“Do you know how many people touch those books?”

I handed her back the gel. “You should read some stories on this stuff. It’s creating superbugs.”

“Really?”

I shouldn’t have said that. Now she’d spend the next two days on the computer reading about superbugs. I snatched the bottle back. “You’re right. I’ll bring this.” I lifted the car keys from a hook by the door and left before she decided I couldn’t leave the house after all.

NINE

There were lots of books considered classics. A whole section of them. Some I’d never even heard of before, like Ulysses or Middlemarch. Some I had, like The Scarlet Letter and The Sun Also Rises. A lot of them were on the list I had looked up, but a lot of them weren’t.

I’d already found Crime and Punishment and was reaching for Frankenstein, thinking it reminded me of the mash-up of qualities that had inspired my list, when someone else reached for it at the same time. “Sorry,” we both said, then laughed.

The girl smiled and gestured for me to take it.

I recognized her immediately. She had curly red hair and bright-green eyes. “Oh, you’re the . . .”

“Zit commercial girl?” she finished for me when I stopped myself in time.

“Yes.”

She gestured to her beautifully clear skin. “Keeps them gone for weeks.”

“Do you really use that zit cream?”

“No.”

I smiled. “You go to my school too, right?”

“Pacific High? Yes.”

“I’m Abby, by the way.”

“Oh, sorry. I’m Lacey.” She nodded toward the book I’d reached for. “Are you getting a jump start on the honors English summer reading list? Do you have Engle?”

“No, I’m not taking honors English. I’m just looking for an interesting classic to read.”

“Why?”

“For fun, I guess.” I didn’t want to explain the heart list to her. “You can take that one. I’ll find a different one.”

“What kind of stories do you like to read? Maybe I can help you pick one.”

“Have you read a lot of classics?” I asked.

“I’ve done a lot of theater, so I’ve read almost all of Shakespeare. Other than that, not really. I’m not sure why I offered like I was some expert.”

“If you say anything with enough confidence, it’s true, right?”

“I can get behind that.” She pulled a book down. “There’s always the summaries on the backs. Those are sort of helpful.” She began reading the back of the book she held in an English accent.

“Is the writer of that one British?” I asked.

“I just assume all the writers of classic literature are British.” She shrugged. “But more importantly, I do a killer British accent.”

“You really do.”

“Wow, that sounded vain. I promise I’m not vain.” She bit her lip. “Is that the kind of promise vain people make?”

I let out a single laugh and held out my hand for the book. “I have to get that book now.”

She handed it to me.

“A Tale of Two Cities, by Dickens,” I read off the cover.

“Aha!” She patted the book. “See. It was a safe bet.”

My phone buzzed in my pocket. Saaaavvvveeee me! It was a text from Cooper.

I tucked the two books I now had (one for me, one for Cooper) under my arm and typed back. Just tell your parents you want to leave their party.

Can’t. They’ll be disappointed. You’ve seen their disappointed faces.

You need to go into the army. I hear it makes you a man.

Lacey slid Frankenstein off the shelf and waved at me with it. “It was nice to meet you. I hope you enjoy A Tale of Two Cities.”

“Thanks.” I pointed to her book. “You too.”

She walked away, and I dialed Cooper’s number. He answered. “Hello.”

“I ran out of gas.”

“Abby, why would you do a thing like that? Don’t you pay attention to your gas gauge? It’s that little one right above the steering wheel.”

“Watch it or I’ll hang up right now.”

He laughed. “Of course I’ll come save you, even though I’m right in the middle of my dad’s really cool work party. You should see it, they have live singers and everything.”

“Sounds amazing.”

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