“A detox, they called it.”

“That’s torture.”

“I agree!” She plopped down next to me. “You’re not allowed to do anything fun this summer, because I won’t be able to hear about it.”

“Don’t worry. You’ll come home and everything will be exactly the same,” I said. Exactly. The. Same.

“It better be.”

I dug my toes in the sand and watched Cooper walk toward us holding a popcorn and a bottle of water. His blond hair was slightly wavy tonight and was reflecting the last bit of sunlight like a halo. His blue eyes, lit by his smile, met mine and I couldn’t help the smile that spread across my face.

“How was the concessions truck?” I asked.

“Concessions? And you made fun of Rachel for sounding eighty?”

“Blah blah blah, whatever.”

He sat down on the yellow-and-white-striped towel on my right side and handed me the bottle of water.

“What’s this garbage? I want caffeine.”

“Just yesterday you told me you were giving up soda. You said it quite dramatically, in fact. And then you said, keep me honest, Cooper.”

“What?” Rachel asked from my left side. “You had forty-four ounces of Mountain Dew at my house last night.”

“Shhhhh.” I pressed my finger against her lips. “We’re not talking about that.”

Cooper scoffed and Rachel pushed my hand away.

“Who do you all think I am? Wonder Woman? Geez.” I uncapped the water and took a drink.

“Her name is Iris,” Cooper said, nodding back toward the food truck and the girl who’d bought his ticket.

“Oh no,” Rachel said.

I gave a faux sympathetic hum. “The kiss of death—an unshortenable name. Little did she know telling you her name would be the end for her.”

“It can’t be shortened at all. I. I’m supposed to call her I?” Cooper asked.

“You could get over your lazy tendencies and just call her by her full name.”

“It’s not about being lazy. It’s about my relationship goals. I want to be able to call my girl by a shortened version of her name.”

I huffed. “I know you think that makes you seem sexy or whatever, but really it doesn’t.”

He took a handful of popcorn and shrugged. “Regardless.”

I thought for a minute. “What about Ris?” I wasn’t sure why I was trying to help him with this new girl aside from the fact that it made me feel like I had been successful in smashing down my feelings. The feelings nobody knew about but me . . . and my mom . . . and maybe Cooper, though I was pretty sure I’d convinced him I was joking last summer.

“Ris is cute,” Rachel agreed, taking her own handful of popcorn from Cooper’s bucket.

“Huh,” he said. “That might work. Good thing I got her number.”

“She should’ve bought me a movie ticket. I just saved her chances.” I watched the sun sit atop the edge of the ocean before it dipped below it.

“What about you two?” Cooper asked. “What are your relationship goals?”

“My immediate goal,” Rachel said, “is an Italian boy with long wavy hair and an accent so thick I won’t know what he’s talking about, but he’ll be an exceptional kisser, so it won’t matter.”

I laughed. “Is this before or after you and your parents find the plot of land your great-uncle peed on?”

“Definitely before . . . and then after as well. What about you, Abby?” Rachel asked. “Relationship goals?”

I flopped onto my stomach and began drawing in the sand with my pointer finger. “An artist for sure. Someone who can paint or draw or something.”

“But then what if he’s better than you? Why would you want someone who has your same skill set?” Rachel asked.

“Yeah,” Cooper agreed. “It would turn into a competition.”

“Just because you turn everything into a competition, Coop, doesn’t mean everyone does.”

“See, my name is perfect. It can be shortened with epic results.”

“I don’t know that it qualifies as epic, but it’s adorable,” I said.

“Actually, that reminds me,” Rachel said. “Someone was asking about one of your pieces the other day. He remembered seeing it in the art room before school let out and hasn’t been able to get it out of his head.”

“Who was asking?”

“I didn’t know him. He stopped me in Starbucks. I guess he knew we were friends.”

“Cool,” Cooper said.

I bit my lip and smiled. I wanted to yell, see, Cooper, I have something going for me. I’m not so laughable a catch. I’m an artist.

“So as far as relationship goals go,” Rachel said. “Would appreciating your art be just as good as being an artist? Because if so, you need to ask mystery boy out.”

“Yes! You should,” Cooper said.

“Appreciating art would be a close second to being an artist. Good thing you have so much detailed information about who he is, Rachel.”

“Minor setback.”

The movie started on the large screen in front of us, music blasting out of the speakers.

Rachel leaned close to my ear. “I need to go to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.” She scurried off.

Cooper moved onto his stomach, positioning himself alongside me so our shoulders were touching. He started drawing stick figures in the sand next to my art. “Just you and me this summer, kid,” he said.

My heart gave a jump at those words. We’re over him, I reminded my heart. He’s one of your best friends, after all. We could handle a summer alone with Cooper Wells. “Yep.” I reached over and added wheels onto the bottom of one of his stick men. “You racing at the dunes this week?” Cooper raced his quad in an amateur local league put together by some serious quad lovers.

“Wednesday. I expect you there with a big sign that says, ‘Cooper is number one.’”

“But what if you come in second? Then that will be awkward.”

He bumped his shoulder into mine.

“I will be there. Am I ever not there?”

“Well, you usually come with Rachel and Justin, so I wasn’t sure.”

“I used to come without them all the time.” I’d met Cooper first, eighth grade. We’d been friends ever since. Rachel and Justin joined us freshman year.

“That’s true. And I’ve decided you’re my good-luck charm, so you have to keep coming for all of eternity now.”

“I will.” For all of eternity I’d be Cooper’s fangirl. That pathetic thought almost made me march out of there that second and gain back some of my dignity. But then he smiled at me.

TWO

In the summer, I usually slept in as long as possible. But the next morning a strip of light from the window crept into my room through a partially open blind and wouldn’t go away. I stood up, crossed my room, and shut the blind completely. I snuggled back under my covers, pulling them up around my ears. It didn’t stop me from hearing my phone buzz on the nightstand next to me. I thought about ignoring it, but when it buzzed again, I couldn’t help my curiosity. A text from Rachel lit my screen.

This will be the last text I send you for 9 weeks.

That text was followed by: What will you do without me?

Probably get more sleep.

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