Archie raised one finger in the air. “Not to criticize your wisdom, Mom, but that does seem a tad bit harsh. One of them messes up and they’re both off their—”
“Enough from the peanut gallery,” Mom snapped.
“Wait, what?” I startled, the second part of her punishment finally sticking to my brain. “You’re saying that if Ian messes up, I’m going to be punished for it?”
“Yes. And if you mess up, Ian is going to be punished for it. Think of it as a team sport. One of you blows it, you both lose.”
“But, Mom, I have absolutely no control over what Ian does. How is that fair?” I wailed.
“Life isn’t fair,” my mom vaulted back, a hint of glee in her voice. My parents loved maxims the way other people loved cheese or fine wines.
And how was Ian acting so chill ? Ever since his first junior football game, where he single-handedly turned the game around and then methodically led them to the championship, football had been Ian’s life. Not only was he the starting quarterback on our high school’s football team, but he’d already been approached by two different colleges with talks of scholarships. One of them had been right before football camp. No wonder he was acting like he didn’t care. He was probably in the process of internal collapse.
You know what Cubby’s been doing, right? He’s been—Without warning, Ian’s words charged into my head, and I had to dive on them before they could gain any ground. I couldn’t think about football camp now. Not unless I wanted to go from kind of losing it to completely losing it. Not when Italy was on the line.
“Great. We’re all in agreement,” my mom said to our silence. She turned forward, placing her hands on the steering wheel at a perfect ten and two. “Here’s the plan for tonight. When we get back to the hotel, I want everyone to pack up. Walter and Archie, the tour bus leaves at some ungodly hour tomorrow morning, and you need to be ready. Addie and Ian, you are going to change and get cleaned up, and then I am taking you to your aunt’s room, where you will apologize profusely and beg for her forgiveness.”
“Mom—” I groaned, but she held up a hand.
“Did I say beg? I meant grovel. After that, we’re all attending the wedding dinner, where I trust you will all manage to behave like civilized human beings, or at least like mildly trained apes. Then, once we’ve danced and eaten cake or whatever else my sister wants us to do, we will all go right to bed. And, Addie and Ian, I suggest you both figure out a way to reconcile in a nonviolent manner. Otherwise it’s going to be a miserable few days in Italy. I hear that cemetery Lina lives in is pretty small.”
“It isn’t. It’s giant,” I blurted out.
“Addie,” Ian said, his patience completely spent. “Stop. Talking.”
“I just don’t get why you—”
“Addie!” the whole car yelled.
I threw myself back into my brothers’ meaty shoulders. Stop talking. If I wanted to play soccer, I was going to have to keep my focus on two goals: stay on Mom’s good side and get along with Ian.
I bit the inside of my lip, Ian’s tousled hair on the outskirts of my vision. How had getting along with Ian become a goal?
At any other point in our lives, Ian coming to Italy with me would have made perfect sense. He’d always been my partner in adventure. When we were in elementary school, he’d made a game out of finding strange spots around the neighborhood to surprise me with. Once we’d snuck into an abandoned shed full of molding comic books, and another day he’d boosted me up into a massive oak tree littered with initials.
“Field trips,” Ian called them. And as we got older, we stuck with the tradition, driver’s licenses extending our possibilities. We’d been on one just three weeks earlier.
“Field trip time.” As usual, Ian hadn’t bothered to knock. He’d just burst into my room, shoving past me at my desk to launch himself onto my unmade bed.
“Not happening. Mom’s coworker will be here in an hour, and we will be at dinner,” I said, doing my best imitation of Mom. “Also, you’re getting my sheets dirty.”
I hadn’t actually turned around yet, so this was based entirely on speculation. But I knew Ian. Instead of showering and changing like a normal human, Ian almost always jetted straight out of practice the second it was over. The muddy upholstery of our shared car was a testament to that.
I scribbled out my last answer and flipped to a fresh page in my notebook. It offended my very essence to be enrolled in summer school, but I’d barely passed biology, and my parents and I had decided that a second go-around would be a good idea.
Ian flopped around dramatically, making my bedsprings squeak. “Mom is fine with us missing dinner for our important Student Athlete Committee meeting.”
“SAC?” I spun around, my chair twisting with me. “Please tell me you did not sign me up for that.” SAC was a new and desperate attempt to repair our school’s reputation as having the most aggressive (read: mean) spectators in the state.
Ian grinned his signature grin, the one that took over his whole face and let me know that something exciting was about to happen. “Don’t worry. I did not sign you up for that. Although if Mom asks, that’s where we’re going.”
I let my pencil clatter onto the desk. “You know they’re going to make you do it, though, right? Ms. Hampton said they were going to recruit the school’s ‘most beloved student athletes,’ and I swear she was making googly eyes at you when she said it.” I placed my hand over my heart, doing my best impression of her shaky falsetto. “Ian, you shining star of perfection. Save us from ourselves!”
He made a gagging face. “Please, please, please, can we not talk about football? I’ll be in the car.” He jumped up and thundered out, leaving a muddy body print splayed out on my white sheets.
“Ian,” I groaned, looking at his imprint. But I grabbed my sneakers from under my desk and took off after him. Chasing after Ian never felt like a choice—it was like sleeping or brushing my teeth. It was just what I did.
The Cliffs of Moher
Every time a traveler goes to Ireland and doesn’t stop at the Cliffs of Moher, a banshee loses her voice. That’s right, sweet pea, a banshee. We are in Ireland after all. Shrieky ghosts abound. And as your tour guide and now friend, I’m required to tell you that one simply does not go to Ireland and not see the cliffs. They’re nonnegotiable. Required reading. They are the entire point.
Here’s why. The cliffs are gorgeous. Breath-stealing, really. But not in the soft, endearing way of a sunset or a wobbly new lamb. They’re gorgeous like a storm is gorgeous—one of those raw, tempestuous ones that leave you feeling awed and scared at the same time. Ever been trapped in a car during a particularly brutal thunderstorm? The cliffs are that kind of beautiful. Think drama, rage, and peace all packed up into one stunning package.
I studied the cliffs for years before I figured out their secret—the thing that takes them from merely scenic to life-altering: they’re beautiful because they contradict themselves. Soft, mossy hills turn to petrifying cliffs. A roiling sea rages against a serene sky. Visitors stand around in a combined state of reverence and exuberance. Before the cliffs I knew that beauty could be delightful and inspiring. After the cliffs I knew that it could also be stark and miserable.
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