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“Ugh, Grace!”

“If it makes you feel any better, millions of people have seen me naked,” I say, but Esme just stares back at me as if I’m missing the point, which I possibly am, but only because I can’t explain it properly. I want to tell her that I know all about the power imbalance that exists every time you meet someone who’s seen you at your most vulnerable, whether or not it was your choice in the first place. How you have to hope that they don’t use it against you in some way, or say something flippant that might burn its way into your sense of self, resurfacing every time you look at your body in the mirror or undress in front your partner.

“Have you talked to Mom about it?” I ask instead.

“She knows I was suspended for indecent exposure,” Esme says, annoyed at the question. “But my school would never admit what actually happened because it makes them look shitty. And it’s not like she’s going to ask—you know she doesn’t like talking about anything like that. She probably thinks I streaked across the football field or something.”

“Can you just delete the app?” I ask, and Esme reacts as if I’ve just suggested she remove her own toenails with a pair of rusty tweezers. “Maybe transfer schools?”

“You don’t understand,” Esme says slowly. I can hear my fall from grace in surround sound. “My school is supposed to be shaping the most brilliant minds of our generation, but it’s just the fucking same as anywhere else.”

Esme picks her phone up again and then drops it straight back down next to her as if it’s burning hot. “Can we talk about something else?”

“Okay . . .” I say, but I can’t think of anything else to talk about. I know that I should tell her that everything will be okay, but who am I to talk?

“Do you still want to go swimming?” I ask eventually.

The boys have disappeared and Esme nods, but she is more subdued than usual, so I stride confidently down the porch steps and onto the sand, trying to set a good example for the first time in my life. Goose bumps are already spreading over my arms and legs, but there’s no way we’re not going in now. Once I reach the water, I lift my face up and let the salty wind whip my cheeks as I wait for my sister to join me. She follows me, dropping her T-shirt onto the sand at the last minute and carefully wrapping her phone in it.

“I think you’re being very brave,” I say softly to Esme once we’re in the icy water, just before she dives underneath the waves and stays down there for a long time. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen her lost for words.


Dylan answers the door as soon as I ring the bell, before I’ve had enough time to adequately brace myself. I smile nervously as he stands and looks at me for a moment before stepping back to let me in the house.

“How are you doing, Grace?” he says easily.

“Almost, definitely, okay,” I say, and for some reason I also flash him the scuba diving hand signal for okay. His eyes crinkle slightly in response.

I trail my finger across the leaf of a cheese plant we bought as a test to see whether we were allowed to get a dog. It’s still alive, which is something, but I’m not sure how much I had to do with it.

“Do you remember the video camera?” I ask, and Dylan nods. “Do you know where it is? I’m working on a project.”

Dylan breaks into a smile and I have to look away, because of those beautiful fucking teeth.

A couple of years ago I told him about the late-night talk show appearance I’d done when I was seventeen. It was the first one I’d booked where I didn’t feel like a little kid anymore, and I was excited to show everyone how much I’d grown up. I wore a short white dress that, naturally, the host made the audience applaud, before he encouraged a bonus round of applause for my virginity, which he then joked had been insured for $10 million. I squirmed and giggled along with him and, at his encouragement, gently scolded him like he was my naughty little brother instead of what he was: a middle-aged pervert. Afterward, everyone told me how well I did. Once again, I had impressed with my amiability.

After I showed him the clip on YouTube, Dylan went out and bought me the camera. He said I could use it to tell whatever story I wanted, and he never even said anything when it sat untouched in our spare room after that.

“That’s cool. I can’t wait to hear about it,” Dylan says, pausing at the bottom of the stairs. I don’t give him any more information, and he walks off to find it.

I’m waiting by the front door for him, feeling like a stranger in a home that never really felt like my own, when Wren walks out from the kitchen, wearing yoga pants and a loose tank top with the word NamaSLAY printed across it. She is holding a bag of carrot sticks, and I figure she’s just finished working out.

“Hi, sweetie!” she says, kissing me on the cheek. She smells of carrots and hummus, and for just a second it makes my chest hurt because Dylan probably deserves to be with someone who smells of carrots and hummus and does yoga every weekend.

“I was thinking, we should go out soon. Do you want to go out together?” she asks, squinting as she holds up the bag of carrots, reading something.

I stare at her, unsure of what she means. “Like to a club?”

“I’d love that, Grace. Maybe next week?” Wren says as Dylan appears at the top of the stairs. He’s holding a box and wearing an old gray baseball cap with a faded O, for Ohio State, where his brothers all played football.

“You going anywhere good?” I say, a smile breaking across my face because this used to be Dylan’s lucky flying hat. He wouldn’t get on a plane without it even though I used to tease him mercilessly about it. He had hundreds of these little superstitions, things he half believed in as if he didn’t already believe in enough.

He stands at the top of the stairs, smiling down at me, his face half-hidden under the shadow of the brim. Wren is still reading the carrot packaging next to me, and I feel inexplicably irritated by this. I don’t understand what she can be searching for when surely the only ingredient is fucking carrots. She catches me watching her and smiles, offering the bag to me. I take a stick mainly because I can’t be bothered to decline.

“So, Friday?” she says brightly, and I must appear confused because she shakes her head, laughing. “You and me going out.”

Dylan walks down the stairs and stands at the bottom, next to Wren. I wait expectantly but nobody says anything. In the end I reach out and take the box from his hands.

“Grace?” Wren says eventually.

“Great, yeah. Friday,” I say, turning the box over in my hands.

* * *

? ? ?

I practice using the camera at home, filming in the dark living room. The room is even bleaker on a flat screen. I flip the screen so that it’s facing me, and then I talk into it like I’ve seen the kids on Abbot Kinney do on their phones.

“Hiiiiii, guys, it’s me. I just wanted to tell you about the calorie content of carrots today. Like, everyone thinks carrots are good for you, but in actual fact, do you know how much water is in each carrot you eat? Have you even ever heard of water retention? Because it makes you fat. That’s what water does. Carrots are disgusting,” I say, feeling mean only once I’ve finished.

I walk out onto the porch and hold the camera up to film the ocean. The sunlight flares on the screen like a shot in a Sofia Coppola movie. I wish I knew how to send the clip straight to Dylan, because I think he’d like it.

I hold the camera up, filming a pelican as it plunges into the ocean for fish, when a car door slams behind me. I flip the camera shut because the sound has already ruined the audio of my shot, even though I don’t know what it’s for.

“What are you up to?” Emilia asks, climbing up the porch to me. She is impossibly perfect, her hair the exact color of the sand when the sun hits it.

“Just messing around,” I say, holding the camera by my side protectively. “What’s up?”

“Well . . . my colorist was over and I saw that your car was down here, and I just thought, you know what, I’ll see if Grace wants her roots done too,” Emilia says, smiling innocently at me. I automatically reach for my hair. She must have seen the tabloid photos of me looking like a serial killer.

“Is that your way of telling me I need to get my roots done?”