Love, Life, and the List Page 1


“Hot or cold?”

“Hot. I hate being cold. You know that about me.” Just the thought made me shiver even though it was the middle of summer, which was probably what prompted Cooper’s question. It was hot. So hot that sweat was beading on the backs of my knees. We had been standing in line for the movie on the beach for twenty minutes already, and I was looking forward to when the sun went down and the breeze picked up.

He shook his head. “I do know that, but I mean, would you rather die from freezing to death or overheating?”

“Morbid.” I pursed my lips. “But you’re right, that’s a different question. I’ve heard that dying from being cold is blissful.”

“Who did you hear this from? Are ghosts of people who froze to death visiting you?”

“Yes. Every day. Speaking of, would you rather be cursed with seeing ghosts or zombies?”

“Cursed? Cursed?” He gripped one of my shoulders and shook it. “Neither of those is a curse in my opinion. Totally amazing. I’ll take them both.”

“That’s not how the rules work. You have to pick one.”

“Ghosts. Hopefully they can tell me about my future.”

“Ghosts don’t know the future,” I said as we shifted forward in the line, inching closer to the ticket table. Sand slid between my foot and flip-flop and I shook it free.

“Says who?”

“Says everybody, Cooper. If anything, ghosts know the past.”

“Well, yours may not, Abby, but my ghosts are future-telling ghosts. It will be awesome.”

The girl standing in line in front of us turned around and smiled at Cooper. She probably thought he was adorably charming. Because he was. She was around our age. Her hair was pulled up into a purposefully messy bun and I wondered how people made that look purposeful and not just messy.

“Hey,” he said to her. “How are you?”

“Better now,” she said with a giggle, then turned back around.

I shook my head. “Don’t mind me. You know, the girl standing next to the boy you’re flirting with.”

I was sure by my tone she knew I was joking, but Cooper still put his hand over my mouth and said, “The best friend of the guy standing here. Just friends. Said guy is totally available.”

I freed my mouth and laughed, even though the “just friends” part was not by choice. I had, in fact, professed my love to Cooper Wells exactly one year ago that very month. It had been more than obvious by his reaction that the feelings were not reciprocated. So I had to play it off like some joke. Some joke he had been more than willing to go along with. And I let him, because I didn’t want to lose him as a friend. He was the best friend in the world.

A voice sounded from behind us. “Which begs the question, would you rather hang out with your best friends one more night or pack all night for the trip your parents are dragging you on for the entire summer?”

I whirled around, a smile taking over my face. “Don’t use the word begs, Rachel. My eighty-year-old grandpa uses that word,” I said.

Rachel stood there with her hands on her hips and her dark eyes sparkling. “That’s where I picked it up. And he’s only sixty-eight.”

I bumped her hip with mine, then gave her a hug. “How did you know we were playing would you rather?”

“Aren’t we always?”

“I thought you weren’t going to make it tonight,” I said.

There were four of us in our tight-knit group of friends: Cooper, Rachel, Justin, and me. Justin had left last week and would be gone for the summer on a mission to South America with his church. Rachel was leaving tomorrow for a tour around Europe with her parents. So for the rest of the summer it would be just Cooper and me.

“Me too. Now, back to my begged question,” Rachel said. “Packing or best friends?”

“That’s a tough one, Rach,” Cooper said. “Probably packing.”

She shoved his arm. “Funny.”

We finally reached the front of the line. Cooper stepped up to the covered table that served as the ticket booth every Friday night throughout the summer. A guy standing behind a cashbox said, “Are you Cooper?”

“Yeeees,” Cooper said warily.

“That girl paid for yours.” The guy nodded to Messy Bun, who had been standing in front of us and was now walking toward the entrance. She must’ve heard me say Cooper’s name at some point.

“What about ours?” I called after to her, linking arms with Rachel.

The girl threw us a smile over her shoulder, then waved.

“You punk,” I said to Cooper. “Where are the people willing to buy my Friday-night entertainment?” I dug into my beach bag, past the towels and sweater, until I found my wallet. I handed the cashier my money and collected a ticket. Rachel did the same.

“You have to work on your charm,” Cooper said.

“I am the most charming person here.” I slung my beach bag back onto my shoulder and it rocked back and forth like a pendulum. “Charm oozes from my pores.”

“Gross,” he said. “If that’s the case, you’re doing it wrong.”

“Come get your oozing charm, boys!” I yelled to the line behind us.

“Move your ooze along,” someone called back.

Rachel dragged me away from the line, probably embarrassed. Cooper headed left, toward the food stand just past the barriers.

“We’re getting expensive food tonight?” I asked.

“Seems I have some extra money. I can afford a ten-dollar popcorn now.”

“I hate you. I’m eating all your popcorn,” I said.

He laughed. “You do ooze charm, Abby Turner. Loads of it.”

I blew him a kiss. “We’re going to stake a claim on our spot. You get food.”

“I’m on it.”

I had already committed to walking away with Rachel when I saw that the girl who’d bought Cooper’s ticket was now in line at the food truck. I almost changed my mind and sent Rachel to our spot without me so I could join him. But then I didn’t. I didn’t need to witness all his flirting. I already saw enough of it.

“So you’re never going to guess what my parents decided,” Rachel said as I pulled a couple of towels out of my bag and we spread them out on our spot next to the right-side barriers.

“That you don’t have to go with them and you get to stay with me all summer instead?” I guessed.

“I wish.”

“You know how spoiled you sound that you’re complaining about traveling Europe for nine weeks?”

“With my parents. My parents. It’s not like a youth hostel backpacking trip with friends. We’re going to have to visit ancestors’ graves and random plots of land that they think my great-great-grandfather’s brother once peed on or something.”

“Wait, your ancestors are from Europe?”

“Some of them. You don’t think there are any black people in Europe? Come on, Abby.”

“It’s not that I don’t think . . . you’re right, I’m dumb. So, anyway, what did your parents decide?”

“That it’s a technology-free trip.”

“What does that mean?” I sat down on the towel and slipped off my flip-flops. “No Google Maps?”

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