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Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

CHAPTER ONE

The e-mails always began the same way.

Hi Auden!!

It was the extra exclamation point that got me. My mother would call it extraneous, overblown, exuberant. To me, it was simply annoying, just like everything else about my stepmother, Heidi.

I hope you’re having a great last few weeks of classes. We are all good here! Just getting the last few things done before your sister-to-be arrives. She’s been kicking like crazy lately. It’s like she’s doing the karate moves in there! I’ve been busy minding the store (so to speak) and putting a few final touches on the nursery. I’ve done it all in pink and brown; it’s gorgeous. I’ll attach a picture so you can see it.

Your dad is busy as always, working on his book. I figure I’ll see more of him burning the midnight oil when I’m up with the baby!

I really hope you’ll consider coming to visit us once you’re done with school. It would be so much fun, and make this summer that much more special for all of us. Just come anytime. We’d love to see you!

Love, Heidi (and your dad, and the baby to be!)

Just reading these missives exhausted me. Partially it was the excited grammar— which was like someone yelling in your ear—but also just Heidi herself. She was just so…extraneous, overblown, exuberant. And annoying. All the things she’d been to me, and more, since she and my dad got involved, pregnant, and married in the last year.

My mother claimed not to be surprised. Ever since the divorce, she’d been predicting it would not be long before my dad, as she put it, “shacked up with some coed.” At twenty-six, Heidi was the same age my mother had been when she had my brother Hollis, followed by me two years later, although they could not be more different. Where my mother was an academic scholar with a smart, sharp wit and a nationwide reputation as an expert on women’s roles in Renaissance literature, Heidi was…well, Heidi. The kind of woman whose strengths were her constant self- maintenance (pedicures, manicures, hair highlights), knowing everything you never wanted to about hemlines and shoes, and sending entirely too chatty e-mails to people who couldn’t care less.

Their courtship was quick, the implantation (as my mother christened it) happening within a couple of months. Just like that, my father went from what he’d been for years—husband of Dr. Victoria West and author of one well-received novel, now more known for his interdepartmental feuds than his long-in-progress follow- up—to a new husband and father to be. Add all this to his also-new position as head of the creative writing department at Weymar College, a small school in a beachfront

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