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Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen - page 7 / 18





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was lucky if he changed a diaper every once in a while. And forget about him getting up for night feedings. He claimed that he had sleep issues and had to get his nine hours in order to teach. Awfully convenient, that.”

She was still reading my cards as she said this, and I felt the familiar twinge I always experienced whenever anything I did was suddenly under her scrutiny. A moment later, though, she put them aside without comment.

“Well,” I said as she took another sip of coffee, “that was a long time ago. Maybe he’s changed.”

“People don’t change. If anything, you get more set in your ways as you get older, not less.” She shook her head. “I remember I used to sit in our bedroom, with Hollis screaming, and just wish that once the door would open, and your father would come in and say ‘Here, give him to me. You go rest.’ Eventually, it wasn’t even your dad I wanted, just anybody. Anybody at all.”

She was looking out the window as she said this, her fingers wrapped around her mug, which was not on the table or at her lips but instead hovering just between. I picked up my cards, carefully arranging them back in order. “I should go get ready,” I said, pushing my chair back.

My mother didn’t move as I got up and walked behind her. It was like she was frozen, still back in that old bedroom, still waiting, at least until I got down the hallway. Then, suddenly, she spoke.

“You should rethink that Faulkner quote,” she said. “It’s too much for an opening. You’ll sound pretentious.”

I looked down at my top card, where the words—“The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past”—were written in my neat block print. “Okay,” I said. She was right, of course. She always was. “Thanks.”

I’d been so focused on my last year of high school and beginning college that I hadn’t really thought about the time in between. Suddenly, though, it was summer, and there was nothing to do but wait for my real life to begin again.

I spent a couple of weeks getting all the stuff I needed for Defriese, and tried to pick up a few shifts at my tutoring job at Huntsinger Test Prep, although it was pretty slow. I seemed to be the only one thinking about school, a fact made more obvious by the various invitations I received from my old friends at Perkins to dinners or trips to the lake. I wanted to see everyone, but whenever we did get together, I felt like the odd person out. I’d only been at Kiffney-Brown for two years, but it was so different, so entirely academic, that I found I couldn’t really relate to their talk about summer jobs and boyfriends. After a few awkward outings, I began to beg off, saying I was busy, and after a while, they got the message.

Home was kind of weird as well, as my mom had gotten some research grant and was working all the time, and when she wasn’t, her graduate assistants were always showing up for impromtu dinners and cocktail hours. When they got too noisy, and the house too crowded, I’d head out to the front porch with a book and read until it was dark enough to go to Ray’s.

One night, I was deeply into a book about Buddhism when I saw a green Mercedes coming down our street. It slowed as it neared our mailbox, then slid to a stop by the curb. After a moment, a very pretty blonde girl wearing low-slung jeans, a red tank top, and wedge sandals got out, a package in one hand. She peered at the house, then down at it, then back at the house again before starting up the

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