Today's Reading

Maya was still talking, and I focused on regaining my bearings in the conversation. "I can't wait. I wish summer was over already. I am so ready for college!" She smiled at Dax. "So, Balboa Island. You ready for senior trip?"

"We're ready," Dax said, slinging his arm around me again.

Maya's eyes widened slightly. "Liv, you're coming with us? That's so great!"

"My mom still hasn't decided," I said quickly. About thirty people from Dax's class were going to a classmate's beach house, which sounded chaotic and fun, but also...

I don't know. If I had to pin it down, I'd say that the ocean and I aren't the best of friends. I mostly like to admire it from afar, but Dax was already talking to me about this rock formation he planned to swim out to, and I was already coming up with a long list of excuses as to why I would not be swimming out to said rock formation. I can swim. I'm even scuba certified. It's just that I prefer not to drown in the depths of the murky sea. I still wanted to go. But not in the same way Dax wanted me to. It seemed to be a running theme these days.

"I'm going to make it work," I said confidently, and Dax shot me one of his dazzling smiles. A real smile. My shoulders loosened.

Maya hesitated, her grin turning sly. "Cool. Well, I guess I'll see you in Balboa, Couple Most Likely to Outlast High School!"

Aw. The infamous yearbook title.

"See you soon, Maya," Dax said, looping his other arm around me.

Maya turned, and we watched her and her dog trot off into the distance while I waited for Dax's customary denial. He didn't disappoint.

"Nothing's going on with her," he said quickly.

"I didn't say anything was going on with her." I fell into him, so he had to catch me. "Why do you keep telling people I'm applying to Stanford? I'm only a junior."

"Senior," he corrected, setting me back on my feet. "In three months, you'll be a senior. And I said you're trying for it, not that you're going for sure. Besides, what do you have against us going to the same school?"

"Nothing." I shut my eyes for half a second. Because, yes, the thought of wandering around campus and dorms and parties with Dax and zero parental supervision made me want to click my heels together and sing. But something about it made me feel a swirl of panic, too. Dax's dual enrollment meant that we only went to the same school part of the time, and already he dictated most of our social life. Maybe that had worked at first, when I didn't know anyone at my high school. But once I began making my own friends, it had started to feel a bit... constricting. He didn't love when I spent time with other guys (understandable), and it was hard to balance all of my own activities and schoolwork with going to his games and spending time with his school friends. Life had been so busy that I'd even had to drop soccer this year (I played goalie, of course, less running, all the social benefits) so I had enough time to balance everything.

Not that I was complaining. I was wild about Dax. Bananas about Dax. The real problem with Stanford is that it wasn't Rhode Island School of Design.

RISD. Thinking about it made me want to swoon into a field of lilacs or burst into spontaneous song or whatever it was people did when all their dreams come true. But I needed to wait for the right moment to tell Dax, and today was clearly not it. For Couple Most Likely to Outlast High School, we sure fought a lot.

I took a deep breath, mentally prepping for a conversational U-turn, when my phone dinged again. Another text from Mom. This time a bit more aggressive. Olive, please come home NOW. I really need to talk to you.

Olive again?

"Who is it?" Dax asked, glancing at my phone.

I quickly tilted it away from him. "Mom."

Dax wiped his face on his shirt again. "Thought she was at work?"

Instantly, my stomach turned to origami, and I had to force myself to relax. Worrying about my mom is an automatic reflex. That tends to happen when you lose one parent—you automatically worry more about the other one. Not that she ever gave me reason to worry. She probably needed someone to watch my little brother is all.

"Come on. Let's go make pancakes," I said.

I climbed onto his back again, and we were mercifully quiet for the next few minutes. We had made it to the last few feet of my driveway when Dax pointed to the mailbox. "You should check. Amelia told me they'd send out the invitations by mail."

"Dax," I groaned, tumbling off his back and making a big show of going boneless. I'd learned it from my five-year-old brother, Julius. He was a master at becoming an invertebrate should the situation ever demand it. "Does the mail even come on Saturday?"

This excerpt ends on page 15 of the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book Easy Target by Tim Shoemaker.

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