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By:Lulu Pratt & Simone Sowood

"Anyway, after weeks of eating, sleeping, working, doing everything to someone else's will …  you just sort of break," I explain.

"I have to admit, it does sort of sound like living in the city," Harper says.

I laugh. "So, see, I could totally make it there."

"Alternately, I could make it in the army," Harper counters.

"I wouldn't want you to go into the army, anyway," I tell her.

"Oh? Why not?"

I think about that question for a few seconds. "You'd get this kind of …  hardness to you. It's not bad, exactly, but it would change you."

"Like the city hasn't," Harper says, rolling her eyes.

"It's different," I insist. "Women in the military are great, don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those cavemen guys who think women don't belong."

"Good," Harper says.

"It's just that by going through that process …  you'd have ended up less sweet. You wouldn't blush anymore, or if you did it wouldn't be easy to make you blush the way it still is."

"It's not that easy to make me blush," Harper protests.

"It's easier than it would be if you had to learn to keep a straight face when some commanding officer is going off not five inches from you," I point out.

"Okay, that's fair," Harper says, laughing.

"And your taste in clothes would be different. I like this look you have going on, it'd be a shame to see you all uniform-correct."

"Are you flirting with me, Zane Lewis? Because there are some people from West Ridge High who would drop their jaws at that."

"I flirted with you back then, too, you just didn't notice," I tell her.

"That's because you flirted with everyone," Harper counters. "It doesn't count."

"Well I needed someone to practice my moves on," I say.

"I was your practice?" Harper laughs out loud.

"Of course! I knew I was never going to do anything with you, and I wasn't going to get anywhere. It was good practice for girls playing hard to get, because you were actually impossible to get."

We keep going around the grocery store for a while, talking about what we were like in high school. I have to keep reminding myself about what Mom wanted me to get as just talking to this new, grown-up Harper who came from the city is distracting as hell.

I can't get the image of her stripping out of my mind.



"Are you going over to the Lewises' place?"

I slide my foot into my sandal and look up to see my mom just outside of the kitchen.

"Yeah, why?"

"Can you bring over the punch bowl and ask Bev if she thinks it'll be big enough?"

Mom had agreed to let Bev use her punch bowl for the big party the next night, and she'd dug it out of the closet that morning, to judge by the noises that got me out of bed at seven.

"Sure," I say.

I follow my mom into the kitchen, where I can see the punch bowl. It's always been a fixture of my family's parties, deep and wide, made of heavy glass. It's actually really pretty.

"We were talking about maybe doing a special anniversary punch for the event," Mom tells me as I heft the big bowl, making sure that I can actually carry it across the yard.

"First of all, don't the two of you have enough on your plates with what you've already got planned? And second of all, what would make it a special punch?" I grin at my mother, setting down the punch bowl and grabbing my purse from where I left it the last time I came in.

"It's cheaper to do punch than it would be to buy bunch of bottles of different kinds of alcohol for everyone," Mom points out.

I consider that and nod my agreement. "So what makes it a special anniversary punch?" I settle my purse on my shoulder and pick up the punch bowl once more.

"It'll be a Champagne punch," Mom replies.

"Ooh," I say. "That's actually kind of impressive. But wouldn't a Champagne punch get pricey quick?"

Mom shakes her head. "The great thing about it is that it's actually pretty cost-effective."

"I guess it would be, depending on how you make it. And of course it'll be fancy."

"Of course," Mom agrees.

She kisses me on the forehead and I'm off, out of the house and walking across the yard to the Lewises' back patio where Zane is sitting.

He's in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt with the word ‘Army' on it, and when he sees I have the punch bowl in my arms, he immediately stands up, perfectly correct and at-attention, and holds out his hands to take it from me.   


"Can you get the door for me? It's not that heavy, but my arms are kind of full," I tell him.

Zane moves to get the back door into the kitchen open for me. Bev is pouring herself a cup of coffee and looks up as I come in, Zane hot on my heels.

"Oh! Thank your mother for me," Bev says, taking the bowl from my arms and setting it down on the counter before leaning in to kiss me on the forehead.

"She woke me up at seven looking for that, so it better be worth my trashed sleep," I tell Bev with a little grin to show that I'm not actually all that upset about the situation.

She laughs. "I can offer you a cup of coffee to get you through the morning. You do know that I would like you to attend the family dinner party your parents are hosting later this week," she says. "As Zane is attending I want there to be even numbers for the table and I already cleared it with your mother last night."

"I knew I was going to be helping with the fancy meal, but it would be nice to formally attend and not be stuck in the kitchen," I say. "And yes, the coffee actually sounds heavenly. I already had one, but I'm still barely keeping my eyes open."

"What about you, Zane? Are you going to have another cup?"

Zane shrugs. "Might as well," he says.

Bev pours two more cups, emptying the pot. She rinses it and fills it up. As I add milk and sugar to my coffee, she starts a new pot. That's one good thing about the Lewises' place, they have at least relatively fresh coffee on from early in the morning until almost nine at night. There was more than once when Zane and I were in high school when we took full advantage of that fact.

We all sit down at the kitchen table and Bev grabs a basket of blueberry muffins from the counter. I snatch one up and eat it between sips of coffee, savoring the sweet, juicy blueberries and the soft cake.

"So what's on the agenda for you two today? I haven't seen you spend this much time together since before you finished middle school," Bev says.

Zane and I laugh at that a bit. She isn't wrong.

"We were going to play some PlayStation for a while, see where the day takes us," I say.

"It's so nice today, you two should be out and about, doing things," Bev says. "Maybe you could play wingman for each other, or wingman and wingwoman, and get each other dates for the party tomorrow night."

I roll my eyes.

"Actually that's not a bad idea," Zane says, and I raise an eyebrow.

"Go on," I say, and I feel a little flutter in my chest at the thought of trying to get Zane a date to his parents' big anniversary bash.

"If we get dates for the party tomorrow, then our parents won't keep trying to hook us up with other people," Zane points out quietly.

"That's actually a good point," I say in a whisper, thinking about it.

"So, since you two are both now over twenty-one, why not hit up one of the bars in town and find each other someone to bring to the party tomorrow night?" Bev grins at us and rises from the table.

"We need to decide where to go," Zane tells me.

I think about it.

"First one to win three rounds of Tekken chooses?" I meet Zane's gaze as I make the suggestion.

"You actually think you can beat me at Tekken?" He raises an eyebrow.

"I think I can beat you so hard that you'll cry for how badly your character goes down," I tell him.

"Oh you're on," Zane says.

"Three rounds," I remind him.

"We'll see," he tells me.

"No, we have to agree ahead of time!" I can feel my heart beating faster and I'm not even entirely sure why.

"Okay, first one to three rounds wins," he says. We both get up from the table. I finish my coffee and my second muffin, and we go upstairs to his room, almost rushing each other to get there.



I hand Harper the controller as I open up my PlayStation and put in Tekken. I can feel that little tingle, that sense of wanting to win, even if the stakes were nonexistent.

"You're sure you want to go up against me," I say, closing the console and booting up the game.

"Oh you're not going to pull that ‘hur hur, I'm a man so I can beat any woman at video games' thing, are you?" Harper shakes her head.

"No," I say. "I just know I'm really good at this."

"Yeah, you think you're really good at this, but I have played some Tekken," Harper counters. She grins at me and I make sure both controllers are plugged in properly. I can't have Harper claiming I cheated.

We both press start and I get into selecting my character, watching Harper in the corner of my eye as she goes through the options herself and picks one. I select Ganryu and Harper picks Kunimitsu.

"Final chance, you can back down," I say, smiling at Harper.