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Meant to Be | Amylea Lyn 2 I IT WAS like it was happening in slow motion as the overloaded grocery bag I was carryin Meant to be Married · What's Meant To. ADVANCE READER' S COPY — NOT FOR SALE MEANT TO BE Lauren Morrill TITLE: AUTHOR: IMPRINT: PUBLICATION DATE: ISBN: PRIC. Print and download Meant to Be sheet music by Bebe Rexha feat. Florida Georgia Your high-resolution PDF file will be ready to download in 7 available keys.

Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc. Her outfit that day consisted of a Rolling Stones logo tee that had been refashioned into a pencil skirt, and a pencil skirt refashioned into a vest. As I crawl into bed, my cell blinks again. Save on Every Order! Talking to me. Publishing administered by:

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Unfortunately, Mark has hardly looked at me at all. The slightly shorn lion still sits on the top shelf of my closet, looking a little lumpy and sad. The only things even close to our size are the double-decker buses, which are everywhere. I keep having little moments of panic during which I think our bus driver has gotten drunk and is about to career into an oncoming car, only to remind myself that here in England they drive on the other side of the road.

The buildings around us curve with the roads. Finally, the bus rolls to a stop in front of our hotel. I stifle a gasp. The Soho Sennett Hotel is located in the trendy district populated by theaters, clubs, and record stores. The hotel itself looks like something out of a fairy tale.

No problem whatsoever. The hotel is owned by Mrs. The company he works for bought it last year, when it was only a row of townhouses, and they recently finished a full gut renovation. Thanks to Mrs. Because really, if a hotel staff can survive twenty American teenagers, they can survive anything.

She came home looking like she had chicken pox, and no one would go near her for a week. He folds his long torso over the marble counter and peers down at her screen.

I look away. No point in spoiling the disgusting film with a gross preview. Tennison weaves through the group, pressing key cards into our palms and checking things off on her clipboard. Once I have mine, I drag my duffel to the grand staircase.

On the third floor, I stop to roll my stiff shoulders, feeling completely sore and exhausted from the long flight. I make my way down the narrow hall, papered with a rich royal purple-andgold pattern. At the end of the hall, I arrive at a heavy mahogany door with a loopy number stamped on a brass plate.

After two tries with the electronic key card, the door swings open and my jaw hits the floor. A queen-size bed dominates the room, anchored to the wall by a floor-to-ceiling distressed brown leather headboard with oversized brass buttons, which create a quilting pattern.

A mountain of fluffy bright white pillows breaks up the color scheme, and a thick bronze-and-burgundy comforter shines across the top of the bed. At the foot of the bed, on a raised bamboo platform nestled in the bay window, where one might normally find a window seat or a wingback chair, stands a lacquered bright white claw-foot bathtub. A beautiful, glistening, perfectly me-sized bathtub.

I almost do a happy dance right there. Okay, maybe I do actually do a small happy dance. Two sets of roman shades cover the window, a white set for privacy and light and a burgundy set for sleeping.

A recessed light overhead shines a spotlight down on the whole tableau. Outside, I can hear my classmates shouting down the halls. But before I can submerge my aching feet in the bath, I need to get unpacked. I cannot live out of a suitcase for ten days okay, technically nine, since today is Friday and we leave next Saturday. I can practically feel my clothes wrinkling. Plus I think some of that latte may have seeped through my duffel. I heave my suitcase onto the luggage rack and then open it to get things unpacked and organized.

Phoebe insisted I bring them. I scrunched up my nose. Her wardrobe is a mess, an explosion of neon and distressed denim, pieces spanning numerous decades and as many styles. But get an outfit on her and step back? She always looks effortlessly cool. Marc Jacobs?

In theory. Her outfit that day consisted of a Rolling Stones logo tee that had been refashioned into a pencil skirt, and a pencil skirt refashioned into a vest. A little bit insane, but on her, it worked. Her aluminum bangles smacked together like an army marching a two-step. Adventure happens. She says you have to chase your destiny, and she always expects life to be like a romantic comedy: Unfortunately, my life is more often like one of those cable-access channels with the grandmotherly woman who tells you how to make pies.

I have my own e-reader, but I hardly ever use it. I need to fold down pages and flag passages with sticky notes. I leaned over the bed toward her, but she danced to the other side of the room with my books. I leaped over the bed and ran to grab them, but she held the stack high over her head, and I had to jump a little to try to reach them. Even if you manage to finish your stash, they do have these things called bookstores there.

Now, with an ocean between us, I pull out the heels and line them up next to my flip-flops and my sensible sneakers in the closet. I pull out the five guidebooks I brought, neatly flagged with approximately Post-it notes, wipe the travel dust off their glossy covers, and stack them neatly on the nightstand. I step back to admire my handiwork. My end table looks like a page out of a travel magazine.

Reaching back into my suitcase, I pull a small yellowed photograph from one of its interior pockets and smooth the edges, which are soft and curled from age. My mom is wearing a simple white linen dress with an empire waist and lace sleeves. Dad in his marine dress blues is behind her, his chin resting on her head. As I tuck the photo into the frame of the mirror hanging over the vanity, I start to feel a knot forming in the pit of my stomach, tears welling up in my eyes.

I deal with this the only way I know how: I will not cry on my first day in London. Now for that hot bath. I jump up and set about lining up all my toiletries on the counter from tallest to shortest.


I step out of my clothes, depositing them into the hotel-provided laundry bag, and slip into the white heavy-but-soft terry cloth robe bearing the monogram of the Soho Sennett Hotel.

The sash is so long that I tug it off and hang it back on the hook. I drape a towel over the edge of the tub and crank the silver faucet to hot. As the tub fills with steamy water, I grab my tube of spot cream, this amazing organic zit stuff my mom picked up in Boston. The herbs in it give off an incredibly relaxing scent, but they also turn the cream an unfortunate shade of green.

I drop my robe and put one foot into the hot water when I hear a knock at the door. I turn off the water and grab my robe. I tug my robe closed around my naked body, suddenly missing the sash, as I frantically try to shake some soapsuds off my right foot and hop toward the door.

This was not what he looked like during our bus ride through the city, when he had on a North Face fleece and a ratty Sox cap over his mop of rusty-red hair. My hand flies to my face and comes away with a palm full of chartreuse speckles.

Instead of responding, I march back to the door and give it a good hard swing, not really caring if it catches his pen, or one or two of his fingers. How did he get invited to a party? Where is this party taking place? And why on earth is Jason Lippincott standing at my door asking me to go with him? I have no idea why. And geography. Oh my God, I suddenly understand why people call me Book Licker.

Body language much? So he invited us. So how about it? When have rules ever mattered to Jason? Case in point: I take a quick step backward, unconsciously giving him room to enter. He lets the door swing shut behind him.

Damn it. He crosses his arms and cocks an eyebrow at me. They could be drug dealers or ax murderers. They could be cult leaders trying to get you to wear a choir robe and drink Kool-Aid. Tennison could use a party! She needs to loosen up a bit, too. Think we should invite her? I tap my toe frantically under the robe. How do you suggest we get around that? Or were you thinking of sleeping in the lobby tonight? My room. I grab the copy of my key from his palm. Stick with me and maybe one day you, too, will learn how to do that.

I think that slate of charges surpasses detention. I snatch the key. Just then, he catches sight of my bathtub. Can I join? You, me, some bubbles. I grab it back from him and turn around to place it in its rightful spot at the edge of the tub.

But as I turn, something tugs on me. As the information makes its way from my eyeballs to my brain, I feel the robe slip off my shoulder. He pitches back onto the bed but grabs hold of the front of my robe. Before this can turn into a major wardrobe malfunction, I twist away from him, clenching the robe closed, but manage to get my feet tangled in the hem and falls down toward the floor. Instinctively, I reach out to break my fall. Without my hands holding it shut, my robe flies open and billows out behind me.

He sits up in time to see me crash to the ground in a naked tangle of arms, legs, and terry cloth. As soon as I can discern my bare butt from my elbow, I pull myself into the fetal position and yank the robe over my head like a blanket. It feels like an eternity before Jason stops laughing. Then we can discuss this party situation further.

I think about that prospect for a moment, but the wood floor is not comfortable on my knees. I army crawl across the floor, trying to keep the robe draped over me. Underneath yards of white terry cloth, I must look like some kind of turtle ghost.

When I make it around the bed, I peek my head out to see that Jason, true to his word, is facing the opposite direction. I let out a huge breath, adjust my robe, and scramble back to my feet. He tosses the bag to me. Faced with the prospect of releasing the robe to catch the purse, I decide to just let it whack me in the face, then bounce onto the bed.

His mischievous grin quickly dissolves into something resembling seriousness. Personally, I think a little adventure would do you good. Get a life? A life! I have a life. A damn good one, too. I have friends, I play sports, I have fun, I have—oh crap, I only have ten minutes. I need some adventure. Because my name is Julia. Not Book Licker. I am fun. I grab the only skirt I brought to London, an airy yellow number that hits just above the knee.

It pairs nicely with my white polo and my black Converse high-tops, but as I look in the mirror, all I can see is Book Licker staring back at me. I look like a fifth grader on a field trip. My hair is hopeless, so I leave it in the ponytail, hoping I can rock the bedhead look with actual bedhead.

Then I dash out the door as fast as I can in fourinch leather gladiator heels , sliding my key under Mrs. This is a bad idea. Very bad. To go to a party with Jason Lippincott.

What am I doing? Am I flap-my-arms-and-fly-away, speaking-in-tongues, barking mad?

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As the elevator doors slide open, I am once again face to face with Jason. In my hand, my phone vibrates. Do it! And report back. Better be wearing the shoes! Oh My! Omg—mark news! Must discuss.

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Everyone around me looks like they stepped off the pages of Vanity Fair. Flanked on both sides by speakers, the deejay looks completely out of place surrounded by heavily ornamented and brocaded antiques. The coolest! I feel like such a dork, and the embarrassment coursing through my body causes me to teeter on my too-high shoes.

Jason just rolls his eyes. Oh yes! I hurry after him, because my desire not to be alone is overshadowing my desire to be on good behavior. We make our way across the front room and into the kitchen. From a cabinet Jason procures two glasses, each of which looks like it cost more than my plane ticket.

The marble-topped island in the kitchen is covered with various bottles and mixers. Jason splashes liquid from a few different bottles into the glasses, then hands one to me. As soon as the glass is in my hand, I tip it back and take a big gulp. Coach Haas would kill me if he knew I was drinking during swim season.

Instantly, I feel like someone threw a match down my throat. As much as I want to be cool right now, my body takes over.

What can I say? I wonder if I can get a copy. That counts, right? I guess those were his parting words of wisdom, because five seconds later I spot him in the corner of the kitchen, already chatting up a gorgeous Brit girl who manages to make her punky neon-pink highlights look glamorous.

I pull my glass closer to my chest to shield it from wandering roofies and date rapists. A quick look up reveals perhaps the gawkiest of gawky boys, hair gelled within an inch of its life, wirerimmed glasses perched atop an acne-covered nose. A winning combination. As he turns to fill it with who knows what, I dash through the nearest exit and down the hall. The walls are lined with leather-bound books and partygoers.

A giant mahogany desk dominates the center of the room. I plop down on an overstuffed, shiny leather couch and find myself sitting next to another male partygoer. A gold crest on the lapel gives him away as a prep school boy.

His drink smells so strong I fear it will singe my nose hairs, and the smell gets stronger as he drapes his heavy, drunken arm over my shoulder and turns his face to mine. What I am thinking about is the weight of the tiny book in my purse, and how I should be immersed in a hot bath right now, thumbing through its well-worn, highlighted pages. Is this what all parties are like? The book is just pulsing there in my bag, taunting me for my stupid decision to come here.

As he leans his body backward to haul me off the couch, his hand slips right out of mine. He stumbles back a few steps, pauses, wobbles, and then stumbles back a few more. One more step, and the back of his knee makes contact with the wide glass coffee table behind him. He is entirely too drunk to catch himself, or even protest.

In fact, he seems only awake enough to enjoy the fall. That is, until his butt makes contact with the sheet of glass beneath him. The crash is deafening. It can be heard well over DJ Rock the Mic and the din of fifty-plus chatting, laughing partiers.

The entire party goes silent as every eye whips toward the pile of glass and the drunken boy in the middle of the room. He looks miraculously unscathed but is unlikely to stay that way if he starts stumbling around in a pile of glass shards. From the look of horror on her face, I gather she must be the hostess of this fiesta. Shockingly, the first person to speak is Drunky McDrunk, who mumbles from the floor something about Rosalind coming upstairs with him.

He points a droopy finger my way. Unfortunately, she turns that superhuman strength toward me. A tall, dark figure who looks like he stepped out of an Armani ad breezes past me. Armani is gone. I could be Rosalind. I could be anyone. I could be someone cooler, more confident, just for tonight, just for this party.

The Julia who says witty things and drinks and has boys, sober or otherwise, hanging on her every word. So sorry. I saw what happened in there. Nice deflection. Rosalind, was it? His blond hair is starting to fall over his eyes. He just came on a bit too strong is all. I let my arm drop awkwardly before he mistakes me for some kind of she-hulk and runs away. I guess.

Well, that made very little sense. Talking to me. I try to be calm, but my hands flutter from my hair to my skirt to my purse. I take a deep breath, rest my hand on my hip, and get control of myself. Hence the self-defense. Shockingly, he looks disappointed. But he continues with questions. Oh, if only he knew. What do you do there? Then I remember the giraffe-like girls at the baggage claim, their coffee and their rolling bags and their shiny sedans.

I remember the beauty Jason was chatting up at the curb. He appears to be buzzed enough to buy it, so I go on. I live with some of the other girls.

I see him clutch his glass tighter. Where the hell did I come up with that one? The lies have rolled off my tongue effortlessly, and I can already picture Mark in the role of my handsome American boyfriend who is oh so supportive of my modeling career but still misses me desperately when I travel. Avery hands me a heavy beer bottle, which makes my storytelling even more vivid.

What could it hurt, really? He hardly seems like a sex offender, what with the stumbling and mumbling. My GPA. Done and done. I hand the phone back to him, letting my fingers linger on his palm for just a second. Mark has publiclyyy. Haaaa a girl cn dreem. Too trd will skype toMorrr. I was standing near the fireplace, using the mantel to support my weight.

His freckled face and bemused grin sway into focus. I notice they look like little sunburned caterpillars, which causes me to break into a fit of giggles and hiccups so epic all I can do is nod in response.

Wait, that was bad shentensh shtructure. Really fun. You assaulted my girlfriend. Even in my own drunken state I know immediately who his girlfriend must be: His eyes are angry and shot with red. He rolls his eyes.

The British guy sneers at Jason. Blazer and tie flapping out like wings, his body goes flying down the stoop and into the street, where a group of Arsenal fans are heading en masse to the closest tube station from a pub. I nearly topple off the stoop and into an ornately pruned rosebush in the process. A crowd is starting to form as teenagers push their way out of the house to get a peek at the action.

Angry Boyfriend grabs a beer bottle from one of the spectators and launches it at the middle-aged men now crowded on the sidewalk. Fists fly, insults are shouted, and I feel a pain in my shoulder as someone grabs my faux-leather hobo and the handle snaps clean off. The contents of my bag scatter across the stoop and underfoot of the madness. I tumble down two steps and land in a pile of arms and legs at the bottom. House after house whizzes by, and at the end of the block he hangs a sharp left.

The shouts of the fight fade far into the distance as we run block after block away from the party. I try not to think of the many ways these shoes are ripping my feet to shreds right now or the rest of my belongings, scattered clear across a street that is now surely half a mile away. I even have a spare calculator in my suitcase. But my heart sinks into my insensible shoes as I think of my dog-eared, note-filled pocket Shakespeare, probably resting in a puddle underneath that stupid rosebush.

No public pronouncements of love but mark has def been acting weird. Talk soon! My eyes flutter open to the rhythm of a foreign sound emanating from somewhere in my room. With my classmates. And the new fuzzy friend that seems to have grown on my tongue overnight. I am disgusting. The pure embodiment of grossness.

My head starts to thud in time with the beeping, and I fling my arm over the mahogany nightstand, giving my travel alarm clock a hard thwack. What is happening to me? My head pounds even harder, bringing back the memory of the thudding bass from last night. My memories start flowing as if rapped by DJ Rock the Mic himself.

The house party. The short skirt. The beer. The embassy geek. The broken glass. The bass. Oh God, the bass. My night is flooding back to me, with that incessant beeping providing the beat.

What in the hell is that? And then the last piece of the puzzle falls into place. My phone! It has migrated practically to my chin. The left strap of my tank top somehow found its way over my head, so both straps are hooked over my right shoulder.

One glance in the mirror tells me I look like I tried to get dressed while riding a roller coaster. I need to make the beeping stop, which will hopefully also stop the room from leaning sharply to the left. My bare foot, now covered in angry red blisters, lands on something small and cold. I lift it to find the shiny silver cell phone, still beeping and flashing a nasty red light at me.

The old Julia must have remembered to set an alarm.

Some Things Are Meant to Be

I flip it open and press every button I can find on the unfamiliar phone to silence the blasted thing. Thank God I manage to hit something right, because the beeping stops and a text message appears on the screen, glowing a warm blue. It was amazing 2 meet u last night. I was dying 2 kiss u.

U free to chat? My brain goes into mini-meltdown mode. My phone bears a message from a guy who wants to—no, is dying to—kiss me. Which one was Chris? I concentrate, trying to remember the sequence of events that led to this text message. Everything is clear up until the broken table. Unfortunately, the rest of the night is mostly a blur. I know another beer was put into my hand, then another. I started talking more and more, getting bolder and bolder.

But then there were the tall guy with the shaggy hair who played guitar in a Shins cover band, the blond university student studying twentieth-century Eastern European literature, and the young Scottish artist with deep blue eyes who told me about his latest installation using tinfoil and Beatles lyrics. It never occurred to me that any of them would try to contact me. The only calls I normally get from guys fall into two categories: I read the text message once more, hoping something will jog my memory.

Dying to kiss me? I mean, none of the boys I met was the one. Not like Mark. And kissing a boy might still be good practice. And practice makes perfect, which is exactly what I want to be when Mark and I finally get together. Because I repeat: Now the real question: A loud banging starts up on my door. The entire class is waiting for you! Would you please get your ass downstairs, like, ten minutes ago! I glance at the time on the phone and see that I am, for the first time in my entire life, late.

So I type the first thing that comes to my alcohol-addled brain. Great to meet you too! Rushing off to all-day photo shoot. I make a mental note to check my available phone credit later, then fly out of bed and gargle some mouthwash. I quickly replace my rumpled skirt with a pair of jeans, toss my tank in favor of my favorite blue thermal, and throw on some sensible sneakers in hopes of placating my very angry feet.

Drinking, flirting, lying, and now late? Can the old Julia please come back now? All clear. Now I know I should have kissed u.

Taste with your eyes the juicy flavors of impressionism, paint swirling into itself like a delicious gravy of art. All I want right now is to crawl back into bed. But if our tour guide keeps going on about feasts and gravy, I may not be able to stop myself.

He finishes his spiel on impressionism before leaving us to explore the contents of the room. Students start milling about, taking in various works of art. Tennison looks from Evie to the phone cards on the floor, then back at Evie again. If Mrs. Tennison calls him, someone is getting her Audi taken away.

Tennison barks. Tennison takes a deep breath and then raises her voice so that all the students in the gallery can hear. Everyone gather around.

Someone in the group smells like the onions in their morning omelet, and I have to take a few steps away from the circle, feeling dizzy with nausea. Let me be clear. You are to remain present on this trip, in mind and body. Therefore, you will not talk, text, or tweet on these phones unless you are having an emergency. Remember, your behavior on this trip will impact not only your grade, but your disciplinary record back at home. You will face classroom repercussions should you disobey my rules.

Tennison says. All of a sudden I feel like my stomach is going to fall out of my butt. Classroom repercussions? I flip open my phone and scroll through the text messages. Will Mrs. Tennison find out? I try to figure out a way to connect the texts on my phone to a cultural aspect of the trip, but thoughts of the party last night only reignite my pounding headache. I need to reload my phone with credit to erase whatever damage the texts may have done.

Let me tell you, it has been no easy feat. I feel like my eyeballs are going to fall out of my head and my brain will ooze out of my ears. My stomach is doing a cha-cha. I managed to choke down a piece of toast on my way out of the hotel, but it definitely wants out. I see a bench in the middle of the gallery, conveniently located in front of a very large sculpture. I lurch for it, sighing with relief as I collapse onto its cool marble. I hear a jangling coming in from the right.

Tennison and her oversized jewelry swoop in next to me. She sighs. With my pesky hangover, I practically need shades to look at it. It depicts two lovers, naked, arms encircling each other for an epic make-out session. Tennison will want to take in the beauty in silence, but no dice. Even her toes are curled into the rock with lust. Every inch of this piece is meant to inspire passion. I lean over and put my head in my lap, hoping I can get one moment of peace before we have to move on to the pop art collection.

But again, no such luck. He must have been hovering nearby, waiting for Mrs. Tennison to leave.

Some Things Are Meant to Be

I look like roadkill, and this guy is standing here with sparkling blue non-bloodshot eyes. He digs in his pocket until he produces a purple-and-white scrap of paper.

A gum wrapper. And then I got drunk? God, I totally embarrassed myself last night. It looked to me like you were a hit. What guitar guy? Did you catch his name? Of course Jason would litter in one of the most famous museums in the world. I stand up deliberately and make my way to the abandoned wrapper, which I pick up and pointedly deposit into the bin. His sneakers are squeaking across the floor of the museum like an annoying, yappy puppy. Did something happen last night?

But then I imagine what would happen if Jason knew all about my texting. He teased me enough when he barely had any ammunition.

I turn my back to him. In front of me, the surface of a Mondrian painting explodes with oranges and blues. As if on cue, my phone buzzes in my bag. I pull it out and flip it open to find another text from Chris. Hopefully soon, it reads. There is no doubt he is enjoying my new rule-breaking spree.

Since when is Jason so interested in harassing me? Since when is he so interested in even acknowledging my existence? You can tell me anything. He quickly uses his free hand to snatch the phone out of mine before taking off at a sprint into the next gallery.

All hangover symptoms melt away in an instant. I take off after him. I have to wander through two different rooms before I find him in the corner of a gallery dedicated to Warhol. I snatch the phone from his hands, but I can tell from his mischievous grin that the damage is done. Blood rushes to my face. Were you dropped on your head or something? That is the proper etiquette. Just shut up. I glance over his shoulder to see a Warhol print of a handgun. If only.

Who is he? Tease you? Then get me caught in a street brawl, where I lose all my stuff including my pocket Shakespeare. Actually, I do have one of those. But I left it back in Newton, thankyouverymuch.

The point is, why would I accept help from you? I snort. I can get anyone to fall in serious like with me. And I would like to extend that talent to you.

Want this dude to fall for you? I can make it happen. I walk away from him before I can change my mind. I yelp and spin around. What better way to protect your GPA than to do it yourself?

My perfect GPA. I try to keep my tone steely, but I can hear the slight quiver in my voice. Or the grammar. Or the finishing things on time. Now would you give me that thing? Guys like confidence. I am about to have a total meltdown when the phone vibrates in my hand. He wants to meet tonight!

Why not? Too dangerous. Play hard to get a little. Without my guidance and tutelage, you will royally screw this up. I was reckless last night, and I was lucky to escape with only a fun, mysterious, sexy text message. I need time to think. I swat at him. He jerks away from me, tripping over the toe of his sneaker, and then springs to his feet. He catches it with ease, flipping it open to dash off another text, then tosses it back to me. He looks like a little kid who stole an entire birthday cake.

What did he do? I lunge to get him again when the phone rings. Not a text message—an actual phone call. In my frozen shock, Jason has time to grab the phone back from me and flip it open. That does it.

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I totally break every museum rule known to man or beast and launch myself at him, taking us both down to the hard wood floor. He rolls away, but I reach out and grab a handful of his shirttail, pulling him back. Just as soon as his hand is within reach, he holds his lanky and surprisingly muscular arm over his head.

What will Chris think after Jason answered the phone? I never should have trusted him. Miss Lichtenstein! Tennison comes flying up to us, her Birkenstocks slapping angrily on the floor. I step consciously away from him, as though I can physically shake off his bad influence. I want a thousand words from you on the cultural importance of art. T is out of hearing range.

I hope you can bring those creative writing skills to this essay. Remember our deal? He gets about four steps away, then turns back to me. Your favorite thing, right? Should I Believe You? What is going on w you and JL? Back off already —SF E mbarrassment, anger, misery: Sarah Finder. Has to be. I feel like my head is going to spin off my shoulders. I would have barfed for sure. I read the text again. Back off? She must have thought our wrestling match was flirting gag.

Apparently, she missed the part where I actually wanted to grind Jason into a bloody pulp. I chuck my phone into my bag in disgust.

The afternoon has gone from bad to worse. First we went the wrong way when we left the Tate; then Jason made fun of me when I pulled out my guidebook, complete with Post-it notes and a flagged foldout map; then I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and nearly tumbled into a group of tourists. I nearly stop to point out the Chelsea College of Art and Design, which used to be the Royal Army Medical College, where they developed the vaccine for typhoid. But I know any mention of nineteenthcentury history and disease will only be met with some epic eye rolling from Jason, so instead, I charge on along our path, shaded by trees and curving with the river.

The fresh air rushing down is helping my headache, but I still want to dive into the pool and work out some of this tension. You any good? Then I stop.

He immediately takes a step back. Van Gogh always makes an interesting essay. Or we could write about a series of Renaissance paintings and their historical context.

So I think that knocks my liability down to somewhere in the range of two hundred fifty words. He jumps to her right to avoid a full-on takedown. I really want to see the Caravaggio! A giant red tour bus is emptying out right in front of us, its passengers already armed with cameras, ready to snap shots of the boats cruising along the Thames.

He springs back to his feet and starts marching down the sidewalk, continuing east along the curved river. Follow me. Americans, if the American-flag T-shirts are to be believed. Before I can question the decision, I take off after it. As we walk, the sun disappears behind a patch of clouds.

The day instantly becomes one of those classic cloudy London-fog days. A cool breeze blows off the Thames. The river is dotted with rowers, clad in rugby shirts and Windbreakers, slicing through the water in shiny red boats. The low stone wall gives way to a wrought iron fence spiking up out of the grass. I can see the towers of Westminster Abbey peeking through the trees and buildings ahead.

It has yet to let me down. Dad was right. Screw Paris; London is the city for me. He slows a little so that I can fall into step next to him. Underneath the bridge, the concrete curves alongside the hill leading up to the street, forming not only a perfect canvas for street artists, but an ideal half-pipe for the band of dirty skate punks risking their lives without helmets!

Skaters are flipping and twisting off a few scattered ramps.