Today Tonight Tomorrow

Today Tonight Tomorrow

Rachel Lynn Solomon

For Kelsey Rodkey,

who loved this book first


I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books.


No; an he were, I would burn my study.

—Much Ado about Nothing by William Shakespeare

I used to dream of you nightly

I would wake up screaming

—“Make Good Choices” by Sean Nelson

5:54 a.m.


Good morning!

This is a friendly reminder that you have three (3) hours and counting before suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of your future valedictorian.

Bring tissues. I know you’re a crier.

The text jolts me from sleep a minute before my 5:55 alarm, three quick pulses to let me know my least favorite person is already awake. Neil McNair—“McNightmare” in my phone—is annoyingly punctual. It’s one of his only good traits.

We’ve been text-taunting since we were sophomores, after a series of morning threats made both of us late for homeroom. For a while last year, I decided to be the mature one, vowed to make my room a McNair-free zone. I’d put my phone on silent before slipping into bed, but beneath the pillow, my fingers twitched with combative responses. I couldn’t sleep thinking he might be texting me. Baiting me. Waiting.

Neil McNair has become my alarm clock, if alarm clocks had freckles and knew all your insecurities.

I fling back the sheets, ready for battle.

oh, I didn’t realize we still thought crying was a sign of weakness

in the interest of accuracy, I’d like to point out that you’ve only seen me cry once, and I’m not sure that necessarily makes me “a crier”

Over a book!

You were inconsolable.

it’s called an emotion

I highly recommend feeling one (1) sometime

In his mind, the only thing you’re supposed to feel while reading a book is a sense of superiority. He’s the kind of person who believes all Real Literature has already been written by dead white men. If he could, he’d bring Hemingway back to life for one last cocktail, smoke a cigar with Fitzgerald, dissect the nature of human existence with Steinbeck.

Our rivalry dates back to freshman year, when a (small) panel of judges declared his essay the winner of a school-wide contest about the book that had impacted us the most. I came in second. McNair, in all his originality, picked The Great Gatsby. I picked Vision in White, my favorite Nora Roberts, a choice he scoffed at even after he’d won, insinuating I shouldn’t have gotten second place for picking a romance novel. This was clearly a really valid stance for someone who’d likely never read one.

I’ve despised him ever since, but I can’t deny he’s been a worthy antagonist. That essay contest made me determined to beat him the next chance I got, whatever it happened to be—and I did, in an election for freshman-class rep. He turned around and narrowly edged me in a history-class debate. So I collected more cans than he did for environmental club, further cementing us as competitors. We’ve compared test scores and GPAs and clashed on everything from school projects to gym-class pull-up contests. We can’t seem to stop trying to one-up each other… until now.

After graduation this weekend, I’ll never have to see him again. No more morning texts, no more sleepless nights.

I am almost free.

I drop my phone back onto the nightstand next to my writing journal. It’s open to a sentence I scribbled in the middle of the night. I flip on the lamp to take a closer look, to see if my two a.m. nonsense makes sense in the daylight—but the room stays dark.

Frowning, I toggle the switch a few more times before getting out of bed and trying the ceiling light. Nothing. It rained all night, a June storm tossing twigs and pine needles at our house, and the wind must have snapped a power line.

I grab my phone again. Twelve percent battery.

(And no reply from McNair.)

“Mom?” I call, racing out of my room and down the stairs. Anxiety pitches my voice an octave higher than usual. “Dad?”

My mom pokes her head out of the office. Orange glasses lie crooked across the bridge of her nose, and her long dark curls—the ones I inherited—are wilder than usual. We’ve never been able to tame them. My two great nemeses in life: Neil McNair and my hair.

“Rowan?” my mom says. “What are you doing up?”

“It’s… morning?”

She straightens her glasses and peers down at her watch. “I guess we’ve been in here awhile.”

The windowless office is dark, except for a few candles in the middle of their massive desk, illuminating stacks of pages slashed with red ink.

“Are you working by candlelight?” I ask.

“We had to. Power’s out on the whole street, and we’re on deadline.”

My parents, author-illustrator duo Jared Roth and Ilana García Roth, have written more than thirty books together, from picture books about unlikely animal friendships to a chapter book series about a tween paleontologist named Riley Rodriguez. My mom was born in Mexico City to a Russian-Jewish mother and a Mexican father. She was thirteen when her mother remarried a Texan and moved the family north. Until she went to college and met my Jewish father, she spent summers in Mexico with her father’s family, and when they started writing (words: Mom, pictures: Dad), they wanted to explore how a child might embrace both cultures.

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