Today Tonight Tomorrow(9)

Before I make my way to Kirby and Mara, a trio of junior girls pounces on me.

“Hi, Rowan!” says Olivia Sweeney.

“We were worried you weren’t going to be here!” says her friend Harper Chen.

“Well… I’m here,” I say.

“Thank God,” Nisha Deshpande says, and the three of them giggle.

We’re all in student council, where they’ve unanimously thrown their support to me instead of McNair, which I’ve always been grateful for. They compliment my clothes and worked on my campaigns and brought me cupcakes when I got into Emerson. Kirby and Mara call them my fan club. Truly, they’re very sweet, if a little overeager.

“Is everything ready for Howl?” I ask.

The three of them exchange wicked grins.

“We’ve been ready for weeks,” Nisha says. “I don’t want to say it’s going to be the best Howl the school has ever seen, but it just might be.”

“We’re not giving you any hints,” Harper adds.

“As much as we might want to.” Olivia reaches down to tug up one of her knee socks, which are eerily similar to the pair I’m wearing.

“No hints,” I agree. McNair and I organized the game last year, but none of the previous year’s locations can be reused.

“Will you sign our yearbooks?” Nisha asks. “Since it’s your last day?”

Three arms thrust Sharpies in my direction. I sign all of them with slightly different messages, and after a chorus of thank-yous, I turn toward Kirby and Mara, who are waving at me from a corner of the room. My mom was right; all we’re doing is signing yearbooks. We have an extended homeroom, then the assembly, and then shortened classes for everyone who still goes here.

“There you are,” Kirby says. Her black hair is braided in a crown around her head. The three of us spent hours teaching ourselves how to Dutch braid last year, but Kirby is the only one who mastered it. “What happened this morning?”

I recount the day so far, from the power outage to my Spencer bender. “And then I was McNaired in the front office,” I finish. “So yeah, it’s been a day and a half, and it’s only eight o’clock.”

Mara places a hand on my arm. She’s quieter, gentler than Kirby, rarely the first to speak in a group conversation. The only time she steps into the spotlight is when she’s dancing a solo onstage. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. McNair was just being his usual troll self. Can you believe he wrote my late pass in calligraphy? It was like last fall when he downloaded all those dog videos in the library to mess with the internet when I was researching my Jane Austen paper. He’ll do anything to slow me down.”

She arcs a pale eyebrow. “I meant the accident.”

“Oh. Right. A little shaken up, but I’m okay. I’ve never hit anyone before.” I’m not sure why my mind went immediately to McNair when the accident was clearly the more traumatic event.

“Mara,” Kirby says, pointing to a yearbook photo of the two of them dancing in the winter talent show earlier this year. “Look how cute we are.”

Kirby Taing and I became friends first, when we were grouped together for a fourth-grade rite of passage: the volcano experiment. Kirby wanted to add more baking soda, create a bigger eruption. We made a mess. We got a B. She met Mara Pompetti in a ballet class a couple years later, though Mara’s always been the more serious dancer.

We wound up at the same middle school and have been a unit ever since, and while I love them both, for years I felt a tiny bit closer to Kirby. She got me through my grandpa’s funeral in seventh grade, and I was the first person she came out to in ninth grade, when she said she’d only ever liked girls. The following year, Mara told both of us that she was bisexual and wanted to start using that label for herself. For a while, she and Kirby used me as a go-between, trying to figure out how each felt about the other. They went to homecoming together last year, which has cemented them as a couple.

They laugh at an unfortunate hair situation in someone’s senior photo while I flip through the book, though as editor in chief, I’ve seen each page hundreds of times. For the senior superlatives, the photo editor made McNair and me pose with our backs pressed up against each other, our arms crossed. Above us are the words MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED. In the photo and in real life, we are exactly the same height: five-five. After the photo was taken, he sprang away from me, as though the back of his shirt touching the back of mine was too much physical contact for rivals to have.

“Pleeeease can we leave the classroom?” star quarterback Brady Becker is begging Mrs. Kozlowski. Brady Becker is the kind of guy who got Bs because teachers loved it when our football team was good, and they couldn’t be good if Brady Becker got Ds. “All the other homerooms are.”

Mrs. Kozlowski holds up her hands. “Okay, okay. Go ahead. Just be sure to make your way over to the auditorium after—”

We’re already out the door.

* * *

Mara and I lean against the bank of lockers we claimed back in freshman year, sharing a cheesy pretzel and a bag of chips from the student store. The combinations will be changed next week, after we’re gone. We were supposed to clean out our lockers earlier this week. Kirby is doing it now, which is kind of Kirby in a nutshell.

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