Chapter 1

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"Um, hello. You did not mention that Henry would be home this weekend," Candace said, interrupting Olivia's sidewalk monologue about her pursuit of the perfect Homecoming dress. The search had begun over the summer. Olivia could picture it in her head, and after having heard her detailed description twice during our after-school trip to the mall, we could all picture it in vivid detail, too. The dream dress was the color of vanilla buttercream frosting, not too yellow to be summery, and not too white to be bride-like. Ecru, or eggshell, or any pale variation on white that would show off Olivia's glamorous tan, obtained by rowing each morning at summer camp in Canada, would do. Even my daily runs in Florida beneath the blazing sun hadn't rewarded me with a tan as dark as Olivia's.

Olivia was the last among us to turn sixteen, but none of us had our own wheels yet that September. Mischa shared a car with her older sister, who seemed to always have custody of it. Candace's divorced parents were denying her access to wheels until she picked up her grades when report cards were released at the end of the semester, one of the few things upon which they agreed. Taking the bus home from the mall was hardly desirable, but it was less nerdish than having a parent pick up all five of us in an SUV curbside outside Nordstrom. We were in high spirits that afternoon after having slurped down sugary lattes at the mall, dropping our parents' money on earrings and paperback novels just to have purchased something to carry back to Olivia's house. Leaving the mall empty-handed felt strange and wasteful. I had bought a pair of chandelier earrings I thought might be cool for Homecoming, if any boy were to ask me within the next week.

Olivia looked down the block toward her own house, where Candace's eyes had spotted Henry's blue pickup truck in the driveway. Her angelic button nose wrinkled, and she put one hand on her hip as if objecting to her older brother's presence within the three-story house. "Ugh. I didn't know he'd be here," Olivia replied.

"Who's Henry?'

Violet Simmons was new in town. Only a girl who had moved to Willow over the summer could be ignorant of Henry Richmond's identity.

"My brother," Olivia informed her with disgust.

"Her totally hot brother," Candace added. Candace was a brassy blond with a big chest and a loud mouth. Her last name was Cotton, which was abundant reason for every kid in class to crack up whenever a substitute teacher read roll call in Homeroom and announced her name as Cotton, Candy.  She wasn't as pretty as Olivia, but from a distance if you kind of squinted at her when the sun was shining in just the right way, you might believe it if she told you she was a runway model. During my two weeks as an inductee into Olivia's popular circle, I had been endlessly humored by Candace's gravel-voiced musings and observations. Candace suspected that Mr. Tyrrell, the biology teacher, was probably a good kisser. She had been suspended from school for three days at the tail end of our sophomore year, back when I was still the old version of McKenna, for getting caught by Coach Highland under the bleachers during gym class with Isaac Johnston. Candace said exactly what she thought and even though she was hilarious, I was a little terrified of her. It was likely that Candace thought about nothing but kissing boys, every second of every day.

 It was likely that Candace thought about nothing but kissing boys, every second of every day

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