1st Nine Pages

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Quiet nights on the roof were the hardest for Anna, especially when the only sound was her own shallow breathing. But somehow, tonight, as she lay on the edge, looking up into the black sky dotted with tiny, bright stars, life didn't seem so bad. She'd learned how to deal with a lot of things up there: her parents' divorce, her heartbreak over Colton Jones in ninth grade, the rejection letter from her first pick, Yale, and the latest tragedy that had outweighed them all. Up there on that roof, she had perfected the art of learning to cope.

"Your mom said you were out here," a voice said.

Anna jumped at the sound of her best friend's voice from the window. She steadied her palms against the rough, weatherworn shingles and sat up slowly. "You scared me." A little light-headed, Anna tried to focus on the dozens of moonlit rooftops around hers—all in the same two-storied bungalow style.

"Sorry." Jules crawled over to Anna, lying down next to her. "I thought you were leaving. I came to say bye." The low rumblings of a car echoed from the street below.

"Change of plans. We're going in the morning. Five a.m. sharp." Anna pinched her eyes shut and inhaled, holding her breath tight in her chest. She was afraid to breathe sometimes—afraid of what might come next.

"You know how much that sucks, right?"

"What? Five in the morning?"

"No! It's our last summer together before college and you're spending almost half of it in New York—without me."

"Not my choice."

"It's not like you're a little kid anymore. Why can't you just stay here?"

Anna bit her lip. She'd been over it a thousand times with Jules. "You know why." She thought of the letter tucked inside the back pocket of her jeans.

"Can't your grandmother hire someone to move all her stuff here?"

"I wish. The woman is practically a hoarder. There's no telling what's in that old house." Anna shivered as a slight breeze swept through the trees and her thin t-shirt.

"That show creeps me out—the one about hoarders."

"Besides, my mom thinks it's a good idea for me to get away for a while." A part of Anna agreed with her mom, even though she'd never tell her that, especially since she was mad at her for running off to Europe for two weeks while Anna stayed behind to pack.

"Wish I could go with you," Jules said. "Not to help with the packing though."

"Funny." Anna turned to face the girl who had known her deepest, darkest secrets since first grade. "Me too."

Jules smiled, and her huge blue eyes lit up, making her look six again. "Hey, want to watch a movie?"

"Like right now?"

"Sure, why not? It'll take our minds off stuff, like you abandoning me for the big city."

"She doesn't actually live in Manhattan," Anna said.

"I know, but you'll be so close to it." Jules sat up carefully and started crawling back toward the window overlooking the backyard.

The girls had spent hours on that low-sloping roof, laughing, talking, and crying about so many things. Anna's mom had converted the dusty attic of the 1920s house into a bedroom for Anna—a consolation prize after a bitter divorce. The back window had become almost like an escape hatch for Anna, getting her farther and farther away from reality and closer to a sky full of stars and hope.

The Letter Project by Christine BaileyWhere stories live. Discover now