Chapter 13

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Kevin was late, and I was ready to kill him.

I didn’t even know why I was so angry. I was sitting in Starbucks with a fresh cup of coffee, which was like the poor man’s version of psychiatric treatment. I had made some serious progress on my English project the night before. I had even gotten rid of the single biggest annoyance in my life—Alexander Lin. So what exactly was I so unsatisfied, so angry about?

You’re crazy, I told myself firmly. You’ve actually lost it thanks to these stupid college apps.

It definitely didn’t help that Dad was only adding to the pressure of college. He’d grilled me before I left for Starbucks (supposedly to meet my “friends”), making me promise to get in an extra hour of college research. I had barely even been paying attention to him, though. I could have sworn that his entire face had transformed into this flashing neon sign that read: Harvard…Harvard…Harvard…Harvard…

So that was my home life for the time being. It was no wonder that I was practically the poster zombie for the zombie apocalypse, and that was before a voice nearly shocked me into dumping coffee all over myself.

“You know it’s disgusting that you dump so much crap into your coffee, right?”

I choked mid-sip at the sound of Kevin’s voice, which I hadn’t heard in weeks. Then Kevin himself was bending down and peering at me in concern. He seemed older, wiser somehow. There were traces of stubble around his mouth and he looked slimmer than ever.

“What—how—where—?” All the questions I wanted to ask him got jumbled together. “Where the hell have you been?” I finally settled on asking.

Kevin slid into the seat across from me and fixed his eyes on something above my head. “Oh, around,” he said faintly.

“Around where?”

“You know, here and there.”

“Kevin—”

The faint smile on his face disappeared and he stood up abruptly. “If you’re just trying to get me to spit out what I’ve been doing, I’m going to leave.”

“No! Sorry,” I said hastily, nearly dumping my coffee all over the table as I yanked Kevin back into his seat. “Okay, okay, you win. I’ll stop prying.”

Kevin sat down slowly, eyeing me as though he was waiting for two more heads to sprout on my neck. “Good. Now I wanted to talk to you about something.” He drummed his fingers on the table and studied me. “You’re finishing up your college applications, right?”

I nearly spit out my coffee. “What…yeah, but since when have you cared?” I was under the impression that Kevin hadn’t even cared about his own college applications. It was a wonder a university had accepted him at all.

“I don’t,” Kevin said, “but I’m here to tell you not to care too much.”

“I don’t care too much,” I denied on reflex.

Kevin raised his eyebrow and gave me a pointed look. “That’s the biggest lie I’ve ever heard,” he said finally.

“Kevin, when have you ever heard me lie?”

He glared at me. “Do you really want me to list them all? How about the time you wouldn’t admit you ate half my Halloween candy? Or—”

“Okay, okay, I get it.” This conversation wasn’t going anywhere, and I didn’t want to waste the only visit I’d gotten from my brother in a good few weeks by arguing over a bunch of nonsense. “What did you want to say about my college apps?”

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