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Just One Day (Just One Day #1)

By:ayle Forman

e smiles this funny little half smile, takes one of the prop coins out of his pocket, and flips it to me. It's pretty dark, and the coin is small, but I catch it, and people clap for me too, it now seems.

With the coin in my hand, I clap. I clap until my hands sting. I clap as if doing so can prolong the evening, can transform Twelfth Night into Twenty-Fourth Night. I clap so that I can hold on to this feeling. I clap because I know what will happen when I stop. It's the same thing that happens when I turn off a really good movie-one that I've lost myself to-which is that I'll be thrown back to my own reality and something hollow will settle in my chest. Sometimes, I'll watch a movie all over again just to recapture that feeling of being inside something real. Which, I know, doesn't make any sense.

But there's no restarting tonight. The crowd is dispersing; the actors drifting off. The only people left from the show are a couple of musicians passing around the donation hat. I reach into my wallet for a ten-pound note.

Melanie and I stand together in silence. "Whoa," she says.

"Yeah. Whoa," I say back.

"That was pretty cool. And I hate Shakespeare."

I nod.

"And was it me, or was that hot guy from the line earlier, the one who played Sebastian, was he totally checking us out?"

Us? But he threw me the coin. Or had I just been the one to catch it? Why wouldn't it have been Melanie with her blond hair and her camisole top that he'd been checking out? Mel 2.0, as she calls herself, so much more appealing than Allyson 1.0.

"I couldn't tell," I say.

"And he threw the coin at us! Nice catch, by the way. Maybe we should go find them. Go hang out with them or something."

"They're gone."

"Yeah, but those guys are still here." She gestures to the money collectors. "We could ask where they hang out."

I shake my head. "I doubt they want to hang out with stupid American teenagers."

"We're not stupid, and most of them didn't seem that much older than teenagers themselves."

"No. And besides, Ms. Foley might check in on us. We should get back to the room."

Melanie rolls her eyes. "Why do you always do this?"

"Do what?"

"Say no to everything. It's like you're averse to adventure."

"I don't always say no."

"Nine times out of ten. We're about to start college. Let's live a little."

"I live just plenty," I snap. "And besides, it never bothered you before."

Melanie and I have been best friends since her family moved two houses down from ours the summer before second grade. Since then, we've done everything together: we lost our teeth at the same time, we got our periods at the same time, even our boyfriends came in tandem. I started going out with Evan a few weeks after she started going out with Alex (who was Evan's best friend), though she and Alex broke up in January and Evan and I made it until April.

We've spent so much time together, we almost have a secret language of inside jokes and looks. We've fought plenty, of course. We're both only children, so sometimes we're like sisters. We once even broke a lamp in a tussle. But it's never been like this. I'm not even sure what this is, only that since we got on the tour, being with Melanie makes me feel like I'm losing a race I didn't even know I'd entered.

"I came out here tonight," I say, my voice brittle and defensive. "I lied to Ms. Foley so we could come."

"Right? And we've had so much fun! So why don't we keep it going?"

I shake my head.

She shuffles through her bag and pulls out her phone, scrolls through her texts. "Hamlet just let out too. Craig says that Todd's taken the gang to a pub called the Dirty Duck. I like the sound of that. Come out with us. It'll be a blast."

The thing is, I did go out with Melanie and everyone from the tour once, about a week into the trip. By this time, they'd already gone out a couple times. And even though Melanie had known these guys only a week-the same amount of time I'd known them-she had all these inside jokes with them, jokes I didn't understand. I'd sat there around the crowded table, nursing a drink, feeling like the unlucky kid who had to start a new school midway into the year.

I look at my watch, which has slid all the way down my wrist. I slide it back up, so it covers the ugly red birthmark right on my pulse. "It's almost eleven, and we have to be up early tomorrow for our train. So if you don't mind, I'm going to take my adventure-averse self back to the room." With the huffiness in my voice, I sound just like my mom.

"Fine. I'll walk you back and then go to the pub."

"And what if Ms. Foley checks in on us?"

Melanie laughs. "Tell her I had heatstroke. And it's not hot anymore." She starts to walk up the slope back toward the bridge. "What? Are you waiting for something?"

I look back down toward the water, the barges, now emptying out from the evening rush. Trash collectors are out in force. The day is ending; it's not coming back.

"No, I'm not."


* * *

Our train to London is at eight fifteen-Melanie's idea, so we will have maximum shopping time. But when the alarm clock starts beeping at six, Melanie pulls the pillow over her head.

"Let's get a later train," she moans.

"No. It's already all arranged. You can sleep on the train. Anyway, you promised to be downstairs at six thirty to say good-bye to everyone." And I promised to say good-bye to Ms. Foley.

I drag Melanie out of bed and shove her under the hotel's weak excuse for a shower. I brew her some instant coffee and quickly talk to my mom, who stayed up until one in the morning Pennsylvania time to call. At six thirty, we trudge downstairs. Ms. Foley, in her jeans and Teen Tours! polo shirt as usual, shakes Melanie's hand. Then she embraces me in a bony hug, slips me her business card, and says I shouldn't hesitate to call if I need anything while in London. Her