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Chapter 13

Midterms were coming up in a couple of weeks, which meant I was pretty much on lockdown. I also had an excuse not to talk to Dylan for days.

Not that I was avoiding him exactly. I just wasn’t sure what to do with him. We’d just gotten established as friends. But he wouldn’t stay in the damn friend box, which admittedly was more my fault than his. And he couldn’t be anything else, because of Ava’s and my pact—plus he was her brother, and she’d lose it if I even thought about going there.

Still, our bizarre encounter the other night kept replaying in my mind.

I managed to skirt Dylan when he stopped by Thursday morning to give Ava a ride to school. I had no desire to ride with them, so I feigned a need to log extra study hours at the library starting at seven most mornings and caught the first bus instead. He’d texted me a few times though.

We missed you today. I know you’re too lazy to walk all the way to school

It was true, I had to give him that. Then Monday …

Did you fall into Ava’s closet? Is it like that Hoarders show?

Then Thursday …

Something wrong?

No, I’m fine. No, I haven’t had three dreams in the last week about faceless guys who weren’t you but had suspiciously familiar dark hair and cut arms.

I finally responded.

Everything’s good…just been studying

Catch up after midterms

It was at least partly true. Avoiding Dylan had resulted in me getting in some serious time at the library. Jane and I spent half a day just quizzing each other on finance. But Finske aside, I had three other tests worth a good chunk of my collective marks happening in the next week. And I needed to do well, because I was counting on focusing more time on my business plan in November and wouldn’t be able to fix falling grades.

So, most nights I went directly from class to the library to study alone or with classmates. Ava, who claimed to have two papers due though I’d yet to see her crack a book, had started complaining that I never came home anymore. I stood firm despite her insistence that we hadn’t had any girl time in weeks.

Realizing she wouldn’t be able to bust me out, she instead smuggled contraband into my rented library study room one night.

“How can you have no midterms?” I mumbled around my mouthful of pad thai. “Ohmygod. This is so good. You are the best friend ever.”

“I know. And to answer your question, the fashion program doesn’t believe in traditional forms of evaluation,” she said airily. “I’m pretty sure Karl Lagerfeld never wasted his time on multiple choice.” I would normally make a dig at this, but I was so relieved to see her and peanut sauce, not necessarily in that order, that I let it slide.

“I’ll have you know we don’t have multiple choice anymore. Now we have to write actual answers. Show our work and everything. We’re like grown-ups.”

She laughed. I was hugely envious and confounded by the completely different system. I think I would flounder in fashion design; the ambiguity would do me in.

“Don’t you get evaluated on anything?”

“Of course. Not that it really matters what your grades are. It’s all about what people outside of school think of your clothes. Which is why this year, by invitation, ten fashion majors get to put three outfits each into the fall fashion show in November,” she said.

The fall show was co-sponsored by the college but headlined by actual, working designers. It was part of a bigger fundraising initiative. Getting Travesty designs in front of the San Diego crowd could give us great feedback and profile.

Ava looked suspiciously like she was trying to keep something to herself, which she could never do for long.

“… and? You’re killing me here.”

Ava wiggled her perfectly plucked eyebrows, her eyes dancing with excitement.

“Aaaaaaand we’re in! Can you believe it?”

“That’s amazing!” It was. I could feel my heart expand in my chest, both with pride for Ava’s achievement and excitement for what it might mean to us. “And the timing is perfect, because you can tweak them before we pitch to Kirsten’s friends over the break.” While everyone else was at home eating pie and unwrapping gifts, I’d have the best gift of all: the contacts and advice needed to launch our designs by that time next year.

I was getting excited. Thinking about the meetings with Kirsten made me feel closer to our dream. The dream that made all the hours of library-bound solitude worthwhile. “Which reminds me. Kirsten’s assistant is going to send us some times we can meet her in December. We’ll have to book our flights soon!”

“Shit! New Year’s in New York.” Ava squealed. “It’s going to be amazing!”

Since finals ended the middle of December, I was also planning to squeeze in a week of work at the magazine before and after Christmas. In between I’d get a few days off sightseeing with Ava and my family.

Ava and I had to make it work—and the fall fashion show was just one more step toward the ultimate goal. I let my studying slide by another hour so Ava and I could celebrate with Thai and make plans for all the amazing places we’d be jetting off to in a year, and the people who would be wearing our clothes.

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