The Infinite Moment of Us

by Lauren Myracle

Chapter One

It was all ending: high school.

It was all beginning: everything that came next.

This was true for every senior at Atlanta’s Southview High School, not just Wren. And every senior would be setting off on his or her own path, and every senior’s path would be different, so there were no earth-shattering sur- prises there, either. Still, Wren’s situation was unusual, or at least she suspected it was.

She didn’t always trust her own opinions, however, probably because her parents were so invested in doing her thinking for her. “Of course you like grapefruit juice,”

her mom said to her just this morning, drawing back in dismay after Wren said she’d prefer coffee, please. “You’ve always liked grapefruit juice. It’s your favorite. I got it especially for you, fresh-squeezed, as a treat for the last day of school.”

Wren drank the juice, ashamed of herself for complain- ing. Except Wren hadn’t actually complained, had she?

She’d just said, “No thanks. I don’t really like grapefruit juice.” Because she didn’t—did she?

Her dad stayed out of the grapefruit juice discussion, but he had plenty to say on other topics, such as her plans for the future. Particularly her plans for the future. Wren’s body felt heavy, and she wished that her friend Tessa, who was giving Wren a ride to school, would keep driving and never turn back.

But that was a fantasy. Tessa couldn’t solve Wren’s prob- lems for her. If Wren wanted to change her life, then she was the one who’d have to make it happen.

Tessa pulled into the seniors’ parking lot and turned off the car. She finger-combed her long blond hair, swiped a coat of shiny lip gloss over her lips, and grinned at her reflection in the visor mirror. She slapped the visor shut.

“You ready?” she said to Wren.

“Sure,” Wren said. Her gut clenched. “No—wait.”

Tessa stopped smiling. She’d been Wren’s best friend since second grade, so she knew a bit about the ins and outs of Wren’s home life. “What’s up? Everything okay?”

“No, yeah, everything’s fine,” Wren said. “It’s just . . .

my mom made a special breakfast this morning. Bacon, eggs, and biscuits.”

Tessa tilted her head.

“The biscuits were made from scratch. She used a heart- shaped cookie cutter.”

“Ah,” Tessa said.

“Oh, and grapefruit juice, because that’s my favorite.”

“What? You hate grapefruit juice.”

“I know,” Wren said, feeling a wash of relief.

Tessa searched Wren’s expression. Occasionally, over the years, kids had teased Wren about what an “only” Wren was. Meaning an only child. Meaning that Wren, as an only child, seemed more sheltered than most kids. She was a people pleaser, a do-gooder, a worrier. She was too much of a watcher, not enough of a doer. Those were Wren’s offenses.

Tessa had been to Wren’s house, though. She knew Wren’s mom and dad, so she knew that Wren’s behavior was a product of more than being an only child.

“They think you’re part of them,” Tessa once said about Wren’s parents. “Like a leg, or a spare arm. It’s weird.”

“I know,” Wren said. “But they love me.”

Tessa, who had two older brothers and lived with a rush-about mom, had muttered, “A little too much, if you ask me.”

Now, sitting in the high school parking lot, Tessa said, “You haven’t told them?”

Wren shook her head. Way back in January, she’d been admitted early decision to Emory, the prestigious univer- sity where her mom worked. Then, in March, she found out she’d been awarded a merit scholarship. Her parents were over the moon.

“You can come home every weekend,” her mom ex- claimed. “Or we can come to you. Weekdays, too, if you feel like a home-cooked meal. Whatever you want, sweet- heart.”

But a week ago, Wren withdrew her acceptance agree- ment. She didn’t know where she’d found the courage, but it felt good. Forget that, it felt great. Only, she kind of hadn’t shared the news with her parents yet—the part about Emory or the bit about what she planned to do instead.

“My stomach hurts,” Wren told Tessa. She frowned, try- ing to figure out what other emotions she might be feeling.

“I am excited, though.”

“About finally being free?” Tessa said. “You should be excited. God, you deserve to be.” A friend of Tessa’s rapped on the hood of Tessa’s car, and Tessa waved. Kids streamed past them, laughing and talking. “Go with that, okay?”

“Okay,” Wren said, glad when her voice stayed steady.

“Thanks, Tesseract. Although you do know that there’s no such thing as a tesseract.”

Tessa laughed at Wren’s slightly mangled version of the quote, which was from Wren’s favorite novel, A Wrinkle in Time. A tesseract was a four-dimensional cube, which, by definition, couldn’t exist in the three-dimensional world.

In the novel, a tesseract was used as a shortcut through time, which, by definition, also couldn’t exist in the real world.

Wren liked impossible things, though. Wren thought that Tessa, who flitted through life like a hummingbird, was an impossible thing. Tessa came across as go-go-go and all toe-bouncing high energy, but underneath her party-girl exterior, she had a wise and loyal heart. She came as close to knowing the real Wren as anyone ever had.

“No such thing as me?” Tessa said, gesturing like a game- show hostess at the physical proof of her existence. She looked adorable in a pink cami and cutoffs. “I think you’re mistaken. So, shall we go greet our adoring fans?”

Wren smiled. “Your adoring fans? Let’s do it.”

They joined the throng of kids strolling toward the building. The warm spring air tickled Wren’s legs, bare beneath her white skirt, which grazed the tops of her knees. The pressure in her lungs loosened.

“Can you believe it?” said Delaney, a drama club friend who was off to New York in the fall. “Can you believe we’re seriously done?!”

“Hells no,” Tessa replied. “And yet here we are!”

Shaniqua Stewart bounded over and draped her arm over Wren’s shoulders. “Hey, girl. You psyched about Emory?”

Wren smiled self-consciously. Shaniqua was one of her honors-track buddies. “Are you psyched about Princeton?”

she shot back. “You’re probably packed already, huh?”

Shaniqua laughed. To Tessa, she said, “And you. Don’t go too crazy at Georgia—except, what am I saying? Of course you will.”

Tessa blew her a kiss. At the end of August, Tessa would head to the University of Georgia with almost half their senior class.

“Tessa! Wren!” Owen Bussell shouted, making a mega- phone out of his hands. Owen was the class valedictorian.

On Saturday, at their graduation, he’d be giving a speech.

“You’re looking fine, ladies!”

“Right back atcha, O,” Tessa called. “Don’t bore us on Saturday!”

“I’ll do my best,” he said.

A group of girls spread the news about a party P.G.

Barbee was hosting on Saturday night. “Y’all know P.G., right?” one of them said, and Tessa, with significant innu- endo, replied, “Oh, we know P.G.”

Wren rolled her eyes, because they didn’t, really, and Wren had little interest in doing anything to change that.

Right now Wren could see P.G. chatting up a freshman girl, who giggled at everything he said. The girl leaned against the wall of the main building, and P.G. stood in front of her, his forearms resting on either side of her like a cage.

P.G. was too slick for Wren’s tastes, but he was Tes- sa’s current crush, so it wasn’t surprising when Tessa announced, “Hells yeah, we’ll be there.”

“Excellent,” one of the party girls said. “It’s going to be epic.” She palmed Tessa’s hand, and Tessa’s feather earrings swayed.

While Tessa chatted with some of her cheerleader friends, Paige Johnson jogged over and said hi to Wren.

Paige and Wren had been friends once, way back in ele- mentary school, but they’d gone their own ways long ago.

Paige gave Wren a bear hug and whispered, “I want to tell you something, but it might sound strange.”

“What is it?” Wren said.

“It’s just, I’ve always looked up to you,” Paige said, pull- ing back and searching Wren’s eyes. Her breath smelled like caramels. “Not in a stalker way. I just wanted to tell you that you’ve always been my role model, kind of.”

“Your role model?” Wren said. “Why?”

Paige’s eyes widened. “Um . . . you know. Because you have such a sense of purpose. You know yourself.”

“I do?”

“You do, yes.” And the moon tugs on the earth, and that’s how tides are formed, her tone suggested. The earth circles the sun, and that’s why we have night and day, and, yes, you know yourself.

Are you playing with me?

Wren didn’t understand. Paige was awkward but smart.

In fifth grade, she and Wren had done an after-school activ- ity together called Odyssey of the Mind, and for their final competition, they’d put on a skit. Something about pirates?

Part of the skit had involved remote-controlled boats and cars, and one of the cars hit a tunnel, but Paige calmly repositioned it and tried again. Their team won first place.

It was one of Wren’s early tastes of how fun excelling could be.

“Oh,” Wren said. “Um, thanks.”

Paige pulled her long sleeves over her hands, nodding as she backed away. “Okay, well, I just wanted to tell you that. Anyway. Bye!”

Paige darted off, leaving Wren feeling like a phony.

Once upon a time Wren might have been certain of herself, like maybe back in fifth grade, but now she went one way and then another when it came to what she wanted to do with her life. First she was going to go to Emory, then she decided not to go to Emory. She wanted to please her par- ents, but she was sick of pleasing her parents. She yearned to be her own person, not an extension of her mom and dad, and she longed to do something brave, something that mattered, something that helped others in an immediate and tangible way.

Her desire to escape her color-within-the-lines life was as strong as the pull of the moon, even if the lines them- selves were muzzy. Was that what Paige saw as her sense of purpose?

She stood there, lost in her thoughts, until a boy from her AP biology class gave her a tentative half wave from across the parking lot, bringing her back to the here and now. A breeze batted at her skirt, flipping it high, and her cheeks grew hot as she clamped it down. Not only because the boy—his name was Charlie—had no doubt glimpsed more of Wren than either he or she expected, but because she realized that in her zoned-out state, she’d been ran- domly staring at him, possibly for quite a while.

Embarrassment coursed through her. Wren liked Char- lie, but she didn’t know him that well. He was in a couple of her honors classes. He had a lean, muscular frame, and Wren, on occasion, had caught herself enjoying the play of muscles beneath his shirt. His fingernails were often rimmed with oil, or maybe paint. He rarely talked, and some kids thought he was arrogant. But Wren had watched him interact with his small group of friends, and around them he seemed looser. More relaxed.

Once, Wren had spotted Charlie helping a freshman with his locker. The freshman was scrawny, one of those unfortunate boys who wouldn’t hit his growth spurt for another year or two, if ever. He’d looked close to tears.

Charlie hadn’t made eye contact with the kid but had twisted the combination lock with deft, sure movements, banged the metal door, and nodded with satisfaction when it sprang open.