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My mother studies me. “You have everything you need, correct?”

“Yes, everything I have is in my car,” I say.

“Okay, be sure to get gas before you leave town.”

“I’ll be fine, Mother.”

“I know. I’m only trying to help.”

“I know you are.” I open my arms to hug her goodbye, and when she gives me a stiff little embrace, I pull back and decide to pour myself a cup of coffee for the road. That small, silly hope still nags at me, the foolish part of me that wishes so badly that headlights will appear in the darkness, Hardin will climb out of the car, bags in hand, and tell me that he’s ready to go to Seattle with me.

But that foolish part of me is just that: foolish.

At ten minutes after five, I give my mother one last hug and climb into the car, which fortunately I had the foresight to warm up with the heater on. Kimberly and Christian’s address is programmed into the GPS on my phone. It keeps closing down and recalculating, and I haven’t even left the driveway. I really do need a new phone. If Hardin were here, he’d remind me repeatedly that this is another reason to get an iPhone.

But Hardin’s not here.

THE DRIVE IS LONG. I’m just at the beginning of my adventure, and already a thick cloud of unease is forming within me. Each small town that I pass makes me feel more and more out of place, and I wonder if Seattle will feel even worse. Will I settle in there, or will I run back to the main WCU campus, or even to my mother’s place?

When I check the clock on my dashboard, I see it’s only been an hour. Although, as I think about it, the hour did pass pretty quickly, which, in an odd way, makes my mind begin to feel lighter.

When I look again, twenty minutes have passed in a blink. The farther I get from everything, the lighter my mind feels. I’m not controlled by panicked thoughts as I drive down the dark and unfamiliar roads. I focus on my future. The future that no one can take from me, that no one can make me give up. I stop frequently for coffee, snacks, and just to breathe in the morning air. When the sun finally comes up halfway through my drive, I focus on the bright yellow and orange light it casts and the way the colors blend together, making a beautiful, bright new beginning to the day. My mood lightens with the sky, and I find myself singing along to Taylor Swift and tapping my fingers on the steering wheel as she talks about “trouble walking in”—and I laugh at the irony of the lyrics.

As I pass the sign welcoming me to the City of Seattle, my stomach fills with butterflies, the good kind. I’m doing this. Theresa Young is now officially in Seattle, making a life for herself at an age when most of her friends are still trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives.

I did it. I didn’t repeat my mother’s mistakes and rely on other people to carve my future for me. I had help, obviously—and I’m grateful for it—but it’s up to me now to take it all to the next level. I have an amazing internship, a sassy friend and her loving fiancé, and a car full of my belongings.

I don’t have an apartment . . . I don’t have anything except my books, the few boxes in my backseat, and my job.

But it will work out.

It will. It has to.

I will be happy in Seattle . . . it’ll be just like I had always imagined it to be. It will.

Every single mile drags on and on . . . every second is filled with memories, goodbyes, and doubts.

KIMBERLY AND CHRISTIAN’S HOUSE is even larger than I had expected from Kimberly’s description. I’m nervous and intimated by the driveway alone. Trees line the property, the hedges around the house are well manicured, and the air smells of some flower I don’t quite recognize. I park behind Kimberly’s car and take a deep breath before climbing out. The large wooden door is crested with a large V—and I’m giggling at the arrogance of such a decoration when Kimberly opens the door.

She raises her eyebrow to me and follows my eyes to the door she’s just opened. “We didn’t put that there! I swear: the last family that lived here was named Vermon!”

“I didn’t say anything,” I inform her with a shrug.

“I know what you’re thinking; it’s hideous. Christian is a proud man, but even he wouldn’t do such a thing.” She taps the letter with her red fingernail, and I laugh again as she ushers me inside. “How was the drive? Come in, come in, it’s cold out there.”

I follow her into the foyer and welcome the warm air and sweet smell of a fireplace.

“It was okay . . . long,” I tell her.

“I hope I never have to make that drive again.” She scrunches up her nose. “Christian’s at the office. I took the day off to make sure you get settled in. Smith will be home from school in a few hours.”

“Thank you again for letting me stay. I promise I won’t be here longer than two weeks.”

“Don’t stress yourself; you’re finally in Seattle.” She beams, and at last it hits me: I AM in Seattle!

Chapter seventy

HARDIN

How was the kickboxing yesterday?” Landon asks, his voice strained, his face contorted into a stupid-looking expression of physical effort as he lifts yet another bag of mulch. When he drops it into place, he puts his hands on his hips and says with a dramatic eye roll, “You could help, you know.”

“I know,” I say from the chair I’m sitting on and prop my feet up on one of the wooden shelves inside Karen’s greenhouse. “Kickboxing was okay. The trainer was a woman, so that was fucking lame.”

“Why? Because she kicked your butt?”

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