Dad pulls up to the curb outside the international terminal.
When he looks at me, his eyes aren’t so wild anymore. They almost look sad. “You ready?”
“what’s going on, Dad?” I ask. It hits me that he somehow snuck me out of the house and now he’s ready to push me onto an airplane to some distant island, but he still hasn’t said anything real.
He shrugs. “Mom’s not always right,” he says.
But she is.
His eyes fall to his lap. “Neither am I,” he says. “Call your mother. Say good-bye.”
My hands shake as I finally turn on my phone.
She answers before the first ring. “Don’t get on that airplane, Colette,” she says, “Know that I don’t approve of this.”
“You know?” I ask.
“Your father left a note. Colette...” She trials off. “You heard me tell you not to go, right?”
“Yes,” I say.
“Well if you go anyway, be safe. Protect your body and your soul. I changed your phone plan so you can only call home, okay? It’s too expensive for you to call Louisa and Mark willy-nilly.” Mark. “But call when you arrive, okay? So we don’t have to worry.”
“Okay,” I say.
My hands aren’t shaking anymore. I’m relieved to hear her sound like any-old-mom.
“And, honey?” she says. She says it so softly I think she’s going to tell me to have a nice time. Or that she loves me.
“I hope you understand what a terrible choice you’re making.”
She hangs up.
I stare at the phone in my palm.
“She okay?” Dad says finally.
We get out of the car and I spot Sadie and her family climbing out of a limo curbed fifty feet away. She jumps up and down as soon as she sees me, her now purple-and-blond hair waving across her face. I can’t help smiling. I can see her mouth moving even from here. “You came! You came!”
I give my dad a quick hug, pull out my suitcase, yank up the handle of my rolly bag, and take my first step as the new, imperfect Coley.
“Colette?” Dad says.
I turn around, ready for him to sit me back in the car, to tell me this was all a test that I failed. Instead he holds out his hand and shoves a stack of bills into my fist. “For whatever you need, little lady. Have fun. I—we. We love you.”
Then he’s gone.
“Coley!” Sadie is running toward me so quickly that I only have a second to open my phone and click on my good-morning text from Mark.
“One more day! I love you!” the message says.
My heart beats faster and salt water threatens to escape from behind my eyeballs and I know he deserves so much better than this, so much more explanation, so much more of me. And me, too. I know I deserve a better good-bye than I’m going to be able to give him. But I only have ten seconds before she reaches me, before it’s time, before the bell rings on my perfect life and I dive into the drama with Sadie.
I type the seven letters i-m s-o-r-r-y. Then I press Send.
Here we go.