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Starry Eyes
Author: Jenn Bennett

Part I

1

* * *

Spontaneity is overrated. Movies and television shows would like us to believe that life is better for partygoers who dare to jump into pools with their clothes on. But behind the scenes, it’s all carefully scripted. The water is the right temperature. Lighting and angles are carefully considered. Dialogue is memorized. And that’s why it looks so appealing—because someone carefully planned it all. Once you realize this, life gets a whole lot simpler. Mine did.

I am a hard-core planner, and I don’t care who knows it.

I believe in schedules, routines, washi-tape-covered calendars, bulleted lists in graph-paper journals, and best-laid plans. The kind of plans that don’t go awry, because they’re made with careful consideration of all possibilities and outcomes. No winging it, no playing things by ear. That’s how disasters happen.

But not for me. I make blueprints for my life and stick to them. Take, for instance, summer break. School starts back in three weeks, and before I turn eighteen and embark on my senior year, this is my blueprint for the rest of the summer:

Plan one: Two mornings each week, work at my parents’ business, Everhart Wellness Clinic. I fill in at the front desk for their normal receptionist, who’s taking a summer course at UC Cal in Berkeley. My mom’s an acupuncturist and my father is a massage therapist, and they own the clinic together. This means that instead of flipping burgers and being yelled at by random strangers outside a drive-through window, I get to work in a Zen-like reception area, where I can keep everything perfectly organized and know exactly which clients are scheduled to walk through the door. No surprises, no drama. Predictable, just the way I like it.

Plan two: Take photos of the upcoming Perseid meteor shower with my astronomy club. Astronomy is my holy grail. Stars, planets, moons, and all things space. Future NASA astrophysicist, right here.

Plan three: Avoid any and all contact with our neighbors, the Mackenzie family.

These three things all seemed perfectly possible until five minutes ago. Now my summer plans are standing on shaky ground, because my mom is trying to talk me into going camping.

Camping. Me.

Look, I know nothing about the Great Outdoors. I’m not even sure I like being outside. Seems to me, society has progressed far enough that we should be able to avoid things like fresh air and sunlight. If I want to see wild animals, I’ll watch a documentary on TV.

Mom knows this. But right now she’s trying really hard to sell me on some sort of Henry David Thoreau nature-is-good idealism while I’m sitting behind our wellness clinic’s front desk. And sure, she’s always preaching about the benefits of natural health and vegetarianism, but now she’s waxing poetic about the majestic beauty of the great state of California, and what a “singular opportunity” it would be for me to experience the wilderness before school starts.

“Be honest. Can you really picture me camping?” I ask her, tucking dark corkscrew curls behind my ears.

“Not camping, Zorie,” she says. “Mrs. Reid is inviting you to go glamping.” Dressed in gray tunic scrubs embroidered with the clinic’s logo, she leans across the front desk and talks in an excited, hushed voice about the wealthy client who’s currently relaxing on an acupuncture table in the back rooms, enjoying the dated yet healing sounds of Enya, patron saint of alternative health clinics around the world.

“Glamping,” I repeat, skeptical.

“Mrs. Reid says they have reservations for these luxury tents in the High Sierras, somewhere between Yosemite and King’s Forest National Park,” Mom explains. “Glamorous camping. Get it? Glamping.”

“You keep saying that, but I still don’t know what it means,” I tell her. “How can a tent be luxurious? Aren’t you sleeping on rocks?”

Mom leans closer to explain. “Mrs. Reid and her husband got a last-minute invitation to a colleague’s chalet in Switzerland, so they have to cancel their camping trip. They have a reservation for a fancy tent. This glamping compound—”

“This isn’t some weird hippie cult, is it?”

Mom groans dramatically. “Listen. They have a chef who prepares gourmet meals, an outdoor fire pit, hot showers—the works.”

“Hot showers,” I say with no small amount of sarcasm. “Thrill me, baby.”

She ignores this. “The point is, you aren’t actually roughing it, but you feel like it. The compound is so popular that they do a lottery for the tents a year in advance. Everything’s already paid for, meals and lodging. Mrs. Reid said it would be shame to let it go to waste, which is why they are letting Reagan take some of her friends there for the week—a last-hurrah trip with the girls before senior year starts.”

Mrs. Reid is the mother of Reagan Reid, star athlete, queen bee of my class, and my kind of, sort of friend. Actually, Reagan and I used to be good friends when we were younger. Then her parents came into money, and she started hanging out with other people. Plus, she was training constantly for the Olympics. Before I knew it, we just . . . grew apart.

Until last fall, when we started talking again during lunchtime at school.

“Would be good for you to spend some time outside,” Mom says, fiddling with her dark hair as she continues to persuade me to go on this crazy camping trip.

“The Perseid meteor shower is happening next week,” I remind her.

She knows I am a strict planner. Unexpected twists and surprises throw me off my game, and everything about this camping—sorry, glamping—trip is making me very, very anxious.

Mom makes a thoughtful noise. “You could bring your telescope to the glamping compound. Stars at night, hiking trails in the day.”

Hiking sounds like something Reagan could be into. She has rock-hard thighs and washboard abs. I practically get winded walking two blocks to the coffee shop, a fact of which I’d like to remind Mom, but she switches gears and plays the guilt card.

“Mrs. Reid says Reagan’s been having a really tough time this summer,” she says. “She’s worried about her. I think she’s hoping this trip will help cheer her up after what happened at the trials in June.”

Reagan fell (I’m talking splat, face-plant) and didn’t place in the Olympic track trials. It was her big shot for moving forward. She basically has no chance at the next summer Olympics and will have to wait four more years. Her family was heartbroken. Even so, it surprises me to hear that her mother is worried about her.

Another thought crosses my mind. “Did Mrs. Reid ask me to go on this trip, or did you hustle her into inviting me?”

A sheepish smile lifts my mom’s lips. “A little from column A, little from column B.”

I quietly drop my head against the front desk.

“Come on,” she says, shaking my shoulder slowly until I lift my head again. “She was surprised Reagan hadn’t asked you already, so clearly they’ve discussed you coming along. And maybe you and Reagan both need this. She’s struggling to get her mojo back. And you’re always saying you feel like an outsider in her pack of friends, so here’s your chance to spend some time with them out of school. You should be falling down at my feet,” Mom teases. “How about a little, Thank you, coolest mom ever, for schmoozing me into the event of the summer. You’re my hero, Joy Everhart?” She clasps her hands to her heart dramatically.

“You’re so weird,” I mumble, pretending to be apathetic.

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