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Susannah came down from her nap a little while after we put on dry clothes, apologizing for missing our big homecoming. She still looked sleepy and her hair was all feathery on one side like a kid’s. She and my mother hugged first, fierce and long. My mother looked so happy to see her that she was teary, and my mother was never teary.

Then it was my turn. Susannah swept me in for a hug, the close kind that’s long enough to make you wonder how long it’s going to last, who’ll pull away first.

“You look thin,” I told her, partly because it was true and partly because I knew she loved to hear it. She was always on a diet, always watching what she ate. To me, she was perfect.

“Thanks, honey,” Susannah said, finally letting me go, looking at me from arm’s length. She shook her head and said, “When did you go and grow up? When did you turn into this phenomenal woman?”

I smiled self-consciously, glad that the boys were upstairs and not around to hear this. “I look pretty much the same.”

“You’ve always been lovely, but oh honey, look at you.” She shook her head like she was in awe of me. “You’re so pretty. So pretty. You’re going to have an amazing, amazing summer. It’ll be a summer you’ll never forget.” Susannah always spoke in absolutes like that—and when she did, it sounded like a proclamation, like it would come true because she said so.

The thing is, Susannah was right. It was a summer I will never forget. Everything began that summer. It was the summer when I became attractive. Because for the first time, I felt it. Pretty, I mean. Every summer up to this one, I believed it’d be different. Life would be different. And that summer, it finally was. I was.

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