one hand.

Amanda whispers into Steve’s ear. I feel her smirking at me, and my face burns.

Steve clears his throat. “Cheeseburger.”

Chapter eleven

You owe me five bucks,” I say.

Rashmi smiles. “I’l buy your movie ticket.”

At least we’re on the same team. Nicole divided up Nate’s list, so Rashmi and I went out on our own. The week shouldn’t be too bad. Because of

Rashmi, I’l actual y earn class credit. She let me take some of the pictures—a statue of some guy named Budé and a group of kids playing footbal in the street—even though she was the one who found both items.

“I miss footbal .” Meredith pouts as we tell her our story. Even her springy curls look limp and sad tonight.

A breeze whips down the broad avenue, and we hold our jackets tight and shiver. A dusting of brown leaves crunches underneath our feet as Paris


hovers on the edge of autumn. “Isn’t there some league you can join or something?” Josh asks, putting his arm around Rashmi. She burrows into him. “I

see people playing around here all the time.”

“Boo!” A familiar disheveled head pops between Mer and me, and we jump like startled cats.

“Jeez,” Mer says. “Give me a heart attack.What are you doing here?”

“It Happened One Night,” St. Clair says. “Le Champo, right?”

“Don’t you have plans with El ie?” Rashmi asks.

“Am I not invited?” He wedges his way between Meredith and me.

“Of course you’re invited,” Mer says. “We just assumed you’d be busy.”

“You’re always busy,” Rashmi says.

“I’m not always busy.”

“You are,” she says. “And you know what’s weird? Mer’s the only one who’s even seen Ellen this year. Is she too good for us now?”

“Aw, get off it. Not this again.”

She shrugs. “I’m just saying.”

St. Clair shakes his head, but it doesn’t escape our notice that he doesn’t deny it. El ie may be friendly enough in person, but it’s clear she no longer needs her SOAP friends. Even I can see that.

“What do you guys even do every night?” The words slip out before I can stop them.

“It,” Rashmi says. “They do it. He’s ditching us to screw.”

St. Clair blushes. “You know, Rash, you’re as crude as those stupid juniors on my floor. Dave what’s-his-name and Mike Reynard. God, they’re arses.”

Mike Reynard is Dave-from-French-and-history’s best friend. I didn’t know they lived next to him.

“Watch it, St. Clair,” Josh says.There’s an edge in his normal y relaxed demeanor.

Rashmi whips into St. Clair’s face. “Are you cal ing me an ass?”

“No, but if you don’t back off, I bloody might.”

Their bodies are tense, like they’re about to bash antlers in a nature documentary. Josh tries to pul Rashmi back, but she shakes him away. “God, St.

Clair, you can’t be all chummy during the day and blow us off every night!You can’t come back whenever you feel like it and pretend like everything’s fine.”

Mer tries to cut them off. “Hey, hey, hey—”

“Everything is fine! What the hel is wrong with you?”

“HEY!” Mer uses her considerable height and strength to force her way between them.To my surprise, she begins pleading with Rashmi. “I know you

miss El ie. I know she was your best friend, and it stinks that she’s moved on, but you stil have us. And St. Clair . . . she’s right. It hurts not to see you anymore. I mean, away from school.” She sounds like she’s about to cry. “We used to be so close.”

Josh puts his arm around her, and she hugs him tightly. He glares at St. Clair through her curls. This is your fault. Fix it.

St. Clair deflates. “Yeah. Okay.You’re right.”

It’s not quite an apology, but Rashmi nods. Mer exhales in relief. Josh delicately pries her off and moves beside his girlfriend again. We tread in

awkward silence. So Rashmi and El ie used to be best friends. It’s hard enough being temporarily separated from Bridge, but I can’t imagine how awful it

would be if she ditched me completely. I feel guilty. No wonder Rashmi’s bitter.

“Sorry, Anna,” St. Clair says after another muted block. “I know you were excited about the film.”

“It’s okay. It’s not my business. My friends fight, too. I mean . . . my friends back home. Not that you guys aren’t my friends. I’m just saying . . . all friends fight.”

Argh. How distressing.

Gloom cloaks us like a thick fog. We resume silence, and my thoughts circle around. I wish Bridge were here. I wish St. Clair wasn’t with El ie, and El ie hadn’t hurt Rashmi, and Rashmi were more like Bridge. I wish Bridge were here.

“Hey,” Josh says. “You. Check it out.”

And then the darkness gives way to white neon. An Art Deco font, burning into the night, announces our arrival at the CINEMA LE CHAMPO. The letters

dwarf me. Cinema. Has there ever been a more beautiful word? My heart soars as we pass the colorful film posters and walk through the gleaming glass doors. The lobby is smal er than what I’m used to, and though it’s missing the tang of artificial y buttered popcorn, there’s something in the air I recognize, something both musty and comforting.

True to her word, Rashmi pays for my ticket. I take the opportunity to slip out a scrap of paper and a pen that I’d hidden in my jacket for this very

purpose. Mer is next in line, and I transcribe her speech phonetical y.

Oon ploss see voo play.

St. Clair leans over my shoulder and whispers. “You’ve spel ed it wrong.”

My head jerks up in embarrassment, but he’s smiling. I drop my face, so that my hair shields my cheeks. They blush more for his smile than anything


We fol ow blue rope lights down the aisle of the theater. I wonder if they’re blue everywhere here, rather than the golden glow of American cinemas. My

heart beats faster. Everything else is the same.

Same seats. Same screen. Same wal s.

For the first time in Paris, I feel at home.

I smile at my friends, but Mer and Rashmi and Josh are distracted, arguing about something that happened over dinner. St. Clair sees me and smiles

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