"We're what?" I yelped, in shock from the last comment.

"I believe that it's time we made a change. I think it's for the better. I think that we should move."

Veronica's head nodded methodically while Dad spoke. She held Kimberley close to her. She seemed to almost be protecting her, as if somehow during this, I was going to turn into a lion and eat my half sister. However much I would love to, I don't think it's going to happen. Even behind the hands of her heinous mother, I could tell that Kimberley was smiling wickedly. As always. I growled at her, and she buried herself in her mom's embrace.

"Dad, I grew up here! This is my home. Why on earth would we move?"

"You're going to leave soon. You're going to college."

"Dad, two years isn't that soon." I sat down on the couch, my head in my hands. "I have friends here, Dad! I mean, if you moved me, I'd be stuck in a new environment with no friends. Do you want to do that to me?"

"You'd have friends. I'm your friend. Veronica is…"

"You think Veronica is my friend? Ha!" I leapt off the couch, pointing at the person in question. "She is from Satan! I would rather kill myself than stay in a house with her," I practically spat the word, "all day."

"Isabella!" she screeched in shock.

"My name isn't Isabella, Veronica. It's Isa. Just plain Isa. This is like if I decided to call you Nicole because there's a "nic" sound in your name."

"Isabella, I don't call people by their nicknames." She seemed slightly amused by this.

Five years. It's been five years, and she still does this.

"Well, Nicole, it's not a nickname. It's my full name."

"My name isn't Nicole."

"And my name isn't Isabella, or Isabelle, or Isadora, or any of the number of things you call me that aren't my name. Isa is my name. And if you keep calling me other things, not only will I stop responding, but also, I'll start calling you Nicole. So, you better learn to call me by my real name and fast." I stood, breathing into her face and gagging on her fancy perfume. She broke the gaze first.

"Well, I should probably be getting back to the apartment, now shouldn't I? We'll see you for dinner. Okay, bye."

She stood, dragging Kimberley by her wrists, and then she was gone.

"Thank God she doesn't live here." I sighed, collapsing on the couch once more. I looked up at Dad, almost grinning. I hadn't fully smiled at my dad since Veronica showed up.

And then Dad was on my case.

"Why did you do that? She didn't do anything wrong…"

"Except existing! Dad, she's been calling me names that aren't mine since she first showed up."

"You can't blame her. She's just used to different things, honeybell."

"Don't call me that. Dad, it can't take that long to adjust. I mean, five years? It's pathetic! I don't like her, Dad. I never have, and never will."

"Honeybell, if we're going to move together somewhere, you have to learn to live with her."

"Yes, but we're not… what? She's going to move in with us in this foreign place we're supposedly moving to?"

"Well, of course Isa."

My face was completely wiped of any emotion other than surprise. My jaw dropped.


"Isa, I love her." I rolled my eyes as he spoke the words. "I want to live with her. And, you'll learn to live with her. She's not bad, honeybell."

"Dad, she's almost my age."

"I know, but I care for her And, Kimberley, she's my daughter. Just like you. I just, I want to live with all of you."

"Can't we at least just stay here and she can move in? I mean, I just want to stay with here, with my friends! Dad, please."

He was standing up. Leaving, while I was pleading.

"I can't deal with this place anymore, Isa baby. I just can't."

"Dad, my whole life! All of my memories are here, in this house."

"Isa, we're moving to the coast. We're going to live down the street from the president."

"We're moving across the country too? What? Why dad? We've always lived in Washington State. Why are we going to Washington DC?"

"This is just the way things are, Isa. You have to accept it."

I looked up at him with pure hatred.

"I'm not going."

His voice changed. It was much more stubborn and cold now.

"We're going and that is final. You don't have any say in this because you're grounded anyways."

"What?" I screeched.

"For talking back to your stepmother. You need to understand that you have boundaries."

"She is not my mother!" I ran up the stairs and into my room. And who was waiting there for me? My best friend, Michael.

"How did you get in here?" I said, falling onto my bed next to him. He smiled down at me.

"Same as last time, and the time before then, and the time before then."

"And how did you get in those times?" I shifted my weight onto my elbow, sitting up a little bit.

"The trellis. I climbed up, squashing your stepmother's beautiful ivy," he smiled sarcastically, "And up, into your window and onto your bed."

"Oh, that's how." I laughed, forgetting my troubles.

"So, what was that about? Downstairs?"

I groaned. "You heard?"

"Wasn't hard to hear." He laughed as he said it, lowering himself to my eye level. "What's going on?"

"Well, to begin with, the bimbo and her spawn are moving in. But, the punch line is, they aren't moving in here. They're moving in to our new house in Washington. Washington DC." I sat all the way up as I said the last sentence. Tears were coming to my eyes.

"What?" he sat up too, grabbing hold of my waist so that he could see my face. I broke out of his grasp and stood. I faced the other way.

"I'm moving. Across the continent. And I don't know why." A stream of salty water lined my cheek. He grabbed my wrist and pulled me back onto my bed.

"But…" he couldn't finish his sentence. He was speechless. I was speechless.

"And, I don't even know when we're leaving." We looked into each other's eyes, liked we'd never see each other again. Which was quite a possibility. He suddenly wrapped his arms around me and squeezed me into a hug.

"Oh, Isa, don't go!" I could feel him shake.

"I almost forgot. I don't have any say, because I'm grounded."

He pulled his face back; his eyes were red but know they were smiling. "For what? Oh, the she monster called you Isabella again?"

"Yup." I grinned at him, holding back sobs. I sucked in a huge breath of air, trying to calm myself.

"Well, Isa, I want to tell you something." I met his gaze. He looked different, more serious.

"I, uh, I think I like you. You know, in the weird sense."

"Wait, what?"

"I came here to tell you that I wanted to be your boyfriend, but you're going away. So, will you? Be my girlfriend? Even if only for today?" He smiled awkwardly.

I gazed at him, considering my options. He was looking at me. I couldn't think of anything to say.

"What?" was the best I could squeak out. I gazed at him, by best friend. He seemed to be deep in thought. I just studied his face.

It's not like he's ugly or something. He's actually quite the opposite. If we hadn't been friends since elementary school, and best friends since sixth grade, I probably would have considered him. But, the fact remains, I'm going into my junior year in high school, he's been my best friend for five years. I just haven't thought of him that way before.

I looked up at him again.

Was it just me, or was his face getting closer? I continued to stare at him quizzically. No, it couldn't be, I told myself.

And then I understood what was happening. He was trying to kiss me. Yes, yes it could. My eyes widened.

Unfortunately, his eyes were already closed by then. Hi face was less than an inch away from mine.

It seemed like an eternity before his lips touched mine.

You know how they say that before you die, you see your life flash before your eyes? That happened to me, before the kiss. I saw myself when I was learning to walk, and learning to talk. I remembered things I could have sworn I'd forgotten, and things I didn't remember doing. I saw myself on the beach with Mom; wearing that ridiculous hat Grandma gave me that I had to wear. I had no say in the matter.

I was back into real life before I really had the time to realize what was happening in my head before it was gone. And then it finally happened. I was in reality now.

It wasn't what I'd expected. It was, actually, kind of nice. I got involved in it, wrapping my arms around his neck, letting him in a little more.

Thoughts were racing through my mind. Fortunately, no longer were they memories. And my mind stopped at one.

I moved my hands to his chest, and pushed myself back from him.

"Sorry," he said, blushing. I looked away.

"I can't do this, Michael. I just can't." I turned my body slightly away from him. His eyes had lost their lethargic veil. He was in reality now, too. But his reality was behind a curtain.

"Why not?

He reached out and grabbed my hand. He'd done this hundreds of times before, but now it seemed different. Now it was wrong.

I pulled my hand from his grasp, and into my lap. I was avoiding his gaze.

"Isa, what's wrong?"

"Michael, don't you understand? I'm going to Washington DC! I probably won't see my home for years. I may never see you again! And, well, you're my best friend. You've been my best friend since sixth grade. I… I just haven't considered you as more than that."

I was standing now, pacing. He was still on the bed, watching me. It was like a tennis match. Back and forth; back and forth.

"I mean, you're a great guy, and if this had happened before my dad decided to move me across the country, I would probably do all this with you. But, it is happening. I am moving. I'm sorry, Michael, I really am."

I was standing, facing him. He looked a combination of shocked and defeated.

"Oh, okay." He started to stand. He was leaving.

"Don't go, Mike." I grabbed his hand and pulled him back to the bed.

"Why not?" He pulled his hand from my grasp. He was suddenly bitter. And I understood. He had probably liked me for a really long time. I lowered my gaze.

"I need you here. I mean, I need help packing and stuff." My hands were limp at my side. His eyes were pained when I looked back up at them.

"Okay," he said. He grabbed my hand again. It was okay. He pulled me towards the window. "Let's go get boxes."

"We have some downstairs. That's kind of what spurred the fight. You just stay here and I'll go get a bunch."

I went downstairs and wiped my eyes. There were piles of brand new moving boxes, flat and cardboard, waiting for me grimly. I sighed, fighting back the tears. I grabbed as many as I could carry and limped back up the stairs.

When I opened the door to my room, he was gone. I looked around, and all I saw was the open window and some crushed ivy on the windowsill.

I dropped the boxes. He hated me. My best friend hated me.

The thought that ruined the kiss filled my head once more. She's flatlined…

I sank onto my bed. I ruined everything. Suddenly, moving wasn't looking so bad. I grabbed a box and started forcefully shoving everything I could into it. I put all the clothes on the ground in; all my books; all my frames with pictures of my memories here, pictures of Michael, Dad and I, Mom, everyone and everything and me.

I threw my stereo in the box. It didn't fit. I stood and pushed on it. It wasn't moving. I slammed my fists on it, and collapsed on it. This is not how I wanted to remember my summer. I missed Michael already. I closed my eyes, feeling the hot tears fighting to escape.

I pulled the stereo back out and grabbed a CD from inside the box. I started it playing, singing along to the lyrics, as I packed. It was unpleasant, in general. But, it was better than doing nothing.

"Isa?" I heard my dad say. I turned to the voice. I was startled to see that he was in my room.

I sighed. "Yeah?"

"Nothing, I'm just surprised to see you packing already. Changed your mind about the move."

"Yeah." I said; the unwanted feelings were starting to come back. Thanks a lot, Dad.

"Oh, okay." He was happy now. He could be so annoying. "I was just wondering what you wanted for dinner."

"I don't care." My face was flushing in the effort of hiding my sadness. "Can we just, like, get a pizza or something?"

"Sure thing, honeybell." He started to sidestep out of my room. "I sure am glad that you're happy now, too. I love you, baby."

"Yeah," I said, as I began packing once again.

My mind began to wander. I started wondering about my new life. About what my house would look like, what my new friends would be like, and how school would be different. And, more importantly, how long would Michael's ghost haunt me?