Once upon a time there were four girls. Young women, you might even say. And though their lives traveled in different directions, they loved each other very much. Once upon a time before that, these same girls found a pair of pants, wise and magical, and named them the Traveling Pants. The Pants had the magic of teaching these girls how to be apart. They taught them how to be four people instead of one person. How to be together no matter where they were. How to love themselves as much as they loved each other. And on a practical level, the Pants had the magic of fitting all four of them, which is hard to believe but true, especially considering only one of them (the blonde) was built like a supermodel. Okay. Full disclosure. I am one of these girls. I wear these Pants. I have these friends. I know this magic. I am in fact the blonde, though I was kidding about the supermodel part. But anyway, as it happens with most kinds of magic, these Pants did their job a little too well. And the girls, being extraordinary girls (if you dont mind my saying so), learned their lesson a little too well. And so when the girls lives changed that final summer, the Pants, being wise, had to change too.
And that is how this tale of sisterhood began, but did not end.
Gildas was the same. It always was. And what a relief too, Lena found herself thinking. Good thing you could count on human vanity and the onward march of fitness crazes requiring mats and mirrors.
Not much else was the same. Things were different, things were missing. Carmen, for instance, was missing.
I cant really see how we can do this without Carmen, Tibby said. As was the custom, shed brought her video camera for posterity, but she hadnt turned it on. Nobody was quite sure about when posterity started, or if maybe it already had.
So maybe we shouldnt try, Bee said. Maybe we should wait until we can do it together.
Lena had brought the candles, but she hadnt lit them. Tibby had brought the ceremonial bad eighties aerobics music, but she hadnt put it on. Bee had gamely set out the bowls of Gummi Worms and Cheetos, but nobody was eating them. Whens that going to be? Tibby asked. Seriously, I think weve been trying to get together since last September and I dont think it has happened once. What about Thanksgiving? Lena asked.
Remember I had to go to Cincinnati for Great-grandma Felicias hundredth birthday? Tibby said. Oh, yeah. And she had a stroke, Bee said. That was after the party. And Carmen went to Florida over Christmas, Lena said. And you two were in New York over New Years.
All right, so how about two weekends from now? Carmen will be back by then, wont she?
Yeah, but my classes start on June twentieth. Lena clasped her hands around her knees, her large feet bare on the sticky pine floor. I cant miss the first day of the pose or Ill end up stuck in a corner or staring at the models kneecap for a month.
Okay, so July fourth, Tibby said reasonably. Nobody has school or anything that Friday. We could meet back here for a long weekend?
Bee untied her shoe. I fly to Istanbul on June twenty-fourth.
That soon? Can you go later? Tibby asked.
Bridgets face dimmed with regret. The program put us all on this charter flight. Otherwise its an extra thousand bucks and you have to find your own way to the site.
How could Carmen miss this? Tibby asked.
Lena knew what she meant. It wasnt okay for any of them to miss this ritual, but especially not Carmen, to whom it had mattered so much.
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