"Whatever's going on, I wish you'd tell me," he said.
Wren looked at him. She held his gaze and saw him, or that's how it felt, and she whispered, "It's dumb."
"I doubt it."
"You'll think I'm being a baby."
She bowed her head, and a wisp of hair fell from her ponytail. He wanted to brush it back. He wanted desperately to graze her cheek with the back of his hand and swear to her that everything would be fine.
"Please don't tell my parents," she said.
"The only person I've told is Tessa. She's my best friend. She's not entirely thrilled, because she's worried I'll never come back, but she's happy I'm doing what's right for me for once. Well, I hope it's right. I think it is."
Charlie pulled his eyebrows together. He didn't know Wren's parents, and he knew Tessa Haviland only by sight. And what did Wren mean by "never come back"?
Wren took a deep breath, then let it out in a whoosh. "I don't want to go straight to college. I know I'm supposed to, but I don't want tonot yet. I want to experience things and not just think and think and think about things. Does that make sense?"
Charlie wasn't sure what to say.
"Um, my dad," ?Wren said. "I love him. I do. But, like, when I showed him my college essay, he pulled my laptop out of my hands and fixed it for me." She looked nervous, as if she was worried she was being disloyal. "He rewrote the whole thing. Which was nice, I guess? But also . . ."
"Not cool," Charlie said.
"Not cool," she agreed. "It's like he wants to do his own life over, through me." She fell silent for a moment. Then she flashed him a smile that Charlie didn't quite believe. "So I applied to a program called Project Unity. And I got in."
"Wren, that's awesome," Charlie said.
"You know what Project Unity is?"
"Um. No. But Iwhatever it is, I'm sure it's awesome." Dammit, he'd screwed up. She surely thought he was just saying whatever she wanted to hear, except he meant every word of it.
"What is it?" he said.
"It's like a starter version of the Peace Corps," she said. "It's a government program for volunteer work, and it's for a year, and all my expenses will be paid. I'll even get a stipend. The volunteers get sent to Africa or Guatemala or Mexico, anywhere people need help. I put Guatemala as my first choice. I applied to teach English to little kids."
"Wow," Charlie said. "Like, with textbooks, or . . . ?"
"The people who run the program have all sorts of resources, but I thought maybe I could bring some picture books, too? Like ones I liked when I was little, and I could read those to the kids?"
She searched his face. "I might still be a doctor one day. But I want to do something now, not in eight years. I kind of feel like I have to, or I never will."
He wondered how much her desire to throw herself into Project Unity was tangled up with her need to get away from her parents.
"Did you ever want to go to Emory?" he asked.
She hesitated. "If I say no, will you be mad?"
Mad? Why would he be mad?
"Never mind," she said. "Ha. I'm the one who needs to be shot with a tranquilizer gun."
"No, you don't," Charlie said.
"I applied to Emory because that's where my mom works, and it's got a good reputation, and she and my dad were so proud when I got in," ?Wren said. "But there's just so much pressure. I'm sick of all the pressure. I'm sick of feeling like I'll ruin all their happiness if I don't do what they want me to do."
"Which I guess means . . . no, I didn't actually want to go. I feel bad saying that."
Excerpted from The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle. Copyright © 2013 by Lauren Myracle. Excerpted by permission of Amulet Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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