"Can you close that suitcase?" Tibby asked Carmen.
"It's making me sick."
Carmen glanced at the structured canvas bag splayed wantonly in the middle of her bed. Suddenly she wished she had all-new underwear. Her best satin pair was sprouting tiny ropes of elastic from the waistband.
"It's making me sick," Lena said. "I haven't started packing. My flight's at seven."
Carmen flopped the top of the suitcase down on the carpeted floor. She was working on removing navy-blue polish from her toenails.
"Lena, could you not say that word anymore?" Tibby asked, wilting a little on the edge of Carmen's bed. "It's making me sick."
"Which word?" Bridget asked. "Packing? Flight? Seven?"
Tibby considered. "All of them."
"Oh, Tibs," Carmen said, grabbing Tibby's foot from where she sat. "It's gonna be okay."
Tibby took her foot back. "It's gonna be okay for you. You're going away. You're going to eat barbecue all the time and light firecrackers and everything.
Tibby had nonsensical ideas about what people did in South Carolina, but Carmen knew not to argue with her.
Lena let out a little hum of sympathy.
Tibby turned on her. "Don't make that pity noise, Lena."
Lena cleared her throat. "I didn't," she said quickly, even though she had.
"Don't wallow," Bridget urged Tibby. "You're wallowing."
"No," Tibby shot back. She held up hands crossed at the wrist in a hex sign to ward off Bridget. "No pep talks. No fair. I only let you do pep talks when you need to feel better."
"I wasn't doing a pep talk," Bridget said defensively, even though she was.
Carmen made her wise eyebrows. "Hey, Tibs? Maybe if you're nasty enough, you won't miss us and we won't miss you."
"Carma!" Tibby shouted, getting to her feet and thrusting a stiff arm at Carmen. "I see through that! You're doing psychological analysis on me. No! No!"
Carmen's cheeks flushed. "I am not," she said quietly.
The three of them sat, scolded into silence.
"God, Tibby, what is anybody allowed to say?" Bridget asked.
Tibby thought about it. "You can say . . ." She glanced around the room. She had tears welling in her eyes, but Carmen knew she didn't want them to show. "You can say . . ." Her eyes lighted on the pair of pants folded on the top of a stack of clothes on Carmen's dresser. "You can say, 'Hey, Tibby, want those pants?"'
Carmen looked baffled. She capped the polish remover, walked over to her dresser, and held up the pants. Tibby usually liked clothes that were ugly or challenging. These were just jeans. "You mean these?" They were creased in three places from inattention.
Tibby nodded sullenly. "Those."
"You really want them?" Carmen didn't feel like mentioning that she was planning to throw them away. Bigger points if they mattered.
Tibby was demanding a little display of unconditional love. Then again, it was her right. Three of them were flying off on big adventures the next day, and Tibby was launching her career at Wallman's in scenic Bethesda for five cents over minimum wage.
"Fine," Carmen said benevolently, handing them over.
Tibby absently hugged the pants, slightly deflated at getting her way so fast.
Lena studied them. "Are those the pants you got at the secondhand place next to Yes!?"
"Yes!" Carmen shouted back.
Tibby unfolded them. "They're great."
The pants suddenly looked different to Carmen. Now that somebody cared about them, they looked a little nicer.
"Don't you think you should try them on?" Lena asked practically. "If they fit Carmen, they aren't going to fit you."
Carmen and Tibby both glared at Lena, not sure who should take more offense.
"What?" Bridget said, hopping to Lena's aid. "You guys have completely different builds. Is that not obvious?"
Excerpted from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares Copyright 2001 by 17th Street Productions, an Alloy Online, Inc. company, and Ann Brashares.. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. 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
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Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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