He’s an artist. He has always been an artist. He takes what he sees and transforms it, mixing it with his own sweat and perspective and unique brand of amusement. It’s his primary mode of communication.
As is my older-sisterly duty, I pick through his room occasionally, navigating my way through discarded T-shirts, piles of empty Dr. Pepper bottles and a 36-pack of Prisma color pens. I was never really sure what to look for. It smells like a unique cocktail of Old Spice and Sharpies and sweaty, paint-encrusted Chuck Taylors. It is nauseating, but familiar all the same. Mostly I admire the artwork strewn on the floor, the walls. His art is more telling than he realizes.
In high school, he fought with Mom every other day. He’d go eight rounds with her—brazen, ugly shouting matches—and then go upstairs and spin off scenes of shredded, slaughtered battlefields into his sketchbook, oranges and reds and greens and blacks sprawling across each page. I heard “Welcome to the Jungle” wailing through his headphones from the next room more times than I can count.
One day, we’re getting in the car, headed to Wal-Mart to get the new Harry Potter DVD when I see something move out of the corner of my eye.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I demanded.
He pauses, his hand halfway to the dashboard. His index finger is extended guiltily.
He says nothing, only smiles endearingly and bats the eyelashes I’ve always been jealous of. I see his hand slowly retreat.
“That’s what I thought,” I say, throwing the car in reverse.
Driver picks the music, shotgun keeps his mouth shut. It’s my one rule, and he knows it. And besides, a little Keith Urban never killed anyone. But he has always liked testing the waters.
He feels everything deeply. His rage is consuming and his glee is contagious. He is steady, but passionate. When he loves, he loves fiercely. His friends, his precious Jeep Wrangler, even—though he’ll never admit it—the raggedy stuffed dog he slept with every night until he was sixteen.
He’s sly and sardonic, but wickedly funny. He’ll make a joke at your expense, but he’ll wink at you and all will immediately be forgiven. He’s a sinfully smooth talker, and when he starts gaining momentum with the ladies his sophomore year of high school, it’s amusing, but not altogether unsurprising.
What is surprising, however, is the night when of his date with Elizabeth Chang, the girl from his AP government class, I walk past the bathroom, where he is holding up two different shirts: a plaid flannel and a light blue button-down. He’s nervous, but I can tell he’s excited. He looks dizzy, like he’s about to pass out or throw up. Or both. I catch his gaze in the mirror and he raises his eyebrows in askance. “Definitely the blue,” I tell him.
The next morning, while he’s at work, I creep into his room and find his sketchbook open on the floor. A female navy-blue silhouette spattered with pale yellow and fuchsia looks back up at me.
When his best friend dies of a heart defect on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I hug him, put a hand to his cheek and ask how he’s doing, if there’s anything he needs. “I-I don’t know,” he said simply. “How should I be doing?”
There’s a pleading in his eyes that tells me this isn’t a rhetorical question.
I wander through his room when we get back from the wake—he had stayed behind to be with his classmates—and pick up his sketchbook. He hasn’t drawn anything since last Friday.
things i wish i had known at 16
contrary to popular belief
and virginia state law,
it is possible to fit ten people
in a dodge grand caravan.
having fun in the back row
is more important than
being the front-row suckup.
fuck caitlin. she’s a bitch.
lincoln navigators and
the number 74 will never stop
the floor of the girl’s bathroom
sees a fair share of tears and
tends to moonlight
as a confessional booth.
are exactly what they sound like.
especially ones whispered
on a break room sofa,
zero inches and
two layers of blue polyester
When I woke that morning, I discovered I had rolled over onto my left arm in my sleep, leaving it heavy and completely numb. Running my fingers over the ghosts of the creases the sheets had left, I rolled my head from one shoulder to the other, stretching.
My phone started blaring “Back in Black” and I grabbed for it with my good hand, not even checking the caller ID.
“Dude. How did you know?”
“Know what?” Max’s voice was high and entirely too loud.
“I literally just woke up.” Sandwiching the phone between my ear and my shoulder, I grabbed the wrist of my dead arm and shook it. My slumbering hand flopped around helplessly.
“Seriously? I must be psychic.”
I snorted. “Yeah. That must be it.”
“You shut your mouth and get out of bed. We have mischief to get into.”
“Max, no. It’s too early.” I clenched my fist, which was reaching the pleasantly painful tingly stage of the waking up process.
“That is garbage!” he yelled. “Complete and utter garbage. Bradley Carter, it is eleven o’clock in the morning on the first Saturday of summer. I will be at your place of residence in ten minutes and you better be ready and waiting for me.”
“Why should I?” I countered.
“Because we are going to celebrate being young and being alive.”
“You’re so stupid. Did you call Crash and Jules?”
“I’m on my way to Crash’s house as we speak. Jules is next. See you in ten, Bradley ol’ buddy.”
I rolled my eyes and hung up. Crash lived on the other side of the river. Even without picking up Jules, the only way Max was gonna make it from Crash’s house to mine in ten minutes was if Max’s car suddenly sprouted wings. I lay back down.
My phone rang again, and against my better judgment, I picked up.
Before I even said anything, Max yelled, “Get out of bed!”
I laughed. “Alright. I’m getting up,” I said, standing.
“Danke schoen, cutie.” The line went dead.
I had to hand it to him. Max knew how to get what he wanted. He almost always did. He was one of those guys that things just seemed to work out for. He got good grades, he was a basketball prodigy, and, for a reason unbeknownst to me, the ladies loved him. But, of course, he was oblivious to all of that.
Crash—so christened after a superbly gnarly bike accident when we were eight—was giant. He had cleared six feet before we graduated middle school, and, two years later, was finally settling at a cruising altitude of six-foot-four. The problem was, he still hadn’t adjusted to his own size. His every move suggested chaos.
In a somewhat comical contrast, Jules was teeny. Maybe five-foot-one. She had long hair and a big mouth, both literally and figuratively. When she smiled, it took up half her face, but on her, it worked. Jules was smart and surprisingly not annoying. She was my only girl-space-friend, and I was OK with that.
I got out of bed and dressed slowly, and was rinsing my toothbrush when I heard a horn wailing outside.
I thundered down the stairs, yelling, “Mom! I’m headed out!” I was pretty sure she was still asleep—she and Kevin had still been arguing when my bladder woke me up around two that morning—but at least now I could honestly say I had told her I was leaving.
As I tugged the storm door shut, I heard a voice call out, “Bradley Carter, COME ON DOWN!”
Crash’s entire upper half (roughly thirty-eight inches in length) was hanging out the passenger window of Max’s car. He was grinning like a fool. I laughed and started toward the curb. “Bob Barker is probably rolling in his grave.”
“Bob Barker’s not dead yet, dummy,” Jules’ disembodied voice came from the backseat.
I opened the back door and smiled down at her before dropping onto the cracked leather seat. “Well then, somewhere, his head just exploded and some poor Price is Right intern is mopping up his brains,” I said, yanking the door shut. It groaned in protest.
Max, who was in the driver’s seat, pretended to barf out of his open window. “Thanks for that image.”
Jules punched me in the shoulder. “He’s not doing Price is Right anymore, either, asshole.”
“Such language is unbecoming for such a proper young lady.” I shook my now-resurrected finger towards her face.
“Screw you,” she laughed.
We scuttled away from the curb and lurched forward. I threw on my seatbelt. Max was the first one of us to get his license, and he had only gotten it last week. He was somewhat of a horrific driver, so it was somewhat of a miracle that he got it in the first place. When I asked him what he bribed the driving instructor with, he shushed me, patted my head like I was five years old and said “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”
To make matters worse, Max’s car was an absolute deathtrap. A decrepit red Toyota Camry with sticky brakes and no air-conditioning, the thing had set Max back all of $500, but he loved it fiercely. The car’s given name was Freddie Mercury, but Jules nicknamed it the Queen the first time she saw it, and it stuck.
I caught Max’s eye in the rearview mirror. “So are we knocking over a liquor store or what?”
“He’s got jokes!” Max said. “No, Sergeant Skeptical, we are not knocking over a liquor store. We are going to the zoo.”
“That’s the mischief you were talking about? The zoo? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. We are grown men, Max.”
Over Jules’ indignant outcry, Max gave a shout of laughter. “Quit whining, Bradley. You’re never too old to go and look at some friggin’ penguins.”
Resisting Max’s unbridled passion was futile. In the eight years I’d known him, I’d only ever been able to talk him out of anything once: when we were nine, he wanted to jump off our second-story balcony wearing this papier-mâché wings he had made at summer camp. And even then he only changed his mind after I made him try it on my sister’s American Girl doll first. (Sadly, Dr. Mom pronounced Kirsten DOA on the scene. Kinda hard to recover from a fractured skull when you can’t actually regrow bones.)
Crash jumped in. “Come on, man. When was the last time you went to the zoo?”
“It’s been awhile,” I said. “Mostly because I went once when I was six and never had any desire to go back.”
“Tough nuts,” Crash said. “Either you’re going with us, or you can jump ship now. Granted, you’d plunge to your untimely death, but hey, that’s your prerogative.”
We screeched to a halt. Stoplight.
“I might die before we get there as it is.”
“Again with the jokes!” Max said. “Seriously, does Comedy Central know about you? You should have a microphone and a brick wall behind you.”
I smiled. “Fine. Why are we going to the zoo exactly?”
“Because Max wants to see the penguins and we are helpless to resist,” Crash said, grinning again.
When we jerked to a stop in the zoo’s parking lot, I threw my door open, tumbled dramatically onto the ground and kissed the pavement. Jules laughed and I smiled up at her.
“Ha ha hee hee,” Max said, walking toward the entrance.
“Oh come on, dude.” I stood up and brushed off the knees of my jeans. “I’m just kidding. Besides, it’s not entirely your fault. Your driving wouldn’t be nearly as scary if it weren’t for this POS car.”
Max turned around, clearly affronted. “Apologize to Her Majesty!”
I rolled my eyes, turned to the car and gave a deep bow. “I apologize for my derogatory remarks, your highness. Hopefully you can find it somewhere in your rusty metal heart to forgive me.”
Max flipped me off and took off again for the entrance.
Crash laughed. “That was so sincere.”
“Well, in my defense, I WAS apologizing to an inanimate object.”
“And she is both rusty and metal,” Jules said. “So nothing you said was actually untrue.”
“I’m not getting any younger over here!” Max was waiting for us by the main gate, vehicular injustices already forgotten. He was hopping up and down on one foot in anticipation.
After paying the $2 entrance fee, we walked into the aquarium building, where Jules was immediately captivated by the sea otters. She started making faces at them as they bobbed and twisted in the water, and when she put her hand to the glass, they all swam to it. Once she discovered this, we all started drawing random patterns on the glass. Jules pranced farther down the enclosure, trailing her hand behind her, and laughed as the otters followed her.
"They’re bigger than I thought they’d be," she said. "I always pictured them kind of tiny."
“You mean just like you?” Crash asked. “Sorry, Jules, not everyone got the midget gene.” She stuck her tongue out at him and drew a giant heart on the glass.
“Look,” Max interjected. “I know they’re fluffy and adorable, but can we please go see the penguins?”
“Dude, what’s with the penguin fixation?” I asked.
“Um, did you know they have spikes on their tongues?”
“What?” Jules raised an eyebrow at him.
“Yeah! I read it on the Internet last night.” He was balancing on one foot again. “The have spikes on their tongues to help them hold their prey. How badass is that?”
“Why on Earth were you reading about penguins on a Friday night?” I asked.
“Like you were doing anything better?”
That shut me up. I had spent the night watching Golden Girls reruns with my mom.
We rounded a corner and saw the penguin enclosure. Sure enough, on the big anatomical diagram stuck to the glass, an arrow was pointing to the penguin’s mouth, that read:
“Penguins do not have teeth but instead have a matrix of white tooth-like spikes on the tongue and roof of the mouth. These help the penguins to swallow a fish and stop it from wriggling back out.”
“I told you! How gnarly is that?” Max crowed. He was in heaven.
There were four of the penguins jumping and swimming around, but there was one that was sitting on a block of ice, just watching. It made me a little sad.
“What’s up with that one?” I asked.
Max glanced up. “I don’t know. Social anxiety?”
“Maybe he’s depressed,” Jules said.
“Why would he be depressed?” Max asked incredulously. “He’s a penguin with a spike on his tongue. His life is awesome.” I rolled my eyes, but kept thinking.
You had to wonder. Did the animals know how helpless they were? Was it wrong to assume that they are conscious of their captivity?
Maybe. But if they were, you had to also assume they were making the best of their sheltered, docile lives. The alternative was too sad to think about.
You can get used to anything if you live with it long enough. Moving to Antarctica. Gout. Veganism. It’s like that prism adaptation experiment where, for a week, they made the subject wear glasses that caused her to see everything inverted. In two days, she had completely adjusted to it even though her entire world was — very literally — upside down.
“Hey! I think he likes me!” Max said, waving maniacally to the lone penguin, who had waddled over to the block of ice closest to Max.
As I stood there, forehead pressed against the cool glass, I was reminded of a haiku I read in my high school’s lit mag.
“The world is like an
inside out aquarium.
Do not tap on glass.”
U For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a fascination with stories. This has manifested itself over the years through a general love of anything media-related: books, movies, television, even music. I love anything that can be used as a storytelling medium. Predominantly, however, I gravitated toward the written word. I read constantly growing up. Through these books, I got to know characters, experience different lifestyles and learn major life lessons through these books.
Abby, my 15-year-old sister, sadly does not share this love of reading. I’ve been trying to suggest books and encourage her to read for almost her entire life, but I’m inevitably met with varying degrees of apathy. Last month, however, I convinced her to read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which is one of the best books I’ve read in a long while. I wasn’t expecting much from her, but Abby would update me as she was reading it, and she adored it. We were in the car together when she finished it, and she had tears in her eyes. (I should explain that she is absolutely not a crier, so this was monumental.) For me, her reaction the most amazing and rewarding thing I could’ve asked for: she responded to the story, and learned from it.
When I think about why I want to be an English teacher, I think about how much I love books, and how much they meant to me growing up. Jay Gatsby, Anne Frank, Lizzie Bennett, even Harry Potter: These characters (and many, many others) all have something to teach us, and I want spend my life helping kids to realize that as well.
Alright, I know this is supposed to be the Emilie and Patrick show, but I’m going to make this about me for just a second. Bear with me.
I always like to tell people that I sort of had a front-row seat to Patrick and Emilie’s relationship: Patrick was one of my few pre-existing friends when I came to JMU, and Emilie and I were roommates for our sophomore year, and housemates for junior and senior years (though we did seriously talk about knocking down the wall between our rooms at the Salt Shaker).
When Emilie and I decided we wanted to room together sophomore year, I knew she and Patrick were going to start dating soon (even if they didn’t want to admit it at that point), but I didn’t really think it would affect me all that much. Oh, how wrong I was.
I got to watch these two kids meet, get to know each other, start dating, work through their first fight, their second fight, their eighteenth fight…
I got to watch them hang out and have fun, and I got to hang out and have fun with them a lot of the time. They became my best friends. Patrick was my fellow smaddie, my biggest cheerleader, and my ever-reluctant snuggle buddy. Emilie became my literary protégé, my armchair psychologist, and my favorite roommate slash lifemate.
Over the past three years, I’ve gotten to watch them grow both as individuals and as a couple and see how they push each other toward Christ at every turn. I got to be completely awestruck by how WELL they loved each other, even when they were mad or frustrated or hurt. I watched them fall in love.
I got to watch Patrick meticulously plan out his proposal, and I got to lie through my teeth to Emilie about it for two months.
And now, I get to watch you guys take this next (huge) step in your relationship, and I am beyond excited for what’s to come. You guys are my best friends, and I love you so, so much. Thanks for letting me be your Ted.
Before you leave, you get the obligatory “study-hard-and-do-your-best” speech. Make good friends and good decisions, they say. Enjoy every minute. They tell you it’ll be the best four years of your life.
They don’t tell you how hard of an adjustment it will be. How, two weeks in, you will call your mom from the cold, echoing stairwell of your freshman dorm because you are homesick. They also don’t tell you how, once you get over that hump, you will never want to come home.
They don’t tell you how freakishly attached you will become to your roommates, and how nothing—I repeat, nothing—will beat a Tuesday night Dance-Moms-and-daiquiris ritual.
They don’t tell you how precious your summers are. How you will come to look forward to those late-night Krispy Kreme runs and How I Met Your Mother marathons and, yes, even those nights you have to work swim meets that last until 1 a.m.
They don’t tell you to appreciate the fact that your school has the No. 3 best food in the country — you don’t figure that out until you visit your friend at U.Va. in the fall of your sophomore year when you eat nothing but cereal at brunch because the eggs look suspiciously gelatinous and the pancakes taste like cardboard.
They do tell you to get a job, but you couldn’t have imagined it’d be one that is a huge blessing, but at the same time makes you want to gouge your eyes out on the regular.
No one tells you that the fall semester of your junior year will inexplicably suck. Or how you will stay up way later than your roommates so you can cry yourself to sleep in peace.
They also tell you to go on a crazy spring break trip, but they never imagined you’d take that to mean a — completely sober (for you, anyway) — week of fangirling at Harry Potter World with six of your best friends.
What they don’t tell you is how it feels to watch your two best friends fall in love with each other. How inarticulately beautiful it is. Not that it’s not hard sometimes — it is, but the joy you feel is so much bigger and more explosive than any shred of self-pity you might have.
They can’t tell you what it’s like to drive up to Reddish Knob in the middle of March and have a platonic snuggle chain with your guy friends in subarctic temperatures. They haven’t seen the look of impending sleep find its way across the faces of your three best friends on the floor of your living room as the pink-streaked light of the sunrise begins to creep in through the window.
You tell them how proud you are of your school, and the way it bands together in the face of unspeakable tragedy. They look at you like you’re crazy when you wax nostalgic over the pervasive smell of dog food that hangs over the town.
What they don’t tell you is how incredibly precious your time is. That those four years will go by faster than you care to admit. That you will meet people who will change you, love you, hurt you, hold you, build you up and ultimately become your family.
They don’t tell you how damn lucky you are. You have to learn that on your own.
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Charleston, South Carolina. The weather is a comfortable 78 degrees and there isn’t a cloud in sight. We hope you had a pleasant trip and thank you for flying with Cirrus Airlines today.”
The plane had been on the ground for less than sixty seconds and Ellie was already fishing through her bag for her cell phone. Flying was not her favorite thing, and she was glad to be back on good old terra firma. While she waited for her phone to power up, she peered out the window, grateful to be able to see land outside.
As she got up and began shuffling down the aisle, Ellie speed-dialed her dad.
Hi, you’ve reached Jim Gregson. I’m not avai—
Ellie hung up and dialed again. This time, he picked up on the first ring.
“Hey, pumpkin! Did you land?” he asked, his excitement evident even over the phone.
“Yeah I’m getting off now! Are you here yet?” Ellie smiled politely to the stewardesses and climbed down the stairs.
“I just parked. I’ll meet you at baggage claim?” Jim asked.
Ellie smiled as she dropped her phone back into her purse. It had been almost a year since she had seen her dad. She had never been to visit him before: he had always come to spend weekends with her in D.C. He would always surprise her with some sort of extravagant present, though it was never as good as just being with him. But when Jim moved to Charleston two years ago, they had to resort to phone calls and Skype sessions. But now she had a whole summer to spend with him. They were going to play basketball, watch old James Bond movies, and she knew she would more than likely end up dragging him to the furniture store to replace whatever God-awful futon he had undoubtedly picked out for his apartment. It’d be the summer of Ellie and Jim, she thought. It was going to be perfect.
She heard him before she saw him. As Ellie whipped her head around, though, it was hard to miss the six-foot-four man barreling toward where she was standing by the baggage carrel, his arms wide. She barely got out a “hello” before she found herself being lifted off the ground and spun around in a lung-crushing hug.
“Dad! Put me down!” She tried to be stern, but she was laughing too hard.
“Sorry, El. I forget you’re not six anymore,” he said as he put Ellie on the ground, arms still around her.
“Yeah, I’m almost sixteen. How are you gonna feel next year when I can drive and everything?” Ellie asked.
“Oh, wow. You can’t really be that old— that means I’m old, too,” he said, pulling lightly on her ponytail.
“I’m afraid so, old man,” she said. “Nice outfit, by the way. Are you going to court or something?” Jim was wearing an honest-to-God suit, which Ellie wasn’t sure she had ever seen her father wear. She raised a quizzical eyebrow at him.
“Just for you,” her dad joked.
Laughing, Ellie turned to face the stream of unclaimed luggage snaking by. “This is all stuff from my flight, so my bag should be here somewhere. It’s my pink L. L. Bean one.”
“The one I got you for Christmas?” he asked, smiling down at her.
“That’s the one.” Ellie didn’t tell him that she had used it on purpose, knowing how happy it would make him.
While they waited, Ellie leaned into her dad, reacquainting herself with his Old-Spice-and-detergent scent. When she was a kid, her dad used to dump fresh-from-the-dryer warm laundry all over her and then come and sit with her as they folded it. It was one of the places she remembered feeling the safest. This felt like that.
As if he had read her mind, Jim put his arm around Ellie, squeezing her shoulder. “I’m glad you’re here, pumpkin. I missed you.”
“I bet you did,” she joked. “Your life must be pretty boring without me, huh?”
He laughed quietly, glancing down. “I’ve got a surprise for you, too. I can’t wait to show you.”
“Show me?” she said, her interest piqued.
“You’ll see,” he said. “Is that your bag?”
Indeed it was. Ellie went to grab for it, but her dad swatted her hand away.
“I am both a gentleman and an good host. I can carry my lady guest’s bag.” He swung it up and over his shoulder, and fake-staggered under its bulk. “Good God, El. What do you have in here?”
“A dead body,” she deadpanned, walking ahead of him. “Keep up, Jeeves.”
They walked to the parking garage, small-talking about her friends and his job, but Ellie was more than a little surprised when her dad walked up to an unassuming Ford station wagon.
“What happened to the Saab?” she asked, stopping in her tracks.
Her dad opened the trunk and tossed her bag in. “I traded it in. Decided it was probably time for something a little more grown up,” he said without looking at her.
Ellie frowned, licked her finger and rubbed a streak of dirt off the car’s white door. His Saab had been red.
“So how’d the school year end up?” he asked, clearly trying to change the subject.
That set Ellie off, her chest swelling with pride as she chattered away in spite of herself. It had been a good year academically, and she knew grades mattered to her dad. All A’s (except for a C in ceramics, but it was an elective and wouldn’t show up on her transcript) and co-captain of the varsity basketball team—her dad would be proud.
While they were talking, Ellie hadn’t noticed where they were driving. As they pulled into a subdivision, she looked around. “Dad, where are we?”
Jim pulled to a stop in front of a blue two-story colonial. “We’re home, El.”
Although it had only been a grainy, computer-camera tour, Ellie suspected this was not the one-bedroom-one-bathroom bachelor pad she had seen on a recent Skype call. “I thought you lived in an apartment?” she asked.
“I did. I just moved.”
“Oh. Is this the surprise?”
“Yeah, it’s part of it.” He glanced over at her. “Come on, let’s go inside.”
As her dad got out and grabbed her bag from the trunk, Ellie noticed that there was another car in the driveway. A red Honda Civic with a bumper sticker announcing, “I’m a parent of a Brook Run High School honors student” in bright blue letters. The lawn was freshly mown, the alternating shades of green still visible. Her dad never mowed the grass—he had allergies so bad that spending too much time outside sent him into sneezing fits.
“Be sure to wipe your feet,” her dad said when they reached the porch.
Ellie shuffled her feet around on the mat, taking note of the potted pansies on the porch steps. She followed her dad into the house in a daze.
“Anyone home?” her dad hollered.
A disembodied voice floated down the stairs. “James, is that you?”
Deep in the back corners of her brain, Ellie knew what was about to happen, but that still didn’t prepare her for the unfamiliar and perfectly coiffed head of blonde hair that came peering out from around the corner.
“Hi, sweetie,” the woman said, kissing Jum before turning to look at Ellie. “And you must be Eleanor. It’s so lovely to meet you.” She stamped a lipsticky kiss on Ellie’s cheek.
“El, this is Jacqueline,” Jim said quietly. “She’s my fiancée.”
Before Ellie could even begin to formulate a response, two more tall, blonde people—a boy and a girl who looked about Ellie’s age—came crashing through the front door, stopping just short of colliding with Ellie and Jim. They were sweaty and their cheeks were flushed.
“Hey James! We thought we heard your car,” the boy said.
“Sweetie,” Jim said to Ellie, “these are my stepchildren, Patrick and Bridget.”
We were in the back shooting hoops,” the boy said. He looked at Ellie. “James told us you play basketball. You should come shoot with us.”
Dumbfounded, Ellie turned to her dad, eyes wide.