Coming to the end of a trilogy is bittersweet. I've been with these characters for four years now, and although their story never really ends, I have to let them go to make room for new characters and new adventures. But I'll never forget my journey with Emma, Gray, Michelle, Owen, and the rest of the gang. Nor will I forget those “real life” characters that helped me along every step of the way. An enormous and heartfelt thank-you goes out to:
Martin Biro, for his thoughtful and sensitive editing, and to the entire team at Kensington/K-Teen.
The Philly contingent of the ApocalypsiesâElisa Ludwig, Eugene Myers, Tiffany Schmidt, and Kate Waltonâfor being so much more than colleagues.
The Lower Moreland Commune, for supporting me through a difficult time and making the World Studies office a place I love to be.
Katyaâpoet, wise woman, and soul friendâyou provide the best solace and cheerleading a girl could ask for.
Dave . . . for helping me with a new beginning.
Barb Kavanagh and Jay Thayakaran, for always being there to provide an ear, a ride to the mechanic's, or a glass of wine (or three) after a rough day.
Stephanie Breen, who taught me friendship can last thirty-six years and more.
Robin McNemar, who taught me I can still make new friends after forty.
Ashley Seiver, for her steadfast friendship and pilgrim soul.
Nola, for infusing my life with puppy energy.
My students, old and new, especially: Billie Jones, who came to visit me every day during hall duty and helped me brainstorm ideas for this book; and Nicole Distasio, who writes far beyond her years and will be a published author someday.
My parents, for reading early drafts of
A Phantom Enchantment
and cheering me and Emma to the finish line.
And all my family and friends who stepped in to support me in various ways; may I be able to repay the favor someday.
As one of my characters says, “Life is not a script to be followed; it's a novel to be written.” Here's to filling many more pages with new adventures, friends, and joys.
hey say you're only fluent in a foreign language once you dream in it. The summer I turned eighteen, I dreamed in French. In fact, I did everything French that summerâate baguettes for breakfast, drank French coffee, read French novels, watched French films. The only thing I didn't do French was kiss, but that's only because my boyfriend was a thousand miles away and there wasn't anyone else in the world I wanted to share my tongue with.
Two weeks ago, Gray had finished “A” School and was now in California, completing the final step in becoming a Coast Guard rescue swimmer: his EMT training. Unfortunately, by the time he finished and earned his leave, I'd be halfway across the world about to begin my senior year in Paris.
I don't know why the physical distance bothered me so muchâsomething about an ocean separating us, I guess. Over land, one could hop in the car and drive almost anywhere. But once I crossed the Atlantic, it was no easy feat to uncross it, which somehow made our separation seem more permanent.
The headmistress of LycÃ©e Saint-Antoine had booked me a red-eye flight that left Boston at eleven
and arrived in Paris at eleven
Despite the late hour, I arrived at Logan Airport with a small entourage in tow: my dad, Barbara, Grandma Mackie, and my friends Michelle and Jessânow a couple. This fact made me feel a little less guilty about leaving Michelle, my roommate for the past two years, to fend for herself at Lockwood while I was off cavorting in Paris.
Jess announced, “If you come back with some phony French accent, we are not friends anymore.”
“And you'd better not eat any horse meat,” Michelle added.
Barbara, always one to remind me of the really important things in life, said, “And sweetie, don't wear your slouchy sweaters and jeans. You want to blend. Parisians wear black.”
“Got it,” I said with good humor. After all, they were only trying to help. “No accent, no horse meat, no scrubs.”
“And what about some advice from your elders?” Grandma Mackie said.
“Of course, Grandma. What is it?” If there was anyone's advice I might actually listen to, it was Grandma's.
“French men,” she said. “They're very charming, but in the end, all they care about isâ”
“Grandma!” I said. “You don't have to worry about that.”
“You didn't let me finish,” she said. “All they care about is food.” Michelle and Jess cracked up.
“Don't you think you're generalizing a little bit?” I said.
“Trust me, I know from experience,” she said. “Learn to cook, and you can seduce any French man within a thirty-mile radius.”
“Kilometer radius,” I said. “Paris is metric. And why would I want to seduce any French men when I have Gray?”
“Emma,” she said, “I love Gray as much as you do, but you are planning on having a little fun in Paris, aren't you?”
“If I must,” I said, cracking a smile.
After checking my suitcases, we wandered to the escalator, where I mentally prepared myself for the next moments. I hated good-byes. Jess and Michelle hugged me, Michelle wrapping her treasured red scarf around my neck, even though it was almost ninety degrees out.
“To remember me,” she said.
“As if I could forget.” Even so, I studied her face, trying to memorize the features I knew so wellâthe penetrating eyes, the copper skin, the stubborn mouth.
Then she handed me a tiny gift bag. “This is from Darlene, but she wants you to wait until you get to Paris to open it.”
“That was so sweet,” I said. “She didn't have to do that.” Darlene was Michelle's aunt and caretaker and basically the closest thing I had to a fairy godmother. I clutched the bag to my chest, knowing it would take every ounce of willpower not to open it the minute I got to the terminal.
At the last minute, my dad insisted on accompanying me to Security. “We should get going,” he said. “Otherwise, you won't make it to the gate the recommended two hours before flight time.” My chest tightened in a wave of traveler's regret.
Barbara hugged me, then kissed me on both cheeks. “Remember, one kiss on either side,” she said. “It's the European way.”
My grandma clasped those same cheeks with her open palms, something she'd never done before in her life. “You squeeze as much fun out of Paris as you can,” she said. “This trip is a gift.” And then she kissed me on the nose, quite a loony thing for her to do. I wondered briefly if she wasn't getting a touch of dementia.
Before I could properly respond to her, my dad grabbed my carry-on in one hand and my arm with the other, leading me away toward the escalator. I watched the four of them wave from below, their figures shrinking as my dad and I sailed upward.
I wasn't sure why my father had insisted on coming with me to Security since he wasn't exactly imparting any last-minute wisdom. He and I had an interesting dynamicâeither we strained to have the most mundane conversations or we bared our souls to each other in emotionally wrenching heart-to-hearts. Knowing the security line of an international airport was probably not the best place to have an emotional heart-to-heart, we stood woodenly beside each other, trying to think of things to say.
“Thanks for letting me go,” I finally muttered. “Not every parent would have.”
“I almost didn't, but you wore me down,” he said, loosening up a little. “So make the most of it.”
“And write your grandma letters. She loves letters.”
“And what about you?” I asked.
“I'll take what I can get,” he said with a smirk.
My heart squeezed. This was what my dad had grown used toâtaking what he could get from me. It was difficult to navigate our father-daughter relationship at this stage when all he wanted to do was cling and all I wanted to do was pull away.
“Be careful,” he said, once we'd reached the front of the line. “Remember, you'll be in a foreign country. As much as I trust your judgment, I don't trust anyone else's. Use common sense.”
“Of course,” I said.
“We'll see you at Christmas.”
I nodded, trying not to cry. I couldn't believe that my father, a man who hardly ever left Hull's Cove, let alone Massachusetts, let alone the country, was shelling out thousands of dollars to bring Barbara and my grandma to Paris for Christmas break.
“I can't wait,” I said.
“It'll be here before you know it. I love you, sweetheart.”
“I love you too,” I said.
He hugged me a bit stiffly, and for a moment we both felt self-conscious, but then I leaned into his hug and closed my eyes, comforted by my father's arms around me. When I sensed the people behind us growing impatient, I pulled away and smiled bravely, showed Security my passport and boarding pass, and wheeled my bag to the conveyer belt.
I waited until I'd gotten through the checkpoint, put my shoes back on, then turned just in time to see my dad walking away.
I should have turned around sooner. I should have waved good-bye. But there was nothing I could do about it now.
I was on my own.