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Authors: Autumn Doughton,Erica Cope

Steering the Stars

BOOK: Steering the Stars
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To friends, coffee and Girl Scout Cookies

 

With love,

Autumn and Erica

XOXO

 

 

 

 

 

To: Hannah<
[email protected]
>

From: Caroline<
[email protected]
>

Date: August 24

Subject: Leaving on a jet plane…

 

Or more accurately, just left on a jet plane…

I just got home from the airport but I already miss you! Message me when you land and take lots and lots of pictures. Remember that I’m living vicariously through you.

 

-Care

____________

 

 

It was raining.

     
 
This shouldn’t have been a surprise because the first thing I’d read about England when I started doing my online research was that it rained, like, all of the time. But as I looked out the curved plane window over a sludgy sky and a tarmac slick and black with rain, my throat grew uncomfortably tight.

       The flight attendant’s voice came over the intercom.
On behalf of the airline and the entire crew, I’d like to welcome you to London, where the local time is eleven oh seven.

     
 
The plane wheeled closer to the gate and I felt the woman next to me lean over my back, crowding my space. I could smell her perfume and feel her breath creeping across the skin of my neck.

       “It’s raining,” she said like this wasn’t totally obvious. We’d been next to each other since New York, and by now I knew that her name was Deena. She was from Rhode Island and she had three grandkids and a dog named Pugnacious. He was a pug and according to her, he loved to dress in wool sweaters and even in pants. Pants on a dog? I had my doubts.

     
 
“Yep.”

     
 
“I was hoping for good weather,” she said as though offended. She was patting down her grey curls and sniffing.

     
 
What could I say? “Mmm-hmmm.”

     
 
Before she could push the weather issue, the plane came to a full-stop, the seatbelt light clicked and everyone on board, including Deena and I, started to pack up.

     
 
I gathered a rainbow of colored pens and balled up my sweatshirt and stuffed them into my messy backpack. Deena bent over to put away a half-eaten pack of Tic-Tacs and a book on the history of saltwater taffy that she’d barely even looked at.

     
 
She turned to me as we stood, both of us slightly stooping so we wouldn’t bump our heads. “It was good to meet you. Good luck with your sister and your new school.”

     
 
“Thanks and you too,” I said, cramming into the center aisle.

     
 
The rest of deplaning was a slow and silent ordeal. We dragged ourselves and our neck pillows and pudgy carry-ons past the cramped seats and through a twisting florescent-lit loading bridge until we spilled into a busy customs terminal. I blinked, trying to adjust to the new space, and took a breath. When I turned my head to tell Deena goodbye, I saw that she was already walking away, pulling her red rolling suitcase behind her.

     
 
Suddenly alone, I rubbed my thumb across the star-shaped pendant hanging from my neck and started reading the signs. I needed to figure out where I was supposed to go next.

     
 
Was it only two days ago that Caroline had asked me if I was scared to be moving for the whole freaking year? At the time, I’d been cutting tags off all my new clothes and had been too amped about London and my new school to feel anything but excitement. But, as I navigated the customs line, answering questions about whether or not I was smuggling meat or dairy products into the country, my stomach began to slither and hiss like a pit of disturbed vipers. Yep. What I was feeling was something close to scared.

     
 
A guard in a dark blue uniform stamped my passport and shooed me along. I shifted my bags, swallowed, and walked through a set of sliding glass doors. They whooshed shut behind me and I scanned the crowd, not knowing exactly where I should be looking. I was anxious. Uptight. Dad had said that Felicity would be the one picking me up from the airport, but would my half-sister even recognize me? Should I have made a sign or worn a flashy red hat? What if she didn’t show and I wound up homeless and living down by the Thames in a cardboard box?

     
 
“Hannah!”  

     
 
My out of control thoughts screeched to a halt and I spun around. Felicity, my father’s daughter by a first marriage, was walking toward me with a purposeful stride. She was easy to recognize with her wide pool-blue eyes, perfectly sloped nose, and even features. Her fashionable suit and heels hinted that she had come straight to the airport from work. That’s when I realized that I had no idea what she did for a living.

     
 
How strange was that?

       We shared DNA.

     
 
This was technically my
sister
and I couldn’t tell you her job title or her favorite animal or what kind of music she liked to listen to.

     
 
Hell, I didn’t even know her middle name.

     
 “
Hannah!” Felicity called again. The sleeves of her tailored green jacket bunched in at the shoulders as she lifted an arm to wave me over.

     
 
I took in a deep breath to feed my nervous lungs and walked a little faster. “Hi!”

     
 
“How was your flight?”

       “Fine. I mean, not really. It was cramped and horrible and way too long but you know how that goes. By the end I was hoping the flight attendants would just hand us all parachutes, open up the door and let us jump out.” I tried to smile but it was all wonky on my face. My cheeks felt weird and I knew the amount of teeth I was showing was downright obscene.

       Her forehead wrinkled as she looked me down and up. “You’ve certainly changed since I saw you last.”

       “Ah, gaining a few cup sizes in the boob department will do that,” I said as I patted my chest. This was a total joke. I was flat as day-old soda and I figured I always would be. My mother was a dancer turned dance teacher and she’d passed on her hipless, buttless, boobless body to me, but not her grace or athleticism.  

       Felicity looked confused.

       “I’m joking,” I clued her in.

       “Of course.” She forced out a laugh.
Can you say AWKWARD?
“Well, it truly is great to see you.” More uncomfortable laughter.

     
 
“Um, you too.” The snakes in my stomach hissed.

     
 
“Well then…” Felicity leaned forward and we did one of those hugs where your bodies don’t really touch. When she pulled back, one of my duffel bags was swinging from the crook of her arm and she was shaking her head. “I’m sorry Michael and the girls aren’t here to meet you.”

     
 
Michael was Felicity’s husband, and “the girls” were Grace and Chloe, their five-year-old twin daughters. I had never met any of them.

     
 
“That’s okay. We have the whole year to get to know each other.

       “I assure you that everyone is looking forward to having you stay with us. The girls haven’t been able to stop talking about it, and I should probably warn you that they’ve started decorating your room with their latest artwork. It’s quite abstract.”

     
 “
I’m sure I’ll love it,” I said, fidgeting with a loose thread dangling from the hem of my wrinkled t-shirt. Her suit and perfect hair were making me feel all kinds of shifty. Like I should have tried harder and worn a nice blouse or put on lipstick or at least fixed my ponytail. “This is… just… thank you again for having me. I still can’t believe that I’m actually here. In London.”

     
 
“I’m looking forward to it. I’ve never really had a sister and I suppose neither have you.”

     
 
With these stilted niceties out of the way, we got busy situating my suitcases on a sort of rolling cart, finding a SIM card that would work in my phone, and exchanging some of my American dollars for pounds.

     
 
Felicity warned me the car ride from the airport would be a long one so I settled into the front seat, trying not to be freaked out by the fact that she was driving from the right side of the car and I was sitting on the left without a steering wheel in front of me. But it was weird and I caught myself cringing every time a car passed us.

     
 “
How are your parents?” she asked, shifting the car into third gear and jerking her left foot off the clutch. Even in heels she seemed to know what she was doing with a car.

       “Good I guess. My mom’s studio has taken off. She started to offer aerial dance and it’s become, like, the thing,” I said, using air quotes, “for middle age women in Libby Park.”

     
 
“What’s aerial dance?”

     
 
“Basically, these ladies wrap themselves in sheets and hang from the ceiling like they’re part of Cirque du Soleil. Kind of like yoga but a foot off the ground.” I shrugged. “It’s weird but at least she’s busy. And Dad’s company opened up a new development in Missouri last month. It’s been a bit of a mess so he’s been travelling a lot to get things in order and make sure the foreman on the project knows what he’s doing.”

     
 
“Is astronomy still his hobby of choice?”

     
 
“Yep,” I told her with a nod. “He’s nerdy as ever and has been known to wake me up at three in the morning to ask if I’m interested in seeing a conjunction or Neptune in opposition. The answer is always a resounding
no.

     
 
We shared a quiet laugh. “And what about Henry?”

     
 
I thought about my brother, who, I realized with a start, was Felicity’s brother also. “Oh, you know… he’s Henry. Since he’s going to be a senior this year he thinks he knows pretty much everything. The reality is that he knows about as much as a slice of banana bread.”

     
 
Felicity’s blue eyes darted to mine and back to the road. The car lurched into fourth gear. “Which is?”

     
 “
Absolutely nothing.”

     
 
She humored me with a chuckle. “And your boyfriend? Dad mentioned he was some kind of big hockey star?”

     
 
“Lacrosse,” I corrected before twisting to look out the rain-splattered window. I definitely did not feel like talking about Owen. Not now. And definitely not with Felicity. “So, where are we?”

     
 
She bobbed her head. “Brentford and Gunnersbury Park are up ahead.”

BOOK: Steering the Stars
5.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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