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  Missy Hiver only half-listens to what Josie is blabbing on about. When she sees an opening to cut in, she does, even though she really doesn’t think it would be cool if Christmas came in the summer. Once it’s out of her mouth she wishes she hadn’t said anything. She glares at the back of Josie’s head and is filled with a familiar feeling in the pit of her stomach. When Missy was born, she had a twin who died within the day because her lungs were filled with fluid. Her parents had named her Jocelyn, and her mom said they would have called her Josie for short. Missy mourns the loss of this twin, this missing half of herself, every day. She hates that Josie Taylor is here instead of her Josie. It just screams unfairness and mocks her every time she has to hear Josie’s name being called. She and Josie even look sort of alike. They both have long hair, but Missy has a larger nose and Josie has a small mouth that reminds Missy of a fish. For a brief second in art class last year Missy considered sneaking up behind Josie and cutting off her hair with one swift snip of the scissors. She actually had to sit on her hands until the urge passed. She cried herself to sleep that night without even realizing it.

  Missy knows people think she is very immature to be obsessed with Mary-Kate and Ashley at her age, when most girls outgrow them by the time they are twelve. But she also knows that Mary-Kate would understand her pain if she had to be without Ashley. They are never apart. They do all the same things she and Josie (her Josie) would do. They shop together and work together and study together and go on double dates. They are BEST friends. Missy listens to that pretend goody-two-shoes, holier-than-thou Amelia Peters recite the seven deadly sins and almost laughs when she hears the word envy. Missy envies everybody. But especially Mary-Kate and Ashley. Plus, no one wrote happy birthday to her on the blackboard when she turned sixteen last month.

  Amelia Peters swears she can feel the gold cross around her neck burning her flesh. How well she knows those seven deadly sins. Her parents have been reminding her of them since the day she was born. When she was younger she tried to be so good, so pure and righteous. Everyone else is copying down the list so they can record each time they commit one of them. Amelia doesn’t need to. She can think of twenty times off the top of her head that she’s committed these sins. In fact, she tries to commit each sin at least once a day. Her favorites are lust and gluttony. They work well together. Anger is a waste of energy, so she saves that for when she sees some sort of injustice in the world. Which, in high school, usually happens by lunchtime.

  Jeff Grand figures out how he can do a favor for Josie to show his appreciation. He can ask Josie’s friend Katy to the prom! He figures Josie has a date already, but Katy probably doesn’t because she seems to hang in Josie’s shadow. With a best friend like Josie, who is kind of shiny and glowy and has a brother on the football team, Katy must feel like second fiddle. If he asked her to the prom, then she’d feel more special and Josie wouldn’t have to feel guilty about hogging the spotlight all the time. Excited about the cleverness of his plan, Jeff sticks a Post-it note on Josie’s homework before handing it back to her at the end of class.

  Mitch Hurley watches Josie as she stands in the hallway reading a Post-it note with a strange expression on her face. She pauses like she’s deep in thought and then suddenly takes off down the hall at full speed, almost knocking him to the floor. He watches her go and wishes he had the nerve to talk to her. He wishes he had given her that Valentine’s Day card in eighth grade, but after his mother saw it he threw it out and now he’s not sure why. He’s seen every play Josie’s been in since grammar school, even the show where she played some kind of round vegetable. She still smiled valiantly like a true professional. Last fall he saw The King and I three times. It was about time she got the lead role. He doesn’t think he’s obsessed or anything, he just knows a quality person when he sees one. He feels that he is an excellent judge of character and can size up a person’s motivations in under a minute. He thought he was going to pass out when Josie looked at him in class before. He couldn’t imagine why she was looking at him, and she was even smiling. He had immediately covered his nose, sure that he had something hanging out of it because that would be just his luck.

  On the other end of the school, Katy Parker is running through the halls, totally freaking out. All she can think about is getting that note back from Josie. She didn’t hear a word her French teacher said all period. She’s pretty sure Josie wouldn’t have tried to read the note in Mrs. Greenspan’s class, so as long as she can catch her before her next class she should be okay. She runs up to the photography lab but Josie hasn’t gotten there yet. She waits at the door, scanning down the hall in both directions. If she doesn’t leave now, she’ll be late for her American History class, and there’s a test today. Reluctantly, she heads in the direction of class and prays she’ll run into Josie on the way.

  A few steps ahead of Katy, Grant Brawner is walking to his next class with his friend Stu.

  “Just cut with me, Grant. Don’t be such a loser.”

  “Are you trying to peer-pressure me?” Grant asks.

  Stu grins. “Is it working?”

  “Nope. I’m not cutting class and that’s final.”



  Stu pushes Grant into the row of lockers, and they laugh the kind of laugh that only guys who have been friends since first grade can. Grant opens his locker and throws his calculus book inside, and they continue walking.

  “Hey,” Stu whispers, jabbing Grant in the side. “Here comes that girl who follows you everywhere.”

  Grant ignores Stu and keeps looking straight ahead.

  “She’s so determined, dude. And she’s kind of cute, even though she comes up to, like, your hip!”

  “Shut up,” Grant tells him. He’s about to say hi to Josie, but Josie’s friend comes out of nowhere and pulls her away. Stu laughs and pushes Grant into their classroom.

  After accosting Josie in the hall, Katy sits down in her seat in American History and waits for her heart to stop pounding. She is very relieved that the note is safely clenched in her fist. She just didn’t feel ready to deal with Josie’s reaction to its contents. She opens her hand and lets the balled-up note roll onto the desk. Then her eyes open wide. She hurriedly opens the folded piece of paper and silently reads,

  Dear Whomever It May Concern,

  Please excuse Josie Taylor from school today at 10:45. She will be taking her driver’s exam and will return as soon as it’s over.


  Mrs. Laura Taylor

  Oh my god! This is the wrong note! If she has this one, that means Josie will have handed her note to the office.

  Katy jumps out of her seat and runs up to Mr. Maron, her history teacher. “I have to go somewhere,” she tells him, trying to keep the panic out of her voice. “It’ll just take a minute.”

  “The test is about to start. You know the rules. No one leaves until the last person hands in his or her paper.”

  “But I —”

  “No buts.”

  “But —”


  Katy debates making a mad dash from the room but knows she could never do it. She returns to her seat and taps her foot incessantly instead.

  9:40 A.M.– 10:30 A.M.

  Chapter 3A: Josie

  “Stop,” demands the too-much-power-for-his-own-good hall monitor. I screech to a halt only five doors down from the photography lab.

  “Do you have a hall pass?” he asks, holding out his hand palm-up. He’s actually wearing a sash across his body like he’s running for Miss America. Except, instead of Miss Florida, his sash says: Official Hall Monitor, 2nd Floor. I’ve seen him before. He’s only a freshman. He should fear me.

  “I’m late for class,” I tell him. I have to pause to take a breath between late and for. I really need to start working harder in gym. “It’s just right over there.” I point. He doesn’t even turn to look.

  “Why are you late?” he asks, which of course is