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  I didn't think towns like this existed—ones towered over by trees and drowning in blues and greens. Ones that make your hairs stand up. Ones that have pathways through the forest that lead nowhere. Ones that have a bizarre history bubbling under its surface. I thought such places existed exclusively on television screens and in the pages of my angsty, young adult novels. But as I watch it all grow in front of our car—the trees and the dull colors and the heavy clouds—I know that those creators got their inspiration from real places and not just their heads.

  I can't help but press my hand against the window and wish to be exploring. My eyes bounce from the dark pockets of moss and rocks and brush to the glimpses of water just beyond the forest. The chilled coast reminds me of those many little rocks. When we would visit Grandma over the summer, I would flock to the beach but hate the pebbles. I never understood why it wasn't golden sand as it is at home. Its emptiness did excite me, though. At home, I would never have the beach to myself.

  It's been so long. Mom said ten years. Taking it all in now, I can't help but scold young me for not begging to come back. Yes, California is the dream-land, but not for me.

  "Wren, look," my mom says from the front seat. My eyes flock to her window. "Do you remember it at all?"

  My Grandmother's house sits between two monstrous fir trees. There's a rope hanging from one of the branches and my mind clicks to when we built my swing together. I suppose the many years haven't tolerated it.

  "Yeah, a little. The backyard has the clothesline, right? The one with the white poles. I used to climb it."

  "Oh, right. I remember that." She glances at me. "You fell and scraped up your knees. The rest of the trip you complained about your knees and wouldn't go in the water."

  My mom turns onto the driveway and parks next to my Grandma's car—an old Corolla. "Alright," she says. "We made it."

  I sit back and breathe, "Finally."

  "You wanna go in, say hi, then grab the stuff? She's dying to see you."

  We get out of the car and ring the doorbell. The brick flower bed stretched along the house entertains me until the door opens.

  "Oh my goodness! Look at you!"

  Her voice sounds like my childhood. The screen door releases her and suddenly her soft arms are wrapped around me. "Hi, Grandma," I sing as she pulls back and studies my face. Her cool hands rest on my shoulders.

  "Wrenley, you're so big now. Last time I saw you, last time you were, what, this big?" She holds out her hand near my chest. "What happened?"

  "Ten years happened, Mom," my mother says and receives a tight hug as well.

  "Aren't you two cold?" Grandma asks. "Come on, come on, I can put on the fireplace. You used to love the fireplace, Wrenley."

  We sit in the living room as Grandma turns on the fireplace and grabs a plate of the lemon cookies I used to love. I take one and bite. Soft, thick, addictive—just as I remember.

  "Are you ready for school, dear?" Grandma asks and sits.

  "I mean, yeah. It's all very sudden, but I'm sure I'll be just fine."

  "That's good. That's good. You know, it's the high school your mother went to."

  I look to my mom and she smiles. "Oh, yes. How can I forget Waindale High School?"

  "Why didn't you tell me?" I ask.

  "It's not like there's another school I could have gone to, kid."

  Grandma says, "Well, no, there's the privet school a few minutes away, but you went to the high school just around the corner. You can walk to school, Wrenley. It's just a, I don't know, five, six-minute walk."

  "Back home, I'd drive her fifteen minutes to school," my mom tells Grandma. "This is a nice change, then, right? You don't have to leave early with me anymore, Wren."

  I smile and take another cookie.

  After getting our boxes and bags out of the car, I unpack my things in my new bedroom. My mother will be across the hall while Grandma's room is sat at the end. Being in a house with no men won't be anything new, but living with Grandma will surely have its differences compared to living with just mom. I've already been told to be quiet past ten o'clock when Grandma goes to bed. It's not anything catastrophic, thankfully.

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