Emily is ready for a change. She's been in the same town with the same friends for a long time...and none of them really understand her art. But when she goes to Philadelphia for a summer art institute, she suddenly finds like-minded people. One in particular, Fiona, intrigues and challenges her. But there are some things Emily is going to have to find out for herself -- like what the balance is between life and art, and which is more important when push comes to shove.

When I was a kid, I drew clouds that looked like the bodies of cartoon sheep. The sun was a perfect yellow circle. Birds flew in flocks of little black Vs. And I made sure there was always a rainbow.

It's too bad the sky doesn't actually look like that. In a way, the real thing is sort of a letdown.


"Yeah?" I raise my head off my towel and squint away the sun. Meg is lying on her side, with dark oversized sunglasses perched on the top of her head. She's staring at me. I give her a few seconds to say something, but her lips stay pressed together tight. "What is it?"

"I'm trying to imagine you with a mohawk," she says, leaning forward.

I laugh. "Why?"

"Oh, I don't know." She pauses to retie the plaid strings on her bikini bottom. "I bet mohawks are cool in art school. But I think you'd regret it. Maybe not right away, but definitely in September."

Meg reaches for the coconut oil and gives her flat stomach a spritz, then fires one at mine to be cute. Just remember, it's not like bangs or layers that you can hide underneath a headband until they grow out. There is no graceful way to grow out a mohawk."

I rake my fingers through the knots in my damp hair. A few dark blond strands get left behind, swirled around my fingers. It took me practically all of junior year to grow my thin hair past my shoulders. "I'm not getting a Mohawk," I say, probably more serious than I need to be.

"Okay, okay." She lets a giggle slip. "Could you imagine if you did, though? You'd be the talk of Cherry Grove." Meg slides her sunglasses back in place and lies down. But she's only still for a minute before she rolls around, tugging on the corners of her towel, trying unsuccessfully to get comfortable. "Tomorrow's going to feel so weird without you here."

There's a bowl full of cut lemons between us on a green glass mosaic table. I fish around, find a juicy half, and give it a squeeze over my head. I've always wished my hair was striking platinum instead of dark honey, which is the most unexciting shade of blond, the one that some people even call brown. A bit of juice drips into my eyes and stings them like crazy. "You'll have Rick," I remind her. Though I doubt she's forgotten.

"Rick's not my best friend." Meg stands up suddenly. Red stripes run across her back from the thick rubber strips of her lounge chair. She walks over to the pool, sits down at the edge and dips her feet in the water.

"It's not like I'm moving to Philadelphia," I say. "It's only three days a week, and I'll be home by dinner if I catch the five-thirty train."

She sighs. "Maybe I'll get a job. Maybe Starbucks is hiring."

We both know Meg isn't going to get a summer job, so neither of us says anything. I let her sit with her back to me, kicking her legs through the water in slow motion. I get what she's hinting at. Even though there've been lots of changes this year, and even though my summer art classes aren't a big deal, the reality is that we've never spent a summer apart since becoming best friends and neighbors five years ago. Meg's going to miss me.

I already miss her.