BOOK EXCERPT: Seven Days Of You by Cecilia Vinesse
Published March 7th 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
YA > Contemporary | Romance
BLURB FROM GOODREADS:
Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she’s harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days…until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.
Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?
DAYS HOURS MINS SECS
AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SUMMER, I tried to get on top of the whole moving-continents thing by reminding myself I still had time. Days and hours and seconds all piled on top of one another, stretching out in front of me as expansive as a galaxy. And the stuff I couldn’t deal with—packing my room and saying good-bye to my friends and leaving Tokyo—all that hovered at some indistinct point in the indistinct future.
So I ignored it. Every morning, I’d meet Mika and David in Shibuya, and we’d spend our days eating in ramen shops or browsing tiny boutiques that smelled like incense. Or, when it rained, we’d run down umbrella-crowded streets and watch anime I couldn’t understand on Mika’s couch. Some nights, we’d dance in strobe-lit clubs and go to karaoke at four in the morning. Then, the next day, we’d sit at train-station donut shops for hours, drinking milky coffee and watching the sea of commuters come and go and come and go again.
Once, I stayed home and tried dragging boxes up the stairs, but it stressed me out so much, I had to leave. I walked around Yoyogi-Uehara until the sight of the same cramped streets made me dizzy. Until I had to stop and fold myself into an alcove between buildings, trying to memorize the kanji on street signs. Trying to count my breaths.
And then it was August fourteenth. And I only had one week left, and it was hot, and I wasn’t even close to being packed. But the thing was, I should have known how to do this. I’d spent my whole life ping-ponging across the globe, moving to new cities, leaving people and places drifting in my wake.
Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this good-bye—to Tokyo, to the first friends I’d ever had, to the only life that felt like it even remotely belonged to me—was the kind that would swallow me whole. That would collapse around me like a star imploding.
And the only thing I knew how to do was to hold on as tightly as possible and count every single second until I reached the last one. The one I dreaded most.
Sudden, violent, final.
DAYS HOURS MINS SECS
I WAS LYING ON THE LIVING-ROOM floor reading Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries when our air‐conditioning made a sputtering sound and died. Swampy heat spread through the room as I held my hand over the box by the window. Nothing. Not even a gasp of cold air. I pressed a couple of buttons and hoped for the best. Still nothing.
“Mom,” I said. She was sitting in the doorway to the kitchen, wrapping metal pots in sheets of newspaper. “Not to freak you out or anything, but the air-conditioning just broke.”
She dropped some newspaper shreds on the ground, and our cat—Dorothea Brooks—came over to sniff them. “It’s been doing that. Just press the big orange button and hold it.”
“I did. But I think it’s serious this time. I think I felt its spirit passing.”
Mom unhooked a panel from the back of the air‐ conditioning unit and poked around. “Damn. The landlord said this system might go soon. It’s so old, they’ll have to replace it for the next tenant.”
August was always hot in Tokyo, but this summer was approaching unbearable. A grand total of five minutes without air-conditioning and all my bodily fluids were evaporating from my skin. Mom and I opened some windows, plugged in a bunch of fans, and stood in front of the open refrigerator.
“We should call a repairman,” I said, “or it’s possible we’ll die here.”
Mom shook her head, going into full-on Professor Wachowski mode. Even though we’re both short, she looks a lot more intimidating than I do, with her square jaw and serious eyes. She looks like the type of person who won’t lose an argument, who can’t take a joke.
I look like my dad.
“No,” Mom said. “I’m not dealing with this the week before we leave. The movers are coming on Friday.” She turned and leaned into the fridge door. “Why don’t you go out? See your friends. Come back tonight when it’s cooled down.”
I twisted my watch around my wrist. “Nah, that’s okay.”
“You don’t want to?” she asked. “Did something happen with Mika and David?”
“Of course not,” I said. “I just don’t feel like going out. I feel like staying home, and helping, and being the good daughter.”
God, I sounded suspicious, even to myself.
But Mom didn’t notice. She held out a few one-hundred-yen coins. “In that case, go to the konbini and buy some of those towels you put in the freezer and wrap around your neck.”
I contemplated the money in her hand, but the heat made it swim across my vision. Going outside meant walking into the boiling air. It meant walking down the little streets I knew so well, past humming vending machines and stray cats stretched out in apartment-building entrances. Every time I did that, I was reminded of all the little things I loved about this city and how they were about to slip away forever. And today, of all days, I really didn’t need that reminder.
“Or,” I said, trying to sound upbeat, “I could pack.”
Packing was, of course, a terrible idea.
Even the thought of it was oppressive. Like if I stood in my room too long, the walls would start tightening around me, trash-compacting me in. I stood in the doorway and focused on how familiar it all was. Our house was small and semi-dilapidated, and my room was predictably small to match, with only a twin bed, a desk pushed against the window, and a few red bookshelves running along the walls. But the problem wasn’t the size—it was the stuff. The physics books I’d bought and the ones Dad had sent me cluttering up the shelves, patterned headbands and tangled necklaces hanging from tacks in the wall, towers of unfolded laundry built precariously all over the floor. Even the ceiling was crowded, crisscrossed with string after string of star-shaped twinkly lights.
There was a WET PAIN! sign (it was supposed to say WET PAINT!) propped against my closet that Mika had stolen from outside her apartment building, a Rutgers University flag pinned above my bed, Totoro stuffed toys on my pillow, and boxes and boxes of platinum-blond hair dye everywhere. (Those, I needed to get rid of. I’d stopped dyeing my hair blond since the last touch-up had turned it an attractive shade of Fanta orange.) It was so much—too much—to have to deal with. And I might have stayed there for hours, paralyzed in the doorway, if Alison hadn’t come up behind me.
I spun around. My older sister had on the same clothes she’d been wearing all weekend–black T‐shirt, black leggings–and she was holding an empty coffee mug.
I crossed my arms and tried to block her view of the room. “It’s getting there.”
“And what have you been doing?” I asked. “Sulking? Scowling? Both at the same time?”
She narrowed her eyes but didn’t say anything. Alison was in Tokyo for the summer after her first year at Sarah Lawrence. She’d spent the past three months staying up all night and drinking coffee and barely leaving her bedroom during sunlight hours. The unspoken reason for this was that she’d broken up with her girlfriend at the end of last year. Something no one was allowed to mention.
“You have so much crap,” Alison said, stepping over a pile of thrift‐store dresses and sitting on my unmade bed. She balanced the coffee mug between her knees. “I think you might be a hoarder.”
“I’m not a hoarder,” I said. “This is not hoarding.”
She arched an eyebrow. “Lest you forget, little sister, I’ve been by your side for many a move. I’ve witnessed the hoarder’s struggle.”
It was true. My sister had been by my side for most of our moves, avoiding her packing just as much as I’d been avoiding mine. This year, though, she only had the one suitcase she’d brought with her from the States—no doubt full of sad, sad poetry books and sad, sad scarves.
“You’re one to talk,” I said. “You threw approximately nine thousand tantrums when you were packing last summer.”
“I was going to college.” Alison shrugged. “I knew it would suck.”
“And look at you now,” I said. “You’re a walking endorsement for the college experience.”
The corners of her lips moved like she was deciding whether to laugh or not. But she decided not to. (Of course she decided not to.)
I climbed onto my desk, pushing aside an oversize paper‐ back called Unlocking the MIT Application! and a stuffed koala with a small Australian flag clasped between its paws. Through the window behind me, I could see directly into someone else’s living room. Our house wasn’t just small lit was surrounded on three sides by apartment buildings. Like a way less interesting version of Rear Window.
Alison reached over and grabbed the pile of photos and postcards sitting on my nightstand. “Hey!” I said. “Enough with the stuff-touching.”
But she was already flipping through them, examining each picture one at a time. “Christ,” she said. “I can’t believe you kept these.”
“Of course I kept them,” I said, grabbing my watch. “Dad sent them to me. He sent the same ones to you, in case that important fact slipped your mind.”
She held up a photo of the Eiffel Tower, Dad standing in front of it and looking pretty touristy for someone who actually lived in Paris. “A letter a year does not a father make.”
“You’re so unfair,” I said. “He sends tons of e‐mails. Like, twice a week.”
“Oh my God!” She waved another photo at me, this one of a woman sitting on a wood-framed couch holding twin babies on her lap. “The Wife and Kids? Really? Please don’t tell me you still daydream about going to live with them.”
“Aren’t you late for sitting in your room all day?” I asked.
“Seriously,” she said. “You’re one creepy step away from Photoshopping yourself in here.”
I kept the face of my watch covered with my hand, hoping she wouldn’t start on that as well.
She didn’t. She moved on to another picture: me and Alison in green and yellow raincoats, standing on a balcony messy with cracked clay flowerpots. In the picture, I am clutching a kokeshi—a wooden Japanese doll—and Alison is pointing at the camera. My dad stands next to her, pulling a goofy face.
“God,” she muttered. “That shitty old apartment.”
“It wasn’t shitty. It was—palatial.” Maybe. We’d moved from that apartment when I was five, after my parents split, so honestly, I barely remembered it. Although I did still like the idea of it. Of one country and one place and one family living there. Of home.
Alison threw the pictures back on the nightstand and stood up, all her dark hair spilling over her shoulders.
“Whatever,” she said. “I don’t have the energy to argue with you right now. You have fun with all your”—she gestured around the room—“stuff.”
And then she was gone, and I was hurling a pen at my bed, angry because this just confirmed everything she thought. She was the Adult; I was still the Little Kid.
Dorothea Brooks padded into the room and curled up on a pile of clean laundry in a big gray heap.
“Fine,” I said. “Ignore me. Pretend I’m not even here.”
Her ears didn’t so much as twitch. I reached up to yank open the window, letting the sounds of Tokyo waft in: a train squealing into Yoyogi‐Uehara Station, children shouting as they ran through alleyways, cicadas croaking a tired song like something from a rusted music box.
Since our house was surrounded by apartment buildings, I had to crane my neck to look above them at this bright blue strip of sky. There was an object about the size of a fingernail moving through the clouds, leaving a streak of white in its wake that grew longer and then broke apart.
I watched the plane until there was no trace of it left. Then I held up my hand to blot out the sliver of sky where it had been—but wasn’t anymore.