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I blinked, and it's already the Fourth of July.

I sigh as my Photos app reminds me of the last three holidays spent with Mina, full days at her cousin Azar's beach house in Rhode Island with absolutely no rules. I click on my messages and realize Mina hasn't texted me once since I arrived here. At first, I blame myself, since it's not like I've initiated conversation either, but as I keep scrolling further up our messages, I remember I'm always the one who sends the first text.

Feeling petty, I don't bother wishing her a Happy 4th.

As I'm walking down the hall to get to breakfast, I decide to call someone much more reliable: my mother. After three rings, she picks up, her soft voice warming my heart.

"Hi, honey, how are you?" she asks, and I step outside. Resting under a tree, I wince at the blanket of heat that envelopes my body. "You know, I was going to call, but I wasn't sure if you wanted your distance."

"Oh no, you definitely should've," I say and pause. I'm not sure whether to tell her everything is great and shorten this conversation or spill my guts. "As for me, I'm pretty...good. Surviving, if you will."

"Oh, come on, Whit, you have to tell me what this camp is like. Is it even worth the money?"

"Gosh, where do I even start?"

Around ten minutes later, I've spilled my thoughts about the workouts, the people, and the flavorless food. I've mentioned almost everything, except the notes and anything further than the fact my trainer is a guy and his name is Axel.

"All that in less than two weeks?" She chuckles, adding, "I won't be surprised if you come back an Olympic athlete."

"Let's not get too ahead of ourselves," I say and shift the focus from me. "How are you, Mom? Poppy spoke with me a little while ago, and I'm not sure what to think about the home situation right now."

I hear a shuffle and then a click of a door on the other end of the line. "Sorry, your dad just got on a conference call. And to start, Alice and Dave left a couple days ago, so the house has been remarkably quiet for once. Empty without you, of course."

I smile wide at the last remark, even though she can't see me. "Is Alice as bad as Poppy says?"

She snorts. "I thought I was controlling, but damn, does that woman take the cake. To be honest, I'm not sure where Levi got his personality from with those two for parents. Well, I mean, Dave isn't so bad; he's practically a clone of your father, apart from the actually righteous profession." She refers to the long line of doctors on Levi's dad's side. "Sorry, I'm ranting to you like one of my Pilates friends."

"You know, despite all that, I really miss home," I say dreamily, shielding my eyes from the sun. I hate that my dad is on another call, secretly having hoped he would've asked to talk to me himself. I settle with, "Make sure to tell Dad I say hi after this."

"Of course, honey," she says. "If you ever feel like this experience is too much, just call me, and I'll come pick you up."

"Oh no, I can't look like a quitter, Mom."

"That's my Whitney," she says, and all I can do is smile at the sudden homey comfort.


***


"Okay, nice job," Axel compliments as I step off the treadmill, holding up a hand for a high five. "Next time we'll see about increasing that incline."

I slam my hand against his, the force taking him by surprise. There is no activity more monotonous than jogging on a treadmill without music, staring at the same gray wall as someone else messes with your speed. Ten minutes in, and I was already yearning for our runs outside, despite knowing I would have melted into a puddle from the sticky ninety-degree weather.

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