"Almost done packing?"
Juli's putting some last items in her suitcase. She looks up to see her roommate, Trish, with her own set of suitcases beside her.
"Yeah," she says. "Just making sure I've got everything."
"Isn't it weird?" Trisha muses from the doorway. She has an iced coffee in her hand and is wearing her boyfriend's Cal sweatshirt. "You spend the first eighteen years of your life at home, and when you go away to college and realize that you have to come home for the summer – you get these weird butterflies in your stomach. It's the same place, with the same people, but it seems different somehow. Going home, I mean."
She closes her suitcase, zipping it up. She tells Trisha she knows exactly what she means. She's been looking forward to going home all year. She'd come home for Christmas break, enough time to check up on her parents and the sycamore in her front yard. But summer was different. Summer was three months of unrestricted freedom and spontaneity, free from academia and schedules. She had also already talked to Greg and he'd said that she could have her job back at the bookstore for as long as she wanted.
She looks around at her dorm, one last time. It's empty and she feels sad, just a little, but she knows she'll be back. She smiles a little as she heads out of the door and down the hallway. Even though she's excited for the day she'll be back in school, she's not in any hurry for summer to be over.
The lawn is lush and green, with the sun warm and bright above their campus. There are crowds of people saying goodbye, everyone in summer flip flops and t-shirts, and the place is littered with packed suitcases. But as she searches through the crowd, she finds him, leaning against his old BMW, waiting.
She knows she should be used to this feeling, but as she nears him, she feels those same butterflies, and she feels thirteen all over again. When he sees her, he smiles, and gives a small wave.
"Hey," he says to her. He grabs her suitcase, but doesn't load it into the car. Instead, he sets it down, and kisses her. Her mother had once told her that a girl knows it's true love when the way they kiss you still always feels like the first time.
With Bryce Loski, Juli was still waiting for it to get old.
When they're done, she finds him grinning down at her, his blue eyes shining. "You ready to go home?"
She doesn't have to think twice to know. "Always."