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... Climbing to the top of the world...
“Are you ready?” Kallyn shouldered a small backpack and popped open her umbrella.
Cece looked up at the Wall. “Yeah, I’m ready.”
Kallyn and Cece steadily made the climb.
The steps became much steeper, and the path narrowed. Higher and higher they climbed, the gap between them and the rest of the students widening. Cece caught her breath and looked up, unable to see where the stairs ended.
“Just think how good you’ll feel when we make it to the top, Cece,” Kallyn said.
Just how good will it feel when I get to the top? Cece thought. By far, this was one of the hardest things she had ever done. If she could climb to the highest point of this section of the Great Wall, she could do anything. Tomorrow’s trip to the orphanage would seem like nothing.
“We’re almost there,” Kallyn said.
Cece looked up again. She could do this. She had to do this.
Finally, Cece was only steps from the last tower. She had just five steps left. Four. . . Her body filled with anticipation. Three . . . two . . .
She took the last step, and relief washed over her. Cece looked all around her. She felt like she was literally on top of the world.
I wish to acknowledge my rockstar agent Jen, my tireless and smarty editor
Karen, and my critique partner Tam, otherwise known as America’s Next Top
Model. A special thanks goes to my big brother William, my Xi’an connection
and resident expert. Oh, yeah. And he’s good looking, too.
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
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Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,
Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2008
Copyright © Cynthea Liu, 2009
All rights reserved
CIP DATA IS AVAILABLE.
eISBN : 978-1-101-01989-4
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any
responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
For my daughter Clara. Live strong.
Application for the Students Across the Seven Seas
Study Abroad Program
Cece and Alison flipped through a pile of jeans at Macy’s. Cece was looking for a pair to replace her worn-out boot-cuts. She needed something new and fresh for her trip to China.
Alison held up a pair. “Size four, right?”
“Perfect,” Cece said, taking the jeans. It was the last item on her list, and the mall would be closed soon. “I’ll try these on and then we’ll be done.”
Cece headed for the fitting rooms with Alison trailing behind. “I can’t believe you’re leaving me tomorrow,” Al said. “How am I going to survive the summer without you?”
Cece walked into an open fitting room and closed the door while Al waited outside. “Beats me.” Cece hung up the jeans and her purse. “I guess you and Eugene Derkle will have to keep each other company.” She grinned, then tugged off her skirt and put on the jeans. She was thrilled to spend a summer without Eugene, her manager at Six Flags. He was the kind of guy you caught picking his nose. Like all the time.
“Don’t remind me,” Alison said. “His knee socks will be the end of me. Are you sure you have to go?”
Cece zipped up the jeans and observed herself in the mirror. Not bad. The slim cut made her look even taller. “Yes, I’m sure. The S.A.S.S. anthropology program is great. I’m really excited about it.” That, and there was no way she was going to suffer another tourist season in Texas, stuffed inside a hot toll booth. She turned and looked over her shoulder to check the rear view. The jeans made her butt look round, perky even. Excellent.
“What about your mother?” Alison’s voice filled with hope. “Is she having second thoughts? Maybe canceled your plane tickets?”
“Ha, you wish.” Cece turned and checked the front again. “But I do think she wants to plant a tracking device under my skin before I go. Do you know how many times she’s told me to be sure to e-mail? To not forget my calling card? Blah, blah, blah. . . ”
Lately, Mom’s smothering problem had gotten worse, as if that was even possible. It wasn’t like Cece was going to be gone forever. It was just one summer, halfway around the globe. No big deal.
“You know why she’s worried, right?” Al’s voice got low. “It’s not like she doesn’t know about your special plans.”
Cece opened the door.
Al was leaning against the wall. “Hey, those jeans look awesome.”
Cece pulled her in and shut the door. “Wait a second. How do you know she knows?”
Al frowned. “Please. Don’t all moms figure out stuff like that? She’s got to have some idea you’re not going to China just to traipse around ancient ruins and study fossils.”