Ella and Skyler have been best friends since kindergarten—so close that people smoosh their names together like they’re the same person: EllaandSkyler. SkylerandElla.
But Ella notices the little ways she and Skyler have been slowly drifting apart. And she's determined to fix things with a fun project she's sure will bring them closer together—The BFF Bucket List. Skyler is totally on board.
The girls must complete each task on the list together: things like facing their fears, hosting a fancy dinner party, and the biggest of them all—speaking actual words to their respective crushes before the end of summer. But as new friends, epic opportunities, and super-cute boys enter the picture, the challenges on the list aren’t the only ones they face.
And with each girl hiding a big secret that could threaten their entire friendship, will the list—and their BFF status—go bust?
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The BFF Bucket List • CHAPTER ONE •
PISTACHIO ICE CREAM.
It’s all that stands between two best friends and flavor number forty-seven on the big board at Three Scoops. We’ve worked our entire eighth grade year for this. One more to go, and then summer can officially begin with our mission accomplished.
Rule #1: You cannot choose a flavor that’s been crossed off the list.
Rule #2: You must share with your BFF. (Kill two flavors with one spoon!)
Rule #3: Totally gross = bring home to unsuspecting little brother
Skyler sits across the booth from me, plastic spoon in hand. “You go first, Ella,” she says.
Sure, easy for her to say. She had praline crunch.
“I can’t do it.” I shift in my chair, scooting away from the green glop in my bowl. “There’s a reason we picked forty-six other flavors before this one. Well, technically forty-five for me.” It drove me crazy to have to skip a flavor, but key lime pie wouldn’t have been worth the allergic reaction.
“That was a medical pass. But you’re not getting out of this one,” says Skyler.
I wait for us to go back and forth, me giving reasons why I shouldn’t and hearing why I absolutely have to eat it. I wait for her face to scrunch up, and for her to comment about how awful this is. Instead, Skyler reaches across the table and jabs her spoon into the ice cream.
“Let’s get this over with,” she says, shoving a bigger-than-required spoonful into her mouth. She swallows quickly and motions toward me. “Your turn.”
Wait, what? We’re supposed to find a million reasons to drag this out until we’re one minute away from missing our curfew.
Skyler’s phone beeps, and she looks down at the screen.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“Well, we might need to leave early,” says Skyler.
“Early? Why? Do we have other plans?” I ask, squeezing all three questions into about one point five seconds.
Skyler leans forward on the table and motions for me to do the same. We’re almost forehead to forehead in prime whisper position.
“What do you think about doing something different tonight?” she asks. “You know, not our usual hanging out at one of our houses.”
It’s like we’re in spy mode. “Like what?” I whisper as if she’s going to suggest an international covert operation.
“Like a scary movie,” says Skyler.
I jolt back and sit upright. “We don’t like scary movies.”
Skyler leans her head against the soft cushion of the booth. “You don’t like scary movies, Ella. So I never suggest them. But I’d like to try something new for a change.”
“Oh,” I say, my shoulders slumping.
“Brooke’s mom said she could have some friends over for a movie night, and we’re invited,” says Skyler. I wait to see if she’s finished because I’m pretty sure she’s not. “And I want to go.”
Brooke seems nice enough, although I don’t know her very well since we’ve only been in one class together. But scary movies, with the possibility of spiders and blood and people jumping out from behind trees? No. Thank. You.
“And I don’t want to go,” I say.
Just like that, instead of undercover spies on a secret mission, we’re Wild West cowboys in a tense standoff. There’s a baby crying, a couple snuggled into a booth in the corner, and a group of older teenagers laughing hysterically. And then there’s me and Skyler, sitting silently.
“Maybe I should just go and we can meet up tomorrow?” says Skyler. She turns on her puppy-dog eyes, silently begging me to let her off the hook. But I know she’ll stay if I ask her to.
“We were supposed to celebrate,” I say. “We can finally order our favorite flavors again.”
Her eyes are pleading, and oh my pistachio, I really don’t want to be a jerk about this. It’s my best friend duty to give her a pass, right?
“Have fun,” I finally say. “I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”
“Of course,” says Skyler. “Like I could ever go more than a day without you.”
We laugh that one-ha kind of laugh where you don’t even need the rest.
“You’re the best, Ella.” Skyler hops out of the booth and leans down to give me a hug. She’s out the door and back on her phone in no time at all.
I poke my spoon at the pistachio ice cream and prepare to finish the mission solo. My taste buds fight me every step of the way, but I manage to swallow it anyway. Let’s just say I would have preferred one called Alligator Chunk Surprise.
I text my mom to come pick me up early. And, because why not, I take another bite.
• • •
I’m used to waiting for Skyler because she’s always twelve minutes late. Always. I don’t think she means to be, but I notice these things. Twelve minutes. Exactly.
“Honey, Skyler’s here,” Mom yells up the stairs. A few second later, there’s a quick thump, thump, thump of footsteps on the wooden stairs. I scoot over on the bed to make room for what I know is coming. Skyler belly flops on the mattress, face-planting into the lacy throw pillow. For someone who is so proud of being a free spirit, she’s insanely predictable.
Skyler flips over and stares up at the ceiling. “I met a really cute boy, Ella.”
Here we go again. Whenever Skyler mentions a “really cute boy,” I know she’s already head over heels.
“Okay, okay, but give me a minute.” I walk over to my bookshelf and pick up one of the memory boxes we’ve been keeping since kindergarten. It’s full of photos and trinkets—we’ll definitely need a new one for high school.
I sit down at my desk ready to add to the collection. “What do you have for me?”
She pulls a penny out of her pocket.
I reach over and grab it, inspecting the shiny copper coating in the sunlight that’s gleaming through the window. “Should I even ask what this has to do with the mystery boy?”
Skyler sits up and sighs. “We all went to The Donut last night after the movie. He was in line.”
The Donut is the neighborhood hangout when we’re not at Three Scoops. The building is actually shaped like a doughnut that’s lying flat and people always give directions based on our town’s famous landmark.
“Head north and turn left at The Donut.”
“Keep going until you see The Donut. Can’t miss it.”
No, seriously, you can’t.
“He didn’t even realize he dropped the penny,” Skyler continues, “and I had to act like I was adjusting my flip-flop in order to get it without looking like a complete tool.”
“So does ‘the one’ have a name?” I ask as I glue-stick the back of the penny and start a new page.
“I have no idea,” says Skyler. “But I overheard him talking about Jefferson High and freshman year. Maybe he went to Adams Middle?”
Two middle schools filter into Jefferson High. Ours is Washington Middle, and Adams is on the other side of town. Next year will be full of new faces.
Skyler can’t wait.
I can’t eat enough Starbursts—my favorite candy—to calm myself down whenever I think about it.
Without waiting for an answer, Skyler changes the subject. “So, Brooke’s going to the bowling alley later. She says some kids from Adams will be there too. We should totally go.”
Bowling with Skyler would be great—I can never get her to go—but it won’t be just me and Skyler. “Will we know anyone?” I ask.
“You know Brooke,” Skyler points out. “And I’m sure kids from school will show up.”
I add a pleading to my voice. “Can’t we stay here and hang out? I’d rather it was just us.”
Skyler crosses her legs at the ankles and fiddles with one of her chunky rings. “It’s summer, Ella. We can hang out here anytime, but everyone’s going out tonight.”
My mind is spinning with how to respond, and I’m way too aware of my breathing. Why is this so incredibly awkward right now?
“Come with me?” asks Skyler, getting up. She’s made her decision.
I turn from side to side in my wheelie desk chair. “I think I’m gonna stay home.”
We sit without talking for what is most certainly forever, but when I check the clock, only a minute has passed.
“I’ll try not to stay late so I can text you when I get home, okay?” says Skyler.
“Sure.” I swing my chair back to the desk and smooth the penny down onto the paper. “Let me know if Penny Boy is there.”
Skyler tousles my brown curls on the way out the door, and the smell of today’s conditioner choice floats through the air. “Ooh, peach,” she says. “Who needs a calendar when I have your hair-care routine to tell me what day it is?”
She laughs and we wave like we always do—as if we’re princesses—but for some reason it feels like a bigger good-bye than usual.