Sisterhood of the travel.., p.1
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       Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, p.1
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         Part #1 of Sisterhood series by Ann Brashares
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Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants


  Contents

  Title Page

  Dedication

  Acknowledgments

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Epilogue

  Preview of The Second Summer of the Sisterhood

  Copyright Page

  For Jodi Anderson,

  the real thing

  Acknowledgments

  I would like to thank Wendy Loggia, Beverly Horowitz, Leslie Morgenstein, Josh Bank, Russell Gordon, Lauren Monchik, Marci Senders, and of course, Jodi Anderson, the true muse.

  I would also like to thank Jacob Collins, Jane Easton Brashares, and William Brashares and to lovingly acknowledge Sam, Nathaniel, and the little one soon to be born.

  Prologue

  Prologue

  Once upon a time there was a pair of pants. They were an essential kind of pants—jeans, naturally, blue but not that stiff, new blue that you see so often on the first day of school. They were a soft, changeable blue with a little extra fading at the knees and the seat and white wavelets at the cuffs.

  They'd had a good life before us. You could just tell. I guess a thrift shop is like the pound in some ways. Whatever you get there owes a lot to its previous owners. Our pants weren't like the neurotic puppy whose parents left it alone, barking itself hoarse from morning till night. They were more like the grown-up dog whose family loved it but had to move to an apartment building or maybe to Korea (is it Korea?), where people sometimes eat dogs.

  I could tell the pants hadn't come to our lives because of tragedy. They'd just witnessed one of those regular but painful life transitions. That, it turns out, is The Way of the Pants.

  They were noble pants, but unassuming. You could glance over them and just think, “Okay, pants,” or you could stop and really look at the beautiful complexity of colors and seams. They don't force you to admire them. They are happy just doing their basic job of covering your butt without making it look fatter than it actually is.

  I got them at a thrift shop at the outer reaches of Georgetown that's sandwiched between a store that sells water (I don't know about you, but I get that free at home) and a health food store called Yes! Whenever any of us mentions Yes! (and we work it in whenever possible) we always shout Yes! at the top of our lungs. I was tagging along with Lena and her younger sister, Effie, and their mom. Effie was there to buy a dress for the sophomore prom. Effie isn't the kind of girl who just gets a red spaghetti-strap thing at Bloomingdale's like everybody else. She has to get something vintage.

  Mainly I got the pants because Lena's mom hates secondhand clothing stores. She says used clothes are for poor people. “I tink that is dirty, Effie,” she kept saying every time Effie pulled something off a hanger. I secretly agreed with Mrs. Kaligaris, which gave me a certain feeling of shame. Truth was, I yearned for the clean mindlessness of Express, but I had to buy something. The pants were folded innocently on a shelf by the counter where you pay. I figured maybe they'd been washed. Also, they were only $3.49 including tax. I didn't even try them on, so you can tell I wasn't serious about owning them. My butt has specific requirements for pants.

  Effie picked out a little mod dress that was aggressively antiprom, and Lena found a pair of beat-up loafers that looked like they'd belonged to somebody's great-uncle. Lena has big feet, like size nine and a half or something. They are the only part of her that isn't perfect. I love her feet. I couldn't help wincing at those shoes, though. It's bad enough to buy used clothes, which are theoretically washable, but used shoes?

  When I got home I put the pants in the back of my closet and forgot about them.

  They came out again the afternoon before we all went separate ways for the summer. I was going to South Carolina to hang out with my dad, Lena and Effie were spending two months in Greece with their grandparents, Bridget was flying off to soccer camp in Baja California (which, turns out, is in Mexico. Who knew?). Tibby was staying home. This was our first summer apart, and I think it gave us all a strange, shaky feeling.

  Last summer we'd all taken American history, because Lena said you could get a better grade in the summer. I'm sure Lena did get a better grade. The summer before that we were all CITs at Camp Tall Timbers on the eastern shore of Maryland. Bridget coached soccer and taught swimming, Lena worked in arts and crafts, and Tibby was stuck in the kitchen once again. I helped in the drama workshop until I lost my temper at two demonic nine-year-olds and got reassigned to the camp office to lick envelopes by myself. They would have fired me straight out, but I think our parents actually paid them to have us work there.

  The summers before that are a blur of baby oil and Sun-In and hating our bodies (I got big breasts; Tibby got no breasts) at the Rockwood public swimming pool. My skin got darker, but not one strand of my hair turned the promised blond.

  And I guess before that . . . God, I don't know what we did. Tibby went to a socialist day camp for a while and helped build low-income houses. Bridget had a lot of tennis lessons. Lena and Effie splashed around in their pool day after day. I think I watched a lot of TV, to be honest. Still, we managed to find one another for at least a few hours a day, and on the weekends we were never apart. There are the years that stand out: the summer Lena's family built the pool, the summer Bridget got chicken pox and gave it to the rest of us. The summer my dad moved away.

  For some reason our lives were marked by summers. While Lena and I went to public elementary school, Bridget went to a private school with a bunch of other jocks, and Tibby was still going to Embrace, this tiny, weird school where the kids sat in beanbag chairs instead of desks and nobody got any grades. Summer was the time when our lives joined completely, when we all had our birthdays, when really important things happened. Except for the year Bridget's mom died. That happened at Christmastime.

  We started being “we” before we were born. We were all four born at the end of summer, within seventeen days of one another: Lena first, at the end of August, and me last, in the middle of September. It's not so much a coincidence, as the reason we started.

  The summer we were born our mothers took a class in aerobics for pregnant women (just picture that) at this place called Gilda's; they were the September group (Lena came a little early). Aerobics was really popular then. I guess the other members of the class weren't due to pop till the winter, but the Septembers were so dramatically pregnant, the teacher was worried they might explode at any moment. The teacher would alter the routines for them. “Septembers!” she would bellow, according to my mother. “Just do four reps; watch it! Watch it!” The aerobics instructor's name happened to be April, and as my mother tells it, they hated that woman.

  The Septembers started hanging out after class, complaining about their swollen feet and how fat they were and laughing about April. After we were born—miraculously all girls, plus Bridget's twin brother—they formed their own little mothers' support group and let us all squirm on a blanket together while they complained about not sleeping and how fat they still were. The support group disbanded after a while, but the summers when we were one and two and three they'd still bring us to Rockwood. We'd p
ee in the baby pool and take one another's toys.

  The friendships between our mothers sort of deteriorated after that. I'm not sure why. Their lives got complicated, I guess. A couple of them went back to work. Tibby's parents moved to that farm way out on Rockville Pike. Maybe our mothers never really had much in common besides being pregnant at the same time. I mean, they were a strange group when you think of it: Tibby's mom, the young radical; Lena's mom, the ambitious Greek putting herself through social work school; Bridget's mom, the Alabama debutante; and my mom, the Puerto Rican with the rocky marriage. But for a while there, they seemed like friends. I can even remember it a little.

  Nowadays our mothers act like friendship is an elective—falling somewhere down the list after husbands, children, career, home, money. Somewhere between outdoor grilling and music appreciation. That's not how it is for us. My mom tells me, “Just wait till you get serious about boys and school. Just wait till you start competing.” But she's wrong. We won't let that happen to us.

  Eventually our mothers' friendship stopped being about them and came to be about us, the daughters. They became sort of like divorced people, with not much in common but the kids and the past. To tell the truth, they are awkward with one another—especially after what happened to Bridget's mom. It's like there are disappointments and maybe even a few secrets between them, so they just stay on the fragile surface.

  We're the Septembers now. The real ones. We are everything to one another. We don't need to say so; it's just true. Sometimes it seems like we're so close we form one single complete person rather than four separate ones. We settle into types—Bridget the athlete, Lena the beauty, Tibby the rebel, and me, Carmen, the . . . what? The one with the bad temper. But the one who cares the most. The one who cares that we stick together.

  You know what the secret is? It's so simple. We love one another. We're nice to one another. Do you know how rare that is?

  My mother says it can't stay like this, but I believe it will. The Pants are like an omen. They stand for the promise we made to one another, that no matter what happens, we stick together. But they stand for a challenge too. It's not enough to stay in Bethesda, Maryland, and hunker down in air-conditioned houses. We promised one another that someday we'd get out in the world and figure some stuff out.

  I can pretend to be a deep, faithful, and instant appreciator of the Pants, or I can be honest and tell you that I was the one who almost threw them away. But that requires backing up a little and telling you how the Traveling Pants were born.

  “Can you close that suitcase?” Tibby asked Carmen. “It's making me sick.”

  Carmen glanced at the structured canvas bag splayed wantonly in the middle of her bed. Suddenly she wished she had all-new underwear. Her best satin pair was sprouting tiny ropes of elastic from the waistband.

  “It's making me sick,” Lena said. “I haven't started packing. My flight's at seven.”

  Carmen flopped the top of the suitcase closed and sat down on the carpeted floor. She was working on removing navy-blue polish from her toenails.

  “Lena, could you not say that word anymore?” Tibby asked, wilting a little on the edge of Carmen's bed. “It's making me sick.”

  “Which word?” Bridget asked. “Packing? Flight? Seven?”

  Tibby considered. “All of them.”

  “Oh, Tibs,” Carmen said, grabbing Tibby's foot from where she sat. “It's gonna be okay.”

  Tibby took her foot back. “It's gonna be okay for you. You're going away. You're going to eat barbecue all the time and light firecrackers and everything.”

  Tibby had nonsensical ideas about what people did in South Carolina, but Carmen knew not to argue with her.

  Lena let out a little hum of sympathy.

  Tibby turned on her. “Don't make that pity noise, Lena.”

  Lena cleared her throat. “I didn't,” she said quickly, even though she had.

  “Don't wallow,” Bridget urged Tibby. “You're wallowing.”

  “No,” Tibby shot back. She held up hands crossed at the wrist in a hex sign to ward off Bridget. “No pep talks. No fair. I only let you do pep talks when you need to feel better.”

  “I wasn't doing a pep talk,” Bridget said defensively, even though she was.

  Carmen made her wise eyebrows. “Hey, Tibs? Maybe if you're nasty enough, you won't miss us and we won't miss you.”

  “Carma!” Tibby shouted, getting to her feet and thrusting a stiff arm at Carmen. “I see through that! You're doing psychological analysis on me. No! No!”

  Carmen's cheeks flushed. “I am not,” she said quietly.

  The three of them sat, scolded into silence.

  “God, Tibby, what is anybody allowed to say?” Bridget asked.

  Tibby thought about it. “You can say . . .” She glanced around the room. She had tears welling in her eyes, but Carmen knew she didn't want them to show. “You can say . . .” Her eyes lighted on the pair of pants folded on the top of a stack of clothes on Carmen's dresser. “You can say, ‘Hey, Tibby, want those pants?'”

  Carmen looked baffled. She capped the polish remover, walked over to her dresser, and held up the pants. Tibby usually liked clothes that were ugly or challenging. These were just jeans. “You mean these?” They were creased in three places from inattention.

  Tibby nodded sullenly. “Those.”

  “You really want them?” Carmen didn't feel like mentioning that she was planning to throw them away. Bigger points if they mattered.

  “Uh-huh.”

  Tibby was demanding a little display of unconditional love. Then again, it was her right. Three of them were flying off on big adventures the next day, and Tibby was launching her career at Wallman's in scenic Bethesda for five cents over minimum wage.

  “Fine,” Carmen said benevolently, handing them over.

  Tibby absently hugged the pants, slightly deflated at getting her way so fast.

  Lena studied them. “Are those the pants you got at the secondhand place next to Yes!?”

  “Yes!” Carmen shouted back.

  Tibby unfolded them. “They're great.”

  The pants suddenly looked different to Carmen. Now that somebody cared about them, they looked a little nicer.

  “Don't you think you should try them on?” Lena asked practically. “If they fit Carmen, they aren't going to fit you.”

  Carmen and Tibby both glared at Lena, not sure who should take more offense.

  “What?” Bridget said, hopping to Lena's aid. “You guys have completely different builds. Is that not obvious?”

  “Fine,” Tibby said, glad to be huffy again.

  Tibby pulled off her dilapidated brown cargo pants, revealing lavender cotton underwear. She turned her back to her friends for the sake of drama as she pulled on the pants. She zipped, buttoned, and turned around. “Ta-da!”

  Lena studied her. “Wow.”

  “Tibs, you're such a babe,” Bridget proclaimed.

  Tibby tried not to let her smile get loose. She went over to the mirror and turned to the side. “You think they're good?”

  “Are those really my pants?” Carmen asked.

  Tibby had narrow hips and long legs for her small frame. The pants fell below her waist, hugging her hips intimately. They revealed a white strip of flat stomach, a nice inny belly button.

  “You look like a girl,” Bridget added.

  Tibby didn't quarrel. She knew as well as anyone that she looked skinny and shapeless in the oversized pants she usually wore.

  The pants bagged a little at her feet, but that worked for Tibby.

  Suddenly Tibby looked unsure. “I don't know. Maybe somebody else should try them.” Slowly she unbuttoned and unzipped.

  “Tibby, you are crazy,” Carmen said. “Those pants are in love with you. They want you for your body and your mind.” She couldn't help seeing the pants in a completely new way.

  Tibby threw them at Lena. “Here. You go.”

  “Why? They're meant to be your
s,” Lena argued.

  Tibby shrugged. “Just try them.”

  Carmen could see Lena glancing at the pants with a certain amount of interest. “Why not? Lena, try ‘em.”

  Lena looked at the pants warily. She shed her own khakis and pulled them on. She made sure they were buttoned and sitting straight on her hips before she glanced in the mirror.

  Bridget considered.

  “Lenny, you make me sick,” Tibby offered.

  “Jesus, Lena,” Carmen said. Sorry, Jesus, she added to herself reflexively.

  “They're nice pants,” Lena said reverently, almost whispering.

  They were used to Lena, but Carmen knew that to the rest of the world she was fairly stunning. She had Mediterranean skin that tanned well, straight, shiny dark hair, and wide eyes roughly the color of celery. Her face was so lovely, so delicately structured, it kind of gave Carmen a stomachache. Carmen once confessed her worry to Tibby that some movie director was going to spot Lena and take her away, and Tibby admitted she had worried the exact same thing. Particularly beautiful people were like particularly funny-looking people, though. Once you knew them you mostly forgot about it.

  The pants clung to Lena's waist and followed the line of her hips. They held close to the shape of her thighs and fell exactly to the tops of her feet. When she took two steps forward, they appeared to hug each of her muscles as they shifted and moved. Carmen gazed in wonder at how different was their effect from Lena's bland uniform of J. Crew khakis.

  “Very sexy,” Bridget said.

  Lena snatched another peek at the mirror. She always held herself in a slightly awkward way, with her neck pushed forward, when she looked in a mirror. She winced. “I think maybe they're too tight,” she said.

  “Are you joking?” Tibby barked. “They are beautiful. They look a million times better than those lame-o pants you usually wear.”

  Lena turned to Tibby. “Was that a compliment somewhere in there?”

  “Seriously, you have to have them,” Tibby said. “They're like . . . transforming.”

  Lena fiddled with the waistband. She was never comfortable talking about the way she looked.

 
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