Kindred Spirits

By: Rainbow Rowell

MONDAY

14 DECEMBER 2015


There were already two people sitting outside the theater when Elena got there, so she wouldn’t be first in line. But that was OK. She was still here—she was still doing this.

She grabbed her sleeping bag, and the backpack she’d stocked with books and food and anti-bacterial wipes, and got out of the car as quickly as possible; it looked like her mom might make one last attempt to talk Elena out of this.

She rolled down her window to frown at Elena directly. “I don’t see a Portaloo.”

Elena had said there would be a Portaloo. “I’ll figure it out,” Elena said quietly. “These guys are figuring it out.”

“They’re men,” her mom said. “They can pee anywhere.”

“I’ll hold it,” Elena said.

“For four days?”

“Mom,” Elena said. And what she meant was: We’ve been through this. We’ve talked about it for weeks and weeks. I know you don’t approve. But I’m still doing it.

Elena dropped her gear on the sidewalk, behind a tall white boy who was second in line. “OK,” she said cheerfully to her mom. “I’ve got this. See you Thursday!”

Her mom was still frowning. “See you after lunch,” she said, then rolled up her window and drove away.

Elena turned back to the line, smiling her best first-day-of-school smile. The guy next to her—he looked like he was probably about her age, seventeen or eighteen—didn’t look up. First in line was a big white guy with a blond beard. He looked old enough to be one of Elena’s teachers, and he was sitting in a fold-out camping chair with his feet propped up on a giant cooler. “Hey!” he said happily. “Welcome to Star Wars, man! Welcome to the line!”

This, she quickly learned, was Troy. He’d been in line since Thursday morning. “I wanted to invest at least a week in this, you know? I really wanted to gather my focus.”

The younger guy, Gabe, had got in line Thursday night.

“There was a couple who hung out with us Saturday for a few hours,” Troy said, “but one of them forgot her sunglasses, so they went home. Weak!”

Elena hadn’t brought any sunglasses. She squinted into the sun.

“I’m guessing this is your first line,” Troy said.

“How can you tell?” she asked.

“I can tell,” he said, chuckling. “I can always tell. It’s Gabe’s first line, too.”

“We were eight when the last Star Wars movie came out,” Gabe said, not looking up from his book.

“Revenge of the Sith!” Troy said. “That wasn’t much of a line anyway. It was no Empire.”

“Nothing is,” Elena said.

Troy’s face got somber. “Hear, hear, Elena. Hear, hear.”

All right, so . . . she’d expected there to be more people here.

The Facebook group she’d found—Camp Star Wars: Omaha!!!—had eighty-five members, not including Elena, who was more of a lurker than a joiner. This was definitely the right theater; the Facebook posts had been very clear. (Maybe it was Troy who posted them.)

Elena had planned to continue her more-lurker-than-joiner strategy in the line. She thought she’d show up and then sort of disappear into the crowd until she got her sea legs. Her line legs. It was a pretty good strategy for most social situations: show up, fall back, let somebody else break the ice and take the spotlight. Somebody else always would. Extroverts were nothing if not dependable.

But even an expert mid-trovert like Elena couldn’t lie low in a crowd of three. (Though this Gabe kid seemed to be trying.) Elena was going to be here for four days. She was going to have to talk to these people, at least until someone else showed up.

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