Just like before, I was unsuccessful at my attempt to get by unseen when Lily called me back into the living room. I pulled my shoulders back and tried to garner any illusion of confidence I had as I walked in and sat down next to her on the couch.
“Look what I found!” she exclaimed excitedly. “It’s a bucket list of all of the things that my mom wanted to do!”
I looked at the journal in her lap and smiled, remembering when Charlotte had made it. We’d stayed up late and laughed for hours as we came up with the most random, impossible list of things. I had completely forgotten about it until now.
“I remember,” I said softly, resting my elbow on my knee and my chin in my hand.
“Did you guys ever do any of it?” she asked with even more excitement.
“We were going to, right after we graduated high school. We were going to travel and conquer her list. But then we moved to California, and she met a boy. After that, all of her time was suddenly focused on him,” I teased, giving John a playful scowl. His smile stretched tight across his face, showing off his perfect teeth.
“Hey, what can I say?” he shrugged cockily. “I was more exciting than her bucket list.”
I let my head fall back as I laughed.
“I seriously doubt that,” I joked, holding my stomach as I laughed harder.
Lily got the giggles and laughed along with me, while John raised an eyebrow and narrowed his eyes at us.
“Why is that?”
“Because I remember that list. There were some pretty amazing things on it that would be more exciting than any boy.”
“How do you know?” Lily asked sincerely as she looked at the list again. She picked up the journal and tilted it to the side, then upside down as if she was trying to find some secret code. “None of it makes any sense. It’s all riddles and codes.”
“That was the fun part,” I squealed, remembering how we worked so hard to create the perfect clue for each one.
“Do you remember what all of them are?” She looked up at me with hope in her eyes.
I pulled in a deep breath, not ready to promise her anything that I couldn’t deliver on.
“I don’t know, honey. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that list,” I admitted sheepishly.
Her face fell, and the excitement that had been there a few minutes before vanished.
“Maybe we could all try to solve them together?” John asked from his chair, sensing the panic that was flooding through me.
“I like that idea,” I agreed. “Teamwork always makes things easier.”
“Okay,” she said with a tiny spark of enthusiasm.
“What’s the first one?” John pressed, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees as he concentrated. I had to fight the laughter that was bubbling up inside with how serious he looked.
Lily cleared her throat, then lifted the notebook and began reading.
“Go high in the sky, but not faster than the birds fly.”
She lowered it and looked between us.
“That’s easy,” John said proudly, puffing his chest. “It’s a plane. She wanted to fly on a plane.”
Lily nodded as if that made sense to her. I laughed and shook my head in disagreement.
“Okay, smarty pants,” John teased, pointing a finger at me. “Then what is it?”
“Charlotte had already flown on a plane when she wrote this. She went to Florida with her parents when she was ten. They flew there, and that was the first time she went to Disney World.”
John’s cocky smile faded, replaced with another scowl.
“Shit. I forgot about that.”
“Language!” Lily scolded and shook her finger at him.
“Do you know what it was?” she asked, looking back at me once she finished giving her dad the look.
“I know that your mom always wanted to ride a Ferris wheel. That would be my guess. It’s high in the sky and definitely slower than birds.” I turned to look at John. “How in the world did you guess plane anyway? What kind of birds have you seen that are faster than a plane?”
I watched as the pink in his cheeks flushed red with embarrassment. He leaned back in his chair, the cocky, confident attitude from a few minutes ago gone.