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Liz and Max are sitting on the steps in front of their middle school. They have been here for an hour, since “3:19,” Liz says, when they were let out. The two brunet eighth-graders are waiting for Max’s dad to come and get him. Which, Max says, should be “soon, maybe.”


It’s the first week of spring, and the sunlight makes the grass and the new leaves on the trees look unbelievably green.


Liz is small. Her teeth, like Max’s, are just ever so slightly crooked. She has chipped red nails. She smiles freely and often. Her eyes sparkle behind her long bangs.


Nothing really happened at school today. Liz had a math test. She didn’t do that well. It was geometry. “No,” she corrects herself laughing. “It was algebra, but there were shapes.” She also had English, P.E., science and something called service.


Max had English, math, history and P.E. In P.E. he had to run and write down why he liked P.E. Max wrote: “I don’t like P.E.”


Liz has stuff written on her old black high-top Converse: Five black stars on the right toe. “Liz loves Carmeta.” (Her friend Carmeta wrote that.) Her locker combination, and “I love Craig.”


She puts her finger to her mouth. Liz doesn’t want Max to know about that one.


They aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend. Max, who has shaggy brown hair and sleepy, amber eyes, just asked her to wait with him until his dad comes to get him, so she did. She lives nearby and after his dad comes, she’ll walk herself home.


They both have cell phones. Max’s has a camera. A few minutes ago a girl came up and asked to borrow one of their phones. They took her picture.


There are scars all over Liz’s bare knees from a fall she had at a friend’s when she was 7. Liz always gets cuts. She doesn’t skateboard. She got her pullover Independent sweatshirt from a friend who does. She got that shiny Rolling Stones lips button from a friend — that’s the reason she wears it on her backpack.


Max wears his Led Zeppelin T-shirt ’cause he likes them. He also likes the Doors and Pink Floyd. Last year he liked the Strokes, but he doesn’t anymore. He’s in the magnet program. Unlike Liz, he doesn’t have anything written on his shoes or his backpack, for that matter. His dad just called. He should be here “pretty soon.” Until then, Liz is gonna wait with him, something she’s never done before. She promised.