I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the THE THROWBACK LIST by Lily Anderson Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!
About the Book:
Title: THE THROWBACK LIST
Author: Lily Anderson
Pub. Date: October 5, 2021
Publisher: Hyperion Avenue
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook
Welcome to Sandy Point, Oregon: a sleepy beach town that’s home to a giant anchor statue, a sometimes-karaoke-bar, and Frosty’s questionably legendary Sunday Sundae Surprise. A town Jo, Autumn, and Bianca thought they’d left far behind when they graduated high school, finally moving on to greener pastures than the midway point for tourists heading to the Goonies house. But life seldom goes according to plan.
Bianca Boria-Birdy, former prom queen and valedictorian, has always been an overachiever. As she juggles managing the family tattoo parlor, caring for her grandmother, and adjusting to a new marriage, Bianca’s schedule becomes stricter than ever, with no room for disruption. What she really needs is a vacation, but not even Bianca Boria-Birdy can achieve the impossible.
Autumn Kelly used to be an actress. Now she teaches drama at Sandy Point High. She may have had to kiss her movie-star dreams goodbye, but molding the next generation of performers has given her life meaning in a whole new way. Until the sudden reappearance of her ex-best friend throws everything off-balance.
Jo Freeman has it all together. With a cool job in Silicon Valley, connections at the trendiest fitness studios, and a down payment on her dream condo, she’s well on her way to reaching every one of her goals before thirty. Or she was, before she got fired and landed right back home with her parents and teenage sister.
When Jo finds an old bucket list in her childhood bedroom, it sets the three women on a path that brings them closer to one another with each task. And it just might lead to a life none of them could have planned.
Thoughts: The Throwback List was such a quick read, each character is in their 20s and finding their way the best they can. It includes family, love, relationships just all around very relatable and delightful. Can’t wait to pick up more books by Lily Anderson.
Praise for The Throwback List
“Witty and fiercely relatable. Lily Anderson writes about what it’s like to realize you’re totally failing at this adulting thing and how it makes you turn to that one, special, friend who always knew you best. A fun, funny, and surprisingly emotional look at how friendship evolves but always endures.”—Sarah Watson, author of Most Likely and creator of The Bold Type
About Lily Anderson:
Lily Anderson is the author of The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You; Not Now, Not Ever; and Undead Girl Gang. A former school librarian, she is deeply devoted to Shakespeare, fairy tales, and podcasts. Somewhere in Northern California, she is having strong opinions on musical theater. Find her online at http://www.mslilyanderson.com.
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub
3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE THROWBACK LIST, US Only.
Palo Alto, California
Jo Freeman stepped off the elevator with “Lose Control” stuck in her head. That morning’s exercise coach—Salvador of Confident Kickboxing—put a song on the playlist for every heavy bag in the room and Jo had found herself hitting in the Missy Elliott zone.
“Take your anthem with you into the world today! Use your big-bitch energy!” Salvador called after them as the class split up to go to their various Silicon Valley desk jobs.
Normally, Jo left her buy-in at the door, discarding all of the silly mantras and platitudes inside her gym du jour. But today, she could feel the “Lose Control” beat keeping her hips loose as she took long strides past the reception desk at Quandt Corporation’s Palo Alto headquarters.
Work wait. Work work work, wait, Jo’s heartbeat chanted in time with the music in her head.
If she was still thinking about kickboxing two hours after taking off her gloves, Salvador deserved five stars and a tip. She slipped her phone out of her tote and popped open the Gym Class app.
Once Jo got the promotion she’d spent the last five years strategizing for, Confident Kickboxing could become her regular gym. As grateful as she was for the free subscription to Gym Class—a Q-Co work perk—she was getting tired of being an exercise vagabond. Lurking in six a.m. classes with strangers. Never knowing where the parking was.
When she finally got to update her business cards to say Director of Digital Strategy, she was going to buy that loft downtown—a huge upgrade from the college-kid-infested apartment building she’d lived in since she was one of the students—and then she was going to buy an annual pass to a gym. She could even get gym buddies. It’d been a minute since she’d had nonwork friends.
“Johanna?” College Kevin called after her as she passed him on her way to her cube. He skittered around the standing desk of shame that Jo herself had spent eight months chained to when she had been Q-Co’s Stanford intern. Back in the day, the standing desk of shame had also come with a heavy phone headset that made Jo look like she was taking drive-thru orders. College Kevin wore AirPods all day that may or may not have been playing music.
Jo glanced slightly past Kevin’s head toward Gia’s office. Behind the glass partition, her friend-slash-mentor was sitting barefoot on top of her desk, the receiver of her office landline tucked under her chin as she gesticulated wildly with one hand and cut a Starbucks Pink Drink with diet Red Bull with the other.
“Is Gia talking to… the other guys?” Jo asked College Kevin, knowing he wasn’t allowed to tell her. Even Gia, a girl who’d once been fired as a pharmaceutical rep for being “too fun,” hadn’t officially spilled the beans on the rumored merger. But Jo had worked for the Q long enough to know when change was in the air. And Gia working her ass off at nine a.m. was a big change. Client relations usually didn’t start until lunch.
College Kevin squirmed. “Devo wants to see you.”
Work work work, wait.
“Great,” Jo said. She gave him a smile that he couldn’t see with his eyes focused on the toes of his shoes. “I’m on my way.”
Her phone trembled in her hands as she pulled up the interoffice messenger.
TODAY’S THE DAY!! she shot off to Gia, whose mouse clicked twice before the read receipt came through.
Gia sent back a thumbs-up, then noticed Jo through the glass and waved. Jo mimed walking toward Devo’s office with an oh my God can you believe today’s the day giddy smile. In return, she got a distracted IRL thumbs-up. Gia’s eyes looked tired. Or possibly just lacking concealer. Jo felt bad for even noticing—there was too much pressure for women in the office to adhere to a problematically narrow beauty standard; she herself was guilty of daily flat-ironing on top of her Brazilian blowout just to keep natural 3c curls straight and glossy. Meanwhile College Kevin’s hair was unbrushed.
After work, she comforted herself, I’ll invite Gia out for celebratory drinks and I’ll let her vent about all the secret merger stress. We’ll finally be equals.
Without Gia, Jo would never have considered a career in social media. She’d never been a do it for the gram type of person. But Gia—a Portlander who had moved six hundred miles to avoid getting sucked into her family business—had seen Jo’s résumé back in her standing-desk days and spotted their similarities.
If you’ve spent your whole life giving your parents’ business free promo, you have more job experience than anyone else your age, she’d told Intern!Jo. Just do the job you’re already trained for.
And that job was digital public relations. Jo switched her major from English to communications, took a summer intensive in photography so her student loans would cover a camera and Photoshop, and she offered to run Q-Co’s Facebook from the standing desk. She tripled their followers and got a forty-hours-a-week and a job title: social media coordinator.
Now twenty-six-year-old Jo was on step three of the four-step career plan she and Gia had mapped out:
0. Internship (unpaid foot in the door)
1. Social Media Coordinator
2. Social Media Manager
3. Content Strategist and Influencer Relations Manager
4. Director of Digital Strategy by thirty
All it had cost her were her weeknights and her social life—both largely disposable since most of her college friends left town for grad school or love or cheaper rent. It had been a few months since she’d dusted off her dating apps and she hadn’t been home to see her parents in ages. It would all be worth it when she became the first Black woman on the management team.
A biracial, bisexual girl-boss in Silicon Valley? Gia would say to hype Jo up when she got discouraged. You know that is 30 Under 30 bait! The second you get promoted, I will call my Forbes contact.
Jo wasn’t in it for the 30 Under 30 lists—although she wouldn’t mind having something cool to post about while everyone back home was getting married or having babies. She just wanted to reap what she’d sown. After five years of planting all of her hard work into Q-Co and their fancy fitness trackers, she was ready to harvest a real life for herself.
It was only what she deserved. She did more than talk the talk; she even wore the product. Today: a small silver ring on her index finger tracked her mounting heartbeat as she strode into the boss’s office.
Devo—Devon Quandt Jr., operations manager and son of the founder—had a small water feature built into the longest wall of his office so that it was eternally raining on his mounted classics degree. The noise made Jo want to stuff erasers in her ears. It was expensive and wasteful water torture.
Devo himself was expensive and wasteful, sitting sideways in his ergonomic office chair.
No one else on the first floor had an ergonomic chair. But no one else’s dad had successfully opened three start-ups and left them the last one to babysit.
“I see you, Johanna,” Devo sang throatily, like a cartoon frog. “I see you.”
“Pretty sure that Sweeney Todd isn’t workplace appropriate, Devo,” Jo said. She sat in the non-ergo chair across from him. “That song is about a stalker and a pedophile.”
“I didn’t realize you were a theater buff,” Devo said, twirling in his chair before resting his elbows on his desk.
“I’m a woman of the world,” Jo said. Devo didn’t care that her childhood best friend had been a theater geek. “You wanted to see me?”
“Right!” Devo clapped his hand on his desk, momentarily focused on something other than humming stray bits of Sondheim. “I’m gonna need you to sign a little NDA, ’kay?”
Jo made herself smile with all of her teeth as he pulled a tablet seemingly from thin air and spun it to face her. A stylus was pressed into her hand while she read through the company’s most basic nondisclosure agreement. There were no dollar signs or Welcome to your new life! notes of congratulation mixed in among the legalese.
She signed it and forced herself to sit back again. “What’s up?”
“Well…” Devo leaned forward into the space Jo had vacated. “You may have heard some rumors…” He trailed off, waiting for her to jump in.
“Devo,” Jo said, knuckles cracking as she made fists in her lap. “Don’t make me guess. Please. I don’t like guessing.”
“Fine,” he said, sulking, shoulders falling down to the desktop. “It’s all true. We’re being acquired by Fitbit. They’re moving us to their office in the city. I say us but I mean… well, I don’t mean you.”
Jo stared at him. Her brain was doing its damnedest to hold on to the words, but she couldn’t quite make herself believe them enough to stick. For a moment, she couldn’t help but imagine everyone lined up in the school gym, Challenge Day style. Everyone who has a job step forward. The air left her lungs like it’d been punched out.
“You aren’t—” Jo shook her head and coughed a laugh. “That can’t be how you’d fire someone, right?”
Devo’s lips pulled back into a yikes face.
This was why Gia hadn’t smiled at her. If Jo had really been getting promoted today, Gia would have known first and Gia had a terrible poker face.
“You can’t fire me,” she said, entering bargaining as quickly as possible. Quandt Corporation simply couldn’t run without her. The higher-ups still needed her help with the new copier and College Kevin was useless with technology bigger than a phone. “I have spent every weeknight for two years cycling through seven social media accounts! Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok! All the stupid new ones that no one uses! I had us on Mastodon! I write the copy! I take the pictures! I got us viral movement on a picture of a fucking nose ring! Our accounts are my babies. I watch them morning, noon, and night.”
“But that’s it, Jo,” Devo said, sitting up again and twisting his chair from side to side. “They aren’t our accounts anymore. They’re Fitbit’s. Well, they’re no one’s. We’ll be starting all-new campaigns when we relaunch, so take screenshots of your babies before they go off to boarding school or whatever—I’m sorry, I really wasn’t following the baby metaphor. Do you think you just stare at babies all day or… ? Never mind.”
He had her sign a termination form and gave her a boiled-chicken handshake. Jo didn’t wipe her palm on her slacks out of a habitual politeness. But by the time she made it to the door—crushed under the weight of a new, shittier reality—she was ready to throw politeness out a window. This was the last time she would ever be in this office, on this floor, in front of this skid mark of nepotism….
Devo said, “Oh, wait, Jo—”
Optimism flicked on like a light switch in her chest, making her pause. She turned back, brows high and hopeful. “Yeah?”
“Your Gym Class subscription is a company perk, so it’ll expire after you check out with HR, ’kay?”
Sandy Point, Oregon
TWO MONTHS LATER.
Rock bottom smelled like the briny dumpster that was the ocean.
Jo’s childhood bedroom was childhood small, about the same size as the office she’d cleaned out back in Palo Alto. The walls, small rug, and bedding on the teeny-tiny twin mattress were all hot pink and charcoal gray. The combination might have seemed like haute couture to tweenage Johanna—at the time she also envisioned her prom dress and wedding in the same color scheme—but it made her adult eyes want to bleed.
Home sweet home.
It took three rounds of wrestling to get the cork out of what Jo had decided to refer to as her first bottle of wine, a surprisingly decent Malbec. Especially considering it was also the only Malbec at Fred Meyer. Jo had doubted department-store wine and she was being proven wrong.
Finally, a single win for Jo Freeman. Woo.
Sitting on the edge of her tiny bed, she dusted sand off her feet. Her entire hometown was covered in a fine eponymous dust of windblown sand and the inside of the Freeman house was absolutely no exception.
Jo couldn’t believe she was back in a town that didn’t even have sidewalks.
Separated from Portland by two hours of forest, Sandy Point, Oregon, was the town people stopped in when they got winded on the way to see the Goonies house in Astoria or where they went to walk off all the ice cream and cheese they ate in Tillamook. It wasn’t as quaint a seaside as Seaside and it was too far north to have any of the famous sand dunes.
Sandy Point only existed because of a roadside attraction that had closed a hundred years ago. The Waterfront Cove resort had been torn down and replaced with a subdivision of McMansions that towered over the otherwise modest neighborhoods. With four thousand residents, it was too populated to be considered cute-small yet remained too small to be practical. There was one post office, one grocery store, and a boardwalk instead of a downtown. The only doubles were nautical bars and empty vacation rentals.
Cloudy moonlight made the dry-erase-board wall at the end of her twin bed gleam. Arced across the white acrylic were the words Welcome Home, Jojo!!! in huge letters. She wiped them away with the back of her arm, impatient to start a list of things to dive for in the garage. So far, only the boxes marked Wardrobe had made it upstairs.
Comforter, she wrote. She looked around the room critically. On the other side of the window, the ocean droned on. Noise machine.
It felt good to list. Like complaining to a friend after a long hard day.
Essential oil diffuse—
Overused after a decade of neglect, the marker promptly expired. Jo pitched it aside and reached over to the desk. The single drawer rattled open. Inside were all the ingredients to conjure her teenage self: gel pens, Post-its, digital camera cords, a gunky lip-gloss tube, and a slim journal with a wraparound vintage map of the world as its cover.
The inside cover had Jo’s unchanged handwriting: If lost, please return to Johanna Jordan Freeman, 22 South Jetty Avenue, Sandy Point, Oregon.
She flipped to the first page. The left-hand margin was studded with scraps, evidence of ripped-out pages. The lists inside the world journal had been too important to be anything short of perfect. These were Jo’s original road maps.
Jo Freeman’s Battle Plan to GTFO of Sandy Point FOREVER
Take eight AP classes
Take extension courses at Ocean Park Community College
Become president of the Honor Society
Become editor-in-chief of the Sandy Point High yearbook
Get into Stanford
Check check check, she thought. All tasks she had accomplished almost a decade ago.
Except for becoming president of the Honor Society. Jo had only wanted that because her high school girlfriend Wren had held the office when she was a senior at Point High; Jo’s campaign had been a brief reason for them to talk again while Wren was away at college. Once Jo had lost the race to Bianca Boria, she and Wren had lapsed into a forever silence.
She took the journal back to her bed, squishing herself against the window and drawing long pulls from the Malbec bottle. A month ago, this list would have immediately gone up on all of her social media under the hashtag #DopeSinceDayOne. Proof that she had accomplished everything she’d ever dreamed of.
But she hadn’t, really. Because all she ever wanted was to stay gone.
She closed her eyes and tipped another gulp of wine into her mouth. Wiping away an errant drop, she bounced the back of her head against the whiteboard wall.
After her layoff, she had spent over a month scrambling to find work. Calling all of her contacts. Haunting job sites instead of sleeping.
But no one needed a social media director. Or even a slightly overqualified marketing assistant. She could temp or she could leave California. Neither would pay the bills that had started to pile up. After PG&E sent their final notice with her service shut-off date, she broke down and called her mom.
“Mom.” Jo had hated how weak she sounded. It would have been easier if she could have started on equal footing and called her mom Deb. Instead, she felt herself de-age, confessing in a brittle, babyish voice, “Mom, I got laid off.”
“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.” Waves and teaspoons crashed behind Deb. Her footsteps took her farther away from the noise. Jo imagined her mother stepping into the back room of her shop, the one recently converted to a prep kitchen. “You’re gonna bounce back in an instant. Right now, you need to take yourself out for some fun self-care. A mani-pedi or a nice lunch at that—”
“It’s been a month,” Jo whispered. “Almost two.
“Oh,” her mom said, clearly injured and determined not to acknowledge the hurt. “You tell me what you need.”
Jo had squeezed her eyes until she saw flashbulb swirls. “I need to store some stuff in your garage for a little while. Just. Everything I own.”
“And do you think you’re gonna need to come with that stuff?”
“Yeah,” she said. The finality of it crushed her. “I should probably come, too.”
Tonight, after twelve hours of driving—but only six hours of crying—Jo arrived home to the same elaborate dinner her mom used to make for Jo’s birthday every year. Beef ribs, Grandma Freeman’s recipe for mac and cheese, and a two-tier German chocolate cake. And with the spread, a gift: a pineapple necklace with a card saying What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
Like it was a party. Like her failure was worth a feast.
When Jo recoiled at the spread without meaning to, her teenage sister beat their mom to a hug. Eden hugged Jo with loose arms like Jo was someone at a networking event with whom Eden would rather shake hands.
“Mom and Dad closed the store for this,” Eden hissed in her ear, her loose curls scratching against Jo’s cheek. “Be nice, please.”
A senior in high school now, Eden was too young to remember when Mr. and Mrs. Freeman had zero days off. For most of Jo’s life, they’d been too busy keeping their various businesses and side hustles afloat. For reasons beyond Jo’s understanding, the change from consignment store to art gallery to tea-and-surf shop seemed to be paying off for her parents.
She had been younger than Eden when she wrote out the battle plan to GTFO. The map journal had homework assignments, shopping lists, and names for the paint-your-own-pottery place her parents had debated opening. She got lost in a pro/con list about whether or not to wear pants to homecoming: Is being subversive really just begging for my classmates to acknowledge my queerness? asked the con list. “Yes,” she told her younger self. “Do it anyway”—and relived the drama of deciding to drop out of the yearbook prank. How had life felt so big back then? How could anyone feel like Sandy Point was big enough to breathe in?
The end of the journal and the end of the Malbec bottle occurred around the same time, which was enough like kismet that Jo decided she deserved another slice of leftover German chocolate cake.
Chocolate and wine are perfect together, she thought. I’m basically a sommelier.
Definitely a drunk thought. Drunk mission accomplished.
The last page of the map journal was another list—longer than the others, reaching every corner of the page and continuing onto the endpapers.
– TP Bianca’s house
– Be in a play with Autumn Perform onstage
– Get nose TONGUE eyebrow belly button pierced
– Surf the Point
– Host a dinner party
– Plan Do Redo the yearbook prank
– Have a paintball glitter fight
– Eat the giant sundae at Frosty’s
– Get a pet
– Learn a whole dance routine
– Smoke eat brownies Get stoned
– Try everything on the menu at TGI Friday’s
– Do a keg stand
– Play hide-and-seek in public
– Pose like a suicide girl pinup girl
– Break a jack-o’-lantern something with a sledgehammer
– Climb the giant anchor on the boardwalk (and survive!!)
– Get a perfect high score at the boardwalk arcade
– Host a bonfire party where everyone brings a picture to burn
– Eat breakfast at sunrise midnight
– Dig up the time capsule
Something this messy would never have been allowed if there’d been a page left to rip out. The inks didn’t match, so Jo knew it was a first draft. Some items were written in blue, some with a glittery silver gel pen that wasn’t her handwriting at all, but Autumn Kelly’s.
It was strange to be able to recognize the handwriting of someone she hadn’t seen in almost a decade. But could you ever really forget your old best friend, even when passed notes gave way to internet likes?
The last item on the list sparked Jo’s memory. Dig up the time capsule.
After reading about the idea in a rainy-day activity book when they were eleven, she and Autumn filled a metal tackle box with pictures and toys and letters to their future selves. Having buried it behind the doghouse in the Kellys’ backyard, they agreed to dig it up again after they had done everything worth doing in Sandy Point.
It wasn’t supposed to be a long list. Sandy Point wasn’t a big town and nothing much ever happened there. They consulted Autumn’s older brother for dumb townie traditions like climbing the anchor or surfing to the Point. They searched the internet for ideas like “glitter fight.”
Throughout junior high and high school, they brainstormed the list whenever conversation dipped. And then suddenly it was nearly senior year and they hadn’t done a single thing.
The list became official in the back of the map journal. It would be how she and Autumn would spend the end of high school, celebrating the end of childhood by doing every fun thing their town had to offer. Things they’d need to know how to do before college. Things they couldn’t get anywhere else.
Senior year, Jo split her time between yearbook and working at her parents’ store while Autumn became fully enmeshed in Point High Theater—playing both Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and Ado Annie in Oklahoma!
They got distracted. They grew apart. They were childhood best friends and their childhood had already ended.
Jo half tumbled down the stairs toward the beacon that was her Welcome Home from Your Real Life cake—inscription not included. She took the journal with her and reread the final list. She couldn’t tick off a single item. Thus far, her life had been void of pets, dinner parties, and sledgehammers.
Seventeen-year-old me would think I was so boring.
She tried not to be offended by the thought. After all, Present!Jo hated Teen!Jo’s bedding, hometown, and wardrobe. If any of Teen!Jo’s ruffled plaid shirts or colorful flip-flops were still around, Present!Jo would throw them into the ocean.
The battle plan had been so clear about who Jo wanted to grow up to be. Someone who made 30 Under 30 lists. Independent, educated, physically fit, head-bitch-in-charge Jo Freeman.
Now, unemployed with zero prospects, Jo had bounced all the way back to the starting line and she couldn’t even live up to her younger self’s dream of doing a keg stand.
She wasn’t even sure where kegs came from. Bars? Breweries?
Peeling the foil away from her cake, Jo pulled off a bite with her thumb and forefinger, too glum to bother with a fork. The coconut frosting was an adrenaline burst of sugar and fat. She could have cut a piece and taken it back upstairs to her appointment with Second Bottle of Malbec, but something stopped her.
At the end of the long galley kitchen, past the shelving covered in decades of forgotten juicers and George Foreman grills, was a window. It faced the front yard of the house next door.
Bianca Boria’s house.
Bianca Boria had been Jo’s pace car in high school. If Jo did well, Bianca did better. If Jo worked hard, Bianca worked harder.
While Jo did everything with sweat in her eyes and the wind in her hair, Bianca glided past her with an easy smile. When people talked shit about her single mom and tattooed grandparents, she didn’t even flinch. She wore a bikini on social media and captioned it Fat Doesn’t Mean Ugly, single-handedly bringing body positivity to Point High. She was president of the Honor Society and prom queen, a feat that rocked the core of their teen social hierarchy.
It’s like living next door to a unicorn, Jo thought. Or a princess. Or a… princess unicorn? Nope. That’s the wine talking.
Like any self-respecting marketing professional, Jo wasn’t unfamiliar with the art of internet stalking. She knew that Bianca still lived next door—although her mother had moved out—and she was married to a guy whose name Jo didn’t recognize from the yearbook. Jo had tried scrolling through their wedding album—Bianca had worn the poofiest Cinderella dress imaginable—but had been too weirded out when she saw Autumn Kelly as the maid of honor.
Autumn and Bianca must have become friends in college. Basically anyone going to college after Point High went to Oregon State.
Seeing Autumn weepily help Bianca into a wedding dress had flared an uncomfortably territorial feeling in the back of Jo’s mind. She hadn’t been able to enjoy peering into Bianca’s account since.
But now, TP Bianca’s house was staring up at her from the top of the list. She took another pinch of cake. Popped it into her mouth. Mashed it into the roof of her mouth. Tried again. Chewed it like a sober girl.
She went searching for toilet paper.
There was a roll hidden behind eight cans of baked beans from the hall-closet emergency kit and then three rolls from the bathroom that she and Eden now shared upstairs. Jo grabbed her phone and ran out the front door.
Freezing in the pitch-dark, she loped across the sandy driveway toward the yellow glow of Bianca Boria’s porch light. Unlike the Freemans’ house with its dehydrated wood shingles responsible for a million childhood splinters, Bianca’s house was bright white with a pastel-blue door and a yard full of matching hydrangea plants.
Right in front, nearest to Jo’s house, there was the biggest tree in the neighborhood. An Oregon maple.
Supplies set down in the grass, Jo threw a roll of toilet paper at the tree. It bounced off a branch and fell to the ground, dribbling back toward her across the perfectly trimmed grass.
“Oh. Fuck,” she said out loud, genuinely surprised.
She hadn’t come out here to fail at TP-ing. It wasn’t a par game. It was a skill test. She squared her shoulders. Picking up the failed throw, she quickly unwrapped as much of the paper as she could while having a decent handful left on the roll to hold on to. She tossed it again. The little tail flapped between branches while the rest fell to the ground.
Success was a rush even better than a tipsy mouthful of German chocolate cake.
She launched more toilet-paper rolls, delighting in the way they floated in the darkness like ghosts. Soon she didn’t feel the cold. Bianca’s lawn rinsed the sand from her feet.
If she’d still been wearing a Q-Co tracker—rather than leaving all of them in a toilet at HQ after cleaning out her desk—it would have shown her pulse rate up in the heart-eyes emoji range.
Behind the warm glow of exertion and wine, she imagined TP-ing becoming the next fitness craze. All-black athleisure, ski masks, the pseudo-nemesis of your choosing’s house, a coach in your earpiece screaming something motivational.
Until losing her Gym Class app, Jo never realized how much she would miss the aggressive affirmations. How did people get out of bed without being called a sweat goddess at five thirty every morning?
With the tree covered, Jo reached for her phone and took a few pictures of her work. The shot would have been better with her camera and tripod, but they were in boxes in the garage. The picture was just a souvenir, proof to her younger self that she was capable of hitting a goal. Even a stupid one.
Through her phone lens, she saw that a single roll of toilet paper had fallen to the ground between two tree roots. Determined to leave no roll behind, she scooped it up. Looking for the perfect place to launch it, she ran around the tree, smiling as beatifically as Bianca Boria crushing her GPA. Running the student council. Getting married at twenty-five with the only best friend Jo had ever had by her side…
Bianca Boria stood directly beneath the porch light. For a moment, Jo was positive that Bianca was wearing a long-sleeved evening gown, red-carpet-ready in the middle of the night, but as her eyes adjusted, she realized it was a large plush bathrobe. Bianca’s dark hair was pulled up in a high, elegant bun that had never known frizz. Her skin was clear.
Jo looked at the last roll weighing down her right hand. She threw it.
It bonked Bianca in the nose.
Jo ran home and didn’t look back.
✓ TP Bianca’s house