"I expect to see a different guy on your Instagram page every day. The more British, the better," Trinity says from the back seat as we pull up to a very crowded departure zone at the airport.
"How can you tell how British someone is?" I check the floorboard to make sure nothing accidentally fell out of my purse. It would be just my luck to leave my passport or wallet behind.
"I have a sixth sense about these things.”
"That seems like a wasted sense," my grandmother, Meme, says as she parks in a temporary spot reserved for unloading passengers.
"I'm just saying, I'll be very disappointed if I only see lame pictures of touristy crap," Trinity continues.
"Even though the main reason I'm going is to take photos of touristy crap." I quickly open my camera bag to make sure my Nikon is still safe and sound. Especially since I upgraded from the fifty-dollar camera Meme got me for my fourteenth birthday. That was the camera that started my whole obsession with photography which, by the way, is totally healthy.
Trinity leans towards the center console, and the smell of her mint gum travels in my direction. "How else am I going to live vicariously through you?"
The chance to photograph places other than my small town in South Georgia was my sole motivation for applying to the study-abroad program at the University of Oxford in England. Guys, British or otherwise, did not play a part in my decision to travel across an entire ocean.
I need to take photos of new places. Something happens when I have a camera in my hands. I feel completely myself. I like the idea of making a moment in time permanent, because in real life, nothing is permanent.
Meme sighs next to me. "Where is the emotional goodbye between best friends I was expecting? You girls can hardly go a day without seeing each other.”
Without another word, Trinity climbs in between the front seats directly into my lap and begins mock sobbing into my shoulder. I start laughing since it tickles like crazy which makes her over-the-top crying turn into laughing as well.
“Watch the camera,” I say while trying to catch my breath.
Trinity gasps dramatically. “Oh no! Did I hurt the baby? Poor Nicki, come here.” She picks up my camera bag from the floorboard and cradles it like an infant.
“Please stop calling it Nicki.” But I can’t help but smile as she smooshes her cheek against the bag.
“It needs a name. You’re not truly a photographer until you name your camera.”
I gently pull the bag away from her face. “It has a name. Nikon Z50.”
“Boring!” Trinity exclaims.
Suddenly, the passenger door opens. I grip the headrest to keep us both from tumbling out.
Meme looks down at us affectionately. “You don’t want to miss your flight.”
The summer heat hits me hard as we manage to untangle and get out of the car. The sounds of horns blaring, luggage wheels rolling along the pavement, and people trying to talk over all the noise surrounds us.
After grabbing my luggage from the trunk, I reluctantly turn to say goodbye. Meme pulls me into her arms, and the familiar scent of her vanilla lotion helps calm my anxiety over traveling to another country for the first time at eighteen years old.
"Promise me you'll be careful, Avery." Her voice wavers. As I pull back to see her face, my grandmother’s hazel eyes are watery underneath her glasses.
"I will,” I promise.
“And I think you should take this.” She opens up her hand to reveal my necklace, the one I usually never take off.
I immediately shake my head. “I’m afraid I’ll lose it.” My hand covers her fingers to close them safely over my most cherished possession.
“You know you won’t. If you haven’t lost it since your mother gave it to you four years ago, you won’t lose it now. No matter where you are.” She removes my hand and holds up the necklace as if she’s going to put it around my neck. “I know you’ll feel better with it on.”
I already caught myself twice on the ride to the airport touching my sternum to find it missing. When I lift my hair so she can clasp it around my neck, I instantly feel better as the silver, warm from Meme’s palm, touches my skin.
“I know your mother wishes she could be here in my place, seeing you off for your first overseas adventure.” Her small smile is touched with a sadness we both share—hers from losing a daughter and mine from losing a mother.
I notice she doesn’t mention Dad, though. “I guess I’ll have to make do with you and Trinity,” I joke since I don’t want to keep talking about my mother while standing in the departure zone.
When I turn towards Trinity, she has her eyes closed while wiggling her fingers. "My sixth sense is predicting you'll have a magical and very British summer romance!" Today, her inky-black hair is slicked back into a low ponytail, and her deep bronze skin is beautifully contrasted against a white eyelet shirt.
My laugh breaks through the noise around us. "Are you pretending to be a fortune teller? Because you just look crazy."
The sight of three women laughing and running towards the sliding glass doors of the airport distracts me for a moment. They’re all wearing the same long flowing skirts but in different vibrant colors of purple, blue, and green as if their destination is somewhere tropical. As their rustling skirts cause shadows to dance along the concrete, I touch my camera bag before remembering I have a flight to catch.
I look back at Trinity trying to remember what we were talking about. "Like I said, the only date I have is with my camera.”
“Kinky. You know Nicki is totally a unisex name—gives you more options.” She wiggles her eyebrows.
I shake my head. “Why are we friends again?”
“Because you love cake.” Her grin is cheek to cheek.
So true. And now I’m hungry.
When I moved in with Meme the summer before I turned fourteen, I met Trinity over red velvet cake. It seemed as if everyone knew about Meme’s daughter, my mother, passing away from breast cancer. Even though the memorial had been in Seattle, where my parents and I lived at the time, people still supported Meme in her hometown which meant bringing over a lot of food.
Trinity gives me a look. "I still think you should consider occasionally putting your camera down. Someone may come along and sweep you off your feet.”
“You’re such a romantic.” I pull her in for a normal hug—the kind people do standing up—since being attacked in the front seat of a car is not part of my love language.
Trinity pulls back, and her expression is serious for the first time. “I’m really going to miss you.”
“Same,” I tell her.
I still can’t believe we’ll be spending most of the summer apart. Sure, we’ll be rooming together when we start college, me at The Art Institute of Atlanta and her at Georgia State University, but that’s more than two months away.
"What about hot British guys standing next to lame touristy crap?" Trinity compromises.
"I'll do my best.” Just the thought of asking a random guy to pose for a photo, however, makes me cringe.
"And don't let Katherine become your new best friend.”
There are students from all over the state enrolled in the same study-abroad program, but Katherine is the only other student from our high school coming along.
"Like anyone could replace you.” I try to pull on the handle of my rolling suitcase, but it gets stuck.
Trinity nods in agreement. "Doubt anyone else has my patience to pierce through that thick skin of yours.” She bats my hand away and easily pulls the handle up as if she’s proving her point.
True again. “See, you have nothing to worry about.”
As I roll my luggage towards the sliding doors of the airport, Trinity yells out, “Bye Avery and Nicki!”
When I turn around and wave one last time, I realize I’m leaving my only support system behind. But Trinity is out of her mind if she truly believes anything, especially an unlikely summer romance, could make me put down my camera.