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The Playlist
Author: Morgan Elizabeth










It’s an old shoebox we painted pink and covered in rhinestones maybe twenty freaking years ago on one of her mom’s girls nights.

“Look what I found,” my best friend Luna says as she walks into her living room and holds it up.

I almost ask her what it is.

I almost act confused.

But the truth is, I’d know that box anywhere.

It’s called manifestation, my loves, Mrs. Davidson had said. You’re going to use this box as the gateway to all of your deepest, darkest desires, and the universe is going to work with you to make them happen.

I thought it was crazy.

Luna thought it was crazier.

But we did it anyway because we were little girls and her mom made a whole night of it, getting stacks of magazines and papers and making us fun, fancy drinks with umbrellas and cherries in the bottom, and we stayed up super late in our pajamas, working on our box.

We didn’t make separate boxes for each of us because, in our heads, our lives would be intertwined for eternity as best friends forever, so what was the point?

We kept that damn box hidden under Luna’s bed, adding to it over the years.

The only rule we made was we couldn’t take things out.

We could only put them in.

“You still have that?” I ask, sitting up.

“I couldn’t throw it out.”

“I thought you would have tossed it when you moved in here,” I say, moving my hand around the house she shares with her husband. “I think the last time we even touched it was long before your . . . issue.”

Luna’s issue was the time she had a dating site stalker and was forced to move in with her brother’s best friend, Tony Garrison, for her safety.

“To be honest, I thought I did too. But I was digging in the spare room because Tony said I need to clear it or he’s gonna throw everything out and, well, look!”

She sits on the oversized, comfy couch, placing the bedazzled box on the coffee table.

“I can’t believe those rhinestones held on this long,” I say, grabbing the lid and looking at it. The top has “Zoe and Luna’s Dream Box” written in loopy, pink girls’ handwriting.

“I swear the glue my mom used on this thing is industrial.” She starts digging through the box, placing things on the table, treating each one like a delicate relic.

A photo of the two of us hugging because, of course, we needed to tell the universe we would be best friends forever.

A handful of snapped friendship bracelets we made during summers at the community center her aunt runs, bracelets we made wishes on before tying them onto our wrists.

A burnt CD that I don’t think either of us even has a player for anymore.

Assorted tchotchkes from summers at the boardwalk or family vacations.

Little rocks we found and painted.

A gumball machine ring that makes my heart squeeze just a tiny bit looking at it.

A ticket stub from a concert we went to.

And a stack of two papers that I distinctly remember.

“Oh my god, no way,” I say, snatching them off the top.

“Do you remember making those?” Luna asks with a laugh. “We went through like thirty tries to get it just right.”

“And we burned all the rest so we couldn’t get confused,” I say with a laugh, picking Luna’s up.

God forbid we put the wrong ideal future into our dream box.

At the top is MASH in big, bold letters.

It was a game we played as kids where you’d decide all of the aspects of your life with a single sheet of paper.

Who you would marry.

Where you’d live.

What your job would be.

How many kids.

What kind of pet you’d have.

You put options under each topic and then meticulously and seemingly randomly cross them off until you have your “future life” all mapped out.

Reading Luna’s makes me laugh.

Marry: Tony Garrison.

“Well, you got that right, I suppose. And you’re living in a house in Springbrook Hills. Though . . .” I look at the top. “I think technically you were destined for a shack. I suppose the great universe decided you were due for an upgrade.” I smile at my best friend. “You wanted to run a business, another match.”

“Because I didn’t want anyone to boss me around,” Luna says with a laugh, snatching the paper back. “Oh, god, I wanted four kids! God, help me.”

“What, is four too many?”

“I think three, max,” she says with a dreamy smile. “Tony wants a setup like I had growing up. Two boys and a little girl he can spoil.”

Jealousy cuts through me at the look and the realization that Luna is well on her way toward her dream life.

And I’m . . . existing.

“He so would spoil a little girl,” I say with a smile. Her voice goes low as she directs her eyes back to the paper, not meeting mine.

“He wants to start soon,” she whispers, and again, there’s that stab to my gut.



“Soon?” I ask, my voice a little higher. I clear my throat. “You want to start soon?”

“I’ll be thirty this summer.”

“You just got married!” She shrugs.

“It’s a ways away still. We’ll see. You never know what will happen.”

It’s not the idea of my best friend having kids with the man she’s loved since she was seven that has my stomach in knots.

It’s that we had always planned to do it together.

“Let’s see what you put into the universe,” she says, changing the subject and picking up the other paper, scanning it over.

It’s not hearts and laughter the way it was for hers.

I lick my lips and reinforce my mental shields before reaching over and snatching it.

“House,” I say, remembering the image I had built in my head of a big white home with a wraparound porch and a playground in the backyard.

Instead, I live in a shitty apartment in the city.

“Interior designer,” I say, and I remember my passion for picking things out for my room, for getting it just right and balancing usefulness with design.

I’m trying to climb the corporate ladder, working in marketing for some corporate asshole who never remembers my name.

“Springbrook Hills,” I say, remembering how Luna made me promise we’d stay in our tiny hometown together and how a little over a year ago, I left, needing a change.

I told myself I needed more.

“Two kids,” I say. I wanted my kids to have siblings, unlike me. I wanted them to have other people to rely on and not feel the pressure to be everything to their parents.

The way I feel every damn day.

“Zander Davidson.”

Luna’s older brother.

Because I was in love with him, and we wanted to be real, legal sisters and thought that would be the best way to make it happen.

Now I’m dating Jeffrey, a guy I met on some dating app who checks just enough of the boxes.

I stare at the paper, and it becomes hard to breathe, the room closing in on me.

“Zoe?” Luna says, looking at me funny, but I can’t stop staring at that piece of paper yellowing on one corner, pink hearts doodled all around.

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