Authors: Gayle Forman
ALSO BY GAYLE FORMAN
If I Stay
Sisters in Sanity
Where She Went
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Art in Chapter Seven courtesy of Shutterstock.com
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Just one day / Gayle Forman.
Summary: “Sparks fly when American good girl Allyson encounters laid-back Dutch
actor Willem, so she follows him on a whirlwind trip to Paris, upending her life in
just one day and prompting a year of self-discovery and the search for true love.”—Provided
[1. Voyages and travels—Fiction. 2. Self-actualization (Psychology)—Fiction. 3. Love—Fiction.
4. Actors and actresses—Fiction. 5. Europe—Fiction.] I. Title.
Published in the United States by Dutton Books,
an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
For Tamar: sister, travel companion, friend—who, incidentally, went and married
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts . . . .
From William Shakespeare’s
As You Like It
hat if Shakespeare had it wrong?
To be, or not to be: that is the question.
That’s from Hamlet’s—maybe Shakespeare’s—most famous soliloquy. I had to memorize
the whole speech for sophomore English, and I can still remember every word. I didn’t
give it much thought back then. I just wanted to get all the words right and collect
my A. But what if Shakespeare—and Hamlet—were asking the wrong question? What if the
real question is not whether
The thing is, I don’t know if I would have asked myself that question—
to be—if it wasn’t for
. Maybe I would have gone along being the Allyson Healey I had been. Doing just what
I was supposed to do, which, in this case, was going to see
_ _ _
“God, it’s so hot. I thought it wasn’t supposed to get this hot in England.” My friend
Melanie loops her blond hair into a bun and fans her sweaty neck. “What time are they
opening the doors, anyhow?”
I look over at Ms. Foley, who Melanie and pretty much the rest of our group has christened
Our Fearless Leader behind her back. But she is talking to Todd, one of the history
grad students co-leading the trip, probably telling him off for something or other.
In the Teen Tours! Cultural Extravaganza brochure that my parents presented to me
upon my high school graduation two months ago, the Todd-like graduate students were
called “historical consultants” and were meant to bolster the “educational value”
of the Teen Tours! But so far, Todd has been more valuable in bolstering the hangovers,
taking everyone out drinking almost every night. I’m sure tonight everyone else will
go extra wild. It is, after all, our last stop, Stratford-upon-Avon, a city full of
Culture! Which seems to translate into a disproportionate number of pubs named after
Shakespeare and frequented by people in blaring white sneakers.
Ms. Foley is wearing her own snow-white sneakers—along with a pair of neatly pressed
blue jeans and a Teen Tours! polo shirt—as she reprimands Todd. Sometimes, at night,
when everyone else is out on the town, she will tell me she ought to call the head
office on him. But she never seems to follow through. I think partly because when
she scolds, he flirts. Even with Ms. Foley. Especially with Ms. Foley.
“I think it starts at seven,” I say to Melanie. I look at my watch, another graduation
present, thick gold, the back engraved
. It weighs heavy against my sweaty wrist. “It’s six thirty now.”
“Geez, the Brits do love to line up. Or queue. Or whatever. They should take a lesson
from the Italians, who just mob. Or maybe the Italians should take a lesson from the
Brits.” Melanie tugs on her miniskirt—her bandage skirt, she calls it—and adjusts
her cami-top. “God, Rome. It feels like a year ago.”
Rome? Was it six days ago? Or sixteen? All of Europe has become a blur of airports,
buses, old buildings, and prix-fixe menus serving chicken in various kinds of sauce.
When my parents gave me this trip as a big high-school graduation present, I was a
little reluctant to go. But Mom had reassured me that she’d done her research. Teen
Tours! was very well regarded, noted for its high-quality educational component, as
well as the care that was taken of its students. I would be well looked after. “You’ll
never be alone,” my parents had promised me. And, of course, Melanie was coming too.
And they were right. I know everyone else gives Ms. Foley crap for the eagle eye she
keeps on us, but I appreciate how she is always doing a head count, even appreciate
how she disapproves of the nightly jaunts to local bars, though most of us are of
legal drinking age in Europe—not that anyone over here seems to care about such things
I don’t go to the bars. I usually just go back to the hotel rooms Melanie and I share
and watch TV. You can almost always find American movies, the same kinds of movies
which, back at home, Melanie and I often watched together on weekends, in one of our
rooms, with lots of popcorn.
“I’m roasting out here,” Melanie moans. “It’s like middle of the afternoon still.”
I look up. The sun is hot, and the clouds race across the sky. I like how fast they
go, nothing in their way. You can tell from the sky that England’s an island. “At
least it’s not pouring like it was when we got here.”
“Do you have a pony holder?” Melanie asks. “No, of course you don’t. I bet you’re
loving your hair now.”
My hand drifts to the back of my neck, which still feels strange, oddly exposed. The
Teen Tour! had begun in London, and on the second afternoon, we’d had a few free hours
for shopping, which I guess qualifies as culture. During that time, Melanie had convinced
me to get my hair bobbed. It was all part of her precollege reinvention scheme, which
she’d explained to me on the flight over: “No one at college will know that we were
AP automatons. I mean, we’re too pretty to just be brainiacs, and at college, everyone
will be smart. So we can be cool
smart. Those two things will no longer be mutually exclusive.”
For Melanie, this reinvention apparently meant the new heavy-on-skimp wardrobe she’d
blown half her spending money on at Topshop, and the truncating of her name from Melanie
to Mel—something I can’t quite remember to do, no matter how many times she kicks
me under the table. For me, I guess it meant the haircut she talked me into.
I’d freaked out when I’d seen myself. I’ve had long black hair and no bangs for as
long as I can remember, and the girl staring back at me in the salon mirror didn’t
look like anything like me. At that point, we’d only been gone two days, but my stomach
went hollow with homesickness. I wanted to be back in my bedroom at home, with my
familiar peach walls, my collection of vintage alarm clocks. I’d wondered how I was
ever going to handle college if I couldn’t handle this.
But I’ve gotten used to the hair, and the homesickness has mostly gone away, and even
if it hasn’t, the tour is ending. Tomorrow, almost everyone else is taking the coach
straight to the airport to fly home. Melanie and I are catching a train down to London
to stay with her cousin for three days. Melanie is talking about going back to the
salon where I got my bob to get a pink streak in her hair, and we’re going to see
Let It Be
in the West End. On Sunday, we fly home, and soon after that, we start college—me
near Boston, Melanie in New York.
“Set Shakespeare free!”
I look up. A group of about a dozen people are coming up and down the line, handing
out multicolored neon flyers. I can tell straightaway that they’re not American—no
bright white tennis shoes or cargo shorts in sight. They are all impossibly tall,
and thin, and different looking, somehow. It’s like even their bone structure is foreign.
“Oh, I’ll take one of those.” Melanie reaches out for a flyer and uses it to fan her
“What’s it say?” I ask her, looking at the group. Here in touristy Stratford-upon-Avon,
they stand out like fire-orange poppies in a field of green.
Melanie looks at the flyer and wrinkles her nose. “Guerrilla Will?”
A girl with the kind of magenta streaks Melanie has been coveting comes up to us.
“It’s Shakespeare for the masses.”
I peer at the card. It reads
Guerrilla Will. Shakespeare Without Borders. Shakespeare Unleashed. Shakespeare For
Free. Shakespeare For All.
“Shakespeare for free?” Melanie reads.
“Yeah,” the magenta-haired girl says in accented English. “Not for capitalist gain.
How Shakespeare would’ve wanted it.”
“You don’t think he’d want to actually sell tickets and make money from his plays?”
I’m not trying to be a smart-ass, but I remember that movie
Shakespeare in Love
and how he was always owing money to somebody or other.
The girl rolls her eyes, and I start to feel foolish. I look down. A shadow falls
over me, momentarily blocking out the glare of the sun. And then I hear laughter.
I look up. I can’t see the person in front of me because he’s backlit by the still-bright
evening sun. But I can hear him.
“I think she’s right,” he says. “Being a starving artist is not so romantic, maybe,
when you’re actually starving.”
I blink a few times. My eyes adjust, and I see that the guy is tall, maybe a full
foot taller than I am, and thin. His hair is a hundred shades of blond, and his eyes
so brown as to almost be black. I have to tilt my head up to look at him, and he’s
tilting his head down to look at me.
“But Shakespeare is dead; he’s not collecting royalties from the grave. And we, we
are alive.” He opens his arms, as if to embrace the universe. “What are you seeing?”
.” His accent is so slight as to be almost imperceptible. “I think a night like this,
you don’t waste on tragedy.” He looks at me, like it’s a question. Then he smiles.
“Or indoors. We are doing
. Outside.” He hands me a flyer.
about it,” Melanie says in her coy voice.
The guy raises one shoulder and cocks his head toward it so his ear is almost touching
his very angular shoulder blade. “What you will,” he says, though he’s looking at
me. Then he saunters off to join the rest of his troupe.
Melanie watches them go. “Wow, why are they not on the Teen Tours! Cultural Extravaganza?
That’s some culture I could get into!”
I watch them leave, feeling a strange tug. “I’ve seen
before, you know.”
Melanie looks at me, her eyebrows, which she has overly plucked into a thin line,
raised. “Me too. It was on TV, but still . . .”
“We could go . . . to this. I mean, it would be different. A cultural experience,
which is why our parents sent us on this tour.”
Melanie laughs. “Look at you, getting all bad! But what about Our Fearless Leader?
It looks like she’s gearing up for one of her head counts.”
“Well, the heat was really bothering you . . . ” I begin.
Melanie looks at me for a second, then something clicks. She licks her lips, grins,
and then crosses her eyes. “Oh, yeah. I totally have heatstroke.” She turns to Paula,
who’s from Maine and is studiously reading a Fodor’s guide. “Paula, I’m feeling so
“It’s way hot,” Paula says, nodding sympathetically. “You should hydrate.”
“I think I might faint or something. I’m seeing black spots.”
“Don’t pile it on,” I whisper.
“It’s good to build a case,” Melanie whispers, enjoying this now. “Oh, I think I’m
going to pass out.”
“Ms. Foley,” I call.
Ms. Foley looks up from ticking names off her roll-call sheet. She comes over, her
face so full of concern, I feel bad for lying. “I think Melanie, I mean Mel, is getting
“Are you poorly? It shouldn’t be much longer now. And it’s lovely and cool inside
the theater.” Ms. Foley speaks in a strange hybrid of Britishisms with a Midwestern
accent that everyone makes fun of because they think it’s pretentious. But I think
it’s just that she’s from Michigan and spends a lot of time in Europe.
“I feel like I’m going to puke.” Melanie pushes on. “I would hate to do that inside
the Swan Theatre.”
Ms. Foley’s face wrinkles in displeasure, though I can’t tell if it is from the idea
of Melanie barfing inside the Swan or using the word
in such close proximity to the Royal Shakespeare Company. “Oh, dear. I’d better escort
you back to the hotel.”
“I can take her,” I say.
“Really? Oh, no. I couldn’t. You should see
“No, it’s fine. I’ll take her.”
“No! It’s my responsibility to take her. I simply couldn’t burden you like that.”
I can see the argument she’s having with herself play out over her pinched features.
“It’s fine, Ms. Foley. I’ve seen
before, and the hotel is just over the square from here.”
“Really? Oh, that would be lovely. Would you believe in all the years I’ve been doing
this, I have never seen the Bard’s
done by the RSC?”
Melanie gives a little moan for dramatic effect. I gently elbow her. I smile at Ms.
Foley. “Well, then, you definitely shouldn’t miss it.”
She nods solemnly, as though we are discussing important business here, order of succession
to the throne or something. Then she reaches for my hand. “It has been such a pleasure
traveling with you, Allyson. I shall miss you. If only more young people today were
like you. You are such a . . .” She pauses for a moment, searching for the right word.
“Such a good girl.”
“Thank you,” I say automatically. But her compliment leaves me empty. I don’t know
if it’s because that’s the nicest thing she could think to say about me, or if it’s
because I’m not being such a good girl right now.
“Good girl, my ass.” Melanie laughs once we are clear of the queue and she can give
up her swooning act.
“Be quiet. I don’t like pretending.”
“Well, you’re awfully good at it. You could have a promising acting career of your
own, if you ask me.”
“I don’t ask you. Now, where is this place?” I look at the flyer. “Canal Basin? What
Melanie pulls out her phone, which, unlike my cell phone, works in Europe. She opens
the map app. “It appears to be a basin by the canal.”
A few minutes later, we arrive at a waterfront. It feels like a carnival, full of
people hanging about. There are barges moored to the side of the water, different
boats selling everything from ice cream to paintings. What there isn’t is any kind
of theater. Or stage. Or chairs. Or actors. I look at the flyer again.
“Maybe it’s on the bridge?” Melanie asks.
We walk back over to the medieval arched bridge, but it’s just more of the same: tourists
like us, milling around in the hot night.