I secure the ends of a Twizzler around Neighbor Boy’s wrist. It’s a friendship bracelet. It’s a goodbye gift. It’s sticky and sugary, even though he has an orthodontist appointment in a few hours. But screw it, this is our end-of-hell celebration.

Middle school was generally terrible. By far the worst three years of my life, and not just because of school. Tons of suckish stuff happened. But it’s gone now, and I can try to begin to move past everything.

I gave a “graduation” (please, it’s just eighth grade) speech. I got a lot of compliments from parents afterwards. One of my friends cried (it wasn’t even a sad speech). I felt pretty good about it; it felt like the closure I needed. I didn’t lie and say the school was perfect…I just tried to focus on the concept of optimism.

Afterwards, despite my excitement to leave it forever, I started to kind of miss school. I called a couple of friends-but-not-super-close people. They said everyone we knew was still hanging out at the school, so I walked over there (it’s like a 10-minute walk) to find that everyone had left (immediately after my phone call, I guess). The only one left was Neighbor Boy. We ate candy and played with Photoshop until I had to go home. It wasn’t what I expected but, again, closure. I’m going to miss that kid. I’m kind of even going to miss middle school and its awfulness and how everyone suffered through it awkwardly and together.

My family is almost definitely moving. I visited the high school of the little suburban town we’re going to—a preppy place full of spray tans, Uggs, and Abercrombie. It’s a different kind of preppy from the private-school lacrosse girls I’m used to. It’s actually…nicer. Not a silent contest about who has the best stuff. And there is a little bit of diversity (racial and otherwise) that my last school never had. I saw a guy in a Misfits shirt and had a little heart attack…and I’m not even a huge Misfits fan.

“You’re Ruby,” said some guy in the hallway. He said we were in first grade together before I moved to China and back. He recognized me even with my newly dark hair and my glasses, but I had no idea who he was. I was shadowing my friend Megan, who lives in the new town and goes to the new school. She doesn’t even know everyone in her grade! What?! It’s a small town but a big school. I’m used to a bigger city and a tiny school. It’s always been that way. I know every face and name inside, and none outside. In this new place it is the opposite. Weird. Exciting, in a way.

I walked down the hallway. A girl looked me up and down and gave my outfit—black Docs, Super Lovers tee, Catholic-school skirt—a snotty look. But she wasn’t fake about it. She didn’t call me “random” or “odd in a good way.” She just went about her business, and I did the same, and we were both happy. No lies, no labels. No trying to figure me out. She just didn’t like my clothes, OK, the end. Why do I love this so much?

I want to live in this little suburban town and go to this big high school. I want this new life to start, where I can keep to myself and my friends, and avoid drama. I want to start over in a place where I’ll be left on my own to figure things out, instead of having default friends or teachers helping me with every little thing. This will make me more myself and less “the weird loveable one.” I hope that makes sense. I hope this works. ♦