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Never Be

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It arrives in the post on a typical drizzly afternoon in July, and Harry is beyond ready for it, eager and body thrumming with anticipation. The envelope is sealed tightly, thick and heavy in his hands, and he tears it open impatiently, shaking the raindrops from his eyelashes. He quickly scans the document for his assignment.

His mum leans over his shoulder. “Well? What does it say?”

“Hartford.” He furrows his brows. “Where’s that?” He pulls out his phone and enters it into a map. “Oh. Connecticut.” Not what he was expecting.

“Is that near any major city?”

He nods. “Looks like it’s about two hours away from New York City.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful!”

“Yeah…” Harry glances over the document again. “I sort of specified I’d like to study abroad in an actual city, though. Two hours is sort of out of the way, isn’t it?”

“That’s about how far away we are from London and you go there nearly every weekend, love.”

“I wanted my uni experience in the United States to be different, though. What if Hartford looks just like my own hometown does?”

“Is that so bad?”

He shrugs. “No, I guess not. I just didn’t want everything to be the same, is all.”

“Harry.” His mum takes the papers out of his hands and places them on the countertop beside her. “No matter where you study, no matter what you do, your experience is going to be brilliant, as long as you allow it to be. Don’t have a poor attitude going into this before you even give it a try. You’re going to be there for nine months. That’s a long time to have a negative outlook on something.”

He sighs. “Okay, yeah, you’re right. Lemme see the papers again, I barely even looked to see what university I’ll be studying at.”

She rolls her eyes and hands him the document. “Minor details, yeah?”

Harry waves his hands around. “No big deal.” He reads through the rest of the paperwork, finger tracing along each word. “University of Connecticut. Apparently, the enrollment is over 30,000 people.”

Anne whistles. “Quite large. Sounds like a small city to me.”

“Yeah, I’ll say.” He keeps reading and stops when he gets to the information about his new home. “My Connecticut family is less than 30 minutes from the university, so that’s nice.”

“Will you be living on campus?”

“Based on this, it sounds like I can decide which I prefer.”

“What do you think you’ll decide?”

“I dunno.” He runs his fingers along the edge of the paper. “I’ll probably start off at their home, and then move to campus later on, if living with them is completely terrible.”

“I’m sure they’ll be lovely.”

“They could be murderers. Or like… Trump supporters.”

She laughs. “Positive attitude, please, Harry.”

He bunches up the papers between his fist, his teeth clenched together. “I’m excited,” he says flatly.

“Sounds it. Alright, that’s all the moping you’re allowed. You’re moving to America. You’re going to be living just two hours outside the most famous city in the world. You’re so lucky. ” She grabs his shoulders and shakes him. “How are you not as thrilled as I am?”

Harry breaks, smiling, knowing she’s won. He does some quick math in his head. “40 more days.”

“But who’s counting?”

His grin widens. “I have to buy luggage.”

“You have some.”

“I need more. I’m leaving for nine months. You just said it.”

She purses her lips together. “Nine months.”

He rolls his eyes. “I’ll come back. Just gonna finish my last year in another country.”

“He says, so casually.”

He laughs and looks back down at the paper. August 24th is highlighted. He swallows. “I am a bit nervous.”

“Well, you’re human, aren’t you?”

“To my knowledge, I am.”

Anne ignores him and continues. “You’re supposed to be nervous. This is a big change.”

He nods. “Understatement of the century.”

“You’re going to absolutely love it. I promise you.”

He wants to believe her. “I hope so.”

“I know so.” She grabs for the document. “Now, let’s read some more about your new family.”

“Yeah, let’s do that.”

Anne skims over the second page and laughs. “Their surname sounds British.”

He huffs out a laugh, too. “Wouldn’t that be something. I fly halfway across the world to stay with another British family. Does it say anything else?”

She nods, continuing to read. “Mum is Johanna, Dad is Dan, and there are…” She trails off, eyes growing wide. “ Seven kids. Five daughters, two sons.” Amusement is written all over her face. “Oh, love, you are in for a treat .”

“What?!”

“Their oldest son is about your age, so that’s lovely. Oh my. Two sets of twins, and the younger set is just barely two years old.” She glances up at Harry.  “Are you sure you signed up for the right program? Seems more like an au pair situation, to me.”

Harry’s sure his face is permanently frozen, jaw open and eyes unblinking. “I can’t believe I’m moving across the world to live in an actual nursery,” he says with a groan, and Anne laughs. “What’s their last name?”

She flips to the second page. “Deakin-Tomlinson.”