★ meredith bernice li is born with an endlessly unfortunate name and a chip on your shoulder. you've got two young, asian-american parents who seem to like each other, and their ever-disobedient little girl, well enough. life isn't easy, but then, you're not an easy child.
★ the first home you remember is a small apartment in toledo, ohio. at four, you clutch the home phone and call '911' behind in the sofa in the living room, for no reason other than to satisfy your curiosity and to give your mother another headache for the afternoon. you hide behind your mother's legs and she can't bear to scold you.
★ you move out of one high-rise apartment to a third-level condo in jacksonville, north carolina, four months later, following your military father's job wherever it takes them. you're never in one place for longer than a few months at a time, and you get used to being the new kid on the block.
★ you're eight when your first little fib about who you are and where you're from comes out, during your second introduction of the year in only october. syracuse, new york, becomes new york city, and suddenly you're just a little bit more interesting. meredith bernice becomes benny, and slowly, you learn to push your boundaries, spinning yarns and stretching the truth. white lies turn into tall tales and a pathological habit you can't get rid of.
★ later that year, your mom finally decides she's had enough of your father's spending habits and dead-end lifestyle. the court rooms all blur together, and despite all the hard times you've given her, you choose your mother, in the end. she takes you to a small town you've driven past before on your way to sacramento: peachtree city, california.
★ the move turns out to be the best thing that's ever happened to you in your whole goddamn life. you've got a couple kids your age in your neighborhood that you bond with over your shared bus route and penchant for childhood hijinks. over time, some move in and others move away, but the breakfast club stays true.
★ then you grow up, a little. middle school begins and your interests start to diverge from that of your childhood friends. you pick up skateboarding on a borrowed pennyboard, and you shrug when your friends complain that you've always got more freedom than they do and just find others to hang with. your mother, busy with two jobs and a household to run, doesn't notice the small trinkets you start bringing home that you don't have the money to pay for.
★ before you know it, high school comes. you've changed, your old friends have changed, but the air somehow smells fresher and the autumn leaves feel crisper underneath your feet. now your sixth consecutive year in peachtree, you've finally found some semblance of stability— so why is it that all you covet is more freedom?