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Authors: Jessica Brody

Boys of Summer

BOOK: Boys of Summer
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For Charlie, with whom I will never stop chasing eternal summer

Oh simple thing, where have you gone?

I'm getting old and I need something to rely on

—from “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane



s soon as I spot the lighthouse rising from the rocky slope of the north-side cliffs, I start to wonder if I'm a total idiot for coming back here.

I lean against the railing of the ferry and watch the tiny island grow closer with every subtle swell and dip of the water. Winlock Harbor is like my second home. It's been a safe haven for as long as I can remember. A perfect escape.

But I'm kidding myself if I think a summer on an island could possibly erase the horror of the past few months.

My phone vibrates in my pocket, stopping the incoming flood of memories. I pull it out to find a text message.

Welcome back! First official clambake of the season tonight. See you at the club?

Mike Metzler. Winlock local and always the first one to know about a party on the island . . . official or otherwise. Also always the first one to
the party to hang out with his wet blanket of a girlfriend.

I smile, tap out a reply, and put the phone back into my pocket, releasing a deep sigh.

is exactly what I need. Parties and beaches and cute girls in sundresses. Mike and his laid-back attitude about everything. Ian and that acoustic guitar he drags around with him like a child with a smelly stuffed toy.

A carefree summer on an island far, far away from Bridgeport, Connecticut, and all the bullshit of the past three months.

This is the reset button I've been looking for. Something to reboot me back to the person I used to be. There's no better place to do that than in Winlock Harbor. And no better people to do it with than Mike and Ian.

The ferry docks at the pier, and as I follow the line of tourists waiting to disembark, I can just make out my father's sailboat parked a few slips away. He came early to get the house ready while I finished up senior finals and my last few rounds of physical therapy.

I step onto the dock, relishing the familiar sights and sounds of the island's tiny marina. My father is waiting at the end of the pier with the convertible. I throw my bag into the backseat and jump in without bothering to open the door. But I regret the move as soon as I land in the passenger seat and my arm screams out in pain.

“Hey, champ.” My father greets me with a friendly punch. Mercifully, it's on my
arm. “How's the wing?” he asks.

I grit my teeth and smile. “Good as new.”

He nods his approval. “That's my boy.”

I haven't told anyone—including my doctor—that my arm still feels like someone ran over it with a semi. I don't want to give them any excuse to keep me captive in Connecticut all summer.

My dad shifts into first gear, but then thinks twice and eases back into neutral. “Wanna drive?” he asks.

I turn toward the open window and shake my head. “Not today.”

I can feel him staring right though my skull, trying to dissect my thoughts in search of weaknesses.

I decide to head him off at the pass, before he can come to any conclusions about why I still refuse to get behind the wheel. “I'm exhausted from the ferry.”

I hold my breath, silently pleading for him not to push it any further. Because the truth is, the ferry ride really
take a lot out of me. And I'm way too tired to come up with any more lies.

Later that night I stand barefoot in the sand in front of the Coral Bay Beach Club, with a frosty plastic cup of beer in my hand and the warm seaside breeze rustling my linen shirt.

I stare into the bonfire, breathing in the smells of the clambake. Smoke seasoned with salt from the ocean. Spices wafting up from the large pots of boiling seafood. It's exactly as I remember, and I'm hoping the familiar scents will smooth out the frayed edges of my nerves.

Everything about this scene is nostalgic. It should feel like home. Nine months ago I couldn't wait to get back here. I couldn't wait to dig my feet back into this very sand and inhale this very air.

But a lot can change in nine months.

We've been at the party for less than an hour, and already the guys are placing bets.

“I've got twenty on Miss America with the red, white, and blue top,” Ian says, setting the stakes. He's tall and lanky like a ski pole, with dark hair that always looks like he went at it with a chain saw.

“No way,” Mike counters. “It'll be the blonde with the seashell barrette.”

Mike towers over both of us, but sometimes his expressions make him look like he's still the little kid that I met building sand castles on the beach twelve summers ago.

“Dude,” I cut in, and take a sip from my drink. “Just the fact that you said the word ‘barrette' scares me a little.”

Usually I don't mind playing this game. Placing wagers on who I will end up leaving the party with has become a summertime staple—like midnight swims, watching
Crusade of Kings,
and the secret handshake we made up as kids—and I know I should be relieved that the guys are talking about something so normal. God knows there are so many other, less fun topics we could be discussing. But for some reason tonight the whole thing is making me antsy. I try to play it off. I don't want them to know that it's taking every ounce of strength I have not to jet down this beach like a three-hundred-pound linebacker is chasing after me.

“You see,” I go on, nudging Mike with my elbow. “This is what happens when you're chained to one woman for six years. You start using words like ‘barrette' without a second thought.”

“What can I say?” Mike replies with his boyish grin. “I speak the language of the ladies.”

Ian nearly chokes on his beer. “More like you speak
a lady. Plus, you're totally wrong. Seashell Barrette isn't leggy enough. It's the first clambake of the season. Statistics show that Grayson always goes for the longest pair of legs first and then works his way down.”

“ ‘Statistics show'?” Mike fires back. “Seriously? Have you been scoring Grayson's scores?”

“Aren't you supposed to be working or something?” Ian asks, sounding scorned. “Isn't there a coffee cup for you to refill or a trash can for you to empty?”

Mike guffaws like this is the funniest thing he's heard
all day. He's held just about every job there is to hold on the island. This summer he's doing ground maintenance at the beach club.

“I'm off tonight,” Mike explains.

BOOK: Boys of Summer
12.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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