Read Last Summer Online

Authors: Rebecca A. Rogers

Tags: #contemporary romance young adult mature drug use drugs contemporary romance drama

Last Summer

BOOK: Last Summer
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Last Summer

 

REBECCA A. ROGERS

This is a work of fiction. All characters,
organizations and events portrayed in this novel are either
products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Copyright © 2012 Rebecca A. Rogers

All rights reserved. This book or any portion
thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the author, except for
the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Smashwords Edition

First Edition: July 18, 2012

Dear Reader,

 

As I wrote this book, I couldn’t help but
think about the many people across the world affected by drug
addiction. So many times we believe it won’t happen to us, but the
truth of the matter is, at some point in our lives, we’ll know
someone who is battling an addiction, whether it’s drugs, alcohol,
or otherwise. Here are some statistics according to the National
Institute on Drug Abuse for 2009 (there are various updated studies
on NIDA’s website, as shown in number eight below, but this was the
last full survey conducted by NIDA):

 

1. 605,000 Americans age 12 and older had
abused heroin at least once in the year prior to being
surveyed.

 

2. 51.9% of Americans age 12 or older had
used alcohol at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey.

 

3. 4.8 million Americans age 12 or older had
abused cocaine in any form, and 1.0 million had abused crack at
least once in the year prior to being surveyed.

 

4. 779,000 Americans age 12 or older had
abused LSD (Acid) at least once in the year prior to being
surveyed.

 

5. 28.5 million Americans age 12 or older had
abused marijuana at least once in the year prior to being
surveyed.

 

6. 2.8 million Americans age 12 or older had
abused MDMA (Ecstasy) at least once in the year prior to being
surveyed.

 

7. 16 million Americans age 12 and older had
taken a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, stimulant, or
sedative for nonmedical purposes at least once in the year prior to
being surveyed.

 

8. The NIDA-funded 2010 Monitoring the Future
Study showed that 0.5% of 8th graders, 1.0% of 10th graders, and
1.5% of 12th graders had abused anabolic steroids at least once in
the year prior to being surveyed.

 

If you or someone you love is suffering from
an addiction, there’s still hope. There are a number of treatment
options, but they each start with you. For residents of the United
States, you can contact the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
at 1-800-662-HELP.

 

For those of you who know someone suffering
from addiction, please don’t hesitate to speak up, especially on a
matter such as this. Time is of the essence, and it’s critical that
we help someone now.

 

I wish you all the best.

 

Rebecca

 

 

 

“The world is full of suffering; it is also
full of overcoming it.”

– Helen Keller

 

 

 

One

Chloe

 

 

I
’ve acted
oblivious to my parents growing further apart over the past six
months. Dad works long hours on most evenings, coming home well
past midnight. Mom and I eat dinner, and then she piles on the
couch to watch Lifetime movies, sip her wine, and bawl her eyes
out. I used to think she cried because of the sappy stories, but as
time passed, I realized she cried because she’s losing Dad.

So this will be our last summer at the lake
house. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. There won’t be
additional memories created on the lake, riding in my parents’
boat. There won’t be late-night bonfires by the water. No more talk
of planning the following year’s vacation and how we can’t wait to
come back. More than anything, though, I wish they would’ve told me
about this trip prior to packing our bags and hitting the old,
dusty trail because now I’m stuck with two people who can’t stand
the sight of one another. I’m betting money they plan on releasing
the giant elephant in the room upon our return home.

This illusion of a perfect life is all just
a show, and I’m the audience.

I pull out one of my ear plugs. Listening to
music for the past three hours has bored me to death. “How much
farther?” I ask.

“Almost there, Chloe,” Mom replies. “We’ll
make a quick stop at the Grab-N-Go to pick up a few items, so if
you need anything while we’re there, let us know.”

They always buy groceries before heading to
the lake house. Mom loads us up with plenty of snacks and sandwich
food, while Dad hauls cases of soda and water to the car. Just like
the old days when our family was happy.

A few miles later, Dad maneuvers the car
into a parking space outside the familiar, mid-sized building. It’s
lunchtime, and the place is swarming with an assortment of tourists
and locals.

“You sure you don’t need anything while
we’re in here?” Mom asks once more. “Last chance.”

“Nope. I’m good.”

As they exit the car, I step out, too,
stretching my legs and inhaling fresh air. Being trapped with a
couple of adults who haven’t said two words to each other in the
last week is pretty awkward. I just wish they’d lay their problems
on a table and get this divorce thing over with.

I shudder at the thought of the D word, even
though it’s inevitable.

Closing my eyes, I draw in a deep breath and
release. I will
not
let my parents’ problems come between me
and an unforgettable summer. I’ll attempt to enjoy every minute I
have with them because we’ll never get a do-over. I can be the
daughter they want, and in the meantime, I can act as if they were
still in love. After all, they’re probably here for my sake.

“Mind opening that for me?” Dad motions with
his head toward the back end of the Toyota RAV4. I open the rear
door.

Mom’s not far behind, lugging grocery bags
tight with commodities, which look like they’ll bust at any second.
I watch my parents in that short amount of time; Dad pretends like
he doesn’t see Mom’s arms weighed down with supplies, and Mom
pretends like she doesn’t see him notice her.

“Here, I’ll take a couple,” I say, because
the white plastic digs into her skin.

“Thanks, honey.”

The expanse of silence between these two is
amazing, really. How can people loathe each other so much, yet put
on a show for the benefit of their daughter? I know one thing: I
can’t wait to be alone; away from my parents, away from the real
world. I’ll go for a jog like I always do once I unpack. There’s
just something about the openness of this place, something that
drives me to spread my non-existent wings and soar through the
trees with the warm sun adhering to my forehead, nose, and cheeks.
Running has that effect on my soul; it’s a form of escape, lifting
the stress of the world off my shoulders and placing it elsewhere
for the time being. Therapy at its best.

One additional happy memory springs to mind
when I reflect on my vacations here:

When I was much younger and less troubled,
Mom and Dad agreed I could bring a friend to Sandy Shores. Jessica
Huntington. She and I were inseparable in middle school. We did the
usual girlie stuff at that age: slumber parties, wear each other’s
clothes, dream we were dating celebrity crushes, dream we were
dating real-life crushes. So when our parents allowed Jessica to
spend the summer with us, we were both beyond ecstatic. We could
only imagine the adventures that’d take place over the summer: the
cute boys we could ogle and drool over, sunbathing, chugging
lemonade like it was the last thing we’d ever drink.

On the second night of our stay, Jessica and
I slipped out for a walk. Winding through the scraggly brush and
wild grass around the lake, we stumbled upon an aged, forsaken
cottage. Perfect hideout material. What we were hiding from,
exactly, I still don’t know. The world, maybe? Because when it was
just the two of us, alone, in a frightening house, the world
outside didn’t exist. We told ghost stories and were terrified
every time a breeze rustled branches or leaves, certain it was the
Boogeyman. Each night thereafter we waited until lights out before
we exited my parents’ lake house. Each night the stories grew
scarier, the house older, and the wind more blatant in its attempts
to alarm us.

It was the best and worst summer of my
life.

Toward the end of our vacation, Jessica’s
mom drove to Sandy Shores to pick her up. No phone call. No
warning. I remember my parents having a brief discussion with
Jessica’s mom in the driveway, their faces swallowed in grief, as I
stood at the front door. I was too young at the time to understand
why Jessica had to leave. What did we do wrong? Did my parents know
about our late-night outings? Had I offended them somehow?

It wasn’t until we returned home that my
parents explained the totality of the situation: Jessica’s dad was
in a car accident, and he didn’t survive. I was heartbroken for
her. She missed school for two weeks, and when she returned, things
changed.
She
changed. It was almost as if she was
embarrassed that I was around to witness her dad’s passing. Or
maybe every time she saw me, I was the poster child for the
horrible incident.

We never spoke of what happened that night.
Actually, we never really spoke again. Jessica moved on to a more
popular crowd, became a cheerleader freshman year, and began dating
a football player—typical high school clichés. As for me, I stuck
with track, buried my nose in books, and kept to myself. But every
now and again, I caught Jessica glancing my way. Nothing that
garnered attention from her new clique, but it was enough to chip
off a piece of my heart.

So now, when I look at my dad, at how he’s
abandoning Mom and me for a younger, livelier girl who we’ve never
met, I think about Jessica’s dad, about how he never had a choice
when parting from his family. My dad has willingly made that
decision, and part of me hates him for it.

I refocus as we reach our driveway. Small
pebbles crunch under the tires like a long procession of bubble
wrap, and the scent of freshly-mowed grass invades the vents. Not
the most glamorous smell in the world, but it definitely reminds me
of summertime.

Our lake house hasn’t changed once in the
years I’ve visited. The paint job impersonates a pale sun, and the
white shutters remind me of clean linen. Inside, seashells and
starfish adorn the walls, which are painted the same pastel yellow
as the outside. Trust me, if I’ve told my mom once, I’ve told her a
hundred times: we don’t live on the beach, so the decorations need
to go. A lakeside beach, maybe. But a real beach? Nada. And every
single time she replies, “Seashells and starfish remind people of
beaches, and beaches remind people of vacation, which is what we’re
on, is it not?”

“Help me get these drinks in the fridge,
will ya, pumpkin?” Dad says as we lug groceries in. Setting the
drinks on the kitchen counter, he separates plastic rings from the
sodas, and I grab the newly-freed cans to place in the
refrigerator.

Mom carries the last of the grocery bags and
begins emptying their contents. “Looks like we have plenty of food
for the next two weeks,” she says. “I’ll have to make another trip
after that.”

Dad smiles weakly; it would’ve been
imperceptible if I hadn’t been paying attention. He and I finish
stockpiling the drinks, and he disappears from the kitchen. My
guess is he’s searching for a reason to hide from Mom.

She notices his absence, too.

“Well,” she blurts, but it comes out as more
of a huff than a word.

“I’m sure he’s just ready to unpack like the
rest of us,” I lie. “It’s been a long day.”

Pausing midway to the cabinets, she says,
“It’s been a long year,” so quietly that I want to tap my eardrums
to ensure they’re still receptive. But the moment passes, and she
finishes storing the goodies. “Listen, honey, why don’t you follow
your father’s lead and unpack your things? You’ll feel better once
you get situated.”

Don’t push me away, Mom. I’m all you’ve
got.

“Sure,” I say with a smile, abstaining from
my subconscious words.

Upstairs, I bypass my parents’ room. The
door is closed, except for a two-inch gap, and Dad speaks so
quietly his voice is ghostlike. I back up, peeking through the
crack. He paces back and forth across a four-foot space at the end
of the bed, combing his fingers through his hair a bit too gruffly.
He seems bewildered.

“Can’t this wait?” he hisses into his cell
phone. “Jesus Christ, Oksana, I’m on vacation with my family . . .
No, of course not . . . You
know
I want to; I just can’t
escape right now.”

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