Seventeen Against the Dealer (28 page)

BOOK: Seventeen Against the Dealer
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Jeff didn't stand up. He didn't say anything. He turned his back to her and looked out the window.

The creek wound like a silver ribbon through moon-frosted marshes. Dicey walked around and sat back against the edge of the table, trying to see Jeff's face. “I'm sorry,” she said.

“You have no right to promise me things I never ask for,” Jeff said. He didn't even look at her.

He was angry, and at her. She wasn't about to quarrel with him, not about whether he could be angry at her. “I don't understand,” she told him. “Look. Jeff.” He didn't move his head. “I want to marry you. That's what I want. What about you?” She was keeping it as simple and clear as she could.

“There's no need for you to have to choose, Dicey,” he said, his voice as cold as moonlight.

Dicey didn't understand. “What do you mean?”

“Just what I said.”

“But you haven't said anything, Jeff.”

Then he did look at her. “You know, there are courses, there are some schools that teach courses. Or apprentice programs, lots of them. You never even thought about that, did you?”

“Are you angry at me for dropping out of school?”

“No. I'm angry at you because you never even thought about any other way. And then you come out here and tell me you'll give the whole thing up. As if that was even what I wanted.”

He was right. Dicey didn't want him to be right, but he was. It was her turn now to look out the window, because she hadn't even tried to think about it, she had just gone ahead doing it her own way. It wouldn't do any good to apologize. He probably already knew that she regretted what she'd done—and he didn't even know half the reasons she had to be sorry. “I lost that contract, for the boat,” she told him. “I'm losing the shop at the end of the month.”

“I thought there was something like that,” Jeff said, his voice cold and unsympathetic. That was all right with her; it wasn't sympathy she was looking for.

Dicey stood beside Jeff, looking at the twisting vines of the undergrowth and the looped creek, and at the stretching marsh, with the moon moving across the sky, as if the whole thing was a movie. Like the whole thing was a black-and-white movie, the moon moving out there among the stars, a movie someone was showing—

“Can you rent video cameras?” she asked Jeff.

She could feel his surprise. When he had reached out a hand to turn on the light and look at her face, she could see it, surprise and confusion.

“I'm sorry,” she said, “it's just that—
you rent them?” If you could, there were indoor courts up in Salisbury. If she rented a video camera, and they rented an hour with the pro, he could play with Sammy and she could tape it. Then Sammy could send the tape to the camp.

“Sure,” Jeff said, cautious.

“Because of Sammy's tennis camp scholarship, the one he can't get—”

At the look on Jeff's face, as if his features were falling apart, she stopped herself. “I didn't mean,” she said. “I just thought of it and—I thought it was hopeless and I just now thought of this and—” Jeff's face collapsed into laughter.

Dicey didn't know what was so funny. He was laughing, but he looked tired. She didn't like to see him looking so tired. She wondered how his interviews had gone and what he'd be doing next year, where he'd be living. She wondered if she was going to get to talk with him about how badly she'd done with the business, and hear his advice.

“I don't mind,” Jeff said. “It's just like you. Sometimes, you've got a mind like a jumping bean. I didn't get you any flowers,” he told her.

“I didn't expect any.”

“I wanted to get you a tree, if I was going to get you anything, but—do you know how much trees cost, Dicey?”

Dicey shook her head. She tucked that tree away to think about.

“Why do you want to get married?” he asked her. “Now, all of a sudden.” His gray eyes studied her face.

She couldn't explain. She couldn't even begin to explain. There were too many reasons, all too woven tight together into a cloth that was too . . . beautiful, or thick, or right, or complicated, she didn't know what—she knew only what its value was. She couldn't even begin to put words to it. And then Dicey knew, from looking into Jeff's eyes, that not being able to explain was the right answer.

“I didn't get you a tree, either,” he said. “I got you a book.”

A book? Dicey tried not to, but her face gave her away.

“Poetry,” Jeff added. “You're not going to like it.” He didn't seem to mind that. “Or maybe you will.”

“Then why did you get it?” Dicey demanded.

“Because it's what I wanted to give you. Whether you want it or not. If you came over, I wanted to give you something I wanted to give you, not just what you want me to give you.”

“What does that mean, Jeff?” Dicey asked him. She was going to try to understand, and if she really tried she bet maybe she could. “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean yes,” Jeff said.

“Oh,” Dicey said. She had the feeling she had missed most of the conversation. But she knew without asking, yes what.

“Oh,” she said again. “Well—that's good.” The conversation had ended up all right, so that was fine—that was like the wind rising to fill the sails of a boat, now she was beginning to hear all of what it meant—but how they'd gotten there she had no idea.

“In June, after graduation,” Jeff said. “We could get married the first week in June.”

“Okay,” Dicey said. She was catching up with him. “That would be good.”

“If you've got time now, I'd like to talk to you about the interviews and the options. Because if we're going to be married, it better be a coastal school, don't you think?”

“Yeah, sure. Can I call Sammy first? To tell them where I am, and about the camera, and—don't laugh at me.”

“I'm not.”

“Yes, you are.”

“Okay, I am. But not at you. I'm laughing because—because now it's settled. It's going to be all right and I thought it wouldn't ever—we almost lost everything, Dicey.”

“It was my fault,” she said. “I know that. I was—I haven't been—”

“It would have been both of us, losing. It's never just one, winning or losing, it would have to be both of our faults. But now it's—how about some tea? How about if I put on a pot of water for tea?”

Dicey followed him into the kitchen. “Are you sure June will be all right?” he asked.

“June is fine for me. Or April, March—tomorrow, I'd like tomorrow.”

“I can't,” Jeff said. “The Professor won't be back until the end of May, and he should be there. But Monday we'll go to the bank, to get your ring.”

“What ring? I don't need any ring.”

“I didn't ask you,” Jeff pointed out. “I have it for you, I've had it for you for years. I'm going to have to get my honors thesis written this spring, so I'm going to be pretty busy. What about you? If you don't have the shop, what are you going to do over the spring? Besides come up for weekends, and be here when I come home—besides me, what are you going to do?”

Dicey watched him set the kettle on the stove and light the gas under it with a kitchen match. She watched him reach into a cupboard for two mugs and pull out a drawer with boxes of different teas in it. She felt like she could do just about anything she wanted to, this spring, and all the rest of her life, now. She knew the feeling would pass, but that didn't make it wrong. “I'm planning to build a boat,” she told Jeff. She didn't know how he'd feel about that, but it was the truth.

“That sounds right to me,” he said.

“You mean that?”

“Of course. What do you think? I'm pretty confident about you and boats, Dicey. You ought to know that by now. If I were betting, I'd bet on you.”

Dicey almost said, Don't do that; but if Jeff was sure of her
then she was surer of herself. She figured, thinking about it, she'd probably make mistakes, but the mistakes would tell her what she needed to learn. In fact, if she was going to go to school and learn boatbuilding or design, or sign up to be somebody's apprentice, it would be smart to have made some of her mistakes ahead of time. She watched Jeff's face; and he turned to watch hers.

“I think,” he said, his eyes so deep with gladness it could have frightened her if she hadn't been so glad herself, “you owe it to yourself to build your boat.”

“Yes,” Dicey agreed. “Among the other things I owe it to myself to do.” He knew what she meant, and who; she didn't have to worry about Jeff understanding her. But when she thought of all the things she wanted to do, and do right—do right by, do as well as they could be done . . . It was all so risky, because there were no guarantees. You couldn't be sure that any of the risks would pay off. Even if you studied, and planned, and worked, even if you did the best you could, you could still lose out. There was no way to walk away from the truth of that. That's what no guarantees meant. But even knowing that didn't make Dicey feel any different about anything—which puzzled her, because it didn't make sense that it shouldn't. Then she understood—it wasn't guarantees she needed, or any of them needed, but chances, chances to take. Just the chance to take a chance.

And the eye to recognize it, she added.

The hand, to reach out and hold on to it—that, too.

And the heart, or the stomach, or wherever courage came from, she thought.

“Dicey?” Jeff asked. “What's so funny?”

She couldn't begin to explain, except with all the rest of her life. Well, she guessed now was the time to start. Now was always the only time. “I was just thinking,” Dicey said. “Do you want to hear?”

won the Newbery Medal for
Dicey's Song
and a Newbery Honor for
A Solitary Blue
, both part of the beloved Tillerman Cycle. She is also the author of many other celebrated books for middle-grade and teen readers, including the Bad Girls series;
Izzy, Willy-Nilly
; and
. She was awarded the Margaret A. Edwards Award in 1995 for her work in literature, and the Katahdin Award in 2003. She lives in Maine. You can visit her at

Cover design by Debra Sfetsios-Conover

Cover illustration copyright © 2012 by Mick Wiggins

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Simon & Schuster

New York

Ages 12 up

Watch videos, get extras, and read exclusives at

Books by Cynthia Voigt


Bad Girls

Bad, Badder, Baddest

It's Not Easy Being Bad

Bad Girls in Love

Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatcha Gonna Do?



Dicey's Song

A Solitary Blue

The Runner

Come a Stranger

Sons from Afar

Seventeen Against the Dealer



On Fortune's Wheel

The Wings of a Falcon



Building Blocks

The Callender Papers

David and Jonathan

Izzy, Willy-Nilly


Tell Me if the Lovers Are Losers

Tree by Leaf

The Vandemark Mummy

When She Hollers


An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division

1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 1989 by Cynthia Voigt

Lyrics from “Summer Wages,” by Ian Tyson, © 1966 Warner Bros. Inc. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” by Ewan MacColl, © 1962 by Stormking Music Inc. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

ATHENEUM BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS is a registered trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event, contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at

Also available in an Atheneum Books for Young Readers hardcover edition

Book design by Debra Sfetsios-Conover

The text for this book is set in Baskerville.

First Atheneum Books for Young Readers paperback edition July 2012

The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:

Voigt, Cynthia.

Seventeen against the dealer.

Summary: Dicey struggles to make a go of a boatbuilding business while facing family concerns, romantic problems, and the uncertainties of a drifter who offers to help her in her work.

ISBN 978-0-689-31497-1

[1. Family problems—Fiction.] Title.

PZ7.V874Se 1989

[Fic]—dc19 88-27488 CIP AC

ISBN 978-1-4424-5064-6 (hc)

ISBN 978-1-4424-2884-3 (pbk)

ISBN-13: 9781442489196 (eBook)

BOOK: Seventeen Against the Dealer
5.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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