Read Spring Breakdown Online

Authors: Melody Carlson

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BOOK: Spring Breakdown
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“Seems she should be here then.” Grandmother pointed to the oversized clock. “It’s past seven now. Where is that girl?”

“Actually, I think Eliza and Casey
are
here,” Rhiannon said cautiously.

“Really?” Grandmother looked perplexed. “Then where are they?”

“I just heard them going into their room. I, uh, I think they’re getting ready.”

“Well, I have the utmost respect for primping and looking one’s best, but those girls should be in here helping too.” Grandmother strode off toward the direction of their room on the other side of the house.

“Oh no,” said Rhiannon. “I guess I should’ve kept my mouth shut.”

“She’s going to see them anyway,” DJ pointed out.

“And maybe they’re—” Taylor’s voice was drowned out by the sound of Grandmother’s high-pitched scream.

“Do you think I should call 911?” asked DJ. She was only partly kidding.

“Let’s go make sure she hasn’t had a stroke.”

All three of them raced toward Eliza and Casey’s room. And there, supporting herself with both hands in the open doorway with her jaw hanging down, stood Grandmother. And in front of her were the two orange girls in their bikinis. In fact, they seemed even oranger now than they’d been previously.

Eliza was talking fast, explaining the day spa, the spray paint, the wrong formula, and how they were going to be sued by the Wiltons’ attorney.

“They should be sued,” agreed Grandmother, “but that doesn’t help us now.”

“We have some product here.” Eliza held up a bottle. “But we thought it would help to swim in the ocean first, so that’s where we’ve been.”

“Yes,” Casey said quickly. “DJ suggested it and it seemed to make sense.”

“Salt water?” Grandmother rubbed her chin. “Yes, as I recall salt water was good for…
good for setting dye
!”

“Setting dye?”

Grandmother turned to DJ now. “Did you tell them that on purpose?”

“So the dye would be set?” DJ shook her head. “No, of course not! I just thought tumbling around in the ocean would help to wear it off. My swimsuits always seem to fade after being in the ocean—or maybe it’s the pool.”

“Well, I remember when I was a little girl and if my mother dyed something, like cloth or Easter eggs, she seemed to add salt to set it.”

“Fantastic.” Eliza drew in a sharp breath and made a fist.

Both Eliza and Casey were glaring at DJ now. “Honestly,” she told them. “I had no idea. I mean, I don’t even take chemistry. And it just seemed like—”

“Get out of here!” screamed Eliza.

“Well!” Grandmother stepped back.

“I don’t mean you, Mrs. Carter.” Eliza spoke between her teeth. “But your granddaughter is not welcome!”

DJ backed away just as Eliza slammed the door. Grandmother remained in the room and seemed to be trying to console the girls, not that it was helping.

“Suddenly this is my fault?” DJ peered at Taylor and Rhiannon. “Now I’m the bad guy just because I suggested a dip in the ocean might help?”

“Who knows?” said Taylor. “They might’ve turned green if they’d gone into the pool.”

“Don’t take it personally, DJ.” Rhiannon patted her gently on the back. “They’re the ones who got sprayed orange.”

“I know.” But even as she said this, she did feel a little responsible. For a brief moment it had seemed like all five of them were starting to get along, like maybe this was actually going to be a fun week. Oh, why hadn’t she just kept her big mouth shut?

12

Eliza and Casey came to dinner wearing long sleeves and long pants and heavy foundation. The guys had already arrived and everyone was out on the patio, with some already eating while others were filling their plates at the buffet table that Taylor, DJ, and Rhiannon had arranged.

“About time the hostess arrived,” teased Lane as Eliza stepped onto the patio. “I thought you were the one who invited me to dinner and you don’t even show up.”

“Sorry, Casey and I had some—uh—”

“This Greek food is killer, Eliza,” said Taylor quickly. “What a great restaurant find.”

“Yeah,” agreed DJ. “You and Casey better get some of that grape leaf salad stuff before it disappears.” She shoved plates at the two girls. “We purposely kept the lights dim out here,” she whispered to them. “You both look almost natural.”

“Thanks a lot,” Eliza hissed quietly.

“By the way,” DJ said, “I did some quick research on the general’s computer and salt does NOT set dye.”

“Set dye?” Lane had obviously been trying to eavesdrop.

“We were talking about tie-dye,” Taylor said quickly.

“And salt doesn’t help it much,” added DJ.

“Oh, I’m so relieved,” said Eliza sarcastically.

Lane laughed. “You girls are so funny.”

“Speaking of funny, there’s that nasty security guard,” Taylor said quietly as she nodded toward the pool. “I thought maybe he’d be fired by now.”

“Ho-ho…a nasty security guard?” Harry’s brows lifted with interest as he glanced over to the pool area. “What does he do that’s so nasty?”

So, to distract the others from Eliza and Casey’s situation, DJ launched into the story of how she and Taylor got caught using the pool after hours.

“And then the perv tries to pull DJ out of the pool,” Taylor added.

“What’s so perverted about that?” asked Lane.

Taylor laughed and looked around as if trying to see who was listening then she lowered her voice. “Just the fact that we were skinny dipping.”

DJ looked to see if Grandmother was within earshot. Thankfully, she’d gone back into the house.

“Skinny dipping?” cried Eliza. “You never told us that part of the story.”

“And don’t go and tell Mrs. Carter either,” Taylor warned her. “Because when it comes to telling secrets, we’ve got plenty of dirt on you, girlfriend.”

Eliza laughed. “Why would I tell Mrs. Carter?” She turned to DJ now. “I cannot believe Miss Goody-Two-Shoes went skinny dipping.”

Lane nudged Harry and grinned. “Looks like we guys came a day late.”

DJ knew her face was red, but hoped it just blended with her sunburn. Still, she wanted to change to a more comfortable
subject. “Hey, are any of you guys into surfing?” she said loudly. “Because I can’t get any of these girlie girls to hang ten with me.”

“You’re a surfer?” Lane’s eyes lit up. “No way!”

“Hey, I grew up in Southern California,” she tossed back. “It’s been awhile, but I think I can remember how to do it.”

“Is there a rental shop around?”

“Less than a mile from here.”

“I’m in,” he said. “How about tomorrow?”

“Works for me.” She turned to the other guys now. “Any other surfer dudes wanna come?”

“I’d give it a try,” said Seth. “It’s probably kind of like snow-boarding, right?”

“Absolutely,” said DJ. “Only wetter.” She looked at Casey now. “You used to surf, Case. How about—”

“I don’t think so,” Casey said in an icy tone.

Then DJ remembered the dye job. Still, was Casey going to let that ruin her fun?

“I’d like to try surfing,” said Bradford. He glanced at Rhiannon. “How about you?”

She gave him a half smile. “Remember, I can’t even swim very well.”

“You should learn,” DJ told her. “Maybe I can give you lessons in the pool while we’re here.”

Rhiannon actually looked interested. “Yeah, maybe…”

“Why wait for lessons?” said Bradford as he grabbed Rhiannon and picked her up, carrying her over to the pool like he was going to dump her.

Rhiannon started to squeal and DJ ran over to help. “You’re not really going to drop her, are you?” she asked Bradford. The next thing she knew, someone had his arms around her. She turned to see it was Lane. And suddenly all the guys were
grabbing girls and within minutes everyone was in the pool. DJ didn’t really mind since she had her swimsuit on beneath her shorts anyway. But Eliza and Casey were furious.

“Thanks a lot!” Eliza snarled at Lane as she pulled her soggy self out of the pool. But her velour warm-up pants were so soaked that they’d slipped down to expose a big patch of orange skin.

“Hey,” said Lane. “You’re turning orange, Eliza.”

“So is Casey,” called out Bradford. “What’s up with you two?”

“They got into some bad tanning dye,” DJ explained quickly.

“Thanks for telling the world,” snapped Eliza. She turned and glared at DJ. But what she didn’t know was that her makeup was now dripping down in stripes and looked hilarious.

“Hey, Tiger Woman,” called out Lane. “You’re looking mighty fierce.”

“Their faces are striped,” hooted Seth. “Is it Halloween?”

Both Casey and Eliza turned their backs and slosh-marched back toward the house while everyone else laughed loudly.

“Don’t give them too bad of a time,” DJ said between giggles. “They’ve had a hard day.”

But as the rest of them sat around in damp clothes, continuing to eat and talk and laugh, Casey and Eliza didn’t return. DJ suspected they were in their room pouting—or perhaps exfoliating. She never would’ve guessed they were drinking.

DJ had been so relieved to see the guys arriving at the party without alcohol, either on them or on their breath. It had almost given her hope. That is, until she went in to tell Eliza and Casey good night as well as to apologize and perhaps convince Casey to come surfing with them tomorrow.

“Don’tcha believe in knocking?” Eliza said to her in a slurred voice as she hid something in the bathroom.

“I did knock,” DJ told her.

“We didn’t hear you,” Casey shot back at her.

“Then turn down the TV,” DJ told her. She went closer to see what was in Casey’s glass, but the smell was her tip off. “You guys are drinking!” she exclaimed.

Casey just shrugged.

“Do you not remember what my grandmother said?”

“Who cares?” Eliza shot back. “It’s not like we’re going to have any fun anyway. Just look at us.” She stood in front of the closet mirror and looked like she was about to start crying again.

“I read online that spray-on tans should start to fade within a few days,” DJ told her.

“In the meantime, I can be found right here,” Eliza said sadly.

“Maybe this is your chance to see that life isn’t just about how you look,” DJ told her.

Eliza actually laughed. “Yeah, right!”

“Seriously,” persisted DJ. “What if you got in an accident and suddenly lost your looks?”

“I have been in an accident,” she protested. “A spraying accident.”

“Do you know how many girls would happily trade their looks for yours, Eliza?” DJ stepped over and looked her square in the eyes. “Orange skin and all?”

Eliza just shrugged.

“You take it all for granted too,” DJ continued. “But maybe this is your opportunity to think about the inner Eliza—look beyond your appearance for a change.” Now DJ turned to Casey. “And what about you?”

“What about me?” Casey held up her glass to the light and studied it.

“You were never like this.”

“Like what?”

“So into your looks.”

“People change.” She narrowed her eyes at DJ now. “Take you for instance, DJ. You’ve changed.”

“How?”

“You used to be a loyal friend.”

“Used to?”

“Yeah…then it’s like you’re only loyal to Taylor.”

DJ didn’t know what to say.

“And I know why,” Casey continued. “It’s because you’re just as shallow as the rest of them. Taylor is beautiful and you like being with the beautiful people. Well, maybe that’s what I’m doing too.”

Eliza held up her hands hopelessly. “The beautiful ORANGE people.”

“Maybe you should start a cult,” said DJ in a flat voice. “The beautiful, orange, shallow people who allow their looks to dictate whether or not they can have a good time.”

Casey held up her glass like she was toasting. “Hey, I’m having a good time.”

“Yeah, right. It looks like you’re having a pity party—a pity party of two.” She shook her finger at Casey now. “And you love surfing, Case! But you’re not going to just because you’re so obsessed with your looks.”

“Am not!” Casey stood up now, staggering slightly. “Take it back.”

“I won’t.” DJ stepped away from her.

“I am not obshesh—obseshed—whatever you just said.”

DJ laughed. “Okay, then prove it tomorrow. Come surfing with us.”

“Fine.” Casey shook an orange fist in the air. “I will!”

“Maybe I will too,” said Eliza.

DJ blinked. “Seriously, you know how to surf?”

“No, I don’t. But there’s a first time for everything, right?”

DJ grinned. “Absolutely. And we’ll be happy to help you learn.” Then DJ went into the bathroom to see that Eliza had put a bottle of vodka on the counter. It was half full and DJ took the liberty of emptying the rest of it down the drain before she left.

13

DJ wasn’t that surprised when Eliza decided not to join the surfers the next day. But she was pleased that Casey remained true to her word.

“Look at you girls,” said Grandmother in a tone that did not sound positive. All five girls were puttering around the kitchen, getting coffee or green tea or yogurt or toasting bagels, all in various stages of dress and mostly with bed-head hair. Not that DJ cared since she’d be surfing soon anyway.

“Yeah, look at us,” said DJ as she stuck a spoon into her yogurt.

“I am serious,” continued Grandmother. “All five of you line up there for a minute, please.” She pointed to the breakfast bar. “Right there.”

So they lined up and Grandmother stood frowning at them. “My girls. My lovely, lovely girls. Two orange. One red. One white and freckled. And one…” She smiled at Taylor. “Thank goodness for you, dear!”

“So nice that you don’t have favorites,” said DJ as she moved away from the lineup.

Grandmother shook her finger at DJ now. “If you’d only have listened to me and not turned yourself into a lobster, you’d be my favorite too.”

“Gee, thanks.” DJ rolled her eyes. “So much for depth of character and not giving into superficiality or shallowness.”

“The point is”—Grandmother ignored DJ’s slam—“that Josie has paid our way here so that you girls can show off her new line of swimwear. But how is that possible now?” She sank down onto a chair in the breakfast nook and sighed. “I feel like an utter failure.”

Taylor went over and placed a hand on Grandmother’s shoulder now. “It’ll be okay,” she said gently. “I’m sure we can get it together by then.”

Grandmother shook her head. “I don’t see how.”

“For one thing, DJ’s burn will be a nice even tan by then.”

“DJ!” Grandmother shook her fist. “You make sure you have on lots of sunscreen today. And make sure it’s waterproof.”

DJ saluted her. “Yes, sir. I mean, yes, ma’am.”

“And worst-case scenario with Casey and Eliza is that we’ll lather them in bronzer for the shoot. Josie should be pleased to have such tanned girls.”

“And what about me?” Rhiannon asked sadly. “I’m the white and freckled one, remember.”

“You are beautiful,” DJ told her. “Just the way you are.”

Grandmother nodded and sniffed. “DJ is right, Rhiannon. I shouldn’t have said what I did. You’ll be just fine. In fact, Josie wanted you girls to look natural.”

“And we are,” said DJ. “Well, except for our Orange Crush girls, but they’ll be fine by then.”

“Remember when Daisy and I had blue hair,” Casey reminded Grandmother. “And that turned out okay.”

Grandmother nodded. “Yes, I suppose you’re right.”

“So, don’t worry so much,” Taylor told her.

“All right.” Grandmother stood and held her head high. “I will
not
worry. But I’m warning you girls, if any more of you come home looking weird or green or bald or maimed or anything that changes your appearances, I will not be held responsible for Josie’s reaction on Tuesday.”

DJ wondered how that was even possible since it was Grandmother who’d arranged this whole thing in the first place, but she certainly wasn’t going to mention that now.

“I told the guys we’d meet them at the surf shop,” DJ told Casey, “as soon as it opened, which is like now.”

Casey looked down at her orange arms and legs and sighed. “This is not going to be easy.”

“You don’t have to go,” Eliza told her. “I wouldn’t if I were you.”

“We know that already,” DJ said quickly. “But you are not her, okay?”

“Even if you do look like the Orange Sisters,” teased Taylor.

“See.” Casey used this to make her point. “Everyone is going to laugh at me.”

“Get over yourself,” DJ told her. “Everyone laughs at everyone anyway. It’s just how we’re wired. Besides, if you can do this with a sense of humor, it will build character.”

Casey laughed sarcastically.

“DJ is right,” Rhiannon told her. “You should go, Casey. You’ll probably be glad you did.”

“Fine.” Casey grabbed her bag. “Let’s go!”

And Casey got teased some on the way to the surf shop and then by the guys who were there, but after awhile, she seemed to take it in stride. They even seemed to let up, and before long they were all out on their boards trying to catch a
wave. And as DJ watched Casey finally getting up (after several nasty wipeouts) and having a nice ride, she felt pretty sure that Casey was no longer concerned about the color of her skin.

“You’re not bad,” Lane told DJ as they sat straddling their boards and waiting for another good wave.

“You’re not bad yourself,” she told, “I mean, for an East Coast boy.”

“And you’re not an East Coast girl?”

She thought about it. “Not really. I mean, my mom’s family is East Coast, but growing up in California, I always considered myself as West Coast.”

“Is that superior?”

She laughed. “Not according to people like you.”

“Are you saying I’m a snob?”

She shrugged.

“You are?” He looked crushed. “Did you guys hear that?” he called to the others. “DJ thinks I’m a snob.”

“You are a snob,” called back Seth. “So is Bradford.”

Bradford laughed. “Glad to know who my friends really are.”

“DJ’s right,” Casey tossed out, “some of you East Coast boys are snobs. And so are some of the girls. People in California aren’t like that.”

“Yeah, right!” Lane laughed. “Can you hear yourself?”

So then they got into a who’s better argument—East verses West—and almost didn’t notice as a great wave came their way. It was big enough for all of them to ride and soon they were up. But just as quickly, Bradford and Seth went down and only Lane, DJ, and Casey were riding. Then Lane went down, and it was just DJ and Casey side by side. DJ reached over to attempt a high five and Casey slapped back, which sent them both tumbling. They emerged from the water laughing.
“I’m so glad you came today,” DJ told Casey. “This feels like old times.”

“California wins!” shouted Lane as he came over to join them. “And I say winners buy lunch.”

“Ha!” DJ shot back at him. “Losers buy. After all, you’re the rich, snooty East Coast snobs.”

As it turned out, the guys did buy lunch. But since they all settled for hotdogs and smoothies, DJ knew it wasn’t going to break their budgets. “Hey, Casey,” she said pointing to her face, “the orange is starting to fade a little.”

“Seriously?” Casey looked hopeful.

“Yeah.” Lane studied her closely. “Now it’s gone down from tangerine to more like…maybe overripe cantaloupe.”

“You cute little fruit, you,” teased Seth.

“Hey, watch who you’re calling a fruit,” she fired back. And then they were wrestling on the sand.

“Puh-leeze,” said DJ, “there are children watching.”

“Get a room,” teased Bradford.

DJ shifted on the sand so she didn’t have to watch Casey and Seth making out. Seriously, why did they have to act like that? The old Casey would’ve made fun of someone for being such an exhibitionist. But, like Case had said just last night, people change. And so far whatever was going on between Casey and Seth was “nobody’s business,” or at least that’s what Casey said if DJ asked. Casey had made it pretty clear that she wanted DJ to butt out of her personal life.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Lane asked her.

“My thoughts are worth more than a penny.”

“Yeah, yeah, what with inflation, I’ll give you a nickel.”

She punched him in the arm. “They’re worth way more than that.”

He pulled out his waterproof billfold and opened it.

“Stop—stop!” she cried as he pulled out a small stack of bills. “Put that away before I get arrested for soliciting or something equally skanky.”

He laughed and put his money away.

Bradford was on his cell phone now, apparently with Rhiannon, and it sounded like they were making plans to check out an art gallery that Bradford’s mom was interested in.

“Are you going to do any more surfing?” Lane asked her.

“I’d like to.” She glanced over to where Seth and Casey were still locking lips and rolled her eyes. “I’m not so sure about those two though.”

Bradford closed his phone. “Rhiannon and I want to do some sightseeing, anyone else interested?”

“I want to keep surfing,” Lane told him.

“How about you?” Bradford called out to Seth.

“I’m ready to hang it up.” Seth sat up and brushed the sand off. “I think I’ve swallowed enough sea water for the day.” He pulled Casey up by the hand. “How about you, Cheeto?”

“Funny.” She shook the sand from her hair into his face.

“So…” Bradford looked at Lane. “If you’re going to stick around here to surf, do you mind if we take the car?”

Lane shrugged. “Not if DJ will let me hang at the girls’ place until you pick me up.”

“Sounds like a plan. I’ll head back to the house to clean up first.” Bradford looked at Seth now. “You coming?”

“Yeah.” Seth grabbed Casey’s hand, pulling her to her feet. “Me and my orange girl.”

The three of them grabbed up their boards and stuff and suddenly it was just Lane and DJ.

“Ready to rock and roll?” Lane asked as he picked up his board.

“Oh, yeah!” DJ grinned at him. “I’ll do the rocking and I’m guessing you’ll be the one to roll.”

“Ha-ha,” he said sarcastically.

“Oh, wait.” She grabbed her bag and fished around. “I need to put on sunscreen or my grandmother will kill me.”

She started lathering up her arms and shoulders and legs and the next thing she knew, Lane was rubbing some onto her back.

“You don’t want to miss anything,” he warned as he massaged in the lotion. “You swimsuit models gotta look your best.”

“Thanks a lot,” she said as she grabbed back the sunscreen and shoved it into her bag.

“Hey, don’t I get any? Or don’t you care if I go home with third-degree burns?”

“Sorry.” She tossed the bottle back to him, waiting as he covered his shoulders and chest and face. “That should do it, unless you want to get my back.”

She gave him a look then grabbed back the lotion and squirted a big blob onto his back. Of course, it took a long time to rub it in.

“Ooh, that feels good,” he said in a teasing tone. “Yeah, right there.”

“That’s enough.” She slapped the middle of his back, grabbed up her board, and took off toward the water.

Soon they were out there again, straddling their boards and waiting for a good wave, but other than a couple of little sleepers, the action seemed to have died down.

“I could get used to this.” Lane stretched his arms up toward the sky and sighed loudly. “Sun, sand, waves…I think I might like to become a beach bum when I grow up.”

DJ laughed. “Such high aspirations. I’m sure your parents will be proud.”

“Yeah, can you imagine their faces if I told them I was giving up Yale to be a surfer dude?”

“You’re going to Yale?”

“Probably. Or that’s what my old man thinks. I’m still waiting for acceptance.”

“My grandmother made me apply to Yale.” DJ laughed hard now. “Just because my great-grandfather and a few other smart family members went there. I only sent it in to make her happy, but it’s so not going to happen.”

“Why’s that?”

“For one thing I’m not terribly academic. I mean, my grades are okay. But not anything like Kriti. Or even Taylor.” DJ smacked the water. “That Taylor comes across so nonchalant and hardly even studies and yet she pulls out these stunning grades. I used to think she was sleeping with some of her teachers.”

“Maybe she was.”

DJ shook her head. “No. Flirting maybe, but that was all. Besides some of her teachers are women—”

“And—”

“And, please do not go there.”

“Still, that doesn’t explain why you couldn’t get into Yale.”

“You’re nuts,” she told him. “It’s impossible.”

“Not necessarily. And I can tell you why.”

“Fine, knock yourself out.”

“First of all, you’re a great athlete and Yale can always get into that. Second of all, you have family connections. Third of all, you’re well liked at school. I even heard you were homecoming queen.”

“By write in.” She laughed. “I think it was a joke. I mean, you should’ve seen me with my broken leg and—”

“Another thing. You’re the hometown hero girl. And,”—he pointed his finger in the air—“you are a professional model! I rest my case.”

“And—” She leaned over and began paddling. “Here comes our wave!”

“And,” he called after her, “you’re a darn good surfer.”

She glanced over her shoulder just in time to see him wipe out. Then she continued to ride the wave, thinking of nothing else until the wave died down and she sank into the water. That was good.

Lane was still blowing water out of his nose when she rejoined him. “Man, you really bit into that wave, dude.”

“Yeah, I think I drank about a gallon of water too.”

“Are you okay?”

He nodded then shook his head like he had water in his ears.

“We can call it quits if you want,” she offered. “I’d hate to take you back to Eliza half-drowned. She already hates me enough as it is.”

“And what is up with that?”

“I wish I knew. A lot of girls are competitive, but Eliza takes it to a whole new level.”

“And it usually backfires on her.”

“You’ve noticed?”

He nodded.

“I just wish she could let her hair down.” DJ sighed. “I mean, she might be fun to know if she could just relax.” She turned to Lane. “And I mean
without
alcohol.”

He nodded. “I know.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to dis on your girlfriend.”

“That’s the thing.”

“What’s the thing?”

“I don’t want Eliza for my girlfriend.”

DJ leaned back her head and stared up at the sky. “Please, do not say you’re going to break up with her. At least not down here in Palm Beach.”

“Why?”

She turned and looked at him. “Because Eliza will make us all even more miserable than she’s already doing.”

“So I have to pretend like I’m still into her? For a whole week?”

DJ nodded. “Yeah, that would be the kind thing to do.”

He groaned.

Suddenly DJ got worried. “This doesn’t have anything to do with me, does it? Because if it does, you can forget about—”

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