Read Spring Breakdown Online

Authors: Melody Carlson

Tags: #Young Adult, #(¯`'•.¸//(*_*)\\¸.•'´¯)

Spring Breakdown (2 page)

BOOK: Spring Breakdown
4.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“What’s so funny?” Casey shook the rain off of her jacket.

“I was just imagining spring break turning into spring breakdown.” DJ chuckled.

“And what would be surprising about that?” asked Taylor.

As DJ hurried to first class, she had to wonder…what
would
be so surprising about that?

2

“I don’t know why you even let it get to you, Rhiannon.” DJ recognized Bradford’s voice as she and Casey went up the stairs to the front porch, but his tone sounded sharper than usual.

“Hey,” DJ called out in warning.

Bradford and Rhiannon both turned, making what seemed like forced smiles.

“Nice evening,” said Casey as they walked past the couple standing in the shadows of the porch.

“You guys just getting back from soccer practice?” asked Rhiannon.

“Actually, it was a game.” Even in the dim light, DJ could see that there were tears in Rhiannon’s eyes.

“Yeah,” added Casey. “We won.”

“Good for you,” Bradford said stiffly.

“Yeah…congrats…” Then Rhiannon turned away.

“See ya,” called Casey as she and DJ hurried into the house.

“Wonder what’s up with them?” DJ said after the front door was closed.

“Sounded like a lovers’ quarrel to me.” Casey slung down her bag at the foot of the stairs. “I’m going to run and see if there are any leftovers.”

“Not me.” DJ smirked. “I get to have
real
food tonight.”

Casey looked disappointed. “Conner?”

“Yeah. You can come along if you like.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. Being a third wheel isn’t my idea of fun.”

DJ hurried up the stairs. Conner would probably be there any minute, and she wanted to dry her hair before he arrived.

“Hey, Soccer Girl,” called Taylor as DJ entered their room. “How’d the game end? It looked like you girls were kicking…uh…I mean you were totally creaming them before I left.”

“That was pretty much the deal.” DJ tossed her bag down and kicked off her shoes. “And thanks for coming. It’s nice to have support.”

Taylor chuckled. “Yeah, girls’ soccer doesn’t exactly draw in the big crowds, does it?”

“It might if you played.” DJ pointed at Taylor, who was partially dressed and exposing a whole lot of skin.

Taylor laughed even louder. “Maybe that’s the problem. You girls need to get skimpy uniforms like those professional volleyball girls wore in the Olympics. You’d probably really bring in the fans then.”

“I don’t think those are the kind of fans we’re going for.” DJ reached for the hairdryer and went to work. She was nearly finished when Rhiannon knocked on their door.

“Conner’s here,” she told DJ quietly.

“Big date?” asked Taylor with mild interest.

“We’ll be eating some
big
food.” DJ peered closely at Rhiannon now. “Are you okay?”

Rhiannon shrugged and glanced away.

“What’s going on?” Taylor asked with genuine interest.

“Yeah,” added DJ. “What’s up?”

“My life.” Rhiannon sank down onto DJ’s bed now. “Or maybe it’s down. I’m not even sure.”

“Wanna talk?” asked DJ.

“But Conner’s waiting for you.”

DJ glanced at the clock by her bed. “Yeah, I should probably go. But it seems like you need to talk…”

“Rhiannon can talk to me if she wants,” offered Taylor.

DJ tossed Taylor a grateful look and then squeezed Rhiannon’s shoulder. “That’s a great idea. And then maybe we can talk some more when I get back, okay?”

Rhiannon nodded and almost seemed to be blinking back tears.

“There’s really not much to talk about,” Rhiannon said to Taylor as DJ grabbed her bag and hurriedly touched up her lip gloss. “You probably already heard about my mom.”

As DJ was going out the door, she heard Taylor saying how she understood, “…probably more than you can even imagine.”

Although she knew it was her own choice, DJ felt a tiny stab of envy, or maybe it was regret, at being left out. But DJ also knew that what Taylor had just said was true. Between Taylor’s alcoholic dad and her own stint in rehab, she’d been through a lot. Also, she had changed a lot—not just in regard to drinking, but as a Christian too. Hopefully she’d have something helpful to say to Rhiannon. And instead of feeling jealous, DJ decided just to pray for both Rhiannon and Taylor.

“You seem pretty quiet tonight,” Conner said after they’d ordered their food at the Hammerhead.

“Sorry.” She pushed back a strand of loose hair and smiled.

“Anything wrong?”

She considered telling him about Rhiannon, but wasn’t sure if Rhiannon would want her to. “Just friends, you know,” she said as she stuck a straw into her soda.

“Friends?” His smile looked amused.

“Yeah…Rhiannon and Taylor were having a little conversation…I had to leave.”

“A catfight?” he said in a way that sounded almost hopeful, like she was about to impart some juicy details.

“No.” She shook her head.

“Sorry.” He held up his hand defensively. “It’s just that I remember a time, not too long ago, when Taylor and Rhiannon were sworn enemies.”

“What?”

“You know, back when Taylor stole Bradford from her.”

DJ waved her hand dismissively. “That was a long time ago.”

“Like six months, maybe.”

“Yes, but another lifetime.” DJ looked evenly at him. “The truth is Taylor was being really nice to Rhiannon. They were talking about something important…and I had to leave.”

“To be with me?” He looked slightly hurt now.

She forced a goofy grin. “Yes, to be with you. And just for the record, that’s where I wanted to be.” She nodded toward the kitchen. “Plus, there’s food involved. Pretty much a win-win, if you ask me.”

“That sounds more like my DJ.”

DJ couldn’t put her finger on exactly why it was, but something about that “my” word put her on edge. It wasn’t like
Conner owned her. And she knew that wasn’t what he really meant. Even so, it bugged her.

“I heard that you girls are heading down to Florida for spring break,” Conner said after their food was delivered.

“How’d you hear that?”

“Harry told me.”

“Wonder who told Harry?”

“One guess.”

DJ considered this. “Well, a month ago, I would’ve said Eliza, but—”

“Bingo.”

“Why would Eliza tell Harry about that?”

“Why do you think?” Conner had a sly look now.

“Do you think she’s still trying to get him back?”

“Don’t you?”

“Not really. I mean, she’s been acting like Lane Harris is all that. I figured Harry was history. Plus, he’s still flirting with Taylor like he thinks he’s got a chance.”

“Meaning he doesn’t?”

“He might. But Taylor is trying to stick to her program…you know…and Harry is, well, not exactly predictable.”

Conner’s brow creased. “Yeah, I know. I thought he was really trying to give up his party boy ways and then just last weekend, he goes out and gets wasted.”

“Really?”

Conner lowered his voice. “Well, he doesn’t want everyone to know, particularly Taylor, but he was visiting Princeton, checking it out for next year since that’s where everyone in his family usually goes. And he told me that he went to a frat party…and I’m sure you can imagine what happened.”

“Maybe.” She frowned. “But I’d rather not.”

“I actually feel kind of sorry for poor Harry.”

“Poor Harry?”

“Oh, you know, he means well…but he’s kind of easily pulled in.”

“Oh…”

“Speaking of college,” he said suddenly, “Coach Davis told me that I might be getting scouted during our playoffs at spring break.”

“Seriously?”

Conner nodded as he took a big bite of his fish.

“Very cool.”

“Yeah.” Conner chewed quickly. “Coach has a buddy at Wesleyan.”

“Isn’t that where your dad wants you to go?”

He nodded again.

“So your dad must be pretty jazzed.”

“He is. And I guess I am too.”

“So you’ve decided you want to go there for sure?”

He shrugged now. “It’s not exactly Harvard or Yale, but it wouldn’t be too bad. And they’re definitely into soccer.” He peered at her. “How about you?”

“Me?” She picked up a fry. “You mean as in Wesleyan for me too?”

“Why not?” He grinned. “Then we could be together.”

“I suppose I could apply there, although it might be too late to get in next year. Grandmother actually made me send an application to Yale.” DJ laughed loudly. “Like that’s going to happen. But at least it made her happy.”

“Yale?” Conner looked understandably confused.

“I know, it’s a bit incongruous, but that’s where her father went.”

“Oh.” He seemed surprised. “So are you into that whole Ivy League thing?”

“I don’t really know.” DJ sprinkled more vinegar on her fish and chips. She wasn’t about to tell Conner that her friend Caleb Bennett was going to Yale next year and seemed quite happy about it. But then Caleb was twenty and he’d already done two years of junior college. He had firm goals and a much better idea of what he wanted to do with his life than she did. At this point DJ wasn’t even sure she wanted to go to a big college, and Yale seemed like another world to her.

“Bradford is probably going to Yale,” Conner told her as he squirted ketchup onto his fries. “He’s got about ten generations who’ve gone there ahead of him, so it’s pretty much a shoo-in.”

“Rhiannon is applying to NYU as a backup, but she really hopes to get accepted to the Fashion Institute of Technology.”

“Can you believe that in less than three months we’ll all have graduated?”

DJ had to laugh. “I don’t think we all seem old enough to be out on our own just yet.”

“According to what Harry said about that party, a lot of college kids aren’t old enough either.” Conner looked concerned now. “So are you really going down to Florida too?” he asked. “With the rest of the Carter House girls?”

She picked up a fry. “Well, yeah. I mean, it was originally just going to be Grandmother and me and suddenly it was like everyone was going. Maybe not everyone—Kriti, Casey, and Rhiannon still aren’t one hundred percent sure.”

He shook his head in a dismal way. “I don’t know, DJ…a bunch of you girls down there in Florida during spring break…Sounds like trouble to me.”

She sat up straighter. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

He shrugged. “You know.”

“I know what?”

“Girls like Eliza and Taylor—”

“Taylor has changed,” she shot back at him. “She’s not a party maniac anymore. As for Eliza…well, she could easily fall apart. But that’s her problem.”

“Unless she drags others with her.”

“I don’t expect Eliza to be dragging me anywhere with her.” DJ could hear the edge in her voice now.

“Sorry.” He suddenly looked truly contrite. “I didn’t mean to suggest you would.” Now he smiled. “I guess I’m just going to miss you, DJ. I’d hoped that you might be sticking around for spring break.”

She softened. “The truth is I’d rather stick around town. But I doubt my grandmother would allow it. She plans to shut Carter House down for the week.”

“What about your soccer?”

“Our finals are the week after spring break.”

“Oh…”

She reached over and put her hand on his. “I think it’s sweet that you’re going to miss me, Conner. That’s kind of how I felt when you were gone during Christmas.”

He pointed his finger at her. “But you went off to Vegas.”

“Like that was so much fun, but thanks for reminding me.” She rolled her eyes. “And besides, from what I’ve heard, Palm Beach is mostly inhabited by old rich people—not exactly the wild party crowd.”

“Well, maybe things won’t go nuts,” he said. “Especially with Taylor still on the wagon.”

“That’s what I’m hoping.”

“As long as she stays on the wagon.”

DJ stifled the urge to defend her roommate. After all, time would tell. But so far DJ had no reason to question Taylor’s resolve to remain clean and sober. Hopefully nothing, not even spring break in Florida, would change that.

3

“How’s Rhiannon doing?” DJ asked Taylor when she entered the room that evening. “Did you guys have a good talk?”

Taylor looked up from her homework. “Pretty good…but she still seemed bummed.”

“Do you think I should talk to her?” DJ tossed her bag onto a chair.

“I don’t know. I mean, it might help…but it might be better just to give her some space too.”

“Was it mostly about her mom?”

“Her mom, her life, her roommate—”

“Well, of course.” Realization hit DJ. “Poor Rhiannon’s been pretty much thrown to the lions.”

“You mean the
lioness
.” Taylor held up her hands like claws and hissed. Then she laughed. “And to think I used to have the B-word title around here.”

“I wonder if Eliza isn’t more of the problem than we know.”

“She’s definitely a
part
of the problem.” Taylor nodded as she set her economics book aside. “But it’s a lot of things. Even Bradford seems to be wearing on her these days.”

“Bradford?”

“Yeah. He’s acting like she’s no fun, like she’s too serious, and like he wants to have fun during his senior year.”

“Fun?” DJ frowned. “Like what kind of fun?”

“What do you think?” Taylor laughed. “Harry comes back from Princeton telling his buddies about all the so-called fun he had on campus and suddenly poor little Bradford feels like he’s missing out.”

“I just don’t get how some people define fun.”

“Oh, I get it,” Taylor said slowly. “I get it more than I’d like to remember. But I just don’t want to go back there. The truth is it’s not fun. Not really.”

“I’m so glad you can see that now.”

“But I’d be lying if I didn’t say partying has a certain allure…or that I sometimes get tempted.”

DJ sat down across from Taylor, studying her. “Okay, so tell me, what exactly is so tempting and alluring about getting stink-faced drunk?”

“It’s not the stink-faced part, that’s for sure. But there is something about that whole just letting go kind of thing. You know, forgetting that you have problems and just getting lost in the moment.”

“But why can’t you do that
without
alcohol?”

“Sometimes I can.”

“How do you do it?”

“Through music or Pilates or a good book. There are ways. But I’m still a beginner, DJ. You’re probably better at this kind of thing than I am.”

DJ thought about it. “Yeah. I lose myself in things like sports or being with friends or good food. And sometimes dancing kind of takes me away.”

“Dancing.” Taylor stood up and acted like she was ready to get down. “That’s actually a good idea. I’ll have to put that on my list.”

“And God,” added DJ. “I’d have to put that at the top of my list.”

Taylor nodded. “Yeah, me too.”

“Anyway, back to Rhiannon. Did you tell her our idea about helping her to go to Florida?”

“Actually I did.” Taylor sat back down.

“And?”

“And she turned me down. Flat. She made it crystal clear that she was not into charity. She said she’d rather spend spring break at her great-aunt’s house than be a freeloader.”

“Oh.”

Taylor shrugged. “Seemed like there wasn’t much more I could say.”

DJ felt disappointed as she got out her laptop to finish her own homework. She’d really hoped that Rhiannon would come to Florida too. Partly for selfish reasons—because DJ knew that Rhiannon would help to keep the group balanced if things tried to get out of hand.

The next morning, DJ went out of her way to be especially nice to Rhiannon. “Wow, you look stunning,” she told her as they went into the dining room for breakfast. “Is that an outfit you put together recently?”

Rhiannon looked down at her fringed suede jacket, short denim skirt, leggings, and retro cowboy boots and just shrugged. “Not especially.”

“Well, it looks awesome.” DJ nodded. “I wish you’d help me with my wardrobe.”

“Are you feeling okay?” Rhiannon asked.

DJ shrugged. “Well, besides fashion challenged, yeah, I guess.”

“Since when do you care about how you look?” jabbed Eliza.

DJ made a face as she sat down.

“But you are right,” proclaimed Eliza. “Rhiannon has a very good sense of style, even if her style isn’t for everyone.”

“Thanks,” muttered Rhiannon, “I think.”

“No, I’m serious,” continued Eliza. “In fact, I thought I might commission an outfit from you.”

“Huh?” Rhiannon looked shocked.

“Are any of you going to the Rockabilly dance next week?” asked Eliza. “It’s the Friday before spring break.”

“Rockabilly?” DJ frowned. This didn’t sound a bit like Eliza.

“Lane Harris told me about it,” Eliza continued lightly. “It’s a benefit dance for the March of Dimes. His mom is on the committee.”

“Are you going?” asked DJ.

Eliza’s brows arched. “Well, it’s not official…yet. But Lane told me it was a Sadie Hawkins-style dance, which I take as a hint that he’d like me to ask him. So here’s what I’m thinking—we should all go, to support the charity, of course. But we should all hire Rhiannon to help us with our outfits.” She looked at Rhiannon. “I’m pretty sure you could swing a Rockabilly outfit with no problem.”

“I actually like that look,” Rhiannon said slightly defensively.

“And so do a lot of other people,” DJ added, equally defensively.

“Me too,” Taylor agreed. “In fact, I think those boots are wicked cool, Rhiannon. Can you help me find a pair too?
Not exactly like them, of course, but something retro and unique.”

“Sure.” Rhiannon brightened now. “It would actually be fun.”

“So, are we all in?” asked Eliza hopefully. “Will you girls talk your guys into taking you to the Rockabilly dance?”

It was hard to tell whether or not there was total consensus. Not surprising, since Eliza was the one trying to get this ball rolling. But after some coaxing (from Eliza) Kriti halfheartedly agreed, and Taylor said she thought it sounded like fun. Casey, however, wasn’t showing much enthusiasm. So DJ decided, for Rhiannon’s sake, that she’d encourage Casey to get on board as well. DJ hoped that Casey would invite someone besides Garrison and, since they’d been sort of on-again-off-again, it seemed likely. Anyway, DJ felt hopeful for Rhiannon’s sake. With everyone needing wardrobe help, Rhiannon might be able to make enough money for her airfare to Palm Beach, and maybe she’d accept some friendly donations after that. Plus, working on clothes for her friends would keep her distracted from obsessing over her mom.

By the end of the day, it seemed that everyone was agreed. All six Carter House girls, plus their guy friends, would be attending the Rockabilly charity dance. And Rhiannon was in charge of their outfits. So far, so good. Although, as they sat around the dinner table, DJ got the distinct impression this was not going to be smooth sailing.

“Lane seemed quite pleased that I asked him to the dance,” Eliza announced. “And just as pleased that I’d encouraged you all to come as well.” She smiled happily at the group. “And just so you know that I’m actually a very benevolent person, I have offered to purchase all of our tickets.”

Naturally, they all thanked her, and Grandmother commented on how generous this was of Eliza. “So, we know Eliza is going to the dance with Lane,” continued Grandmother. “Which is simply wonderful since Lane’s family are old friends of mine.” She beamed at Eliza. “I actually think your parents will be quite pleased to hear that you’re friends with that boy. But how about the rest of you? DJ, I assume you’ll be going with Conner?”

DJ nodded as she chewed her food.

“And Rhiannon with Bradford?” said Grandmother.

“That’s right,” Rhiannon supplied. “And he’s letting me put together his outfit too.”

“How about you, Taylor?”

Taylor cleared her throat and sat up straighter. “I invited Harry Green.”

Eliza stiffened, her eyes narrowing. “Big surprise there.”

“I told him it’s just as friends.” Taylor didn’t even look at Eliza. “And that it’s for a good cause.”

“Very nice,” said Grandmother. “How about Casey and Kriti? Who did you girls invite?”

Kriti looked embarrassed. “Josh Trundle,” she said quietly.

“Nice boy.” Grandmother nodded. “Casey?”

“Seth Keller,” Casey muttered.

Both DJ and Taylor looked at Casey in surprise. Seth had most recently been Taylor’s boyfriend. Even after she’d broken up with him, he hadn’t given up on her.

“And he agreed to go with you?” asked Taylor.

“It’s not like I put a gun to his head,” Casey shot back.

“No, I didn’t mean—”

“You guys broke up a long time ago,” continued Casey.

“That’s not what I’m saying,” Taylor tried. “I just meant that—”

“You’re certainly not the one to talk about stealing boyfriends,” sniped Eliza.

“I wasn’t talking about—”

“Let’s see,” continued Eliza. “First you stole Bradford, and then Seth, and you even flirted with Conner once, and now it’s Harry, and—”

“I don’t see how I can steal something that doesn’t—”

“Girls! Girls!” Grandmother clapped her hands sharply. “That’s enough!”

“Isn’t the purpose to go and have a good time?” DJ asked hopefully.

“And to raise money for a good cause,” Kriti quietly added.

“Absolutely.” Grandmother nodded. “And to act like ladies.”

“I think getting the clothes together is going to be so fun,” Rhiannon said with enthusiasm. “I already have a few cool pieces, but I’ll do some shopping this weekend and hopefully I’ll have some things ready for you guys to try on by the middle of next week.”

“I plan to do some shopping this weekend too,” Eliza announced.

“Big surprise there,” Taylor said wryly. “Isn’t shopping your favorite hobby?”

“I am quite good at it.” Eliza tipped her nose in the air. “But I plan to head into the city to pick up some things for Palm Beach. Anyone who wants to join me better speak up since you know my car’s not very big.”

“You’re going to the city?” Rhiannon said hopefully.

Eliza looked pleased. “Want to come along?”

“Well, there are a lot more retro shops there and—”

“No, I meant for
real
shopping, Rhiannon—for Palm Beach.”

“If you want a cool Rockabilly outfit, you might want to consider what I’m doing as
real
shopping too. But if you don’t want to give me a ride, I can—”

“No, no, it’s okay. And maybe we can kill two birds with one stone. I’ll let you do your rag-bag shopping and then you can come with me to some of the more elite shops. Who knows? I might even pay you in advance for putting together my dance outfit.”

Rhiannon’s eyes brightened.

“Anyone else?” asked Eliza hopefully. But there were no takers. And, although DJ was relieved that Eliza was getting excited about gathering some outfits for the rest of them, she had no intention of going along. Besides, she and Casey had a soccer match on Saturday morning. Thankfully, they would be busy.

“I have some wonderful news,” Grandmother announced at breakfast on Friday. “I know all you girls will be absolutely thrilled to hear it.” The table got quiet now and Grandmother continued. “I contacted a designer friend of mine yesterday.” She looked coyly around the table now. “I know you’ve all heard of Juicy Couture.” She waited for their reaction, which on the most part was high interest.

“You have connections with Juicy Couture?” Even Eliza seemed impressed.

Grandmother waved her hand. “You have no idea what kind of connections I have.” She chuckled. “And the things I hear in regard to the fashion world.”

“What’s up with Juicy?” asked Taylor.

“Well, you may have heard that designer Josie Feldman left Couture last year, but the latest news is that she’s now developing her own line of swimwear.”

“That’s your
wonderful
news?” DJ looked blankly at her grandmother. “That a designer is making swimwear?” Talk about a letdown.

Grandmother scowled. “That’s not all, Desiree.”

DJ tossed her grandmother a warning look.

“Excuse me, I meant to say DJ.” Grandmother looked slightly apologetic.

“I’ve heard of Josie Feldman,” said Rhiannon eagerly. “She’s an excellent designer.”

“Precisely. And now she’s paid her dues and is developing her own line. It’s simply called Josie, and it will be more affordable and quite possibly more popular than Juicy Couture.”

“That doesn’t seem likely.” Eliza looked unimpressed. “Most cheaper spin-off lines usually don’t last very long in the marketplace.”

“Tell that to Vera Wang or Isaac Mizrahi,” Rhiannon shot back.

“Touché,” said Grandmother proudly. “Our little Rhiannon pays attention to the trends—something any designer worth her salt should do.”

“Yes, Grandmother.” DJ was eager to escape this conversation. “But what does any of this have to do with us?”

“Josie Feldman wants to use you girls as models for her new swimsuit line.” Grandmother waited expectantly for their reaction, which seemed to vary between enthusiasm and curiosity, and for DJ just plain confusion.

“When are we going to be doing this?” asked Eliza with mild interest.

“It seems a little late in the season to be selling a new swimwear line,” added Rhiannon.

“Yes, it is rather late. But Josie plans to offer her swimwear online for the first season. Her hope is to create a buzz among
customers, and she’s got a certain celebrity lined up—I can’t release the name just yet, but trust me, this girl is quite popular. Anyway, with the celeb endorsement and some success, Josie will put together a more complete catalog next winter and hopefully get some accounts set up with some of the mid-priced department stores. Then she’s off to the races.”

“I still don’t get it,” said DJ. “What are we actually supposed to do?”

“A photo shoot, obviously.” Grandmother’s voice was laced with impatience. “And Josie was delighted to hear that we had plans to go to Palm Beach during spring break.”

“She’s going to shoot us down there?” asked Taylor.

“Exactly. But not only that.” Grandmother clapped her hands with glee. “Josie has offered to cover our travel expenses plus a little extra in exchange for your cooperation in the shoot. Therefore our Palm Beach trip will cost us next to nothing.”

BOOK: Spring Breakdown
4.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Sons of Angels by Rachel Green
Poison Tongue by Nash Summers
Butterfly Tattoo by Deidre Knight
Visions by Kay Brooks
If I Should Die by Amy Plum
Julian by Gore Vidal
Love Shadows by Catherine Lanigan