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Authors: Melody Carlson

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Spring Breakdown (8 page)

BOOK: Spring Breakdown
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“You haven’t even started packing yet?” Grandmother looked disappointed. “What on earth are you—”

“I’ll help her,” offered Eliza. She smiled at Casey. “I’m an expert at packing. Just let me finish up and I’ll come to your room and we’ll have you ready in no time.”

“Thank you, Eliza,” said Grandmother. “I’m sure we’ll all appreciate that.”

DJ had to control herself in order not to roll her eyes at this show of gratitude. Seriously, her grandmother had the memory of a gnat.

10

“Looks like Casey is Eliza’s new best friend,” DJ whispered to Taylor after observing Eliza sweetly begging the flight attendant for a seat change so the two girls could sit together.

“Or protégé,” added Taylor. “Did you notice anything about Casey’s traveling outfit?”

DJ studied Casey’s pale blue velour jogging suit, which actually looked nothing like anything that Casey owned. “You mean that it belongs to Eliza?”

“Or that they look like twins.” Taylor chuckled.

Eliza was wearing a pale gray jogging suit that was similar. Not only that, but both girls had on very similar oversized sunglasses as well as rhinestone-encrusted flip-flops.

“What is up with Casey?” DJ wondered aloud. “This is so not like her.”

“She’s either trying to make Eliza happy or she’s lost her mind.” Taylor nodded toward the two girls as they perused through the magazines they’d gotten at the air terminal newsstand. “Can you believe that Eliza’s even got Casey reading
Vogue
? Casey hates
Vogue
.”

“The next thing you know, Casey will be buttering up my grandmother and begging to be America’s next top model.”

Taylor laughed loudly.

“But at least Casey is okay,” DJ said quietly. “I was actually pretty worried about her when she was missing this morning.”

“Let’s hope she’s okay.” Taylor frowned.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean she’s not exactly herself today.”

“Duh.” DJ chuckled. “She’s Eliza’s clone.”

DJ felt a tiny bit guilty when she looked up to where Rhiannon was sitting next to Grandmother. Rhiannon had gotten stuck being her companion. But to DJ’s surprise, Rhiannon seemed perfectly happy. And the two of them were talking. Really talking. Probably about fads or style or design school or some other element of fashion that didn’t particularly interest DJ. What interested DJ most at the moment was a nice long nap, and as soon as the jet took off she closed her eyes and leaned back.

When she woke up it was to the sound of a male voice. “So is Fort Lauderdale your final destination?” DJ opened her eyes to see a good-looking blond guy standing in the aisle and looking at Taylor with interest.

“Not exactly,” Taylor’s voice was coy, like she was playing her old cat-and-mouse game again. DJ sat up straighter and silently prayed this was not the case.
Please, don’t go there, Taylor. Not again.

“So you’re not going down there for spring break?” he persisted with a hopeful smile.

“Yes, we’re on spring break. But not in Fort Lauderdale.”

“Too bad.” He looked genuinely disappointed. “There’s a lot going on down there.”

“So I’ve heard.” Her tone grew bored now, like she was losing interest. DJ felt relieved.

“So are you flying on to someplace else?” he asked. “Someplace more exciting and exotic? The Keys perhaps?”

“Not the Keys.” Taylor sighed. “But where we’re going is very nice.”

“Sweet.” He nodded eagerly then frowned. “But you’re not going to tell me where it is, are you?”

“Just that it’s supposed to be really beautiful.”

Now he smiled at DJ. “Your friend’s making this difficult,” he told her. “Being very evasive about your final destination.”

“And why shouldn’t she be?” DJ smiled back. “After all, you’re a stranger.”

He laughed. “Oh yeah, stranger-danger. Now I remember what they told me in kindergarten. So let me introduce myself.” He stuck out his hand to Taylor. “I’m Jeremy. And you?”

“Taylor.” She nodded to DJ. “And this is Desiree.”

“Desiree,” he repeated as DJ jabbed Taylor with her elbow. “So now that we’re not strangers, can I buy you girls a drink?” He glanced down the aisle to where the beverage cart was approaching them at the pace of an unmotivated slug.

Taylor grinned like she was enjoying this game again. “Thanks anyway, Jeremy, but the only kind of drinks we’re drinking are free.”

He looked seriously disappointed now. “That doesn’t sound like much fun. I thought you said you were on spring break.”

“We are.” Taylor glanced over at DJ and winked. Then she turned back to the guy. “And you might be interested to know that we’re taking a break from
high school
.”

He looked surprised. “No way! I thought you were in college for sure.”

“And you were wrong.”

“You’re pulling my leg, aren’t you?”

“No. If you don’t believe me, you can ask that woman with the silver hair sitting just a few rows ahead of us.” Taylor pointed to Grandmother. “She’s our chaperone.”

“And my grandmother,” DJ added. “And she’ll be with us for the whole week.”

He looked uncomfortable now. “Well, have fun in—whatever secret location you’re headed to.” He moved a few steps away from them, but paused next to where Eliza and Casey were sitting. And without even blinking an eye, he delivered the exact same line to them.

“Can you believe that guy?” DJ just shook her head.

“It’s like he’s trying to line up some action before he even gets off the plane,” Taylor added. “Doesn’t want to waste a minute.”

“Although Eliza and Casey seem to be enjoying the attention,” observed DJ.

“Hopefully they’ll have the good sense to refuse the soon-to-be-offered drink.”

DJ laughed. “After last night and with Grandmother just a few feet away, I should think so!”

The girls all seemed to wake up once they were in the limo and on their way to Palm Beach.

“I can’t believe how warm it is here,” said Rhiannon. “And it’s almost ten o’clock.”

“I can’t wait to hit the beach tomorrow,” said DJ. “I wonder if they rent surfboards anywhere near the general’s house.”

Grandmother laughed. “Yes, I’m sure all the retirees do a lot of surfing in Palm Beach.”

“Not everyone there is old,” Eliza informed them.

“How do you know?”

“Lane told me.”

“How will we get around once we’re at the general’s house?” asked DJ. “Or is everything within walking distance?”

“The general keeps a car there,” Grandmother informed them. “As well as a couple of bikes. Other than that, you’ll have to use your legs or public transportation.”

“Or cabs,” suggested Eliza.

“And the rules will be similar to the ones in New York,” Grandmother reminded them. “No girls out by themselves. You must stick to the buddy system. And you must let others know where you’re going.”

“What if you’re not around?” asked Casey.

“We all have phones.” Grandmother’s voice grew stern. “And you can always leave notes in the house if necessary. But I will not have you girls running about willy-nilly with no one knowing where you are.”

“When’s the photo shoot?” asked Taylor.

“That’s a very good question and I was just about to tell you. Josie has it all set for Tuesday. She’ll send a car to pick us up at eight.”

“Eight in the morning?” Eliza asked. “I thought this was a vacation.”

“It’s a working vacation. And don’t forget you all agreed to this beforehand. No complaining if it turns out to be a long day, girls. And no staying up late the night before. You’ll be photographed in the sun and, trust me, the camera will pick up everything. And that reminds me, you girls all be sure to use your sunscreen. Josie doesn’t want to see anyone showing up looking like a lobster.” She turned and stared at DJ. “And you know who I mean.”

“But won’t we need to get a little sun so that we look good in the swimwear shots?” asked Casey.

“A little sun is fine, as long as you’re careful and use sunscreen. I just happen to know my granddaughter and she tends to forget. In fact, Taylor, I’d like to put you in charge of DJ’s sunscreen, if you wouldn’t mind.”

Casey laughed. “That seems a little ridiculous, don’t you think?”

“Why?” asked Taylor.

“Because…well…” Casey got uncomfortable. “You are, you know, naturally tan. Why should you be in charge of DJ’s sunscreen?”

“It might interest you to know that women of color are advised to use sunscreen too.”

“Really?” Casey looked doubtful.

“To prevent skin cancer.”

“And I can attest to the fact that Taylor takes very good care of her skin.” DJ looked at Taylor’s gorgeous bronze skin and tried not to feel envy.

“As she should,” said Grandmother. “As you all should.”

Now Eliza whispered something to Casey and they both began to giggle. DJ wanted to tell them to “share it with the class,” but knew that sounded just as juvenile as they were being and decided not to.

Finally, the driver turned into a gated community where Grandmother slipped in a key card and, presto, they were in. “This is really beautiful,” said DJ as she admired the tall palm trees alongside a long pond with fountains. Everything was well illuminated with spotlights, and it really did look like paradise.

Before long they were unpacking their bags and going into a very elegant and spacious home.

“The general really is rich, isn’t he?” Rhiannon said to Grandmother as she turned on a light in the great room.

Grandmother just nodded and smiled. “This is a lovely home.”

“He’d be a pretty good catch,” Rhiannon said quietly.

DJ tried to listen to her grandmother’s response, but the other girls were making too much noise. Even so, she could tell by Grandmother’s expression that this very idea may have been occurring to her as well. Certainly, she could do worse. Still, DJ wondered where she would fit into that picture. Not that it mattered terribly since she’d be in college next year anyway. But it did feel good to think she’d always have Carter House to come home to. Not that she planned to think about that now.

“I put dibs on our room,” Taylor told DJ. “It opens right out to the pool.”

DJ hadn’t agreed to room with Taylor, but saw no reason to decline the invitation. “Cool,” she said as she walked in. “I can roll out of bed and into the pool to do laps.”

“Always our little athlete,” said Eliza in a demeaning way.

“I want to stay in shape for soccer.” DJ pointed to Casey now. “You might want to keep that in mind too. Don’t forget we have playoffs when we get home.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me.” Casey made a face.

“What do you mean?”

Casey pressed her lips together then looked over at Eliza. “Maybe I’ll just quit it anyway.”

“Seriously?” DJ stared at Casey. “Why?”

“Why not?” asked Eliza. “Girls aren’t supposed to sweat like hogs.”

DJ just rolled her eyes. “Yeah, whatever.”

“I guess I’ll get a room to myself,” said Rhiannon.

“You can share with us,” offered DJ. “That is, if you don’t mind sharing a bed.”

Rhiannon seemed to think about it. “You know, I think having a room to myself might be kind of nice for a change.”

Taylor chuckled. “I think someone needs a break from her roommate.”

Fortunately Eliza didn’t hear this comment. She and Casey were already in their room with the door closed.

DJ got an idea. “Hey, Rhiannon, as well as those two seem to be getting along, you and Casey could probably switch rooms when we get back. Then you could be with Kriti.”

“Wouldn’t that be a nice break.” Rhiannon smiled, then went into her room and closed the door.

Suddenly DJ began peeling off her clothes.

“Are you going to bed too?” asked Taylor in disappointment.

“No way.” DJ nodded toward the pool as she unfastened her bra. “I’m going for a moonlight swim.”

“I know,” said Taylor in her old devilish tone. “Let’s go skinny dipping.”

DJ giggled. “Seriously?”

“It would be fun. We’ll keep the lights off and we won’t tell the others.”

“What if the neighbors are looking?” DJ looked out to where the backs of some other houses faced the shared pool.

“All the lights are out,” Taylor said as she pulled off her shirt. “Remember the old folks turn in early.”

DJ giggled. “We’ll have to be really quiet.”

“Of course.”

They both wrapped themselves in towels and tiptoed out their bedroom door, quietly creeping up to the pool. DJ looked carefully around to make sure no one was looking. Then they both peeled off their towels, dropped them next to the pool, and slid in. DJ couldn’t help but giggle.

“Quiet,” Taylor shushed her.

“Oh, wow,” said DJ as she swam a silent stroke. “This water feels wonderful.”

“It’s like swimming in satin,” whispered Taylor.

DJ dove under and swam half the length of the pool then quietly came up. The lights were dim, but she thought she could see ripples in the water where Taylor was on the other end. DJ went under again, silently swimming below the surface to the other end of the pool, and suddenly the lights went on!

DJ’s heart was pounding as she clung to the side of the pool with only the top of her head above the water and frantically hoping that whatever had triggered the lights—if human—was not looking her way. She could hear footsteps and suddenly wondered if it might be Eliza and Casey, thinking they were very funny. But when she cautiously turned her head, she realized it was a man. And he had on a uniform and was carrying a night club.

“Nice night for a swim, pretty lady,” he said to DJ.

“Can you turn those lights off?” she begged him. “Please.”

“Did you forget your bathing suit?” he asked with a chuckle.

“As a matter of fact, I did.” She was trying to see across the pool to where Taylor was—or had been—but the lights were so bright she felt blinded.

“I think you should get out,” he told her.

“Not until you turn out those lights,” she snapped back.

“Now don’t make me get rough with you, pretty lady,” he said in a creepy way. “But we have rules around here. For one thing, this is a members-only pool. For another thing, there’s no swimming after ten at night. And besides that you’re required to wear a swimsuit. I could have the police here in minutes.”

“You don’t need to call the police,” DJ pleaded. “I’m a guest of General Harding.”

“I’ll just bet you are.” The man laughed in an evil way, and DJ tried to see if Taylor was anywhere in sight.

“And I didn’t know about the ten o’clock rule.”

“But you figured this was a nudist colony, right?” He walked closer to her and actually extended his hand like he planned to help her out of the pool. “Come on, pretty lady, you cooperate and I won’t call the cops.”

BOOK: Spring Breakdown
7.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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