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Authors: Erin L. Schneider

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BOOK: Summer of Sloane
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Our flight is early in the morning, and the hustle of getting to the airport and getting through security has kept my mind occupied. By the time I sit down in my seat and shut off my phone, all I want to do is close my eyes and fall back asleep.

Penn grabs his earphones and plugs them into his phone, but doesn’t turn it on. “Are you looking forward to seeing Mia? I talked to Shep yesterday, and he says they’ll have the bonfire ready.”

Shep and Mia are two of our friends that live in Honolulu. We met them our first summer there and have been friends ever since, for more than seven years.

“Yeah, I know. She’s been texting nonstop about our welcome home party tonight. Fat chance I’ll be getting out of that one.” I muffle a yawn with my fist and pull out my phone, ready to hit play as soon as we reach the appropriate altitude.

My hand is throbbing, so I pop a pain pill and turn on a random playlist. Hours later, I wake up as our wheels touch down and bump across the runway. My head aches from lack of water and six hours of stale air, and I just want off this damn plane. I take my phone out of airplane mode as we taxi toward our gate. And everything I thought I’d left 2,678 miles away all comes crashing back. Because a text message is waiting from Mick:

Hope u had a safe flight. Maybe we can talk later?

And several from Tyler.

I’m so sorry.

I feel like shit. Man, that was a def right hook. :)

But I forgive u.

I need to talk to u. Please let me fix this. Please.

Crap, forgot u were flying. Please call or text when u land.

Love u.

One text after another, after another. My phone continuously beeps as it catches up with every message I missed while in the air…and that’s all I hear—nonstop beeping. Like my phone doesn’t know how to do anything else. I scramble to try to turn it off, but can’t seem to press the right buttons thanks to my fumbling fingers and stupid cast, as my screen flashes with the next incoming text.

Oh my god, oh my God, make it stop!

After everything I’ve done for the both of them, after all the times I’ve been there for them, they go and do what they did, and expect me to
be here now. Like they want me to soothe them after the rough day they both had yesterday. Like I’ll forgive them so quickly now that thousands of miles are between us.

I can feel my lungs shutting out what little air is left. Penn grabs my phone and replaces it with my inhaler. Somehow he’s able to make the beeping stop, but it still echoes in my ears, reminding me that nothing is ever too far away.

I take a deep pull on my inhaler and close my eyes while Penn grabs our bags and shuffles me off the plane.

Immediately I’m hit with the welcoming scent of tropical flowers mixed with suntan lotion. A familiar smell that somehow makes everything better. And one that always reminds me of my mom.

“Okay?” Penn asks as we walk farther and farther away from the plane.

“Okay.” I nod. In fact, I’m more than okay. It’s like the tropical air is magic, as the breeze that passes through the open walkways floats over me and flutters my hair around my face. And just like that I realize I want absolutely nothing to do with Mick and Tyler. Nothing to do with what’s happening back at home. Screw them both. They don’t deserve any of my time, and they sure as hell don’t deserve

Penn has both of our carry-on bags slung over one shoulder, leaving me with only my handbag to hold as we wait for the Wiki-Wiki shuttle that will take us to the baggage claim terminal. We’re surrounded by hundreds of hot and sweaty passengers from our flight and others that landed at the same time, from all different corners of the world. Most of those around us are tourists. Entire families itching with excitement to be here, already wearing matching floral-print Aloha shirts and dresses, preordered from Hilo Hattie’s before their trip. Everywhere I look, there are way too many exposed legs that are far too pale to be seen in public. Several people even rock white knee-high socks, their heat-swollen feet crammed into dingy running shoes that have probably never been running.

I look down at my own pale feet, already sporting a pair of flip-flops I bought here last summer, waiting for their chance to have a go with the sun.

My mom and stepdad, Bob, are down at baggage claim, both looking completely unaffected by the high temperatures and humidity, with beautiful plumeria leis in hand. Mom raises an eyebrow at my cast as she slips the garland of flowers over my head and pulls me in for a hug. I hadn’t wanted to at the time, but my dad made me call her last night to tell her what happened.

“Oh, baby, I’ve missed you so, so much. And your hand! Does it hurt?” She squeezes me tight, and I realize how much I’ve really missed her, too.

“That’s a pretty fierce-looking cast you got there, kiddo,” Bob comments, arm around my shoulders. But if he says one word about where I should’ve put my thumb, I’m gonna scream.

“If you think that’s impressive, you should’ve seen Tyler’s nose,” Penn tells them as he watches for our bags to circle around. “I don’t think any amount of surgery is going to make it go back to what it was like before. Although it’s gotta be an improvement for his looks.”

“Penn, would you shut it?” I glare at him, and he pretend glares right back. I know he’s trying to make me laugh but I’m not in the mood, so I make myself busy trying to rub off a scuff mark on the ground with the edge of my flip-flop.

My mom steps in and whispers so only I can hear, “You deserve so much more, Sloane. The right one is waiting out there for you somewhere, I promise. But maybe next time, you save your hand and don’t break his nose, okay?”

Penn is still going on and on about my trophy-worthy right hook, pretend air jabs included, as he pulls my bag from the carousel with a grunt and sits it on the floor next to his feet. “You do know we’re only here for the summer, right?”

I’m about to really lay into him when my mom steers me out the exit and across the street to where the car is parked. But instead of the SUV she had last summer, she’s replaced it with a shiny new convertible, top down, glistening in the sun. There’s an identical car parked right next to it, but silver instead of red.

“Surprise!” Mom says to Penn and me as Bob pops the trunk on the silver one and starts loading in our luggage. “I thought you guys could use your own transportation this summer.” I gape at my mom, then back to the car. “Oh, don’t give me that look, Sloane—it was practically buy one, get one free!”

Leave it to my mom to buy us a car that will only be used for a couple of months. Not that I don’t love the idea of having a set of wheels while I’m here, it’s just that she tries
hard. She’s always sending stuff in the mail—new clothes, new shoes, expensive handbags. There’s not a month that goes by when I don’t come home from school to find a package on the doorstep, often containing something crazy like a formal ball gown—as well as the shoes, accessories, and clutch to match—even when I have no place to wear it.

I hate to think it, but it feels like she’s trying to buy my love. Maybe it’s because we live so far apart from each other or maybe it has to do with her feeling like she left us when she moved away. But I guess we left her, too. Penn and I had a choice, and we both chose to stay in Seattle. I just wish she’d realize she doesn’t have to prove anything to me.

Penn kisses my mom on top of her head, then grabs for the keys in Bob’s outstretched hand. “Sweet, Mom—thanks! I’ll race you home!”

“Actually…you hungry?” My mom looks at me as she says this. “I thought we’d grab some lunch, perhaps enjoy a little therapeutic shopping, and then I made appointments for us to get our hair done. Figured you could use some girl time.” She pokes me on the tip of my nose as she says this. “Cool?”

She reaches up and ruffles the hair on my brother’s head. “Don’t worry, Bob has made plans for the two of you…although it looks like you could’ve used a haircut, too.” Penn gives her a look as he tries to flatten his hair back down. And I wonder if she knows exactly how long it took him to get it just so. “But maybe keep the racing to a minimum, okay?”

“Thanks, Mom.” I hug her tight around the waist, and she hugs me back.

Honestly, I’ll take a little quality time with my mom over a new car any day.

After lunch and some serious shopping, I contemplate how short I want to cut my hair. Right now, it falls in limp waves below my shoulder blades, and I tend to never do anything too drastic. But one look down at my cast and I decide today’s the day that all changes. I don’t know when I forgot, but it’s about time I started to live.

Besides, if it’s shorter, it will be so much easier to handle with my hand in this stupid cast.

I emerge from the salon with varying light blond highlights streaked throughout my hair. It’s been cut to below my chin in a shag style, my bangs sweeping across my forehead.

And I love it.

We get our toes done next, sitting in massage chairs, surrounded by ginormous piles of shopping bags. To be honest, I’m not even really sure what’s in some of them. But what I do know is that the last time I had a pedicure, I was sitting next to Mick instead of my mom, and we were contemplating what crazy shade of polish to paint our toes. When I look down at my feet now, I realize I picked the exact same color Mick had chosen that day, because she’d insisted,
Desert Poppy will be perfect with tanned toes!

I’m still a long way from the tanned part, but even so, Mick’s choice of colors makes the corners of my mouth turn up, at least just a little. I go to twist on a strand of hair and realize it’s no longer there.

“That will take some getting used to,” my mom says, watching me from her own chair. “But I’ll bet it feels a million times lighter, huh?”

“You can say that again.” I shake my head from side to side.

“I promise, Sloane—there’s no better cure for a crappy breakup than spending your summer here. Enjoy the time away from all the drama, relax—hell—sleep in until noon, because I promise, it will all still be there when it’s time to go home. At least maybe then you’ll have had enough time to figure things out for yourself. And that’s what’s most important. But right now, the next few months are all about you, all about the fun you’re going to have…it’s all about the summer of Sloane!”

“The summer of Sloane…”

I like the sound of that.

Screw what’s happening back in Seattle. Let them deal with all that crap. I’m here and they’re not. This is
summer, not theirs, and it’s going to be epic.

My mom reaches over and squeezes the fingers on my uninjured hand. “I’m going to make sure we spend some mother-daughter time together while you’re here. I know that hasn’t always been the case in the past, especially with how slammed my office gets over the summer months, but I’m really going to try—starting with dinner tonight.” Honestly, the four hours we’ve already spent together is more uninterrupted time than we’ve had since she left Seattle. And it feels good to hear her say she wants to hang out even more. I only hope it actually happens. Because she’s right. For some reason, all the broken ankles and arms, all the random injuries, they always seem to get worse over summer break, and my mom ends up practically sleeping at her office.

But for now, I’ll take what I can get.

My phone buzzes with an incoming text and I’m hesitant to look at it, but then it buzzes again. I go to shut it off and see that the message is actually from Mia:

Hey, chica! I so cannot wait to see u. Don’t forget, bonfire tonight @ 6pm, you know the place! You and your bro better be there!

I shoot off a quick reply about how excited I am to see her, too. “So, um, about dinner tonight?” I look over at my mom, while holding my phone, and she starts to laugh.

“Okay, maybe dinner
night…that is if you can find some time on your calendar,” she replies with a smile and a wink.

My mom and I have majorly windswept hair and flushed cheeks by the time we step out of the car back at the house. The neighborhood we’re in is south of Waikiki and the infamous Diamond Head, and my mom and Bob’s house sits right on the beach.

As soon as I walk through the double front doors, the first thing I see is the entire back wall—or lack thereof. It’s made of movable wood and glass panels that slide open, allowing every possible sense to tune in to the surroundings. The sound of waves crashing on the shore, the smell of sea salt that drifts along the warm current of air, and, finally, the uninterrupted views of the beautiful ocean beyond.

Even my room has the same movable panels, which are already open when I walk in. I close my eyes as I listen to the rolling of the ocean mere feet from where I stand.

In the center of the room is the most magnificent four-poster bed with sheer white drapes that hang down to the floor and flutter gently in the breeze. And on top of the bed is a pile of wrapped packages, complete with bows. My mom really outdid herself this time.

My entire room looks like it came straight from the pages of one of those dream home magazines, because knowing my mom, it probably did.

I settle in to unpack and shoot Mia another text to let her know I can’t wait to see her tonight. Her response is immediate:

OMG, can’t wait to c u too! xoxo.

When I’ve finished unpacking, I realize not only did I bring a heavy cashmere sweater along with my spring formal dress, but also a hat, one leather glove, and two and a half pairs of wool knee-high socks. But I’ve forgotten my toothbrush, flat iron, and cell phone charger.

Why, thank you oh so much, Mr. Pain Meds—looks like I’ll be going shopping again tomorrow.

Making my way over to the bed, I pick up my phone and see I’ve received more text messages: a couple from Mick, but most of them from Tyler—the latest just ten minutes ago:

Please talk to me. Can I call u?

All I want is to see my friends and hang out, like nothing’s wrong. Like my life didn’t fall apart twenty-four hours ago. So no, you can’t call me right now.

BOOK: Summer of Sloane
8.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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