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Authors: Erin L. Schneider

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BOOK: Summer of Sloane
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Mick’s texts aren’t any better:

Hope you’re enjoying all the sun…I’m so jealous, it’s sprinkling here right now. :/

Ignoring both, I do a quick pass through in the bathroom, running my fingers through my new short hair. I can’t believe I cut it all off. I’ll probably freak out about that later. My phone rings, and the screen flashes with Tyler’s name and the picture I took of him after football practice last fall. Sweaty and still wearing his pads, he had just run in from a scrimmage on the field. It was one of my favorites.

I stare at his picture as my phone continues to buzz with the incoming call. But I can’t talk to him. Or maybe I actually don’t want to. I slide my finger over the screen, sending him straight to voice mail, and throw the phone in my bag.

Taking a deep breath, and heeding my mom’s advice, I promise myself tonight is going to be the start of what is sure to be one wild and crazy summer. Which means there will be no wallowing. There will be no letting others control how I feel. And there will definitely be no drama. None of that.

Because this time, it’s all about me. It’s all about the summer of Sloane.

Mom has supplied us with kalbi ribs and chicken teriyaki skewers, mac salad, and all the makings for s’mores. There’s even a half rack of beer that came with the cursory “please call me if you need me to come pick you up” speech.

We don’t have far to go. In fact, it’s only a little over a mile to the beach where we’re headed. I text my dad on the drive there to let him know we made it okay and all is well, then send him a quick shot of Penn and me driving in our swank new ride. He responds immediately:

Nice haircut. The car isn’t too bad either! Although you’re missing a great M’s/Yankees game! Bottom of the eighth, NYY up by two.

Then a moment later:

And, Sloane, regardless of everything else, please try to enjoy your summer. Love you.

I text back that I can’t believe he went to the baseball game without me. It’s always our thing. Even though we’re both fans of the Mariners, my dad grew up watching the Yankees, and for years, we’ve been going to their games whenever we can.

I don’t miss his comment about what’s happening back at home, and I know he’s worried—but I also think he’s trying to give me the space I need, which I’m grateful for.

When I close out from his text, I see there’s a new one from Mick:

Was craving those awesome cheesy chicken burritos from the Pollo Loco food truck we found near the mall! I decided to go down and get one, and can’t tell you how bummed I was when it tasted bleh. Ugh, I think I might become a vegetarian. God, we used to eat those things by the truckload…of course we’d always pay for it later, huh? :)

I don’t want to, but I laugh, remembering all those late nights we hit that food truck thinking it was the best idea ever, only to find ourselves moments later practically splitting an entire bottle of Tums. If she’s trying to make me miss her, it’s working.

Penn pulls the car into an open space, and I’m immediately hit with wafting curls of salty sea air infused with the rich scent of burning wood, and I inhale deeply. So many great memories come flooding back from all the bonfires we’ve had on this very beach—memories that have absolutely nothing to do with what’s going on back at home. And without even thinking, I delete Mick’s text…because I don’t want it to somehow taint what I know is waiting for me, just a few sandy steps away.

I see Mia’s cute red convertible VW Bug. Not one of the new ones, but an old-school Bug from the ’70s, the white top folded down and resting behind the rear seat. I smile, remembering the two of us losing both of our hats when we got on the H-1 highway last summer. First hers—I laughed as she swerved slightly when the wind tore her floppy sun hat from her head, and then mine only seconds later, as Mia gave me a mischievous grin and tossed it to the wind herself. God, I love spending the summer here.

“You ready?” Penn is already out of the car with the bags of food in hand.

“You have no idea.”

We walk along the beach access path until it opens up onto pristine golden sand and nothing but thousands of miles of turquoise unfolds in front of us. It’s hard to tell where the blue of the ocean stops and the same brilliant hue of the sky begins. My flip-flops are off in seconds, and my toes flex into the warmth as tiny granules of sand slide over my feet. But the best part is the heat of the Hawaiian sun that drenches every square inch of exposed skin. I can already feel my cheeks welcome it. Heaven.

I hear laughter down the beach and turn to see a bunch of kids, many I know and a few I don’t. Some are out in the water playing chicken, the boys carrying the girls high on their shoulders as they try to make the others crash to their watery demise. A few toss a football along the beach, while something grilled and delicious-smelling sizzles on one of the many hibachi barbecues that have been set up around the bonfire. Music blasts from speakers I can’t see. And it all feels like exactly what I need.

“SLO!”

I hear the high-pitched squeal before I see Mia. She’s running down the length of beach with Shep alongside her, elbowing her playfully out of the way. We call him Shep because his last name is Shepherd, and for the life of me, I can’t seem to remember his first name. Kyle? Ken? Kai? Something with a K, I think, but no one ever uses it. They continue to jostle each other along as they run our way, and I realize something seems different between the two of them. Then Mia flings her arms around my neck, and Shep and Penn give each other one of those weird back-slapping man hugs.

Mia’s taller than I am, of course, because most people over the age of ten usually are. Her skin has a beautiful dark bronze glow to it, which isn’t only because of her access to the sun on a daily basis; it’s just the way she is. Her golden-brown hair cascades in spiral curls down past her shoulders, and everything about her reminds me of sunshine and summers past.

“Holy cow, you cut off your hair! I LOVE IT!” She tugs on the ends as her eyes travel down to my cast. “And what the hell did you do to your arm?”

“Hey, you gonna hog her or can I say hello?” Shep says, nudging Mia out of the way. He picks me up and spins me around. “Hey, sucka, how you been? Sweet cast.”

Shep is native Hawaiian—well, mostly, and more than the quarter I am. His skin tone is similar to Mia’s, but his hair is a dark brown, almost black, and his eyes are a close match. He’s all limbs and outlandishly tall, with a surfer’s body full of muscles. He towers even higher above me than he did the summer before.

Shep sets me down on the sand with one last squeeze and turns to pick up Mia’s hand. And that’s when I realize what’s different. They’re together. As in
together
together!

“Whoa, what’s that all about?” Penn points at their joined hands as a flush heats up Mia’s cheeks.

Her gaze drifts away for the briefest of seconds, but she recovers quickly and smiles, bumping her hip against Shep’s. “Yeah, we’re trying something different.”

“So how’s the boyfriend?” Shep says. We trudge along the beach, making our way to the bonfire. “You two about ready to tie the knot?”

Penn gives me a look.

“So, um…this kind of happened,” I manage. Not knowing what else to say, I simply hold up my cast. “Evidently you’re not supposed to tuck your thumb in when you throw a punch. Who knew?”

“No
shit
,” both Mia and Shep say in unison. They look from the cast to me, then to Penn, then back to me.

“Yeah, Rocky Balboa here broke his nose in three places with a solid right hook,” Penn adds. And if I’m not mistaken, he actually sounds proud. “Assclown has to have surgery next week.”

I fill Mia in on everything as Shep and Penn jog ahead. She hangs on to my elbow and taps her head to mine.

“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe they’d both do that to you, after all this time. And is she gonna keep it? I mean, what’s she going to do with a baby?”

“I really don’t know.”

I realize I have no idea what to say to any of that. I don’t even know what I would do if it were me in her situation. The only thing I know without a doubt is it would’ve been Mick I ran to if things had been reversed. And I can only imagine how Mick is feeling right now, how lost she is with probably no one to talk to.

I have the sudden urge to call her, but before I even have a chance to go through with that stupid idea, Mia turns me to face her. Both of her hands are on my shoulders, and her forehead is pressed up against mine, her eyes going cross-eyed.

“You know what? Let’s forget about all that. We’re gonna have one helluva summer. And I know just how to start it off!”

She grabs two brown longneck bottles from an ice chest near the fire, and with a flick of her fingers, the caps are flying off both.

“Cheers, Sloane!”

She clinks her beer against mine, and I love her for calling me Sloane instead of Mack. Thinking back, she never called me that. I guess it was just something my friends in Seattle did, and in some small way, I’m glad it stayed there.

Mia holds her bottle to the air, and everyone around the fire raises their own.

“Welcome home. And welcome to the start of our kick-ass summer before senior year,
bitches
!”

We all cheer, bottles raised, then drink.

And I fight the urge to spit mine out.

It tastes like feet. Or pee. Or someone peed on their feet and I’m drinking it. Bleh. I force down another swallow and cringe. I’ve had beer before. Okay, maybe only once. But that’s only because it tastes so awful.

Mia and I stand near the bonfire and watch the boys as they toss the football around. “So when were you gonna tell me about you and Shep?”

She shrugs and takes a sip of her beer. “It’s really not that big a deal.”

I give her a look that clearly says I don’t believe what she’s saying.
“Really?”

She shoves me lightly and tries not to laugh. “I swear! We kinda hooked up at a party a couple weeks ago, and now we’re just seeing where things go. Besides, when have you known me to get all caught up in a relationship?” She clinks her bottle again with mine, and it occurs to me that Mia has never really been serious with a guy, at least not one I’ve known about. Then again, it’s not like I’m ever here long enough to find out all the details.

I see a few girls that I recognize and make my way over to say hello. After hugs and a quick fib about why my arm is in a cast—I don’t feel like sharing those details with
everyone
just yet—I sink to the sand next to Mia. I’m sitting next to two girls I don’t remember from last summer. They both seem younger than us, I’d guess between twelve or thirteen, so maybe that’s why we haven’t met.

“Hey, I’m Sloane.” I smile and wave a cast at the both of them.

Mia points between the two girls, “Slo, this is Luce and Ashley. Luce and her family moved here from LA a few days after you left last summer, and Ash is one of her friends.”

Ashley doesn’t hide the fact she’s staring at my cast. “What’s up with your hand?” She’s this little wisp of a thing with shiny, long black hair and alabaster-pale skin. Not that much of her skin is showing, because she’s clothed from head to toe, as if afraid of the sun.

“Catfight,” I say nonchalantly, and Luce’s eyes go wide.

“Really?
No
way!

She’s super cute, wearing a baseball hat on backward with dark brown hair winging out from under the edges. Her mouth is full of metal, and the afternoon sun glimmers off her braces as she smiles. But it’s her eyes that capture my attention. They’re this intense pale blue in the center that blooms out to a deeper navy.

“Luce, she’s just pulling your leg,” Ashley says, rolling her eyes. Oh, if she only knew.

Luce raises her eyebrows, clearly hoping for more, and I can’t just leave her hanging.

“Nah, I broke it swimming the other day. Guess I miscalculated my turn.”

Mia gives me a look. I’ve been swimming since the age of two. I don’t miscalculate my turns. But these two don’t know that.

“Wish I could swim better,” Luce mumbles low under her breath.

“Yeah, you’d think that was a prerequisite in order to move here.” It’s another snide comment from Ashley. “I’m surprised they let you in.”

I fight the urge to flick her. Really hard. “You know, Luce, I give swim lessons. If you want, I’d be more than happy to teach you.”

Her eyes go wide again. “Really?”

“Really. Just shoot me a text, and we can figure out a good time.” We exchange numbers, and honestly, just the thought of being back in the pool has me in a much better mood.

Turning back to Mia, I fall into conversation with her about the last school year. We cover easy topics like how she and the entire girls’ volleyball team—along with the entire boys’ varsity baseball team—were almost suspended for a little Saturday night party involving an out-of-town neighbor’s pool.

I’m somehow on to my second beer, having no idea how I managed to choke down the first, but notice this one’s taking much less effort. The boys have started a game of football as the girls who were out playing chicken in the water come over to the fire. I know all three of them and stand to give hugs.

BOOK: Summer of Sloane
10.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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