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Authors: Robin Constantine

The Season of You & Me

BOOK: The Season of You & Me
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DEDICATION

For Jody, who loved the beach and sunsets and endless nights filled with laughter and friends. Miss you, Empress.

CONTENTS
ONE
CASSIDY

MY NANA HAD A SAYING—“WISH IN ONE HAND,
shit in the other, and see which one gets filled faster.” I never understood it, because,
duh
, who would willingly crap in their hand?

Then I met Gavin Henley and understood.

I couldn’t blame him though—that would be playing the victim, and I wasn’t a victim. The reality of our situation was this: I’d been ready to lose myself, to shake up my dull little junior life that consisted of homework, my bakery job, and—well, yep, that was it. One nonrefundable prom dress and too many hours of ugly crying later—I was o-v-e-r him, sort of, but that didn’t mean I hadn’t spent the last torturous month of school wishing.

Wishing I’d never met him.

Wishing I could be homeschooled.

Wishing I could disappear.

Wishing we were together again.

That’s when I finally understood my nana’s saying, bleak as it was. Wishing was futile. Wishing was nonaction. If Nana’s wisdom had been literal, I’d be buried under a steaming pile, which was pretty much what the fallout had felt like. I was done being buried. Luckily, the escape plan was a no-brainer. For once, my parents’ divorce served me well.

“Cass, I know you’re, like, tragically heartbroken, but the whole summer with your father? Really?”

Emma was prone on my bed, poring over the pages of the New Jersey magazine where my father’s bed-and-breakfast was featured. Her tone said
annoyed
, but her eyes were wide and curious as she looked over the two-page spread that declared Ocean Whispers a gem of the Jersey Shore. That gem was my refuge for the summer.

“I’m not tragic anymore,” I said, which was only a tiny lie. I occasionally wallowed in my playlists, vacillating between Adele
despair to T. Swift revenge fantasies to total MCR raw emo pain and back again in the month since Gavin and I had broken up. Seeing Gavin daily in school was bad enough, but the looks of pity, the whispers, the rumors of his screwing around—then the photo evidence of it—was worse. I wanted to leave the
planet
, let alone the city. The upside was that Gavin had graduated and would be off to Penn by the
time I returned from Crest Haven. I’d never have to see his face again.

Unless I tortured myself on his StalkMe account with photos of all he’d been doing.

Without me.

“Aren’t you worried you’re going to miss out on everything?”

“Which one do you think?” I asked, holding up two bathing suits and drowning out her question with my fake brightness. “Wait, why do I have to choose? You know, I’m working at a day camp, I’ll probably be at the beach every day.” I threw them both into my nearly full suitcase.

“Cass.” Ems closed the magazine and sat up. “I’m being serious. Are you sure this isn’t a cop-out? You don’t have to leave town to get over him.”

“Why not?” I asked.

Emma shrugged. “I don’t know, because isn’t facing your problems the mature thing to do?”

I sat next to her. “It’s
problem
, singular. And I don’t want to face
he who shall not be named
,
so what does it matter? I’ve faced him enough—getting away from him is exactly what I need to do.”

“Fine, but you’re getting away from me too; that sucks. Sugar Rush will not be the same without you this summer.”

“Then break up with Drew, quit the bakery, and come with me. Dad would love to host the two of us,” I said, picturing the damage Ems and I could do down the shore. It was all
before us—sand, sun, fun, but the twist of her lips and
yeah, right
eyes let me know it was impossible. Emma was with Drew, and they had it bad—like, joined-at-the-hip bad. Drew was a decent guy, and treated Ems like a goddess. His one flaw? He was Gavin’s friend, which had been a bestie dream come true when we were together, and was beyond awkward now that we weren’t.

She elbowed me. “All I’m saying is you’ve never spent more than a week at your father’s. Why do you want to go now? Don’t let Gavin have that power over you. Go for an extra week or something, come back, have a hot revenge hookup with someone, and shove it in his face right before he leaves for school as a final eff-you.”

My stomach knotted. I stood up and walked over to my vanity to choose some necklaces to take with me from my jewelry tree. The first one I picked up was the Tiffany heart necklace that Gavin had given me for Valentine’s Day. I knew I should have thrown it across the room, but it was so pretty, and sparkly, and oh, crap, I just couldn’t part with it.
I saw this and thought of you
,
he’d whispered as he put it around my neck
.
I’d eaten it up.
Silly girl
. I put it aside and chose a beaded choker instead.

“I’ve declared myself hookup-free for a while. Remember?” I said, holding up the choker to my neck, then adding it to my
take
pile.

It was easier to think of Gavin in big, evil-nemesis terms,
something to be battled and triumphed over, when the truth was seeing him still hurt like hell. I was sick of pretending that it shouldn’t.

He’d
known
me. We’d shared secrets. Or at least I had. He’d seen me naked. We’d done
it
. A lot. There was no taking that back. We had plans to be regulars at his parents’ condo in Ship Bottom for the summer. Kissing some random guy might have buried those feelings for a moment, but after the initial thrill, they were still there in all their jagged, painful glory. I knew, because I’d hooked up with my boss’s son, Nate. It was prom night, and I’d been feeling particularly sorry for myself. He was back from college, talking about how much it sucked to be living with his parents. We held a mutual pity party, finished off the bourbon that was left over from a batch of cupcakes, and then groped each other in the supplies pantry. Huge mistake that made the decision to spend the summer with my father easier. Even Ems didn’t know about that one.

“Still, you don’t have to run away.” Emma’s phone went off. She scrolled through her messages, big grin on her face. I didn’t need to ask who was texting. I went back to picking out vacation jewelry.

My bedroom door squeaked open. A light citrus scent filled the air. Nana. Her signature Jean Naté always entered the room before she did. She stood in the doorway, holding the cordless phone to her shoulder to muffle noise.

“It’s your mother. She’s picking up from Jade Garden. Any special requests?”

I shook my head. “Just the usual.”

“How about you, Emma? You’re more than welcome to stay.”

Emma stood up and slid her phone into her back pocket. “No thanks, Nan, heading out soon. Drew’s picking me up.”

Nan looked between us and chuckled. “You girls need a new hobby.”

Ems laughed. Nan put the phone back up to her ear and resumed talking to my mother, muttering something about extra almond cookies as she wandered back to the kitchen.

“Why don’t you bail on dinner, come hang out; maybe it’ll make you change your mind,” Emma said.

“Third wheel to you and Drew? Sure, let me fix my hair.”

“I’m not going to stop, you know.”

“I’m leaving tomorrow, you know.”

“I know.” Her face fell and the reality hit me. My first summer without Ems by my side. We’d come a long way from looming bracelets and playing Rummikub, for sure. But no matter what she said, she wouldn’t be by my side this year even if I didn’t leave town. Her days revolved around coordinating her and Drew’s work schedules so they could spend maximum time together. It had been that way for me and Gavin too, so who was I to be annoyed with her? Nana had been right, though—it would be smart to get a new hobby, one that
didn’t wrench my soul, like maybe knitting or knife throwing. I pulled Emma in for a quick hug.

“You’ll come down,” I said into her dark curtain of hair.

She laughed. “Yes.”

“Without Drew?”

There was a pause before she answered. “Of course.”

There wasn’t a lot of conviction behind those words, but I chose to believe her.

After dinner I finished packing, by the end tossing in random things like my owl earrings and an extra pair of dressy flip-flops because I couldn’t shake the feeling I was leaving something behind. I draped myself across the suitcase to finally get it zipped shut. My life in one large bag and a flower-print duffel. Was I running away? It kind of looked like it. I got ready for bed, but was too restless to sleep.

Mom and Nan were in the living room, watching their usual Friday-night bridal show marathon. I always used to feel a little sorry for them when I breezed through on my way out to see Gavin. I had a life. They watched other people’s lives on TV. Lame. Following my breakup though, when I wasn’t working, hiding out with them had become my Friday night. Then I understood why they liked it so much. Everything faded away for a while when you got caught up in someone else’s drama. Weddings were happy, fluffy, and hopeful events. Everything was perfect and pretty. It was easy
to correct someone else’s mistakes, even if it was just the awful ruching on a wedding dress. I sat down to join them.

“All packed?” Mom asked.

“I think so,” I said, trying to ignore the sudden queasy feeling in my gut. I stood up. “I’m gonna get some air, sit on the porch for a bit.”

“Want company?”

“Nah, I’m good.”

Mom kept her eyes on me a moment longer, which I took to mean
Are you sure?
I nodded and she turned back to the show. She and Nan had been my own private mental health tag team: if one wasn’t asking how I was, the other was offering up some diversion, as if in one moment out of their sight I would derail into hopelessness. That wasn’t entirely false. I mostly appreciated it, but sometimes all I needed to do was be still. Let the thoughts of Gavin in, diminishing their hold over me.

I sat on the top step, wrapped my arms around my knees, and looked up to the sky, to the pointed rooftops that formed my view. The night was warm and the air smelled of garlic from the Italian restaurant down the street. I closed my eyes, imagined the low hum and rumble of Gavin’s Jeep turning the corner at the top of the block. How many times had I waited for him in this exact spot, hidden by the pines on either side of the walk to the front porch? I used to stand on the second step so we were the same height, and pull him close, memorizing
how our bodies felt together, feeling his chest expand with each breath, so when I went to sleep I could imagine him next to me.

Totally love zombified.

I’m not sure we ever formally met; it was more like fate threw us together in the form of Spanish II. I sat in the last row, by the windows—he was one over, not quite next to me because his row was longer. It was hard not to notice him—Gavin didn’t just sit in his desk, he owned it, melting into the seat, long legs reaching out past the chair of the person in front of him. Head down, dark hair partially covering his face, he never looked like he was paying attention, but anytime Profesora Butler called on him, he replied
en español
perfectly, grinning to himself when he knew he’d thrown her off.

Sometime in October, the first text from an unknown number came.

Hola hermosa
.

I ignored it, even though I thought it was an odd coincidence, seeing as I was getting a text in a language I was currently in class studying. Ems had pranked me so many times I blew it off as a customer service bot she’d signed me up for as a joke. The third time it happened during the week, I finally took the bait.

Who is this?

En espanol, por favor.

So maybe not a bot. I ignored it again, until the following day, when I knew how to answer
en español
.

Quien es este?

Espera

Wait? For what?

The messages piqued my interest, but not for a moment did I think it was Gavin. He gave no signs, no glances my way, nothing to indicate that he even noticed I was across from him. And it’s not like I was pining away for him either; he was a body in a chair—a hot body that wore his jeans well, no denying that—but I didn’t think about him in any way other than that.

Fate, or more accurately, Ems intervened the second time . . . or
the
time. The night my life changed. She had begged me to come along on her first sort-of date with Drew. He hadn’t called it a date—he’d asked her to
hang out, bring a friend
. Emma made it sound like a group thing, but when Drew picked us up at her house in his two-door Mustang—it was clearly not a group thing.

Ems slipped into the backseat first, giggling at Drew, who smiled as he held up the driver’s seat and said hey to us. I gave
myself a quick mental pep talk—
the ride won’t be long, this is the kind of adventure you’ve been waiting for since freshman year, Emma would do it for you
—and steeled myself to be cramped in the back, then glanced at the passenger, and, whoa . . . there he was, the guy from Spanish, fiddling with the radio and cursing about hundreds of stations with nothing but techno crap. I convinced myself that the jolt I felt was recognition. His eyes met mine and he smiled, but only briefly; once Drew was back in the car, it was all about the lack of decent music on the radio and who was going to be at Meadowbrooke.

Ems leaned forward in between the front seats, sharing in their conversation, laughing at practically everything Drew said; she was so calm, relaxed, sure of herself. I wondered if Gavin and I were there to fill in awkward silences in case things didn’t go okay, but Drew and Emma already looked like a couple. I stared out the window, pretending the lack of leg room didn’t make me want to crawl out of my skin. In spite of the cramped space and slightly awkward arrangement, I was looking forward to finally going to the place that, every Monday in school, was talked about with hushed tones of epic party awe. As ridiculous as it sounded, Meadowbrooke was legend.

The park was two towns over, adjacent to an abandoned psych hospital that was occasionally visited by ghost-hunter shows. When we first pulled in, all I saw in the dim glow of a partially broken streetlight was a swing set, a metal slide, and
an empty basketball court. Far from impressive or legendary. Drew passed the sad little excuse of a playground and made a sharp left turn down a tree-lined dirt path. The ground was uneven and as we bumped along, I hit my head on the roof of the car. I bit back a squeal and turned to Ems, sure she was as weirded out by the scene as I was, but her face was rapt as she looked ahead. Gavin sang along with a song I’d never heard, but which apparently wasn’t crap judging by the way he was nodding along to the beat.

BOOK: The Season of You & Me
10.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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