Read The Second Summer of the Sisterhood Online

Authors: Ann Brashares

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Friendship, #Fiction

The Second Summer of the Sisterhood (8 page)

BOOK: The Second Summer of the Sisterhood
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“You get annoyed and maybe huffy sometimes, Len, but you’re not openly bratty.”

“Annoyed and huffy can be even worse than bratty,” Lena argued.

The shiny red front door opened, and Jesse Morgan stood waving at them from the top step.

“I have to go,” Carmen said. “Can you pick me up? I’ll drive tomorrow.”

“You can’t drive tomorrow. If you do, I’ll be late again,” Lena said.

“You won’t be. Seriously. I’ll get up early. I promise.”

Carmen often promised this but never actually did it.

“Oh, all right.” Lena always gave her another chance. It was a little dance they did.

“Hi, Jesse,” Carmen said, hurrying up the walk. She grabbed him in a brief headlock as she passed through the door. Jesse was four and liked to keep track of who came and went on Quincy Street. Also, he liked to yell puzzling things to people on the sidewalk from his second-story bedroom window.

Carmen walked straight back to the kitchen, where Mrs. Morgan was cleaning Rice Krispies off the floor with one hand and holding Joe, the nine-month-old, with the other.

Carmen had already learned not to give the kids Rice Krispies, because they were harder to clean up than, say, Kix. That was something an outsider could figure out in a day and a mother would never think of. Wet, walked-on Rice Krispies were part of Mrs. Morgan’s unquestioned burden.

“Hi, everybody,” Carmen said. She held out her hands to Joe, but he clung to his mother. Joe did like Carmen, but only when his mother was out of the house.

“Hi, Carmen. How are you?” Mrs. Morgan threw some Saran-wrapped objects from the refrigerator to the garbage can. “I’m going out to run some errands. I’ll be back at noon. I’m on the cell if you need me.”

Prolonging the inevitable, Joe surveyed Carmen from where his head lay on his mother’s shoulder. Carmen remembered what Lena had said about not being kind to your mother. Joe was kind to his mother. He adored her. Had Carmen been kind to her mother when she was a baby? Maybe you were kind only when you were very young or very old.

She accepted a wriggling, protesting Joe from Mrs. Morgan.

As soon as she had him settled on the floor with stackable buckets, he took off his sock and started chewing on it. The sock had a little rubber tic-tac-toe pattern on the bottom. For traction, Carmen figured.

“No, Joe. Don’t eat your socks.”

Jesse was watching the cars go by through a small pane of glass just the height of his face at the side of the front door. “Hey, Jess. What do you see?”

Jesse didn’t answer. Carmen liked the fact that though grown-up people felt the need to check in with a lot of useless questions and statements, children rarely felt the need to answer them.

“I have to make a pee,” he said after a while. Carmen picked up Joe and followed Jesse upstairs. For some reason Jesse only liked to use the bathroom upstairs. She decided to change Joe’s diaper while she was up there. She laid him down on the diaper pad and let him gum the tube of ointment. Could zinc oxide hurt you if ingested?

She opened the top drawer of his bureau, admiring the neat assortment of socks, all carefully matched, all primary colors, all with the little tic-tac-toes on the bottoms. Mrs. Morgan seemed like an intelligent woman to be spending so much energy on socks. Hadn’t she gone to law school? Could you be overqualified for this job?

Carmen thought of her mother sitting at the kitchen table of the old house, dragging a fork along the bottoms of Carmen’s new birthday-party shoes so Carmen wouldn’t slip on the shiny floors at Lena’s house.

Downstairs, Carmen called her mom at work. “Hi,” she said when her mom answered. That was really all she wanted to say.


Nena,
I’m glad you called.” Christina was breathless. “I’m going out for dinner with David tonight. If that’s okay. There’s, uh, lasagna in the freezer.” Her mother sounded distracted. Not distracted as in looking for the stapler, but deeply distracted.

“Really? Again?” Carmen paused awhile, wishing her mother would pick up on her mood.

“I won’t be late,” her mother assured her. “It’s crazy this week.”

“Well. Okay.” Carmen’s voice was soft. “Bye.”

There had definitely been a time, maybe as recently as the day before, when Carmen would have loved the idea of a night with the apartment all to herself. But right now she didn’t.

An hour or so later she checked her messages. There was one from Paul, returning a call of hers. There was one from Porter. The notorious after-date phone call. If a guy called within three days, he liked you. If he waited a week, that meant he didn’t have any better options and was probably just trying to get lucky. If he didn’t call at all, well, that was obvious.

Porter’s call fell just inside the three-day mark. And an hour before, this also would have mattered to her.

 

Tibby,

Well, here are the Pants. I admit I didn’t exactly set the world on fire. I got scolded by my boss and watched a trendy fifty-year-old try to buy them. I hope you’ll do better.

Anyway, I don’t know what Carmen told you, but I’m totally okay about Kostos and his new girlfriend. I was the one who broke up with him, remember?

Have fun with the Pants. I miss you. Call me later tonight if you are not out being cool and sophisticated with your cool and sophisticated new filmmaker friends.

Love,
Lena

 

L
ena loved Carmen’s kitchen. It felt safe and contained, unlike the sprawling renovation at her house, with all its gleaming white and silver steel and too-bright halogen bulbs. Also, Lena loved the food Carmen’s kitchen had in it. It was all avocados and low-fat chips and herbal teas—girl stuff. None of the giant twelve-packs of beer and endless pork chops that jammed up the fridge at her house. There were so many fewer compromises in an apartment for two than in a house for four.

“Honey, would you like a glass of iced tea?”

Lena looked at Carmen’s mom. She appeared to be rearranging the pots in the lower cabinets. Her hair was back in a ponytail, and she looked like she was about twenty. Christina was always pretty, but Lena had never seen her look as animated and happy as she looked today.

“I’d love one,” Lena said.

Carmen was scanning the movie section of the newspaper. “I’ll have one too,” she said without looking up.

“How’s your mom?” Christina asked over the noise of the sink. She always asked this of Lena in a slightly guilty way, as if she were trying to pick up her dry cleaning without the ticket.

“She’s all right.”

“And how is your boyfriend? What’s his name?”

“Kostos,” Lena said reluctantly, never eager to discuss her love life. “But he’s not my boyfriend anymore. We broke up.”

“Ohhh. I’m sorry. Was the long-distance thing too hard?”

Lena liked that explanation. It was succinct and it didn’t necessarily make her sound like a lunatic. “Yes. Exactly.”

Christina took a full pitcher from the refrigerator. “Reminds me of your mother. She must know what you’re going through.”

Lena was bewildered. “We haven’t really talked about it.”

Christina didn’t seem to realize that not all mothers talked to their daughters about everything all the time.

“Anyway, I don’t think she knows anything about long-distance relationships,” Lena said.

Christina lined up three glasses. “Of course she does. She was with Eugene for at least four or five years.”

Lena looked doubtfully at Christina.

Christina and Lena’s mom hadn’t been close for a long time. Christina’s memory seemed to be getting jumbled, maybe on account of her own love affair.

“Who’s Eugene?”

Carmen had now torn herself from the movie section. She was looking back and forth from Lena to Christina.

“Who’s Eugene?” Christina repeated. The look on her face slowly transformed from surprise to uncertainty to anxiety.

“Uh . . .” She turned her back to the girls and poured the tea.

“Mama? Hello? Helloooooooo?”

Christina took a long time stirring in the sugar. When she turned back around, her face didn’t look open anymore. “Never mind. I might be mixed up. It was all a long time ago.”

Christina was a lovable, big-hearted, totally sweet person, but she was a bad actress and a horrible liar. Lena
had
believed she was mixed up before. Now she felt certain she wasn’t.

Carmen’s eyes were narrowed like laser beams on her mother’s face. “Never mind?
Never mind?
Are you joking?”

Christina cast a longing look at the door. “I’ve got to call Mimmy, honey. It’s already afternoon.”

“You’re not going to tell us?” Carmen looked as if she were ready to explode.

Christina’s eyes darted around nervously. “There’s nothing to tell. I was mistaken. I was thinking about someone else. It’s not important.” She snapped her mouth shut and left the kitchen in a hurry. She knew as well as anyone that Carmen didn’t let a person off the hook easily.

“It’s not important?” Lena echoed faintly.

Carmen looked at Lena knowingly. “That obviously means it is.”

 

“Who’s Eugene?”

Lena let it drop quietly between dinner and dessert as her mother loaded the plates into the dishwasher. Lena was clearing the table. It was just the two of them in the kitchen. Effie was at a friend’s, and their dad was reading the newspaper in the dining room.

“What?” Ari turned around.

“Who’s Eugene?”

Right away Lena knew she was causing a disturbance.

“Why are you asking me that?” Her mother was holding a plate in each hand.

“I just . . . want to know.”

“Who told you about him?”

“Nobody,” Lena said. If her mother wasn’t giving any information, then she didn’t feel like giving any either. Besides, she didn’t want to get Carmen’s mom in trouble.

Ari’s face took on a frustrated, unpolished look. She seemed to be calculating in a hurry. “Well, I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Then why are you whispering?”

Lena hadn’t meant to torture her mother, but that was how it was working out.

“I’m not,” she said, also in a whisper.

Lena stopped. This was feeling a little out of control. She wanted information, badly. The harder it was to get it, the more critical it seemed. On the other hand, the look on her mother’s face scared her a little.

Lena’s dad ambled into the kitchen. “How about some cheesecake?” he asked agreeably.

Lena’s mother cast her a look that said, in no uncertain terms,
Do not open your mouth or I will ground you until you are an old woman
.

“I’m going upstairs,” Lena informed the granite countertop.

“Nothing sweet?” her dad asked. They had a common love of dessert.

“Not tonight,” she said.

“Do you think Mom had a boyfriend before Dad?” she asked Effie when she appeared in Lena’s room awhile later.

“No. Nobody important.”

“What makes you so sure?” Lena asked.

“Because she would’ve told us about it,” Effie reasoned.

“Maybe not. She doesn’t tell us everything.”

Effie rolled her eyes. “Mom has a very boring life. Maybe there isn’t anything to tell.”

Lena thought for a while. “I think Mom had a boyfriend named Eugene. I think she lived here and he lived in Greece, and I think she might have really loved him.”

Effie raised her eyebrows. “You do, do you?”

Lena nodded.

“Well, I think you should stick with your own tragic love story.”

 

“David wants to take us both out to dinner,” Christina announced that evening, as though Ed McMahon had just arrived with the giant novelty check.

“Why?”

“Car
men
!” Christina was too happy to be mad. “Because he wants to meet you!”

Christina had the Weight Watchers cookbook open on the counter and onions sizzling in a pan.

“When?”

“Tomorrow night?” Christina suggested.

“I’m going to the movies with Lena.”

“Thursday?”

“Baby-sitting.”

“Friday?”

Carmen studied her mother in annoyance. Usually a person got the hint by the third try. “I’m . . . going out with Porter,” she said, satisfied with her answer even though it was a lie. Her mother wasn’t the only one in the world with a boyfriend.

Christina’s eyes turned from disappointed to pleased. “Bring him! We’ll go out, all four of us!”

“David wants to take us out to dinner,” Carmen announced into the phone an hour later. Her tone was somewhat different than her mother’s had been.

Tibby exhaled. “It sounds like it’s getting serious. You know, time to meet the parents. Except the other way around.”

“I told her I was going out with Porter, and she wants him to come too.”

“A double date with your mother?” Tibby said, at least partly enjoying the absurdity of it.

“I know,” Carmen moaned. “It might be better this way, though. I’ll have something else to pay attention to. And maybe the guys can talk about tire irons or something.”

“Maybe.” Tibby sounded doubtful.

BOOK: The Second Summer of the Sisterhood
4.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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