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Authors: P.J. Night

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BOOK: Is She for Real?
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On the bus on the way home, Lissa found a seat next to Bethany. Nate had soccer practice, so he wasn't on the bus. Lissa and Bethany got off the bus together and looked at each other.

“There's my house, of course,” Bethany said, and pointed.

Lissa laughed. “There's my house, of course,” she said. “I'm so glad a kid moved in there. Mr. Reiney was nice, but there was never any fun in the neighborhood.”

“Ta-da!” Bethany said, and threw her arms up in the air. They both cracked up.

“Hey, the Warwick Inn,” Bethany said, seeing the sign. “Cool.”

“Kind of,” Lissa said. “But not really, you know?”

“Really? I think it would be so fun to live in a B and B. My parents like to stay in them sometimes. I like the breakfasts,” Bethany said. “They're always really big.”

“Well, you'll love our place, then,” Lissa said. “Hey, Olivia and Lily are coming for a sleepover on Friday. Why don't you come too?”

“I'd love to,” Bethany said without hesitating. Lissa was impressed by her confidence. She wasn't sure that she'd have been able to make new friends so quickly at a new school. But Bethany just seemed so at ease.

Spring had finally sprung in Old Warwick. The magnolia tree in front of Lissa and Nate's house was in full bloom as Olivia marched happily down the path leading to the front door. She was carrying her purple backpack and her pillow in its purple pillowcase.

Lissa has adored Olivia ever since first grade, when their class went on a field trip to the American Museum of Natural History and Lissa had gotten scared of the big dinosaur. Other kids were giggling because Lissa was afraid, but Olivia quietly took her hand as they all walked by the giant creature. Olivia also never made fun of Lissa for sleeping with a teddy bear or being afraid of birds that swooped too close to her head.

Olivia was the most rational and logical of the three
of them, and the least likely to get spooked by ghost stories, which made her the perfect person to sleep next to at sleepovers. No matter what Lissa told her mom, the truth was, they
did
tell ghost stories sometimes.

Moments later Lily arrived, her mom dropping her off in the driveway with a wave good-bye. Lily was the most naive of the three, the most likely to get spooked by ghost stories, and also the only one of the three who didn't roll her eyes at the Lady Warwick ghost story. She seemed to believe it wholeheartedly and took it very seriously. Lily even avoided the framed story about Lady Warwick hanging in the entranceway, claiming, “I think it's probably bad luck to even
read
about her!”

Lily had made friends with Olivia right away when she arrived in town in fourth grade, but Lissa didn't really get to know her until fifth grade. It was later that summer that they had begun their tradition of burying each other in sand after the school year ended. This year would be the third annual “Sandy Lady” ritual at the beach. Nate laughed at the Sandy Lady ritual, but the girls thought his hobby of fishing off the pier was equally lame. Lame
and
gross, according to Lissa.

It was seven p.m., the sun hadn't set, and the girls hadn't eaten dinner. Neither had Nate, so the Carlsons ordered pizza: one pepperoni and one plain, since Olivia had recently become a vegetarian. As they waited for the pizza to arrive, they used their phones to take pictures of one another climbing the big tree in the front yard.

It was an excellent tree, and while Lissa had loved climbing it and playing in it when she was little, these days it was more of a photo op tree. The pictures were artsy and cool, and the girls took turns looking at one another's photos and laughing. The best was one of Lissa and Lily hanging upside down off a low branch, their hair hanging down strangely.

“So Bethany will be here soon,” Lissa told Olivia and Lily. “You're sure that's okay? I didn't really ask you guys about it before I invited her. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.”

“Totally,” Olivia said. “I really like her. And she's your next-door neighbor, after all.”

“And Nate's in love with her,” Lily added immediately. Olivia and Lissa stared at her in disbelief.

“No, really,” Lily said. “It was ridiculously obvious
all week in school. He can't stop staring at her. I can't believe you guys didn't notice.”

Lissa frowned. “First of all,
ew
,” she said. “My brother is gross. Second of all, I don't keep tabs on him all day.”

“Whatever,” Lily said. “I can see why Nate would like her. She's really pretty, and she's smart and funny. What's the big deal?”

“It's not a big deal,” Lissa and Olivia said at the same time, and then both laughed. A moment later they saw Bethany and her parents approaching from the sidewalk.

“Hey!” they called. Bethany gave a little wave and smiled. Her long, curly hair bounced around her shoulders, and she wore pink lip gloss that made her look very glamorous. Her parents went to knock on the door to meet Lissa's parents, who opened their door with a smile and let their new neighbors in. They already had lemonade and cookies set out for them.

“Welcome to the neighborhood!” Mr. Carlson said. “I'm Ed Carlson, and this is my wife, Linda. We're so happy to meet you, and glad the girls made friends so quickly.”

“Richard Warren. Pleasure to meet you,” Bethany's dad said. “And this is Sally,” he added, indicating
Bethany's mom. The four stood in the kitchen smiling at one another.

“So where are you from, and what brings you to our fair port?” Mr. Carlson asked the Warrens.

“We're from Manhattan,” Mr. Warren said. “My marketing firm is opening a new office in New Haven. They sent me here to get it going. And Sally here writes for an advertising firm, and she's going to commute to the city three days a week, and write at home the other two days.”

The Carlsons nodded attentively.

Mr. Warren continued, “We're both going to be out of the house a lot for the next few months while we settle things with our jobs. My aunt is living with us. She's helping to look after Bethany on the days when Sally and I have to stay over in the city. We're trying to keep those days few and far between, but we probably won't be around as much as we'd like for a while. We're really hoping things settle down this summer!”

Mrs. Warren added, “Luckily, Bethany is very resilient and has been a really good sport about all this.”

“She seems like a lovely girl,” Mrs. Carlson agreed. “And she's always welcome here! Would you like a tour of the B and B?”

“Absolutely,” Mrs. Warren said. They started by the staircase, where Mrs. Carlson pointed out the framed ghost story. Mr. and Mrs. Warren leaned in to read it.

“Spooky!” Mrs. Warren said with a little shiver. “Was there really a Lady Warwick?”

“Oh, absolutely,” said Mr. Carlson. “And if you listen closely at night, you might hear her tapping at
your
windows too, since you're just on the other side of the cemetery!”

The adults laughed in appreciation of Mr. Carlson's joke and then headed upstairs for the rest of the tour.

While their parents talked inside, Lissa got to the important matter at hand. “We ordered pizza,” she told Bethany.

“Excellent,” Bethany said. “I
love
pizza!”

Just then the pizza arrived. Nate loped down to the kitchen to join them and grabbed a piece of pepperoni, stuffing it into his mouth without even taking a plate. “Where are you rushing off to?” Lissa asked. But Nate didn't answer.

The night wore on, and Nate continued to avoid the girls. He didn't even join them when they made their
cookie dough like he usually did. He did, however, come out to eat some of it after Lissa made a point of inviting him to join them.

Maybe Lily's right and he does have a crush on Bethany
, Lissa thought. It would certainly explain her brother's strange behavior.

“You have a little flour on your face,” was the first thing he said to Bethany. Lissa brushed it off for her, and they all laughed.

When everyone came off their sugar high, the girls settled into Lissa's room for the night. Nate had wandered off without saying good night. Lissa quickly spread out her sleeping bag and sat cross-legged on the floor as Olivia, Lily, and Bethany unrolled their sleeping bags.

“Ouch!” Bethany cried suddenly, her hands on her foot. “What was that?”

Everyone laughed. “Sorry, that's Howard,” Lissa said.

“What? Who?” Bethany seemed panicked, and the girls laughed even harder.

“Howard the cat,” Lissa explained quickly. “He ambushes people's feet.”

She reached under the bed and pulled out a long, sleek black cat with pretty yellow eyes. She held him
in her arms, her face close to his as she cooed lovingly, “You're an ambusher, aren't you, Howard? Can you please not ambush the newcomer? Thanks, I'd appreciate it.” She let him down, and he scurried right back under the bed, ready to ambush again.

They all got into their sleeping bags and turned out the light. But no one was ready for sleep.

“Let's interview Bethany,” Olivia suggested. “Like the interviews we did in history class. Everyone gets to ask her a question.”

Bethany giggled. “Sure, as long as I can reserve the right not to answer,” she said.

“We'll go easy on you,” Lissa assured her. “Okay, I'll start. Do you like Old Warwick so far?”

Bethany answered right away. “Sure. It's really different from New York City, though. It's much quieter. But I like living at the beach, and school's okay so far.”

Now it was Olivia's turn. “Who's in your family?” she asked.

“Well, I'm an only child,” Bethany said. “My parents are working a lot, and my aunt Mimi lives with us. She's supposed to keep an eye on me when they're not around, but she's getting a little forgetful. She's, like, not even that old
yet, but she's starting to have problems with her memory.”

“My grandmother had that,” Lissa said, nodding sympathetically.

Now it was Lily's turn. “Do you think Nate is cute?” she asked boldly.

In the dark, no one could see Bethany's shy smile. “I reserve the right not to answer,” she said slyly.

“That means you think he is!” Lily crowed.

“Well, I sort of had a boyfriend in New York, and
he
was really cute,” Bethany said, trying to change the subject.

“Really?” Lily asked. “Were you devastated to leave him?”

“Whatever … we just went to the movies a few times. It's not like I was going to marry him. I spent most of my free time with my friends. I had three best friends, and we've been friends since preschool,” Bethany said. “I miss
them
more than him,” she added, a note of sadness in her voice.

“I bet,” Lily said. “I can't imagine having to move away from Olivia and Lissa. Okay, well, here's another question. It's different from the last one. Do you think Nate is
hot
?”

BOOK: Is She for Real?
10.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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