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Authors: Kels Barnholdt

Last Chance Summer

BOOK: Last Chance Summer
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LAST CHANCE SUMMER

by Kels Barnholdt

Copyright 2012, Kels Barnholdt, all rights reserved. This book is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. No part of this book may be transmitted, copied, or sold without permission of the author.

Chapter One

I’m convinced my parents are trying to ruin my life. Like right now, for example.

We’re sitting at my kitchen table and what appeared to be a nice family breakfast has taken a drastic turn towards, well, hell.

I slam my fork down into the middle of my French toast and a little bit of syrup splashes off my plate and onto the table. My mom lets out a sigh and then reaches across the table with her napkin and starts to clean it up.

“No way,
no way,
not in a million years am I okay with this. Not even a little bit.

On a scale of one to ten, a hundred billion is how much I will never,
ever
go for this plan.” I push my plate away from me as if to make it clear that I’m too disgusted now to even look at food, let alone eat it.

My father shoots my mother a worried look, then starts pushing his food around on his plate. This is usually how confrontation is handled in my house; my mom plays the bad cop and my dad plays the good cop. Which is actually kind of weird because in most households aren’t the roles reversed? Like isn’t it usually the fathers who put their foot down about everything? Not in my family, though. My dad’s very laid back and he hates confrontation of any kind, so he usually lets my mom handle everything.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like my dad’s a pansy or anything. If he has to get involved, he will. But only if it’s absolutely necessary.

“Now, Morgan.” My mom frowns “I don’t think you’re looking at the big picture here. The experience alone would be so good for you and..”

“The big picture?” I exclaim. “Oh, trust me, I can see the big picture. Mom, I can’t just pick up and leave for the summer. I have a life here. I have my friends…and a job…and…and my summer reading. I can’t leave, I just can’t!”

My mom rolls her eyes and carries her empty plate over to the sink “Your friends will still be here when you get back, you can do your summer reading anywhere, and you do not have a job.”

“I do have a job,” I mutter, which is true. Well, kind of. I don’t
actually
have a job yet, per se. But I will any day now. I mean, I haven’t actually gotten around to going around and filling out any applications or anything yet. But I was going to. As a matter of fact I was going to do that today. Probably.

My dad looks up from his plate. “You have a job?”

“Well not technically…”

My dad chuckles and I shoot him an annoyed look.

“Well, I don’t understand what you’re so upset about. Most sixteen-year-old girls would kill to spend a few weeks in South Carolina without their parents,” my mom says as she starts to rinse off her dish.

“Mom, it’s not just a few weeks away, it’s a few weeks away with
her,”
I say and then my put my head into my hands.

“Oh, Morgan, really! Arielle isn’t that bad. She is family after all. And it’s not just her, it’s your Aunt Jenna and Uncle Chris as well.”

“Mom, she’s horrible, and I don’t consider her family. I consider her the devil.”

My dad chuckles at this and my mom shoots him a look. “Dave!”

My dad shrugs. “Now honey, Arielle can be a bit much to handle sometimes.”

“She’s just a very passionate person,” my mom says. “And she’s your cousin.

Morgan, it will be good for you two to spend some time together. When me and your Aunt Jenna were you and Arielle’s age we were joined at the hip. You couldn’t find me or her without the other.”

I sigh. “I know, Mom, I know. Ugh.”

“Besides, Arielle really is a charmer once you get past her cold exterior.”

Things that should be known about my cousin Arielle: 1) Don’t try to shorten her name or give her any type of nickname, she hates it and will probably never forgive you. For example, one time the guy who works at this ice cream shop by her house called her “Ari” as he handed her the cone she ordered. We had been going there since we were kids and the guy was about fifty, really sweet, and he always gave us a extra scoop on our kid cones. Arielle refused to ever go back to that shop. She would make her mother drive across town to this other ice cream shop where the people were not anywhere near as nice.

2) No matter what you buy, Arielle will always have something better. Example of a conversation between me and Arielle:

Arielle: “Is that a new phone?”

Me: “Yeah, I just got it yesterday. It’s the new Droid!”

Arielle: “Oh. I just got the new Iphone, even though it doesn’t come out until next month. I got an advanced release. Isn’t the battery life on a Droid only, like, two hours?”

3) No matter what you’re talking about, Arielle always finds a way to bring the conversation back to her. So, for example, if you’re talking about how you met a famous person once, chances are Arielle has a even better story about someone MORE famous who she met.

4) The first thing she does as soon as she sees you is look you up and down and find something wrong with you. (Example: Oh, you’re wearing yoga pants with a sparkly shirt? That’s weird.”)

“I’m. Not. Going.” I stand up and push my chair away from the table and start to head out of the room.

“It’s not a discussion, Morgan. It’s one month of your life. It will be good for you, and the more you resist, the harder you’ll be making it on yourself.” My mother’s tone hits like daggers. I turn around and look at my dad with hope in my eyes.

“Sorry kiddo,” my dad says, “maybe it will be better than you think.”

Not likely. And that’s how I end up spending the rest of the night in my room packing for a trip I have no desire to be taking.

Chapter Two

“This is so unfair. No way in hell they can do this to you. No. Way. In. Hell.” It’s the next day and me and my friend Paige are sitting in my room talking about how my life is completely and totally over. Okay, so maybe I’m being a little bit dramatic, but still.

“I know, there has to be some way we can get me out of this.”

“Hmm,” Paige says, twirling her blonde hair around her finger and appearing to be in deep thought.

I’ve known Paige for as long as I can remember. She lives a block over and when we were little our parents started taking us to play dates together. One day in kindergarten I cut my finger with a pair of scissors and I was bleeding all over. I started freaking out and crying, but Paige quickly grabbed some paper towels from the hand washing area, explained to the teacher what happened, and calmly walked me to the nurse’s office.

We’ve been pretty much inseparable ever since.

“I’ve got it!” Paige exclaims, jumping up from my bed and slapping her hands together. “You can just come stay at my house!”

“Your house?” I ask, puzzled.

“Yes! It’s perfect! You just come stay with me and tell your parents you’re going to be staying with your cousin, and when they call you can pretend to be…well, ya know, doing whatever it is they do in the South.”

“Well, um, that would work except for the fact that if they called my aunt to ask how I am I wouldn’t exactly be there. And then there’s the whole them bringing me to the airport thing. I’m not sure how I would get on a plane and then get back off without them noticing.”

“Hmm,” Paige mumbles, “well I guess that’s true. But what am I supposed to do alone all summer with no friends?”

I laugh. “Oh, stop. It’s a few weeks and you have plenty of friends.” Which is true. Paige has tons of friends. Paige is one of those girls who has no idea how pretty she really is. Once we hit high school she totally shot up. She’s tall, tiny wasted, has this natural bright blonde hair, intense blue eyes, and a face most models would die for. Not that she knows it, which is the best part. The most beautiful people are the people who can walk into a room with no make up on, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, and still cause people to look. It’s the kind of grace I would die for.

“But none of them are you.” Paige’s voice pulls me back to reality and I sigh.

“I can’t believe I have to leave so soon. It’s like they waited until the last possible moment to lay it on me so I would have no time to get out of it.”

Paige nods. “It’s totally unfair.”

My flight leaves tomorrow at six in the morning, which means we have to be to the airport by four, which means I have to get up at a ridiculously early hour. The only good part is that my parents agreed to let Paige spend the night so that she can come with them tomorrow to drop me off at the airport and say goodbye.

“On the upside, maybe you’ll have a hot summer romance!” Paige tells me now.

“Oh, yeah. I won’t hold my breath.”

She laughs and we spend the rest of the night finishing my packing, eating pizza, and watching movies.

It’s all so normal. But somewhere deep down, I can’t help but feel like everything’s about to change forever.

***

“You remembered your cell phone charger didn’t you, honey?” my mom asks me.

It’s the next morning – well, if you can call it morning. Personally, I don’t think anything that has you up while it’s still dark out should be considered morning, but apparently American Airlines didn’t get my memo.

“Yes, Mom, I remembered it,” I say, in between yawning from the back seat. I glance at the clock. 3:27 A.M. Ugh. There should be some kind of law against being up this early.

“Of course she remembered it! You know how attached she is to that thing, haha!” my dad exclaims loudly from the passenger seat. He is surprisingly chipper for being awake at 3:30 in the morning. I don’t even think he’s had any coffee yet, either.

The only person who seems to feel as miserable as me is Paige, who’s been sleeping for the last forty-five minutes right next to me. We pull into the airport and I feel this horrible feeling of nausea start to creep over me. It’s not just because I’m leaving my best friend and my family for a few weeks, it’s because I know within the next fifteen minutes I’ll be seeing Arielle. What makes it even worse, though, is the fact that when I see her, it’s going to be the start of a whole chain of minutes, days, weeks, that we’ll be spending together. The thought alone is enough to make me want to puke.

My mom pulls into the parking lot and I quickly nudge Paige awake. None of us speak while we park and unload my bags. It’s as if my parents know better, and I think anything Paige would want to say she can’t say in front of my parents. Like how much this sucks, or how miserable we’ll both be without each other.

As I roll my purple suitcase behind me, I can’t help but think about how alone I’m going to feel over the next few weeks. Arielle and my aunt and uncle go to South Carolina every summer, so I know Arielle has a group of friends she keeps in touch with down there. So it’s not like she’s going to have any trouble keeping busy. And if you knew my cousin at all, you would know she isn’t exactly the type to take me along and introduce me to her friends.

There’s a row of cabs in front of the main entrance to the airport with all different types of people getting out of them. Some in suits, some in pajamas, and some in shorts and T-shirts. I can’t help but wonder if any of them are headed to a fate better than mine, or perhaps even by some slim chance, a fate worse than mine.

“Now lets see,” my dad says, looking down at a map of the airport he printed off the internet last night, “according to this, we should turn to the left.”

“DAVE! DAVE! HEY! OVER HERE!” The voice belongs to my Aunt Jenna who’s about thirty feet to our left, jumping up and down waving her arms in the air like a mad woman. My Aunt Jenna is tiny, with dark brown hair and really pretty light brown eyes. She has a warm smile, and sometimes I find it hard to believe that her and Arielle are related. Not only do they
look
completely different, but their personalities are nothing alike. My Aunt Jenna reminds me of my mom, which would make sense, since they’re sisters.

As soon as my mom sees her sister her face lights up, and she starts to run toward Aunt Jenna. When I say run, I do mean run. She actually drops one of the bags she’s caring in the process and doesn’t even stop to pick it up. Rude. What if someone had come along and scooped it up and I never saw it again? Or what if my laptop or something else breakable had been in that bag? Then she would have had to buy me a new one! Ha! Technically she bought me my laptop anyway, but whatever. Lucky for me all that’s in that bag is some extra clothes I threw in last minute. I’ve never been to South Carolina before. In fact, I’ve never been anywhere except New York, which doesn’t even count since I live there. Anyway, I had no idea what to pack, so I ended up packing pretty much everything I could fit. Mostly summer clothes since I figured the weather has got to be really warm this time of year.

It takes me a second to realize that the woman next to me is talking, but when I do it pulls me out of my thoughts.

“Oh, isn’t that nice!” she tells me loudly, smiling. She’s an older woman with dark gray hair and a warm, almost glowing, face. I look to where she’s pointing towards my mom and Aunt, who are now hugging.

“Um,” I say, a little confused, “isn’t what nice?”

“That,” she says, clapping her hands together now. “That’s the nice thing about airports. You always see people reuniting! I mean, who knows what their story could be, just imagine the possibilities!”

Paige starts to laugh beside me and I quickly elbow her in the side to shut her up.

I mean, sure I could tell this nice woman that actually my mom just saw my Aunt Jenna last week and that being at the airport has nothing to do with it, that they greet each other this way no matter where they are. Whether it’s in the airport, or the mall, or even our kitchen. But I don’t even know her, and besides she seems like a nice woman with a positive outlook. No use ruining her positive outlook on people in airports.

“Sure is nice!” I say back in my best upbeat voice. “Well, have a good flight, take care, bye!”

“You too, dear!” she says as I take off, pulling Paige along beside me.

“It’s not that funny!” I’m practically dragging Paige along now.

“Well, I mean they are kind of embarrassing.” Paige pulls herself away from me and I shoot her a look. “Embarrassing in a totally cute and perfect way of course.”

I crack a smile. “Good save.”

I catch up with my dad, who ran ahead to grab the bag my mom dropped. I take it from him.

My Aunt Jenna grabs my dad and me in a joint hug when we reach her and doesn’t let go of my hand even after she pulls away. “Oh, my god! Morgan! I am so excited you decided to come with us! This is going to be so much fun!”

I try my best to smile back at my aunt, but inside I feel like my heart is slowly dropping out of my chest.

“Mom, ugh, it’s way to early for you to be this cheerful about going on a plane for over two hours.” I hear Arielle before I see her, and it isn’t until my Aunt Jenna steps aside that I see my cousin’s small frame standing behind her.

Arielle, unlike me, looks like she’s headed anywhere but on a plane for hours, nor does she look like it’s before seven in the morning. Her long blonde hair is curled perfectly around her face. Her bronzed face is flawless, and her sparking purple eye shadow matches the purple hoops she has in her ears. Her lip-gloss is a light pink, and she looks like she’s wearing fake eyelashes too. Which is just ridiculous. Who could she possibly need to impress on a plane?

She’s wearing black skinny jeans tucked inside of black sparkle UGG boots. An oversized white sweater hangs off of her shoulders and I see a purple necklace shaped like a heart around her neck. I look down at my gray yoga pants and American Eagle sweatshirt and suddenly, I feel really self conscious. This is the problem with being around Arielle. Even if one minute you feel like you look completely fine, the next you start to realize that you don’t.

As I’m thinking this, I can feel Arielle’s eyes looking me up and down. “Oh.

Morgan, did you just wake up?” she asks me with an innocent look on her face. Which of course really means,
well don’t you look just horrible this morning.
Then before I can answer she looks away and pulls her Iphone out of her clutch and starts texting away.

Well. This is off to a lovely start.

***

We all go to check in, and then my parents and Paige walk me towards the gate.

As soon as the metal detector comes into view I can feel tears starting to form behind my eyes. I know as soon as we hit those metal detectors, it’s game over. My mom, dad, and Paige won’t be able to go any further with me. After that, it’s just me, Aunt Jenna, and Arielle.

I push my tears back and make myself keep my composure. As much as I want to cry right now, I know it won’t do any good. I link my arm through Paige’s as we walk and rest my head on her shoulder.

“It’ll go faster than we think.” she states quietly. Somehow I doubt this, but I find myself nodding anyway.

“I’m going to miss you,” I tell her.

“Me too, me too.”

So then, after promising to call as soon as I land, I hug my mom, dad, and Paige goodbye and walk through the medial detector to whatever fate awaits me in South Carolina.

***

Once we go through security, we sit and wait in front of the American Airlines sign for our flight to be called. I’m not really talking much, partly because I’m tired, but mostly because I’m too busy feeling sorry for myself.

“So, Morgan,” my aunt Jenna says, forcing me to communicate, “How excited are you?”

I’m not exactly sure how to answer this. I mean, I don’t want to lie exactly, but I don’t want to say I feel like this summer is going to be like pulling my teeth out one by one, either. I decide a change of subject is the best plan of action.

“So, is Uncle Chris coming up on a later flight or…?”

Arielle looks up from her phone and shoots me a look and the smile that was just on my aunt’s face seconds before is gone. Oops. Clearly I’ve hit a sore subject.

Here’s the thing about my Uncle Chris: he’s an asshole. I know that’s probably an awful thing to say, but honestly most of the time I feel like he is. For as long as I can remember, he’s made everything between Arielle and me a contest. Even at stupid things, like T-ball.

He made me realize just how thankful I was to have my dad, but Arielle seemed like she loved him so I always figured it was something about me that just pushed his buttons.

“Well,” my Aunt Jenna says not meeting my eyes, “actually Chris won’t be coming with us after all.”

“Oh,” I mutter. “Work?”

“Exactly,” my Aunt tells me. “Work.”

Yikes. Doesn’t really seem like work. Or if it is it doesn’t really seem like my aunt’s too happy about it. What to say, what to say? Hmm.

“Well,” Arielle says, jumping up from her seat. “I need coffee.” Then she grabs her purse and starts to head toward the Starbucks across the airport. “Morgan, come on.”

Oh. I guess when she said “I” she meant “we.” I shoot my aunt a smile then quickly catch up with Arielle.

“Coffee sounds great,” I tell her

“I know. That’s why I thought of it.” Of course she did.

“So are you excited?” I figure I might as well try to be nice.

Her face lights up. “Oh, my God! Totally! It’s really hard, you know, being so close to my friends down there and then having to go, like eleven months without seeing them. I mean, we e-mail and text but it’s not really the same. You probably can’t even imagine how awful it is!”

Right. Clearly I can’t relate to that at all.

We reach Starbucks and place our orders. A coffee and muffin for me, a low fat latte for Arielle. I try to give her some money, but she waves it off as if it’s useless to her.

After we get our drinks, Arielle informs me we’re going to run into the newsstand next door so she can “load up on supplies.” Whatever that means.

BOOK: Last Chance Summer
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