Authors: Amber Garza
Copyright © 2012 Amber Garza
All rights reserved.
eBook ISBN: 978-1-62112-094-0
To Mom for turning my dream into reality
Thank you, Andrew, for your unconditional love and support. Eli and Kayleen, you are the best kids a mom could hope for. You always inspire me. Thank you to Dad, Matt, Karissa, Kagen and Rocky for always believing in me. Book club girls, I appreciate all your encouragement, support and laughs. A huge thank you goes to Amy Flores and Autumn Igo for the critiques, edits and suggestions. Lisa Eneqvist, thank you for designing the stunning cover. Thank you to the rest of my extended family (there are too many of you to name here). And, most importantly, thank you to God for everything. I couldn’t have done this without each and every one of you. I love you!
1 Peter 5:8—Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy
the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for
someone to devour.
Table of Contents
can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually glad my mom’s sending me away for the summer. I can’t wait to get outta here.”
My best friend Haley sat next to me on the couch with her feet propped up on the coffee table as she painted her toenails bright pink. Haley wouldn’t dare do that if her mom were home. Haley’s mom was a total neat freak and she’d never let us do our nails in her house. I glanced around at the spotless family room with its shiny furniture, which smelled like lemon, and the cream colored carpet striped with even vacuum lines. It was such a contrast to my own home. Haley didn’t realize how lucky she had it.
“Weren’t you totally freaking out about leaving yesterday?”
“Yeah.” I leaned back, blew my bangs off my forehead. “That was before I found out what a jerk Caleb was.”
“Cause he wanted to sleep with you?”
“Yeah, you should’ve seen him last night. He was all over me.”
Haley peered up at me, her curly red hair falling like a curtain over her eyes. “I don’t get it. That’s never bothered you before.” She put down the nail polish, wiggled her glossy toes.
“I guess I just thought Caleb was different. I thought he wanted more than just my body.”
She dropped her feet to the carpet, but I could see the outline of her footprints on the coffee table “I’m sorry.”
I waved away her sympathy. Now, I felt silly. After all, I had a reputation to uphold. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll spend the whole summer at my Grandma’s house in California and meet tons of guys.”
“Cute, tan California boys.” Haley frowned. “Man, I am so jealous. You’re going to hang out on the beach while I’m stuck here in boring Washington.”
“My grandma doesn’t live anywhere near the beach.”
Haley raised her brows in a question. “I thought she lived in California.”
“There’s not a beach everywhere in California. She lives in Folsom, it’s close to Sacramento.”
“That makes me feel a little bit better. If I don’t get to hang out at the beach all summer you shouldn’t either.”
“Thanks. That’s very selfless of you,” I teased. “Besides, there’s no way you’d survive all summer on the beach. Your pale skin would burn so bad.” I, on the other hand, was born to be a California girl with my blonde hair and blue eyes. A thought struck me. “Hey, there is a lake near my grandma’s house though.”
“Ugh,” she groaned. “No fair. I’m going to be bored all summer and you’re going to meet some hot guy at the lake.”
I giggled, even though inside I knew the truth. I was done with boys. However, I couldn’t share that news with anyone. No one would understand. Everyone thought I was tough. I’d been pretending for so long I sometimes fooled myself. Honestly, I was tired of being used. I really liked Caleb and I thought he liked me too. But after last night it was clear that I’d been wrong. I could still smell his garlicky breath as he pushed up against me and feel the urgency of his touch as he forced his hands on me. But it was his words that stung. “You’re nothing but a tease. I thought you were different.”
“That makes two of us,” I’d replied.
How stupid of me. Obviously he was only after one thing. I needed to go someplace where nobody knew me; where my reputation didn’t follow.
“I can’t believe you’re leaving for the whole summer,” Haley whined now.
“You’ve known about this for weeks.”
“I know, but I seriously thought you’d get out of it. I mean, come on. We’re almost seniors. We’re practically grown-ups. Your mom can’t tell you what to do anymore.”
“Really? Why don’t we ask your parents what they think of that?”
Haley’s eyes widened. Her parents were way stricter than my mom.
“Anyway, you’ll have plenty of fun without me. You spend practically all your time with Derek anyway.”
“I do not.”
I narrowed my eyes.
“Okay, okay. I know. But still we’ve never spent the summer apart. Who will I talk with when Derek and I are in a fight?”
“She’s your friend, isn’t she?”
Haley pursed her lips. “I guess. It’s just not the same.”
“I know.” Haley and I had been inseparable since we were in seventh grade. I had just moved here and we quickly became friends. I thought she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen but everyone else teased her for being different. It’s funny because that’s what I liked about her. She signified a break from the tired pattern that had ruled my life.
“I just don’t understand why your mom insists on you leaving. Since when does she care what you do?”
She had a point. My mom was known for being pretty lax. Mom said the reason she was sending me away was so Grandma could talk some sense into me. Mom thought I was too wild or something, even though I was way tamer than most of my friends. Okay, other than Haley. I think Mom just wanted to get rid of me so she could spend all summer with her new boyfriend. She swore she didn’t have one. However, the cheesy grin on her face, and nonstop ringing of her cell told a different story.
Anyway, none of that mattered because I was ready to leave town. Maybe I’d even come back a new person.
When I returned home Mom sat at the grimy kitchen table with the phone pressed against her ear and giggled like a lovesick teenager. I didn’t even sound like that. I knew, because I worked hard at never sounding like my mom. In my opinion she always made a fool of herself. Something I never intended to do.
The minute she saw me she whispered good-bye to her phantom caller and hung up. “Hey Mackenzie. Did you have fun at Haley’s?”
I nodded, made a beeline for the fridge. I passed the sink, overflowing with dirty dishes. The scent of rotting food lingered. After pulling out a can of soda, I turned to her. “What about you? Have fun talking to your new boy toy?”
Mom glared, the wrinkles around her heavily made up eyes crinkling. “Look, I know you’re upset with me for sending you to Grandma’s for the summer, but that’s still no way to speak to me.”
I popped open the can, poured some liquid down my throat. “I’m actually not upset about that at all. I can’t wait to go.”
“Really?” Her eyebrows shot clear up to the darkened roots of her over-bleached hair.
“Yep. The sooner the better, actually.”
“What’s going on, Kenzie? Is this your way of punishing me? Acting like you can’t wait to get away from me?”
I rolled my eyes. “Geez, Mom. Get over yourself. Not everything in this world has to do with you.”
Mom sighed. “Then what does it have to do with?”
“Caleb and I broke up, okay?”
“Oh, honey I’m sorry. When did he break up with you?”
“Why would you assume he broke up with me?” I exploded, my face heating up.
“I-I-I,” Mom sputtered. “You were just so upset and-“
“Whatever,” I cut her off and headed out of the kitchen.
“Wait.” Mom stopped me.
I spun around, irritated. “What?”
“Let’s go out for dinner. I’ll take you wherever you want.”
“No thanks.” I turned and raced down the narrow hallway, bare walls closing in on me, and I thought of how Haley’s were covered in family photos. When I reached my room, I slammed the door. Man, I was tired of this place. It was gonna be great to get away for the summer. I put the soda down on my nightstand, next to several empty cans, and flopped down on my bed. The tired springs creaked beneath my weight. As I stared at the rock and roll posters taped to my wall, I could hear Mom moving around downstairs. She was probably moping.
It wasn’t quite dark yet, but the sky outside my window was tinged with a purplish hue. My stomach growled and I realized I was getting hungry. There was probably nothing in the house. Mom wasn’t good at keeping a stocked fridge. More than once I’d teased her that she couldn’t keep a boyfriend because she had no domestic skills. A guy would think she hung the moon, until she had him over for dinner. One bite of her lasagna and he’d be scared away for life.
We were also broke. Doing hair paid okay, but not if that was the only source of income in a family. Maybe I should have taken Mom up on her offer. Otherwise I’d end up eating peanut butter out of the jar for dinner. Decision made, I scurried down the hallway, just in time to find Mom grabbing her purse and heading toward the front door.
“Hey,” I called after her, “wait up.”
“What?” she turned, a blank expression cloaking her face.
“I changed my mind. Dinner sounds great.”
Mom bit her lip. “Oh, I’m sorry. I called Carol and she invited me to go out tonight.”
“What am I gonna do?”
“I don’t know. Whatever you want.” Mom pulled a bill out of her wallet. “Here. That should be enough to pick up something for dinner.”
I snatched the money and mumbled, “Thanks.”
Mom smiled, waggled her fingers with her long dagger-like nails at me. “Don’t wait up.”
Don’t worry. I never do.
When the door closed, the silence enveloped me. I examined the money in my hand trying to figure out what I could buy for five dollars. Even though now I didn’t feel so hungry. I threw the bill on the kitchen table and trudged back down the darkened hallway. Swallowing the knot in my throat, I entered the bathroom.