Authors: Hailey Abbott
For Texas Will
Jamie Tuttle unhooked the clasp of her platinum locket and laid it on the dresser. Then she picked up a beaded necklace and slipped that on instead. The locket was something her mom had given her on her sixteenth birthday, and it contained a picture of Jamie as a little girl. But Ethan had given Jamie the beaded necklace at the end of last summer, and just wearing it made her pulse spike. She couldn’t believe that within half an hour she’d be standing next to the guy. At last.
Swiveling, Jamie faced the mirror and gave herself a once-over. She was wearing a drawstring skirt she’d sewn herself and an offthe-shoulder cotton top she’d bought at the Salvation Army. Jamie noticed now that the pale green quilting on the skirt brought out the darker green in her eyes, and the effect contrasted nicely with the brown freckles dusting her nose. She’d never felt prettier. Then she pulled out the rubber band from her black hair and watched as the curls poofed out around her face, expanding like Chinese noodles dropped in a fryer. She frowned.
“I look like a lion.”
She had already tried wetting her hands and patting down the curls that refused to behave. Now she put her hands on her hips and tilted her head to the side, considering. Maybe lion wasn’t quite right. She looked like the picture on the cover of a book she’d read once,
Julie of the Wolves.
“I can’t believe you can feel this bad about hair,” she said to the mirror Jamie. The mirror Jamie understood that Jamie was not a girl who cared about hair. No, this was a girl who practically invented the messy bun look and chose to wear Chap Stick instead of lipstick, because Chap Stick didn’t require a cosmetic mirror to put on.
“Whatever,”Jamie said dismissively, grabbing her tiny, beaded purse and hurrying down the hallway of her aunt and uncle’s summer cottage. She was so psyched to see Ethan.
“I’m going to the pier,” she called to her uncle, who was in the den.
“Have fun,” he said, his eyes on the Dodgers game on TV.
Jamie stepped out onto the stoop and rubbed her feet on the mat. Every time the Tuttles—five adults and seven cousins—invaded this part of Maine, it took less than an hour for the sand to invade the three houses they rented each year. The sand was always sticking to their feet and sneaking into the fabric of the chairs and couches and rugs. As she ran her soles along the short, wiry fibers, Jamie remembered something from previous summers—that she loved the feeling of the sand in between her toes, but she loved the feeling of rubbing it off, too. She made a mental note to herself to write that down in her journal. Jamie fancied herself an up-and-coming writer and had made a per
sonal vow to keep a detailed list of everything and anything that inspired her.
Jamie could hear Uncle Carr’s kids, Jordan, Jessi, and Drew, squealing and laughing in the backyard. She took a huge breath and strode outside, sucking in the familiar sights along with the fresh, salty air. She, her uncle, her aunt, and her three little cousins had gotten in an hour ago, but she already felt like they’d never left Pebble Beach. Here, at the edge of the dirt road that led to the pier, were the three little white cottages Jamie’s extended family rented every summer for seven weeks. Parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends would be coming and going all summer long. It was like their own private oceanside compound, and had been that way since Jamie was a kid. Jamie always stayed with her dad’s younger brother and his wife, since they were both teachers and had the summers off. Jamie’s own parents could only come up from New Jersey when they could get away from work.
Jamie debated stopping at the other cottages to see if anyone was still around. But she was too eager to get to the party at the pier. Her mind was running Ethan on a constant reel, and her heart was in her throat. She hurried down the path.
There was a figure up ahead under the trees. It was getting dark outside but the shapely figure could only mean one person. “El?” Jamie called.
Ella turned and craned her neck. “Hey!” She bounded back and wrapped her arms around Jamie’s neck. She smelled like lilacs and coconut Body Butter. “It’s great to see you! You look fabulous! How was your ride up?”
Ella pulled back and beamed. Jamie’s cousin—the daughter of her Father’s oldest brother—always looked fantastic. This
summer, her blonde hair fell down the sides of her face in clean, choppy layers, and she’d gotten long bangs, which made her look kind of hipsterish. Her cheeks were rosy from the sun and dusted with some kind of bronzer that made her skin shine. She was wearing an impossibly short, sheathy sundress with a low neckline and razor-thin straps that showed off her smooth, straight shoulders and perfect cleavage. She looked a little like one of the Hilton sisters, only less skinny and without the obnoxious factor.
“It wasn’t too bad. Uncle Carr drove like a psycho, and we had to stop seven times because Jessi had to pee. That little kid has the weakest bladder of anyone I know,” Jamie said.
Ella’s laugh was snorty, like a kid’s. Jamie sometimes felt intimidated by Ella at first—she was an Ubergirl, the kind that you might see leading a pack of hoochie-mama dancers in a hip-hop video. Jamie was the opposite—straight and thin, her figure more like Avril than Christina. But Ella could be goofy, too.
“I was just on my way to the pier,” Ella said, her brown eyes dancing.
“I figured,” Jamie said, letting Ella link an arm through hers and pull her into motion.
“Let’s dig up some cuties tonight.” Ella squeezed Jamie’s wrist affectionately with her fingers.
“El, I already have a boyfriend.” Jamie grinned. “Ethan, remember?”
Ella raised her eyebrows. “The guy from last summer?”
“Whoa, you guys are still together?”
Jamie smiled at Ella’s look of total shock. It
kind of in
credible—a whole year of a long-distance relationship, based on two little months at the beach. A whole year of letters, phone calls, e-mails. Jamie had spent the past year looking through and over guys back home, always focusing on
summer and being back with Ethan. But it hadn’t seemed like a sacrifice. There was no contest between him and anyone else because Ethan understood Jamie in a way that no one else had. He was her best friend.
“What about you? Are you dating anyone?” Jamie asked, hoping that their chat wouldn’t last a second longer. Ethan was only minutes away.
Ella drew a breath, and then listed the guys she was interested in at the moment, casually waving one hand in the air in a you-know-how-it-is-to-be-adored-by-too-many-men-at-once gesture. Jamie listened intently. Though it was completely foreign to her, she loved that Ella went through boys quicker than a pack of Dentyne Ice (Ella was a chain chewer). She also seemed to have so much confidence, which Jamie really admired. In fact, Jamie had already written down in her trusty journal that a girl like Ella would make the perfect heroine in her debut novel.
The dirt road ended in a paved street lined with cottages, where the girls turned left and headed toward the shore. Once they were walking parallel to the ocean, they could see the pier up ahead, strung with tiny white lights and packed with people. The sounds of the party drifted toward them on the breeze—people laughing, live music. As they got closer, Jamie scanned the crowd for Ethan. She craned her neck as they slid into the crowd at the pier’s base. Suddenly, a pair of arms engulfed her. But they belonged to a girl.
Ella’s older sister, Kelsi, pulled back far enough to grin at Jamie. “We were wondering when you’d show up,” she said. “George has been staring wistfully down the beach all afternoon.”
Jamie laughed as her other cousin Beth and Beth’s friend George piled in for a hug.
“I’ve been waiting patiently, sweet cheeks,” George added.
He pinched Jamie’s waist and Jamie pinched him back. George, who’d come with Beth last summer and was staying with her now, was always teasing the girls, but it meant nothing. He was like their surrogate brother.
“And we all know how patient boys with ADD can be,” Beth added. Beth was tall, lean, and sinewy—the most athletic of all the cousins. Her hair was blonde, though a few shades darker than Ella’s (their dads, who were brothers, were both flaxen-haired). And unlike Ella, Beth usually wore her hair plain and straight, brushed off her face and pulled back in a ponytail. Tonight, it was covered by a ratty baseball cap, and she wore an old high school gym T-shirt and jogging shorts. Jamie always thought Beth, with her full lips and blue eyes, was really pretty in a natural way, but she knew that if she told her cousin that, Beth would just laugh it off. She wasn’t one to care much about looks.
“I think we saw your lover man from last year up near the stage,” Kelsi said as she ran her fingers through her short blonde hair. “That guy from last year. Ian?”
Jamie’s throat constricted.
“Actually, his name is Ethan,” she corrected, and then pulled away. She tried to glimpse the area by the stage, but the pier was just too packed.
“I’ll be right back,” she said, drifting away.
Jamie picked at her beaded necklace as she wove her way down the pier, feeling like maybe this was the happiest moment she could ever remember having. She pictured Ethan’s face—the tiny scar on his chin, the waves of his light brown hair. And then there he was, his head bobbing to the music coming from the band on stage. Jamie would know the distinctive curve of the back of his neck anywhere. She ran the last couple of feet and ducked against his back, so that when he swiveled his head, he couldn’t see her face. She jabbed her index fingers into his back like tiny guns.
“We’re gonna walk out of here very slowly,” she said in a deep voice. “Once we get outside, you’re going to take all your clothes off. No funny business, got it?”
Ethan burst out laughing. He turned to face her and made a fake look of surprise. Then he reached down and picked her up, planting his lips on hers at the same time her feet left the ground.
Jamie felt a spring inside her uncoil and relax as Ethan kissed her. She let herself melt into the warmth of his body. She breathed in how good he smelled and pulled back to get a better look at him.
Yep, still absolutely gorgeous,
she thought, as she flashed him an uncontrollable smile. She’d forgotten how he looked much older than seventeen. She’d forgotten the aroma of his shampoo, but now it came back to her—the spicy-sweet fragrance of Bed Head.
Jamie wondered what else she’d forgotten, and she couldn’t wait to start remembering. It was going to be a great summer.
As she hovered on the edge of the circle that she, Kelsi, Beth, and George had made, Ella inserted her fingers into her neckline and tugged it down so that her perky breasts stood out a little bit more. Restless, her eyes scanned the pier, scoping for interesting boys. She wished she had a drink in her hand. Or a cigarette. Anything to make her appear older and more sophisticated. She just had this antsy feeling, like she was standing in a long line outside of a hot, trendy club in New York City, anxiously waiting for the bouncer at the door to look at her fake ID and let her in. Or maybe she was just tense because she was missing her underwear. She’d left it lying on her bed back at the cottage in an act of “I’m going commando” rebellion against Kelsi, who’d insisted the thong was too skimpy for such a short skirt.
In fact, Ella had been getting that “something’s missing” feeling a lot lately. This party was the perfect example. Last year, it had been the highlight. Ella had thrived on the crowd—all the boys with their slightly sun-kissed skin, and the unforgettable
taste of the start of summer. This year, however, the festivities felt smaller and less exciting.
“Hey, mind if I bum one of those?” she asked, turning to a guy standing and smoking directly behind the group, who was cute in an all-American, Chris Klein kind of way. He reached into his pocket, his eyes gliding along Ella’s figure as they rose to meet hers. Then he handed her a pack of Marlboro Lights. Ella gave him a faint smile, took a cigarette, and tucked it into the corner of her gloss-covered lips. He extended his lighter and she leaned forward, watching his eyes dart down to her chest. Ella wanted to laugh. Boys were so predictable.
“Thanks,” she said coolly. She turned back toward Beth, George, and Kelsi. Ignoring her sister’s look of disapproval, Ella blew a cloud of smoke into the air and rejoined the conversation.
“So Jamie’s in love, huh?” Beth asked the group while turning to see whether Jamie and Ethan were visible in the crowd that was gathered near the stage.
“I think I’m going to get a boyfriend this summer,” Ella mused out loud in reply, pretty much dismissing the current topic. She hadn’t really thought about it before this second, but suddenly it sounded right.
“El, I thought you had, like, ten boyfriends,” George put in.
“More ‘slaves,’ ” Beth made air quotes with her fingers, “than ‘boyfriends.’ ”
Ella shrugged. It was sort of true. She smirked and thought of all the hot guys back home who really liked how fickle she was. They were most attracted to her whenever her attention started to drift (which could happen in ten minutes flat if they weren’t careful). She tapped the cigarette ash.
“Well, I just want
now. From now on, my motto is ‘Learn to love commitment.’ ” Ella nodded. It sounded good.
“El, that’s impossible,” Kelsi said flatly. “You’re not that kind of girl.”
Ella shot a dirty look at Kelsi, who was a taller, earthier version of herself. Kelsi was only a year and a half older, but if one sister was prettier than the other, it was only by the shade of a fraction. Still, wherever they went, it was Ella who got the attention. Ella was the one who sparkled and dazzled, while Kelsi was the one who didn’t wear makeup and smelled like patchouli. So Kelsi, who couldn’t really understand what it was like to get distracted by so many boys at once, had a tendency to act all judgmental around her little sister. But Ella couldn’t help it. She
to be satisfied, but every time she had something (or someone) in her possession, she’d soon find something else that was more interesting and move on.
“I’m gonna take a walk,” Ella said through a sigh, and trotted toward the gaggle of girls and boys who were hanging out by the water. She was bored with just standing around, and mingling with strangers might help her decide which guy back home would be a good candidate for a boyfriend. Eric, Jeff, Josh, the other Jeff? The possibilities were endless.
The crowd was thick, but not so much that Ella couldn’t feel the cool evening breeze on her skin. She brushed her bangs out of her eyes and already she could feel the salt air saturating her golden locks, making each strand grainy and thick. She squeezed through knots of surfer dudes, a bunch of tube-top-clad girls dancing in a clump, a college-age couple with their arms circling each other’s waists. A few guys tried to talk to Ella while she
strolled along, but none of them impressed her. She took a long, blasé drag on her cigarette to underline this point to everyone.
But then she had to pause mid-exhale.
Up on the stage, the band was rocking. In Ella’s opinion, they weren’t particularly good, but they were trying. The drummer had spiked-out blue hair and wiry arms that flung themselves against the drums so hard, she could see the vibrations shooting up and down his lean muscles. The two guitarists were thrashing around as if angry bees were trapped in their pants.
But it was the lead singer who grabbed Ella’s attention. He had black hair and dark, almond-shaped eyes. He effortlessly stroked the strings of his black electric guitar, which rested against his pelvis in an almost forgetting-it-was-there kind of way. His mouth clung so close to the microphone that he was almost French kissing it while he sang. Ella was mesmerized. Her mouth went dry and she couldn’t stop biting her lower lip. He was beautiful, and the ultrahip vibe he was giving off was completely irresistible.
She pushed her way to the edge of the stage and tried to make eye contact with the singer, all the while very conscious of her body and how soft it was, and how great her breasts looked in her dress. Although she started dancing to the music in an attempt to get his attention, he didn’t look down at her. After the song crashed around lopsidedly for another few minutes, it suddenly came to a grinding stop. The singer held his hand up in a casual wave and whispered into the microphone, “Thanks. We’re done.”
Then he did something that took Ella’s breath away. He pulled off his T-shirt, unveiling a smooth brown chest with a light dusting of hair across his pecs. He strode to the left of the stage
and went down to the pier, where he hopped right off the edge, rising gracefully for a second in the air, almost levitating, and then disappearing into the water below. As the other members of the band followed, the audience cheered them on. Ella and several others ran to the edge of the pier and leaned over. She watched the boys surface, their heads bobbing up and down in the water as they swam back to shore.
Ella’s laugh bubbled up out of her. The feeling of restlessness was gone. This guy was something completely new. He seemed flawless.
She dashed back toward the beach so that she could be the first person to greet him when he came out of the water.
“I thought you were gonna grow your hair even longer to look like a pirate,” Ella heard Jamie say.
“I tried but it looked dorky,” Ethan replied.
“I bet it looked cute,” Jamie cooed sappily.
Ella rolled her eyes, stabbing her toes in between the slats of wood on the pier, and trying to ignore Jamie and Ethan as they were sucked deeper into “The Couple Zone.” She was still disappointed that the hottie singer never showed up. When Ella had gotten to the beach, he hadn’t been there, and after a long search of the pier, she’d settled near Jamie and her boyfriend by the stage, waiting for the singer to somehow magically resurface there. What else could she do?
The third and headlining band had just finished up, and now there was some lame romantic song playing over the speakers. The sound of Faith Hill crooning was peppered with the occasional kissy noises issuing from Jamie and Ethan. Though Ella
was sort of happy for them, she didn’t think she could take it anymore. “I think I’m gonna go find Kelsi and head home,” she announced. Jamie and Ethan snapped to face her, clearly surprised that she existed.
“Okay, see you later.” Jamie’s smile was so big, it almost didn’t fit on her face.
Ella wove down the pier, occasionally rubbing past other sweaty bodies. Some couples were still dancing, and other people were just standing around talking as the party simmered down. Ella spotted Kelsi near the pier’s entrance, perched on the rail with her long skirt hanging between her legs. She was talking to some boy, and her face was flushed and shiny.
The guy with Kelsi reached out and put his hand on her knee, and Ella felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up as she studied the guy’s profile. It was impossible. Could it be?
Kelsi was laughing at something the guy had said when she spotted Ella.
“El!” Kelsi waved Ella over and flashed her a bright smile. “Did you see the band earlier? This guy is…Peter, this is my sister, Ella.”
Peter, of course, was none other than the hot singer.
Finally, they were making the eye contact Ella had tried for earlier in front of the stage, and she felt her stomach drop.
“Hey,” Peter said, giving her a friendly handshake.
Ella enjoyed the feel of his calloused fingertips on her skin. She noticed that he had a tiny, adorable cleft in his chin that made her knees wobbly. But even though she was all caught up in his magnificence, Peter’s hand didn’t linger in hers. He didn’t even glance at her chest or her legs or even so much at her face. He just
resumed chatting with Kelsi and gave Ella a nice view of his profile again. Ella’s entire body began to feel numb.
“I loved that third song, the one about the space dog,” Kelsi enthused, her voice fluttery. Ella tried to remember the words to any of the songs the band had played and came up blank. Perhaps she was too busy processing this insane situation—she was being ignored, and Peter kept touching Kelsi’s knee, and Kelsi kept moving and laughing like a natural nonpatchouli flirt, and up close, Peter’s vibe was much stronger than she expected.
His bronze skin tone made Ella think that he might be half Polynesian. In fact, Peter resembled a guy Ella had seen in her friend’s photos from Tahiti. In the picture, the guy stood in an endless sea of turquoise water, his hands on his hips and beads of moisture dripping off of him. He stared at the camera like he was born to be on the cover of a Chippendales calendar, only not such a pretty boy—just kind of graceful and sexy. Now that Ella thought about it, Peter and Mr. Tahiti could have been identical twins.
As Kelsi and Peter yammered on for several agonizing minutes, Ella continued to stand there, frozen and freaked out. But when Peter’s gaze quickly darted her way, she felt a surge of her old confidence and got up the nerve to talk to him.
“You live around here?” she asked, smoothing her tinted lip gloss with her pinky.
Peter nodded, and then shifted his attention back to Kelsi. “Have you guys been down to the Look Out Diner on Hallowell? I’m a short-order cook there.”
Ella stepped closer, so she’d be in his line of vision. “Ooh. Do you have pecan pie?”
Peter shrugged. “We might. Why don’t you come down and find out?” Again, his remarks seemed to be directed at Kelsi, and Kelsi only.
Ella swallowed. She felt the situation getting away from her. She had to do something drastic—right now.
“Ouch!” Ella screamed and clutched the back of her left thigh.
“What’s the matter, El?” Kelsi asked, looking genuinely concerned.
“Damn it! I think something bit me!” Ella whined. She began to limp around in circles.
“Could be a mosquito. They’re vicious out here,” Peter said.
“Let me take a look,” Kelsi said as she approached Ella.
“Okay,” Ella whimpered while pulling up her skirt a bit.
Kelsi inspected the lower part of Ella’s left thigh and shook her head.
“I don’t see anything.”
“Well, I know I felt something. It stung like hell,”Ella insisted.
Peter closed in on Ella and started peering at her leg.
“Pull your skirt up higher so we can get better look,” Kelsi said.
This was working like a charm.
Ella hiked up her dress a tad more, just enough for Peter to get a nice eyeful of her thigh and the teeny heart tattoo she secretly got last summer with that ever-so-wonderful fake ID.
A smile crept over Peter’s face when he saw it. “That’s an interesting bug bite.”
Kelsi, however, was not as amused by her little sister’s prank.
“Where did you get that, Ella?” Kelsi demanded.
“What? Don’t you like it?”
Kelsi let out a “Hmpf” and yanked down Ella’s dress. She leaned over and spoke softly into Ella’s ear.
“You little bitch. Just wait until we get home.” And with that, Kelsi spun around to Peter.
“Do you feel like going for a walk?” Kelsi asked. “It’s such a beautiful night.”
Peter replied with a lazy shrug and took Kelsi’s elbow. Ella watched their backs as they began to walk down the pier, then glanced down. Her plan hadn’t worked out at all. But before she could accept defeat, she heard Peter’s voice call out to her, and she looked up
“Hey, Ella,” he said over his shoulder. “Tattoos rock!” Then he raised his arm and gave her the devil sign with his hand. Ella responded in kind and even went one step further by sticking out her tongue.
After Kelsi and Peter were out of sight, Ella felt that things were looking brighter. She soaked up the view, which reminded her of another postcard her friend had sent from the same Tahiti trip. It had had an arrow pointing to a lounge chair on the beach, under green-and-brown palm trees. There had been red writing scribbled in at the top, above the arrow: “You should be