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Authors: Michelle Dalton

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BOOK: Swept Away
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The Keeper's Café is closed for the Lupine Festival but has a booth on the pier with all the others. Mostly for publicity, since their menu is woefully limited. As I pass it, I notice Celeste Ingram selling lemonade. Smart move hiring her. Judging from the boys hanging around the booth, the café might actually draw some local customers this summer.

Celeste is back from her first year at college. Even Cynthia—who can pretty much start a conversation with anyone—has never spoken to Celeste. There's something, well,
celestial
about her. As in, out-of-this-world beautiful, and sort of untouchable. She has flowing white-blond hair in the summer that only darkens a tinge the rest of the year, and wide blue eyes, broad cheekbones, and a sharp, tiny nose that gives her the appearance of an elfin queen.

“Hi, Mandy,” Vicki Jensen says as I get in the blueberry-pocket line behind her. “Where's Cynthia?” Vicki and I have had a bunch of classes together most years, but she's more Cynthia's friend than mine.

“Stashing her tiara,” I reply. Cynthia's changing into something less formal until the dance, now that she's been crowned and sashed, and has declared this year's Lupine Festival officially open.

“How'd it go?” Vicki asks. “I only got up a little while ago.”

“You mean you slept in? Like a normal person the first week of summer vacation?” I pout with envy. “Cynthia insisted I be there with her at the opening ceremony.”

“Yeah, I figured.” Vicki grins. “What best friends do, right?”

I grin back. Silly as it might seem, it's always nice to hear myself acknowledged as Cynthia's best friend. Once we hit high school, Cynthia roared into the popular crowd, and I worried that our bestie status since elementary school had ended its long run. But Cynthia proved me wrong.

“Hello, Mandy.” Our next-door neighbor, Mrs. Jackson, has her twins—rambunctious eight-year-old boys—with her. I get as far away as I can from those two the moment they're armed with pastries. Blueberry stains are impossible to get out.

But Maine is the blueberry capital of the world, which means blueberry stains are an inevitable part of Rocky Point summer life—just like grease spots, fish smells, and mud. I may be considered a traitor for not liking seafood, but no one can fault me on my Maine bloob (my
personal
term for blueberries) loyalty.

“Hi, Mrs. Jackson. Hi, guys,” I say, scanning my possible escape routes post–pocket purchase.

“I've been dreaming about these for
months
!” a familiar New York accent cries up ahead of me in the line. Joanna Maroni and her family have been coming to Rocky Point since we were in seventh grade. Cynthia and I usually hang with her and another Regular, Patti Broughton from Boston, all summer long. ­Cynthia'll be gone, but at least I'll still have Joanna and Patti. But I know it just won't be the same.

When I finally arrive at the front of the line, I reach for the luscious deep-fried fruity treat. A hand suddenly snatches it away.

“Hey!” I spin around, ready to smack the pocket thief. Instead I fling my arms around the culprit.

“Justin!” I crow. This is the first I've seen my brother since he came home for spring break in March. He must have arrived last night while I was at Cynthia's for our sleepover.

Justin grins at me, flecks of piecrust on his lips and purple smudges on his chin. I take a step back and punch his arm. “That was mine! You owe me a pocket!”

“Mmm-mm!” He takes another big bite and rolls his eyes heavenward. “My first pocket since last summer!” He licks his lips. “As good as I remembered.”

“It was supposed to be
my
first pocket of the season!” I scold him.

“Watch it!” Justin grabs my arm and yanks me out of the path of a pocket-wielding eight-year-old. The twins are waving their treats around in delight.

“Boys,” Mrs. Jackson scolds. “Those are food, not flags.”

Justin and I move away from the line, now stretching all the way back to the lobster roll booth. I narrow my eyes at Justin. “Just because you saved my hoodie from the twins,” I tell him, “doesn't mean you're off the hook. I want my pocket.”

Justin swallows the last bite. “Where's Cynthia?”

That seems to be the first thing everyone says to me if they ever find me without Cynthia by my side.

“She's ditching the gown till later,” I tell him. “And you're avoiding the subject. You. Back on line. Now. Must. Have. Pocket!”

He frowns, puzzled. “Gown?” Then he nods. “Oh, right. Lupine Queen. I forgot.”

I look up at him, surprised. “You used to be all gaga for the Lupine Queen.”

“Don't remind me. I can't believe I'd actually get up at the crack of dawn just to be at the front of the stage for the opening ceremony.” He shakes his head at the memory of his younger self.

“So now you think this is all, what”—I gesture vaguely to indicate the whole festival—“dumb?”

“Not dumb at all,” Justin says. “The queen thing, though. You've got to admit it's kind of dorky.”

“And you're not particularly interested in high school girls, now that you're a big college man.”

He grins. “Something like that.” He wipes his mouth, then tosses the napkin in a nearby trash can. “Come on, let's get back in line.”

“You're the one who should wait in line,” I protest.

He grabs my arm and drags me along, and I let him. It will give us a chance to catch up. We stroll along the length of the line, greeting neighbors, classmates—and then I see
him
.

I have no idea who he is. I have definitely never seen him before. I would have remembered.

He's studying the festival schedule, and the first thing I notice is that he's nearly as inappropriately dressed for early summer in Maine as Cynthia was.

He stamps his sandaled feet and shifts from side to side, giving me the impression that he's already regretting the Hawaiian-­print board shorts and vintage-looking sky-blue bowling shirt. I figure any minute now he'll admit he's cold (why don't boys ever
want to do that?) and untie the dark blue sweatshirt knotted around his waist.

The next thing I notice is his shaggy brown hair, with bangs long enough to flop over his face as he gazes down at the paper in his hands. Then he tips his head back to swing the bangs aside, and sticks his sunglasses on top of his head.

I suddenly stop noticing anything at all.

Anything, that is, other than the lips that look soft and full enough to be a girl's; the high, wide forehead; the sharp chin that seems to be pointing at the schedule in his hands; and his sun-tinged skin that tells me he's come from somewhere a lot warmer than Rocky Point, Maine. And twinkling blue eyes—or are they green?—that suddenly lock onto my own dark ones.

Busted.

I quickly glance away, grab Justin's arm, and breathlessly say, “Come on, slowpoke. They might run out before you get me my pocket.”

“The booth's only been open an hour,” Justin protests as I practically trot him toward the back of the line. I can't help risking a peek over my shoulder at the mysterious sun-kissed stranger, but he's gone back to studying his festival schedule. Only a tourist would give it such careful consideration.

Is he here for just the day? Or is he—oh please, please, please—­a new
Regular
?

I spot Cynthia arriving at the pier, scanning for me, flanked by Joanna and Patti. “There's Cynthia,” I tell Justin. “You get me my pocket and come find us. We'll probably be over at the arts and crafts.”

Justin shrugs. “You know they're best right out of the fryer,” he says.

“Just do it,” I order. I weave my way through the snaking lines radiating from the booths. This time I manage to keep from swiveling my head for another peek at Surfer Boy.

I stop dead in my tracks midway to Cynthia, paralyzed by the
worst
idea. He probably thinks Justin is my
boyfriend
! I literally smack my forehead.
How stupid am I?

I stand there still as a statue, forcing the hungry throngs to swerve around me. Luckily, on Lupine Festival day everyone's always in a good mood, so no one seems to mind. My brain spins on overdrive trying to think of a way to remedy the situation as I watch Patti, Joanna, and Cynthia approach.

Patti looks thinner and for once isn't carrying one of her ever-present bags of chips. Maybe she kept her vow to “eat healthy.” The hamburger, two hot dogs, and a lobster roll, along with mounds of potato and crabmeat salad at our Labor Day picnic at the end of last year's season nearly did her in.

The big surprise is Joanna's hair. A spiky short cut dyed a color not found in nature has replaced her long dark mane. ­Fuchsia is the closest I can figure.

If I wasn't already frozen by my possible gaffe with Surfer Boy, her dye job would have stopped me. All the years the Maronis have been coming to Rocky Point, Joanna and her three sisters have always dressed in the same ultra­conservative uniform: pastel sundresses or khakis and polo shirts. Their hair was often styled identically—French braids or pulled back with skinny headbands. Did her sisters dye their hair too, to
keep with the matchy-matchy? That I'd have to see to believe!

“Don't worry,” Joanna says, holding her sandwich away from me. “We'll stay downwind.”

“Thanks.” I grin, happy that she remembers my fish aversion. Sometimes it takes a while for us to get back in the swing of things after being away from each other for a year. It's nice to know that my quirks and I don't just vanish, like that town in the musical
Brigadoon
. Cynthia and I have watched the movie a bunch of times—it's about this town in Scotland that appears only for one day every hundred years. Sometimes I feel Rocky Point is like that to anyone
from away
—the term Mainers use for someone who isn't from Maine. To them we exist only while they're here and then vanish back into our famous Maine fog.

“Your summer's going to be great,” Patti says to Cynthia. “I know how much you love being in shows.”

Cynthia nods, her eyes bright. Every time she talks about going to the Vermont Performing Arts Summer Workshop she gets the same slightly dizzy look—like the very idea makes her head spin. “It's going to be awesome,” she says, bending forward from the waist to make sure no mayo falls onto her top from her overloaded lobster roll.

“Yeah, you must be stoked to be getting out of here,” Joanna says, just as her front jeans pocket buzzes. She pulls out her phone and reads the text. She types something back, then sighs. “I begged my parents not to drag me here, but no. They want to torture me.”

“Torture?” I repeat. Rocky Point hardly qualifies as a method of torture, and for all the summers I've known her, Joanna has
loved it so much she cried when she had to leave. Maybe the fuchsia hair dye has affected her brain.

She waves her cell phone around. “I think they did it just to break up me and Sam. He's back in Brooklyn with our friends, and I'm stuck here.”

“But you come here every summer,” Patti points out. “It's not some new stunt they pulled.”

Another buzz, another text. While Joanna's eyes are on her phone, Cynthia and I each give Patti a “what's up with her?” look. Patti shrugs.

Justin appears with my bloob pocket. “Don't say I never did anything for you, Sneezy,” he says, holding it out to me. Sneezy is his nickname for me, thanks to my allergies.

“You
didn't
do anything for me,” I counter. “You repaid your debt.”

I take the paper-wrapped treat from him and tentatively flick it with my tongue to test the temperature. You have to be careful with pockets. They can be treacherous, luring you in with their homey, acceptably hot pastry, then spurting steaming blueberries that scald the roof of your mouth. But this one is perfect. Still hot, but not at a dangerous level. I take a bite, shut my eyes, and inhale deeply, which is the only way to eat a pocket.

“Hi, Justin,” Patti says.

“Hey,” he replies. I can tell he's trying to place her. Maybe to Justin the Regulars live in Brigadoon, and
we're
the real world.

“You remember Patti,” I say, rescuing them both from potential embarrassment. I can be magnanimous now that I have my bloob pocket. “She lives in the green cottage on the bay side past
Second Time Around but before Scoops,” I explain, listing two of Rocky Point's favorite spots.

“Oh, right,” he says. I know he still has no idea who she is.

I also realize from the way Patti is twirling her hair and smiling that she's into Justin. But she's not even a blip on his radar.

“See you later, Sneezy,” he says. “I told Mom I'd fill in for her at the lighthouse so she can grab lunch.”

“Great,” I grumble. “Suck up to Mom so I seem like an even worse child.”

“You
are
the worse child,” he teases.

I scrunch my nose at him, since my mouth is too busy with the pocket to bother with a retort. Patti laughs way too loudly, and Joanna never raises her head from her cell phone.

“Are you going to the dance?” Patti asks Justin.

“Gotta see Cyn here dolled up in her Lupine Queen gown, don't I?” Justin winks at Cynthia.

“Ugh.” Cynthia shudders, then licks the glob of lobster that fell out of her sandwich off her wrist. “I'm never going to live it down.”

“Exactly why I have to see it.” Justin salutes us. “Ladies.”

I swallow the last bit of pocket and say, “You're going to look lovely in Mom's Mrs. Gilhooley costume.”

“Ha-ha,” he says, then jogs away.

“Make sure Mom gives you the bonnet, too!” I call after him. I roll up the paper the pocket came in and wipe my face.

“Does he have a girlfriend?” Patti asks, still twirling her hair.

BOOK: Swept Away
10.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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