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Authors: Heather Balog

The Dead of Summer

BOOK: The Dead of Summer
13.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

No part of this work may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.

Published by Kindle Press, Seattle, 2015

Kindle Scout

Amazon, the Amazon logo, Kindle Scout, and Kindle Press are trademarks of
, Inc., or its affiliates.

This book is dedicated to my children, Ryan and Tara. May you always know how much I love you.

Thank you to my husband for his patience and talking me off the ledge, yet again. A huge thanks to Tyna for reading yet ANOTHER novel and not flinging across the room.

Thank you to all the Chickies at CLC for your support and willingness to put up with my endless questions.

Cover Design by: Jarmila Takač






























Adults insist that you never completely remember your childhood. They say that as the years pass by, those little details that once captured your undivided attention become fuzzy around the edges. As time marches on, the sharp memories start crinkling up like a piece of newspaper burning in a campfire; first you can just make out the sentences, and then, the white hot fire laps at the pages, blurring them and obscuring the actual words. Until all that you are left with is a fine white ash and the vague memories of what used to be.

As long as I’m breathing, I know I will never forget my sixteenth summer. It’s been years, but that summer is etched finely in my memory. That was the summer I finally kissed a boy, found the body in the basement, and discovered that keeping secrets just might kill you. And believe me, that isn’t something you forget too easily, no matter how hard you try. And I sure as hell have tried.

My sixteenth summer was a strange time in Novella, South Carolina. When that first honeysuckle bloomed in early June, we were sure as hell done with summer already that year. For some reason, it had been unseasonably warm for nearly three months, the moon had been unnaturally full, and the events of that time inexplicably crazy, making me remember it even more. It was the summer that Shayla Wilson’s daddy discovered that she had been the one who was been stealing the cold cuts from his grocery store and giving them to the homeless couple that lived in the back alley. The day after that, Mrs. Busby’s (or aka Mrs. Busybody’s) barn burned down and her cows were discovered completely unscathed three miles down the road. And that all happened after the thirty-something-year-old principal of my high school ran off with Mrs. Nelson, the married sixty-five-year-old chemistry teacher. But none of that
was what changed my life.

It was a blistering hot day in June when I was pretty sure my life trajectory had been altered forever. That was the day I met
was Carson Tyler, and I truly believe that if I had not met him, had he not breezed into our quaint little town, my life would have taken a totally different path from that point on. Better or worse, I’ll never know, but one thing is for certain; Carson Tyler’s arrival set into motion the events that would change me forever. He was like that first domino that falls, causing all the other dominoes that are perfectly lined up to come crashing down in rapid succession.


That day in June that I met Carson, my best friend Lindy and I sat, bored as ants in a drywall factory, lounging on the deck in her yard. Lindy’s parents were super wealthy (well, as wealthy as one could be in Novella, South Carolina without being called old money), and I found her house to be much more comfortable and inviting for us than my own. Lindy’s mama was one of those “ladies who lunch” and was rarely ever home to be in our hair. She was usually too busy chairing a garden club (or saving a tree, or an orphan, or some other crap like that) to be concerned with the child she actually was supposed to be raising in her own house. It was almost as if when Lindy had gotten old enough to find her way to school on her own, Mrs. Lincoln had simply let out a sigh of relief and turned around to attend to the affairs she had put on the back burner the previous ten years.

Lindy’s house was spacious and grand. There was an honest-to-goodness ballroom that Lindy and I would practice our gymnastic tricks in, until Lindy fractured her wrist and Mr. Lincoln absolutely forbade it. He actually installed a security camera to ensure that we weren’t breaking his rule. But that was okay because there were at least twenty other rooms to break rules in. On more than one occasion, we found ourselves sliding down the freshly polished banisters or skating across the kitchen floor in our socks.

The Lincolns had a housekeeper come in several days a week. Her name was, predictably, Maria, and she was practically like a mother to both me and Lindy. Quite possibly because, at the time, the pair of us were two of the most motherless creatures that one could imagine. Not that my mama was absent or anything like that. But while Lindy’s mama was busy being important and posh, mine was busy being. . .not.

No, my mama wasn’t some alcohol, drug addicted crack whore who prostituted herself on the streets at night, leaving me to fend for myself. She wasn’t a pill-popping depressive who slept all day with the blinds drawn tight so that no sunshine crept in. She didn’t go out with flashy men who drove loud cars, nor did she slave away on the night shift at a local factory. It might have been easier for me if she had been any of those things. After all, they have therapy groups for kids growing up with mamas like that.

My mama was just a regular run of the mill recluse, who was severally agoraphobic. She would just sit in the house all day, her once beautiful blue eyes practically sunken into her head, frightened and watery, staring out the window at the world passing her by, the world that she was deathly afraid of being a part of. She certainly wasn’t a bad mama in any way other than the fact that she didn’t step foot outside our door. I could never say I was neglected or even dismissed. Hell, inside the confines of our cozy, immaculately clean, two-bedroom home, Mama was doting to the point of overbearing at times. She’d always fix me and Lindy a snack or ask if we wanted to play a card game when we clearly just wanted to listen to music, shut up in my room with the lights off, lamenting about how no boy truly loved or understood us. So, needless to say, Lindy and I found that her spacious, parent-less house was much better suited for a pair of melancholy teens like us.

Neither Lindy, nor I, had siblings; Lindy didn’t because her mama could barely stand being a mama long enough to raise Lindy to age ten, and I didn’t because my mama wasn’t married anymore. Oh, I wasn’t stupid. I knew you didn’t need a husband or nothing to get a baby. We had sex-ed in the form of Judy Blume books and racy romance novels. But when your mama doesn’t leave the house to even get groceries, you don’t assume that she’s planning to leave the house to go catch herself a man to make babies with.

Anyway, on that blistering hot day in June, at the beginning of the first week of our school recess, Lindy and I were stretched out on a pair of matching lounge chairs parked on the deck behind her house; her in her skimpy bikini that lifted her perky B-cups and accentuated her flat tummy, and me detaching my jean shorts from my thunder thighs and mopping up boob sweat that got caught underneath my oversized T-shirt. There was no way I was wearing a bathing suit, let alone a bikini, when my perfectly proportioned friend was nearby.

As we lounged, we were pondering what to do on this hot-as-Hades afternoon. It wasn’t that we weren’t used to the heat. Why, in late August sometimes the thermometer registered a hundred in the shade. We weren’t wusses. We just were just not accustomed to it being this damn hot this soon. We had spent the last few weeks in school practically mopping ourselves off the floor of the classroom, no energy for the usual end of the school year games and pranks that we liked to partake in, like Saran wrapping Miss Martin’s car or cutting class. Yeah,
we didn’t even have energy to cut class

Not that what Lindy and I did would actually qualify as “cutting” in the delinquent sense of the word. We didn’t go out to the football field and smoke underneath the bleachers, or hop on mopeds and drive to the beach. We didn’t even hang out at the Burger King and make fun of the old geezers in polyester pants. Our cutting was quite lame; Lindy would write a note for me and forge my mama’s name, and I would write a note for her and forge her mama’s name so that neither of us could be accused of writing a fake note from our own parents. Then Lindy and I would go hide at her house, out of the watchful eye of Maria (we only cut on her day off) and spend the entire day flipping through teen magazines and eating Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with reckless abandon—well, I ate them, Lindy just watched and rolled her eyes. Then, at two o’clock when school ended for the day, I would stagger home, my stomach ready to explode from chocolate and peanut butter goodness overload and face Mama’s daily twenty questions about how school was that day. I would rush to the bathroom and puke like a prom queen on a bender, praying my mama wouldn’t hear me and make me stay home the following day. I didn’t want to get too far behind in my classes, and the attendance officer might notice that my two notes were written by two obviously different people.

Lying out in the sun, our skin actually started to pop and sizzle. It was too hot, even for Miss Teen Queen of Tan. Lindy moaned and threw a towel over her head. “It’s too hot here to do anything.”

I bobbed my head up and down, agreeing with her. “Okay. Let’s go inside.” Maria was baking, and the mouthwatering aroma of cinnamon rolls was wafting down toward where we were lounging. I was dying to get inside and sink my teeth into a gooey, sugary bun and relax in the lovely air-conditioned kitchen in the process.

At our house, we only had an air conditioner unit in Mama’s bedroom and she only turned it on at night. I had a fan in my room, but that also didn’t get turned on till bedtime. So, during the day, we melted into puddles of candle wax. That was one of the other reasons I enjoyed coming to Lindy’s during the summer. But could
ever appreciate the glorious climate controlled air that she got to breathe in every day? No. She wanted to lie out in the backyard, oil herself up, and bake up all golden brown in the sun. I had Irish blood on my mama’s side, so needless to say, I was more like a giant prawn to her golden French fry.

Lindy shook her head. “No, not inside. Let’s go lay out there.”

Too hot to correct her improper use of grammar, I stared at the spacious backyard that seemed to stretch for miles, the hot Carolina sun beating down on the entire open yard like a Savannah, not a single tree to be had.

Where their property ended, however, was a grove of trees that could probably be classified as a full-fledged forest. Part of me was hoping that Lindy was suggesting relaxing out there, but the other part of me was slightly uneasy about the idea. It was kind of creepy and weird noises came from the treetops, sounding like rustling and moans. As I stood and stretched, tucking my towel under my arm, I thought I saw a shadow dart behind the trees out of the corner of my eye.

“Did you see that?” I pointed toward the wooded area.

BOOK: The Dead of Summer
13.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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