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Authors: Huntley Fitzpatrick

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What I Thought Was True

BOOK: What I Thought Was True
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“Utterly luminous. Huntley Fitzpatrick deftly balances the shimmering promise of summer, first love, and yearning in an emotionally

charged, beautifully written book.”

—Kristan Higgins,
New York Times
bestselling author

What I Thought Was True
is hauntingly raw, romantic, and beautiful.”

—Katie McGarry, author of
Crash Into You


“A summer romance with depth.”—
The Boston Sunday Globe

“On par with authors such as Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti.” —

“Chemistry that crackles: it’s the novel’s tender, awkward, sexy,

dizzy-happy portrayal of first love that really makes it soar.”

Horn Book

H “Movingly captures the intensity of first love [and] the corrupting forces of power. . . . Readers will be reminded how “right” and

“wrong” choices are rarely crystal clear.”

Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“One of the best books I read this past year”

—Kristan Higgins,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Jase and Samantha have a heart-warming romance every girl will envy.”

—Simone Elkeles,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Perfect Chemistry series

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“An almost perfect summer romance.” —
Kirkus Reviews

“Fitzpatrick perfectly captures the heady joys of first love while still dealing with everyday realities.” —

“A wonderful read that will connect with your heart—guaranteed!”

—Lurlene McDaniel, bestselling author of
Heart to Heart

Best First Book Finalist for the Romance Writers of

America RITA Awards

Barnes & Noble Best Teen Books of 2012

YALSA BFYA (Best Fiction for Young Adults) winner

The Atlantic Wire Y.A./Middle-Grade Book Awards

Goodreads Choice Awards, YA Fiction finalist

Best First Book Finalist for the RITA Awards

YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults 2013 List

B&N Best Teen Books of 2012

The Atlantic Wire YA Book Awards

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A bound galley is the first stage of printer’s proof, which has

not been corrected by the author, publisher, or printer.

The design, artwork, page length, and format are subject to

change, and typographical errors will be corrected during the

course of production.

If you quote from this galley, please indicate that your review

is based on an uncorrected text. Thank you.



Huntley Fitzpatrick

Publication date: April 2014

Price: $17.99 ($19.00 CAN)

Young Adult Fiction

Ages 14 and up Grades 9 and up

416 pages


Dial Books • New York

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by Huntley Fitzpatrick


an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

USA/Canada/UK/Ireland/Australia/New Zealand/India/South Africa/China

A Penguin Random House Company

Copyright © 2014 by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Fitzpatrick, Huntley.

What I thought was true / by Huntley Fitzpatrick.

pages cm

Summary: “17-year-old Gwen Castle is a working-class girl determined to escape her small island town, but when rich-kid Cass Somers, with whom she has a complicated romantic history, shows up, she’s forced to reassess her feelings about her loving, complex family, her lifelong best friends, her wealthy employer, the place she lives, and the boy she can’t admit she loves”— Provided by publisher.

ISBN 978-0-8037-3909-3 (hardback)

[1. Social classes—Fiction. 2. Dating (Social customs)—Fiction. 3. Family life—Connecticut—

Fiction. 4. People with disabilities—Fiction. 5. Old age—Fiction. 6. Islands—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.F578Wh 2014



Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Designed by Jasmin Rubero

Text set in Joanna MT Std Regular

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

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For you, John, for more than twenty years of your love, faith,

and friendship. For all the moments when I despaired of Cass

or Gwen or Nic, and you said softly, “I like them.” For all those

distracted hours of mine when you picked up the slack. Picking

up groceries, taking kids to ballet . . . those things never show

up in romantic novels. But they should.

For you, K, A, R, J, D, and C, the Fitzpatrick six . . . who love

books and beaches and summer. What I know is true? You are

the best things that have ever happened to me.


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Chapter One

Nothing like a carful of boys to completely change my mood.

There’s a muffled expletive from inside Castle’s Ice Cream,

so I know Dad’s spotted them too. A gang of high school boys

tops his list of Least Favorite Customers—they eat a ton, they

want it now, and they never tip. Or so he claims.

At first, I barely pay attention. I’m carrying a tray of wobbly

root beer floats, foil-wrapped burgers, and a greasy Everest’s

worth of fried scallops toward table four out front. In a few

weeks, I’ll be in the rhythm of work. Balancing all this and

more will be no big deal. But school got out three days ago,

Castle’s reopened last weekend, the sun is dazzling, the early

summer air is sticky with salt, and I have only a few more

minutes left in my shift. My mind is already at the beach. So I

don’t look up to see who just drove in until I hear a couple of

whistles. And my name.

I glance back. A convertible is parked, slanted, taking up two

spaces. Sure enough, Spence Channing, who was driving, shakes

his hair from his eyes and grins at me. Trevor Sharpe and Jimmy

Pieretti are piling out, laughing. I whip off my Castle’s hat, with its spiky gold crown, and push it into the pocket of my apron.


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“Got a special for us, Gwen?” Spence calls.

“Take a number,” I call back. There’s a predictable chorus

’s from some of the boys. I set the tray down at table four, add soda cans and napkins from my front pockets, give

them a speedy, practiced smile, then pause by the table where

my brother is waiting for me, dreamily dragging French fries

through ketchup.

But then I hear, “Hey, Cass, look who’s here! Ready to serve.”

And the last boy in the car, who had been concealed behind

Jimmy’s wide torso, climbs out.

His eyes snag on mine.

The seconds unwind, thin, taut, transparent as a fishing line

cast far, far, far out.

I jolt up, grab my brother’s hand. “Let’s get home, Em.”

Emory pulls away. “Not done,” he says firmly. “Not done.” I can

see his leg muscles tighten into his “I am a rock, I am an island”

stance. His hands flick back and forth, wiping my urgency away.

This is my cue to take a breath, step back. Hurrying Em,

pushing him, tends to end in disaster. Instead, I’m grabbing his

ketchup-wilted paper plate, untying my apron, calling to Dad,

“Gotta get home, can we do this take-out?”

“Not done,” Emory repeats, yanking his hand from mine.

“Gwennie, no.”

“Gettin’ slammed,” Dad calls out the service window, over

the sizzle of the grill. “Wrap it yourself, pal.” He tosses a few

pieces of foil through the window, adding several packets of

ketchup, Emory’s favorite.

“Still eating.” Emory sits firmly back down at the picnic



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“We’ll watch a movie,” I tell him, wrapping his food. “Ice


Dad glances sharply out the take-out window. He may be

brusque with Em from time to time, but he doesn’t like it

when I am.

“Ice cream
.” My brother points at the large painting

of a double-decker cone adorning one of the fake turrets. Yes,

Castle’s is built to look like a castle.

I pull him to the truck anyway and don’t look back, not even

when I hear a voice call, “Hey, Gwen. Have a sec?”

I turn the key in Mom’s battered Bronco, pressing hard on

the gas. The engine revs deafeningly. But not loud enough to

drown out another voice, laughing, “She has lots of secs! As

we know.”

Dad, thank God, has ducked away from the service window

and is bent over the grill. Maybe he didn’t hear any of that.

I gun the car again; jerk forward, only to find the wheels

spinning, caught in the deeper sand of the parking lot. At

last the truck lurches, kicks into a fast reverse. I squeal out

onto the blazing blacktop of Ocean Lane, grateful the road is


Two miles down, I pull over to the side, fold my arms to

the top of the steering wheel, rest my forehead on them, take

deep breaths. Emory ducks his head to peep at me, brown eyes

searching, then resignedly opens the foil and continues eating

his limp, ketchup-soggy fries.

In another year, I’ll graduate. I can go someplace else. I can

leave those boys—this whole past year—far behind in the

rearview mirror.


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I pull in another deep breath.

We’re close to the water now, and the breeze spills over me

soft and briny, secure and familiar. This is why everyone comes

here. For the air, for the beaches, for the peace.

Somehow I’ve wedged the car right in front of the big

white-and-green painted sign that marks the official separation

between town and island, where the bridge from Stony Bay

stops and Seashell Island begins. The sign’s been here as long

as I can remember and the paint has flaked off its loopy cursive

writing in most places, but the promises are grooved deep.

Heaven by the water.

Best-kept little secret in New England.

Tiny hidden jewel cradled by the rocky Connecticut coast.

Seashell Island, where I’ve lived all my life, is called all those things and more.

And all I want to do is leave it behind.


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Chapter Two

“Kryptite the only thing,” Emory tells me, very seriously, the

next afternoon. He shakes his dark hair—arrow straight like

Dad’s—out of his eyes. “The only, only thing can stop him.”

“Kryptonite,” I say. “That’s right. Yup, otherwise, he’s


“Not much Kryptite here,” he assures me. “So all okay.”

He resumes drawing, bearing down hard on his red Magic

Marker. He’s sprawled on his stomach on the floor, comic book

laid out next to his pad. The summer light slants through our

kitchen/living room window, brightening the paper as he

scribbles color onto his hero’s cape. I’m lying on the couch in

a drowsy haze after taking Em into White Bay for speech class


“Good job,” I say, gesturing to his pad. “I like the shooting

stars in the background.”

Emory tilts his chin at me, forehead crinkling, so I suspect

they aren’t stars. But he doesn’t correct me, just keeps on draw-


An entire day after running into the boys at Castle’s, I’m

still wanting a do-over. Why did I let them get to me this time?

I should have laughed; flipped them off. Not very classy, but


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I’m not supposed to be the classy one here. I should have said,

“Well, Spence, we all know that with you, it
take more than a sec.”

But I couldn’t have said that. Not with Cassidy Somers there.

The other boys don’t matter much. But Cass . . .


An hour or so later, our rattly screen door snaps open and in

comes Mom, her dark curly hair frizzing from the heat the

way mine always does. She’s followed wearily by Fabio, our

ancient, half-blind Labrador mix. He immediately keels over

on his side, tongue lolling out. Mom hurries to push his bowl

of water closer to him with one foot while reaching into our

refrigerator for a Diet Coke.

“Did you think about it some more, honey?” she asks me,

after taking a long swallow. Caffeinated diet soda, not blood,

must run through her veins.

I spring up, and the old orange-and-burgundy plaid sofa

lets out an agonized groan. Right, I should be making decisions

about what to do this summer, not obsessing about the ones I

made yesterday—or in March.

“Careful!” Mom calls, waving her free hand at the couch.

“Respect the Myrtle.”

Emory, now scribbling in Superman’s dark hair, heavy-

handed on the black marker, offers his throaty giggle at the

face I make.

“Mom. We got Myrtle from Bert and Earl's Bargain Base-

ment. Myrtle has three legs and no working springs. Getting

off Myrtle makes me feel like I need a forklift. Respect. Really?”


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“Everything deserves respect,” Mom says mildly, plopping

onto Myrtle with a sigh. After a second, she crinkles her nose

and reaches under the cushion, extracting one of my cousin

Nic’s ratty, nasty sweatshirts. A banana peel. And one of her

own battered romance novels. “Myrtle has lived a long, hard

life in a short time.” She swats me with the gross sweatshirt,

smiling. “So? What
you think—about Mrs. Ellington?”

Helping Mrs. Ellington. The possible summer job Mom

heard about this morning, meaning I wouldn’t have to keep

working at Dad’s again. Which I’ve faithfully done every year

since I was twelve. Illegal for anyone else, but allowed for Nic

and me, since we’re family. After five years, for sure, I could use a change from scooping sherbet, frying clams, and slapping

together grilled cheese sandwiches. More than that . . . if I’m

not handling Dad’s at night, I can help Vivien on catering gigs.

“Is it for the whole summer?” I plop down, stretch back

gingerly. If you hit her the wrong way, Myrtle lists like the

before its final dive.

Mom unlaces the shabby sneakers she wears to work, kicks

one off, stretching out her toes with a groan. She has daisies

delicately painted on her big-toenails, no doubt the work of

Vivien, the Picasso of pedicures. On cue, Emory leaves the

room in search of her slippers. He would have gotten her

the Coke if she hadn’t beaten him to it.

“Through August,” she confirms, after another long draw

of soda. “She fell off a ladder last week, twisted her ankle, got

a concussion. It’s not a nursing job,” she assures me hastily.

“They’ve got someone coming in nights for that. Henry . . . the family . . . just wants to make sure someone’s looking out for 7

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her—that she’s getting exercise, eating—not wandering off to

the beach by herself. She’s nearly ninety.” Mom shakes her head

as if she can’t believe it.

Me neither. Mrs. Ellington always seemed timeless to me, like

a character from one of those old books Grandpa brings home

from yard sales, with her crisp New England accent, straight

back, strong opinions. I remember her snapping back to some

summer person who asked “What’s wrong with him?” about

Em: “Not as much as is wrong with
.” When Nic and I used to go along with Mom on jobs, back when we were little, Mrs.

E. gave us frosted sugar cookies and homemade lemonade, and

let us sway in the hammock on her porch while Mom marched

around the house with her vacuum cleaner and mop.

But . . . it would be an island job. A working-for-the-

summer-people job. And I’ve promised myself I won’t do that.

Rubbing her eyes with thumb and forefinger, Mom polishes

off her soda and plunks the can down with a tinny clink. More

tendrils of hair snake out of her ponytail, clinging in little coils to her damp, flushed cheeks.

“What would the hours be, again?” I ask.

“That’s the best part! Nine to four. You’d get her breakfast,

fix lunch—she naps in the afternoon, so you’d have time free.

Her son wants someone to start on Monday. It’s three times

what your dad can pay. For a lot less work. A good deal, Gwen.”

She lays out this trump card cautiously, sliding the “

need to do this
” carefully underneath the “
you want to do this

Whatever Nic and I can pull in during the summer helps

during the Seashell dead zone, the long, slow months when

most of the houses close up for the season—when Mom has


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fewer regulars, Dad shuts down Castle’s and does odd jobs

until spring, and Em’s bills keep coming.

“What about her own family?” I ask.

Mom hitches a shoulder, up, down, casual. “According to

Henry, they won’t be there. He does something on Wall Street,

is super-busy. The boys are grown now—Henry says they don’t

want to spend their whole summer on a sleepy island with

their grandma the way they did when they were younger.”

I make a face. I may have my own thoughts about how small

and quiet Seashell can be, but I live here. I’m allowed. “Not

even to help their own grandmother?”

“Who knows what goes on in families, hon. Other people’s


Are their own.

I know this by heart.

Emory bounces back into the room with Mom’s fuzzy slip-

pers—a matted furry green one and a red, both for the left

foot. Reaching out for Mom’s leg, he pulls off the remaining

sneaker, rubs her instep.

“Thanks, bunny rabbit,” Mom says as he carefully positions

one slipper, repeating the routine on the other foot. “What do

you say, Gwen?” Mom leans into me, nudging my knee with


“I’d have afternoons and nights free—every night?” I ask, as

though this is some key point. As if I have a hoppin’ social life

and a devoted boyfriend.

“Every night,” Mom assures me, kindly
asking “What’s

it matter, Gwen?”

Every night free. Guaranteed. Working for Dad, I usually


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wind up covering the shifts no one else wants—Fridays and

Saturdays till closing. With all that time open, I can have a real summer, do the beach bonfires and the cookouts. Hang out

with Vivie and Nic, swim down at the creek as the sun sets, the

most beautiful time there. No school, no tutoring to do, no

waking up at 4:30 to time for the swim team, none of those

boys . . . Running into them yesterday at Castle’s was . . . yuck.

Out at Mrs. E.’s, the farthest house on Seashell, I’d never have to see them.

I can practically smell my freedom—salty breezes, green

sun-warm sea-grass, hot fresh breezes blowing over the wet

rocks, waves splashing, white foam against the dark curl of


“I’ll do it.”

It’s an island job. But only for one summer. For one fam-

ily. It’s not what Mom did, starting to clean houses with my

Vovó, her mother, the year she turned fifteen to make money

for college, still cleaning them (no college) all this time later.

It’s not what Dad did either, taking over the family business at

eighteen because his father had a heart attack at the grill.

It’s just temporary.

Not a life decision.

“Hon . . . did your dad pay you for your days yet? We’re

running a little behind.” Mom brushes some crumbs off the

couch without meeting my eyes. “Nothing to worry about,


“He said he’d get it to me later in the week,” I answer

absently. Em has moved from Mom’s feet to mine, not nearly as

sore, but I’m not about to turn him down.


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Mom stands, opens the fridge. “Lean Cuisine, South Beach,

or good old Stouffer’s tonight? Your choice.”

Gag on Lean Cuisine and South Beach. She stabs the plas-

tic top of a frozen entrée with her fork, but before she can

shove it into the microwave, Grandpa Ben saunters in, his usual

load of contraband slung over his shoulder, Santa Claus style. If

Santa were into handing out seafood. He pushes one of Nic’s

sweat-stiffened bandannas to the side of the counter, unload-

ing the lobsters into the sink with a clatter of hard shells and

clicking claws.

“Um, dois, três, quatro.
That one there must be five pounds at least.” Excited, he runs his hands through his wild white hair,

a Portuguese Albert Einstein.

“Papai. We can’t possibly eat all those.” Despite her protest,

Mom immediately starts filling one of our huge lobster pots

with water from the sink. “Again I ask, how long will it be

until you get caught? And when you go to jail, you help us

how?” Grandpa’s fishing license lapsed several years ago, but

he goes out with the boats whenever the spirit moves him. His

array of illegal lobster traps still spans the waters off our island.

Grandpa Ben glares at Mom’s plastic tray, shaking his head.

“Your grandfather Fernando did not live to be one hundred

and two on”—he flips the box over, checking the ingredi-

ents—“potassium benzoate.”

“No,” Mom tells him, shoving the tray back into the freezer.

“Fernando lived to one-oh-two because he drank so much

Vinho Verde, he was pickled.”

Muttering under his breath, Grandpa Ben disappears into

the room he shares with Nic and Em, emerging in his at-home


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mode—shirt off, undershirt and worn plaid bathrobe on, car-

rying Emory’s Superman pajamas.

“Into these, faster than a speeding bullet,” he says to Emory,

who giggles his raspy laugh and races around the room, arms

outstretched Man-of-Steel style.

“No flying until you’re in your suit,” Grandpa says. Em skids

to a halt in front of him, patiently allowing Grandpa Ben to

strip off his shirt and shorts and wrestle the pajamas on. Then

he cuddles next to me on Myrtle as Grandpa fires up a Fred

Astaire DVD.

Our living room’s so small it barely accommodates the

enormous plasma-screen TV Grandpa won last year at a bingo

tournament at church. I’m pretty sure he cheated. The state-of-

the-art screen always looks so out of place on the wall between

a cedar-wood crucifix and the wedding picture of my grand-

mother. She’s uncharacteristically serious in black and white,

with the bud vase underneath that Grandpa never forgets to fill

every day. It’s a big picture, one of those ones where the eyes

seem to follow you.

I can never meet hers.

Lush, romantic music fills the room, along with Fred

Astaire’s cracked tenor voice.

“Where Ginger?” Emory asks, pointing at the screen.

Grandpa Ben’s put on
Funny Face,
which has Audrey Hepburn, not Ginger Rogers.

“She’ll be here in a minute,” Grandpa tells him, his usual

answer, waiting for Emory to love the music and the dancing

so much that he doesn’t care who does it.


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Em chews his lip, and his foot begins twitching back and forth.

BOOK: What I Thought Was True
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