cover

 

 

 

How To Survive A Summer Romance (Or Two)

 

By Ann Herrick

 

Digital ISBNs

EPUB 978-1-77362-484-6

Kindle 978-1-926965-89-5

WEB 978-1-77362-485-3

 

Amazon Print 978-1-77362-486-0

 

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Copyright 2011 by Ann Herrick

Cover Art by Michelle Lee

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

 

Chapter One

 

 

I so never planned on having a summer romance. And I totally never expected my mother to have one. I mean, she’s such a relic that her husband is actually my father.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I want to tell this story before I forget it. After all, in just a few short years I’ll be in my twenties and I’ll start losing ten thousand brain cells a day.

So, near as I can remember, this is the beginning …

 

* * * *

 

“Wake up, sleepyhead.”

An elbow jabbed my ribs. Brian’s elbow. Panic! Confusion! What was I doing waking up with Brian? I’d be grounded until the next century!

“Kaysie, you were the one who wanted to see the sunrise. Remember?” Brian sighed. “That’s why we’ve been parked at the edge of Stanton Pond for the last hour.”

“Oh …” I lifted my head from Brian’s shoulder. “Right.”

I yawned and stretched, then focused my eyes on the horizon. The sky turned pink. Rays of pale golden light filtered through the maple trees lining the far side of the pond. The sky grew brighter until the great yellow sphere appeared. I closed my eyes. Even in the car I felt the warmth of the sun on my face.

I hoped it signaled a beginning and not an end. I hadn’t really wanted to see the sunrise so much as I’d wanted to spend another hour with Brian. I mean, at long last, after several false starts, I actually had a boyfriend. Being with him for his graduation party wasn’t enough. Not when, in a few short hours, I would be dragged off to Lake Whatamacallit for a whole month.

“I’m going to miss you,” Brian said.

“Me, too.” It totally wasn’t fair. We’d started dating only two months ago. For a moment, I almost smiled as I remembered celebrating my sixteenth birthday at The Pizza Parlor with my best friend, Venetia. Brian had strolled by and noticed the candles on my sausage-and-mushroom pizza.

“So, you’re sixteen now …,” he’d said with a big smile.

Next day he called and asked me out. I was so shocked I needed a self-inflicted Heimlich maneuver. Not that I was couple crazed. But I was ready to relate. I managed to say yes. I mean, on the Boy-o-meter scale, Brian was definitely cute, almost to the point of being hot, and, not-so-incidentally, he was a main brain.

“I wish I’d get more time off this summer,” Brian said, dragging me back to the present. “Then I could visit you.”

“Me, too.” I tried to swallow the trace of resentment I still had after hearing about Brian’s job. Only one day off every two weeks! Not enough time to drive up from Connecticut to visit me in New Hampshire. Okay, being a counselor at the camp for disadvantaged kids was important to him. I guess that was one of the reasons I cared about him. But there was this small part of me—okay, a not-so-small part—that wished he couldn’t live without me. I mean, is that too much to ask?

Then, out of the currently clear blue sky, Brian said those magic words, “I love you.” He twisted his school ring off his finger and held it up to me. “And … and I’d like you to wear this.”

Whoa! No one I knew gave a girl his school ring. That was the kind of thing that went on in the olden days when Mom was young. But when I saw the sunlight bouncing off the gold, I lusted after that ring. “Oh, Brian,” I whispered as I reached for it.

“But, well, um … we have to say goodbye for now.” He stuck the ring back on his finger!

Brian was quiet for a moment, then said, “I I don’t know exactly how to say this. But, uh, after you come back, if we … we still feel the same way about each other, would you take my ring then?”

“I don’t have to wait!” I blurted out. “I know how I feel right now.” Gold fever! I want that ring! I must have it!

“Well, you may think—”

“I don’t think. I know!”

Brian touched his finger to my lips. “Take it easy. I I just think—”

“Look, I’ll be a junior in the fall,” I said, summoning every mature cell in my body. “And you’ll be a freshman in college, for the love of The Omnipotent Being.” My voice rose a few notches with each word, so I took a deep breath to calm down.

“That’s another thing,” Brian said. “I’ll be away at college. If we survive being separated for a month—”

“Wesleyan is less than an hour’s drive from here,” I said quickly. “You can come home every weekend.”

“Well … maybe not every weekend,” Brian said. “Besides, we’re talking about now.”

“I’m bringing a pile of books,” I exclaimed. “I’m totally going to read every day. I am so not going to even look at another guy.”

“Now wait a second.” Brian held up his hand in protest. “I don’t want that.” He paused, then said, “Well, not really. Look, you’ll probably meet a lot of guys up there. So go for walks around the lake with some of them. Flirt. Have yourself a summer romance … or two.”

“But—”

“Just don’t fall in love with someone else—if you can help it.”

“What about you?” I freaked out. “I suppose you have a summer romance all planned!”

“Come on.” Brian shook his head. “Even if I wanted to, which I don’t, I wouldn’t have the time. You know that.”

I felt myself blush. Even though I knew Brian was not the type to sneak around on me, my nature, unfortunately, was to be suspicious. I mean, why did he insist that I turn into a major flirt during my vacation? I looked at him in confusion.

“Don’t worry, Kaysie.” Brian gathered me into his arms. “I just want you to have fun. If you still want my ring when you get back, well, I figure we’ll be ready for a serious relationship.”

“I’m ready now!” Dotted lines connected my eyes to Brian’s ring.

“We’ll see.” Brian pressed his lips on mine. I felt his love wrap around me like a warm blanket, all safe and secure. No way was I going to have anything to do with a single other guy for the whole month I was gone. Nuh uh.

I mean, Brian was one great guy. He didn’t even try to put moves on me. I confess … I had to brush aside just the tiniest little worry that meant he bordered on geekdom. But, no. No way! He was one of the most awesome guys I ever met. Really!

“Well, I’d better take you home now,” Brian said. “Before your Mom calls out the National Guard.”

At my house he walked me up to the door and gave me a long, lingering kiss. “Promise,” he whispered, “that you’ll have fun.”

“I promise.” I promise I’ll be thinking of you and your ring every day that I’m gone.

“Home at last,” Mom said, as I drifted into the living room. She was packing a trunk full of sheets and towels. “If it was anyone but Brian Hill, I’d never have let you stay out all night, graduation or no graduation! I was ready to call out the National Guard.”

“Ha, ha.” I managed a small smile. Brian called it. I was so going miss him.

“Mom!” Gwen bumped down the stairs, practically tripping over her luggage. “I have to bring two suitcases. I can’t possible fit everything I need into one.”

“Oh, all right.” Mom sighed. “I guess you do need to bring more now that you’re older.”

Ever since Gwen turned twelve last fall her number of necessities exploded. Curling iron, hair dryer, three shampoos, two deodorants, who knows how many sun lotions, etcetera into infinity. Not to mention the three swimsuits she talked Mom into buying her.

Not that I blamed her. In the past few months it’d been obvious Gwen was inheriting Mom’s incredible curves. If I had a hot bod like that, I’d want a whole wardrobe of swimsuits, too.

Maybe all that shopping for Gwen was what prompted Mom to buy herself a bikini for our vacation. She looked nice in the tank suits she’d always worn before, but I had to admit she looked great in “that skimpy thing,” as Dad called it. Teaching six aerobics classes a week certainly kept her in shape. Still, it had been kind of a shock to see the switch to the bikini, even if it wasn’t an itsy bitsy one.

“By the way, Kaysie,” Mom said. “You can’t lug both boxes of paperback books to New Hampshire. We just won’t have room.”

“But I spent weeks buying them at garage sales! And they don’t make up for the fact that I couldn’t take that job at the library, thanks to our stupid vacation. Besides, my life will be total boredom all month! There’ll so be nothing to do at Lake Watchmacallit.”

“That’s Lake Winnipesaukee,” Mom said. “And there’s plenty to do. You can swim, row, pick blueberries—”

“Whoopee.” I waved my finger in a circle.

Mom dropped a stack of towels into the trunk and got this dreamy look on her face. “Oh, I just know it’ll be fun. Twenty years ago I had one of the best summers of my life there.”

“Oh?” This caught my interest. It was news to me.

“I was seventeen. It was the last summer before my father died. The summer before your Uncle Dick and I went off to college.”

Uncle Dick is Mom’s twin brother. I can’t count the times I heard how hard they had to work to put themselves through college.

“I had my first summer romance there!” Mom clasped her hands over her heart.

“Oh, yeah?” Suddenly Gwen was interested. Boys and romance had become her favorite subjects.

“Parker Daly.” Mom sighed. “Nineteen, tall, blond, and so good looking he took my breath away. Oh, it was such a wonderful summer!”

Dad wandered into the room studying a map. Without looking up, he said, “Margo, are you and the girls all packed?”

Dad’s graying hair casually spilled onto his forehead, emphasizing his dark green eyes. They were his best feature and one I was glad I’d inherited, unlike his lanky build. Dad tells me I’m “willowy.” But actually what I’ve got is a nothing figure. In place of a waist or a bust I have these long legs that go right up to my armpits.

“Hmm?” Mom was obviously still off in a dream world of her first summer romance. Funny that she remembered the guy’s name after twenty years.

“I’m all packed,” I said quickly, before Mom snapped out of her trance. “Dad, I’ll need help carrying a couple boxes of books.”

“Sure,” said Dad. “Where are they?”

“Up in my—”

“Now, Kaysie,” said Mom, once more aware of what was going on. “We just won’t have room for all those books.”

“It’s only two boxes,” I said in my best desperate sounding voice. “Besides, I need them. Otherwise my brain will turn to mush and I’ll be bored all month.”

“Well … in that case, all right.” Mom gave in to my argument. Eventually, she almost always did. I’d discovered that an urgent tone on my part and not much time to think on her part usually did the trick.

I figured I deserved to have my way about the books. Leaving Brian and all my friends behind was bad enough. But missing out on the library job was a major disappointment. I’d really looked forward to running my fingers over the spines of books as I reshelved them and the smell of new books as I unpacked them. Not to mention the chance to sneak a look at all the latest bestsellers during my breaks and lunch hours.

Just because of our lousy vacation I had to turn down the job of a lifetime. Sometimes I almost suspected that Mom wanted to ruin my summer!

As soon as the car was loaded, we were on our way. I renewed my vow to write to Brian every day and to ignore other guys. I would read all day, every day.

Gwen squirmed in the seat next to me and gazed out the window expectantly, even though we weren’t even out of town yet. She dragged out a small beach bag and sorted through her bottles of sun lotion.

Dad folded himself over the steering wheel and drove the same way he worked at his computer when writing his detective novels—all concentration. I knew he had to finish his latest book, but I wished he wasn’t going to be working at the lake. He needed to get out and get some sun. He had that pale, always working at a desk look.

Besides, since the only computer we’d have would be his laptop, and he would be on it constantly, I would be cut off from e mailing and skype ing and IM ing and everything ing. I’d have to resort to old-fashioned pen and paper to write to Brian. Snail mail was absolutely archaic. Mom even put a ban on bringing a cell phone, so we could “truly get away from it all.” Talk about primitive!

Mom seemed to be in a great mood. She hummed and ran her fingers through her reddish gold hair. Originally it was dark brown, like mine. But now, thanks to bottled sunshine, it was officially “Golden Peach.” Due to the pale golden undertones of her still-smooth skin it worked with her complexion.

Mom snapped on the radio to her favorite old-fogy station, and some ancient song came on.

“Oh! ‘Almost Paradise.’ I love this song.” Mom turned up the volume.

“I know that’s one of your favorite oldies,” Dad said. “But would you please turn it down, so I can concentrate on driving?”

“Oh, all right.” Mom turned down the sound. Then she leaned back, tapped her fingers on the armrest and hummed along with the music. It was so last century.

I wondered why she liked the song so much. But I was too tired and too depressed at the thought of being away from my real life for a whole month to worry about it. I closed my eyes and listened to the hum of the tires on the road instead of the radio.

Next thing I knew, Dad was saying, “Ah. Here’s Greenwood. There’s the general store where we turn left.”

I sat up and looked around, for a moment admiring the sprinkling of old clapboard houses along the road. We turned down a winding dirt driveway. Soon we were overlooking a tranquil cove with three weathered but kind of charming summer cottages with wide porches that faced the lake. Dad pulled up to the middle cottage.

We all piled out, stretched our legs, and started unloading the car. I imagined myself curled up on the porch swing all month, devoting myself to reading great books and writing long, beautiful letters to Brian. Maybe I could make this a … a spiritual retreat. I’d return home, ready to so dedicate myself to a new and even more fulfilling relationship. I’d show Brian I knew all about love.

“Hey, cool!” Gwen tugged at my sleeve. She jerked her thumb first to one side of the cottage, then the other. “This is going to be a great summer.”

I followed the paths of Gwen’s thumb. On the porch of one house was a guy with short black hair. On the other porch was a guy with thick hair the color of sand. I tried to shrug it off. But I couldn’t help notice that they were both staring in our direction.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

I decided I didn’t want to hang around and be stared at. I mean, no summer guys for me! I ducked into the cottage. Surprisingly, it was not too shabby. The downstairs was one big room—a cozy eat in kitchen, a living area filled with plump chairs and sofas, and a stone fireplace.

Gwen came in a few seconds later. “Those guys looked totally worthwhile from here, don’t you think?” she asked cheerfully.

“I didn’t notice,” I said. After all, I’d completely sworn off boys—except for Brian, of course.

“Oh, of course not.” Gwen pressed the back of her hand against her forehead. “You’re too crushed on Brian to see straight.”

“It’s more than that.” I smiled mysteriously, knowing that would send Gwen’s curiosity level up to boil.

“What do you mean? What? What!” Gwen’s big brown eyes widened, and she sucked her mouth into a tiny “O.”

“Wait’ll we get upstairs,” I whispered, to add to the drama of it all.

“What are we waiting for?” Gwen practically pushed me up the stairs, banging all four of our suitcases against the railing.

“Take it easy up there,” Dad called from the porch. He sounded distracted rather than actually concerned.

Gwen and I quickly found the room with twin beds that Mom said was ours.

“I’ll take the one next to the window.” I plunked my suitcases down on the bed. There was a nice view of the lake. Plus, I could see the cottages on each side of ours. Not that I really cared about that.

I got up and opened the window. The soft, damp, lakey smell drifted in, replacing the musty odor of the room. The vast blue green lake was so beautiful that I could see why Mom would remember her summer romance here, even though twenty years ago seemed pre historic to me.

“So.” Gwen tapped her foot. “What about you and Brian?”

“Well …” I sat on my bed, smoothed my hand over the pink chenille bedspread, and said oh so casually, “He told me he loves me.”

“Oooo eeee!” Gwen flopped down on her bed, shrieking into her hands to muffle the sound.

“There’s more,” I said. I explained about Brian’s ring and how he wanted me to see other guys during our vacation.

“Give you his ring? What an idea! How totally romantic!” Gwen gushed.

“Of course, I have no intention of seeing other guys.”

“But what about your promise?” Gwen was very big on keeping promises.

“I just promised to have fun. I can have fun reading.”

Gwen thought this over for a moment. “That’s true.”

“Not a word to Mom or Dad.”

“Oh, no.” Gwen crossed her heart.

I felt safe. Gwen wasn’t a blabbermouth. If I had to be stuck with a kid sister, I was glad it was her. Some of my friends’ brothers and sisters could be absolute brats. The only real problem with Gwen was that she sometimes changed moods as quickly as she changed TV channels.

We unpacked our stuff and put it away in two white dressers stenciled with pink flowers. I claimed the one with the three way mirror. Another thing I liked about Gwen—she was so accommodating. I hope it never occurs to her that she doesn’t have to be.

After we unpacked, we went downstairs and swept off the porch while Mom and Dad tidied up the rest of the house. There was no sign of the two guys we’d seen earlier.

When we finished sweeping, Dad recruited Gwen and me to help him set up his computer and books and everything in the tiny third bedroom. As soon as we were done, Dad booted up.

“Don’t work the first day here, Dad,” I protested. “At least go for a walk by the lake with Mom.” And give me a chance to hop on the computer!

“Don’t worry,” Dad said, his gaze already fixed on the computer screen. “I just want to check out some stuff.”

“Sure, Dad,” I said as Gwen and I left the room. But I knew we’d have to drag him out of there just to get him to eat.

“Why don’t we go to the lake?” Gwen suggested.

“Well … okay.” I didn’t have to read the very minute we arrived. Besides, I should get at least one close look at the water.