Authors: Catherine Clark
UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE
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UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE
UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE
“Is this it?”
“This can’t be it.”
Mikayla and I climbed out of my car and stood in the gravel driveway.
It was June 10, our summer vacation had started two and a half days ago, and we’d just driven three hours from Minneapolis to stand outside what was supposed to be our dream house for the summer.
“The pictures your grandmother sent made it look a lot better,” Mikayla commented.
I had to agree. The small cabin was painted dark red and had white shutters on a few of the windows—while a few other shutters were hanging off, and one had already fallen to the ground. Pine trees surrounded the house, not letting much sunlight through, and I noticed as I got closer the paint was peeling in a few places.
An envelope was taped to the front door. The screen door practically came off its hinges when I pulled it open. I removed the envelope from the door and a few paint chips came off with it. Inside the envelope was a short note from my grandparents, along with the key.
WELCOME TO BRIDGEPORT!
my grandmother had written in all caps.
We don’t have a name for this place yet—hoping you girls will think of one as the summer goes on. We know the place needs a little work—we’ve given it a fresh paint job inside, and we’ll help you find more furniture. We’re excited to have you here! XXOO Nana & G
“Should we go in?” asked Mikayla.
“I guess so. Here goes nothing,” I said as I slid the key into the lock. It didn’t work at first, so I rattled the doorknob a few times until the door swung open—
open is more like it.
We walked into a narrow entryway beside a tiny coat closet. I flipped on the lights and saw the living room, dining room, and kitchen all in one glance. We wandered down a hallway that led to the bathroom and two bedrooms, one with two single beds and one with a double bed.
“Well, it’s small,” said Mikayla as we walked back out to the kitchen, “but it’s cute small.”
“My mother would call it ‘cozy charm,’” I said, making air quotes. “Rustic cabin with authentic fireplace and huge heart. Massive potential!” I laughed, half at the house and half at the fact I was quoting my mother’s real estate language.
Mikayla ran her fingers along the kitchen counter, which was made of some prehistoric tile material—in brown. “We can make it look better,” she said. “We just need to invest in some cute accessories.”
The small town where my grandparents live and have an apple orchard is in northern Minnesota. I love everything about Bridgeport, from its old-fashioned street signs to the lakeside cafés. I even love the slow-moving traffic, as long as I’m not the one driving in it.
But this house? I wasn’t so sure.
I poked around the kitchen. My grandparents had furnished the place sparingly, with some dishes, a coffeemaker, a well-used toaster oven, and dish towels. In the living room there was a flowered upholstered chair that I remembered from my grandparents’ porch—the faded material was a giveaway—and two folding beach chairs, with an upside-down cardboard box for a coffee table and a couple of floor lamps that also looked like castoffs.
The rest was going to be up to us, or we could spend the summer living in what looked like the set from a depressing one-act play.
There was no TV, but Mikayla and I both had our computers, so if we could ever get Wi-Fi here, we’d be set . . . but right now I wasn’t counting on that. Instead, I figured I’d be doing a lot of reading over the summer, which was fine with me. I wanted to get ahead in a couple of my fall AP classes and be ready for the college-level courses I’d take in the winter and spring. Plus, there were college applications to think about, essays to write . . . Why did I suddenly get the feeling this was going to be an Abraham Lincoln summer? Me, a candle, a pen, some paper . . . and a brilliant speech that I could trot out when I became valedictorian.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha.
I usually visited every summer for a week or two, came on long weekends occasionally, and spent a few Christmas vacations here, when the bay would freeze and you could actually drive on it. But this summer, for the first time ever, I was moving here for two and a half months.
Mikayla and I were living completely on our own, but of course we’d had to swear on our lives to be responsible in every way, as if we weren’t all the time anyway. We were practically saints, if you want to know the truth.
Of course, there was no rule that we had to behave exactly the same here as we did at home.
“Which is going to be my room?” asked Mikayla.
“I don’t know.” We stood in the doorways of each bedroom, surveying the spaces. “Do you want the bigger bed?” I asked.
“No, you take it,” Mikayla said. She flopped onto one of the single beds. “Hey, this is pretty comfy.”
I walked through the living room and onto the small deck off the back of the house. The view from there was incredible and explained why my grandparents had bought this place. You could see down to the harbor below. “Mikayla, come out here!” I called.
She hurried out the sliding door from the living room. “Now this is what I’m talking about.”
“No, it’s what
was talking about on the way up.” I laughed. “My nana said, ‘It’s not much, but there’s a view.’ She was right on both counts.”
We went back outside to start unpacking the car. The first thing we had to do was remove our bicycles from the car rack, and then take off the rack so we could open the back of my small SUV. Once we got that done, we hauled the boxes out of the back, along with a couple of suitcases of clothes and a few duffel bags.
“You want a ride to the beach club in a while?” I asked, as I carried a desk lamp in one hand and a blow-dryer in the other. “I want to go see my grandparents.” Neither of us would start work for a few days—we’d wanted to get to town early and spend a few days settling into the place.
Mikayla set down a bag of oranges on the kitchen counter. “I think I’m going to go for a bike ride, visit the Club, and meet Sarah. I told her we were getting to town today and she said I could drop by for a tour. I could use the exercise after being in the car for so long. Plus, I need to make sure I can find the place, right?”
“You remember where it is, though,” I said.
“Pretty much,” she said. “It’s the getting back
part I’m not sure about. Is this technically the woods, or the forest?”
I laughed. “You’re such a city kid. It’s Hemlock Hill Road. If you remember that, you can find your way back here. Look at the lake, and then head, you know, up the hill.”
She squinted at me. “Are you making fun of me?”
“Maybe,” I said.
“You’re the one who almost got back on the highway heading the wrong direction,” Mikayla said as she sorted things in the kitchen, putting away the small sets of plates and glasses she’d picked up at a Goodwill: some matched and some didn’t, but they all looked really cool together. “Not me.”
We both started laughing and she handed me a filtered pitcher to fill with water. “Can I help it if I get confused by lunch?” I said, running the cold water a bit. Suddenly the faucet made a loud clanking noise and went from running, to spraying randomly, and back to running smoothly again.
“This place is going to be interesting, isn’t it?” Mikayla asked, eying the sink.
“Let’s hope so,” I said, wiping water off my forehead with my sleeve. “We didn’t drive two hundred miles to be bored.”
I was heading to the Apple Store later that afternoon when it happened.
Apple Store, where customers line up outside of whenever a new iPhone, iPad, or other cool iProduct is released. No, this was The Original Apple Store, which was owned by my grandparents and sold real apples. Crunchy ones. Tart ones. Sweet ones. McIntosh, Cortland, Haralson, Honeycrisp, Northern Spy, Prairie Spy, Rome, and so on.
My job wasn’t to know the apples in stock. That was for whoever worked at the Apple Genius Bar. (My grandparents were hoping to get sued by Apple, for the free publicity. They even had a bumper sticker that said
with their store logo on it. They’re begging to be caught, and when they go to jail, I’ll visit them. Hopefully the trial will be in California, where Apple is based, because I’ve always wanted to go there.)
Anyway, it’s apples versus oranges.
I don’t mean computers. I mean real apples.
My grandparents go a little crazy with the decorations around the store. One is an apple and an orange on different sides of a scale and the headline
You can’t compare them—don’t even try!
My grandparents had hired me because they said they needed “reliable” help. Last summer’s teen hires had been a disaster, so they’d started begging me as far back as last Christmas. When I resisted, they’d thrown in a house. (And by
, I mean that rundown cabin we’d just seen for the first time.)
My parents wouldn’t let me live up here on my own, so I’d invited my friends Mikayla and Ava to come with me. Unfortunately, Ava’s mother thought it was time for her to have a “serious” job that might help her get into college in the fall, so Ava had pursued a few internships and ended up with one at a fashion and arts magazine based in Chicago. I was happy for her, because she really wanted to be in a city—but I was disappointed she couldn’t come up here to stay with me and Mikayla.
My grandmother had helped Mikayla find a job at the Bridgeport Beach Club. (When I asked why we couldn’t work together at the Apple Store, Nana had said, “The two of you would have too much fun—you wouldn’t get anything done.”)
Mikayla definitely got the better deal. Not only did the Bridgeport Beach Club pay more, but it was also a very cool place to work because of the big group of people our age working at the Club. I was probably crazy for
trying to get a job there. When I started smelling like apples, no doubt I’d regret the decision.