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Authors: Melissa Walker

Lovestruck Summer

BOOK: Lovestruck Summer
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Lovestruck Summer

MELISSA WALKER Lovestruck S ummer

Contents Chapter 1 I live my life in headphones. That way, I can…1 Chapter 2 When Penny picks me up at the airport, I’m shocked. 8 Chapter 3 By early evening, I have my “bed”all set up…17 Chapter 4 Penny lets me borrow her car for my first day…31 Chapter 5 The rest of the week goes by really slowly. I…43 Chapter 6 At Dirty’s, the scene is all pool tables and neon…52 Chapter 7 I wake up to the smell of coffee and the…58 Chapter 8 On Monday when I drive to work, I put in…68 Chapter 9 By Tuesday night, not only has the elation that caused…85 Chapter 10 I wake up Wednesday morning determined to change my profile…92 Chapter 11 I’m half awake, dreaming of coffee. More specifically, the smell…102 Chapter 12 On Friday night, I have plans to meet Jade and…122

Chapter 13 The next morning, I wake up at eight A.M. without…140 Chapter 14 When I get into work on Monday, Jade is wearing…152 Chapter 15 I can hear the party before we pull in to…175 Chapter 16 I spend Saturday and Sunday moping around. I make Penny…194 Chapter 17 I take a deep breath and focus on the fact…200 Chapter 18 I have the urge to march inside and slam the…207 Chapter 19 By the time Penny gets home, I’m banging around the…215 Chapter 20 On Friday afternoon, I’m spread out at the dining room…221 Chapter 21 I run downstairs and don’t even stop to tell Penny…231 Chapter 22 The next evening, I hear a honk outside—Sebastian’s signature call. 238 Chapter 23 After calling about ten florists, I realize that bluebonnets are…252 Epilogue I’ve had three weeks with Russ by my side. As…259 Credits Cover Copyright About the Publisher Acknowledgments 267

1 Chapter 1 I live my life in headphones. That way, I can control what I let in. If kids at school are being idiotic and perky, I put on a mellow track and tune out their spirit rally. If my parents are nag- ging me, I play a fast song and rock out in my mind while smiling and nodding at them. That’s what I’m doing right now, at our dinner table. Mom and Dad gave up the “no headphones”fi ght last year when I proved I could listen to music and to them at the same time. The truth is, I can’t really do that, but they repeat themselves so much and their body lan- guage is so transparent that I always know what they’re saying, or at least the gist of it. Like I can see that Dad is using his fork for empha- sis as he lays down rules for the summer, and Mom is pursing her lips and smiling, which she

2 does when she’s trying to punctuate a point that Dad’s making. I just graduated from high school, like, last week. I tweaked my cap and gown by adding red silk swatches that streamed down the sides, and my best friend, Raina, and I celebrated by ditching all the stupid graduation parties and driving to Carolina Beach to listen to the new Walters album. They’re my favorite band, and their label, Amalgam Records, is in Austin, Texas—a place I’ve always wanted to see. We listened to all four Walters albums in succession on my iPod. Not on shuffl e either—but in the song order the band intended. And it gave me and Raina a brilliant idea. “What’s the number for Amalgam Records?”I asked. Raina grabbed her BlackBerry. Ten seconds later, she rattled off the digits. It was three A.M., but someone actually answered, and I actually played it cool. “Amalgam.”“Hi, this is Quinn Parker,”I said, using my adult voice. “I’d like to inquire about an intern- ship with your company. I’m well-versed in

3 your bands, and I’m willing to do anything you need—fi ling, mailing, getting coffee. Are intern- ships available this summer?”Silence on the other end. Then, in a burst of silliness, I shouted, “Say yes!”“Sure,”said the guy on the other end, who was starting to sound cute to me after two words. “Did you want to start next week?”“Um, how about the week of June twenti- eth?”I said, gesturing wildly at Raina. This is working! “Cool,”said cute indie boy, who I had decided was my soon-to-be-boyfriend. “I’m Rick. Ask for me when you get here.”Then he was gone. And I was psyched. So that’s how I fully took control of my destiny and set up my first summer away from home. My parents are both professors at the university in our town, and they’re going on a research trip to Ecuador for July and August. They expected me to stay home and water the plants, I think, but I convinced them that it would be better if I went to Austin for this “career opportunity.”

4 Of course, I told them I’d had to go through all sorts of trouble to apply—sending grades, recommendations, a personal essay—since it’s such a coveted music internship. They liked the sound of that. Mom and Dad are big on “life experience”résuméboosters. Besides, I’m heading to college in the fall—the University of Vermont—so if I stay home in North Carolina, the summer would be one long farewell with Raina while I work my job at the local movie theater. It would just be the same. So Texas it is. At the dinner table tonight, my parents are going through the Austin Rules, which include: “No Drinking, No Boy Sleepovers, and Listen to Penny.”Penny, my cousin, is a junior at The Uni- versity of Texas in Austin, and she lives in a condo down there, which my aunt and uncle bought for her when she went away to college. I’m not saying she’s spoiled, but . . . you do the math. My parents L-O-V-E her because she’s follow- ing in their footsteps and studying International Politics so she can be a professor just like they are. I haven’t seen her in a while, but the last

5 time she visited she had just fi nished her fresh- man year, and she went on and on about how she spends hours in the library studying—even during the summer. In other words, she is the perfect person for me to live with. She’ll never be around to keep tabs on me. And let’s just say that since Austin is the live-music capital of the world and I am going to be a valued intern at one of the coolest independent music labels in the country, I might have some late nights. I pull off my headphones as a sign of respect because I can tell that Mom and Dad are near- ing the end of the Rules talk. “. . . and Priscilla, remember to call us at least once a week,”fi nishes Mom. Did I not mention that my real name is Priscilla? I go by Quinn, my middle name, because . . . well . . . it’s obvious. Priscilla is a frilly old lady with heirloom jewelry and silk scarves and a dyed-blond beehive. I am an eighteen-year-old hipster in jeans and soft tees, who uses multiple dyes to get just the right shade of messed-up blue in my blunt boy-length hair, which, if I left it alone, would be naturally blond. But who wants that? Only my mom gets

6 away with “Priscilla”because it was my grand- mother’s name and she died before I was born, so I get why it’s important. But to the rest of the world, it’s Quinn. “I will, Mom,”I say, smiling and batting my brown eyes to show her what a great daughter I am. “And don’t fall in love,”adds Dad, picking up his plate to carry it into the kitchen. “Those Texas boys are trouble.”“Don’t worry,”I say. I avoid telling my dad that I already have a pseudo crush on whoever answered the phone at Amalgam Records, and that my real summer goal—besides listening to tons of live music and enjoying life without parental supervision—is to snag the perfect indie-music-loving boyfriend. Raina is calling him “The Supreme”because she has to have a title for everything. All through high school, I’ve been longing for a boyfriend who could appreciate the poetry of the Pixies instead of the latest radio countdown hit, but my school is full of future frat boys. My Austin guy will be so different. I can already picture him—piecey dark hair,

7 sharp-angled glasses, intense eyes, and lips that part slightly in awed admiration as he watches his favorite bands onstage. He’ll be able to recite all the Walters lyrics by heart, he’ll wear Converse sneakers (unless we’re dressing up, in which case he might wear Campers), and he may even be an early Weezer fan who still reads Rivers Cuomo’s blog. Who knows? What I do know is that he is in Austin, and I cannot wait for my summer to start.

8 Chapter 2 When Penny picks me up at the airport, I’m shocked. It’s not just one thing, although if I were splitting hairs I might mention my cousin’s per- fectly blown-out dark brown locks or her shiny, possibly newly whitened smile, or the extra- large logo-covered Louis Vuitton purse she’s holding. But really, it’s the big picture that over- whelms me: Penny has gone Texas. She screams as she runs up to hug me at baggage claim, knocking my arm with her giant pocketbook, and leaving a bright mark on my cheek with her impossibly red lipstick. “Hey!”she says, taking a step back to look at me. “Quinn, you are such a little alterna-girl right now.”I cringe. I know she’s just saying that

9 because my hair is dyed. Or maybe it’s because I’m just wearing Tom’s of Maine deodorant and not a hundred sprays of the latest fl oral scent from Macy’s. I smile at my cousin and resist the urge to wave her perfume cloud away. “Hey,”I say with less twang and more non- chalance than she has. “We are gonna have so much fun this summer!”Penny squeals, reaching into her purse for her car keys. I notice the BMW key chain and follow her cautiously as her yellow kitten heels click-click on the cold airport fl oor. When the doors open to the parking deck, something almost knocks me down. “Good Lord!”I shout, dropping my giant duffel bag in protest. “It is freaking hot out here!”The air around me feels almost solid, and I immediately start to sweat. Penny, how- ever, is clip-clopping her way to the car without a pause. “Keep up, Quinny!”she singsong shouts. “It’s only June. Wait till August.”Then she fl ashes me a blinding smile and puts her key into the trunk of a bright red BMW. “Graduation present,”she purrs, noticing

10 that my eyes are widening. “You’re a junior,”I say. “Rising senior,”she corrects. “And Dad knows I did really well this semester.”Is this really the Penny who spends all her time in the library? I think as I load my heavy bag into the trunk. I guess it’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen her, but still. I slide into the front—pale leather—seat as she raises one bubble-gum-pink manicured hand to press the button that opens the sun- roof. When she starts the car, my ears are fl ooded with a hip-hop ballad that, while unde- niably catchy, is also intolerable. She cranks it up and starts to sing. And I start to worry. Can I survive a whole summer with this girl? By the time we get to Penny’s condo, I realize that my cousin really is not who I thought she was. Yes, she’s majoring in International Politics, and yes, she’s related to me. That hasn’t changed. The new factoids I’ve discovered are disturbing to say the least. For example: 1) Penny spends no less than one hour in the bathroom each morning, blowing out her shiny mane of movie-star hair.

11 2) Penny sleeps in her bra so her boobs won’t sag. 3) Penny also sleeps in her teeth-whitening strips, although her dentist told her not to and her teeth sometimes tingle painfully. 4) Penny is contemplating a boob job, but one of her “sisters”just had a scary anesthesia episode, so she might hold off for now. And, oh yeah, number one most horrifying revelation on the car ride: 5) Penny is the newly elected president of a powerful University of Texas sorority—the UT Tri-Pis. I half thought she was kidding about the sorority thing, but when we walk into the condo, I realize that she is dead serious. Above the faux-marble mantle, there are metallic purple letters that say PI PI PI. Atop every surface in the living room—from end tables to window- sills—are framed photos showcasing the elec- tric smiles of groups of girls in rainbow-colored dresses with cookie-cutter guys at their sides. Each one marks an idiotically named event: MAY 5TH BOOZE CRUISE!, DECEMBER 4TH HOLIDAY HOEDOWN, OCTOBER 28TH PUMPKIN PROMENADE. And on the coffee table, I spy a book called Rules for Rush. There is a TOP SECRET stamp across the cover. Somehow I don’t think it’s ironic.

12 I drop my duffel bag on the ivory carpet and sit down, fi ghting a pang of panic. I will my mind to search for things that are positive, things that are right about the situation I’m in. I look around quickly and mentally note three: 1) The AC in here is way good. It’s, like, sixty-fi ve degrees. 2) I see a huge bowl of fruit through the kitchen door, so I know Penny grocery shops and isn’t a huge fast-food junkie like lots of col- lege students I’ve heard about. 3) This couch is pretty comfortable. Okay, I’m calmer. “It’s great here,”I say, grinning up at Penny with what I hope is a winning expression. “Thanks!”says Penny, kicking off her shoes and joining me on the couch. “This is really soft,”I say, patting the pastel blue cushion underneath me. “I know,”says Penny. “I knew you wouldn’t mind sleeping on it! My friend Chrissy said you’d be annoyed, but I told her it was a really plush couch.”Hold the phone. “I thought this was a two- bedroom,”I say in my just-wondering-not- getting-aggressive voice.

13 “It is,”says Penny, glancing upstairs. “But Miss Tiara is so used to sleeping in the second room that we can’t really upset her routine.”I follow Penny’s eyes. Is there a beauty queen roommate too? “Miss Tiara?”I ask. “I’ll bring her down!”says Penny, standing and bounding upstairs. She comes back down twenty seconds later with a fl uffy white dog in her arms. “She’s a little precious doll, yes, she is,”Penny is baby-talking to the fluffball. “Miss Tiara, meet Quinn!”She makes the fake-looking dog fake-wave to me. I plaster a smile on my face. “Does Miss Tiara wanna give Quinny a tour?”asks Penny, still baby-talking. Then she answers her own question: “Yes, she does! She sure does!”I guess that’s my cue to stand up and follow my sorority-girl cousin and her room-stealing dog around the condo. After we’ve baby-talked through the kitchen, which has a marbled pink backsplash behind the stove, we check out the downstairs half bath, which will be my main port of call as resident couch-sleeper. At least

14 the mirror opens up to a space large enough to hold my deodorant and fl oss, I note. We head upstairs, and after seeing the Pepto-Bismol tidal wave of a room that Penny sleeps in, I’m a little scared as she opens the door to Miss Tiara’s abode. There are more purple metallic letters—this time they simply say MT, and they hang on the blissfully white far wall. In the center of the room, there sits a large, lacy pillow surrounded by picture frames with photos of Miss Tiara in various states of accessorizing—sun hat at the beach, pearls for a formal event, even tiny glasses for what must have been a studious day. “It’s not fully decorated,”says Penny-the- obvious. I realize my jaw is a little open and I shut it. “Cool,”I say, because, I mean, what am I supposed to say? Should I voice my objec- tion to the fact that the dog has a room to her- self with one pillow in the center of a small shrine while I am relegated to the completely un-private living room downstairs? I guess that might be rude when Penny’s taking me in rent free. In the condo that her parents, my aunt and

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