Authors: Beth Reekles
There was just nothing for me in Pineford. By the end of my sophomore year I’d pretty much stopped trying in class, and it wasn’t like I had a million friends and a busy social life I was leaving behind.
So when Mom tentatively asked me, “Madison, honey, do you think you’ll really, really be all right if we move to Florida?” my reply was instantaneous:
“Can I start packing now?” Because moving to Florida meant I could have a whole new life.
My sister Jenna was the girl everyone knew back at my school in Pineford. She was on the homecoming committee, she was class president, the blonde cheerleader who got the beauty and the brains. The All-American It Girl.
Then there was me.
And I just … I wasn’t Jenna.
I tried, though. And I was happy enough to keep to myself—though it wasn’t out of choice that I’d never really gone to parties, been part of high-school gossip, had a boyfriend … I didn’t make myself the lonely loser; it was a spot in high school designated for me by other people.
But moving to Midsommer, in Collier County, Florida, was my big chance for a completely new life. Nobody was going to judge me by the standards my sister had set. Nobody had to know what I’d been like in the last couple of years.
I could be me.
Just, you know, a better version of me.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2013 by Beth Reeks
Cover art copyright © Getty Images
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York. Simultaneously published in paperback by Random House Publishers UK and as an ebook by RHCP Digital, imprints of Random House Group Company, London, 2013.
Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House LLC.
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For the Fishbowl, whose endless antics will
fuel my imagination for a long time to come
“Uh, a latte, please,” I say, not even looking up at the waiter. I don’t know why I ordered that. I don’t even
coffee. I’m an iced or herbal tea kind of girl.
But sitting here in this smart café with its posh name—Langlois—makes me feel so … I don’t know—cosmopolitan? Upper-class? Cool?
“Coming right up.”
The waiter walks off, and I focus all my attention back on the cell phone in my hands. It’s some swanky new model—it has a slide-out keypad, 3G Internet, unlimited texts, stores tons of music … It sounds like a good phone. It looks like a good phone. The woman in the store
it was a good phone.
Shame I have no idea how to work it.
The manual is on the table beside me, but the spine is stiff, the book unwilling to stay open at the page telling me how to set up the Internet.
I mean, it’s not like I know what I’m doing. Not only am I kind of useless when it comes to technology—unless it involves downloading and converting music files—I’ve never had a cell phone before. I’ve never really needed one. It’s not like I got out much back in Pineford.
I don’t think of it as “back home.” Why should I? I don’t miss it.
We’ve been here in Florida for ten days and counting. And I love it already. It isn’t just a chance for me to turn over a new leaf; it’s a chance for me to have a whole new life.
A throat clears, distracting me just as I think I’ve worked this Internet thing out.
I realize why the guy doesn’t just put the steaming white mug down on my table: my purse, the empty cell-phone box, wires, and the tiny manual are covering every inch of space.
“Oh, sorry!” I apologize automatically. I sweep my bag off and bundle the wires haphazardly into the box.
He sets the latte down, and for the first time I really look at him. He isn’t anything special. You wouldn’t look at him and think
because he’s so hot. But he is, I have to admit, kind of cute.
The black uniform and dark green apron probably make him look a little paler than he really is. He has a long bony nose and really bright green eyes with thick, dark eyelashes. His
dark hair is short, in tight half-curls. If he ever let it grow longer, I bet he’d have a mass of springy ringlets most girls would envy. His long limbs make him look kind of gangly, though.
“Thanks,” I say.
“Anything else I can get you?”
“No, thanks, that’s fine.”
I look back at my new cell, then at the manual again—I’m holding it open with my elbow. It sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo, to be honest. But there is no way I’d ever figure out this darn thing by myself.
“Do you, uh, need a hand?”
I blink, looking up at him. I hadn’t even realized he was still there.
“Don’t you have people to serve?” I probably sound like a stuck-up snob, but I don’t mean to; I’m just getting frustrated with the phone. I’ve been here for at least ten minutes already trying to work out one tiny thing.
“We’re not that busy—I think I can spare a few minutes.”
He sweeps a hand around and I see he’s right: a group of three gossiping girls, a couple tucked away in the corner, and a man typing away on his laptop.
“Everybody’s at the beach,” he carries on by way of explanation. “Enjoying the last few days of summer before school kicks in. Usually this place is heaving.”
“So—you want some help or not?” He gives me an easy, friendly smile. It’s kind of lopsided, going up higher on the left, but it looks quirky and cute on him.
I don’t know if it’s the smile or just that I really do need the help, but I give in.
“Please?” I say, laughing sheepishly.
He scrapes out the chair opposite me, dropping into it. “What’re you trying to do?”
“I’m not a hundred percent sure. It said something about having to set up the Internet before you can use it, and there’s some kind of code on the box, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
He holds out a hand and I pass the cell phone over. I hover over the manual, wondering if he needs it, or if I’m just an idiot.
He doesn’t need the manual, as it turns out.
“What’s the code?”
I read it out off the box, and after a few taps on the cell phone he hands it back. “There you go. All done.”
I smile. “Thanks! I swear, technology has a vendetta against me. I almost broke the microwave last week.”
It was a bit of an exaggeration, sure. I’d put it on the wrong setting and my pasta had exploded, and then the microwave shut itself off automatically.
The guy laughs.
That’s nice too—somewhere between a big, hearty laugh and a chuckle. But it makes me want to smile.
Now he’s closer to me, I see there are freckles scattered all over his face, clumped around his nose and thinning out as they spread over his cheeks.
“You’re new around here, then? I’d have seen you before, otherwise.”
“We just moved here. From Maine.”
“Nice. My cousins live up there. I’ve been a few times for Thanksgiving.”
“You prefer Florida?”
I nod, maybe a bit too enthusiastically, since he gives a chuckle. “Better weather, for one thing.”
“You haven’t seen the storms yet.”
“Can’t wait,” I say, semi-sarcastic, and he smiles again.
I’d been so worried that it would be hard to make friends here; that things would be just the same as they had been in Pineford; that people just wouldn’t want to get to know me. Especially being the new girl: that could go one of two ways, as I see it. They’d either be fascinated by the shiny new toy, or they’d shun me automatically.
It’s not that I can’t talk to people, or that I’m not friendly. I’d just never had people interested in talking to me. Years of that makes a person a little shy, to say the least.
But making friends is easier than I’d anticipated.
“What school do you go to?” I ask, feeling brave. He looks around my age, but maybe he’s a senior.
“Midsommer. I guess you’re enrolled there too, right?”
I nod—yet again. “I’m a junior. Well, I will be, in a couple of days, anyway.”
He laughs again. “Same.” He holds out a hand. “I’m Dwight.”
is a weird name
, I think. I have never in my entire life heard of anybody called Dwight. But somehow, it fits this guy.
“Madison,” I introduce myself, shaking his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise. How come you’re not at the beach, then? Catching some last-minute sun, checking out the guys?”
“I didn’t really feel like going on my own. Plus, I needed a new cell.”
I say “new” on purpose. It’d seem weird if I told him I’d never owned a cell before now.
“What about you?” I counter.
“The waves are no good today,” he says, “but I had to cover a shift anyway.”
“Oh. Cool.” I scrutinize him a little. He doesn’t look like a surfer. I’d always pictured surfers as broad-shouldered, muscled guys with shaggy blond hair. And I’d have thought surfers would be tanned from being out in the sun so much. He looks too pale and gangly.
I sip the latte to fill the silence a little, and can’t stop myself from making a face.
Yup. I will definitely never order a latte again
“Too hot?” he assumes.
“Uh, yeah … Thanks for the help,” I say quickly.
“Give me a shout if you need anything else, okay? I’ve got to get back to work before the boss tells me to stop mingling with the customers.” He smiles at me again. “I’ll see you around?”
It sounds like a question rather than a statement, so I reply, “Yeah, sure.”
“Nice meeting you, Madison.”
“Nice meeting you too, Dwight,” I say to his retreating back.
Looks like you just made a friend
And I feel all light and bubbly inside. Maybe fitting in here won’t be so hard after all.
Great-Aunt Gina’s death is probably the best thing that ever happened to me.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I loved her, and I miss her now. But she had her “favorites” in the family. I mean, okay, so my dad’s brother and his family live over in Nevada, so they were too far away for an old lady to visit. But it was us who Great-Aunt Gina came to for Thanksgiving and Christmas. She’d send my cousins a check in the mail instead.