Read Second Star Online

Authors: Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Classics, #Fairy Tales & Folklore, #Adaptations, #Family, #Siblings, #Love & Romance

Second Star (4 page)

BOOK: Second Star
11.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

I shake my head, but my teeth have begun to chatter. Pete sits down next to me, pulling me close. He rests his arm around my shoulder lazily, as though we’ve been sitting like this for years. And the truth is, it feels like we have. I lean into the weight of his body, soaking up his warmth.

Pete surprises me by asking, “So who are your brothers anyway?”

Maybe Pete’s seen them
, I think suddenly. This is exactly the kind of place where they would have come to surf. I can’t believe I didn’t ask sooner.

“John and Michael Darling. They’re twins. They’ve been missing since September, but I’m going to find them.”

I pull my phone from the pocket of my cover-up and bring up a picture of my brothers. I know I should probably call my parents, or at least Fiona, tell them where I am, but I can’t help feeling almost relieved when I see that there’s no cell reception here.

“Here,” I say, holding the phone up hopefully. “That’s them.”

Pete leans in to look at the picture. The light from the phone casts shadows across the rocks and illuminates Pete’s face so that I can see his freckles. I wonder how long it would take to count them all. For a second, I’m certain he’s about to tell me that he knows them. But instead, he says, “They look like you.”

“What?” I say, surprised. “No, they don’t. They never have, except for our eyes. They’ve always had…” I cut myself off, not sure exactly how to put it.

Pete smiles at me, his teeth white in the moonlight. His face is so close to mine that when he speaks I can feel his breath on my lips.

“What have they always had?”

I shrug. “I don’t know. That kind of magnetic quality that some people are just born with. Like famous people, you know, so that you just want to follow them around to see what they’ll do next.”

“They sound pretty special,” he says.

I nod. “You don’t recognize them, do you? You’ve never seen them here?”

Pete hands me back my phone. “I wish I could tell you I knew where they were.”

I sigh. “Me, too.”

Pete leans in, his forehead touching mine. “You’ve got kind of a magnetic quality, too, you know.”

My cheeks grow hot. “I do?”

Pete just smiles. Every fiber of my body wants to stay close to this boy, but still I pull away, just a little, just enough to put some air between us. Instead of looking at Pete I look up at the sky; the moon is bright and the stars reflect off the ocean like a million tiny lights. When I was little, my brothers and I made wishes on the stars every night. My mother said we should each wish on the first star we saw, but John said that stars were like birthday cakes: you had to wish on your own, and if all three of us chose the same star—the first star—then our wishes wouldn’t come true. Since John and Michael shared a birthday cake every year, John said, he and Michael could make their wishes together on the first star we saw, but I had to make my wish on the second star. I smile now, remembering how serious John was about it.

Suddenly, above the roar of the waves, I hear something. A low beat, as though someone in the distance is banging an enormous drum. A rhythm so deep I can feel it vibrating through the rocks below us.

“Do you hear that?” I ask. The music sounds so strange alongside the waves that I almost think I’m imagining it.

“It’s Jas. He lives in one of the houses up there,” Pete says, gesturing to the cliffs above us.

The music grows louder, a rough kind of harmony against the waves.

“Is he having a party or something?”

“Or something,” Pete says, making a face. The anger in his expression looks strange on him, like he’s wearing a shirt that just doesn’t fit.

“Who is he?” I ask.

“He’s a lot of things. Including a drug dealer. Parties are how he gets new recruits.”

“Pot? Or—?”

“Fairy dust.”

“I’ve never heard of it,” I say, though it’s not that surprising. I’ve never tried drugs. I’ve hardly ever had a real drink. “Not that I’m an expert.”

“Not something you want to be an expert on, believe me.”

I shrug. “I’m a nerd.”

“If you’re such a nerd, why were you at the beach today instead of at school?”

“It’s summer. School’s out,” I say, looking at him incredulously. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who doesn’t know what season it is. But then I guess he doesn’t exactly need to keep track of the days and weeks and months of the year here. “I just graduated actually. I’m starting college in September.”


“Yeah. Stanford.” I gesture vaguely to somewhere up the coast, even though Stanford’s hours and hours away, and nowhere near the water.

“You must be pretty smart.”

I shake my head. “Only about the things you can find in books.”

He leans close to me again, and I don’t think I could pull away now if I wanted to.

Besides, I don’t want to.

I can feel Pete’s warm breath on my face, his arm wrapped like a scarf around my neck, blocking out the wind. I can smell the salt water on his skin, or maybe it’s the salt water on my skin. We’re so close that I can’t tell. I’ve never really noticed the moment right before a kiss, when everything almost freezes. I close my eyes. The surf sounds as though the waves are crashing in slow motion. The wind is a moan rather than a whistle.

Pete’s kiss is feather-soft, a breeze from the ocean hitting my lips. The sensation isn’t like anything I’ve ever felt; his touch doesn’t even resemble the touch of the boys who’ve kissed me before. Not that it’s such a long list; my prom date last month, a series of double dates with Fiona when we were juniors, a game of spin the bottle in ninth grade.

This is something else entirely. Pete shifts his weight; now we’re lying side by side and I don’t know how long we’ve been kissing, but it feels as though we’ve
been kissing. And it feels as though we might go on kissing forever. In fact, I don’t remember the end of our kiss at all; the next thing I know, I’m waking up to the sound of Pete’s voice saying gently, “The tide’s probably on its way out by now.”

I blink, not quite sure how long I slept. Pete props his chin up on my shoulder, his fingers resting in the crook of my hip. I shiver as he stands up and reaches down for my hand, pulling me onto my feet. “Come on, I’ll walk you to your car.”

Pete doesn’t let go of my hand once we’re back down on the beach. He leads me toward the path I walked to get here. Between the reeds, the water is still higher than it was when I first got here, up over the sand and past my ankles. But Pete manages to walk through it without splashing, and I try to put my feet exactly where he puts his, nesting my small footprints inside his larger ones.

“So,” I say to his back, “how long have you lived here anyway?”

I imagine the muscles of his shoulders moving under his shirt as he shrugs. “Awhile.”

“And Belle and the boys on the beach—have they always lived with you?”

Pete doesn’t turn around when he answers me. “Not always. People come and go sometimes. But a few of us have been here all along.”

“Yeah, but who lived here before you? I mean, was the house empty when you got there? I guess you guys are squatters, right?”

I feel a pang of disappointment in my belly when my feet finally hit the dry, hard surface of the parking lot. Pete finally turns around.

“Wendy,” Pete says gently, “people around here don’t exactly like answering those kinds of questions.”

I shake my head. “I don’t understand.”

“Belle and the boys and I—we don’t exactly trust outsiders who show up asking a lot of questions, you know what I mean?”

I nod, stiffening at the word
. I should have known better. I have to pay closer attention to these kinds of details if I’m going to find my brothers. These kids must be mostly runaways, and now they live down the road from some kind of criminal. Most of them are minors. None of them are supposed to be here. No one is really
to be here.

“I’m sorry,” I say quickly.

Pete smiles. “Nothing to apologize for. You can ask
anything you want. But you know what I mean, right? When you come back—”

“When I come back?”

Pete grins, walking me around to the driver’s seat. I turn to face him, my back against the car. He stands so close that I have to arch my neck to look into his face.

Around us, the sky has already begun to lighten. The sun will be up, and Pete and his friends will be back in the water. I blink in the light; it doesn’t feel like I’ve been here long enough for the sun to set and rise again.

I think maybe he’s going to kiss me again, but instead he backs away. I feel empty as the cold air off the water rushes to fill all the space that he had taken up.

As he turns to walk away, I call out after him. “Pete!”

He turns to face me. I take a deep breath, remembering the feeling of weightlessness on the water, the rush of the wave overhead. The weight of his body behind me when we stood on the board, beside me when we sat on the cliff.

“Thanks for the flying lesson.”

He grins again, his smile already familiar. “Anytime,” he answers. “Anytime.”


My phone buzzes in my pocket; when I reach for it, I feel sand in my pocket, too. Three missed calls, all from Fiona. Four new texts, all from Fiona. My parents didn’t even notice I was out all night. I drive home without looking at the messages.

Nana is the only one awake when I open the door to the house. I glance at my phone; it’s a little after five a.m.

“Hey, girl. You’ll never believe what you helped me do.” I bend down to kiss the top of her head, my back aching with the effort. In fact, my entire body is sore. I didn’t even know I had half the muscles I used yesterday. Despite the pain, I feel stronger today than I did twenty-four hours ago.

As I pour Nana’s breakfast into her bowl and some cereal into mine, I realize with surprise that I haven’t eaten since lunchtime yesterday. I’m suddenly starving, and finish my cereal in the short walk from the kitchen into my bedroom, where I sit on the bed, pulling the covers back and messing the sheets so it looks like I slept here last night. My parents knew I was spending the day with Fiona yesterday; they’ll just assume I came home sometime after they fell asleep.

Nana rests her head on my lap, nosing around in my pockets.

Normally, in the morning, the house smells like the coffee my father sets to brew in the kitchen. But today, my room smells like something else: it smells like Kensington.

It smells like Pete.



“Where did you disappear to after you left me at the beach? You haven’t answered my calls or my texts. You can’t just be out of touch like that.” Fiona sits on the edge of my bed that afternoon.

“Why not?” I ask, mildly amused by the urgency in her voice. Like we’ve never gone twenty-four hours with talking or texting. Which, I suppose, we haven’t.

“Because,” Fiona says, and repeats it firmly. “Because.”

Then she shrugs, looking down at my sheets. I’m still wearing the same bathing suit and cover-up, sitting cross-legged in the center of my bed.

“There’s sand all over your sheets,” Fiona says, then looks at me.

“I told you. I spent yesterday at the beach.” I’m tempted to add that I spent the night there, too, but I keep quiet, pressing my lips together, remembering the feel of Pete’s mouth on them.

“You should have just come to the beach with Dax and me.”

I shake my head. “The beach I ended up at was different,” I say, and I can feel myself smiling.

“Where is it?”

I cock my head to the side. I don’t really remember. I’m sure that if I get in the car and start driving, I’ll find it again. But I haven’t the slightest idea how to tell Fiona where Kensington is.

“I’m not sure,” I say finally. “But I’ll find my way back.”

“I’ll come,” Fiona says. “Just tell me where it is and Dax and I will meet you there, whenever you want. We could go today.”

I hesitate. Instead of answering I say, “It’s a surfer’s paradise.
. I even took a wave.”

Fiona raises her eyebrows. “You did?”

I nod, prouder than I should be since it was really Pete doing the work. I look down, fingering the sand in my sheets. “I haven’t felt that close to my brothers in a long time. Not since they left. It’s just the kind of place where they’d go to surf, you know?”

Fiona waits a beat before responding. When she does speak, her words sound rehearsed.

“Wendy, I think it’s understandable that you’re holding on to hope about your brothers. But I’m not sure it’s the best thing. Your parents have come to terms with it; maybe you should, too.”

I don’t say anything, and eventually she seems to come to some sort of decision. She fumbles in her bag and pulls a business card from its pockets. She holds it out to me.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a therapist. She specializes in grief counseling. I’ve been hanging on to it for a while now, wondering whether I should give it to you.”

Fiona looks so serious that I almost laugh, but I manage to swallow the giggle before it escapes my mouth. Fiona likes to solve problems, whether it’s her calculus homework or learning how to drive a stick shift. I’ve always loved that about her, but I’ve never been one of her problems before. I don’t move to take the card, and Fiona drops her hand onto the bed, the card lying in her palm.

“You think I’m going crazy because I want to find my brothers?”

“Of course not.”

“Then what?”

“Dax says that the first stage of grief is denial.”

She probably practiced what to say all day yesterday, I realize. She probably made Dax pretend to be me while she rehearsed, like an actress running her lines.

“Dax doesn’t even know me. Or my brothers.”

“That’s not the point, Wendy.” Fiona sounds almost pained; her hand has closed over the business card, squeezing it tightly.

“You’re going to give yourself a paper cut,” I say gently.

Fiona shakes her head and speaks slowly, enunciating every syllable. “Wendy, you need to deal with the reality that your brothers aren’t coming back.”

BOOK: Second Star
11.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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