Table of Contents
We piled into the VW, which sputtered and spit as Sumner tried to negotiate our cul-de-sac. The VW was old and faded blue and had a distinctive rattling purr to it that I could pick out anywhere. It woke me up when he dropped Ashley off late at night or cruised by just to see the light in her window. Sumner called it his theme music.
The trip to the beach was about four hours, and of course going down the highway in a convertible, you can’t hear anything going on in the front seat. So I just sat back and stared up at the sky as the sun went down and it got dark. Once we turned off onto the smaller roads that wound up along the Virginia coast, Sumner turned up the radio and found nothing but beach music, so we sang along, making up our own words when we didn’t know the real ones. The engine was puttering and my sister was laughing and the stars were so bright above us, constellations swirling. It was just perfect, just right all at once.
NOVELS BY SARAH DESSEN
Someone Like You
Keeping the Moon
The Truth About Forever
I would like to acknowledge Doris Betts and Jill McCorkle, my teachers,
for their support; Dannye Romine Powell, for granting permission
for me to use the wonderful poem that inspired this book; my agent,
Leigh Feldman; and Lee Smith, for her friendship, generosity, and
practical wisdom. Thank you.
Published by Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcom Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand
First published in the United States of America by Orchard Books, 1996
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc., 1998
This edition published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2004
Text copyright © Sarah Dessen, 1996
All rights reserved
The poem “At Every Wedding Someone Stays Home”
is used by permission of the author, Dannye Romine Powell.
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE PUFFIN EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
That summer \ Sarah Dessen.
Summary: During the summer of her divorced father’s remarriage and her sister’s wedding,
fifteen-year-old Haven comes into her own by letting go of the myths of the past.
eISBN : 978-1-101-04227-4
To my parents, for their faith and patience, and to Jay, for everything else
At Every Wedding Someone Stays Home
This one sits all morning
beside the picture window,
staring out at the lawn
which in these situations
is always under a sheet of ice,
even in June. The girl is wearing
her quilted robe, gloves,
fur-lined slippers. Still she can’t
get warm. Her mother gets hot
just watching her, so she goes out
for groceries, makes a great show
when she returns of rattling
the brown paper bags she saves
to line the bird cage.
Now she is running water,
peeling melons, humming, arranging
daisies. We who are watching
want the mother to quit making noise,
to stop chopping fruit, to leave
the kitchen. We want her to walk
down the hall to the closet
where the wool blankets are stored.
We want her to gather five or six,
the solids, the stripes,
the MacGregor plaids and tuck them
under her daughter’s legs, saving one
for her feet and one for her thin shoulders.
Now we want her to heat water for tea,
bring in wood and quick
before her daughter freezes
seal all the windows
against the stray, chill peal of bells.
It’s funny how one summer can change everything. It must be something about the heat and the smell of chlorine, fresh-cut grass and honeysuckle, asphalt sizzling after late-day thunderstorms, the steam rising while everything drips around it. Something about long, lazy days and whirring air conditioners and bright plastic flip-flops from the drugstore thwacking down the street. Something about fall being so close, another year, another Christmas, another beginning. So much in one summer, stirring up like the storms that crest at the end of each day, blowing out all the heat and dirt to leave everything gasping and cool. Everyone can reach back to one summer and lay a finger to it, finding the exact point when everything changed. That summer was mine.
The day my father got remarried, my mother was up at six A.M. defrosting the refrigerator. I woke to the sound of her hacking away and the occasional thud as a huge slab of ice crashed. My mother was an erratic defroster. When I came down into the kitchen, she was poised in front of the open freezer, wielding the ice pick, Barry Manilow crooning out at her from the tape player she kept on the kitchen table. Around Barry’s voice, stacked in dripping piles, were all of our perishables, sweating in the heat of another summer morning.
“Oh, good morning, Haven.” She turned when she saw me, wiping her brow with the ice pick still in hand, making my heart jump as I imagined it slipping just a bit and taking out her eye. I knew that nervous feeling so well, even at fifteen, that spilling uncontrollability that my mother brought out in me. It was as if I was attached to her with a tether, her every movement yanking at me, my own hands reaching to shield her from the dangers of her waving arms.
“Good morning.” I pulled out a chair and sat down next to a stack of packaged chicken. “Are you okay?”
“Me?” She was back on the job now, scraping. “I’m fine. Are you hungry?”
“Not really.” I pulled my legs up to my chest, pressing hard to fold myself into the smallest size possible. It seemed like every morning I woke up taller, my skin having stretched in the night while I slept. I had dreams of not being able to fit through doors, of becoming gigantic, towering over people and buildings like a monster, causing terror in the streets. I’d put on four inches since April, and showed no signs of letting up. I was already five-eleven, with only a few more little lines on the measuring stick before six feet.
“Haven.” My mother looked at me. “Please don’t sit that way. It’s not good for you and it makes me nervous.” She stood there staring at me until I let my legs drop. “That’s better.” Scrape, scrape. Barry sang on, about New England.
I still wasn’t sure what had brought me down from my bed so early on a Saturday, aside from the noise of my mother loosening icebergs from our Frigidaire. I hadn’t slept well, with my dress for the wedding hanging from the curtain rod, fluttering in the white light of the street lamp outside my window. At two P.M. my father was marrying Lorna Queen, of “Lorna Queen’s Weather Scene” on WTSB News Channel 5. She was what they called a meteorologist and what my mother called the Weather Pet, but only when she was feeling vindictive. Lorna was blond and perky and wore cute little pastel suits that showed just enough leg as she stood smiling in front of colorful maps, sweeping her arm as if she controlled all the elements. My father, Mac McPhail, was the sports anchor for channel five, and he and the Weather Pet shared the subordinate news desk, away from the grim-faced anchors, Charlie Baker and Tess Phillips, who reported real news. Before we’d known about my father’s affair with the Weather Pet, I’d always wondered what they were smiling and talking about in those last few minutes of the broadcast as the credits rolled. Charlie Baker and Tess Phillips shuffled important-looking papers, worn thin from a hard day of news chasing and news delivering; but my father and the Weather Pet were always off to the side sharing some secret laugh that the rest of us weren’t in on. And when we finally did catch on, it wasn’t very funny after all.
Not that I didn’t like Lorna Queen. She was nice enough for someone who broke up my parents’ marriage. My mother, in all fairness, always blamed my father and limited her hostility to the nickname Weather Pet and to the occasional snide remark about my father’s growing mass of hair, which at the time of the separation was receding with great speed and now seemed to have reversed itself and grown back with the perseverance and quickness of our lawn after a few good days of rain. My mother had read all the books about divorce and tried hard to make it smooth for me and my sister, Ashley, who was Daddy’s pet and left the room at even the slightest remark about his hair. My mother kept her outbursts about that to a minimum, but I could tell by the way she winced when they showed my father and Lorna together at their subordinate news desk that it still hurt. Before the divorce my mother had been good at outbursts, and this quietness, this holding back, was more unnerving than I imagined any breakdown could be. My mother, like Ashley, has always cultivated the family dramatic streak, started by my grandmother, who at important family gatherings liked to fake horrible incidents if she felt she was not getting enough attention. No reunion, wedding, or funeral was complete without at least one stroke, heart attack, or general collapse from Grandma at which time everyone shifted into High Dramatic Mode, fussing and running around and generally creating the kind of chaos that my family is well known for.