Authors: Mindy Hayes
“WHAT TIME ARE
you guys leaving tomorrow?” I curl onto my side in bed and face Harper.
She groans and stretches her arms above her head. I decided to wake her up earlier than normal today with it being our last day together.
“I think we’re gonna get up early and go so we can make it home before it gets dark.”
“I wish you guys could stay longer.”
“Trust me,” Harper says, flipping onto her side to face me. “I would much rather stay in paradise than spend a week in Minnesota with my entire family. This reunion might be the death of me. Don’t forget to remember me if I don’t survive.”
“If you die, who am I supposed to hang out with at USC? It’ll be
“Ha-ha.” She lightly kicks my shins under the covers. “What are we gonna do today?”
“Let’s go find out.” We hop out of bed in search of the boys. “They’ve been up since, like, eight playing video games. It’s going to be a struggle to pull them away.”
“Morning,” I greet my mom and Nick who are in the kitchen milling around. They weren’t up when I came down earlier. Tate must still be sleeping.
“Good morning,” they say in unison, offering a smile.
Brodee and Skylar are in the zone in the living room. I don’t even think they noticed we walked into the room until Harper says, “Hey, bums, what’s the plan today?” and squeezes beside Skylar and the armrest, leaning her head against his shoulder.
“The beach, beach, and more beach,” Brodee replies, concentrating on the TV.
“Well, then let’s go to the beach! Shut this off, and let’s get out of here.” Harper grabs the controller from Skylar and attempts to end the game. “You can play video games anytime.”
“Hey! C’mon, babe. I was just about to annihilate Brodee,” he groans and throws his arms up in defeat.
Brodee pumps his fist in the air with a Chewbacca howl. I can’t help my giggle. Every time. He shoots me a smirk before shouting at Skylar, “Ha! Suck it!”
“Don’t get too cocky, Fisher. I’d have killed you, if Harper hadn’t intervened.”
“And it’s a good thing I did. The party will be leaving in ten minutes.” She gets up and saunters toward me.
I have one foot on the bottom stair when my mom’s voice stops me. “What are you doing with that?” Though it’s quiet, her tone is sharp. At first I think she’s talking to me, but it wouldn’t make sense. I don’t have anything. When I turn, I see her staring at Nick, her body rigid.
My eyes travel to him standing near the fridge, leaning his back against the countertop. He has a mug halfway to his lips, but it’s not just any mug. It’s a fairly significant mug. It’s my dad’s mug. The one I made for him when I was in eighth grade. The one my dad used every morning while we vacationed here.
Nick slowly lowers it and looks at the surfboard I engraved into the side of the ceramic with ‘Dad’ written inside of the shape. He opens his mouth, not understanding her distress at first. Then it dawns on him. They exchange looks I don’t follow.
“I’m sorry, Liv. I didn’t think.” He holds it out to her, and she swipes the mug from his hands. “I just grabbed the first mug I—”
“No. You didn’t think.” Her voice is strained. She takes the mug to the sink and pours his coffee down the drain.
“You know I’d never…” Nick trails off; his eyes drift over to us watching the conversation go down. We all take that as our cue to quietly creep up the stairs.
Brodee and Skylar part from us at the top of the stairs with looks of apprehension as Harper and I walk into my room to change into our suits.
When I close the door Harper says, “Well, that was awkward. It’s just a mug. Why is she so upset?” She sounds more confused than anything else, so I don’t take offense.
Harper obviously couldn’t see what I saw and doesn’t understand the significance. “It was my dad’s mug,” I say quietly as I take my black bathing suit out of the top drawer of my dresser.
“Oh.” She digs in her duffle bag for her bikini. Carefully, she asks, “Do you think she overreacted a little bit?”
I don’t answer right away because I can’t decide. My mom has never scolded Nick like that before. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure I’ve seen them argue openly.
“I dunno. Maybe. After the years of friendship they’ve shared, a part of me thinks Nick should’ve known better, but at the same time it’s hard to gauge what’s going to set her off. And I honestly don’t think he was paying attention.”
“Did it bother you to see him using it?”
I shrug. “A little, yeah.”
“Maybe you should take the mug out of the kitchen. I wouldn’t have known not to use it.”
“No. It’s fine.” I see how silly it might sound to an outsider, being upset over a piece of pottery. And my mom didn’t need to take it from him and dump his coffee down the drain. That may have been taking it a bit far. “It
just a mug.”
“But it means something to you and your mom.”
It does. “Yeah. She probably took care of it though. I doubt anyone will use it again.”
Today is clearly leaning toward a not-so-great day for my mom if she let something like that affect her so easily. It’s always hard to decide if she needs space or if I should go to her on days like this. I toy with idea of trying to talk to her. I’d understand if she wants to be left alone. I know there’s nothing I can say to help her or make her feel better. I know because there’s nothing anyone can say to me either. I’ve simply learned to live through the days, breathe through the pain.
There’s nothing more that I want to do now than to get out of the house and relax on the shore all day.
AS WE LAZE
around the beach in Rodanthe and surf, the only thing I can think about is how much I want this to last. It’s not the big moments I want. It’s this. Watching Brodee and Skylar skimboard and laugh as they biff it, looking to us to see if we witnessed it. And Harper reading a magazine beside me on her stomach, her feet swinging back and forth in the air, while I read one of my dad’s old books. The comfort I feel with our solidarity.
Brodee and Skylar walk up the beach back to us with their skimboards in hand.
His heart-melting smile widens when he looks at me, and, for the first time, it scares me.
I want him more than anything else.
WHEN WE GET
back to the house after Rodanthe, it’s time for dinner. Tate is the only one around, and she’s made us a pot of chili.
“Hey, where is everyone?” I ask.
“Your mom and Nick ran to the grocery store to grab a few things, but they should be back soon. And Carter went out with his friends. If you guys want to go ahead and eat, feel free. It’s ready.”
Hopefully, they patched up everything after this morning. I hate seeing my mom so upset. This summer was supposed to help her. And maybe that’s why they went together. To have a moment to fix whatever happened this morning.
“How was the beach?” Tatum asks.
“Good,” Brodee answers and grabs a bowl to fill.
I give her a more detailed reply. “It was beautiful. Surf was pretty decent. We just relaxed on the beach most of the day. The boys did some skimboarding. Harper and I read.”
“Thank you, Peyton.” She smiles, giving me a knowing look.
. “You guys look like you got some sun. I’m seeing some pink cheeks.”
Harper pats her face. “I was afraid of that.”
“It’ll work in your favor in a couple days,” Tatum amends. “You tan beautifully, Harper.”
While everyone eats at the kitchen table, I revel in being together, taking in every second, trying to appreciate every moment the four of us have left. After dinner we squeeze onto the couch in the living room and turn on some music to play in the background.
Harper leans into me. “Hey, Peyton-Parker. You okay?”
“Huh?” I look to Harper.
“You’ve been really quiet today. What’s on your mind?”
I know it’s not the end of the summer, but with it being the last day the four of us have together, it almost feels like the end of our childhood in a way.
“I just don’t want this to end. It’s going to be so different without Brodee, you know? I want today to last forever.” I wipe my eyes of the stray tears filling them.
“Oh no, you getting all sappy on us, P Parker?” Skylar asks, leaning around Harper.
Brodee wraps his arm around my shoulder and tugs me to his side. “Aww…Pete. I mean…I know I’m awesome, but you don’t have to cry over me.”
“Shut up.” I laugh and shove him away. “Don’t flatter yourself. I’m a crier. Leave me alone.”
“Well, stop it.” Harper gets up and throws her hair into a ponytail. “We’re not ending today on a sad note.” And then she’s on a mission toward the back door.
“Harper, where are you going?” I ask over the back of the couch.
She looks over her shoulder. “I’m going for a swim.” And then she’s gone.
When we reach the open doorway, Harper is jogging down the boardwalk into the dark, shedding clothing down to her bathing suit. “C’mon, losers!” she shouts. So, we shrug and run after her—taking off layers as we go, stumbling and laughing until we’re only in our swimsuits—and plunge into the sparkling moonlit ocean.
It’s freezing and refreshing and exhilarating all at once. I duck my head under the water, slicking back my hair. When my head breaks the surface, I wipe my eyes, and I see that Brodee is watching me. There’s an exchange. I’m not even sure I can explain it. The way he looks at me, his smile gradually disappearing. His eyes radiate heat, and my entire body warms by his stare. I’m not sure that he knows what he’s doing to me. It’s as though we’re both trying to read each other’s thoughts, but we’re afraid to think too deeply for fear that the other will know too much.
Or maybe that’s just me.
He swims toward me, and I stop breathing.
What is he doing?
I hear Skylar and Harper splashing and giggling, making a commotion near us, but that’s all it is. Noise. Background noise. Noise I could do without. My focus is all Brodee.
“You remember our pact, right?”
I can only nod. There is no air in my lungs for words.
“I don’t want you to worry about us, okay?”