Liv's last summer of beachbumming it, but it is tainted by impending responsibilities?
|This is just the very beginning of a story I'm planning about Olivia, and her facing her own fears about the future and growing up. (Though the title doesn't make much sense right now, later, it should...) Also right now I'm just trying to get everything down on paper; reading it over I think some things sound kind of awkward. Please let me know if you have any suggestions for phrasing, etc. Thanks a million!
“It really handles nice.” I took a handful of popcorn, and offered the bag to Sam. She shook her head. “It’s a nice car.”
“Yeah,” she grinned, “I love it.”
“So you’re not going to let me drive it, are you?”
Sam glanced sideways at me. “Liv, have I ever let you drive my car?”
“Only when you’re drunk. Hell, I can’t even drive my own car when you’re with me.” She laughed.
I could tell that Sam was proud of her new red Grand Am by the way she drove—she leaned back, one hand on the wheel, the other resting out the open window. She nodded to the music and occasionally tossed her dark hair, brushing her bangs from her forehead. She had also given me a dirty look and chastised me when I spilled some crumbs on my lap. I swore back at her but carefully swept them up with my hand and let them go out the window.
We passed a road sign. “Fifty three miles to Savannah,” I read aloud.
“We’ll get to John’s house by dinner, I think.” John was a friend of ours from high school who was teaching sailing this summer on the South Carolina coast.
“Not if you keep driving so goddamn slow,” I antagonized her. “You drive like my mother.”
“I haven’t ever gotten any speeding tickets or been in any accidents, either,” Sam retorted, and grinned at me. I rolled my eyes at her behind my sunglasses.
“None of them was my fault,” I muttered, but couldn’t help grinning back at her.
She began to hum along with the song on the radio. I tapped my hand on the outside of the car door. When it came to the chorus, I began to sing along, and Sam joined in, and we laughed at ourselves.
Come on and take a free ride,
Come on and take it by my side,
Come on and take a free ride!
This was the perfect start to the summer. A week of driving the coast with Samantha, the lazy Georgia sun on our faces, classic rock on the radio, and nothing to concern ourselves with but the amount of gas in the tank. It was stolen, holy time between my finals and summer job. The last time I’d seen Sam was nine months ago, but nothing had changed; we easily tossed around jokes from ten, twelve years ago, and caught each other up on our families, our friends, and our sex lives. This summer, we both knew, was going to be killer. It had better be; it was our last one together.
Sam and I had been best friends since third grade. I could remember what I was wearing—a GAP sweater and my favorite jeans—when I saw the new girl at the bus stop, and asked my mom if she could come over after school. Almost immediately, we became inseparable. If one of us was there, the other was close by. In middle school, our names were practically one—“Where’s Saman’liv?”
We were so close that the kind of drama that kills most adolescent friendships didn’t even faze ours. Hell, my sister had a new best friend every time I came home. But something about our personalities just clicked.
Sam was our prom queen. If you were like me, you would’ve thought this implied something about her personality. That assumption would be wrong. Yes, Sam was well liked and good-looking, but she was also unpretentious, and in fact was a real goofball. She had a lot of acquaintances to talk to at a party, if she felt like going; she could attract people with her looks and keep them entranced with her self-effacing humor and charm. It was a defense she’d learned to fine-tune, letting her keep people as far away as she wanted them. Me, on the other hand, I always had a scathing sense of sarcasm, fierce independence, and was much too proud to make fun of myself like Sam did. While she compartmentalized into public and private selves, I kept most people far enough away so I didn’t have to worry about it. Even my mom called me “kind of a loner.” Often, it would take Sam coming to my house to physically pull me to my feet and convince me to go with her to a bonfire or hockey game.
I think that with our combined personality flaws, we were a perfect fit—neither of us liked personal drama, neither of us would pry too deeply into what the other didn’t want to share. For some reason, her goofiness attracted me, and I became her sounding board for her crazy ideas—she was the one who wanted to build the fort, and I was the one to figure out how to do it. If I hadn’t ever met her, I didn’t want to think what kind of freakish bookworm I would’ve turned out to be.
This wasn’t to say that Sam and I didn’t have an emotionally deep relationship. I could count on my hand the number of people I had cried in front of, and she was one of them; really, the only person outside of my family that I had let comfort me when I was really upset. And senior year in high school, when all of our friends decided to get mad at Sam for some ridiculous reason, I was the only person to still sit with her at lunch and refuse to talk about her behind her back.
We knew that our friendship was a given. It didn’t matter where I traveled to or who Sam dated. Within five minutes of seeing each other we’d be recalling the time we fell in a sinkhole in the marsh behind my house, or got drunk off tequila at a football game.
“Liv! Olivia!” I jerked out of my daydreaming and turned to Sam. “Were you sleeping?” She demanded. “You promised you wouldn’t sleep. There’s some Red Bulls still in the back, aren’t there?”
“I wasn’t sleeping.” I reached back and grabbed two of the drinks, putting one in Sam’s cupholder and opening the other for myself. “So,” I took a sip of the sickly sweet liquid, “is Brian going to be on Cape this summer?”
Glancing over at me, she answered with a slightly defensive tone, “I don’t know. Why? I hardly even talk to him anymore, Liv.”
I shrugged. “Just wondering.”
“Well, he won’t be, anyway. He’s staying in Maryland and teaching sailing there.”
Samantha had dated Brian for five years, finally ending it last summer. I hadn’t been sure of how completely it was over, though; Sam hadn’t ever really brought it up and I hadn’t ever pressed, and then it wasn’t the kind of conversation that presented itself well by email, anyway. Last August Sam had left to go south and live with her parents while I’d packed my bags for six months in the boondocks of Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean. It hadn’t been easy to find toilet paper, never mind a cheap line to Florida.
“He’s not coming back at all?”
“Well, I’m sure he’ll come up to see his family once in a while,” Sam answered, brushing her hand through her hair.
I wasn’t too upset. I hadn’t been overly fond of her boyfriend, though for her sake I tolerated him. He could be an ass, especially when he was drunk, especially to her.
“What about you?” Sam changed the subject, and handed me her drink to open for her. “Have you talked to Mike lately?”
“Mike?” I laughed. “You forget that I’m not good at anything lasting over a month, and that was practically a year ago.”
“Oh shut up, Livvie, yes you are. You’re just a chicken. You should call Mike up when we get home; he was really cute.”
“Yeah,” I shrugged, “but he was kind of obsessive. Like he wanted to see me every single night.” I handed over her Red Bull. “Besides, I don’t even have his number anymore. I got rid of that phone.”
“What about over the school year?” Sam continued. “You mean to tell me that there was not one guy worth getting to know over in the land of the pyramids?”
“Pyramids are in Egypt, not Jordan. And anyway, as eager as a lot of those guys were to get into the pants of a white chick, the feeling wasn’t mutual. Even if I had met someone the rules they have about socializing with the opposite sex meant it would’ve been limited to a handshake.”
“Really?” Sam turned to me, eyes wide.
Grinning, I answered, “Well, pretty much. We couldn’t even get guys into our apartment. Doorman wouldn’t allow it.”
“We’ll find you someone this summer,” she promised me. “We’ll both find some cute boys to teach us how to surf.”
I laughed. “What about what’s his name, Nathan? We’re not even on Cape yet and you’ve already got someone lined up.”
“We’re not married; we’re not even dating. Besides, who says I can’t talk to a couple of guys at once?” She flashed me a grin. “They don’t have to know.”
“’Cause you’ll be doing more than talking…”
“Shut up!” Sam whacked my arm.
We arrived on Cape a few days later. After helping me with my bags at my house, Sam waved and drove off. She’d rented a room for the summer with an older couple. “Won’t be a party destination or anything,” she’d told me, “but it’s cheap and they’re nice.”
My mom and brother were home, and I hugged them both hello. “I’ll help you,” Cameron said as I began to carry my bags upstairs. He took both the bags I carried, and began to walk up the stairs. I took the third and followed him.
“Jeez, you’re getting big, Cam.” He was only twelve, but it seemed he’d grown three inches since Easter.
“I think I’m taller than you,” he commented as we walked down the hallway.
“No, you can’t be.” We put down the bags in my room, and he came to stand next to me.
“Yup, I am.” He measured an imaginary line from the top of my head to his; it hit his forehead. “I’m taller than you,” he said in a singsong voice, “and you’re the shortest person in the family now.”
“Shut up, squirt.” I batted him. “I could still kick your butt.”
“Oh yeah?” Cam punched me hard in the arm, and then hightailed it out of the room. I raced after him, through the hallway, back down the stairs, into the family room, until we both collapsed on the sofa, laughing.
“What are you two doing?” Our mom asked from the kitchen.
“He hit me,” I laughed.
“She started it.” He stuck out his tongue at me.
“You both sound about five years old,” she scolded us, but came over to sit on the opposite sofa.
“The little squirt’s taller than me now,” I told her.
“I hate that nickname,” Cameron moaned, turning around to face me. “I’m too old for it now.”
“He’s getting big,” our mom smiled. “He’s got a girlfriend now and—“
“Mom!” Cam’s tan face colored red.
I laughed. “What’s her name, Cam?”
“Jenny,” he mumbled.
“Is she in your class?”
He shrugged. “No, she’s in—“ He was interrupted by the sound of a car horn out in the driveway. “That’s Connor,” he interrupted himself, a look of relief crossing his face. Quickly he stood and slipped into his shoes. “Later, Mom.”
“Be back in time for dinner tomorrow!” She called after him. Cam slammed the front door shut.
“He’s getting so big,” I sighed. “He’s not a little kid any more. I don’t believe he’s bigger than me now.”
“Yeah, he’s getting older.” Mom smiled. “Don’t say anything to him, but I overheard him telling Connor that he kissed Jenny at recess.”
“Aw. Is she cute?”
“Yeah, she’s an adorable little blonde thing. Really smart, too.” She rose, and went back to the kitchen to continue making dinner.
“Where’s Isabel?” I followed her in, and began to prepare the vegetables that lay out on the counter for a salad.
“She’s out with Courtney.”
“Don’t know her.” I ate a cucumber slice.
“There’s a new friend every week with that one. She’s quite the social butterfly. Speaking of, someone called for you. Message is on the desk.”
“Really? Who?” I put down the vegetables and went over to the desk, picking up the notepad by the phone. “Ryan who?”
“Ryan Medici. You remember him, don’t you?”
“Of course I remember him, we were on the newspaper together in high school.” I looked at my mom, who was cutting chicken breasts. “Why’d he call?”
“Well, I hired him to give your brother drum lessons this summer. I thought Cam might think that was more fun than sitting through a real lesson.”
“What’s that got to do with me?” I was growing more suspicious as my mother’s smile broadened.
“Nothing, really. Calm down, honey, it’s not like I told him you were desperate.”
My eyes widened, and I took a step towards her. “What did you tell him?”
My mom glanced at me, smiled and shook her head, and looked back down at the raw chicken breasts on the counter, easily slicing them with a knife. “I was on the phone with him about Cameron, and I mentioned that you and Sam were coming home soon, and that you didn’t really have anyone to hang out with besides Sam this summer. That’s all I said, honest. And he said that you should give him a call when you get settled, that he’d like to see you.”
“Christ, my mom’s setting up play dates for me,” I muttered, tossing the pad back to the desk and going back to the salad.
“Don’t swear, Olivia.” She glanced at me again. “And I think it’d be good for you to see him. He’s gotten pretty good-looking, you know. He grew out of that baby fat.”
“Mom, he was a dork in high school. I had to spend time with him because we were both editors, not because I liked him.”
“Fine, don’t call him.” She took the tray of chicken and turned to put it in the oven. “I just think it would be good for you to expand your circle a little.”
“I have friends,” I said defensively.
“I know you have friends.” She turned back to look at me, shrugged, and smiled. “You don’t have to call him, Liv. But he’ll be here twice a week during the summer so you’ll have to be civil to him.”
“I’ll arrange to be out of the house,” I muttered. Finished with the salad, I carried it to the dinner table. Then I sighed; she was only trying to help me, as she’d said. I’d been home for two hours and already I was getting pissy with my mom.
“Go sit down; I’ll finish.” Taking my mom’s place at the counter, I opened the rice pilaf she’d taken out.
“Thanks, hun.” She smiled gratefully at me. Going to the glass cabinet, she asked, “Red or white?”
“Red,” I answered, heating a pan of water over the stove. A minute later she placed a glass of red wine in my hand. “I don’t believe everyone else’s twenty one this summer, and I’m the only one who’s not legal.” I took a sip, and swirled my glass. “I wish I was just three months older.”
“Don’t wish your life away.” Mom took a seat at the counter facing me, holding her glass. “And don’t pretend that you’re not going to go to the bars with them just because you’re not of age. You did last year, this year won’t be any different.”
I knew better than to protest, and so just smiled and shrugged.
“Just be safe.”
“Always am, Mom.”
“Sometimes I wonder.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “Between you and Sam sometimes I feel like I’ve got a pair of devious third graders on my hands again.”
“We were good kids,” I protested, beginning to cut a fresh loaf of Italian bread.
“Good in some ways, and little devils in others,” she replied, smiling. “I was mortified when I had to bring Samantha home that time completely covered in baby powder.”
I laughed; I couldn’t help it. In fourth grade Sam and I were in the bathroom when she squirted a puff of baby powder at me, getting a little on my shirt. I retaliated by grabbing the bottle and giving her a big puff in her hair. By the time we’d finished, the entire bathroom, ourselves included, was completely white.
“Yeah, but we never got in real trouble in high school. We barely even skipped class.”
Mom smiled, and took a sip of wine. “No, you’re right. You two were good kids. All of you are good kids.”
“We try,” I smirked, and came to sit next to her. My mom and I were close; our entire family was pretty close, and we spent a good amount of time together when I was home. My parents, I wasn’t too reluctant to admit, were pretty decent people.
Within the hour Isabel and my dad came home, and we sat down to dinner. Sitting around a table for a real dinner was a lot better than eating a bowl of spaghetti on the sofa, like I did at school. Afterwards we went outside, throwing aball around for our lazy golden retriever Sadie until it was too dark to see.That night I opened the windows in my room; the warm breeze that wafted in carried the scent of salt water. I fell asleep to the chirps of the peepers and the distant crash of the waves on the beach. It felt good to be home.
The beaches weren’t crowded yet in early June, as the kids were still in school, and the summer renters were only just beginning to come down. Sam and I took advantage of the relative quiet. We worked similar hours, her at a clothing boutique and me as a restaurant hostess, so we were able to do a morning or afternoon at the beach and still make it to work on time.
One particular afternoon about two weeks into our vacation we were sprawled out on our towels at Veteran’s. It was a beach we liked to frequent because it let us watch the windsurfers, who would use the choppy waters and higher winds past the jetty, and were often young and tan and attractive.
Sam was talking to me about the date she and Nathan had gone on a few days before, and I was only half listening. The sun and salt air were putting me to sleep, and besides, I was having my own daydreams about buying a shack in the Keys with a hammock.
Sam paused. I wondered if I was supposed to say something.
“Were you listening?” She asked finally.
She sighed. “Nathan asked us if we want to meet him and his friend tonight at the Roobar.”
Stretching, I turned towards her and opened my eyes. “Who’s his friend?”
“His name is Chris, I think he said.” She grinned at me. “I’m sure he’s cute. Nathan said he does landscaping, so he’s got to be built…”
“What’d, he give you a bio?”
“Yup. I said anyone I’m setting Olivia up with has to meet certain qualifications.”
“Such a good friend.” I grinned, and turned over to lay on my back, putting my hands behind my head.
“So you want to go?” Sam asked.
“As long as you stick around in case this guy’s a weirdo.”
“Yeah, of course. And I’m sure he’s not, anyway.” She paused, propping herself up to watch the windsurfers. “Look at that one,” she pointed. “He’s doing jumps.”
Propping myself on my elbows, I looked out. “We really have to take a surfing lesson,” I said after a little while. “I’ve wanted to forever.”
“I know. What about this Saturday, do you have off?”
“I don’t work until eight.” I looked over at her. “We could go out to Wellfleet in the morning.”
She nodded and smiled. “Saturday, then. We’ll be surfer chicks by next week.” A second later, she spoke again. “Oh, hey, I forgot to tell you. I heard back from Florida State about the financial aid.”
“They’re going to give it to me. Just about half the tuition.” She grinned.
“That’s awesome, Sam. Congratulations.” I really was happy for her; I knew how much she wanted to go back to school. She’d had to drop out of school the year before because of money issues with her family. “So you’re going to go there?”
She nodded. “Yeah, it’s close enough I’ll be able to keep my job down there and everything.”
“You going to keep your psychology major?”
“I’m not sure. I kind of want to do something different. Maybe business. I still like psych, though.” Sam looked back out at the windsurfers. “What about you, have you decided about grad school yet?”
“Nooo…” I flopped down on my back. “I don’t want to think about it. I have no idea what I want to do.”
“I think you’d make a great lawyer. But it’s not like you have to go to back to school right away. You can always take a couple years.”
“And do what?” I asked her, and sighed. “You know what I’d like to do?”
“Move down to the Keys, and live in a little shack on the water. I’ll bartend at night and write during the day, and in a couple years I’ll have the next great American novel.”
Sam laughed. “That’s a good waste of four years and a lot of money.”
“You sound like my parents,” I replied, and laughed.
“Do it if you want to, though. Do you really still write? I thought you stopped in high school.”
I shrugged. “I worked on a couple things for school publications. Articles, short stories and stuff. Anyway, I’ll probably end up working at some desk job in the city after I graduate.”
Sam turned to look at me for a few moments, but said nothing, and looked back at the water again.
“I don’t want to think about that stuff right now anyway, it’s the beginning of summer and I don’t want to have to worry about school. We should get going if we’re going to get dinner before we go out with the guys.”
Sam and I stood; I slipped my shorts on, and she pulled her tube dress over her head. Gathering our stuff, we then walked back toward the parking lot.
“He’s cute.” Sam nodded toward a young guy by his truck, pulling out his surfing gear. He noticed us and stopped to watch us throw our stuff in the back of my Jeep.
“Sam!” I laughed. The guy smiled and waved back.
“You girls leaving?” He called.
“Unfortunately,” she called back.
“Sam!” I climbed into the driver’s seat. “Come on!”
“Maybe I’ll see you around here again.”
“Hopefully!” Sam laughed, and then climbed into the car. I started the engine, and pulled out of the parking lot. “That, Liv, is how you meet guys. You need to learn to smile at people.”
“Smile at people in New York and they think you’re crazy.”
She laughed at me. “Well, you’re not a New Yorker. You’re a Cape Codder.”
“A New Englandah.” I used my best Boston accent.