About last summer, p.1

About Last Summer, page 1

 part  #1 of  Second Chances Series

 

About Last Summer
 

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About Last Summer


  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The author makes no claims to, but instead acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the word marks mentioned in this work of fiction.

  Copyright © 2017 by Patricia B. Tighe

  ABOUT LAST SUMMER by Patricia B. Tighe

  All rights reserved. Published in the United States of America by Swoon Romance. Swoon Romance and its related logo are registered trademarks of Georgia McBride Media Group, LLC.

  No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  Mobipocket ISBN: 978-1-946700-10-0

  Published by Swoon Romance, Raleigh, NC 27609

  Cover design by Danielle Doolittle

  For Steven—Looks like we have to go pick up pizza again.

  Gabby

  After the outburst, my skin prickled. Every gaze turned my way. All the people on the makeshift stage with me. All the people in the folding chairs. Heat raced up my neck and across my cheeks, but it wasn’t due to stage fright. The lies of the past week had finally caught up with me.

  My thoughts turned muddled. For several seconds I seriously considered jumping the two feet to the floor and marching out of the garage and into the night without saying anything to anybody.

  Right. That would go over well.

  I stared down at the lines of dialogue hidden in the Robin Hood hat. It was too late for those. I needed to come up with my own words. But I wasn’t even sure where to start. Or how it had come to this.

  Five days earlier

  I smoothed my boarding pass across my jeans, hoping the damp marks from my clammy hands wouldn’t screw up the scanner’s ability to read my ticket. A man in a business suit paced nearby with his phone pressed to his ear, looking a little out of place in the Austin airport. Not laid back enough. Obnoxiously loud laughter came from somewhere behind me. Ugh. Time for music.

  I’d finally found my earbuds in my backpack when my phone buzzed. I fished it out of my pocket.

  Mom: Hey honey. Made an appointment with your school counselor for Aug. 10 to discuss options to theater class. Have a great trip!

  Seriously? We’d agreed to talk about this when I got back. Did she have to bring the counselor into it? My mother was stacking the deck against me. She was good at that. I wanted to ignore the message but knew she’d keep texting until I responded. And by then she’d be mad. I squeezed the cell phone harder than necessary as I tapped out my answer.

  Me: ok. Thanks.

  I flipped my phone over and over in my hands, waiting to see if she’d text back. But after two full minutes, I relaxed. If my mother didn’t text back right away, it usually meant she wasn’t going to. I let out a long exhale. Then a roll of Mentos fell onto my lap, making me jump.

  “There ya go,” my friend Kenzie said. “The perfect airplane food.”

  “Ha. I’ll need more than this,” I replied, slipping the candy inside my backpack.

  Kenzie dropped her tall frame into the seat beside me with a sigh. “You still have the breakfast tacos your mom made us, right?”

  “Oh, yeah. How could I forget?” Because I was too worried about theater. And my mother’s plans. And how to tell Kenzie about said plans.

  “Who knows?” Kenzie asked. “Let’s eat the tacos on the plane. How many did she make us?”

  “We’ve got like six. I think she thought we’d starve before your aunt picks us up in El Paso.”

  Kenzie grinned. “I love your mother.”

  “That’s because you don’t live with her.”

  “But she’s right,” Kenzie said. “From there we have to drive all the way to Ruidoso in New Mexico. That’s two and half hours at least.”

  I scoffed. “As if we couldn’t stop somewhere for fast food.”

  “Now boarding group one,” the gate agent announced. “All passengers in group one.”

  On either side of us, people stood and moved toward the gate. “Is that us?” Kenzie asked.

  “No, we’re group two.”

  “Good.” She took a hair tie out of the pocket of her crop pants and twisted her light blond hair into a messy bun at the crown of her head, then wrapped the tie around it.

  “I wish my hair would do that.”

  Kenzie dug her boarding pass out of her ginormous orange and white geometric-patterned tote bag. “It can. You’re just too picky about how it looks.”

  “Mine’s too curly.”

  “Still don’t see the problem.”

  “When I do a messy bun it looks like I got electrocuted—it sticks out everywhere.”

  Kenzie eyed my hair and raised an eyebrow. “What is it about the word ‘messy’ you don’t understand?”

  “Shut up.”

  “Group two, now boarding group two,” the gate agent’s voice crackled across the waiting area.

  Kenzie stood. “C’mon. We can argue about your perfect hair all week.”

  My dark untamable curls were far from perfect, but there was no sense fighting about it. I had important news to break. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and followed Kenzie into the queue, waiting until we’d passed the gate agent with her beeping ticket scanner before speaking. Or, to be honest, before getting up the nerve to speak. I opened and closed my mouth three times, but nothing came out. Come on. You’ve got to tell her.

  Halfway down the passageway, the line of people trying to board stopped. This was it. I leaned closer, my mouth just above Kenzie’s shoulder, and kept my voice low. “So, did I tell you I was thinking about quitting theater in the fall?”

  Kenzie’s head practically flew off her neck as she whipped around. “What?”

  Okay, that was super loud. The man in front of us glanced back and then edged forward.

  “Shh,” I said.

  Kenzie scowled. “Don’t shush me.” But her voice was quieter, so that was a plus. “Where did this come from?”

  We edged forward as the line moved. “Mostly my mom.” Which wasn’t completely true, but it might keep Kenzie from raising her voice. A gap opened before us when a couple of people stepped aside to gate-check their suitcases. We moved on and then paused at the entrance to the plane.

  “You always—” Kenzie shook her head. “Never mind.” She stepped onto the airplane, shifted her tote in front of her, and inched along behind everybody else.

  Hmm. So was that, never mind, we’ll talk later? Or forget it? Hard to tell. I’d have to wait until we sat. Unfortunately, that came soon; our seats were right behind the emergency exit row. Kenzie scooted into the two-person side—thank goodness we weren’t on the three people side—and shoved her tote under the seat in front of her. I sat down and was about to shove my backpack under the seat in front of me when Kenzie spoke.

  “Go ahead, give me your excuse.”

  Great, she’d gone on the attack right away. “You don’t have to be so pissy about it.”

  Kenzie just stared at me, her mouth set in a thin line.

  I looked away. I hated that stare. I’d seen it practically my whole life. And I usually changed whatever I was about to say because of it. But I couldn’t back down. I buckled my seatbelt, then faced Kenzie. “My mom is pressuring me again about my classes. She’s all academics this and academics that. And applications for college.”

  “Did you remind her that extracurriculars look good on college applications?”

  “I tried, but she’s being a fanatic. She thinks I won’t get int
o a good college without going all AP on everything. She keeps comparing me to my stupid engineering-obsessed brothers. I don’t even know what I want to major in when I get to college.”

  Kenzie blew air out of one side of her mouth. “Go for pre-Law like me. You can always switch later. That should keep your mom quiet.”

  “She wants me to be an accountant.”

  “Ha!”

  “Right?”

  Kenzie was silent for a long moment. “I thought you really liked theater.”

  “I do. It’s just that—”

  “You quit things.”

  “What?”

  Kenzie lifted a hand and touched the tip of her pinky. “In fourth grade, you quit Girl Scouts because you were having trouble completing your Camper badge.” She touched her ring finger. “In sixth grade, you decided not to go to any middle school dances because you thought no one would want to dance with you.” On to the middle finger. “In ninth grade—”

  “Would you stop?” I gripped the cool metal of my seatbelt.

  “—you quit volleyball because you were afraid you’d get cut from the team.” Index finger. “In tenth grade, you quit academic decathlon because you freaked out at one of the meets.”

  “I forgot everything, Kenzie. My mind went blank. No, not blank, all foggy. That’s not something you can just ignore. I looked like an idiot. It would be the same if I were ever in a play.”

  “No one remembers that.”

  “The academic decathlon people do.”

  “Forget them. Theater people are way more fun.”

  “I know.”

  “Then why quit?”

  Good question. I still wasn’t really sure. The thought of not being constantly nervous when I entered the theater building made me want to go along with my mom—even though I usually enjoyed it once class started. But saying that would make Kenzie go bonkers. “My mom said if I wasn’t going to be in any plays this year I should quit and take another science.”

  Kenzie lifted her shoulders as she fake-shuddered. “I’m falling out of love with your mother.”

  “I have to give her an answer when I get back. ‘Course, it probably doesn’t matter. She’s not going to like anything I do unless it’s what she wants.”

  “I thought you’d already decided.”

  “Not yet. I mean, I’m leaning toward quitting. I mostly just use theater as a place to hang with fun people.”

  The flight attendant announced that cell phones had to be in airplane mode. We took out our phones to obey. “Good to know you think we’re fun,” Kenzie said under her breath.

  Sarcasm. Not so bad. It could’ve been worse. We could’ve been yelling at each other. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, we ended up not talking for days. And that would definitely be awkward since we were about to spend a week with Kenzie’s cousins. I shoved my phone in the seat-back pocket. “You know I’ve tried to get over that stage fright thing. I worked on it last summer at that drama camp. I thought I’d be better this past year, but walking out on a stage still makes me wish I could click my fingers and turn invisible.”

  Kenzie chuckled. “Everybody feels like that sometimes. That’s why they have prompters. And Mr. Cavazos is really good at helping people through stage fright.”

  “Still.”

  Kenzie looked out the window for several long moments. I let go of the seatbelt buckle and rubbed at the red indentions across my palm and fingers. Why did this have to be such a battle? Happened every time I wanted to do something Kenzie didn’t agree with.

  My friend turned back and spoke in a low voice. “Maybe you should quit. You don’t even audition for any parts.”

  “There haven’t been any that I wanted.”

  Kenzie didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to. Her disgusted look said it all.

  “Okay. You’re right, but the whole stage fright thing …”

  “You know what? I don’t think this has anything to do with theater or acting. You just quit stuff. It’s what you always do. You’ll probably do it for the rest of your life.”

  The flight attendant stood in the aisle right next to me, so I turned completely toward Kenzie. “You’re just saying that to piss me off,” I whispered.

  “Is it working?”

  Heat raced up my neck. I turned away and pretended to watch the flight attendant. Kenzie could be such a pain sometimes. The worst part about it all was that I usually ended up agreeing with her. But not this time. “It’s not true, you know. I don’t quit everything. I’m still taking piano.”

  She raised an eyebrow. “Are you?”

  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “Last week you said you were thinking about dropping out of your fall recital.”

  “That’s different.”

  “How?”

  “I still haven’t quit piano.”

  Kenzie gave me a fake smile. “Just the part where people hear you play.”

  “Whatever.” The flight attendant headed for the back of the plane. Kenzie was wrong. I could finish what I started. It was just the stage fright problem. Wasn’t it? Talking about it only made me mad, so I took the plastic bag of breakfast tacos out of my backpack. “How many do you want?” I asked.

  Kenzie stared like she couldn’t believe I was changing the subject. Then she sighed. “Two, I guess.”

  I handed her two aluminum foil-wrapped tacos. We ate in silence while I flipped through the airline magazine, trying to forget everything she’d just said and the nagging sensation that her words might be true.

  Gabby

  Forty-five minutes later, the flight attendant had just handed us our drinks when Kenzie spoke. “I’ve been thinking about your problem.”

  I almost laughed. Which one? “The stage fright?”

  “No, the quitting one.”

  Not again. “I don’t have—”

  “Just listen.” She sipped her apple juice.

  I waited. This was probably going to be another one of Kenzie’s plans. The kind that ended with me being embarrassed at school or in trouble with my parents. And I just didn’t want to do it anymore. “Before you start, I want to say something.”

  Kenzie frowned but kept quiet.

  “I do not quit everything. I know you think I do, but I don’t. And I’ll prove it to you.” I swallowed hard. “Give me something to do. Name it. I’ll do it, and I won’t quit until it’s over.”

  A sound of scorn came out of Kenzie’s mouth. “You don’t mean that.”

  My voice hissed in a harsh whisper. “I do. You want me to put myself out there, right? Then tell me what to do.”

  “Are you serious?”

  “Yes.” I forced myself to finish. “I’m sick of you psychoanalyzing me.”

  “Oh.” Kenzie looked truly surprised. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was doing that.”

  “Well, you are.” And you do it all the time! My hands were shaking. I folded my arms across my chest to hide them.

  “I do have an idea that might help, though,” Kenzie said.

  I wasn’t ready to talk yet, so I kept my mouth shut.

  A smile came and went on Kenzie’s face. “Remember how I put on that old lady disguise at the mall a few weeks ago?”

  The memory of Kenzie walking with a cane made me smile. She’d even tripped a guy who’d bumped into her. “Yeah, it was awesome. Everybody totally believed you were my grandmother.”

  Kenzie grinned. “Well, I think you should do something like that.”

  “Pretend to be my own grandmother?”

  “Ha, no. Go where people don’t know you and really get into a character. I’ve done it a lot. It’s really helped my confidence when I act.”

  That was new. “Really? I thought you had plenty of confidence.”

  Kenzie smirked. “Um, acting.”

  “Oh, right. I guess I could try that sometime.” Like, never.

  “Why not this week?”

  Wariness washed over me, and I shifted away a li
ttle. “What do you mean?”

  Kenzie turned in her seat, excitement plastered all over her face. “We’re gonna be at my cousins’ vacation place this week, and none of them know you—”

  “Don’t remind me.”

  She wiggled in her seat. She actually wiggled. Kenzie, my tall, athletic friend had just wiggled. That could only be bad for me. “This is perfect!” she said.

  “Shh.”

  She lowered her voice. “You can pretend to be someone else!”

  Oh, great. I frowned. “But didn’t you already tell them I was coming?”

  “I said I was bringing a friend. I didn’t give a name. So, who do you want to be?”

  “I have no idea.”

  “C’mon, think.” She moved the window shade up and down while she thought out loud. “How about a twelve or thirteen-year-old? Acting younger shouldn’t be too hard. Definitely easier than having to put heavy makeup on to pretend to be old.”

  “That doesn’t make sense. Why would you bring a friend who’s only thirteen?

  “Good point. Though I could be bringing someone for my cousin Amanda. I think she’s fourteen.”

  I had to get Kenzie off this subject. But how? “Does that sound like something you’d do?”

  “No.” Kenzie laughed. “It really doesn’t. Let me think.”

  Yes, think. Think so long that you fall asleep. From somewhere in the back of the plane a baby started crying. Across the aisle, a young man shoved earbuds into his ears. I wanted to do the same thing, but Kenzie would probably just pull them out. I sipped my ginger ale, waiting for her Great Plan. It was my own fault for wanting to prove I wasn’t a quitter.

  Kenzie grabbed my arm, splattering my drink onto the tray table.

  “Watch out!”

  “I’ve got it,” she said. “You can be from a foreign country.”

  I wiped the drips off my hand with a napkin. “But I don’t speak any foreign languages.”

  “You know some Spanish, don’t you?”

  “From school, yeah. But just because my dad’s Hispanic doesn’t mean I can speak Spanish.”

 
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