Never fear! I'll share details as soon as I have them. In the meantime, enjoy this sneak peek into Summer's life, long before her story ever really began in my books...
Everything was new.
Summer spread her arms wide and spun in circles. Favorite red dress. Favorite yellow shoes. She didn’t care if Gabe Roberts had made fun of them on the playground. Rachael said that meant he liked her, but ew. Boys were annoying, obnoxious, and smelled bad. They liked snakes and cars and didn’t care if they got dirty. She’d never have a boyfriend. Not ever. Ew.
“Come on!” Rachael waved from the end of the dock. “You can see the fish today. There are hundreds of them.” She bent over the water, hands on her knobby knees, as her white-blonde hair caught the afternoon sun. “Hurry!”
So Summer did. She ran down the lawn and across the gravel road that wound all the way from Pine Point over the mountain to Silver Valley. She’d never been to Silver Valley, but some of her friends had. Tina Driver, for one, and Missy Olson. But Tina and Missy were rich and had two parents and two cars and went out to dinner at restaurants that had cloth napkins and tablecloths.
Summer Thompson wasn’t rich. She got most of her clothes from the Pretty Penny Secondhand Shop downtown, and sometimes Dad made the same thing for dinner a lot of nights in a row. But she didn’t care. Rachael Hunter was her best friend in the whole world, and if you had one of those, Summer figured, you couldn’t ever be really poor or really sad.
Plus, Rachael lived on Pine Point Lake as of a few months ago, and that was better than any fancy restaurant or brand new dress. She skipped onto the dock beside Rachael. The water stretched out in front of them, deep and blue and forever wide. Summer couldn’t even see the houses on the other side. Her father had told her he grew up there, but when he talked about growing up, his eyes turned sad and squinty. Sometimes he stopped talking altogether. Those were the times Summer let her little brother Donny follow her over to Rachael’s, even though Donny was five years old and probably didn’t even know why Dad stopped talking in the first place.
The fish scattered as a stick hit the water, followed by a dog, followed by Rachael’s little brother Nate, who landed in the water fully clothed. Rachael shrieked. Summer jumped.
“Aha! Gotcha!” Nate laughed. He splashed water at them as the dog grabbed the stick in its teeth and headed for shore.
“I hate you.” Rachael stuck out her tongue and propped her hands on her hips. “You are the worst brother ever.” She looped her arm through Summer’s and turned her back on her brother. “Come on, Summer. Let’s go back to my room where boys are not allowed.”
Summer stole a look over her shoulder as they retreated down the dock. Nate’s white-blond hair, the perfect match to his sister’s, gleamed wet in the sun. He had a funny gap between his front teeth, and he teased Rachael a lot, but Summer didn’t think Nate was all that bad when it came to little brothers.
“Come on.” Rachael tugged her arm again, and they were across the road and up the steep lawn and inside the red farmhouse that always smelled like fresh bread or soup or cookies. It was one of the best places in the world, and in that moment, with her best friend by her side, Mrs. Hunter taking warm snickerdoodles out of the oven, and the whole afternoon ahead of them, Summer knew that nothing in her life could ever go wrong.
Everything was wrong.
Summer slammed her bedroom door and threw herself onto her unmade bed. She hated Missy Olson. She hated Gabe Roberts for liking Missy Olson. But most of all, she hated herself for liking Gabe in the first place, and for thinking that he’d chosen Summer for his lab partner for any other reason except she was smart.
“Summer?” Donny knocked on her door.
“Then eat something.”
“There’s nothing to eat.”
Summer balled her fists under her eyes. “Of course there is. Stop being stupid.”
For a minute, Donny was silent. Then he knocked again. “Can I come in?”
“No.” God, why couldn’t she be an only child? Why did she have to have a little brother who followed her everywhere?
“Dad said he wouldn’t be home until late tonight.”
Like that was a big surprise. “I have homework,” she called through the closed door. “I’ll make something for dinner later.”
But a moment later, the knob turned, and Donny poked his thin, serious face around the corner of the door. “Please? Can’t I come in just for a minute?”
She turned her back on him and rubbed away tears. “Fine. But don’t talk to me.”
He climbed onto the bed. “Why are you sad?”
“What part of don’t talk to me didn’t you understand?”
The mattress dipped a little as he rearranged himself beside her. When he didn’t speak again, she glanced over her shoulder. Eyes the same deep brown as their father’s. Hair dark and wavy like her own. At nine years old, he was still shorter and scrawnier than most of his friends. Her anger eased. It wasn’t Donny’s fault her life was a total mess. She flopped onto her back and stared at the ceiling.
“Did you finish your homework?”
He nodded. “Did you?”
She smiled. “Yes, pipsqueak, I did. Not that it’s any of your business.”
“Do you think Dad’ll let me play Little League this year?”
“I don’t know.” Little League meant money for uniforms and figuring out a way to get back and forth to practice. Summer couldn’t drive him. She supposed their friends’ parents could drive him if they asked, but they already asked for so much from other people. “I’ll talk to him, okay?”
“Okay.” Donny nodded, and his hair fell into his eyes.
“You need a haircut.” Summer pushed it off his forehead.
“No, I don’t.” Donny swatted her hand away. “I’m never gonna cut it again.”
“Then I’ll cut it in your sleep.”
His little-boy eyes grew wide. “No.”
“I’m just kidding.” She sat up and checked her cell phone. It was secondhand, and she couldn’t do anything on it except call or text. She ran her thumb over the screen. They didn’t have Wifi in the house either, or cable, or anything that pretty much every other eighth-grader had.
My life sucks.
No one had texted her since school, not even Rachael, probably because every other eighth grader she knew was either at field hockey or football or soccer practice, or doing homework in the library. Or making out in the hallway. Or holding hands while they took selfies and posted them online so everyone who had a real cell phone could comment on the pictures and talk about them tomorrow. She tried not to think about the pictures she’d seen today of Gabe and Missy doing just that.
“Summer?” Donny patted her leg.
“It won’t always be like this.”
She looked over at him. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, things will change. That’s what Mrs. Targarean told me today. That even if you’re sad or scared about something, it won’t stay that way forever.”
“Oh, buddy.” Summer pulled him into a tight embrace. “Are you sad or scared about something?” Add that to her list of failures of late: being a lousy older sister. Even if her life sucked, Donny’s shouldn’t have to.
“Not really. But sometimes it seems like you are.” He sighed and rested his head on her shoulder.
For a few moments, she listened to him breathe, to the quiet rhythm of his chest rising and falling close to hers. “You’re right,” she said after a while. “Things will change.” They always did.
Everything was amazing.
Summer sat on the hood of Gabe’s convertible and watched him balance three ice cream cones in his hands. A warm summer night, graduation three days behind them, and a whole, long, beautiful July and August ahead of them. Life couldn’t get any better.
“Did you get mint chocolate chip again?” Donny asked from the back seat.
“Of course.” She never got anything else. “But get out of the car to eat. Gabe’ll kill you if you spill ice cream on the leather.”
Donny laughed but obliged, crawling over the seats. “No, he won’t. Gabe likes me.”
“Whatever.” Summer rolled her eyes and took the cone her boyfriend of four amazing months handed her. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” Gabe leaned over and kissed her, taking his time, letting his tongue linger on hers, even though the parking lot was full and probably everyone was watching.
Let them watch. I have the best boyfriend in the world. In the universe.
“Gross,” Donny said. “Be careful. You might suck her face off.”
“Shut up,” Summer said, her face hot. Gabe just smiled and handed Donny his chocolate and orange twist with rainbow sprinkles.
“That’s gross, by the way,” Summer said. “How can you eat that?”
Donny took an enormous bite of ice cream rather than answer. Gabe slid onto the hood beside Summer. His leg pressed against hers, warm and strong, and she went tingly all over, the ways she always did around him. “You can stay over tonight?” he whispered as Donny trotted over to talk to some other middle schoolers.
“Yeah. I told my dad I was staying at Rachael’s, so he won’t expect me ‘til tomorrow sometime.”
“Donny won’t say anything?”
“Nah.” Her little brother could be stupid sometimes, but he looked up to Gabe and pretty much worshipped the ground the guy walked on. Donny would take a secret to the grave if Gabe asked him to.
“Good.” Gabe licked his cone and gave her a long look. “Because I can’t wait to be alone with you.”
Tingles again. Everywhere. She’d never imagined it could feel this amazing to have a boyfriend. She thought about Gabe all the time, from the moment she woke up until she went to sleep at night. She loved the silly texts he sent her, the way his hand felt holding hers, the way he looked at her right before he kissed her. And even though he was going away to college at the end of August, they had two long months until that happened. They didn’t have to think about saying goodbye. They didn’t have to think about anything except stretching out every day as long as they could, starting with tonight.
I want to be with him.
She wasn’t on the Pill like a lot of her friends were, but Rachael had gotten her some condoms from the nurse’s office before school got out, and now Summer carried them in the bottom of her purse in case she and Gabe decided to use them.
His parents were away for the weekend, which meant their lake house was empty. Gabe touched her thigh, and she glanced at him sideways. She wasn’t sure she loved him -- she wasn’t sure what love was supposed to feel like -- but this seemed pretty close. Trusting him. Wanting him. Thinking about how all the strands of her life wove around him, and it was a hundred times better than it had ever been before. She laced her fingers through his and counted the hours before they could be alone.
I want everything to stay just like this forever.
Ten Years Later...