Jen Calonita is the author of the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series, inspired by her time as Senior Entertainment Editor of Teen People, and the Belles series, which best-selling Pretty Little Liars author Sara Shepard called “a must-read, full of scandals, sisterhood, Southern charm, and secrets!”
Though she’s written about California dreams and Southern scandals, Calonita herself grew up on Long Island, New York, and was a counselor in training at a summer camp. That experience helped inspire her latest young adult novel, Summer State of Mind (out April 22), which takes place at the same camp where Calonita’s standalone Sleepaway Girls was set. Find out what adventures await protagonist Harper McAllister (hint: She’s not much of a wilderness girl) in this exclusive excerpt from the first two chapters:
Chapter 1: Confessions Of a Shopaholic
Harper McAllister @HarperMc
SCHOOL. IS. OVER! Can’t wait to hang w/ my friends @KatetheGreat & @MargoDivine at our home away from home…the Americana!
This is how I was meant to spend my afternoons. Standing in the middle of a big, bright store filled with all my favorite people—Emilio Pucci, Stella McCartney, and Chloé.
Not behind a Bunsen burner wearing supertight plastic goggles that leave red marks on my tender skin.
As I flip through the racks at Intermix, I can feel my stress level drop, much like that piece of plastic that accidentally fell into my Bunsen burner during my second‐to‐last science lab. (The lab still smelled this morning, even after I secretly spritzed Vera Wang Princess perfume in the air.)
“Eeee!” I look up and see Margo racing toward me waving a long electric‐blue halter top like a flag. The glittery straps are so blinding I shield my eyes. “This is that top I saw in Lucky!” Margo pins it to her tiny torso and spins, which sends her long black hair flying. “I’ve been looking for it everywhere! Isn’t it cute? I could wear it as a shirt! Or a minidress! Or as a beach coverup if we go to Cancun!”
When Margo is excited she talks so fast that I wish I could rewind her. The girl loves to shop even more than I do. “It looks like something you’d wear for a dance competition,” I say with a laugh. Margo starts to pout, so I add, “But if we do go to Cancun, we’ll just have to go dancing so you can wear it.”
Margo squeezes me like a lemon.
“What do you mean if we go to Cancun?” Kate teeters over on four-inch cork wedges, towering over us like a giant. She practically trips into me, and her dirty blond hair smacks me in the face. “I thought the trip was a done deal.”
I backpedal. “Did I say if? I meant when.”
Kate looks at me harder. “Are you sure?”
Sometimes Kate cross-examines me like they do on those legal shows my grandma watches in the middle of the afternoon. “Yes!” I say brightly. She continues to stare me down, and I crack. “The thing is I haven’t exactly asked McDaddy about a date yet.” Kate gives me a look. “I tried to bring it up the other night, but he was meeting Rihanna for dinner and was stressed ’cause he couldn’t find his keys. I’ll sort it all out tonight.”
Kate smiles with satisfaction. “Okay. I don’t mean to hound you. I just want to tell my parents when I’m going to Atlantis so they can go to Barbados the same week.” She wrinkles her nose as if she just got a whiff of rancid sushi. “I hate Barbados.”
“Atlantis?” Margo and I repeat at the same time.
“Harper’s dad said he is taking us to Cancun,” Margo reminds Kate, speaking slowly in case the fumes from my Bunsen burner incident the other day are having some lasting effect on Kate’s memory.
“That’s right!” Kate hits her forehead. “I was the one who suggested Atlantis.” She thumbs the fabric of a pair of dark wash jeans on a table next to her. “I just thought it would be more fun to swim with sharks and celebrity watch than worry about being kidnapped in Mexico.” She sighs. “But it’s your choice, Harper. Margo picked last time.”
“Yeah, because my dad paid.” Margo’s mood goes from a shopping high to a discount-bin low, and I feel my heart race with alarm. Kate and Margo step toward each other, and my thumbnail goes to my mouth. I start to bite it. “I don’t recall you being that bent out of shape about skiing in Park City, Utah. Harper!” Margo swats my hand away from my mouth. “Stop biting your nails!”
“Sorry,” I say sheepishly. I asked Margo to keep me in check about my nail biting. My disgusting habit seems to get worse in high-stress moments like this.
“Actually, now that I think about it, we picked Park City because Harper wanted to go there. I suggested Aspen, remember?” Kate clicks the heels on her cork wedges loudly and looks at me.
Okay, I did say I’ve always wanted to ski the white powder in Utah, but I didn’t know Margo was going to book our winter break trip around something I said. We usually do what Kate wants. She picks what table we sit at for lunch, what movie we see on a Friday night, whose party is worthy of us attending. The three of us have been tighter than super-skinny jeans since I arrived at Friends Prep almost two years ago, but sometimes I still feel like I’m on friend probation with Kate. Margo says that’s because Kate thinks I’ve moved above her in the hierarchy of our friendship. All because a few people—including the lunch lady—have started asking for my advice instead of hers.
“Should I get the Greek yogurt or Yoplait for lunch today, Harper?”
“Would you button this top or leave it unbuttoned, Harper?”
“Harper, what’s the square root of 364?”
Honestly, I have no clue what the answer is to that last one. I don’t want Kate to feel threatened by me. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t even be popular. When my family moved to Brookville almost two years ago, I didn’t know a soul. Thankfully, Kate rescued me from lunchtable no-man’s-land. She spied me in line wearing my pink Hunter rain boots and said she knew I was “one of them,” which in Kate’s book meant “destined to be popular.” I was an overnight success, just like my dad when his wedding video company produced an unknown rap star’s low-budget music video and the song became record of the year. McDaddy Productions was born soon afterward, and we went from a tiny house in middle-class Mineola to a mansion in JLo country (she and Marc Anthony used to own the house across the street from ours). Some days I am still getting used to how different my life is here.
“My dad has his heart set on Cancun,” I tell Kate apologetically. “But the good news is he said the resort is secluded and five-star. I think Beyoncé told him about it.”
That makes Kate smile. “Well, if Beyoncé goes there…You’re sure we’re going?”
“Absolutely!” I insist, but the truth is, I’m not sure McDaddy remembers promising to take my friends and me away for my fifteenth birthday. He was shooting a video with the hottest pop star on the charts, London Blue, on my actual birthday and promised to make it up to me. He also arranged for me to get a shout-out from London Blue online that got over a hundred thousand hits on YouTube. I don’t want to disappoint my friends, though. Margo has taken us away twice, and Kate keeps promising to bring us on a trip next winter. Mom finds the group-trip tradition kind of strange, but she chalks it up to being a North Shore thing. Going from the middle of Long Island to the North Shore really was like moving from Antarctica to Los Angeles. There are a lot of cultural differences. Don’t even get me started on the Truvia versus real sugar debate.
“And the best part about Cancun is that we don’t have to worry about getting eaten alive on an excursion,” I tell Kate. “Swimming with sharks at Atlantis has Good Morning America lifestyle piece written all over it. ‘Almost high school sophomore eaten by sharks on summer break,’ ” I say using my best reporter voice. “I’ll be darned if Josh Elliott reports on me, and I’m not alive to see it.”
“Amen,” seconds Margo, folding her hands in prayer for a moment before slipping the blue halter over her head to try it on, much to the chagrin of the nearby saleswoman.
“I guess you’re right. Again.” Kate pulls off the cork wedges dejectedly.
I quickly look around the store of brightly colored designer pieces to find something that will cheer her up. “Ooh, Kate! Isn’t that the Chloé shirt you were looking for the other day? They must have gotten more in.”
Kate rushes over to the rack and squeals. I breathe a sigh of relief.
“It’s the shirt!” she announces, a smile replacing the scowl on her face. She holds up the tee. It has nylon flowers around the collar, the Chloé logo written across the front, and a stick figure drawing of a girl on it. I don’t think it’s anything special, but Kate is acting like she won a private fitting with the designer herself. “Isn’t it sweet?”
“Yeah,” I say, because that’s what she wants to hear.
“If we each get one, we’ll look like triplets!” Kate pulls me in front of the nearest mirror and holds the tee up under my chin. She and I do look somewhat related. We have the same dirty blond hair and brown eyes, but she towers over me in the height department while I have her beat in the bra-size category. “We have to buy them. This will look great on you even if it is a bit snug in the chest.” She opens her slouchy leather bag and retrieves her wallet. I open my mouth to protest and watch her eyes widen in horror. “Seriously! My credit card is in my other wallet.” She sits down on one of the velvet ottomans in the store, and Margo walks up next to her. “I was going to buy them for us as last-day-of-school gifts. They’ll be gone tomorrow.” She drops her bag on the floor in disgust. Her eyes narrow as she stares at the front door. “Cassie Anderson is probably hiding behind one of the racks trying to steal them from us as we speak. Some last day of school this is turning out to be. First no Atlantis, now no Chloé tee that I have wanted forever.”
She’s laying the guilt on thick. “I’ll buy them for us.” I gently pry the shirt from Kate’s hands, and the saleswoman swoops in to take the tees up to the register.
Margo follows us. “H, no! You bought us the Swarovski crystal flip‐flops last week and MAC makeup the week before that. It’s too much.”
“So? You bought us facials at Red Door Spa a few weeks back.” I pull my credit card out and hand it to the salesgirl. “Friends do things for each other, right?”
“Right!” Kate seconds. I notice she’s still holding the cork wedges she tried on earlier. She stops a salesgirl walking by, and I hear her whisper: “Can I put these on hold for tomorrow?”
On hold. I suddenly wonder why Kate didn’t do that with these shirts, too.
“That will be three hundred sixty‐eight dollars and forty‐two cents,” my salesgirl says and swipes my credit card before I even have time to hesitate.
Three hundred and sixty-eight dollars isn’t that bad, is it? I sign the receipt with a whimsical signature I have been perfecting, making a giant loop around the H and A for Harper Avery McAllister. Usually signing my name and getting handed a cute bag full of new clothes is my favorite part of shopping. But when the salesgirl hands me my receipt this time, I can’t help but think about everything I’ve bought lately. There was that Nikon 1 camera I needed because for a split second I wanted to become a photographer, the pair of skis I’ve never used but had to have because they were on sale, and the Prada dress for the spring fling that looked like the one Amanda Seyfried wore to an awards ceremony. Those three items add up to about eight hundred dollars and that doesn’t include any of my Starbucks runs or dinners out with the girls. Gulp.
I’m sure I have nothing to worry about, though. McDaddy is the one who gave me the AMEX and told me to consider it my “fun money.”
“Here you go.” The saleswoman walks around the counter and hands me three bags. One for each of us. I start to cheer up as I pass them out like candy.
Kate throws her arms around me. “Thanks, H!” She’s always more pleasant after she gets a present. “Let’s celebrate the last day of school over dinner.”
“Intermezzo?” we say at the same time. “Lobster mac and cheese!” We both burst out laughing, and Kate links arms with me. Things are so much easier when Kate and I are on the same page.
“I thought you didn’t have your credit card,” Margo grumbles, but Kate ignores her. When we step outside, the humidity hits us in the face. The sidewalk is crowded with people carrying designer shopping bags as they hurry from one store to the next. Margo walks alongside us to the restaurant area, and I give her hand a squeeze.
“Thanks for getting us those shirts,” Kate says as we walk the short distance to Intermezzo, which is nestled between Prada and Gucci in the outdoor mall. “We have to think of a really great place to wear them together.”
“July Fourth on Hallie’s boat?” Margo suggests. “My beach club for the opening weekend party? Ooh! Ooh!” She grips my arm tightly as she rattles off several other suggestions and then, “Or the week we go to my house on the Jersey Shore? We could wait until Cancun, but that is over a month away.”
“I don’t want to wait till August to wear this shirt,” Kate moans.
My head is spinning. Summer hasn’t even started yet, and I can already tell I’m not going to have a minute to just be lazy. “Wow! Do we have that many plans already? What about time to chill?”
“Downtime?” Kate looks at me as if I’ve sniffed glue. “To do what? Read a book?” She cracks herself up.
I laugh along with her, but really I am thinking, Yeah, to read a book or go for a run or do nothing at all. I bite my nails again. “I just hate schedules in the summer.”
“Me too, but look at the alternative,” Kate says. “If you didn’t have plans, you’d be stuck hanging out in a parking lot like these losers.” Kate motions to a group of teens milling outside Intermezzo.
I want to say not everyone chooses to get a table at a place where a soda is four bucks, but I don’t. The truth is some of these people go to Friends Prep with us. As we pass by the crowd, two girls wave and say, “Hi, Harper!” I wave back as Kate ushers me inside so we can get a table…outside. The patio has the best seating and, as Kate always points out, a great view for people watching. Mary, the regular hostess, is standing at the check-in desk when we walk in. She waves me over.
“Hey, Harper!” She ignores Kate, probably because Kate refused to give her a tip last week when Mary subbed in as our waitress (“Hostesses don’t get tips!”). “Last day of school, huh?” Mary says, looking directly at me and only me. “Any big plans?”
“Dinner,” Kate says bluntly. “Is there a table open on the patio?”
Mary looks around the crowded restaurant and then at me again. “Anything for Harper. Just give me a few minutes to turn over a table.” She gives me a little wink.
Yep, she hasn’t gotten over the no-tip thing yet.
Fifteen minutes later we’re settled at a table in the ivy-covered garden. The fountain nearby is gurgling, the bright yellow umbrellas are shading us from the eighty-five‐degree heat, and we’re all studying the menu as if we’ve never eaten here before.
Kate sighs impatiently. “Where are our drinks? The waitress should have gotten them by now.” She snaps her fingers at a guy who just finished cleaning the table next to ours. “Hey! You!” He stops so suddenly I’m afraid he’s going to drop the plastic bucket full of dirty dishes. “Can you get us our drinks? We’ve been waiting forever.”
Margo and I look at each other. Doesn’t Kate realize he isn’t a waiter? Besides the fact that he is carting dirty dishes, he looks to be around our age. He must be a busboy. He looks at Kate strangely. “Sorry, I’m not a waiter. Notice the messy apron?” He smiles. “I’ll call one over for you.”
I feel my stomach do a little flip. I know this busboy! He is in our grade at Friends Prep. What is his name? Ethan! That’s it. Ethan Thompson! How could I forget this cute face? Dark brown hair, big brown eyes, and lashes I only get when I buy those glue-on ones at CVS. Even his stained light blue T‐shirt looks adorable on him.
I notice Kate isn’t giving him the same adoring look. “We can’t wait for a waiter to come over. It’s hot out, and we’re parched!” She snaps her fingers. “Can’t you just bring us our usual drinks?”
I rearrange the silverware in front of me to avoid looking like I share Kate’s attitude and opinion. When I finally sneak a peek at Ethan, I notice he’s staring at Kate in annoyance.
“I couldn’t even get your drinks if I wanted to.” He motions to the bucket in his hands as proof. “Besides, knowing Kate Harrison’s usual drink order is not one of my job requirements.”
“Excuse me?” Kate’s voice is so low I can barely hear it over the fountain.
Margo and I shoot each other warning looks. Ethan is not afraid of Kate, which makes me even more in awe of him. It’s rare for anybody to stand up to her unless they don’t care about their social standing at Friends Prep.
“I said it’s not my job to know Kate Harrison’s drink order,” Ethan says matter‐of‐factly. “So if you want me to pass along your order, you’re going to have to tell me whether you drink Diet Coke, Coke, or spring water.”
I laugh, and Margo hits me. There’s that famous glare again from Kate. She hates being the butt of jokes, even if they are harmless and funny. This is definitely funny.
“If you want to even think about keeping your job, you’ll ask someone our drink order.” Kate loves to act as if she owns the place. I think her dad is an investor. “And if you want a tip, you’ll bring it over with a smile on your pasty face and your lips sealed.”
I wouldn’t call Ethan’s face pasty at all. It actually has a slight glow to it.
Ethan shrugs. “I’ve already heard you don’t tip, so I’ll take my chances.”
“A Diet Coke, a Perrier, and a Coke,” I blurt out before Kate can lunge across the table and stab him with her fork. “You don’t have to get them, either. If you could just tell our waiter—that would be great.” I smile, but he doesn’t smile back. Instead he walks away without asking if we want the complimentary bread basket. (Sadly, the answer is no. On the North Shore, eating bread is as taboo as revealing your true weight.)
“Who was that jerk?” Kate asks.
Margo looks at Kate incredulously. “Uh, he goes to our school.”
“He’s going to be a sophomore, too,” I clarify. “That’s Ethan Thompson.”
“And you know that why?” Kate’s never bothered to learn the names of people we don’t hang out with.
I blink. “He sits at a table near us in the cafeteria every day.”
Thud! Ethan returns with our drinks and angrily begins placing the glasses on the table. I’m so surprised, I forget to say thank you.
“Hey, Harper,” says a girl walking by our table.
“Hey!” I say pleasantly because I don’t know her name. “Why’d you just say hi to her?” Kate snaps at me. Margo secretly rolls her eyes.
“She goes to our school, too.” I can’t believe I’m back on Kate’s bad side so quickly. “She’s going into eighth grade.”
“She’s in middle school,” Kate says. “You’re in high school.”
I don’t point out that when we were in middle school, Kate tried to talk to all the high school boys.
Ethan snickers, and we all look up. “Sorry,” he says as he places Kate’s water on the table. “Something in my throat. Must be that sixth grader I ate for breakfast.”
Kate looks like one of those Monster High dolls with her creepy smile. “I want our waiter. Now. I’m going to make sure you get fired for the way you’re acting.”
“Try it,” Ethan dares her, and I blink fast. “Why do you think nobody has come over yet? No one wants to deal with you three.” He gives each of us a dirty look, and I suddenly feel as if I’ve been blasted with air-conditioning.
Kate pushes her chair away from the table, and people turn to look at us. “I’m not going to sit here and listen to this. I want the manager.”
“No need.” Ethan’s incredibly calm for someone about to have his head handed to him. Margo and I look at each other. “Today is my last day, anyway. Thankfully, where I’m going, I don’t have to deal with the spoiled, popular girls of the world like you three.”
Is he calling me a mean girl? I’m anything but, especially at Intermezzo. I even tip the lady in the bathroom who hands me a towel after I wash my hands!
“I…” It’s too late. Ethan is already walking away.
Kate throws down her napkin. “I don’t care if it’s his last day!” she tells us. “I’m going to tell the manager how he spoke to us.” She stomps off.
“Kate’s ego is so big I’ll be shocked if she fits through the door,” Margo says, watching Kate go. “Poor guy. I thought he was cool for trying to take her down a peg. No one ever starts with her.”
“I have to go to the bathroom.” I rush inside after Ethan.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do, or why I even think I need to prove myself to a boy I don’t know, but I can’t stop myself. I’m not that girl he’s describing. By the time I get through the pack of people waiting for an outdoor table, Ethan’s already got a beat-up backpack slung over his arm, and he’s hugging Mary goodbye. “Wait!” They both turn and look at me. Now I can’t remember what I was going to say.
“I wanted to give you a tip for all your trouble.” I reach inside my Tory Burch bag and pull out two twenties. I try to hand them to him. “Here.”
“Usually the waiter gets a tip after you drop the check,” he says, staring at my outstretched hand. “Not the busboy your spoiled friend just tried to get fired.”
“About that…” I fumble over the words. Mary looks sympathetic.
“I don’t want your money.” Ethan sticks his hands in his jeans. “See ya, Mary.” I watch him walk out the front door and head straight to the parking lot, where he begins talking to all the other kids milling about. I can see his hands going wildly, and I just know he’s talking about me. I groan inwardly.
The phone at the hostess stand rings, and Mary picks it up before I can try to explain myself to her, too. I give up and trudge back to the table, my thoughts alternating between anger at myself and anger at Ethan. Who is he to call us spoiled? I’m not spoiled! I just have money. There’s a difference!
The phone in my bag vibrates, and I pull it out to see the text. I’m assuming it’s Kate to see what’s taking me so long, but when I look at the phone, my bag slides down my arm in defeat. The worst kind of text is waiting for me.
The mad McDaddy variety.
McDaddy’s Cell: H, just got home and saw your latest AMEX bill. We need to talk. Pronto.
Harper McAllister @HarperMc
What’s scarier than a zombie apocalypse and an alien invasion combined? A daddy who has just seen your credit card bill. #deadmeat
Chapter 2: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
“Ready to face the music?” Margo asks me as her Land Rover turns down my long, tree-lined driveway. The music is pumping so loud I can barely hear her. Margo loves a good drive-time tune, and Harold, her driver, is hard of hearing, so it’s all good. Margo doesn’t drive yet, but she got a car and a driver in her parents’ divorce. I guess having a professional ballplayer dad who is never home has its benefits.
I stare at our Dutch Colonial warily as the car comes to a stop in the circular driveway. “I think McDaddy is really mad at me this time.”
“He’ll get over it,” Margo assures me. I was glad Harold dropped Kate off first tonight. I know we’re all friends, but sometimes I feel weird telling Kate family drama. Since Margo has plenty of her own, she’s always sympathetic. “My dad yells at me about my credit card bill all the time. He usually freezes my card in a block of ice to teach me a lesson.” She points to her noggin. “He forgets that I have the numbers memorized. I just do all my ordering online instead!”
I start to bite one of my nails, then stop myself. “I don’t use my AMEX that often, so maybe he’ll go easy on me. I really only charge when it’s an emergency.”
Margo snorts. “Yeah, those Chloé tops you bought us today were a real emergency.” I pale. “Just remember my motto: Deny, deny, deny!” Harold coughs.
“Margo, he’s seen the bill,” I remind her. “He knows what I’ve charged.”
“Oh.” Margo thinks for a second and then grins. “Say everything was for charity!”
I feel guilty even considering that lie. “I’ll think of something. I’ll call you after—if I’m alive.” I shut the car door behind me and watch her car pull all the way out of our driveway to delay going into the house for a few more seconds. Then I make my way up the path and use my key instead of ringing the bell. Our housekeeper/personal chef Marisol works full-time, so she usually lets me in, but today I want the element of surprise. If I can show off some of those B-pluses I got on my report card, maybe he’ll forget about those salsa lessons I charged after watching Step Up 4.
“Harper?” My dad calls my name before I even shut the door. Darn. His voice bounces off the marble tiles in the two‐ story foyer. “Could you come into the kitchen, please?”
“Coming, McDaddy!” I yell pleasantly. I’ve called my dad McDaddy forever. McAllister, McDaddy, get it? Mom says I started calling him that when I was three. (I tried McMommy for a while, too, but that didn’t stick.) Dad took to it so well, he named his company McDaddy Productions. It has a cool rap-music vibe going for it, even though the three-year-old in me never planned it that way. I guess I’m very forward thinking.
I slowly walk past the walls of family portraits and original works of art that are hung under warmly lit sconces in the hallway that leads from the foyer to the kitchen. It’s amazing how much my mom has done with the house in two years. She threw herself into decorating the minute we moved in and hasn’t stopped doing DIY projects ever since. She’s so obsessed with home renovations she started her own blog, HomeBody. She’s got over forty thousand subscribers. When I walk into our spacious kitchen, with the Sub-Zero fridge and Viking stove Mom never cooks on, I see everyone is in their usual spots. Mom is at her custom mini office tucked into the corner of the room, Marisol is washing dishes, and McDaddy is at the table, eating sushi. He and I used to cook together all the time, but now that we have a personal chef and eat out so much, there’s no need.
“Happy Friday!” I drop my bag in the corner of the room, and Marisol frowns. I watch her shut off the water and pick up my bag, presumably to bring it back to its proper resting place in the foyer. I always forget those sorts of details.
I lean over to give Mom a kiss. “He’s itemized the bill,” she whispers. “Run.” Mom has her studious, dark brown glasses on. She wears them for blogging purposes (she was going to get LASIK until market research showed her fans preferred her in specs).
I smile at McDaddy while I talk to Mom. “Oh, is that today’s post? You turned an old hair dryer into a planter? Cool!” Then I whisper in her ear, “How bad was the bill?”
“Bad.” Mom turns the volume up on the iPod dock next to her desk in the hope that our conversation can be drowned out, even though McDaddy is less than five feet away. “Tuba lessons, Harper? Really?”
“It sounded fun at the time.” I took one lesson and realized my lungs didn’t have the strength to support such an activity. I also didn’t like how I looked holding a tuba. Maybe I should have held one in front of a mirror before I signed up. “I gave the lessons to Kyle and now he’s in the band, so it all worked out.” I flash an upbeat smile.
“Yes, but as part of the marching band, your brother could have had lessons for free,” Mom reminds me. “He didn’t need private ones that cost a thousand dollars.”
Darn. She’s got me there.
Mom has always been a defender of my need to fit in to this very privileged community that is as different from Mineola as Earth is from Mars. When we moved, my twin brother, Kyle, had it easy. His life has always been sports—soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, and lacrosse in the spring—so he’s supremely busy year-round and only has time to hang out with other sports people. Thanks to his various teams, he instantly had a whole new group of friends. But me? I sit out gym class whenever I possibly can. (If you need someone to raise money for children in Syria, I’m your girl. If you want an extra player for the volleyball team, I can’t help you.) And all the other non-lame activities I had my eye on were already full. Where was I supposed to meet people? During class? Who knows what would have happened if Kate hadn’t rescued me that day at lunch. So if she wants to take tuba lessons, then we take tuba lessons. Okay, Kate did cancel hers before our first class and never told me, but five other girls signed up so at least I wasn’t alone. And look at all the girls I introduced to the tuba! The school should thank me for the wealth of musicians they have to choose from now.
“Girls, you know I can hear you, right?” McDaddy eats another piece of sashimi, a look of amusement on his face. He’s dressed in his standard uniform: jeans and a black V-neck. Jeans are to a video producer what tuxes are to James Bond.
I drop into the seat next to him and catch a whiff of his woodsy cologne. It reminds me of camping in our backyard when I was a kid. He’s worn the same cologne since I was a baby. Mom says McDaddy is a creature of habit. “Your mom and I want to talk to you about your spending and your behavior lately,” he says seriously.
I groan. “You’re not going to give me the ‘you’re not the girl you were in Mineola’ speech again, are you?” I ask. Now is not the time to bring up Cancun, that’s for sure.
“Bingo!” McDaddy drops his chopsticks in frustration. He wastes no time getting to the point. “You’re going to be in college in three years and the way you’ve been acting lately makes me think you’re completely unprepared.” His brown eyes get squinty. “I hate to say this, but since you’ve moved here, you’ve become completely spoiled, Harper.”
“Rick!” my mom scolds. “That was harsh.”
I try not to look as hurt as I feel. That’s what Ethan called me earlier, too. Spoiled. I’m not spoiled! I pull my report card out from behind my back and slide it across the table toward him. “Look at this lineup of beautiful Bs. I did great this year.”
“Your grades are not the problem,” he says with a sigh. “It’s your friends. You’re different with them.”
“I thought you liked Margo and Kate,” I say. I feel my stomach lurch. I hate conflict and try to avoid it.
McDaddy looks twisted like a salt-free pretzel. “Margo is a good kid, but Kyle says Kate is one step down from being a character in Mean Girls.”
“That’s not true,” I say, even though now that he mentions it, Kate does have a Regina George thing going on.
“You were never this preoccupied with money till you met her.” Mom steps away from her computer and joins us at the table. “I’ve tried to be supportive because I know how hard the move was for you, but we’re worried.” She looks at McDaddy before continuing. “You’ve become—how do I say it?—superficial since you started hanging out with Kate.”
“You think I’m a poseur?” I feel like I’ve been slapped.
“We didn’t say that,” McDaddy says quickly. “We’re all a little different in Brookville. Who knew how much one video shoot would change our lives?”
None of us did, but that’s exactly what happened. Within a year, McDaddy Productions was getting calls from everyone who is anyone in the music industry. McDaddy himself was getting invites to things like the Grammys and bringing Mom to Rolling Stone parties. Jay Z suddenly knew our home number. Carrie Underwood sent him Edible Arrangements as thank-you gifts. London Blue thanked my dad in her American Music Award speech. It only made sense that we upgrade our lifestyle along with all of that.
“The problem is your spending,” he says. “Before we moved here, you were happy to spend a Friday night at Chili’s. Now, you think it’s okay to pop into the Gucci store and buy yourself a new bag and key rings for all your friends.”
“Some people would say that makes me generous,” I say defensively.
He slides my credit card statement in front of me. I am ashamed to admit the charges are two pages long. “Generous is one thing. Excessive is another. Your brother only uses his AMEX to buy sports equipment, and he asks me first, but you…” He points to a charge. “An espresso cart rental for seven hundred dollars?”
“The basketball team lost five games in a row. Kyle and his friends needed a pick-me-up.” And I needed a way to get Pat St. James to notice me. It didn’t work.
“Six hundred dollars at Red Door Spa?” he asks.
“We had tension headaches before midterms.” Because Kate didn’t study, and I was stressed knowing she didn’t prep. It was a nightmare.
Mom gives me a look. “Three hundred fifty dollars on school spirit wear?”
“I thought it would be cute if our entire English class had matching T-shirts to wear to the Long Island Poetry Slam,” I explain.
“While I appreciate that you want to share the wealth, this is insane. I can afford a Porsche, but I didn’t run out and get one. I still drive my ’94 BMW because I love it, and you shouldn’t buy half the school just so they’ll like you. I’ve been so busy that I didn’t see this earlier, but…” McDaddy seems so hesitant I’m not sure what to make of it. “You need a dose of reality, and I’m going to give it to you whether you like it or not.”
He passes me a faded pamphlet that has a picture of a cabin with pine trees on it.
I’m not sure what I’m staring at. Is he doing an ad for Pine-Sol?
“You’re spending your summer at Whispering Pines sleepaway camp,” he says, and for a minute I think he’s speaking a foreign language.
Sleepaway camp? Me?
I burst out laughing. “Where’s the camera?” My parents look baffled. “Is this for that new TV show you’re producing? This prank has kind of been done before, but that’s okay. I’ll go along with it.” I sit back down. “Say it again, and this time I’ll cry.” I take a deep breath, push my hair out of my eyes, and smile big and wide.
“Harper, this is not a joke.” My mom is looking at me like I inhaled some of her aerosol craft sprays. “Your father is driving you up himself. You leave tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” I feel slightly dizzy. “I have the beach club opening tomorrow.”
“Actually, you have camp orientation at ten o’clock.” He points to the flyer again and smiles cheerily.
“You can’t be serious.” They both nod, and that’s when I feel the gravity of the situation. He’s not joking. “I’m not going to camp! I already have plans for the summer!” They don’t look moved. “Do you know what will happen if I’m not here?”
“Yes. You might remember who the real Harper is,” McDaddy says calmly. He pushes the rest of the uneaten sushi away, and Marisol swoops in to pick up the tray.
“I know who I am.” I pull at the front of my Stella McCartney sundress self-consciously. “Mom.” I stare at my mom with the widest eyes I can muster. Mom is like my own personal on-staff lawyer. She can’t turn her back on me.
Her face tells a different story. “I’m with your father,” she says quietly. “We miss the down-to-earth Harper we used to know. I think camp is the way to help you find her again.”
“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me,” I whisper, feeling my hands begin to shake. “You’re just going to abandon me in the middle of nowhere’s-land?”
“The Catskills are hardly the middle of nowhere,” McDaddy says. “And you won’t be alone. Your brother is going, too. Whispering Pines has an excellent reputation for sports, and Kyle’s always wanted to see where I went to camp.”
A swirl of images comes charging at me like a freight train. Wood cabins, muddy trails, a musty dining hall, and way too much nature. McDaddy took Kyle and me there when we were eight because he had a camp reunion. Even when we couldn’t afford the thousands of dollars it would cost to go to sleepaway camp, I had no desire to go there. They don’t even have central air! How is a person supposed to survive without that most basic of needs? “So that’s it?” I sound shrill. “I don’t get a say at all?”
McDaddy smiles. I have a feeling he is enjoying this. “Registration is past due, but my college buddy is squeezing you guys in. When I went there, if you were fifteen you had to apply to be a CIT—counselor-in-training—but Hitch says they changed the policy two years ago, so you’ll still get to be a camper this year. Hitch says you’re going to love it there.”
“Hitch?” I repeat, unable to keep the disdain out of my voice.
“Yes, Alan Hitchens. We went there together as kids. He runs the place now with his new wife, Pam. His stepdaughter is a counselor.” Dad makes this sound like a major accomplishment. “He says there is a zip line now, but otherwise the place is still pretty much the same as it was when we were kids.”
“Lucky me,” I deadpan.
He stands up and pulls me in for a hug. His mood has improved big time since I walked in, whereas mine has gone steadily downhill. I refuse to make eye contact. “This is going to be the best summer of your life, kiddo. You might be mad at us now, but in a few weeks you’re going to be thanking me for kicking you out of here. You’ll see.”
I see all right. I see that McDaddy has ruined my summer before it even started.
Harper McAllister @HarperMc
Sending a frizz-hating, Prada-wearing girl like me to CAMP? You know how this will end! I’ll be eaten by a bear. #wishsummerwasoveralready