Read an Excerpt
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky that Saturday afternoon. The sun shone so brightly on the beach that there appeared to be diamonds hidden among the grains of sand. The water was warm, and white-crested waves were just the right size for bodysurfing. A hint of a breeze was just enough to keep the air from being too sultry.
Lying on a beach towel, Amy Candler was thinking it was a perfect day for a birthday beach party. And she knew that the birthday girl, Jan Rosen, had to be very happy about this. Jan sat next to Amy in math class, and all week long she’d been worrying about the possibility of a Saturday shower. Amy had constantly assured her that the weather would be fine. Of course, Amy had no way of knowing that for sure, and she certainly couldn’t guarantee a pretty day, but she knew this was what Jan wanted to hear. In any case, Jan had lucked out, and so had the dozen kids she’d invited to her party.
In a huge, brightly striped tent set up on the beach, they’d all stuffed themselves on barbecued chicken, macaroni salad, and birthday cake. Now three kids were tossing Frisbees in the water while others were playing beach volleyball. Amy was perfectly content to lie in the sun and soak up the rays. Her best friend, Tasha Morgan, plopped down next to her and let out an exaggerated sigh.
“Look at Simone Cusack,” she directed Amy.
Amy obliged, opening one eye and looking. “What about her?”
“Can you believe what she’s wearing? That bikini, it’s so, so . . . not there.”
“It is pretty skimpy,” Amy agreed. “But she looks nice.” She closed her eye.
“I know,” Tasha said mournfully. “I wish I could wear a swimsuit like that.”
“You could have a bikini if you wanted one,” Amy said.
“No way, I’m too fat. Why did you let me eat two pieces of cake?”
“Because I’m not the food police,” Amy replied patiently. They’d had conversations like this before, and Amy always said pretty much the same thing. “And just because you’re not as skinny as Simone doesn’t mean you’re fat. Besides, you’re prettier than Simone.”
“Peter doesn’t think so,” Tasha said.
Reluctantly, Amy opened both her eyes and focused on Peter Weston. True, he was staring at Simone. But then, so were most of the boys. Amy was sure that Simone had worn the bikini to get just that kind of attention.
But Tasha had referred only to Peter, and that set off an alarm in Amy’s head. “Do you have a crush on Peter Weston?”
“It’s not a crush,” Tasha replied indignantly. “I just, kind of, you know, sort of like him. Do you think he’s cute?”
“He’s okay,” Amy acknowledged.
“He waited for me after math yesterday,” Tasha said dreamily. “He’s into basketball, and he heard that my brother is the only tenth grader on the high school varsity team. But I think he was just using that as an excuse to talk to me.”
“Maybe,” Amy allowed. “Did you talk about anything else?”
“Oh, sure, we talked about this party, and what we were giving Jan for her birthday. And we talked about homework. You’re so lucky not to be in our class, Amy. Mr. Henderson is evil.” The ringing of a bell down the beach caught her attention. “Hey, there’s the ice cream truck. You want an ice cream bar?”
It had been at least an hour since the cake, and Amy could manage another treat. “Okay. See if they’ve got caramel crunch. If not, get me a coconut ripple. No, banana fudge. There’s some change in my bag.”
“You can pay me later. Banana fudge . . .”
“Only if he doesn’t have caramel crunch,” Amy cautioned her.
“Be right back. Oh, hi, Chris. You want something from the ice cream truck?”
Amy smiled at Chris Skinner and edged over to make room for him on her towel. “How was the water?”
“Okay. Not cold.” He sat down, but he didn’t look at her. He was watching the volleyball players. Probably Simone in particular.
Amy struggled into a sitting position. “You want to play volleyball?” she asked.
“No,” Chris said. “Do you?”
“Not really. It’s so nice just lying in the sun.” She didn’t add that playing any sport was always a risk for her. There was always the chance she’d play too well. In the spirit of competition, she might forget herself and reveal just how exceptional her physical capabilities were.
Chris had stopped watching the volleyball players and was now looking at Amy. Actually, he seemed to be staring at her back. “You have a tattoo!” he remarked in surprise.
“No, I don’t.”
“The crescent moon on your right shoulder—it’s not a tattoo?”
“No, it’s a birthmark.”
“Huh. I never saw a birthmark like that.”
That statement didn’t require a response, and Amy didn’t offer one. She couldn’t tell Chris what the crescent moon was all about, not yet. If he stuck around and they remained boyfriend and girlfriend, and she felt she could trust him completely, maybe someday she’d reveal all.
Lately, though, she’d been doubting that someday would ever come. Chris had been acting strange, sort of distant, as if something was bothering him.
She recalled what Tasha had said about math. Chris was in that class too. “Is Mr. Henderson getting you down?”
“Tasha says he’s a beast.”
“Oh. Yeah, he’s strict, I guess. But he’s not a bad teacher. At least I can figure out what he’s talking about.”
So it wasn’t school. Probably something more personal. That wouldn’t be too surprising. Chris had a very unusual personal life.
Tasha returned with three ice cream bars. “They didn’t have caramel crunch,” she told Amy. “And I couldn’t remember if you wanted banana fudge or coconut ripple, so I got you both.”
“I’ll take the banana fudge,” Amy said. “Chris, you want the coconut ripple?”
“No, I’m not hungry.”
That was a lie, and Amy knew it. Chris was always hungry. “It’s going to melt if you don’t eat it. It shouldn’t go to waste.”
“And I didn’t have to pay for it,” Tasha added. “It was a special deal-of-the-day or something. Three for the price of two.”