Winnie is living her best fat girl life and is on her way to the best place on earth. No, not Disneylandher Granny’s diner, Goldeen’s, in the small town of Misty Haven. While there, she works in her fabulous 50’s inspired uniform, twirling around the diner floor and earning an obscene amount of tips. With her family and ungirlfriend at her side, she has everything she needs for one last perfect summer before starting college in the fall.
…until she becomes Misty Haven’s Summer Queen in a highly anticipated matchmaking tradition that she wants absolutely nothing to do with.
Newly crowned, Winnie is forced to take center stage in photoshoots and a never-ending list of community royal engagements. Almost immediately, she discovers that she’s deathly afraid of it all: the spotlight, the obligations, and the way her Merry Haven Summer King, wears his heart, humor, and honesty on his sleeve.
Stripped of Goldeen’s protective bubble, to salvage her summer Winnie must conquer her fears, defy expectations, and be the best Winnie she knows she can beregardless of what anyone else thinks of her.
|Publisher:||Feiwel & Friends|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
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My heart stuttered as thick gray smoke billowed into the air, rapidly filling Goldeen's small kitchen. Angry reddish-orange flames licked the sides of the formerly pristine stainless-steel oven, singeing it a sooty black.
Rage snarled bright and furious inside me. I had spent a whole hour last night polishing that oven!
Running on autopilot, I hit the emergency off switch and grabbed the fire extinguisher. "Move out of the way!"
My cousin, Sam, decided somewhere in the depths of her brain that panicking within an inch of her life would somehow magically put the fire out.
Hands shaking, I pulled the pin, aimed the nozzle, and let the life — and business — saving carbon dioxide flow, sweeping it across the base of the fire and into the mouth of the oven until the flames winked out of existence.
"I know what you're going to say." Sam fanned smoke away from her worried face. "So I think we'd be better off without you saying it. I'll just quietly get my bag and exit stage right —"
"Pursued by a furious Winnie. What the hell, Sam?" I slammed the extinguisher on the metal prep table.
Sam flinched. "It was an accident."
Swaddled in her usual black and neon-colored gear — this time a mix of electrifying blue and dazzle-me yellow — with her permed bone-straight hair held back from her forehead with a headband, she nervously picked at her lips. She wore her post-exercise glow like a supermodel lathered in oil and dropped into an ocean to create that maximum shiny yet somehow sexy drowned rat vibe. Rain or shine, that girl got her endorphins in. And judging by the way sweat continued to glisten on her tanned skin and stain her clothes, it must have already been hotter than hell outside.
Don't yell, don't yell, don't yell, don't yell. I pinched the bridge of my nose, silently counting to ten. According to my mom, deep breaths in and out would help control my temper in times of crisis or "severe emotional instability." I would have tried that, too — if I weren't standing in a kitchen full of lingering smoke because the oven had been on fire!
Seven ... eight ... nine ...
Sam's eyes would start to water if someone looked at her funny. Berating her first thing in the morning after a near-death experience would make her unleash a torrential downpour at me.
It probably hadn't been her fault. Maybe. Hard to say. My cousin could not cook. Couldn't even follow a recipe to make toast without it ending in disaster. Goldeen's definitely needed a new oven, which hadn't done Sam any favors.
"I would hope so." A joke formed in my mind, one Sam would appreciate. "I know Granny is in self-righteous mode right now and refuses to buy a new oven, but this is not how you scam an insurance company. You set an inconspicuous, untraceable, freak-accident fire, and flee the scene. You don't stand around screaming 'help me.'"
Sam coughed and let loose a tiny smile. "I would make a terrible criminal."
"The worst. Which is why you are always the alibi."
She raised her right hand. "I accept my role as an eternal getaway driver, capable of convincing anyone of my ability to be in two places at once, and hereby subject myself to your masterminded whims."
"That's all I ask."
"Can I have a hug?" Her pouty, remorseful face was too cute for her own good.
"No. You're all sweaty."
"Yes, you can have a hug. Come here." Sam didn't hesitate, clinging to me like a baby koala in milliseconds. She wrapped her arms around my waist, placing her head on my shoulder, and I perched my chin on the top of her head. The distinct sound of a sniffle made me sigh deeper than I wanted her to hear.
"Why does it smell like barbecued dog hair in here?"
Winston stood at the foot of the stairs that led to the apartment above the diner in his rumpled plaid pajamas, a neutral frown on his face. To be fair, that was his natural state: pseudo-surly and quiet. At fourteen, he'd already grown into a small giant, towering over me at a solid six feet two to my average five feet six, and gave me major attitude when I introduced him as my "baby" brother.
The fact that we didn't look alike burned my biscuits faster than Goldeen's faulty oven. Taller, thinner, with darker, richer skin that he'd inherited from our dad and strong, symmetrical facial features he got from our mom, how else were people supposed to know that he was mine if I didn't tell them every chance I got? No one thought we were related at first glance because we looked like total opposites. I couldn't trust people to just guess one of the most important facts of my life. I was his big sister — his only big sister. They needed to know.
"It does not," Sam said, letting me go. "If anything, it smells like burnt Cinnamon Toast Crunch." She had the audacity to giggle at her bad joke.
"Obviously." He walked toward the emergency exit that wasn't really an emergency exit because the alarm had been disabled so it could be used as a regular door, but it still had all of the fancy red-striped tape. He pushed it open and set a box of glass preserves jars on the ground to keep it that way. "It's from the movie. I watched it again last night."
We'd watched the original Ghostbusters on the two-hour flight to Misty Haven, the small town where our granny owned a diner: Goldeen's. We stayed here every summer, me being the record-holder for twelve straight years, sort of like summer camp, except with less macaroni-and-popsicle-stick art, more family time, and better food.
Also, small town meant the smallest. According to Wikipedia — shut up — Misty Haven, with its population of 352, qualified as a village.
Correction: population of 354. The Berkowitz family had twins in April.
"What did you do?" Winston asked.
"Why did you assume it was me?" Sam whined. "It could have been Winnie."
"I heard you screaming. And besides, Winnie knows how to cook" — he peered into the charbroiled mess of an oven — "cinnamon rolls, without it looking like a botched arson job. Goldeen's doesn't need money that bad. Granny will break down and buy a new oven eventually."
"That's exactly what I said. Great minds."
"I thought the kids might like them." Sam didn't work in the diner like Winston and I. Somehow, she became the babysitter for Misty Haven. Her phone started ringing the second we crossed the town limits, as if all the desperate parents could sense her presence. They'd probably been staring out the window, waiting to spot Granny's dark blue Cadillac — still in mint condition for such an old car — and lit up the community phone tree like it was Christmas and no one cared about the electricity bill.
"I'm sure they would have," I said. "Next time, ask for help. Please. I'm begging you."
"Winston, can you get me a rag and a bucket?"
"I cannot. My shift doesn't start until ten so I'm going back to bed. I just wanted to be nosy and get my insults in before you tried to make her feel better. Once again, I was too late," he said with a wistful sigh.
"Jerk," Sam said.
"Don't start." I pointed my finger in warning at both of them.
"Blame puberty." Winston shrugged. "I'm supposed to be this way and it's only going to get worse."
"Not in my house."
"Good thing this isn't your house," he said, walking away with a wave.
"He's going to be a demon by the time he turns sixteen. I can feel it." Unsurprising, really. We might not have looked alike, but we certainly made up for it elsewhere. "And he'll make an excellent apprentice." I twirled around. "Okay! Let's get this cleaned up before Aaron gets here and tries to glower you into oblivion."
"Umm," Sam said.
"Oh, no. You are not leaving me alone to clean up your mess."
"I'm sorry. My shift starts in twenty minutes and I still have to shower. You know how Ms. Fellows gets if I'm not on time."
"What's she gonna do? Fire you? No one else is willing to watch her kids."
"That's not their fault. They're good kids. Hence the cinnamon rolls." She inched closer to the stairs.
One, two, three ...
One day, Sam would stop being so thoughtless and irresponsible.
Four, five, six ...
One day, I would stop letting her get away with (cinnamon roll) murder.
Seven, eight, nine ...
But one day was not that day.
"Go. And know that I hate you," I said.
Sam changed direction, leaping forward and hugging me again. "You're the best."
"The beautiful. The only," I muttered.
She bounded away, happy as a rabbit to once again skate by scot-free, while I covered my face, staring at the ruined mess of an oven through my fingers.
These days, fire and Goldeen's went hand in hand. Kit and caboodle. Peas in a pod. You'd think an established diner would do anything to avoid that whole no open flames in the kitchen next to the full fryer of oil thing, but no, not at Goldeen's. Nothing short of a miracle that the oven didn't explode set at — I squinted at the thermostat — 500 degrees?
Yep. Definitely Sam's fault. "How many times do I have to tell you that you cannot bake something at double the temperature to make it cook twice as fast?!" I yelled up the stairs, for the sake of doing it.
"What in the world happened to my kitchen?"
Aaron — the day, night, always around and available cook — stood at the door, legendary glower already in place. White and tall, something like six feet seven or some unreal height, he had the honor of being one of the few people who actually made Winston look up. He also had dirty blond hair in a military-style cut, only wore white T-shirts and dark blue jeans, and had a wicked scar on his left cheek. Nadiya, the mid-shift waitress, might or might not have been slightly obsessed with him. Said he resembled an actor who played a Viking vampire.
But, as far as I knew, and I knew more than most when it came to Top Secret Agent Aaron, he wasn't interested in anyone. Ever.
"Murphy's Law," I answered.
Samantha Murphy-Woodson. Winston had come up with the catchall explanation. With Sam at the helm, whatever could go wrong would. And then probably spontaneously combusted. Metaphorically and literally.
"We open in thirty minutes! Why did you let her anywhere near my kitchen?"
"Me? I didn't!"
I'd been upstairs, minding my merry, magical Black-girl business, getting ready for my morning shift. This summer I'd volunteered to work the shifts nobody wanted or that everyone wanted a break from: Crack of Dawn A.M. Rush, Midnight Oil Solo Burn, and I Dream of Deliveries.
Goldeen's had the best uniforms. Total fifties-style hoopskirts and button-up tops with rolled-up short sleeves in mellow mint-green and black. Instead of a poodle, a cluster of unicorn seahorses had been sown onto the fabric of the skirt in the front. And the best part? They were custom-made by a retired seamstress in town. I never had to worry about not being able to fit my uniform after a school year away or having to order a new one every summer. Miss Jepson, said seamstress who operated a costume shop, altered it for me, no questions asked.
"I ran downstairs when she started screaming," I said. "'Oh my God, it's on fire. Help. Someone help me.' Somehow it didn't cross her mind to pick up the fire extinguisher."
"That child is an absolute disaster."
"That she is. But she's my disaster, and so I take full responsibility."
Aaron side-eyed me, blue eyes narrowing into harsh slits that made me bare my teeth at him in a warped version of a smile.
"Nobody asked you to do that."
"Some things don't need to be asked." I shrugged.
Sam's mom died when she was four. After the funeral, she and her dad, my uncle Mark, moved in with my family — a short-term arrangement that lasted two years. When my parents wanted to buy a house, they came with us. She wasn't my sister, but we've been together for a good chunk of our respective existences. I didn't know a life without Sam in it every waking moment. Could barely even remember it.
Aaron raised his hand like he wanted to touch the top of my head, but stopped himself, arm returning to his side. "You're a good kid."
"I prefer almost-adult, but thank you." I poked him in the side.
Physical affection was my jam, everyone knew that, but I didn't really like it when people touched my hair without asking, so the fact that he stopped made me happier than if he would have actually done it.
Using a pot holder, he exhumed the charred remains of what should have been lightly browned, flaky deliciousness, soon to be topped with Goldeen's secret-recipe cream-cheese icing cinnamon rolls.
"I'll get this cleaned up. You handle the opening?"
"Deal." I smiled at him, a real one. "Thanks."
Goldeen's stayed open twenty hours a day, closing from two a.m. to six a.m. because those were "druggie and serial killer" hours, as Granny had put it.
Meanwhile in Misty Haven reality, that's when the cleaning crew showed up to polish the diner to a brilliant shine.
Out front I booted up the registers, cashed in, and prepared the bank deposit, then leaped from booth to booth to open the blinds and left a message for Frank, the oven repair guy, to have him on standby.
Twelve whole summers of working and practically living in Goldeen's and I'd only been officially on the payroll for three of them — this summer being the most important one yet.
Co-Assistant Manager. Printed on my new shiny name tag and everything.
My family's business, our legacy, Goldeen's had stood strong and proud and profitable hundreds of miles away from me for almost fifteen years. She opened her doors right before my fourth birthday, right before Winston had been born, right before my family packed up and moved to the Bay Area.
When Granny had bought the building, she'd decided to keep the original Formica-topped bar and round stools in front of the kitchen, and the booths on the opposite side against the front windows. My dad had picked out the sea-green upholstery and the coral-reef-inspired tiles for the floor. My mom had decorated the walls: starfish, pearls, netting, paintings of mermaids and sirens, old boats and ship's wheels. And then, there was me, in all of my three-year-old, gap-toothed glory, given the most important job of all. I got to pick the name.
I couldn't even say the name right, but it was my favorite Pokémon. Luckily, my mom spoke fluent Toddler!Winnie and knew exactly what I'd meant.
My parents had their careers, an English professor and a welder slash artist. Sam's dad had his, an exceptional carpentry business. Sam herself knew she wanted to be a nutritionist and kinesiologist, and Winston hadn't figured anything out yet.
Personally, I'd always thought about my future in possibilities. Maybe I'd go to college evolved into maybe I'd major in hospitality to maybe I'd be a diner owner someday. And maybe that diner would be Goldeen's.
Juggling the large key ring in my hand until I found the right one, I walked to the front door. Two cars were already waiting in the parking lot, and a third — a large white van — was pulling into the accessible parking spot. Customers ready and waiting before we opened usually meant it would be a good day, and a good day meant lots of profits, and lots of profits meant a happy Granny. Nothing made her happier than a nice bank deposit.
I unlocked the door at the same exact time as the all too familiar whomp of a fire starting erupted out of the kitchen, followed by startled shouts from Aaron.
"Oh damn it," I said, already running. "I'M COMING."CHAPTER 2
There's an old movie about a girl dying from cancer who wished to be in two places at once, among other more pertinent things. And so, the boy who loved her, in true Prince Charming of the high school variety fashion, drove her to the state line. They stood together, straddling that metaphysical border, metaphorically making her wish come true, and subsequently ruining the real lives and standards of romantics everywhere.
Anyway, that's how the town lines between Misty Haven and its sister city had been set up. Cross a street and boom: WELCOME TO MERRY HAVEN. POPULATION 478.
Together, they were known as Haven Central, but both town mayors had enough ego to put up back-to-back signs, depending which side of the street you were on.
THANK YOU FOR VISITING ...
WELCOME TO ...
I made the right turn out of Misty and into Merry, driving down Main Street — one long strip lined with shops on either side. Merry had tried its best but definitely lacked the idyllic beauty that Misty possessed. But the houses?
Visitors would hop off the freeway, drive through Merry, and ogle the homes. They'd also stop at a few of the shops because why not, and eat at a diner because might as well. Cheaper than going to the movies and an excellent opportunity for pee breaks on road trips.
Most of the houses slanted toward becoming historical landmarks. Old enough to be considered too important to tear down, but sturdy enough to be lived in with some slight renovations. According to ye olde Mayor Way, any remodeling required city approval and usually excluded any "extravagant" exterior work. That's how most of the houses became a quirky mishmash of the past and the future. On the outside you'd think you'd find a house full of Puritans ready to hang some witches, or witches ready to bake some kids, but inside you'd swear someone let Steven Spielberg have at it to create a futuristic domestic wonderland.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "If It Makes You Happy"
Copyright © 2019 Annie Camill Clark.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
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