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So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18
No way would I ever want to be a lifeguard here,' Maggie said.
Sophie tilted her head back to look from under her floppy hat at her getting-tanner-by-the-minute friends.
Sophie's best-best friend, Fiona, didn't look up from the miniature hut they were building in the sand with dried seaweed sticks. She kept poking them in the sand with one hand while she brushed the usual strand of hair out of one eye with the other.
'Why not, Mags?' she said.
Kitty wrinkled her made-like-china nose, now spattered with freckles. 'I wouldn't want to be a lifeguard, but I might want to be saved by one.' Her dark ponytail bounced as she giggled
which she did at the end of almost every sentence.
'Of course you would,' Darbie said, her Irish accent lilting through. 'If it was a boy lifeguard.'
'Gross,' Fiona said.
Sophie looked at Maggie, whose dark eyes were going from one of the Corn Flakes to another.
'So why wouldn't you want to be a lifeguard here, Mags?' she said.
All the Corn Flakes sat back on their heels and squinted through the sun at Maggie.
'Because your little brother and sister are always screaming like there's a shark attack 24/7,' Maggie said. Her words seemed to make soft thuds in the sand. But Sophie thought being at the beach even made Maggie's matter-of-fact voice sound lighter.
'How does the lifeguard know when to save somebody and when not to?'
She nodded toward Fiona's little brother, Rory, and her even littler sister, Isabella, who hadn't stopped shouting and squealing the whole five days they had been at Virginia Beach.
'Izzy and Rory have to make all those sounds at the seashore because they're little,' Sophie said. She had also felt like holding her arms out to the ocean and squealing several times since she and the Corn Flakes had been there, and she was TWELVE. It was as if the waves themselves, tumbling over one another like puppies, were setting her free.
Well, that and the fact that she was here with the four people in the whole world she could be herself with.
Sure, we're flakes, Sophie thought happily. And we do corny stuff
but we are who we are.
'At least they're making happy noises for a change,' Darbie said,
nodding toward Izzy and Rory. 'Usually they're shrieking like terrorists.' She clapped a sunblock-shiny hand over her mouth and looked quickly at Fiona's mother. 'No offense, Dr. Bunting,' she said through her fingers. 'They're perfectly charming.'
Dr. Bunting pulled off her sunglasses and turned to Darbie. 'You were right the first time. They are little terrorists.'
'What I can't get,' Fiona said, 'is why they always have to be throwing somethingbuckets, sand, foodon each OTHER.'
She sighed out loud. 'It's heinous.'
Dr. Bunting blinked her gray-like-Fiona's eyes and put her sunglasses back on. 'If tossing a few Cheetos is the worst those two do before we leave here, it's because Miss Genevieve is the nanny from heaven.'
'I thought we were supposed to call her the au pair,' Maggie said.
'Just call me Genevieve.' The blonde, creamy-skinned woman who was on her knees making castle towers pointed a graceful finger at Rory. 'Get more of that sand you just gave me,' she said to him. 'With it just wet enough, we can build anything.'
Rory trotted obediently toward the water with his bucket and shovel, and Dr. Bunting looked out from under the brim of her white visor. 'See what I mean?' she said.
Sophie tried to imagine Fiona's last nanny playing at the beach with Rory and Izzy dumping seashells over each other's heads. Miss Odetta Clide had handed out demerits if they spilled their milk. True,
she had turned out to be less like a steel rod than they'd thought at first, but she NEVER would have gotten on her hands and knees in the sand.
The Corn Flakesincluding their newest member, Willoughby
had all been worried about who would take Miss Odetta Clide's place when she married Fiona's grandfather Boppa, and they went off to Europe on their honeymoon for the summer. With Fiona's parents taking all of the girlsexcept Willoughby, who was on vacation with her familyto Virginia Beach for ten whole days, the choice of a nanny would determine the amount of fun they could have.
Sophie watched Genevieve drip wet sand through her hand to create a castle tower, the way soft ice cream piled on top of a cone.
The au pair's thick braid hung over her shoulder like a silk rope,
and her blue eyes seemed to hug Isabella as the curly-headed four-year-old tried to dribble sand through her tiny fingers. I want to be like Genevieve when I grow up, Sophie thought. IF I grow up.
Not that she WANTED toat least not right now. Here
building a little beach hut out of dried sticks of seaweed with her best friends, she didn't have to think about anything scary, like starting middle school in two months . . .
'Okay,' Sophie said out loud. 'Everybody tell their favorite part about being at the beach so far.'
Fiona pushed a stubborn strand of golden-brown hair behind one ear as she poked the sticks into the adobe-colored sand like she was doing math. 'I liked it when we dug those giant bowls in the sand and climbed in there, all of us together.'
'We KILLED ourselves laughing over things that are funny only to us,' Darbie said.
'Was that your favorite too?' Sophie said to her.
Darbie kept weaving seaweed into the roof of their masterpiece for a minute. Her reddish hair and her snapping eyes were as dark as her flesh was white. She was the one most likely to burn like a marshmallow.
Sophie liked to think of Darbie running on the beaches of Northern Ireland where she had lived until last year, shouting things like
'blackguards'which Darbie pronounced as 'blaggards' and meant people who did evil things.
'My favorite,' Darbie said finally, 'was when we used those long sticks to write our names on the beachand the shells were our periods and commas.' She grinned her crooked-toothed smile.
'At least, the shells we're not taking home by the bucketful to Poquoson.'
'I liked pelican-watching,' Maggie said. She was just returning to the job site with a bucket full of dried seaweed, her face Maggiesolemn,
as if she were doing serious business. 'I liked watching them fish.'
'I DIDN'T like that part,' Kitty said. 'We only did that when Genevieve made us wait thirty minutes after we ate before we could go back in the water.'
Maggie cocked her head at Kitty, so that her blunt-cut shiny hair splashed against her face just below her ears. 'You have to do that,' she said. 'Or you'll get a cramp and drown.'
Sophie squinted her brown eyes through her glasses at Kitty.
'So what WAS your favorite?'