For Lucy, the Jersey Shore isn't just the perfect summer escape, it's home. As a local girl, she knows not to get attached to the tourists. They breeze in during Memorial Day weekend, crowding her costal town and stealing moonlit kisses, only to pack up their beach umbrellas and empty promises on Labor Day. Still, she can't help but crush on charming Connor Malloy. His family spends every summer next door, and she longs for their friendship to turn into something deeper.
Then Superstorm Sandy sweeps up the coast, bringing Lucy and Connor together for a few intense hours. Except nothing is the same in the wake of the storm, and Lucy is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and her broken home. Time may heal all wounds, but with Memorial Day approaching and Connor returning, Lucy's summer is sure to be filled with fireworks.
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
"Spring signals the return of various species of coastal wildlife to the New Jersey shore, the place they call their summer home."
From "What's Love Got to Do with It? The Dating and Mating Habits of North American Sea Life." A junior thesis by Lucy Giordano.
I open the window shade in my third-story attic bedroom anticipating my usual—somewhat obstructed—ocean view and instead get an eyeful of Connor Malloy, sans shirt, on the roof of his parents' bungalow. Better than a mocha latte with two shots of espresso and whipped cream, as far as early-morning eye-openers and guilty pleasures go. Or at least he used to be until last fall, the Big Mistake, and the big storm—the one that tore apart our island and briefly brought together a local smart girl like me and a summer player like him. Now the guilt outweighs the pleasure.
Hammer in hand, Connor takes a nail from his mouth and taps a shingle into place. I would know those arms and that profile anywhere. I spent enough summers studying both from behind my sunglasses as Connor loped down toward the water with either a surfboard or his latest bikini-clad conquest tucked under one arm.
He stands to survey his work, glances my way, and does a double take before I can duck out of sight. My heart freezes midbeat, and I forget to breathe.
Shit. I don't want him to think I was staring, and yet I so obviously was. I should move. Why don't I move? It's like touching a scorching-hot stove top and experiencing a delay before feeling the burn. Step away from the window, Luce. Step away. I'm wearing a worn-out Conserve NJ Wildlife tee and tie-dye shorts, and my dirty blond hair desperately needs some sun-kissed highlights. Do I really want this to be the first time he sees me in seven months?
Connor waves his hammer at me. Too late.
"Lucy Goosey! What up?" Relief bordering on giddiness sweeps over me when he shouts his usual greeting, and I release the breath I've been holding since October. "Long time, no see."
Yes, it has been, I want to yell back, especially if you haven't been breathing ! Maybe things are back to normal between us. I spent all winter wondering if they could or even should be. Stupidly, I thought what we shared that morning before the storm meant something. I've dissected and relived each second we were together so many times that it's like there's a permanent PowerPoint slideshow in my brain. I'd almost figured out how to shut it off. Did he even give me or what happened a second thought? Were three post-storm text messages all he needed to move on? It's not like we normally communicate during the winter months, but this year I thought...no, I expected him to call. Because he said he would. And like the naive genius that I am, I believed him.
I should just wave to Connor and get ready for work. I've waited too long for his attention, and right now he doesn't deserve mine. But somehow, I can't stop myself. I open the screen and poke my head out.
"Hey," he says with a heaviness that makes my mouth go dry.
"When'd you get down?" I ask.
It doesn't matter what direction you're coming from; in New Jersey, people who aren't from the coastal regions go "down the shore."
He shades his eyes with one hand. "Late last night. I'm helping my dad finish some repairs."
Repairs, cleanup, rebuilding: they've all become part of the lexicon around here. "Here" being the barrier islands off the coast of New Jersey. "How long are you here for?"
"Just for the three-day weekend," he says. "Wish it were longer. I wanted to blow off school on Tuesday, but I've got a game."
"It's almost summer. Then you won't have to leave," I say, although I'm not sure why I'm trying to make him feel better.
Connor and I have known each other since we were kids and have had a good thing going. For years, I relished my role as confidante to the hot boy next door—my part-time summer friend who arrived on Memorial Day weekend and left by Labor Day. And then I broke one of the most important rules we have at Breakwater Burrito, where I've worked for the past three summers. "Feed the Bennies. Don't date them." Benny is the locals' word for tourist, and there's sort of an unspoken pact among us to keep them at bay.
Even though summer residents like Connor aren't exactly full-fledged Bennies, I never told anyone what went down between us. My friends, Meghan and Kiki, pretty much despise all forms of summer visitors, and my brother, Liam, would freak. Every May when the Malloys open their house for the summer, my twin bro nods his head in the direction of their two-bedroom bungalow and mutters his perennial warning. "Stay away from that douche bag."
I appreciated that Liam thought I even had a chance with a guy like that. Look at him. With eyes the color of the clear, blue sky and wavy ash-blond hair that's always in perfect disarray, he belongs in an Abercrombie ad.
"You're so lucky you live here," Connor says.
A bitter laugh escapes my mouth. "Yeah. Lucky. We just got back ourselves. You know, since the storm turned our first floor into an indoor swimming pool."
The Malloys' house was spared any serious damage, so it's been a while since Connor or his parents have visited Seaside.
Connor backpedals. "I'm sorry... I didn't—"
I wave him off, but I'm annoyed. "No worries. Well...I'll let you get back to your roof. I've got a thing before work."
No need to bore him or our other neighbors with my volunteer duties harvesting baby clams for Reclam Our Waters.
"Later?" His question is so loaded with expectation that it melts my anger and resolve and tempts me to remember.
God. Must he smile at me like that? I can't say, "Put a shirt on, Connor, so I can think straight," so I search my brain for something easy. Casual. Something I would have said before the storm. Back when he was the charismatic kid who showed up every summer and I was the unabashed nerd-girl who never left—the one who knew better than to cross the line with a guy like that.
"Come by for lunch. If you order the Tsunami, I'll hook you up with a free drink." Ugh. Lame. The Tsunami is a mega-sized burrito that's nearly impossible for one person to eat. We ring a bell whenever someone orders it. I should have dug deeper to find the funny.
He laughs anyway. "You got it."
I duck back inside, close the screen, and pull down the shade, still hyperaware that Connor is on the other side and torn between wanting to see him again and establishing a safe distance between us. Thankfully, my baby clams and work call. I refuse to relive my brief but intense connection with Connor and accept that my love life is just one more thing that took a mega-sized hit from Superstorm Sandy.