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By Rachel Hawthorne
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Rachel Hawthorne
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Summer job possibilities . . . decisions, decisions
Work at Hart's Diner
Pros: Weekly paycheck; Nick, my new boyfriend, works there; chance to kiss in the cooler in between serving customers?
Cons: Aching feet; aching jaw from continually smiling to get better tips; living at home while Mom and older sister, Sarah, go through the insanity of planning Sarah's summer wedding (They can't agree on anything! Mom? Hello?!? Sarah is twenty-three, old enough to plan her own wedding. Note to self: Stay out of it!)
Work at the local movie theater
Pros: Weekly paycheck; watch the latest blockbusters for free; eat complimentary no-limit-on-the-butter popcorn until I pop.
Cons: Aching feet from standing behind the concession counter; sweeping up spilled popcorn; sticky floors; see less of Nick; live at home while Mom and Sarah . . .
Work at amusement park near lake far, far away
Pros: Weekly paycheck; get on all the rides for free; gone all summer; dorms are available; being totally absent from home while Mom and Sarah . . .
Cons: Share a dorm room with someone I've never met; never seeing Nick; and okay, I have roller coaster issues . . . like, I totally don't get what is so great about the wholequeasy-stomach, heart-in-throat, up-and-down, faster, faster, higher, higher experience.
Decision: No brainer. Living with a stranger has got to be better than living with Mom and Sarah while The Wedding is being planned. I don't have to ride the big roller coasters. It's only three months. True love can survive that, can't it?
And that's how I, Megan Holloway, a life-in-the-slow-lane, carousel-ride type of girl, packed up the essentials of my life following my junior year in high school and headed to the Thrill Ride! Amusement Park, vacation destination extraordinaire on Lake Erie.
That afternoon I'd flown into the airport. With my backpack dangling off one shoulder, I pulled my large wheeled suitcase to the passenger pickup area outside the main terminal. An impossible-to-miss bright red Thrill Ride! shuttle bus was parked nearby, motor running.
So I headed over to it and peered in the door.
"Going my way?" I asked the driver.
He wasn't exactly what I was expecting. White-haired, wrinkled, slightly hunched. Still, he laughed and climbed out of the bus. "You here for the summer?" he asked.
He wore a red shirt, cargo shorts, and his name tag read pete (santa fe, nm).
"You from Santa Fe?" I asked.
"Before I retired. Got tired of playing golf so came up here to work. Being around young people keeps me young."
He took my suitcase and put it in a holding bay at the back of the bus. "Climb aboard," he said.
I settled onto a seat. I heard laughter and two other girls clambered onto the bus.
"Hi!" one said.
"Hiya!" the other chirped.
"Hi." Not exactly an original response, and maybe part of the reason that our conversation didn't last longer.
They sat in front of me and immediately started talking to each other like long-lost friends. Pete returned to the driver's seat, closed the bus door, and headed away from the airport.
I figured the two girls were returning summer employees. Maybe a little older than me. Definitely friends. They were giggling, talking, and screeching periodically.
I looked out the window, trying really hard not to feel ignored and lonely. I so did not want to be lonely.
I was already missing Nick. We'd only been dating for three months, and he was totally bummed that I'd applied for a job at the park, and even more bummed that I'd been hired to work there for the entire summer.
"That sucks," he'd said.
Not exactly what I'd wanted to hear when I told him. I wanted him to be ecstatic about my good fortune. I mean, a thousand people had probably applied. I'd had to fill out an extensive application and submit an essay about the reasons that I wanted to work there. And I'd gotten in just under the wire on the minimum age requirement of seventeen. My birthday was yesterday.
So I'd been feeling pretty good about myself when I received the letter telling me that I'd been hired.
After I'd shared my good news with Nick, he'd moped around most of the evening. I'd shown him a video of the amusement park that my dad had ordered for me. My dad is really into watching the Travel Channel, so he was the one who discovered Thrill Ride! and told me about it. It sounded like it would be an awesome experience.
But Nick was less than impressed with the rides, the park, and all the facilities that the tour guide on the video walked us through. The video was geared toward enticing teens to come work there and making parents feel comfortable sending their kids off into the scary unknown. There were dorm moms and curfews and all kinds of safety features.
"It's just the same as Six Flags," he'd said. "You could have worked there over the summer, commuted from home, and been a lot closer to me."
"It's not the same. It's the thrill ride capital of the world. It's in another state. I want to live away from home. I'll be more independent. On my own. Or pretty much on my own. I mean, I'll live in a park-sponsored dorm, but gosh, Nick, no parents."
I'd tried to talk Nick into applying, so we'd be together, but since he worked at Hart's Diner during the school year, he didn't feel like he could leave for the summer and expect to have a job when he got back. I admired his dedication, and totally understood his reasoning, even if I was a little hurt because it showed lack of dedication to our love.
But I didn't say anything to him about it, because I figured he could argue that my not hanging around . . .
Excerpted from Thrill Ride by Rachel Hawthorne Copyright © 2006 by Rachel Hawthorne. Excerpted by permission.
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