Andi leaned back and gazed up at the sky as the first traces of sunset appeared. “Can you believe Americans eat 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate a year?” She popped another malted milk ball into her mouth.
“What I can’t believe is how much chocolate you eat without gainin’ an ounce,” Rhen said in her gentle Texan drawl. Even Andi’s boxy “Who cares about apathy?” T-shirt couldn’t hide her curves.
Andi grinned. “What can I say? It’s a God-given talent.”
“Speaking of eating…” Ellie cast a loving look at her slice of mushrooms and extra sauce. “Here’s to the last slice of boardwalk pizza ‘til next summer.” She pushed her frizzy curls out of the way and took a bite.
“Now you’ve done it.” Andi tilted her mane of blonde hair toward Nic, who was tearing up for the third time.
“Please don’t start cryin’ again.” Rhen handed Nic a tissue. Ellie handed her the box.
“Hey,” Ellie said. “ This is s’posed to be fun, remember? Staying up all night, sleeping under the stars…”
“Yeah Nic, cheer up.” Andi chimed in. “It’s our last night together.”
“I know!” Nic blew her nose. “That’s why I’m crying.”
Rhen put an arm around her. “It’ll be next summer before you know it, and we’ll all be back here in Ocean City again.”
Nic sniffled. “I guess. I’m just gonna miss you guys so much!”
“Selfie time!” Andi announced before Nic’s next tidal wave of tears. Arms around each other, they squeezed in tight: Nic, dressed in her signature pink from fuchsia headband to hot pink toenails; Ellie, all freckles and frizz; and Rhen, with her sweet heart-shaped face, auburn ponytail and braces.
Feeling better – at least for the moment – Nic left the group to take in the view one last night. The rooftop deck of Rhen’s family beach house was one of her favorite places in the whole world. The view was breathtaking, but sharing it with her friends made it even better. She closed her eyes, trying to savor the moment as a gentle breeze played with her waist-length ebony hair.
Andi walked over and threw an arm around Nic’s shoulders. “Just think, this time next year we’ll be high school graduates.”
“Assuming none of us flunks out.” Ellie joined them.
Nic smiled at her. “Not likely, Miss 4.2, NYU.”
“I can’t believe y’all are headin’ off to college without me.” Rhen slid in between Nic and Andi.
“That’s what you get for being a year younger,” Ellie teased.
Andi continued to stare out at the ocean. “I’m gonna take a gap year, travel around Europe.”
“That’s so exciting!” Nic cried.
“And expensive.” Ellie pointed out.
“That’s what Roya wants to do, too.” Rhen fingered her ever-present Lil Sis locket. “She’s gonna travel all over: Europe, Africa – probably even the North Pole.”
Andi turned and smiled at her. “You have the best sister ever.”
“I know,” Rhen agreed. Roya had a magical way of making everything, and everyone, around her special. Even Rhen.
“Andi?” A voice called from down below. A male voice. A male voice belonging to The Cutest Lifeguard Ever. “Is that you?”
“Guess he doesn’t recognize me with my shirt on,” Andi said.
“Omigod!” Nic squealed.
“What?” Andi teased. “I only meant he’s used to seeing me in a bikini.”
Ellie squinted to get a better view. “I never did figure out his name. Is it Bill, or Phil?”
Rhen shrugged. “Who knows?”
“Who cares?” Andi laughed.
“Wait,” Ellie reconsidered. “I think it’s Will.”
Andi wiggled her eyebrows. “Mom always says where there’s a Will, there’s a way.”
Ellie frowned. “I don’t think that’s what she had in mind.”
Will waved in an attempt to get Andi’s attention. “What are you doing up there?”
Andi leaned over the rooftop railing. “Oh, just the usual – vodka shots, strip poker…”
Will’s mouth opened, but no words came out of it.
“Omigod!” Nic’s eyes widened in shock.
“That’s it.” Ellie stepped in front of Andi, blocking the view from below. “This is our time. Our night. Tell Romeo to get lost.”
Andi sighed dramatically. “If you insist.”
“Wait – ” Nic’s friends turned to her. “I mean, he is pretty cute. What if he has some… cute friends?”
Now it was Rhen’s turn to look scandalized. “Nic! What about Jonathan? You know, your true love?”
“Oh.” A guilty look swept across Nic’s face. “Right.”
Ellie put her hand out. “Hey – is that rain?” she asked as one drop turned to two. Within seconds the sky opened up and poured down on them.
“Sorry!” Andi called down. “Guess we’ll have to take a rain check!”
Laughing and screaming in the sudden downpour, they grabbed sleeping bags, pillows and whatever else they could carry and ran into the house.
You’ve made such vivid characters, and your writing is really strong. What happened to Roya, I wonder?
Guess you’ll have to read the rest of the novel to find out! 🙂