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Cruel Summer

Alyson Noel

  For Kate Schafer—agent extraordinaire and overall

  awesome person!


  Begin Reading


  June 13

  Dear Aunt Tally,

  When I asked my mom for your e-mail address, she just laughed and told me you didn’t have one. But I know she’s just joking—right?

  I mean, it’s not like you have to have a computer or anything, since I’m planning on bringing my laptop anyway, I just need to make sure you have wi-fi, high speed, broadband, or whatever they call it where you live, since it’s really important for me to stay connected, because, well, I just started hanging with this new group of friends and

  Anyway, so my mom just walked in and when she saw me writing to you she said, “Don’t waste the postage, Colby. You’ll get there long before that letter does.” But just in case she’s wrong, I’m sending it anyway. And just in case she’s right, well, then I guess there’s nothing more to say.

  See you soon.



  June 15 Dear Mom and Dad,

  Just in case you decide to stop arguing long enough to come look for me, you should know that I’m NOT home. I’m out with my friends, determined to enjoy my LAST NIGHT OF FREEDOM.

  Attempting one last stab at having a little FUN before you succeed in TAKING IT ALL AWAY.

  But don’t worry. I’m not running away or anything. Mostly because your decision to send me away makes running away seem almost redundant.

  Besides, I’ve done my best to reason with you and try to put an immediate halt to all that you’ve started, but since I’ve so clearly failed, I will soon surrender, comply with your wishes, and resign myself to the fate you have so randomly chosen for me.

  Only not now, later. Because now, I’m just going to try to enjoy myself—while I still can.

  Though before I go I’d like to leave you with a few thoughts for you to consider:

  It’s not too late!

  There’s plenty of time to reconsider!

  Everything you’ve done can still be undone!

  At least take the time to think about it.


  Colby’s Journal for Desperate Times Like Right Now

  June 16

  I can’t believe I’m actually writing in this journal. I mean, today, (well, technically it would now be yesterday), when my mom gave it to me, I just looked at her and said, “What’s this?”

  And she said, “I thought you could use it to write about all of the exciting things that happen to you this summer.”

  So then I shook my head, rolled my eyes, and sighed as loud as I could.

  Then I tossed it onto my desk and watched it skid all the way across the top until it fell off the side and tumbled to the ground, as my mom just stood there, still and silent, gazing between the upside-down journal and me.

  But I just narrowed my eyes and stared right back, wondering if she was going to yell at me, cry, or both.

  But in the end she just shook her head and left my room. And the second the door closed behind her, I’m the one who started to cry.

  Though not for too long, since I didn’t want my face to be all puffy and red for the good-bye party Amanda was supposed to throw for me. Even though in the end it really wasn’t much of a party since it pretty much consisted of a six-pack of her brother’s beer, a bag of chips, and us.

  Well, at least until she made a few calls—

  Okay, I was just about to write the rest of the story, but then I decided to stop because it feels really weird to be confessing in this thing. I mean, as much as I’d like to write about EVERYTHING that just happened (and trust me, there’s PLENTY to write about), because I’m thinking it might really help me to get it all down on paper and maybe even clear my head and put it all back in perspective, the thing is, I can’t help but think—what if someone reads it?

  I mean, it’s not like you can password protect a leather-bound notebook.

  Not to mention how I can STILL hear my parents totally yelling and screaming downstairs, which is not only making it hard to concentrate, but also freaking me out to think what will happen when they come up here to check on me while I sleep (because that’s what they always do after they’ve exhausted themselves from one of their arguments and are ready to call it a night and head off to their separate rooms), and maybe even end up peeking at what I’ve written.

  And even though I know that probably sounds totally paranoid, in light of how they’ve managed to wreck just about every aspect of my life, I think the breakdown in trust is completely justified.

  So, with that in mind, it’s better to just sign off for now and continue this at another time, in another place.

  Or not.

  June 16

  Text Message:

  To: Amanda

  Message: This is the last txt msg Ull get from me bcuz IM packed N ready N lvg 4 LAX v soon so I wanna say bye N also 2 say last nite was soooo fun but it also makes lvg that much harder I still cant believe my rents R doing this 2 me O well Plz say bye 2 Levi 4 me N plz give him my email cuz I 4 got 2

  K, ttfn, Colby

  June 16

  Dear Mom and Dad,

  I really hope that by the time you return from dropping me off at the airport you will find this letter and realize what a big mistake you’ve made.

  Because this is NOT fair!

  It feels like I’M the one being punished because YOU GUYS decided to get a divorce—a divorce that, as you know, not only am I completely against, but that I definitely don’t agree with. And yet, here I am, being banished from everything I know and love, and it just doesn’t make any sense.

  It’s not like I’m the one causing trouble. It’s not like I’m the one yelling and screaming and fighting all the time. Because that would be YOU! And yet, somehow, the plane ticket is still in my name.

  I mean, did you ever stop to consider that maybe the WRONG PERSON is being sent to Aunt Tally’s? Did you ever stop and think that maybe one of YOU should go cool off on a Greek island for a couple months, so I can just stay home and enjoy my summer in peace?

  Apparently not.

  I hope that by the time you finish this letter you will have come to your senses, stop fighting, see the error of your ways, and bring me back home immediately.

  It’s as simple as calling the airport and having me paged.

  I will be listening for my name.

  And even though it’s probably not necessary to say, I want to assure you that should you choose to reverse your decision, I hereby do solemnly swear, to never mention this little digression again. I will just tuck it away in the file of Things We’d All Rather Forget.

  But if not…then I’m afraid I can’t be held responsible for my actions.

  Please take the time to reconsider. And remember, it’s never too late to correct a mistake.


  Your sad, lonely, and already completely homesick daughter—


  Colby’s Journal for Desperate Times When She’s Stuck at 37,000 Feet Where There Is No Internet Access

  June 16

  I tried. Really, I did. I gave it my best shot, but here I am anyway. Sitting on this stupid airplane, next to some stupid, smelly old man, in seat 37G, which is the second-to-last row, just around the corner from the toilets (which, believe me, I can totally smell) and right next to the window in case I want to open the shade and gaze out at—nothing. Seriously, there’s nothing out there but miles and miles of white cloud tops.

  That’s how high up we are.

  That’s how far from home I am.

  And it would all be fine and worth it if I was going to end up somewhere good, but I just happened to peek at the first page of the guid
ebook my dad slipped me at the airport and this is what it says:

  Tinos is the most important destination in Greece for religious pilgrims, and yet it remains one of the least commercialized islands.

  Um, excuse me? Religious pilgrims? Least commercialized? And those are the good things?

  And if that wasn’t bad enough, it then goes on to say:

  Tinos is also famous for its dovecotes—which are elaborate stone towers, with ornamental perches for doves.

  And then it waxes all rhapsodic over some stupid natural spring in some stupid main square in some stupid small village where the locals apparently:

  Wash their clothes by hand.

  So basically I guess you could say that my parents are sending me to a place where religious pilgrims, doves, and villagers all hand wash their delicates right smack in the middle of the town square.

  And I don’t think I need to point out how it really doesn’t get any worse than that.

  Not to mention how I did absolutely nothing to deserve any of this in the first place. Since it’s not like I got in trouble, or did anything illegal or bad, and yet, here I am, the one being punished.

  I mean, just because my parents decided to wreck their lives and get divorced shouldn’t mean they get to wreck my life too. Isn’t it enough that they’re robbing me of a two-parent home, as well as their mutual guidance, stability, and security?


  Apparently, they do.

  Because according to my mom’s shrink/life coach, I need to be “removed from all negative influences,” and shielded from “any harmful issues that may arise during this turbulent time,” so that my parents can “work out their issues in private,” so I can return to a “peaceful household.” Which may sound all fine and reasonable on paper, but here’s the thing—how does she know what I’ll return to? And how can she guarantee it’ll be PEACEFUL?


  Or will they have hacked away at it so much, that by the time I get back, there’ll be nothing left that’s even remotely familiar?

  Because last night, when I came home from Amanda’s, almost a full two hours past curfew, braced and ready for big-time trouble, my mom and dad were so involved in one of their never-ending arguments they didn’t even notice I was back, much less late. Heck, they probably weren’t even aware that I was even gone in the first place—that’s how bad it’s gotten.

  And just as I was sneaking past the downstairs guest room (where my dad’s been camping out for the last three months), and heading upstairs to my room, I completely froze, with my eyes bugged out and my jaw on the floor, as I distinctly heard them use the words—sell the house—move—and—Cyber School.

  In. That. Order.

  And now, because of that, pretty much all I can think about is:

  1) If they fight like that when I’m gone just a few hours, how bad will it get when I’m gone for three months? Ten o’clock news bad? Dateline Special bad? I seriously wish I was joking, but I’m not.

  2) Move? Who’s moving? And more importantly—where??

  3) What the heck is Cyber School? And how does it apply to me?

  4) If they really care that much about my “peace of mind,” then how can they banish me to no-man’s land—just ship me off to live with an aunt, who, up until two weeks ago, they both referred to as “Crazy Aunt Tally?”

  I’m totally serious. That’s exactly what they called her, and they didn’t even laugh when they said it. They’d say things like: “Your crazy aunt Tally sent you a birthday card,” and then my dad would drop a blue airmail envelope onto my desk. Or, “Your crazy aunt Tally made you these earrings,” then my mom would jiggle something dangly and beaded in her hand.

  And now, just because they’ve decided they can no longer stand each other, can no longer communicate without screaming, crazy Aunt Tally is suddenly the perfect summer chaperone?


  And just exactly HOW am I supposed to survive, for a WHOLE ENTIRE SUMMER, with no car, no cell phone, no Sidekick, no Sephora, no Abercrombie, no parties, no friends, and no Internet access???

  Not to mention how this was supposed to be my best summer yet, the one I’d been working toward since practically forever. Because after years of going through the motions of a ho-hum existence, after years of being just another blank face in the crowd, I finally penetrated Amanda Harmon’s inner circle. And I’m not talking clinging to the outer fringes along with all the other wannabe dorks; no I’m talking right inside the Promised Land. I’m talking the glorious, golden, inner sanctum of those who are allowed to hang at her house, ride in her car, and maintain a spot on her cell phone speed dial.

  Though I’m still not sure how it happened. It’s like, one moment, I’d been secretly worshipping her from afar, going all the way back to elementary school when I’d pretend to make fun of her hairstyles and mannerisms (but only because my one and only friend at the time truly did despise her, which made me feel like I had to hide the fact of how I wanted to be just like her), and the next, in a complete and total fluke which also turned out to be a moment of complete and total kismet, I’d scored the winning goal in a down and dirty game of fifth-period PE volleyball, after which she came right up to me and said, “Hey, way to score.”

  And then she high-fived me.

  And then she complimented me on my brand-new Nikes.

  And the next thing I knew, I was pretty much her new best friend.

  Which kind of required me to get rid of my old best friend.

  But since we were kind of in a fight anyways, I decided to go with it and never look back.

  Anyway, all of this happened just in time for what was gearing up to be the most amazing summer of my, so far mostly unamazing seventeen years, which, now, because of my parents, their attorneys, and my mother’s personal guidance counselor, has been tragically edited down to just one single night.

  Still, as far as nights go, I have to admit it WAS pretty incredible (hence the two hours past curfew return!) and since it’s most likely the only great night I’ll ever get, I should probably write it all down so I’ll always remember it.

  Only not now, later. Because now, the flight attendants are bringing the meals and I’m starving.

  June 17

  Dear Mom and Dad,

  You may notice that this letter is written on a Coke-stained Ellas Ferry Lines cocktail napkin. Well, that’s because I’m now on the boat to Tinos. That’s right, THE BOAT. Because apparently there is no airport in Tinos, which means you are sending me to a place that planes refuse to land in.

  Thanks for that.

  Though what you may not have realized is that planes do land in Mykonos, lots of them. Which only makes me wonder why you couldn’t have sent me there instead? Because according to the superhot Italian guy I sat next to on the flight from Athens to Mykonos (and his boyfriend), NOBODY goes to Tinos.

  Nobody but, oh yah, that’s right—ME.

  At first I was thinking I’d use this napkin to get rid of my gum, but then I realized that would only deprive you of seeing the unhappy results of your decision.


  The extremely unhappy but not like you care—


  Colby’s Journal for Desperate Times When the Electrical Outlet Is so Weird She Can’t Even Plug in Her Computer to Recharge It

  June 18

  I don’t even know what time it is, much less what day. All I know is that I just woke up and it’s dark out, but whether it’s night dark or early morning dark, I can’t be sure. The only thing I know is that my room looks like this:

  Smooth white walls

  White filmy curtains

  White marble floors

  White sheepskin rug on white marble floors

  Single bed with white sheets and sky blue comforter

  White bedside table with small silv
er lamp with sky blue shade

  So basically, you could say it looks a lot like the view from seat 37G—nothing but white, white, white, with the occasional small pocket of blue. And oh yeah, the electrical outlet is all weird and different and absolutely refuses to cooperate with my computer plug, and it makes me wonder what the rest of the house is like too. I mean, I barely got a chance to see it, because the second my aunt Tally showed me my room, I pretty much fell face-first on my bed. Partly because I was tired from the twenty-two hours of nonstop traveling, and partly because crying always exhausts me like that.

  That’s right, I cried.

  In public.

  Like the world’s most pathetic baby.

  It’s like, the second I’d finished writing that napkin letter to my parents I felt so angry and frustrated and sad, I just broke down in tears. And even though I knew it was stupid and embarrassing and childish, I couldn’t stop. I guess it just needed to come out, so there wasn’t much I could do about it.

  But when I finally calmed down enough to look around, I noticed this really old lady dressed in all black, and she was totally staring at me, though not in a kind grandmotherly way like you’d think. So I grabbed my bags and went outside, where I stood on deck, gazing back at where I came from, wondering what would happen if I just turned around and took the next boat back to Mykonos, found a job, a place to live, and settled in without ever contacting anyone to tell them where I am and what I’m up to. Just start over, build a new life, and grow old. Never to return.

  I mean, how would my parents feel THEN?

  It’s funny how just fantasizing about getting revenge can actually make you feel better. So after imagining my parents so frantic with grief, worry, and guilt they vow to halt the divorce and bring me back home, I wiped my face and gazed toward Tinos, and that’s when I noticed this really cute guy standing just a few feet away.