Summer of SeventeenJane Harvey-Berrick
Summer of Seventeen
Books by Jane Harvey-Berrick
Poem for Sean—Sea Fever
SUMMER OF SEVENTEEN
Jane A. C. Harvey-Berrick has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. Jane A. C. Harvey-Berrick has asserted her moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
First published in Great Britain in 2014
Harvey Berrick Publishing
Copyright © Jane A. C. Harvey-Berrick 2014
Interior Formatting and Design by Christine Borgford / perfectlypublishable.com
Cover design by Hang Le / www.byhangle.com
Front cover by Michael Anthony Downs Photography, Back cover by Sophie Callahan Photography
BOOKS BY JANE HARVEY-BERRICK
One Careful Owner (coming soon)
At Your Beck & Call
Dangerous to Know & Love
Playing in the Rain
The Dark Detective
The Education of Sebastian
The Education of Caroline
The New Samurai
Connect with Jane Harvey-Berrick
To Mark, Steve, Rob, Anoki and Delano—the guys from Stones Reef Surf Shop and really nice people, despite having to beat off women with sticks. And Wanda, their den mother.
To Ana Alfaro from Panama, who would be happy that her name has been taken in vain, but moved on to the next great adventure before this story could be finished. RIP.
“How would you like to stand like a god before the crest of a monster billow, always rushing to the bottom of a hill and never reaching its base, and to come rushing in for a half a mile at express speed, in graceful attitude, of course, until you reach the beach and step easily from the wave to the strand?”
Duke Kahanamoku (1890-1968), Hawaiian surfer
You know that experiment we all have to do in sixth grade? The one where you put a drop of black ink on wet blotting paper and the colors all separate out? What if it’s the other way around, where black soaks up every color and holds them hostage? Like today.
My shoes are black and my pants are black and it’s so weird. But even among the sea of black, there are colors. My hand is golden-brown, tan from the first days of summer. My fingers are white and they’re beginning to tingle. It’s strange. Shouldn’t they be numb? Shouldn’t I be not feeling? Then I realize it’s because Yansi is holding my hand so tight she’s cutting off the blood. Her hand is darker than mine: brown, like rain-forest wood. Her palms are soft. Not like mine. Mine are rough, calloused. I don’t know if it’s from the sand, or the elective I did in shop this semester.
The cuffs of my shirt are white.
And then a bald guy I’ve never seen before shakes my hand.
“Sorry for your loss,” he says.
Everything and everyone pissed me off: school, my sister, my friends. Even my mom made me angry, and she was dead.
I was all twisted up inside, like if I had to feel one more emotion or think one more thought, my head would explode.
I was looking for something.
Julia was waiting for me when I got home from school. That’s when she dropped a bomb.
“I’ve put an ad on Craigslist. We’re renting out the den.”
We’d never called it ‘the den’ before. It had been mom’s room.
“Don’t start,” she said.
“Start what? I’m asking: since when are we renting out the den.”
“Since we need the money.”
I probably sounded like a whiny bitch and looked like a deer caught in headlights, but to say that I was shocked is a huge fucking understatement. I had no clue she was thinking of doing that—the whole idea came out of left field.
She was always moaning about money, how much things cost. Did I know how much a gallon of milk cost? I guess I was supposed to think about things like that now. I guess it meant we were poor.
Maybe my sister figured with people arriving in town looking for summer jobs, she could find someone to rent the den quickly.
I decided I was over this conversation and headed to my bedroom—assuming it was still mine and she wasn’t going to rent that out, too—and I looked up the listing.
Seeking professional working male or female roommate
$590 a month, utilities included.
Cocoa Beach, FL.
Not $600, but $590. Like it was going to look way cheaper if you shaved off ten bucks. Do people still fall for shit like that? Like you go into a store and see something for five bucks and think, Oh this is way too much, but then the clerk says, Oh that’s not $5.00 it’s only $4.99, and all of the sudden it’s so much more affordable.
Yeah, I don’t think so.
We could buy three gallons of milk with that ten bucks. I checked.
I wasn’t happy, but it wasn’t like she listened to me anyway.
Julia was probably hoping for a long-term rental but I was pretty sure she’d take what she could get. I didn’t care, I just didn’t want some douche.
That was yesterday. Today, it was officially the start of summer break and vacationers were flooding into town ready to spend their money. I’d been looking forward to it. Had been.
I heard the front door slam and knew that she’d gone out. She hadn’t spoken to me again, although last night I’d heard her yelling about me to her boyfriend Ben. Maybe she went grocery shopping. Maybe she couldn’t stand looking at me anymore. She said that once. Because I had blond hair and blue eyes and I looked like Mom. Julia had brown hair and brown eyes and she looked like her dad. Not my dad. Nobody knew what he looked like. Except Mom, I guess.
Julia had sold a load of our stuff—Mom’s stuff—because she said we needed the money. I hid my iPod just in case she decided to go completely crazy, and I still had my Tony Hawk Huckjam 401 skateboard which was pretty cool and cost nearly a hundred bucks. It was a good one, not great, not like a Plan B for pro skaters, but it wasn’t a twenty dollar piece of shit with Moshi Monsters on it either.
I hadn’t ridden it since Mom was sick in the hospital, and it was wedged under my bed behind a stack of porn mags that Sean had given me. I think he got them from one of his brothers. I felt weird about putting them out for recycling and, you know, I might want to look at them again.
I wasn’t worried about Julia finding them, but I’m glad Mom never did. Anyway, Julia didn’t go in my room because she said it was a health hazard and she didn’t want to catch the Ebola virus. Every now and then she yelled at me to bring down the dirty dishes that seemed to stack up in there. You’d think Armageddon was
around the corner if the dishes weren’t washed. But I’d learned to put my laundry in the hamper or I would never have anything clean to wear.
Julia didn’t iron, so my clothes were wrinkled most of the time. Although she made an exception for Mom’s funeral, even though she was crying all over my shirt while she did it. I don’t know, maybe ironing made her cry. That’s a joke.
But right now my Tony Hawk was stuck tight, and I didn’t want to pull too hard in case I bent the truck or chipped the deck. So I was up to my armpits in dust bunnies, trying to work around the crap that had congealed under my bed, when the phone rang.
Only official people called on that line, like the School Board or the hospital, so it was weird to hear it ring now. My friends called my cell, and Julia didn’t have friends, only Ben. I don’t know if he called her, but he’d just show up most evenings.
Mom always hated the way I answered the phone; she’d yell at me to be polite. But Mom was dead, so I just picked up the phone and said, “Yeah?”
“Hi. You the guy with a room to rent? I saw it on Craigslist.”
Wow, that was quick.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Okay, cool. Can I come by later and see the room? Is it furnished or unfurnished? The listing didn’t say.”
I knew there was a sofa in the den, but if this guy wanted to rent the space, he’d probably want a bed, right? So I didn’t know whether to tell him that the room was furnished or not.
“I don’t really know. My sister placed the ad. She’ll be back about six.”
“Okay, thanks man. What’s the address?”
Our neighborhood was okay. Quiet, boring. Ours was the smallest house on a street that realtors described as a cul-de-sac of sixties cottages. But anyone else would call it a dead-end, where our house was definitely the most rundown. I think we were the only ones without a pool, but I didn’t need one because it was only a three minute skate to the ocean, and you don’t have to pay a pool guy.
So I rattled off the address and then went back upstairs to dig out my Tony Hawk. I forgot about the guy. Or maybe I didn’t want to remember him, because my stomach got tight at the thought of a stranger sleeping in our den. Because Mom used to sit there to watch her soaps. Because it was her bedroom at night. Because neither me or Julia ever went in there now.
Anyway, he said he was coming over later, so I didn’t need to think about it at all.
It would take me just over ten minutes to skate the two miles to the pier. All the high school kids who surfed hung out there—it was kind of our place. It was chill, pretty much like school. Maybe that’s because of all the stoners. Even when the school floods, which it does a lot in hurricane season, there’s no drama. A lot of grads stay home and go to Broward community college, so it’s no surprise when they party with guys who are still in high school.
The pier picked up a good swell, and had mellow rideable waves, especially with an offshore breeze. It was kind of annoying because we all know that if it’s good in Cocoa Beach, it’s smokin’ somewhere else. But at least I didn’t have to bum a ride to get to the waves. Surfing was a huge part of my life. I was a goofy foot, but I’d taught myself to ride natural too, because I thought it was cool to do both. And it was useful for skateboarding.
Lately, only the paddleboarders were seeing any action because it had been flat for over a week now.
I thought Sean and Rob might be down at the pier, even though it was where all the tourists went. We didn’t go on the pier as much as under it. In fact the last time I’d walked to the fishing hut end was over a year ago. I’d taken a date, but Erin was real picky and didn’t want to walk on the sand because she was wearing some stupid, strappy sandals with high heels. To the beach. Yeah, she was pretty, but not all that smart, I guess. She didn’t even wear those round-toed flat shoes that girls have when they’re not wearing flip-flops. And I could tell that her feet were killing her at the lame party we went to after the beach.
I didn’t ask her out again, but she still hung around by my locker forever, just staring at me. It got a bit creepy after a while. She backed off when I started dating Yansi.
That sounds bad. I mean it wasn’t the reason I started dating her. She’d transferred in towards the end of our Sophomore year and all the guys thought she was hot. She had thick brown hair that hung in ripples to her waist, and eyes that were so dark and deep they seemed black. She had a banging body too, but it was her sass that made her different. Most girls would get all dumb and giggly when you talked to them, but Yansi didn’t take shit from anyone and nobody dared talk trash to her. I think some of the guys were kind of afraid of her.
I asked her out right away, but she said her dad wouldn’t let her date until she was 17, so I had to wait until halfway through Junior year. But it was worth it. We’d started going out nearly four months ago and it never got old. Her dad was still pretty strict and he wasn’t real happy about her dating an Anglo who wasn’t even a Catholic, but he hadn’t told her no either.
Today, she was babysitting her brother and little sisters, and since I wasn’t allowed to be alone in the house with her, I wouldn’t be able to see her until tomorrow, which sucked. So instead of spending the first day of summer vacation with my girlfriend, I’d celebrated by sleeping till lunchtime, then lounging around my house.
I skated down to the pier, feeling the faint breeze that always tasted of salt, and made sunglasses hazy. The air was growing heavy as the temperature hit the low nineties, the humidity making my t-shirt cling to my chest. I ripped it off and stuck it into the back of my boardshorts, still weaving slowly down Ocean Boulevard, avoiding potholes in the road and tourists who didn’t seem to know the difference between a street and a sidewalk.
I wondered if it was worth asking ‘Oh Shucks’ again if they were hiring. It was a seafood place where all the tourists went, and I’d heard that tips were really good. I should have been bussing tables there this summer, but I hadn’t returned their calls when Mom was sick so they’d given the job to someone else. Maybe they’d change their minds, or maybe I could hit up a couple of surf and skate shops in town to see if they were hiring.
Some of the kids in my class hated living in a small town. Everyone worried what would happen now that the Shuttle program had ended and people lost their jobs. NASA said that it was still the Space Coast, but I knew guys where both parents worked at the visitor center, and the fear that it would close was like a shadow that followed them around. A lot of kids in school talked about going to live in Orlando or NYC one day. Not me. I liked it here. I didn’t want to imagine living somewhere I couldn’t see the ocean.
Some of last year’s seniors were hanging out when I walked down to the shore. They were all surfers so they nodded at me, but there was no sign of Sean or Rob. I stayed for a while, listening to them bitch about the high pressure system that was sitting over us like swamp gas, sucking the life out of the ocean, reducing it to a glassy pond. Low pressure means good waves, but all the tourist shops like high pressure, because that means sunshine.
My cell buzzed with a message, and I smiled when I saw what Yansi had written.
* Four hours of Doc McStuffins and Peppa freakin Pig. My brain will never be the same. Miss you. Want to come for supper? We’re having Sancocho x *
Yansi’s house was so different from mine. It always smelled of cooking, and was full of color and noise. Her brother, Mateo, was 10 and happy if you played catch with him. Her little sisters Pilau and Beatriz were kind of annoying, but cute as hell, following me around and chatting away in Spanish. I’d gotten an A in every Spanish test since I’d started dating Yansi. Her parents could speak English, although her mom not as well, but in their home it was always Spanish.
Mr. Alfaro had a weird Tom Selleck mustache, but he was quiet and reserved, and what he said was law. I didn’t know people lived like that anymore. Mom had guy friends sometimes, but none of them lived with us or told us what to do. I could see that it bugged Yansi, and sometimes
she said she felt like she was more American than Panamanian, even though she hadn’t been born here.
I liked it there because it was different and because they always fed me, but it was hard to be around Yansi and not be able to touch her. I think I’d have ended up face down in Banana River if I’d tried and Mr. Alfaro saw me. Well, maybe not, but I was allowed inside their house for now and I didn’t want to fuck that up.
She complained about not having any privacy and having to share a room with her sisters. They caught us once and told their mom. We weren’t really doing anything, just kissing, but after that Yansi got hit with the rule about not having me in the house without her parents being there. There was no way we could sneak around without the kids knowing, and I didn’t want Mr. Alfaro telling Yansi that she couldn’t see me at all. Sometimes she managed to come over to my house by saying that she was studying at the library. Those were the only times I ever cleaned up my room. I didn’t want her to think I was a pig. Somehow when she was there, I could forget everything. She had a way of making it okay.
Sean was always asking me if we’d done it yet, and the truth was that we hadn’t. I was ready. I was so ready, but Yansi wasn’t. I could wait. I hoped. But it was none of Sean’s business, and he only kept on asking because I wouldn’t tell him anything and because he knew it pissed me off.
Sean liked to talk shit about girls, but I think that’s because he didn’t have any sisters. He wasn’t really into dating, just hooking up. It was one of the reasons he was always bitching about me seeing Yansi, saying that we acted like an old married couple. I think he was kind of jealous because she was so hot and really smart.
I headed home by way of ‘Oh Shucks’ just in case. The manager looked embarrassed and apologized, but said they didn’t have any jobs. I tried ‘Ron Jons’ too, but they’d already taken on all the summer help they needed.