Turtle BayTiffany King
A Beach Read
The Seasons of Love Series
A Beach Read
The Seasons of Love Series
Copyright © 2015 by Tiffany King
Edited by Hollie Westring
All rights reserved. Published by A.T. Publishing LLC
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
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I'd never seen a sight like it in all my life. Nothing but ocean as far as the eye could see as our old van reached the crest of the endlessly tall bridge that crossed over the inlet. The sun reflected off the sandy beach in the distance like a mirror. We had made it to Turtle Bay, Florida.
When my parents hit me with the news that we were moving, I wanted to scream. Not an "oh my god, I'm so excited I can't wait to leave" kind of scream. More like "thanks for ruining my life." I threw the queen of all fits and fought the move tooth and nail, but now that we had arrived, I was impressed. Of course, admitting that to my parents would be conceding defeat, and I wasn't ready to let them off the hook just yet.
"How about this, huh?" said my mom, Buttercup, gleefully slapping my dad, Butch, on the shoulder. The three of us peered out the windshield that had become a bug cemetery the moment we crossed the Florida state line. Buttercup's excitement over seeing the ocean for the first time showed by the way she bounced in her seat like a twelve-year-old girl. Judging by the look on Butch's face, it didn't take an Einstein to deduce that he was equally thrilled. Being the one reasonable person in our family, I kept my reaction to myself, even though the appeal of beach life was already beginning to sink in as I took in the miles of cream-colored sand and vibrant blue water.
The move to Florida was supposed to signify a new beginning for me—for all of us. A chance to get me away from my undesirable group of friends and my less-than-stellar lifestyle choices back home in Kansas. My last run-in with the local yahoo cops in Huntsville, or "Dudsville," as I called it, had been the last straw for Buttercup and Butch. I really didn't see what the big deal was. As a matter of fact, my friends and I thought we were pretty darn clever when we snuck into Principal Newton's office and glued everything down. And when I say everything, I mean everything—the plaques on the wall, the phone, and computer on the desk. Hell, my friend Randy even came up with the ingenious idea to Gorilla Glue Newton's chair to the floor. We would have gotten away with it if dumb-ass Chuck wouldn't have posted a picture on his Instagram account. What a complete tool. He got an especially clear shot of me gluing all the candies together in the crystal dish on the desk. Let that be a lesson to all of us that drugs really do warp the brain. Chuck was a slow-talking, barely walking endorsement of that.
Principal Newton threatened to press charges, but in the end he was more worried about the school board asking questions about how a group of students had been able to sneak into his office and do so much damage in broad daylight. What he didn't want to get out was that a couple times a week, he and his secretary, Mrs. Stratton, would sneak away during lunch and play hide the salami at the Motel 8 over off Dixon Highway. I found out about the affair because my friend Tania, who dropped out of school sophomore year, worked at the hotel as a maid. I knew eventually the deets would come in handy, which is I why I never narced. Not on Principal Newton and Mrs. Stratton or on my friends who had assisted in the prank. I may be a lot of things, but a narc wasn't one of them. Regardless, I may not have been criminally charged, but I was expelled, which didn't make Butch and Buttercup happy.
I'm sure some shrink would have a field day analyzing me. Tell me my antics were a desperate cry for attention or desire for parental approval—yadda yadda yadda. Truthfully, my intensions were the opposite. I pulled pranks for one reason—to take the spotlight off Butch and Buttercup.
To appreciate what I meant, you had to understand my existence. Butch and Buttercup lived an alternative lifestyle. They were peculiar, which is a kind way of saying they're weird. We only ate what we grew from our garden, rarely bought clothes unless it was from a thrift store, and our loud, beat-up VW van was the one and only vehicle we had owned in my life. For the most part, we lived off the grid. If it were the Sixties, Butch and Buttercup would be called hippies, but I don't think anyone used that word anymore. No, nowadays, especially in conservative, rural Huntsville, Kansas, we were the town freaks. Not that we were ever in any danger. We were more like a favorite pastime for the locals. They would watch my family with morbid fascination to see what we would do next. Like the time Butch decided he was going to give up wearing shoes, even in winter, which cost him a toe when he got frostbite. Then there was the summer Buttercup decided to go topless. That one earned a citation for public indecency and several wrecked cars when she took a stroll down Main Street.
By the time I started middle school, I was over having parents who were the butt of everyone's jokes, so I decided to deflect the attention off of them. My pranks were ambitious from the start, like when I spray-painted the word Dudsville on every sign in town that had the name Huntsville on it. Huntsville was a town proud of its name, and the local businesses weren't the most creative, so there were dozens of targets. Case in point: Huntsville Dental, Antiques of Huntsville, Huntsville Pizzeria—you get the idea. It didn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out the pattern. I knew I'd get busted eventually, but that was my plan all along. In my mind, I would rather have people talk about me as the town troublemaker than Butch and Buttercup as the hippie freakos. It was all supposed to be an act to steal the spotlight from my parents until I realized how fun being bad could be, so I kept going.
"Are you excited, Rainbow?" Buttercup asked, looking at me with shining eyes that almost matched the water stretched out in front of us.
"Just Rain, remember? You promised." Changing my name had been one of my demands if we were going to move away from the only home I'd ever known. I'd been trying to get away from my name as long as I could remember. No explanation was necessary.
"I'm sorry. Are you excited, Just Rain?"
I sighed at her sense of humor. This was nothing new. If they weren't so lovable, I'd probably consider burying them in their vegetable garden.
"Yes, Buttercup. I am. I'm just able to do it without pooping leprechaun gold or crying rainbow tears," I said dryly.
"That's literally crap that's worth
its weight in gold," Butch piped in, maneuvering around a slow-moving moped.
"Funny, you should think about taking your act on the road," I replied as the corners of my mouth quirked up. "How much farther?" I asked, peering out my window at the ocean that was visible between condominiums, hotels, and extravagant houses.
"We're close," Buttercup answered, studying the map in her lap with the same confused expression she had worn since we left Kansas. The fact that we didn't have smartphones or GPS devices combined with Buttercup's less-than-Christopher Columbus-like navigation skills turned what should have been a three-day trip into four when she had us heading west for nearly two hundred miles before Butch noticed we shouldn't be heading toward mountains.
Miraculously, after nearly fifteen hundred miles, we were close to the house my grandparents had left to Buttercup when they passed away. She hadn't seen or spoken to them in years. Buttercup was pretty much disowned for the alternative lifestyle she had embraced when she married Butch. She pretended otherwise, but I knew her family's rejection had hurt her deeply. It took several months for the lawyer handling her parents' affairs to locate us. Butch and Buttercup didn't exactly work in the traditional sense, so we weren't in the system. When he finally did locate us, he was forced to explain my late grandparents' will while our chickens pecked at his feet. I had to hand it to him though. He didn't even blink when he sidestepped the clucking poultry and into a pile of Thelma's poop. Thelma being our "borrowed" goat. I say borrowed because she belonged to grumpy Jane down the way from us. It tells you a lot about a person's disposition when even their old goat looked for company elsewhere. The lawyer with ruined shoes explained that as the last living relative, Buttercup had inherited her parents' small but modest home in Florida and their life savings that totaled just over a hundred and thirty thousand dollars after funeral expenses, hospital bills, and lawyer fees.
Once she recovered from the shock, Buttercup called one of our "family meetings" to talk about how we wanted to handle our sudden windfall. Butch and Buttercup had always been democratic that way. Normally we discussed everything. Everything within reason, anyway. Never one to care about money, Butch had taken the news with indifference, telling Buttercup it was her decision, but my recent expulsion from school ended up sealing the deal and removed democracy from the equation. Before I could fully register what had happened, our meager belongings were packed into our VW van and I was saying goodbye to all my friends.
"Do you want me to check the map?" I asked Buttercup passively.
"Um, yeah. That might be a good idea," she answered, handing it back to me. It took me a few minutes to pinpoint where we were on the map before I realized we had passed our new street several miles back. "We need to head back the other way. We're looking for Seashell Lane," I directed Butch. "It's going to be on your left-hand side."
Butch chuckled and patted Buttercup on the knee. "You can't be good at everything, honey. At least we know you're good at—"
"Butch," I warned.
"What? I was going to say weeding the garden."
"Right," I answered, not believing him. In their free-spirited lifestyle, Butch and Buttercup believed that talking about everything, including sex, in front of me was perfectly normal. To them, sex was as natural as breathing and nothing to be ashamed of. Natural as it may be, sex topped the list of things I didn't need to know about my parents.
Within minutes, Butch spotted our street and turned left down the narrow lane. We found our new house nestled between a large beach home that was a monstrosity in comparison and a modest cottage that was much like ours. Butch parked in front of the cute detached garage that right off the bat, I surmised had endless possibilities. Sliding the groaning van door open, I stepped from the vehicle and approached the garage with anticipation. The door looked like something you would find on a barn. As I wiped away a bit of dirt from the window and peered inside, the first bit of real excitement began to grow inside me. This garage might just make this move tolerable.
"Rainbow, help us move these boxes inside before it starts to rain," Butch said, walking past me with his arms loaded.
"Just Rain," I corrected.
"Just Rain," he repeated, smirking at me.
"Grrrrr, Rain. Would you like me to call you by your given name?" I threatened. "Creston Leroy."
"Bite your tongue," he said, looking around horrified that someone might have heard.
"Rain," I prompted.
"Rain-n-n," he said, dragging out my chosen nickname. "Help Buttercup, please."
"See, that wasn't so hard, was it?" I asked.
"It's like asking a dog not to scratch its fleas. We instinctively itch to call you Rainbow Love—" He cut off as I glared at him.
"Can we discuss this later?" Buttercup asked, scurrying past with a couple of duffle bags as she indicated the ominous gray clouds that had rolled in. As if to prove her point, a low rumble of thunder shook the ground, letting us know a storm was coming. Kicking it into high gear, the three of us made frantic trips to move everything from the van to the covered walkway that separated the garage from the house. Butch was sliding the stubborn van door closed when the first large raindrop plopped down on my face. We stood under cover, watching as the sky opened up like a god was dumping buckets of water on the world. The ground quickly became saturated and the downpour flowed along the barely noticeable slope in the driveway and pooled at the bottom near the street. After ten minutes, the rain abruptly stopped like someone had turned off a faucet, leaving the air heavy and sticky. We became drenched in sweat as we carried our junk into the house, but at least there was a nice breeze from the ocean. I had to admit, it still beat the brutally hot, dry summers back in Kansas.
Loaded down with duffel bags, I walked into the house and couldn't help giggling at Butch and Buttercup, who stood gawking at the furnishings in our new home. Gone were the handpicked garage sale treasures from our old house that held little more than garbage heap appeal. It would seem my grandparents had a taste for floral prints. It was as if a flower shop had barfed on every piece of furniture in the house. Even the heavy drapes that blocked out the sun were covered in roses the size of dinner plates.
"Well, you guys always said you wished you could live among the wildflowers," I piped in, trying to keep a straight face.
"Yeah, wildflowers, not some freaky tea room from hell." Butch shuddered as he noticed the large vase in the corner of the room that was filled with artificial flowers. Judging by the ample amount of dust covering them, my guess was they were older than me.
"Don't worry, babe. We'll fix it. A few throw blankets, new curtains from Goodwill, and a few dozen trash bags for the stuff we don't want and it'll look like home before you know it," Buttercup reassured him as I began to get a lay of the land. Leaving the living room through a hallway, I discovered a master bedroom with the most hideous wallpaper I had ever seen. Butch was sure to have a seizure when he saw it. Moving on, I found the second bedroom that was supposed to be for me. Thankfully, it wasn't half bad. Somehow, it had escaped the floral print disease and had pale blue walls and light, breezy curtains instead. It must have served as an office/guest room since it held a desk with a dated PC on one side and a white daybed covered with a patchwork quilt on the other side. It was kind of charming, but wasn't for me. I had other plans.
"I wouldn't go in there," I told Butch as he started to open the master bedroom door.
"How bad?" he asked.
"Like the movie The Exorcist, but with flowers," I answered.
"Serious?" he replied, backing away from the door like there was a venomous snake inside. "You can have this room," he said generously, trying to steer me toward the horror beyond the door.
"No way. That's all you," I said, putting on my game face. "You guys said I would get first pick of the rooms to make up for the bee incident," I reminded him, setting my trap.
"I'd gladly take your old beehive room if it's as bad as you say in here," he said, jerking his head toward
the door he had yet to open. "Come on, where's the love for Dad? You can't make me sleep in a room that will give me nightmares even while I'm awake."
"Hmmm, I don't know. A deal is a deal. After all, I was pretty traumatized to wake up to a room full of bees since you decided having a hive in my wall wasn't a big deal. I mean, I did get stung a few times, if you remember."
"You're right. In hindsight, maybe allowing a hive of bees to remain in the wall of my daughter's room wasn't the best idea, but I'm a lover of all creatures, bees included. Please switch. I'll do anything."
"Anything?" I asked, having him right where I wanted him.
"Anything," he emphasized, edging closer to the good room.
"Fine, I want the garage."
He paused, looking confused. "The garage? For what?"
"For my room. I took a peek through the window when we got here and except for a few boxes and a good sweeping, it's perfect. It's got enough windows for ventilation and I even spotted a gardening sink in there, which means it has plumbing. Plumbing means my handy-dandy parental figure could install a toilet and a few walls for privacy."
"You want to sleep in the garage?" he asked, pondering my unusual request. While they certainly had their faults as parents, one of the best things about Butch and Buttercup was their willingness to listen to my ideas, and in spite of all the trouble I'd gotten into the past few years, they pretty much gave me free reign to make my own decisions. Butch scratched his head and stared into space as he hemmed and hawed for an answer. "Enclosing a bathroom isn't exactly cheap."
"We have the money now," I pointed out. For years we lived in an eight hundred-square-foot shack, working one craft fair to the next to supplement the meager income we made from selling our vegetable harvest off the highway. We lived off the land, buying only the necessities when they were warranted. No matter how much I begged and pleaded. New clothes, makeup, or anything else a teenage girl might want fell into the "not a necessity" category. Butch and Buttercup's necessity rule was the bane of my existence during my formative preteen years, but by the time I started high school, I learned to manipulate their system, especially if they thought whatever I wanted was for my education. That's how I got my used laptop when I convinced them I needed it for school, which wasn't exactly a lie. My insight into their weakness was also how I got my first new pair of shoes. It wasn't like I was taking advantage of my own parents. The new shoes really did help. Otherwise, I'd be running laps in some worn-out pair of sneakers from Goodwill that may have been a size too big. Even with my slight manipulation here and there, we lived simply, but the inheritance from my grandparents and the job I planned to get would change that. We could now pay for things without waiting to see how the tomato harvest turned out or if all the pumpkins in our patch made it to Halloween.