Summer never meant to lie. She just wanted to keep the most perfect guy she ever met interested in her. She had been surprised when David began hanging out with her every day… and dizzy with happiness when he kissed her. David seemed to like her uniconventional Irish family, even her eccentric Grandpa. Everything was going great - until Ann entered the picture. She collected boys like trophies. How could Summer compete with someone like that?
Before she knew it, Summer was boasting to David about her passion for long-distance running. She never dreamed he'd enter them in a six-mile race. Summer dreaded the moment when he would discover the truth: she couldn't run six blocks. And the flirtatious Ann was already working on David. Then Summer's Grandpa came up with a plan that was just crazy enough to save the day….
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"Mother, does Michael have to wear that towel all the time?" Summer Matthews muttered. She knelt down in front of her three-year-old brother and looked him squarely in the eye while she snapped the oversized safety pin in position just below his chin.
"I can't be Superman without my cape," Michael replied. He frowned until the spray of freckles across the bridge of his nose became one brown streak. "Everyone knows you gots to wear a cape if you're going to be Superman," he continued in a tone that suggested his older sister was definitely simpleminded.
"Of course you do, dear, and it's 'have to wear,' not 'gots to wear,'" their mother answered.
Summer glanced up and watched her mother hunt through her gigantic purse. She's lost her keys again, Summer thought in exasperation.
"Mother, at least make him take off those ridiculous boots while he's in the house," she pleaded. She turned back to her brother and slipped the bright red towel over his small shoulders. "Michael, winter boots are terrific when you want to play in the snow, but it just happens to be June."
From the belligerent expression on Michael's face, Summer concluded that her cool logic wasn't making a dent, so she tried another approach. "Your feet are going to get all shriveled up and fall off if you don't let some air get to them," she warned in an ominous voice.
The threat didn't faze him. But then, her little brother wasn't easily intimidated. "Superman always wears red boots," he proclaimed. He rolled his eyes heavenward, just the way Grandpa did when he was exasperated, and folded his arms in a militant manner across his chest. He was obviously in oneof his stubborn moods, Summer finally realized, and she sighed in defeat.
"Summer, don't tease your brother," their mother admonished as she continued to pull items out of her purse.
"I give up," Summer said. "Your keys are on the dining room table," she added as an afterthought. "I just remembered seeing them there."
"Why, of course they are," her mother exclaimed with a grin. "Michael, you be a good boy and obey your sister while she's in charge. Summer, don't forget to give your grandfather his medicine at three o'clock. It's on top of the refrigerator."
"Tell her I get to wear my boots," Michael demanded.
"Of course you must wear your boots," their mother agreed. "But please take them off during naptime."
"You win, half-pint," Summer said.
After a quick hug and kiss for Michael and a peck on the cheek for Summer, their mother scooped up her keys from the table and hurried out the door.
As soon as they were alone, Summer turned to her brother. "Come on, I'll fix your lunch."
"No." It was an automatic response, a word Michael had grown quite fond of lately, but Summer didn't pay any attention and went into the kitchen. Michael followed her, hovering in the doorway while he watched her fix his sandwich.
"I'm not hungry," he stubbornly protested when she placed the sandwich on the table.
"Yes, you are," Summer answered. She lifted him up and settled him in his chair before he could continue his rebellion, then sat down opposite him.
"I won't eat."
Summer pretended a bored yawn and shrugged. She had learned the hard way to act as if she couldn't care less when she really wanted something from Michael. One had to be an amateur psychologist when dealing with three-year-olds.
"Quit making squishes in your sandwich," she scolded him.
Michael looked at Summer. "Why are you so mad?" he asked.
"Mad? I'm not mad, Michael. Why should I be mad? My entire summer vacation is completely ruined, but that shouldn't make me mad, now should it?"
Wide blue eyes stared at her; they were replicas of her own. Although they looked very much like sister and brother, Michael's hair was the color of the carrot slice he was stabbing into his sandwich, while Summer's hair was a golden blond.
"Quit staring at me and eat." Summer was in a rotten mood. "Life is the pits, Michael. Regina finally got her dad to let us work at the Pizza Paddle he owns, and now I have to stay home with you and Grandpa!
"Why am I sitting here trying to discuss my problems with a three-year-old?" Summer suddenly asked herself. Good grief, she was getting as strange as the rest of her family! And they were strange. She had come to that conclusion years ago, even before Grandpa had moved in with them. She loved all of them dearly, but sometimes their behavior embarrassed her.
Her father put in long hours at his flower shop and truly seemed to enjoy his work, but, honestly, sometimes their house looked like the city botanical gardens. He told her he brought home only the plants that needed "special attention," and she could understand that, but did he have to talk to them? Every day as he watered and fertilized them, he moved from one to the other offering praise and encouragement. If people outside her family observed this ritual, Summer was confident they'd think he'd lost his mind.
Her mother, on the other hand, was so busy trying to keep up with the family and the house and the shop that she sometimes tended to be a little absentminded. Once, she'd left work late and had quickly stopped at the supermarket to buy a few things for dinner. When she arrived home, she turned to retrieve the bags from the backseat of her car, only to find that they weren't there. Later, she confessed that she'd had so much running through her mind she'd forgotten the groceries and had actually left them sitting in the cart at the supermarket parking lot.
And then there was Summer's grandfather. He spent almost every waking hour down in the basement working on his inventions. He hadn't lived with them very long, but he fit right in with her eccentric family. They had become so accustomed to the loud noises coming from below they didn't even react anymore.
"Anybody home?" The call from the front door interrupted Summer's thoughts, and the high-pitched voice of Regina Morgan, her best friend, brought a smile to her face.
"Come in," Summer yelled. "We're in the kitchen."
Regina bounded into the room but didn't stop until she was hunting through the refrigerator.
"Hungry?" Summer teased. It was a joke, of course. Regina was always hungry.
Regina shrugged a reply. She crossed over to the kitchen table with an apple in one hand and a can of grape soda in the other and plopped down with all the grace of a skinny giraffe. "Hi, Mike. Summer, I just got back from my checkup at the doctor's, and I grew another inch," Regina mumbled between bites of apple. "I'm going to be an amazon, I just know it."
"No, you're not," Summer said with heartfelt sympathy. She knew how awkward Regina felt about her height and wanted to help her feel better. After all, they were best friends. "When the boys catch up with you..."
"Summer, I measured five feet, eight and a half inches." She visibly winced the admission. "Maybe I should try out for the boys' basketball team."
"Don't be silly. You'd kill yourself. There isn't a coordinated bone in your body," Summer replied with complete honesty. She knew she wasn't hurting Regina's feelings. They were too close. Besides, it was the truth. "Anyway, you're going to be a model, remember? And it's good for models to be tall and thin, and --"
"-- flat-chested," Regina supplied, "which I most definitely am. Let's change the subject. This is depressing. Where is everyone? It's actually quiet."
"Mom's working at the flower shop with Dad, and Grandpa is --"
"-- in the basement," Regina added. She had the habit of finishing Summer's sentences for her, and sometimes the trait bothered Summer, but not today. "Has he finished his remote-control vacuum cleaner?"
Regina understood about Grandpa. And she never laughed. That was one of the reasons she was her best friend, Summer acknowledged. She really understood.
"I think so, but he hasn't tried it out upstairs yet. He's working on car chains today."
Regina nodded, and they both smiled. Yes, Regina definitely understood Summer's family.
"Can I go next door and play with Andy?" Michael interrupted with a loud, proud burp.
Usually Michael went right down for his nap after lunch, but Summer wanted to visit with Regina before hassling with her brother. "For a little while, if you finish your sandwich," she started to answer, but he was already running out the back door.
Summer turned to her friend. "There's no easy way to tell you this, Regina," Summer said. "Mom has to work with Dad all summer. Mrs. Nelson is going to have a baby, and she took the whole three months off."
"You're kidding! What about working at the Pizza Paddle?"
"I can't," Summer mumbled.
"Summer, do you realize how much time and effort went into my nagging Dad until he agreed to let us work there?"
Summer sat in dejected silence while she considered her bleak future. There wasn't any hope, she decided. What other fifteen-year-old girl stayed home all summer? Probably none. And this was the summer that she and Regina had vowed they would make some new friends and meet some really cute older guys. They had both agreed to turn over a new leaf, too, starting with their looks. Summer had decided that her wardrobe was entirely too juvenile, for one thing. The money she'd been planning to make at the Pizza Paddle would have enabled her to buy some really great clothes. Well, that was definitely out now. Mom and Dad couldn't afford to pay her more than a few dollars a week for baby-sitting. It would take her most of the summer just to have enough to buy new jeans!
"You're going to be stuck here all summer?"
Regina made it sound as if Summer had been sentenced to Siberia. Of course, taking care of Michael and her grandfather was probably just as bad, Summer thought, then immediately felt guilty.
"But what about our plans?" Regina's stubborn streak was asserting itself. She was just as disappointed as Summer, and that fact made Summer feel somewhat better. "You'll never meet anyone if you don't get out there and circulate. That's what is so super about working at the Pizza Paddle. Everyone goes there on Friday nights. You know that!"
"I know, I know," Summer said. "But there isn't anything I can do about it. I tried to talk to Dad, but when he started his 'A Family Is a Team' lecture, I knew it was a lost cause."
"Ann Logan is having a swim party next week," Regina said, changing the subject.
"Oh, how splendid." Summer's voice reeked with sarcasm. Splendid was one of Ann's favorite words, and Ann was one of Summer's least favorite persons.
"Your claws are showing," Regina said with a giggle. "Just because she stole Eric from you..."
"Don't start," Summer demanded. "And she did not steal him from me. I never had him to begin with, remember? That was all in your mind."
Ann Logan was definitely a thorn in Summer's side. As soon as Ann had found out Summer was interested in Eric, she'd moved right in. Eric was helpless before Ann's practiced assault. He never stood a chance.
"Do you think she uses something on her hair? It's getting more and more streaked, I noticed."
"Who cares? She still looks like a Barbie doll with that plastic smile of hers. And the way she bats those lashes, you'd think she had a tic or something."
"Well, she has to be nice to me," Regina said. "She still hasn't given up on Gregg."
"How can your brother stand her? Honestly, Michael has a better vocabulary than she does, and she acts so...phony. I don't think she can hold a serious thought for more than ten seconds." The disgust was obvious in Summer's voice.
"Oh, all the boys like to have girls gush over them. That's our problem, Summer. We just aren't gushy enough. Anyway, I was invited to the party because of Gregg, that's for sure. We both know she really doesn't like me. She doesn't like any girl, for that matter. Maybe I won't go if you're not invited."
"You have to go. This will be the perfect opportunity for you to meet some new boys. With Ann's reputation to maintain, I'm sure there will be an abundance of --"
"-- gorgeous guys surrounding her," Regina said. "We're supposed to bring dates," Regina added. "I guess I could ask Carl Benson. He's tall enough. If only he didn't tend to lisp..."
"He does not lisp," Summer argued. "And if he does, it's because of his braces. Besides, once you get there, you can --"
"-- circulate," Regina finished for her. "You're right. I'll ask Carl. I wish you were going though. I...Wait! I've got it! You can go with Gregg."
"Oh, I don't know --"
"He'll do it," Regina interrupted, a glint entering her brown eyes. "He owes me, Summer. I'll tell him tonight."
"Let me think about it first," Summer stalled.
"Look, we both said we need to take advantage of every opportunity if we're going to change our images. Hermits don't meet many new people. Think about that."
"I have to go. I'll call you later."
"Fine," Summer replied. She followed Regina to the front door, dodging toy cars and trucks along the way. It would take her most of the afternoon to clean up Michael's mess. And he'd made the clutter in less than ten minutes.
"Want to do something tonight?" Regina asked.
"Can't. It's bingo night."
"Poor Summer...Maybe your grandfather won't want to go tonight."
When it snows in July, Summer thought. "No chance. And don't say 'Poor Summer,'" she demanded. "I feel bad enough as it is."
Copyright © 1986 by Julie Garwood