“I can't. Mom said we have to share this room.”

“I don't CARE. Leave. This is MY room.”

I walked over to the second twin bed that was in the room and set my purse, suitcase, duffel and pillow on it.

“MOOOOOOOM!” Lindsays was screaming at the top of her lungs. “GET HER OOOUUUT!”

“Lindsay!” My mother walked into the room a second later. “Quiet down, what's the matter?”

“Get her out of my room.”

“You're sharing this room.”


“Lindsay. . .I'm sorry, but you have to. You'll probably only be together here at night, and then you'll be sleeping. I promise, it's fine.”

Lindsay groaned. “I'm going to unpack now.”

My mother nodded. “You do the same, Carmody, dear.”

My mother left.

The room was small. It had two large windows and two twin bunks, each against a separate wall. There were two small dressers, two tiny closets, and two night tables, one of each close to the beds. On the night tables were clock radios and lamps. There was a rug in the middle of the floor, and our bedspreads were some kind of greenish flowery kind.

Lindsay sat on her bed and turned on the radio. Only static came through. She turned the knob to change channels. “Oh!” she said, as she stopped on a song she recognized. She stood up, swayed her hips, and started singing. “Oh, who do you think you are, runnin' round, leavin' scars. . Collecting your jar of hearts. .”

I rolled my eyes and turned to unpack my things.

It was the next morning. I was sitting in my bed, yawning. I threw back the covers and hopped out of bed. Lindsay was still snoring away.

I got dressed in a pair of shorts and a Hollister tee, ran a brush through my hair, and went downstairs.

Roselle and Carrie were sitting at the table with dried cereal, munching away. Mom wasn't in the kitchen, but I could hear her voice out on the front porch. I went out there.

“Yes. . .Not really, actually. Well, I mean, she'd love it, but. . .Yes. That'd be great. Thanks. Bye.” My mother hung up the phone that had been against her ear.

“Honey, that was the neighbors. They live through the woods a few minutes away. They saw lights here last night, and heard noise, and wondered if someone had rented the house. They would like to meet us.” said my mother. “The lady I talked to sounded nice.”

“Oh.” I said. “When are we going over?”

“In about an hour.”

I nodded. “I'm going to go sit by the ocean for a bit.”

My mother smiled. “All right.”

An hour later, we all stood on our front porch. Or most of us, anyway.

“Lindsay!” my mother yelled through the screen door. “It's time to go!”

“I KNOW!” Lindsay hollered down the stairs. “I'm COMING!!”

She banged out the door. I laughed at her. She was wearing a fancy flowered sundress, had her hair twisted into some updo, was wearing a pearl necklace and had on heels.

She pulled out her flowered clutch and put on her D&G shades.

Good grief. I was in a tee shirt and jean shorts. I was tidy, but not all done up, like Lindsay.

“Now,” she said through all her lipstick and makeup, “Now I am ready to go.”

“You're going to go through the forest in that?” Roselle said, her eyes wide.

“Yes, Roselle.” Lindsay said impatiently. “I am.” She clonked noisily in her shoes over to the porch steps, descended them, and immediately tripped on the sand and nearly fell.

Carrie laughed.

“SHUT U-” started Lindsay, but was cut off by Mom. “Lindsay!” said Mom. “No.”

Lindsay glowered at Carrie.

And it was so. Lindsay tromped the whole five-minute walk to the neighbor's in her fancy clothes, through the dense undergrowth and briars and mud. By the time we emerged on the other side of the woods, Lindsay looked very bedraggled. Her hair was mussed and falling out, her dress was spattered with dirt, and her shoes were caked with mud. Needless to say, she wasn't very happy. . . .

“I can't go in looking like this!” Lindsay said. “Well, I'm sorry, dear.” said my mother. “You chose to dress so, and now you've got to pay the consequences. Sorry.”

“Mom,” said Roselle, “Is that the neighbor's house?” We were at the treeline, emerging from the woods. Roselle was pointing to a cozy, little brown cottage with a slate roof. Tropical flowers danced up cheerfully around the porch, and there was a tidy shelled path leading up to the front door.

We all stood there, looking around. Birds chirped in nearby bushes.

Suddenly, the front door to the little cottage creaked open, and a small, sharp face peered around it. The face turned back to the house.

“Julia,” she said in a thick British accent, “Who's here?”

A woman, apparently Julia, stepped out the door, followed the other girl. “Hi, you must be the neighbors.” Julia said in an American accent, breathing out the words in a peaceful, calming way. Julia was a small, thin woman, with dark hair pulled back into a tight bun. She had kind eyes and was wearing an apron with a Kiss the Baker logoprinted on it. She was middle-aged and had sharp, protruding cheekbones.

“Oh, Em.” said Julia, turning to the girl behind her. “I must have forgotten to tell you. I invited them over.”

The girl, Em, was tiny and thin like Julia. She had deep, green eyes that looked like pools of emeralds. Her black hair bounced loosely around her shoulders. Her sharp, cruel eyes glazed critically over the visitors.

“Em,” said Julia, “How about you introduce yourself properly?”

Em shook her head, whirled around, and banged back into the house.

“I'm sorry.” said Julia to my mother. “I don't know what to do with that child anymore.” Julia's hands were trembling, and she was twiddling with them nervously in front of her apron.

“That's all right.” said my mother, smiling warmly. “I've got children too.”

We stood for a moment. Then my mother stuck out her hand to Julia. “Caroline Arlington.” she smiled.

Julia gratefully took the handshake. “Julia. Julia Graven.”

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