This summer might just be the best time of their lives, but is Hadley ready for everything to change - again?
I enter the room, thankful that not many people have shown up yet. Lily is in front of a table at the far corner, talking with Tyler, only recently a rotating regular in our group of friends. Lily cackles about something Tyler says but when she sees me, her expression turns serious.
I can’t deal with questions so I plaster on a smile and walk to them. "Hey Tyler," I give him a one-armed hug. His arm wraps around my waist and stays there.
Lily’s eyes dart to the door then back to me. I shake my head slightly. Not now.
"Did you have fun on the cruise?" Tyler asks.
How could Carter do this? And where would Dad have found a replacement? At the very least he could have warned me last night. My throat constricts as I calculate the number of people in the room. With the last minute change in plans he has to pick someone who is already trained. I rack my brain thinking of who else was at the training.
Tyler clears his throat. "Sounds fun."
I force a laugh. "Sorry. I’m just a bit distracted right now. I’m going to see if my Dad needs any help." And if he has any more surprises for me today.
"I’ll come with!" Lily offers. No doubt she wants more information about what happened with Carter. I don’t have the energy to argue.
The door opens and Dad steps into the room. A herd of others come in right behind him and filter through the rows of chairs to their seats. Carter is the last to enter the room and I turn around, bumping into Lily to get the furthest seat from him. I can’t even look at him.
"Welcome staff!" Dad says. A few of the returning lifeguards cat-call him and Lily offers a loud whistle. "I’m so glad you are all here, and on time," he eyes the stragglers who came in after him. But his smile quickly returns and as much as I’m pissed at him, I can’t help but smile.
"I hope you are hungry because there is more than enough food to go around." His green eyes widen as he takes in the group. "Before we start orientation I’d like for the pool staff to head into the other room with Head Guard, Heath, for your assignments while I partner up the counselors." He runs down the names of the pool staff.
Daisy and Ethan stand from their seats along with a few others I recognize from the training we had during spring break. As much as the two groups work together at the camp, the counselors and pool staff form strong bonds within their groups during the summer.
Carter’s name is called and he slinks out of the room. I don’t look up even though I can feel him looking at me.
"Uh." Lily slaps my arm.
"Yup," I say, heat prickling my neck. "So did I." I glance around the room and note that someone is missing. Each age group is co-ed which warrants a male and female counselor. And without Carter in the room, I’m the odd man out. Fantastic.
With a few minutes to process the situation, and with Carter out of sight, I make a promise that even he can’t ruin the summer for me. I’ll make it fantastic with whoever I’m paired with.
Dad continues. "As for the rest of you," his eyes are on his clipboard, as if he hasn’t memorized the list already, "I’m going to call your assignments."
He’s halfway down the list and hasn’t mentioned my name yet. I sink further into my chair and try to act happy when I hear Lily’s assignment with Aiden, the elusive mid-year transfer to our high school. He floated among the groups at school not picking one, but he was the shiny eye candy for most of the girls. And by the glint in Lily’s eyes, I can tell she's happy with the pairing.
The door to the meeting room opens and Dad’s eyes flick up.
"Are you happy?" I ask Lily.
She turns to me smiling, but her eyes lift to something behind me, and her jaw goes slack. She grabs my arm and squeezes.
"Ow," I say.
"Looks like we’re all here now," Dad says.
I meet Lily’s eyes, nearly popping out of their sockets. "What is wrong with you?" I turn to the newcomer, and all of the pieces fall together.
I take in the apparition in the doorway. My breathing slows and I blink a few times, my mind not quite believing who is only a few feet away from me. In a few steps I could touch the person who shattered my heart into a million pieces nearly two years ago.
My previous next door neighbor, Will Carson, looks the same, but different. His boyish face is a golden brown and the lines are more pronounced. His hair is shorter than I remember, barely touching the tips of his ears. My fingers numb knowing what the strands feel like. Or what they used to. He was thin as a boy, his strength coming in the later years of our friendship. But now his lithe muscles are tight. His chest fills the black t-shirt in a way that elicits a shiver down my spine.
His jaw clenches in that nervous way as he looks around the room. It tightens further when his hazel eyes meet mine.
Katlyn Duncan was born and raised in a small town in western Massachusetts. Her overactive imagination involved invisible friends, wanting to be a Disney Princess and making up her own stories. Her bibliophile mom always encouraged her love of reading and that stayed with her since. Even though she works full time in the medical field Katlyn has always made time for books, whether she is reading or writing them.
Katlyn now lives in southern Connecticut with her husband and adorable Wheaten Terrier and she is thrilled to finally share her stories with the world.