Read The boys of summer Online

Authors: C.J Duggan

The boys of summer (page 2)

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Scott hurled the banana peel across the roomand opened his locker as if it wasn’t covered in mush. He threw inhis books and slammed his door shut, casting me a filthy lookbefore storming out. His entourage looked at each other andappeared to be as surprised as I was. Like the mindless zombiesthey were, they quickly scurried after Scott, throwing uncertainglares my way.

I was just about to let my shoulders sag inrelief when I heard it, right next to my ear. The solitary sound ofa slow clap.

Adam.

“Way to go, Tess, way to go!”

It was as if I had just been carried out of afactory by Richard Gere or something.

This was not how I expected the day to go.Although things had taken an unexpected turn that had me smilinginto my opened locker, Scott’s voice echoed in my mind.

“You may have won the battle, Tess, butyou haven’t won the war.”

***

Lunch and the rest of the day passed withsurprisingly little drama. Scott’s banana-rised locker stayed likethat for the rest of the day; I think he was trying to prove apoint or something. The typical boy mentality of not caring, thoughthe look he had thrown me had been chilling. If I knew Scott, itwould be eating him alive.

Ellie and I walked in mirror image, ourthumbs hooked into our backpack straps as we pushed our bodiesforward to balance the weight of our textbooks on our backs. I hadmade sure I had packed up all my valuables from my locker in casethere was a mysterious attack overnight.

Adam circled us on his bike.

“Sooo, have you thought about my businessproposition?”

He wasn’t addressing Ellie, he was addressingme. I knew he was, because I automatically cringed every time heasked the question, which had been every damn day for the pastsemester. I also knew it was directed at me because Ellie, from thevery get-go, had squealed and said, “Count me in!” Traitor!

Adam must have read the look on my face.

“Aw come on, McGee! It’s gonna be awesome!”His circling was making me dizzy.

“I just don’t think I would be any good.”

He rolled his eyes at Ellie. “I thought youpromised to talk some sense in to her?”

“Hey! I’ve been on operation ‘get a rocketunder Tess’ for weeks. I even got her parents involved.”

“Yes, about that.” I stopped walking abruptlyto confront Ellie, nearly causing Adam to fall off his bike.

Ellie gave me her fluttery-eye blink ofinnocence, the very one that probably fooled all the boys. Well, itdidn’t fool me.

“Mum has been giving me hell, saying, ‘Itwill be good for your confidence, Tess’ and, ‘It will give you someextra pocket money for the holidays’ and ‘You might meet some newpeople’.” I repeated every Mum-saying with enough exaggeratedwhining to sound almost authentic. Even to my ears.

Ellie folded her arms. “And all that is sobad because?”

I paused. Because it was out of my comfortzone. I was not good in foreign environments. I wanted to spend thesummer with Ellie and Adam riding down to the lake, watching thefireworks at the show and eating ice cream at the Sunday markets. Iwanted to regain that same essence of past summers and howwonderfully lazy it had all been. Not slaving away at the OnslowHotel.

“It’s not rocket science, Tess,” Adam said.“Come on, it’ll be the three amigos. No parentals. We can play poolall summer long and get paid for it.”

“It will be so fun,” Ellie said, “servingdrinks to hot guys.” Boys were never far from her thoughts.

“Yeah – and cleaning up sticky messes anddirty dishes; sounds like a riot,” I said. “Can’t we just hang outat the lake?”

“We ALWAYS do that.”

“Not last year.”

“Correction – YOU didn’t do it last year; youwere attached to Snotty’s face the whole holidays. WE went to thelake and the market and stuff, and this year we want to dosomething different, don’t we, Adam?”

“Yes, yes we do, and we want to do it withYOU.”

The Onslow Hotel was almost like a tiara ofOnslow in that it was positioned at the very peak of a hilloverlooking the entire town. Ellie and I painfully walked up therea few times, agreeing that ‘Coronary Hill’ was an appropriate namedubbed by the locals. We had learned our lesson and chose forfuture reference to trek the long way around the back roads onbike, swinging around the imposing hotel structure to the quicktrail home. Our bikes had blazed a path downhill as we screamed,our feet on our handlebars. So Adam was predicting awesome timesahead at the Onslow Hotel? I seriously doubted anything with theword ‘Onslow’ in it could ever be connected to awesome.

It was obvious that the fore-founders of ourgrand community severely lacked in the imagination department.Onslow was a small town, population of less than three thousand,nestled in the valley of the Perry Ranges. It would be more in linewith being a retirement village if the rolling hills weren’t thebackdrop to Lake Onslow, a sprawling mass of man-made lakes thatswept as far as the eye could see. Local legend claimed that it wasbottomless, and Lord knows we had tested the theory. So far, itchecked out: we could never touch the bottom.

As students of Onslow High finished up fromschool, we would cut through Onslow Park, walk past Lake Onslowwhere the Onslow Hotel overlooked the town of … oh, what is itcalled? Oh yeah,Onslow!

They looked at me with their pathetic,pleading doe-like eyes.

Even after a full three weeks of having toendure ‘that’ look, I still felt my heart race in anxiety at thethought. I had never had a job before, even though my parents hadnagged and nagged me to get one.

I knew all the answers to the questions I wasabout to ask, but I tentatively asked again, anyway.

“So how many hours?”

“Weekend lunch, twelve to two, and dinner,six to nine.”

I didn’t need to calculate, I had done it athousand times. Adam was good, he didn’t smile or even show anounce of excitement. He was serious and business-like, knowing thatif he was any other way it would scare me off.

“Ten dollars an hour?”

He nodded. “Cash in hand.”

I definitely didn’t need to calculate thateither. I’d had all of my hypothetical money spent for the pastthree weeks.

Ellie wasn’t as diplomatic as Adam, andstarted to bounce on the balls of her feet.

Adam inched closer, maneuvering his bikeright up to me. “Come on, Tess. My uncle wants me to be dish pigfor the holidays, doing it without you guys would make it what itis, a pretty shitty way to spend my weekends. But I don’t know, Ithought if you guys were with me it would be a blast. We alwaysmake our own fun, and just think of it. We can go and blow all ourmoney together on Big Ms and dirty deep-fried chicken wings at theCaltex afterwards.”

That had me frowning in disgust more thananything. He’d been doing so well until now, but suddenly it seemedlike he’d totally forgotten who he was talking to. But I now sawsomething new in Adam’s pleading eyes. He had made it sound like anawesome adventure because his uncle and dad had given him littlechoice for the weekends but to slug it out in dirty dishwater for agood chunk of his holidays. He had sold it to us on the angle ofmoney, free soft drinks and an array of cute boys. Admittedly, itdid definitely have its perks.

But the bigger reason my icy facade hadstarted to thaw was because if I didn’t do it, I would barely getto see my best friends on the weekends, and I wouldn’t be able tojoin in on all the ‘in-jokes’ they would share from all that timetogether over the summer without me. Plus, Ellie would no doubtsnag a cute, new, Onslow-Hotel-visiting boyfriend for the summer,and Adam would be buying everyone chicken wings at the Caltex andwhere would I be? At home, doing chores because my parents wantedto drill some sort of work ethic into me, in some other torturousway as a form of revenge for not getting a summer job with mywork-savvy friends. There would be no ten dollars an hour for thedispleasure either. I thought of one of my mental purchases, a cutelittle summer dress I had spotted in the window of Carters’ clothesshop, and smiled.

I re-adjusted the weight of my backpack as Ilooked down at my foot, tracing a circle in the dirt. I squintedback up at Adam who was waiting intently.

“Does the restaurant have airconditioning?”

Adam broke into a broad smile, like a catthat got the mouse.

“Like a freakin’ igloo.”

Smug bastard, he didn’t need to look sosatisfied with himself. I fought not to smile and looked from himto Ellie, who was acting as if she had a brigade of ants in herpants.

I sighed in defeat. It wasn’t the summer Iwanted, but it was the summer I was stuck with. “Alright.”

“Sorry?” Adam questioned.

“Alright, I’ll do it.”

“Sorry, I didn’t hear you. Can you repeatthat?”

“I’ll do it!” All air was knocked from mewhen a squealing Ellie body slammed me into a bear hug.

Bloody hell.

“Okay. Well, hopefully Uncle Eric will thinkit’s okay. He is pretty desperate, but I can’t promise anything. Ifyou’re lucky, I guess …” Ellie and I set in on him, giving him adual beating in the rib cage, but he preempted the attack and spedoff on his bike, our textbook-filled packs preventing us fromgiving chase.

Adam called back, flashing a winningsmile.

“You won’t regret it! We are going to havethebestsummer!”

Chapter Three

The arrangement had been to meet at theOnslow Hotel for orientation in our spare school period, so wecould get the feel of our surroundings.

Little did we know it was actually an ambushand we were about to be thrown into the deep end. A billowing cloudof steam blew up into Uncle Eric’s face, threatening to melt it offentirely. This was just as disturbing as the loud hissing sound hewas creating in an attempt to froth up milk on the coffee machine.I looked on in horror; how was I expected to be able to master thisbeast of an apparatus? I had never made a cappuccino in my life!Ash teetered on the edge of Uncle Eric’s cigarette as it waveredevery time he spoke.

He was a big, bearded, gruff, biker-lookingkind of fellow, who cared little for his health if the caffeineconsumption and chain-smoking was anything to go by. As far as Iknew, the reason Adam had roped us in to help out was largely dueto Uncle Eric’s wavering health. No doubt it was a bonus that wewere still in school so he could pay us minimum wage off the books.Kind of like a sweatshop for child labour.

He gave us an assessing look.

“We could do with some fresh blood aroundhere. Tess and Ellie will be front-of-house in the restaurant.”

There was a not-too-subtle agenda: Uncle Erictended to work in a way of capitalising on people’s strong pointsso as to attract the right clientele. Little did he know that I wassilently freaking out over a coffee machine, let alone what elsethis job might entail.Just breathe, I told myself.

Just. Breathe.

As if sensing my unease, Adam elbowed me andthrew me a friendly, reassuring smile. Ellie, who was as giddy as aschoolgirl, flashed me her pearly whites as if what Uncle Eric wassaying was truly magical. I felt nauseous with informationoverload. I had only been inside the Onslow a few times for the odddinner gathering, but Mum and Dad were not regular pub goers. Theywere more accustomed to wine and home-based dinners with closefriends than pub hopping.

Now the beast of a coffee machine lay silent,the noise replaced by yet another scary sound: Uncle Eric wheezedout an uncomfortable series of chest-rattling coughs. I folded myarms and fought not to wince as the sound and smoke blew myway.

“Thought you quit that nasty habit, Unc.”

An older version of Adam appeared through thedivider that sectioned the main bar from the restaurant – Chris. Hebrushed past us in the small space, ensuring he slammed Adam hardin the arm as he made his way towards a lower cupboard, crouchingto search for something. They never used to look alike. Adam wentthrough a phase where he thought he was adopted because Chrislooked so much like his parents, but nowadays there was nomistaking the resemblance. Lean, with clear alabaster skin, bigdeep, dark eyes, and dark unruly hair. The main differences werethat Chris kept his hair cropped shorter, he was taller, and heheld himself differently. Adam was a lot more outgoing whereasChris was the far more serious sibling; he tended to go about inlife as if the weight of the whole world rested on hisshoulders.

Chris found an exercise book and flickedthrough it, a crinkle forming between his brows as heconcentrated.

“What habit? Coffee or smoking?” Ericmused.

“Both,” Chris muttered. His brow furrowedfurther as he thumbed each page.

When we arrived to begin our trial at thehotel, Adam had looked forlorn. Not a good sign. Not much seemed toworry Adam, but when I saw Chris behind the bar taking stock ofinventory, I automatically knew the reason behind Adam’s sullenmood without even having to ask. Uncle Eric had chosen Chris tomanage the bar.

Smart move, Uncle Eric.

Knowing what Chris was like, we knew he’d runa tight ship and not give us an inch, especially Adam. Suddenlygoofing off and free pool seemed like an impossible dream. This wasstrike one against the ‘dream job’ I had envisioned. Strike twoquickly followed.

Uncle Eric moved aside.

“Tess, why don’t you make Chris a coffee?Show us what you got.”

Oh God! Why didn’t I pay attention to how hedid it?