Along for the ride sarah dessen pdf

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About the Book: Along for the Ride Book. Author: Sarah Dessen. Publisher: Speak; English Language edition. Publish date: April 5, Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors and “Along for the Ride” is a main reason why. .. It can be found in PDF format online. *Recommended by Mr. Get the along for the ride sarah dessen form. Description of along for the ride pdf. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen Sarah s new title WHAT HAPPENED.

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Also by Sarah Dessen That Summer Someone Like You Keeping the Moon Dreamland . But by the time I came along, my brother—the most colicky of babies. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen. CHAPTER ONE. The e-mails always began the same way. Hi Auden!! It was the extra exclamation point that got me. Read Along for the Ride online free from your iPhone, iPad, android, Pc, Mobile. Along for the Ride is a Young Adult novel by Sarah Dessen.

After a second, it opened a crack, and Heidi looked out at me. Clearly, though, my instincts had been right: Now she was making a studied point of not looking at me as she hit a button on the register, then pulled out a stack of bills, straightening them. Or there was the one about my dad, and how he. The bigger issue, though, was what had inspired this sudden burst of Good Samaritan behavior on my part?

That's how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn't seen in ten years, and Cora's husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future--it's a dream come true.

So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give? Along for the Ride. It's been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents' divorce - or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live. A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother.

Just come anytime. Love, Heidi and your dad, and the baby-to-be! Just reading these missives exhausted me. Partially it was the excited grammar—which was like someone yelling in your ear—but also just Heidi herself. She was just so. And annoying. My mother claimed not to be surprised. Their courtship was quick, the implantation as my mother christened it happening within a couple of months. Victoria West and author of one well-received novel, now more known for his interdepartmental feuds than his long-in-progress follow-up—to a new husband and father-to-be.

Add all this to his also-new position as head of the creative writing department at Weymar College, a small school in a beachfront town, and it was like my dad had a whole new life. Now, from the other room, I heard a sudden burst of laughter, followed by some clinking of glasses. I glanced at the clock—ten thirty—then eased my bedroom door open with my toe, glancing down the long hallway to the kitchen.

Sure enough, I could see my mom sitting at the head of our big butcher-block kitchen table, a glass of red wine in one hand. Gathered around her, as usual, were a bunch of male graduate students, looking on adoringly as she went on about, from the little bit I could gather, Mar lowe and the culture of women.

This was yet another of the many fascinating contradictions about my mom. Partly, it was because so many of them were jealous: For these reasons, and others, female students seldom came to these gatherings, and if they did, they rarely returned. If you can call it payment. I could, um, coauthor it with you, if you like.

Idiot, I thought, nudging the door back shut. As if it was that easy to align yourself with my mom, form some quick and tight bond that would last. I would know. Ten minutes later, I was slipping out the side door, my shoes tucked under my arm, and getting into my car. Over time, she became one of the most popular professors in the department, was hired on for a full-time position, and banged out a second, then a third book, all while my father looked on. He claimed to be proud, always making jokes about her being his meal ticket, the breadwinner of the family.

The fights always seemed to begin over dinner, with one of them making some small remark and the other taking offense. There would be a small dustup—sharp words, a banged pot lid—but then it would seem resolved.

After a while I figured out that this time lag occurred because they were waiting for me to fall asleep before really going at it. So I decided, one night, not to. I left my door open, my light on, took pointed, obvious trips to the bathroom, washing my hands as loudly as possible.

And for a while, it worked. But by then my body was used to staying up way late, which meant I was now awake for every single word. I knew a lot of people whose parents had split up, and everyone seemed to handle it differently: The common denominator, though, was always that there was a lot of discussion about these feelings, either with both parents, or one on one separately, or with a shrink in group or individual therapy.

My family, of course, had to be the exception. I did get the sit-down-we-have-to-tell-you-something moment. The news was delivered by my mother, across the kitchen table as my dad leaned against a nearby counter, fiddling with his hands and looking tired.

What struck me, as we sat there, the three of us, in that room, was how little I felt. Small, like a child. Which was the weirdest thing. Like it took this huge moment for a sudden wave of childhood to wash over me, long overdue. He was still exhausting them, albeit from another continent, wandering around Europe and sending only the occasional e-mail detailing yet another epiphany concerning what he should do with his life, followed by a request for more money to put it into action.

At least his being abroad made all this seem more nomadic and artistic: It just sounded better. If Hollis was a big kid, I was the little adult, the child who, at three, would sit at the table during grown-up discussions about literature and color my coloring books, not making a peep.

They took me to the symphony, art shows, academic conferences, committee meetings, where I was expected to be seen and not heard.

There was not a lot of time for playing or toys, although I never wanted for books, which were always in ample supply. Because of this upbringing, I had kind of a hard time relating to other kids my age.

It was smaller and more academically rigorous, although not nearly as much as Kiffney-Brown, the charter school to which I transferred junior year. Founded by several former local professors, it was elite—a hundred students, max—and emphasized very small classes and a strong connection to the local university, where you could take college-level courses for early credit.

While I had a few friends at Kiffney-Brown, the ultracompetitive atmosphere, paired with so much of the curriculum being self-guided, made getting close to them somewhat difficult. Not that I really cared. School was my solace, and studying let me escape, allowing me to live a thousand vicarious lives. And while they were proud of me, my accomplishments never seemed to get me what I really wanted.

The ride for sarah dessen pdf along

But by the time I finally realized that, succeeding was already a habit too ingrained to break. My dad moved out at the beginning of my sophomore year, renting a furnished apartment right near campus in a complex mostly populated by students. It looked warm, safe almost, populated by people who at least I had one thing in common with. So I pulled in, went inside, and ordered a cup of coffee and some apple pie. I stayed until sunrise. Nobody was asking for more than I wanted to give, and all the interactions were short and sweet.

If only all relationships could be so simple, with me always knowing my role exactly. Back in the fall, one of the waitresses, a heavyset older woman whose name tag said JULIE, had peered down at the application I was working on as she refilled my coffee cup.

Then she looked at me. But I still kind of wondered, that night and so many others, what I was missing. But just as quickly, it would pass, everything settling back into place around me. My stepsister, Thisbe Caroline West, was born the day before my graduation, weighing in at six pounds, fifteen ounces.

My father called the next morning, exhausted. The poor girl. Detram Hollis was a professor my dad greatly admired, while W. Auden was his favorite poet. He was a bit more obscure, and if someone knew of him, then I could be at least somewhat sure they were worth my time and energy, capable of being my intellectual equal.

I figured this might be even more true for Thisbe, but instead of saying so I just sat down with my speech notes, flipping through them again. After a moment, she pulled out a chair, joining me. He almost killed me. The craziness that was his colic, how he had to be walked constantly and, even then, screamed for hours on end. Or there was the one about my dad, and how he. And forget about him getting up for night feedings.

He claimed that he had sleep issues and had to get his nine hours in order to teach. Awfully convenient, that.

A moment later, though, she put them aside without comment. If anything, you get more set in your ways as you get older, not less. You go rest. Anybody at all. I picked up my cards, carefully arranging them back in order. It was like she was frozen, still back in that old bedroom, still waiting, at least until I got down the hallway. Then, suddenly, she spoke. She was right, of course. She always was. Suddenly, though, it was summer, and there was nothing to do but wait for my real life to begin again.

I seemed to be the only one thinking about school, a fact made more obvious by the various invitations I received from my old friends at Perkins to dinners or trips to the lake. I wanted to see everyone, but whenever we did get together, I felt like the odd person out. After a few awkward outings, I began to beg off, saying I was busy, and after a while, they got the message. One night, I was deeply into a book about Buddhism when I saw a green Mercedes coming down our street.

It slowed as it neared our mailbox, then slid to a stop by the curb. After a moment, a very pretty blonde girl wearing low-slung jeans, a red tank top, and wedge sandals got out, a package in one hand. She peered at the house, then down at it, then back at the house again before starting up the driveway.

She was almost to the front steps when she saw me. I barely had time to respond before she was heading right to me, a big smile on her face. Of course. She smelled like gardenias and dryer sheets. Straight from Greece! There was an awkward moment, during which I realized she was waiting for me to open the package, so I did. It was a small glass picture frame, dotted with colorful stones: Inside was a picture of Hollis standing in front of the Taj Mahal. He was smiling one of his lazy smiles, in cargo shorts and a T-shirt, a backpack over one shoulder.

They make a memory even more special, you know? I would love to meet her. Hollis adores her, talks about her all the time. She glanced at me, and I smiled. Long black hair, in the green dress. It was only later, when the e-mails and calls stopped, when he seemingly vanished off the face of the earth, that we saw the other side: But you never knew. I sat in my room, idly checking myUme. Something in these words, and his easy, smiling face, reminded me of the chatter of my old friends as they traded stories from the school year.

Not about classes, or GPAs, but other stuff, things that were as foreign to me as the Taj Mahal itself, gossip and boys and getting your heart broken. I looked at my brother again, backpack over his shoulder. Travel certainly did provide some kind of opportunity, as well as a change of scenery. But I could still go somewhere. Without letting myself think too much, I typed a quick reply, as well as a question.

Within a half hour, he had written me back. Absolutely you should come! Stay as long as you like. And just like that, my summer changed. The next morning, I packed my car with a small duffel bag of clothes, my laptop, and a big suitcase of books. But as I came into the kitchen, I found her clearing the table of a bevy of wineglasses and crumpled napkins, a tired look on her face. The last car had pulled out of the driveway around one thirty.

She looked over her shoulder at my bags, piled by the garage door. Are you that eager to get away from me? Factor my dad into the equation, though, and things changed. They always did. At his age! I will require regular updates. From Greece. With a picture of Hollis in it.

Suddenly, it all made sense: I considered picking the glasses up, making sure she saw me, just to make a point of my own. Cute, painted white with green shutters, it had a wide front porch dotted with rocking chairs and potted flowers and a friendly yellow ceramic pineapple hanging from the door, that said WELCOME!

All that was missing was a white picket fence. As soon as I cut my engine I could hear the ocean, loud enough that it had to be very close. Sure enough, as I peered around the side of the house, all I could see was beach grass and a wide swath of blue, stretching all the way to the horizon. The view aside, I had my doubts.

Would there be group manicures for me, her, and the baby? I took a deep breath, then got out. As I started up to the front porch, I told myself that no matter what Heidi said or did, I would just smile and roll with it. I rang the doorbell, then stepped back, arranging my face into an appropriately friendly expression. Reaching down, I tried the knob: I stepped inside, shutting the door behind me.

It was only then that I heard it: I followed it down the hallway, as it got louder and louder, expecting to see an open window or back door.

Instead, I found myself in the living room, where the noise was deafening, and Heidi was sitting on the couch, holding the baby in her arms. At least, I thought it was Heidi. Her hair was pulled up into a messy, lopsided ponytail, with some strands stuck to her face, and she had on a ratty pair of sweatpants and an oversize U T-shirt, which had some kind of damp stain on one shoulder.

Her eyes were closed, her head tipped back slightly. When she spotted me, though, her expression changed to surprise. And then, just like that, she was crying. I forgot you were. I took a panicked look around the room, wondering where my dad was. Only then did I realize that the incredibly loud ocean sound I was hearing was not coming from outside but instead from a small white noise-machine sitting on the coffee table.

Who listens to a fake ocean when the real one is in earshot? It was one of many things that, at that moment, made absolutely no sense. Her eyes were rimmed with dark circles: Not that I had time to dispute it, as right then my dad walked in, carrying a tray of coffees and a small brown paper bag.

He was in his typical outfit of rumpled khakis and an untucked button-down, his glasses sort of askew on his face. When he taught, he usually added a tie and tweedy sport jacket. His sneakers, though, were a constant, no matter what else he was wearing. As he pulled me close, I looked over his shoulder at Heidi, who was biting her lip, staring out the window at the ocean.

This is Thisbe. Her eyes were shut, and she had tiny, spiky eyelashes. One of her hands was sticking out of her blanket, and the fingers were so little, curled slightly around one another.

She looked up at us, blinked, and then, just like her mom, suddenly began to cry. Thisbe cried a little louder. When my father handed Thisbe over, she swiveled back to the windows, almost robotlike as the crying grew louder, then louder still. He opened the paper bag, pulling out a muffin, then offering it to me. I shook my head. He brushed them off with one hand, then kept eating. The first couple of months are just hard. I remember with Hollis, your mom was just about to go out of her mind.

Of course, he was incredibly colicky. And his appetite! Good Lord. Looking left, I could see a few more houses, then what appeared to be some sort of boardwalk lined with businesses, as well as a public beach, already crowded with umbrellas and sunbathers. We can catch up over dinner, later. That sound good? My dad shook his head, then reached down, turning it off with a click: As we walked down the hallway, we passed an open door, through which I could see a pink wall with a brown polka-dot border.

Inside, it was silent, no crying, at least that I could hear. My dad pushed open the next door down, then waved me in with one hand. Though the room was tiny, with a twin bed, a bureau, and not much room for anything else, the lone window looked out over an undeveloped area of land, nothing but sea grass and sand and water.

It was originally my office. The mornings have been really productive for me lately. It was A moment after he passed the door to the pink-and-brown room, I heard the door click shut. I woke up at six thirty that evening to the sound of a baby crying. Crying, actually, was too tepid a word. Thisbe was screaming , her lungs clearly getting a serious workout. And while it was merely audible in my room, with just a thin wall between us, when I went out in the hallway in search of a bathroom to brush my teeth, the noise was deafening.

I stood for a second in the dimness outside the door to the pink room, listening to the cries as they rose, rose, rose, then fell sharply, only to spike again, even louder. There was something so familiar about this, it was like a tug on my subconscious.

Hearing it now, though, felt strange, as I was used to the sound being private, only in my head and the dark around me, so I moved on. Their onion rings are legendary. And get me a cheeseburger and some of those onion rings.

I really appreciate it. After a second, it opened a crack, and Heidi looked out at me. She looked more haggard than before, if that was even possible: What would you like? I nodded.

I had it all planned, chicken and vegetables, and everything. She leaned closer, clearly not having heard this. She started to speak, then stopped herself, taking a deep breath. Thankfully, outside the house it was much quieter. There was a narrow boardwalk, lined with various shops: There were racks of T-shirts and jeans, a makeup and body lotion section, and a dark-haired girl in a pink dress examining her fingernails behind the register, a cell phone clamped to her ear.

Just before it, there was one last store, a bike shop. A bunch of guys around my age were gathered on a battered wooden bench outside, talking and watching people pass by. Energy, you know? Like, say, Zoom Bikes. Or Overdrive Bikes. Just as I did, the third guy suddenly turned, and our eyes met. He had dark hair, cut short, incredibly tanned skin, and a broad, confident smile, which he now flashed at me.

I could feel him looking at me, still smiling, as I put more and more distance between us. If my experience with friends was sparse, what I knew about boys—other than as competitors for grades or class rank—was nonexistent. Back at Jackson, there was a guy in my science class, hopeless at equations, who always made my palms sweat whenever we got paired for experiments. But it was a compliment, in its own way. I gave my order to a dark-haired, pretty girl with a lip ring, then took a seat by the window to wait for it.

Glancing down the boardwalk, I could see the guys still gathered around the bench: It took a while for the food to be ready, but I soon realized my dad was right.

It was worth the wait. I was digging into the onion rings before I even got out the door to the boardwalk, which by then was crowded with families eating ice-cream cones, couples on dates, and tons of little kids running along the sand.

In the distance, there was a gorgeous sunset, all oranges and pinks, and I kept my eyes on it as I walked, not even looking over at the bike shop until I was almost past it. The guy was still there, although now he was talking to a tall girl with red hair, who was wearing a massive pair of sunglasses.

I was shaking ketchup packets out into a pile when my dad came downstairs. She probably wants to get her to sleep first. I stood there for a second, watching as he ate another ring, tugging a nearby newspaper over with his free hand. Thisbe was still crying: When I got to the pink room, the door was ajar, and inside I could see her sitting in a rocking chair, her eyes closed, moving back and forth, back and forth.

I was understandably hesitant to bother her, but she must have smelled the food, because a beat later, she opened her eyes. She was still rocking, the motion almost hypnotic, although clearly not to Thisbe, who continued to cry at full volume.

Just as I thought this, though, Heidi looked up at me again. All the girls at my shop hang out there at night. You should go check it out. It has to be better than this, right? I appreciate it. But she was still looking at the baby, her face weary, so I took this as a dismissal and left, shutting the door behind me. Downstairs, my dad was finishing his dinner, perusing the sports section.

When I slid into a chair opposite him, he looked up at me and smiled. Baby asleep? I picked up my burger, taking a bite: I sat there, chewing, as he popped the top, took a sip, and looked out at the water. Not much you can do except wait it out. Right at that moment, though, I could see why someone might not like him that much. She seems pretty tired. Heidi and I will work it out. And he was right. This was his house, I was a guest here. It was presumptuous to show up and just assume I knew better, based on only a few hours.

Funny how intonation could do so much, change even what something was at its core. I was bored, and Thisbe was still hollering.

I unpacked my clothes, tried to crack my future Econ textbook, and cleaned out all the messages on my phone. All of which took about forty minutes. At that point, with the baby still crying—still crying! I just wanted some air, a break from the noise, and a chance to process whatever it was that had happened between my dad and me earlier that evening. But after I walked in the opposite direction from the boardwalk for about a block, the sidewalk ended in a cul-de-sac, a bunch of parked cars crowded along the edges.

A path was visible off to one side, and I could see light in the distance. Probably a mistake, I thought, but then I thought of Hollis in that picture frame, and followed it anyway. It wound through some beach grass and over a couple of dunes, then opened up to a wide swath of sand. From the look of it, it had once been all beach, until erosion or a storm or both created a peninsula of sorts, where now a bunch of people were gathered, some sitting on driftwood that was piled up in makeshift benches, others standing around a firepit where a good-size blaze was going.

A large truck was parked off to one side, a keg in the bed, and I recognized the tall, skinny guy from the bike shop sitting beside it. When he saw me, he looked surprised, then glanced over at the fire. He was talking to two girls—the redhead from earlier and a shorter girl with black hair, braided into pigtails—gesturing widely with his free hand.

I jumped out of the way just as he blasted by, rounding the dune and shooting onto the flatter sand of the beach.

I was still trying to catch my breath when I heard the clatter of pedals, and two more bikes emerged from the dark of the path, the riders—a blond guy, and a girl with short, cropped hair—laughing and talking with each other as they zoomed past. Jesus, I thought, stepping back again, only to feel myself collide squarely with something.

Or someone. When I turned, I found myself facing a tall guy with longish dark hair pulled back at his neck, wearing a worn blue hoodie and jeans. He glanced at me quickly—his eyes were green, and deep set—barely seeming to register my face. I hardly needed another sign that it was time to turn back. As I went to do just that, though, I heard a voice from behind me. The redhead and the girl with pigtails were now standing by the keg, watching disapprovingly as he walked toward me.

But I knew my mother, and her techniques, by heart. He grinned. His smile—bright, wide, verging on goofy—was his best trait, and he knew it. Let me get you a beer. Not when Jake first asked it, as I pulled away from him, gathering my shirt around me, and stumbled over the dunes back to the path. My lips felt full and rubbed raw, the closure of my bra, hurriedly snapped, digging into the skin of my back as I let myself in the side door, shutting it behind me.

I crept upstairs, down the dark hallway, glad to hear nothing but my own footsteps. Finally, Thisbe was asleep. After a long, hot shower, I put on some yoga pants and a tank top, then settled into my room, opening my Econ textbook again. But even as I tried to focus on the words, the events of the night came rushing back to me: Maybe my mom could play the aloof, selfish bitch.

Until the game was up. I was a smart girl. Why had I done something so stupid? I felt tears fill my eyes, the words blurring on the page, and pressed my palm to my face, trying to stop them. No luck. Instead, they were contagious: She kept on for an hour, long after my own tears had stopped and dried. Or that I just needed a distraction from my own problems. I just pushed the door open, and Heidi, her face ragged, streaked with its own tears, looked up at me from the rocking chair.

Hm... Are You a Human?

Even after the hours of crying, and her clear and present exhaustion, she still hesitated. She was so, so small. And writhing, which made her seem all the more fragile, although with all the screaming she had to have some strength to her somewhere. Her skin was warm against mine, and I could feel the dampness at the base of her neck, the hair wet there. Poor baby, I thought, surprising myself. She pushed herself out of the chair, sniffling past me and down the hallway to her room.

Which left me alone with Thisbe, who was still screaming. For a little while, I just tried to walk her: Then I noticed the stroller, parked by the door. It was about five when I strapped her in, still hollering, and began to push her down the driveway. No way, I thought, pausing myself and looking down at her. A beat passed, and then I watched her draw in a breath and start up again, louder than before. I quickly began pushing her once more, and after a few turns of the wheels. I picked up the pace and turned out onto the street.

By the time we got to the business district she was asleep under her blanket, eyes closed, face relaxed. Ahead of us, the boardwalk was deserted, a brisk breeze blowing across it. All I could hear was the ocean and the stroller wheels clacking beneath my feet. They were in a spot where the boardwalk opened up to the beach, and I watched, squinting, as they went up on their front wheel, hopping for a few feet, then easing back down, spinning the handlebars.

Then they were pedaling backward, zigzagging, before suddenly speeding forward, banking off a nearby bench, then down again.

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The movements were fluid, almost hypnotic: I thought of Heidi in the rocking chair, and Thisbe asleep in the stroller, the subtle, calming power of motion. This time, though, I was taking him by surprise, which was made obvious by the way he jerked, skidding to a clumsy stop when he suddenly spotted us standing not ten feet from him.

In fact, we both just stood there, looking at each other. She quieted immediately but kept her eyes open, looking at the sky overhead. Almost haunted, although why that word came to mind, I had no idea. No good-bye, no nothing, just a spin of the handlebars, and then he was rising up on the pedals and riding away from us.

Instead of a straight line, he moved down the boardwalk from side to side, zigzagging slowly, all the way to the end.

Along for the Ride

A pat of butter sat next to it, like an accessory. Her voice was flat, serious. It was like a miracle. All this fussing over a person, it just smacked of desperation to me. Then I peeled back the muffin wrapper, taking a bite instead of responding. Wait, are you okay? Are you crying? What was it about the women in this town? Was everyone emotional?

No, no, of course. Well, it should be in the office, right in that left-hand drawer. Well, let me think. God, how did that happen? I took a gulp of my coffee, then another one, just as Thisbe began to chime in as well.

I wondered if emotions were like menstrual cycles, if you got enough women together. Give it time, and everyone was crying. Just tell the delivery guy. Is there enough cash in the drawer? Well, can you check? Heidi sighed. I have to run the checkbook down to the store.

Why did she always have to make everything so complicated? Fine , I guess you do know more about what the publishing industry wants. Heidi glanced over at me, surprised, but not nearly as much as I was myself. My mother would be disgusted, I thought.

I knew I was. But we went out for, like, two years. We were serious, as serious as things like that can be. So some days, like today. Are you here to help with the baby? Although I thought Heidi was naming her Isabel or Caroline? But maybe I was wrong. Here, Ramon, you want one? I shook my head, and she helped herself. Although it is handy to have it here, but at the same time.

Behind the jeans, tucked away against a back wall, were some bathing suits on sale, so I started picking through them. Your favorite. They just got dropped at the newsstand, like, ten minutes ago. I glanced over, but because of the rack of suits, my view was blocked: There was a pause. I thought we agreed we were going to break it to her gently. Who was it? I mean, how.

Who was she? Stupid Heidi and her stupid checkbook, I thought, burying myself more deeply into the nearby one-pieces. I bet she was a blonde. Was she a blonde? I peered out from behind the rack of suits, by this point not surprised at all to see the redhead and the girl in the pigtails from the bonfire.

Taller than you, but kind of bony. I felt myself flinch, hearing this. First, I was not bony. And okay, so I had a couple of zits, but they were temporary, not a condition. And anyway, who were they to say— Suddenly, the bathing suit rack before me parted right down the middle, like the Red Sea.

And just like that, with a clattering of hangers, I found myself face-to-face with Maggie. Beside her, Esther slapped a hand over her mouth. Then she dropped her hands from the suits on the rack, letting them flop to her sides. You know he is. If you think about it, this is probably the best thing that could have happened.

And now you have to let go. She kind of did you a favor, if you really think about it. Thinking this, I emerged from behind the suits and started for the door. I knew that. Still, I slowed my steps, turning back to her. Just tell me. She kept her gaze on me a moment longer. Then she picked up the checkbook, walking over and holding it out to me. Maybe in the world of girls, this was supposed to be a turning point.

So I took the checkbook, nodded, and walked out the door, leaving them—as I had so many other groups—to say whatever they would about me once I was gone. Even without looking at it, I knew it had to be my mom. First, because it was her favorite time to make phone calls, right at the start of cocktail hour.

You should see the view. How is your father? She always just knew. He was either in his office working, in his bedroom sleeping, or in the kitchen grabbing a quick bite, en route to one or the other. So much for my visions of us hanging out and bonding, sharing a plate of onion rings and discussing literature and my future. Been to the beach today? It sucked. What was worse, though, was that if my father was nonexistent, Heidi was everywhere.

If I went to get coffee, she was in the kitchen, feeding the baby. Clearly, she was lonely. I was accustomed to being alone: I liked it. But for some reason, I did. And all her muffins and chatter and over-friendliness just made it worse. I could have told my mother all of this. After all, it was exactly what she wanted to hear. But to do so, for some reason, seemed like a failure. I mean, what had I expected, anyway?

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So I took a different tack. Is he helping Heidi out with her? I could hear her satisfaction. Have you seen your father change a diaper? This was like being painted into a corner, stroke by stroke. And I have several articles expected by various journals, my trip to Stratford coming up, and, of course, entirely too many dissertations that clearly cannot be completed without a large amount of hand-holding. These graduate students, I swear, it just never ends.

Yep, I wanted to say. Then she laughed. Funny how my mom could see through me entirely, but Hollis takes off for Amsterdam with some people he just met, spins it into a career move, and she goes for it hook, line, and sinker. Just then, there was a knock on my door. When I opened it, I was surprised to see my dad standing there.

Her voice was clear through the receiver, a fact made more apparent by the way my dad winced. My dad sighed. My dad opened the door, and she pushed the baby out as she kept talking. I did the payroll myself, and we had plenty of money in the account. It just. The bank would know.

She smiled at him, stepping aside as he began to push Thisbe along. But then, today, suddenly. At the latest. My dad reached over, grabbing her by the waist and pulling her closer, then planted a kiss on her cheek. All that work stuff will still be there on Monday. She glanced at it, then put it to her ear. Look, are you at the branch just down from the shop?

Who insisted that I stop working, and have a family dinner out? I glanced at Heidi: This will only take a few minutes. Twenty minutes later, just as we were about to be seated at Last Chance, Thisbe woke up and started fussing. At first, it was a low, rumbling sort of crying, but then it began to escalate.

By the time the hostess arrived and began to grab menus for us, she was pretty much screaming. Thisbe kept wailing. Auden, can you. As Thisbe kept crying, though, now attracting the attention of pretty much everyone around us, he shot me another, more panicked look, and I realized he wanted me to jump in. Which was ridiculous. Even worse? I did it. Because that was going to happen anytime soon.

I watched her face for a while, scrunched up and reddening, before glancing back into the restaurant. Past the hostess station, down a narrow aisle, I could see my dad, at a table for four, a menu spread out in front of him. I swallowed, then ran a hand over my face, closing my eyes. My dad was still selfish and inconsiderate, and I was still not wanting to believe it, even when the proof was right in front of me.

Maybe we were all destined to just keep doing the same stupid things, over and over again, never really learning a single thing. Beside me, Thisbe was now screaming, and I wanted to join in, sit back and open my mouth and let the years of frustration and sadness and everything else just spill forth into the world once and for all.

But instead, I just sat there, silent, until I suddenly felt someone looking at me. As he did, I took the opportunity to do the same to him, taking in his tanned skin and green eyes, shoulder-length dark hair pulled back messily at the back of his neck, the thick, raised scar that ran up one forearm, forking at the elbow like a river on a map. Which for some reason, God only knew why, made me feel like I needed to keep talking. The second was how amazingly at ease he seemed with her, more than me and my dad and even Heidi, combined.

By the fourth, she abruptly stopped her protests, a weird look of calm spreading over her face. I just stood there, looking at him. Who was this guy? Sullen stranger? Trick biker? Baby whisperer? Thisbe blinked, then burst into tears.

You would not believe the mess I have to deal with at work. The checkbook is all out of order, somehow I missed a deposit or something, thank God the girls are so understanding. Why did she have to make everything such a big deal? Which was why I barely responded as Eli nodded at me before crossing the boardwalk and pushing the door open to the bike shop, disappearing inside.

His brother, Jake, is about your age, I think. He went out with Maggie until just recently. Awful breakup, that was.

I thought, my face flushing. How small was this freaking town, anyway? What do you think? I knew it, and yet I still turned and walked away, leaving her and the baby, still crying, behind me. But I could have sworn the sound followed me, hanging on, filling my ears even through the crowd on the boardwalk, into the restaurant, all the way down the narrow aisle to the table where my dad was already eating.

He took a look at my face, then pushed a menu over to me as I slid into the booth across from him. And when the onion rings arrived a few minutes later, I tried to do just that. Still good. But not great like before. I knew from experience when a fight was over and when it had only just begun.

So I stayed gone after dinner, taking a walk on the beach and the longest way home. Not long enough, though: You asked me to stop working and come to dinner. I did that. That was your choice. From the sound of it, this was happening just inside, and the last thing I wanted was to walk into the middle of it.

Then, nothing. You knew that. Or a babysitter. I just need an hour here or there. This one I welcomed, though, as sometimes a question can hurt more than an answer. My dad never said a sentence when he could go on for a paragraph. So I dug my keys out of my pocket and got into my car. I stayed gone for three hours, driving up and down the streets of Colby, circling up to the college, down to the pier, then back again.

It was too small a place to really get lost in, but I did my best.