Now that the circus is over, Davy seems to remember he was talking to me.

“So anyways, cowgirl, you’re still invited. Remember?” He holds up a finger to his lips and winks at me. It takes me a second to realize that he’s talking about the bonfire. I guess. Who really can tell when it comes to this idiot. I don’t respond, and he doesn’t notice. He and his buds are already distracted by the next thing—another car, this time full of more dudes. They race to go meet them. Thank God. I’m totally embarrassed to be on the same beach as these morons. They’re bringing society down by several pegs, just breathing the same air as us.

“Go far, far away, please,” I mutter.

“You know him?” Wanda asks, suddenly very concerned in a cop sort of way.

Now my dad’s concerned too—in a father sort of way.

“No, no,” I say, waving my hand. “He knows someone I work with.”

“Porter Roth?” Dad says. “I thought he was a security guard, not a beach bum.”

Guess that’s where I picked up that phrase. “He is. I mean, he’s not,” I say. Oh, crap. I don’t want my dad associating the two of them together. “Porter’s not like Davy. I don’t even know if they’re really friends anymore. I ran into Davy on the boardwalk and he started calling me cowgirl because I was buying a scarf, and then he invited me to hang out, but that didn’t mean I was going or anything—”

“Whoa,” Dad says. “Slow down.”

“Davy seems like such a dirtbag, ugh.”

Wanda seems satisfied by my answer. “Stay away from him, Bailey. I mean that. He’s trouble. Every time I bust him, he gets off on a technicality. But he’s barely keeping his head above water. I’m talking serious narcotics—not weed or alcohol. He needs help, but his parents don’t care enough to give it to him.”

Jesus. I think about the vintage clothing store and that weird conversation I witnessed—how mad Porter was catching Davy coming out of the shop.

“But Porter isn’t . . . ,” I say, and wish I hadn’t mentioned his name before I can even finish.

“Porter’s okay,” she says, and I hope she doesn’t notice how relieved I am. “At least, I think he is. The Roth family’s been through a lot, but they’re good people. Still, you’d be better off staying away from that crowd. If Porter’s hanging around with Davy, I’d advise you to steer clear and save yourself some grief.” She says this last part more to Dad than me, and he gives her a little nod, like yeah, he understands. Message received.

Death by association. Porter Roth has now got a big red mark against him in my dad’s book. I’m not sure what that means for me, because I don’t even know what’s going on between me and Porter. But if I did want something to be going on, hypothetically, does that mean it’s impossible now?

I do know one thing: telling my dad about the bonfire is out of the question. Because chances that Wanda knows about this little Saturday night hootenanny are pretty good, and he might ask her about it. Problem is, I really want to go now. Grace asked me, and I don’t want to back out. Besides, Porter might be there . . .

But. (Why is there always a but?)

There’s one person I haven’t considered in any of this mess. Alex. Maybe I should ask his opinion. Or at least make an attempt to tell him what’s going on. After all, he’s probably just been carrying on, being his usual awesome self, while I’ve been spending the day wronging him left and right all over town, because I’m a horrible, horrible person. Doesn’t he deserve a say-so in any of this?


@alex: That horoscope prediction you gave me kind of came true in a weird way.

@mink: It did?

@alex: I followed your advice and it worked out. I took a risk and had one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. You were right. It’s good to open yourself up to new things.

@mink: It’s funny you say that, because I was going to ask your advice about whether or not I should do something. (This isn’t about flying out there, by the way. Just so we’re clear. Not saying it won’t happen, but it’s on hold for the moment.)

@alex: My advice is YES. Do it.

@mink: You don’t even know what it is yet.

@alex: And I didn’t know what your horoscope meant, but it worked out. Take a chance, Mink. You helped me; now I’m helping you. Whatever it is you’re thinking about doing, my advice is to just do it. What’s the worst that can happen?

“Nobody ever lies about being lonely.”

—Montgomery Clift, From Here to Eternity (1953)


I don’t work with Porter on my next shift. In fact, I’m not scheduled to work with him again until Saturday—not that I’ve obsessively checked the schedule. But the level of disappointment that hits me when I pick up my till and see Mr. Pangborn’s white hair instead of Porter’s tangle of curls is so crushing, I have to give myself a mental shake. Why am I getting so worked up over a boy? This isn’t like me. At all.

“We’re still on for tonight?” Grace says when Pangborn is escorting us to the Hotbox, merrily whistling what I think is a Paul Simon song. When I hesitate too long, she grabs my orange vest. “Don’t you bail on me, Bailey Rydell.”

“I’m not,” I say, laughing as I push her away. “It’s just complicated. I might need to fib a little to my dad about who we’re hanging out with, so when you pick me up, don’t mention any surfers.”

She wrinkles up her face, and then gives me a whatever look. “Eight o’clock.”

“Eight. I’ll be ready, promise.”

Pangborn does a little shuffling dance outside the ticketing booth door, one hand on his stomach, singing about some guy named Julio down by the school yard. “Yaa da-da-da-da!”

Grace grins. “That must be some fine chronic you got your hands on this morning.”

“Nature’s medicine, my dear,” he corrects, making a quieting signal with his hand as he glances around—probably looking for Cavadini. “Never know who’s listening around here.”

A terrible thought crosses my mind. “You guys don’t have sound on the security cameras, do you?” All the things Porter claims Grace tells him about me . . . what if he’s been listening in on our conversations inside the Hotbox?

“Sound?” Pangborn chuckles. “We barely have sight. No, there’s no sound.”

Sweet baby Jesus. I sigh in relief.

“Why?” he asks.

“Uh . . . I just wondered if you guys were listening in while we gossiped in the Hotbox,” I say, trying to cover up as best I can—and doing a crap job of it.

He chuckles. “No, nothing like that. We can’t hear unless you call us, so gossip away. The system’s old. Hasn’t been upgraded in a decade, in fact. They’re going to have to spend money soon. The offsite company that monitors the alarm system went out of business two weeks ago. Now if anything goes wrong in the middle of the night, all we can do is call the local police.”

“Just call Bailey,” Grace says. “She’ll chase down criminals and jump them.”

I bump her shoulder. “Shut it, Grace Achebe, or I’ll start counting change as slow as Michelle.”

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