Chapter Nineteen

“I’ve got a surprise.” Jase opens the door of the van for me a couple days later. I haven’t seen Tim or Nan since the incident at the B&T, and I’m secretly glad for a break from the drama.

I slide into the van, my sneakers crunching into a crumpled pile of magazines, an empty Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup, various Poland Spring and Gatorade bottles, and lots of unidentifiable snack wrappers. Alice and her Bug are evidently still at work.

“A surprise, for me?” I ask, intrigued.

“Well, it’s for me, but you too, kind of. I mean, it’s something I want you to see.”

This sounds a little unnerving. “Is it a body part?” I ask.

Jase rolls his eyes. “No. Jeez. I hope I’d be smoother than that.”

I laugh. “Okay. Just checking. Show me.”

We drive to Maplewood, two towns over, more run-down than Stony Bay. Jase pulls the van into a parking lot with a huge red, white, and blue sign that says “French Bob’s Used Cars.”

“French Bob?”

“Bob unfortunately thinks that adding ‘French’ makes him sound classier.”

“Got it. So, you’d be French Jase?”

“Oui, oui. Come on. I want you to tell me what you think of her.”


He takes my hand after we climb out of the car, pulling me into the back lot. There are lots and lots of extremely aged vehicles in various states of disrepair, with big white painted lettering on their windshields. I peer at them, noticing that they all say things like “A STEAL AT $3,999!” or “THEY DON’T MAKE ’EM LIKE THIS ANYMORE” or “PURRS LIKE A TIGER CUB.”

We come to a stop in front of a grayish white car with a huge hood and tiny cockpit. The windshield says “THIS SWEET BABY COULD BE YOURS FOR MERE PENNIES.”

“Mere pennies meaning, of course, fifteen hundred bucks,” Jase says. “But isn’t she beautiful?”

I’m no car connoisseur, but his eyes are shining, so I say enthusiastically, “Gorgeous.”

He laughs at me. “I know, not now. But she’s a ’73 Mustang. Picture her with paint instead of primer. Picture her with new seat covers and a leather steering wheel and—”

“Fuzzy dice?” I ask dubiously. “Candy apple–red paint? Leopard-print seat covers?”

Jase shakes his head. “Just who do you think I am today, Samantha? No way. British racing green, of course. And no dice. And, before you ask, no dancing hula girl figurines either.”

“In that case, I love it.”

He grins. “Good. Because I know I can get her working again, and she’s a convertible and I just wanted to make sure you…liked her because…I just wanted to be sure you did.” He pats the hood, ducking his head slightly. “I’ve been saving for this now for four years. I should put it toward college, I know,” he says, as though expecting me to give him a lecture on fiscal responsibility. “But Alice, like, always has the Bug these days. Apparently Brad is a lousy driver. And you and I can’t have all our dates on your roof. Besides, this is such a deal.”

My attention has been caught by one thing. “You’ve been saving for a car since you were thirteen?”

“What? You think that’s weird?”

His smile’s so infectious that I’m returning it before I even begin to answer. “I don’t know. I just thought thirteen-year-olds went for the Xbox first.”

“Joel taught me to drive when I was thirteen—in the beach parking lot in the fall. I just got hooked. That’s why I started learning how to fix things on cars…since I couldn’t legally drive ’em yet. You still think I’m nuts, huh? I can tell.”

“In a good way,” I assure him.

“I can live with that. Now come on, ma chérie, and let’s pay French Bob.”

Bob agrees to have the Mustang towed to the Garretts’ house by Friday. As we climb back into the van, I ask, “Where are you going to work on her?” Already, I too am referring to this car as if it has a gender.

“I’ll just do it in the driveway. Joel takes the cycle to work these days, so that space will be clear. Besides, there’s no room in the garage until my mom has that yard sale she’s been talking about for five years.”

I can already see my mother, hands on hips, glaring through the window at the disabled car and huffing out an impatient breath. “A rusty old wreck now! What next? Plastic flamingos?” I squeeze Jase’s knee, and he instantly covers my fingers with his own, giving me his slow, intoxicating smile. I feel a pang, as though I’m handing over a part of myself I’ve never offered before. And I suddenly remember Tracy worrying about getting in too deep with Flip. It’s only been a few weeks and somehow I seem to have gotten far from shore.

Jase’s schedule is as busy as Mom’s. The hardware store, training, some odd jobs fixing things at the bike shop, delivering lumber…One afternoon after lifeguarding, I’m hesitating on our porch, wondering about calling him, when I hear a whistle and he’s walking up our driveway.

He gives my jacket with its epaulets and stupid crested suit the once-over. I’d been so eager to get out of the B&T that I hadn’t bothered to change. “Admiral Samantha, once again.”

“I know,” I say. “Lucky you, getting to wear anything you want.” I wave my hand at his faded shorts and his untucked forest green oxford shirt.

“But you still look better than me. When does your mom get home today?”

“Late. She’s at some fund raiser at the Bay Harbor Grille.” I roll my eyes.

“Want to come to my house? You allowed to fraternize off-site?”

I tell him to wait two minutes while I ditch the uniform.

When we get to the Garretts’, it is, as usual, a hive of activity. Mrs. Garrett’s breast-feeding Patsy at the kitchen table, quizzing Harry on the names of various rope knots for sailing camp. Duff’s on the computer. George, shirtless, is eating chocolate chip cookies, dreamily dipping them in milk and leafing through National Geographic Kids. Alice and Andy are in an intense discussion over by the sink.

“How do I get him to do it? It’s just killing me. I’m gonna die.” Andy scrunches her eyes shut.

“What are you dying of, dear?” Mrs. Garrett asks. “I missed it.”