And so, because today is a Friday, here we all are, Tracy, Flip, and me, walking through the imposing oak doors behind Mom. Despite Tracy and Flip’s eternal quest for the gold in the PDA Olympics, Mom loves Flip. Maybe it’s because his dad runs the biggest business in Stony Bay. For whatever reason, since Flip and Tracy started dating six months ago, he always gets to come along for Friday night hornpipe dinner. Lucky guy.

We have our usual table, underneath a gigantic painting of a whaling ship surrounded by enormous whales, stabbed by harpoons but still able to chomp on a few unlucky sailors.

“We need to outline our summer plans,” Mom says when the bread basket comes. “Get a handle on it all.”

“Moth-er! We’ve been through this. I’m going to the Vineyard. Flip has a sweet job teaching tennis for a bunch of families, and I’ve got a house with my friends, and I’m gonna waitress at the Salt Air Smithy. The rental starts up this week. It’s all planned.”

Mom slides her cloth napkin off her plate and unfolds it. “You’ve broached this, Tracy, yes. But I haven’t agreed to it.”

“This is my summer to have fun. I’ve earned that,” Tracy says, leaning over her plate for her water glass. “Right, Flip?”

Flip has wisely attacked the bread basket, slathering his roll with maple butter, and can’t answer.

“I don’t need to be accountable to colleges anymore. I’m in at Middlebury. I don’t need to prove a thing.”

“Working hard and doing well are only about proving something?” Mom arches her eyebrows.

“Flip?” Tracy says again. He’s still finding his roll fascinating, adding even more butter as he continues to chew.

Mom focuses her attention on me. “So, Samantha. I want to be sure you’re all set for the summer. Your Breakfast Ahoy job is how many mornings a week?” She gives the waiter pouring our ice water her charm-the-public smile.

“Three, Mom.”

“Then there are the two days of lifeguarding.” A little crease crimps her forehead. “That leaves you three afternoons free. Plus the weekends. Hmm.” I watch her split a Parker House roll and butter it, knowing she won’t eat it. It’s just something she does to concentrate.

“Mom! Samantha’s seventeen! God!” Tracy says. “Let her have some free time.”

As she’s saying this, a shadow falls on the table and we all look up. It’s Clay Tucker.

“Grace”—he kisses one cheek, the other, then pulls out the chair next to Mom, flipping it around to straddle it—“and the rest of your lovely family. I didn’t realize you had a son.”

Tracy and Mom hasten to correct this misapprehension as the waiter arrives with the menu. Kind of unnecessary to even offer one, since the B&T has had the same Friday night prix fixe dinner menu since dinosaurs roamed the earth in madras and boat shoes.

“I was just saying to Tracy that she should choose something more goal-oriented for the summer,” Mom says, handing her buttered roll to Clay. “Something more directed than having fun on the Vineyard.”

He drapes his arms over the back of the chair and looks at Tracy, head cocked. “I think a nice summer away from home might be just the ticket for your Tracy, Grace—good prep for going away to college. And it gives you more room to focus on the campaign.”

Mom scans his face for a moment, then appears to find some invisible signal there. “Well, then.” She concedes, “Maybe I’ve been too hasty, Tracy. If you can give me the names, numbers, and addresses of these girls you’re sharing a house with, and your hours at work.”

“Gracie.” Clay Tucker chuckles, voice low and amused. “This is parenthood. Not politics. We don’t need the street addresses.”

Mom smiles at him, a flush fanning over her cheekbones. “You’re right. Here I am, getting all het up about the wrong things.”

Het up? Since when does my mother use a phrase like that? Before my eyes, she’s turning into Scarlett O’Hara. Is this going to help her win in Connecticut?

I slide my phone out of my pocket under the table and text Nan: Mom kidnapped by aliens. Pleez advise.

Guess what? Nan types back, ignoring this. I won the Laslo for Literature prize! I get my essay on Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield into the CT State Lit for High School Students Journal!!!!! Daniel got his essay in last year and he says it totally helped him ace MIT!!! Columbia, here I come!

I remember that essay. Nan sweated over it, and I thought the topic was such a strange choice because I know she hates Catcher in the Rye—“All that swearing. And he’s crazy.”

Gr8t! I respond as Mom reaches out for my phone, snapping it shut and tucking it into her purse.

“Samantha, Mary Mason called me today about Tim.” She takes a deliberate sip of water and glances at me, eyebrows lifted again.

This can’t be good. “About Tim” is always code for “disaster” these days.

“She wants me to pull some strings to get him a lifeguard job here. Apparently, the job at Hot Dog Haven didn’t work out.”

Right. Because if you have trouble putting ketchup and mustard on a hot dog, you should totally move on to saving lives.

“The other lifeguard job is available at the club now that they’re opening the Lagoon pool. What do you think?”

Uh, catastrophe? Tim and lifesaving are not exactly a natural combo. I know he can swim well—he was on the team at Hodges before he got expelled—but…

“What?” she asks impatiently as I worry my lip between my teeth.

When I’m lifeguarding, I barely take my eyes off the pool for a second. I imagine Tim sitting in that lifeguard chair and wince. But I’ve been fudging what he’s up to—to his parents, to my mom for years now.…“Mom, he’s kind of—distracted these days. I don’t think—”

“I know.” Her voice is impatient. “That’s the point, Samantha—why something like this would be good for him. He’d need to focus, get out in the sun and the fresh air. Above all, it will look good on his college applications. I’m going to sponsor him.” She reaches for her own cell, giving me her end-of-conversation nod.

“So,” Clay says, smiling at me, Tracy, and Flip. “You guys mind if your mom and I talk shop?”

“Talk away,” Tracy says airily.