Author's Note: I am so sorry this has taken forever! (I was actually just joking when I said summer 2013) I had been rather busy with personal life, exams, essays, and I joined another society last semester and was in the Panto. On top of that I was just inspired by other fandoms especially Jane Austen's Emma. But I'm back and I promise to update regularly as long as I get ten reviews a chapter (I know, I know, I'm such a review whore).
Jake cleared his throat before he opened the third diary. David shifted into another comfortable position while Brad sprawled out on the floor and Helen settled down in Andy's arms as they all watched Jake as he began to read.
"Now this," Gina said, "is the life."
"Gina?" Brad said sitting up quickly. He thought the book would be boring for chapters until Suze gets her arse kicked again.
"Slow down, kid," Jake smirked, "she's not here and even if she was she wouldn't be interested."
"You're lying!" Brad shouted. "She was totally interested in me!"
Jake snorted. "You keep telling yourself that, now if you don't mind I'd like to get back to reading."
Brad grumbled under his breath as Jake began to read again loudly.
I was forced to agree with her. The two of us were stretched out in our bikinis, taking in the rays and balmy seventy-five-degree weather on Carmel Beach. It was March, but you wouldn't have known it by the way the sun was pouring down on us.
Helen sighed blissfully, that sounded perfect.
Well, this was California, after all.
"I mean it," Gina said. "I don't know how you do it every day."
I had my eyes closed. Visions of tall, icy Diet Cokes were dancing in my head. If only they had waiter service on the beach. It was the one thing missing, really. We'd already finished all of the sodas in our cooler, and it was a really long walk up the stairs from the beach to Jimmy's Quick Mart.
"I imagine that Suze wouldn't have this problem if she was actually swimming or something instead of just laying there directly under the sun," David muttered to himself. It was the one thing he couldn't understand about his sister was her strange desire to sunbath all the time.
"Do what?" I murmured.
"Go to school," Gina said, "when you've got this fabulous beach just a mile or so away."
"Great self-restraint," Jake muttered.
"Dad threatening to take away the surf board if I bunk again," was Brad's answer.
"Who wants to go to the beach when there's school?"
"You're such a geek, Dave."
"It is hard," I admitted, my eyes still closed. "But graduating from high school continues to be considered one of life's important achievements. I mean, I've heard that without a high school diploma, one doesn't have a hope of acquiring one of those high-powered service positions at Starbucks that I know I'll be angling for upon graduation."
Helen let out a huge sigh and shook her head. Andy grimaced, "I do hope she has higher ambitions than that," he muttered under his breath. He had high hopes that all four of his children, David with the highest expectations due to his high IQ.
"Seriously, Suze," Gina said. I felt her stir next to me, and opened my eyes. Gina had leaned up on her elbows, and was scanning the beach through her Ray Bans. "How can you stand it?"
"Sheer self-will," Jake muttered.
How, indeed? It was gorgeous. The Pacific stretched out as far as the eye could see, turquoise blue darkening to navy the closer it got to the horizon. The waves were huge, crashing up against the yellow sand, tossing surfers and boogie boarders into the air as if they were pieces of driftwood. To our far right rose the green cliffs of Pebble Beach. To our left, the huge, seal-strewn boulders that were the stepping stones for what eventually turned into Big Sur, a particularly rugged section of the Pacific coastline.
Everyone let out the smallest of sighs as they heard how beautiful their home was. Though Brad was quick to tack on a mutter about how girly Suze sounded.
And everywhere, the sun beat down, burning away the fog that earlier that day had threatened to ruin our plans. It was perfection. It was paradise.
"It certainly is," Helen murmured as she and Andy shared a secret smile.
If only I could have gotten someone to bring me a drink.
The boys snorted.
"Oh, my God." Gina tilted her Ray Bans and peered over the rims. "Check this out."
I followed her gaze through the tortoiseshell lenses of my Donna Karans. The lifeguard, who'd been sitting in his white tower a few yards away from our towels, suddenly leaped from his chair, his orange flotation device clutched in one hand. He landed with catlike grace in the sand, and then suddenly took off toward the waves, his muscles rippling beneath his darkly tanned skin, his long blond hair flowing behind him.
"Urgh," the boys groaned.
Andy grimaced and Helen just smiled dreamily. Hey! Just because she's married doesn't mean she's dead.
Tourists fumbled for their cameras while sun-bathers sat up for a better look. Gulls took off in startled flight, and beachcombers hurried to move out of the lifeguard's way. Then, with his lean, muscular body making a perfect arc in the air, he dove into the waves, only to come up yards away, swimming hard and fast for a kid who was caught in an undertow.
"Oh no," Helen said worriedly, "I hope that child is all right."
To my amusement, I saw that the kid was none other than Dopey, one of my stepbrothers,
Helen's worried expression immediately turned into one of fear as she turned to her middle step-son.
"Were you all right, son?" Andy asked worriedly.
"I was fine," Brad grumbled as his neck flushed pink.
Who'd accompanied us to the beach that afternoon. I recognized his voice instantly, once the lifeguard had pulled him back to the surface, as he vehemently cursed at his rescuer for attempting to save his life, and embarrassing him in front of his peers.
"Bradley Ackerman," Andy growled warningly.
The lifeguard, to my delight, cursed right back at him.
"Good," David muttered, "he shouldn't have to put up with that attitude after just saving someone's life at his own risk."
Gina, who'd watched the drama unfold with rapt attention, said, lazily, "What a spaz."
Clearly, she had not recognized the victim. Gina had, much to my astonishment, informed me that I was incredibly lucky, because all my stepbrothers were so "cool." Even, apparently, Dopey.
All three boys looked rather smug. Jake because he genuinely liked Gina and enjoyed impressing her, David because he has never been considered cool by anyone else, and Brad because he was so obviously cool and Gina should think so no matter what Suze says or does.
Andy just rolled his eyes and muttered something about teenage boys to Helen who giggled.
Gina had never been particularly discriminating where boys were concerned. Now she sighed, and leaned back against her towel.
"That," she said, shoving her sunglasses back into place, "was extremely disturbing. Except for the part when the hot lifeguard ran past us. That I enjoyed."
A few minutes later, the lifeguard came trudging back in our direction, looking no less
Handsome in wet hair than he had in dry.
The boys groaned again.
He swung himself up to his tower, spoke briefly into his radio, probably putting out a B.O.L.O on Dopey: Be On the Look Out for an extremely stupid wrestler in a wetsuit, showing off for his stepsister's best friend from out of town,
Jake and David snickered as Brad flushed a brighter pink colour.
Then returned to scanning the waves for other potential drowning victims.
"That's it," Gina declared suddenly. "I am in love. That lifeguard is the man I am going to
Jake and Brad scowled while David tried hard to not burst out into giggles. Helen simply rolled her eyes she was used to Gina's random love declarations especially when they were watching a movie.
See what I mean? Total lack of discrimination.
"You," I said disgustedly, "would marry any guy in a swimsuit."
Helen let out a small snort and Andy grinned against her hair as David burst out into full on giggles at the image of punk Gina in a punk wedding dress and a random groom in nothing but a small pair of trunks and a matching bow tie.
"That's not true," Gina said. She pointed at a particularly hairy-backed tourist sitting in a Speedo a few yards away with his sunburned wife. "I do not, for instance, wish to marry him."
Helen shuddered as Jake and Brad grimaced and David merely continued to giggle. His face slowly turning bright red as he found more and more difficult to catch his breath.
"Of course not. He's taken."
David began to choke his own giggles with an eye roll Jake patted him on the back before he could catch his own breath.
"All right there, kid?" Jake asked.
"Huh-uh," David nodded.
"Good," Jake said before continuing to read.
Gina rolled her eyes. "You're so weird. Come on, let's go get something to drink."
We climbed to our feet and found our shorts and sandals, then wriggled into them. Leaving our towels where they were, we picked our way across the hot sand toward the steep steps that led up to the parking lot where Sleepy had left the car.
"I want," Gina declared, when we'd reached the pavement, "a chocolate shake. Not one of those fancy gourmet ones they sell around here, either. I want a completely fake, chemically enhanced one, like they have at Mickey D's."
Andy grimaced, "Why?" he said with disgust.
"Yeah, well," I said, trying to catch my breath. It was no joke, climbing up all those steps. And I'm in pretty good shape. I do a kick-boxing tape practically every night. "You're going to have to go into the next town for it because there aren't any fast food places around here."
"Thank God," Andy muttered. Helen rolled her eyes, personally she didn't like fast food either especially since she practically lived on it for a decade but it didn't mean it was the most evil thing on the world like Andy made it out to be.
Gina rolled her eyes. "What kind of hick town is this?" she complained in mock outrage. "No fast food, no traffic lights, no crime, no public transportation."
"It's a lovely town," Helen said defensively, "a perfect place to raise children."
But she didn't mean it. Since her arrival from New York City the day before, Gina had been agog at my new life: envious of my bedroom's glorious ocean view, enraptured by my new stepfather's culinary abilities, and not in the least contemptuous of my stepbrothers' attempts to impress her. She hadn't once, as I'd expected her to, told either Sleepy or Dopey, both of whom seemed to be vying for her attentions, to get lost.
Both brothers grinned while David rolled his eyes. Helen mellowed out now she knew that Gina didn't mean her previous statement.
"Jesus, Simon," she'd said when I'd questioned her about it, "they're hotties. What do you expect me to do?"
"Ew," David muttered.
Excuse me? My stepbrothers, hotties?
"Yeah, we are," Brad said arrogantly.
I think not .
David laughed at his brothers' indignant faces.
Now, if it was hotties you wanted, you didn't have to look any further than the guy who manned the counter at Jimmy's,
"Oh god," Brad muttered. "Can't we have a chapter without Suze eyeing some guy up, if it's not Jesse it's some randomer."
The little convenience store right across from the stairs to the beach. Dumb as an inflatable pool toy, Kurt, that was his name, I swear to God, was nevertheless stunning, and after I'd placed the sweating bottle of Diet Coke I'd secured from the refrigerated case on the counter in front of him, I gave him the old hairy eyeball.
David giggled at the thought of Suze having a hairy eyeball while Jake couldn't keep an amused smirk off his face and Andy and Helen were having difficulty not to laugh. Brad just looked disgusted.
He was deeply absorbed in a copy of Surf Digest , so he didn't notice my leering gaze. I guess I was sun-drunk, or something, because I just kept standing there staring at Kurt, but what I was really doing was thinking about someone else.
"Oh?" Helen sat up looking interested.
Someone whom I really shouldn't have been thinking about at all.
"Ah," Andy said knowingly, giving his wife a fond look.
"Jesse! She's thinking about Jesse, I just know it!" Helen said excitedly.
"Or she could be thinking of a girl," Brad said with a cheeky grin.
"There is no evidence of Suze having a-"
"Oh shut up David and stop sucking all the fun out of everything!"
"Don't speak to your brother like that Brad," Andy glared at his middle son, "and stop making implications of your sister."
"Yes Dad," Brad said looking chastened.
I guess that's why when Kelly Prescott said hi to me, I didn't even notice. It was like she wasn't even there.
Until she waved a hand in my face and went, "Hello, earth to Suze. Come in, Suze."
I tore my eyes off Kurt and found myself looking at Kelly, sophomore class president, radiant blonde, and fashion plate. She was in one of her dad's dress shirts, unbuttoned to reveal what she wore beneath it, which was an olive-green bikini made out of yarn. There were skin-colored inserts so you couldn't see her bare skin through the holes in the crochet.
David looked disgusted. He hated girls who showed off so much flesh in order to gain a male's attention. He much preferred girls who were beautiful on the inside with a good sense of humour, high intelligence, and a very nice smile.
Andy and Helen shared a dark look. They weren't very keen on Kelly Prescott and her choices in swim wear just made them disapprove of her even further.
Brad was practically drooling while Jake continued reading not even bothering to think about Kelly and her practically non-existent swimming costume.
Standing next to Kelly was Debbie Mancuso, my stepbrother Dopey's sometime girlfriend.
"Not my girlfriend," Brad muttered.
"Oh, my God," Kelly said. "I had no idea you were at the beach today, Suze. Where'd you put your towel?"
"By the lifeguard tower," I said.
"Oh, God," Kelly said. "Good spot. We're way over by the stairs."
Debbie went, way too casually, "I noticed the Rambler in the parking lot. Is Brad out on his board?"
Brad grimaced as Jake sent him a smirk.
Brad is what everyone but me calls my stepbrother Dopey.
"Yeah," Kelly said. "And Jake?"
Jake grimaced as Brad shot him a jealous look.
Jake is the stepbrother I call Sleepy. For reasons unfathomable to me, Sleepy, who is in his
Senior year at the Mission Academy, and Dopey, a sophomore like me, are considered to be these great catches. Obviously, these girls have never seen my stepbrothers eat. It is truly a revolting sight.
"She's right," Andy muttered.
"Yeah," I said. And since I knew what they were after, I added, "Why don't you two join us?"
"Cool," Kelly said. "That'd be great "
Jake restrained the urge to groan. He really didn't want to listen about Kelly and Debbie's narrow-minded view of the world.
Gina appeared, and Kelly broke off mid-sentence. Well, Gina is the kind of girl people break off mid-sentence to admire. She's nearly six feet tall, and the fact that she'd recently had her hair done into a mop of prickly-looking copper-colored tendrils, forming a four- or five-inch aura all the way around her head, only made her look taller. She also happened to have on a black vinyl bikini, over which she'd tugged on shorts that appeared to be made from the pull-tabs off of a lot of soda cans.
Both Jake and Brad had dreamy expressions as they remembered the beautiful, exotic, unique girl who spent a week with them almost a year ago.
David had a very difficult time to not laugh in their faces.
Oh, and the fact that she'd been out in the sun all day had darkened her normally cafe au lait skin to the color of espresso, always startling when combined with a nose ring and orange hair.
The looks got dreamier as David now buried his face into a cushion and Helen was also having a similar difficulty in keeping a straight face.
"Score," Gina said excitedly, as she thumped a six-pack down onto the counter next to my Diet Coke. "Yoo Hoo, dude. The perfect chemical compound."
"Um, Gina," I said, hoping she wasn't going to expect me to join her in consuming any of those bottles. "These are some friends of mine from school, Kelly Prescott and Debbie Mancuso. Kelly, Debbie, this is Gina Augustin, a friend of mine from New York."
Gina's eyes widened behind her Ray Bans. I think she was astonished by the fact that I had,
Since moving out here, actually made some friends,
"I doubt that," Helen said with a headshake, "I think she was more surprised at the type of girls Kelly and Debbie are. Preppy, popular girls have never been Suze's favourite sort of people."
Something I had certainly not had many of, besides her, back in New York. Still, she managed to control her surprise and said, very politely, "How do you do?"
Debbie murmured, "Hi," but Kelly got straight to the point: "Where did you get those awesome shorts?"
"Girls," Brad muttered.
It was while Gina was telling her that I first noticed the four kids in evening wear hanging out near the suntan lotion rack.
Helen frowned a little. She didn't like the sound of this.
You might be wondering how I'd missed them before. Well, the truth of the matter is that, up until that particular moment, they hadn't been there.
She really didn't like the sound of this.
And, then, suddenly, there they were.
Really, really, didn't like the sound of this.
Being from Brooklyn, I've seen far stranger things than four teenagers dressed in formal wear in a convenience mart on a Sunday afternoon at the beach.
Brad snorted, "And here I thought the Queen of the Dead had bad fashion sense," he muttered.
"Bradley," Andy said in his usual warning tone.
But since this wasn't New York, but California, the sight was a startling one. Even more startling was that these four were in the act of heisting a twelve-pack of beer. I'm not kidding. A twelve-pack, right in broad daylight with them dressed to the nines, the girls with wrist corsages, even. Kurt's no rocket scientist, it's true, but surely they couldn't think he would simply let them walk out of there with this beer, particularly in prom wear.
"I don't know, Kurt has never been the brightest bulb and four beautiful girls in swimming costumes would be too much of a distraction for him," Jake mused to himself.
Then I lifted up my Donna Karans in order to get a better look at them.
And that's when I realized it.
"Oh no," Helen murmured. She definitely knew where this was going and she really, really, really didn't like it.
Kurt wasn't going to be carding these kids. No way.
Kurt couldn't see them.
Andy and the boys all groaned.
Because they were dead.
"Great, just great," Brad whined, "can't we start one diary without a ghost attack or something?"
"Why Bradley, is that concern I detect?" David asked amused.
"NO!" Brad shouted.
Wild horses wouldn't make Brad admit that he might, just maybe, care for his step-sister...just a little bit.
"Well you can leave the denial at Egypt and just read," Jake joked as he passed the diary to Brad.
"That was just pathetic," David muttered to himself.