“But if you bought me a car now, it would be yours when I go away to school in two years. Still practically new,” Helen said optimistically. Unfortunately, her father was no sucker.
“Lennie, just because the state of Massachusetts thinks it’s okay for sixteen-year-olds to drive . . .” Jerry began.
“Almost seventeen,” Helen reminded.
“Doesn’t mean that I have to agree with it.” He was winning, but Helen hadn’t lost yet.
“You know, the Pig only has another year or two left in her,” Helen said, referring to the ancient Jeep Wrangler her father drove, which she suspected might have been parked outside the castle where the Magna Carta was signed. “And think of all the gas money we could save if we got a hybrid, or even went full electric. Wave of the future, Dad.”
“Uh-huh” was all he’d say.
Now she’d lost.
Helen Hamilton groaned softly to herself and looked out over the railing of the ferry that was bringing her back to Nantucket. She contemplated another year of riding her bike to school in November and, when the snow got too deep, scrounging for rides or, worst of all, taking the bus. She shivered in anticipated agony and tried not to think about it. Some of the Labor Day tourists were staring at her, not unusual, so Helen tried to turn her face away as subtly as she could. When Helen looked in a mirror all she saw were the basics—two eyes, a nose, and a mouth—but strangers from off island tended to stare, which was really annoying.
Luckily for Helen, most of the tourists on the ferry that afternoon were there for the view, not her portrait. They were so determined to cram in a little scenic beauty before the end of summer that they felt obliged to ooh and aah at every marvel of the Atlantic Ocean, though it was all lost on Helen. As far as she was concerned, growing up on a tiny island was nothing but a pain, and she couldn’t wait to go to college off island, off Massachusetts, and off the entire eastern seaboard if she could manage it.
It wasn’t that Helen hated her home life. In fact, she and her father got along perfectly. Her mom had ditched them both when Helen was a baby, but Jerry had learned early on how to give his daughter just the right amount of attention. He didn’t hover, yet he was always there for her when she needed him. Buried under a thin layer of resentment about the current car situation, she knew she could never ask for a better dad.
“Hey, Lennie! How’s the rash?” yelled a familiar voice. Coming toward her was Claire, Helen’s best friend since birth. She tipped unsteady tourists out of her path with artfully placed pushes.
The sea-goofy day-trippers swerved away from Claire like she was a linebacker and not a tiny elf of a girl perched delicately on platform sandals. She glided easily through the stumbling riot she had created and slid next to Helen by the railing.
“Giggles! I see you got some back-to-school shopping done, too,” Jerry said as he gave Claire a one-armed hug around her parcels.
Claire Aoki, aka Giggles, was a badass. Anyone who took a look at her five-foot-two frame and delicate Asian features and failed to recognize her inherent scrappiness ran the risk of suffering horribly at the hands of a grossly underestimated opponent. The nickname “Giggles” was her personal albatross. She’d had it since she was a baby. In her friends’ and family’s defense it was impossible to resist calling her Giggles. Claire had, hands down, the best laugh in the universe. Never forced or shrill, it was the kind of laugh that could make anyone within earshot smile.
“Fo-sho, sire of my BFF,” Claire replied. She hugged Jerry back with genuine affection, ignoring his use of the dreaded nickname. “Might I have a word with your progeny? Sorry to be so rude, but it’s top secret, high-clearance stuff. I’d tell you . . .” she began.
“But then you’d have to kill me,” Jerry finished sagely. He shuffled obligingly off to the concession stand to buy himself a sugary soda while his daughter, the chief of the food police, wasn’t looking.
“Wacha got in the bag, dad?” Claire asked. She grabbed Helen’s loot and started rifling through. “Jeans, cardigan, T-shirt, under . . . whoa! You go underwear shopping with your dad? Ew!”
“It’s not like I have any choice!” Helen complained as she snatched her bag away. “I needed