Excerpts for If I Told You So


If I Told You So


By Timothy Woodward

KENSINGTON BOOKS

Copyright © 2012 Timothy C. Woodward
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-7488-5


Chapter One

"Sean!" My mother's voice cuts through the cocoon of morning warmth and sunshine. "You are not going to sleep all day!"

I roll over and hug my tattered quilt tighter around my shoulders. The quilt, a handmade gift from my grandmother, is as old as I am. The stuffing has leaked out in places so that it doesn't provide much warmth anymore, but it's perfect for sleeping in on a Saturday in mid-June.

"I'll be up in a minute," I say, loud enough for her to hear. I crack one eye to read the red digital numbers on my alarm clock. 10:07. Twenty-three minutes doesn't seem too much to ask.

"A quick minute." I hear her retreat from the bottom of the stairs, apparently satisfied that I am still among the living.

It's the first Saturday of summer vacation, the first Saturday of an entire summer of lazy Saturdays to look forward to. The phone rings, disrupting my half dreams, but my mom answers after only two rings, and I close my eyes, thinking the distraction should be good for a few more minutes of shut-eye. With any luck it'll be Aunt Maureen.

"Sean!" I look at the clock again. 10:11.

"I said I'd be up in a—"

"It's your father on the phone."

I roll over on my stomach and swat some dirty laundry away from the bed until I find the phone hiding under a pair of cargo shorts.

"Hello." I try to keep that just-woke-up fog out of my voice.

"Hey, kiddo. Still asleep, huh?"

"It is Saturday."

"Hey, no worries."

My dad sounds way too cheery.

"Did you catch any of the Sox game last night? I saw the highlights on ESPN, but the networks down here only cover the Braves."

"Sorry, didn't catch it." I don't have to try very hard to keep the enthusiasm out of my voice.

"That rookie pitcher from Japan is somethin' else! I'm tellin' you, he's the real deal. I picked him up in my fantasy league. I figure he'll help me in Ks and wins, and maybe ERA if he stays healthy."

"Good luck with that," I say. "Listen, Dad, I need to take a shower. Start the day, you know?"

"It's after ten; you know you won't be able to get away with that when you're down here in Georgia."

Now I'm wide-awake. "What?"

"I asked your mom to let me tell you. We decided that it would be a good idea for you to live with me for the summer."

"With you? In Georgia?"

"How does that sound?"

"Isn't it hot in Georgia?"

"You'll get used to it. I've already got a job lined up for you. A friend of mine needs help on his landscaping crew."

A shudder shoots down my spine. Landscaping means fertilizer. Fertilizer makes me feel dirty. Now I really do need a shower.

"What do you say?"

"Um, let me think about it."

"Don't think too long. I've arranged for you to fly down here next week."

What was that I was saying about an entire summer of lazy Saturdays? I decide to make a personal rule against answering the phone before eleven A.M. This is way too early to have the day ruined.

"Great. That gives me, like, seven days to pack." I try hard not to make it sound too sarcastic.

"Your mom and I still have some details to work out, so why don't you let me talk to her again?"

I am only too glad to get off the phone. I mean, it's not that I don't like my father, I just don't like talking to him. When we do talk, I feel like we should hire a translator. He goes on about RBI, ERA, and how the Red Sox need a new middle reliever. If it's football season, he wants to know what I think of the Patriots' nickel package. I feel bad for him in a way; he moved to Georgia about a year ago, so keeping track of his favorite teams is hard. I just don't want to be the one to keep him up-to-date.

My parents have been divorced for five years, so I'm used to it by now. Actually, for a while, it wasn't all that different. My dad still lived in Bell Cove, and I saw him almost as much as when he lived with us, which wasn't that much. He's a workaholic and had constant late meetings. When he was home, he'd be too tired to do much more than sit in his recliner and watch the news. Then he moved down state to a town on the Massachusetts border. I was only able to see him a weekend or two a month, and I guess that was when we really started to grow apart. Not that we were ever all that close. My dad's always been into sports and fishing, flannel shirts and work boots. I'm more of an arts and theater, polo and loafers guy. He's country and I'm country club. Now that he's in Georgia, we only talk on the phone. He does make an effort to call me every week, but our conversations are always pretty short. He tells me about the bass he caught at his favorite fishing hole; I tell him about the new play the drama club is putting on. Okay, talk to you next week. Have a good one. Bye.

I find my mother downstairs in the kitchen where I pour myself a bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats.

"Uh, Mom? Dad thinks I'm living with him for the summer?"

"We both felt that working with your father in Georgia would be better than doing nothing around here."

"I can't believe you two agreed on something."

"Don't be smart. You're sixteen. You should be saving for college. Besides, your father misses you."

"Then he shouldn't have moved to Georgia."

"Sean, just because I don't get along with your father doesn't mean that you shouldn't get along with him."

"He wasn't exactly the model dad. It's not like he was home much."

"He's trying."

"Too little, too late." I push myself up from the kitchen table and drop my dishes in the sink. My spoon clatters against the stainless steel. I head for the door.

"Where are you going?"

"Out. If the only reason you're sending me to Georgia is so I can work, then I might as well get a job here." I'm out the door before she can reply. I grit my teeth and climb on my bike to ride into town. I'm serious about the job. It's either that or sweat like a pig in Georgia.

Ten minutes later, I'm standing with my bike between my legs, looking out over Bell Cove and the lake beyond. My hometown is nestled along the south shore of the lake, and it extends seven or eight houses inland at its widest point. In some places, a house has been built up on the hill away from the main town, either a rich city-dweller's summer-cottage attempt to get back to nature or an aging hippie's attempt to get back to civilization.

From here at the top of Mann's Hill, I can see everything. Main Street runs along the shoreline, with shops and buildings on one side and a paved walkway on the other. During the summer it's crowded with walkers, bikers, and joggers enjoying the lake breeze. The chamber of commerce publishes brochures that call Bell Cove "quaint." I looked it up: small, old-fashioned, and odd. I guess it's an accurate description; I'm just not sure it's the kind of thing that should be advertised in brochures. Anyway, it's still early in the season, and there are only a few couples enjoying a stroll along our "quaint" Main Street.

Summer means everything to a town like Bell Cove. Pretty much everything revolves around the lake and the tourists it brings in during the summer. The spring is nice, but the water's too cold for swimming, so people tend to take their vacations to places like Florida or somewhere in the Caribbean. The fall brings beautiful foliage, but most of the tourists will head over toward Conway and the Kancamagus Highway, with its beautiful hiking, waterfalls, and scenic overlooks. In the winter, everyone's in the North Country for the skiing. Which leaves the summer for Bell Cove and the other small lake towns. What this means for me is that, with the first day of summer this week, I am getting a very late start on finding a job. Since the tourist season really starts to ramp up starting on Memorial Day, most kids started looking for jobs over a month ago to line up summer work. I cross my fingers that there will still be jobs left.

I ride into town only to discover that, as I suspected, most of the downtown shops have already hired for the summer, and what's left is left for a reason. The harbormaster is looking for someone to clean boats; I can just imagine myself in rubber boots, scrubbing green-bottomed hulls and smelling like bleach all summer. No, thank you. There's also an opening for a cashier at the gas station, which doesn't sound too bad until I realize that I'd be responsible for cleaning out the bathrooms. I'd rather smell like bleach.

Since I don't have a car, I can't get out to the Walmart by the highway. It's also too far to ride my bike to the McDonald's or the Burger King by exit 23. A lot of kids take boats across the lake and get jobs in neighboring towns, but I only have a twelve-foot fishing boat my dad left behind, which is no good in bad weather. Besides, my mother would never let me; she's afraid of boats. I know, I know, living on a lake and afraid of boats. Don't get me started.

All afternoon on Main Street it's the same story. I'm turned away at every pretentious boutique selling sun catchers and wooden moose carvings and at each nautical-themed restaurant with fishing nets tacked to the walls. I've come to the end of the row of clapboard façades that line Main Street. All that's left is the Pink Cone. I've deliberately avoided the local ice cream shop, as I see it as a last resort. First of all, only girls work there, and the idea of being caught in the middle of half a dozen divas fighting over boyfriends and who has the best lipstick color is only a notch above cleaning bathrooms at the gas station. And second, I've heard all the rumors about "Fabulous Renée," the crazy, bitchy owner of "the Cone."

I'm not sure I want to work for someone with a reputation for tyrannical insanity, so when I walk in the front door of the Cone to ask whether they're still hiring for the summer, it's not with a lot of confidence.

"How old are you, hon?" the woman behind the counter asks, a hand on her hip and the other pointing a plastic ice cream scoop in my direction.

"Sixteen."

"Fabulous. You got any references? A resume?" She catches me off guard. I'm hoping to get an application to fill out. "Never mind. You kids never do. You live around here?"

"Morgan Beach."

"Fabulous. I like local kids. Tell me why you want the job."

Since I really haven't thought this summer job plan all the way through, I don't know how to answer that question. Finally, I settle on the truth.

"My mom and dad are making me get a job, and if I don't find one around here, I'll have to go live with my dad and work in Georgia." It's not exactly the best pitch for a job ever, but I do remember to smile.

She gives me a long look, but after about fifteen seconds she lets out a small snort and one corner of her mouth turns up. "Well, at least you'd be motivated to keep the job once you got it. Fabulous. We're having an orientation for the late-season hires on Monday at nine A.M. Don't be late."

It happens so fast, it takes me a second to realize I've been offered a job. "Thank you. I'll be there. Thank you!"

"You don't have a job yet. My manager will be running the training, and you'll have to pass muster with him. What's your name?"

"Sean Jackson. Thank you for this!"

"Well, Sean Jackson, it's nice to meet you. I'm Renée Bouchard, the owner here. We'll fill out the paperwork at Ice Cream Orientation—if you make it through orientation."

So this is the infamous "Fabulous Renée." She doesn't seem so scary. "Thank you. This is great! This is ..."

"Fabulous?" Renée offers, amused by my excitement.

"Fabulous," I agree. "Fabulous."

I get home ready to gloat about my employment victory, but my mother has gone out. So I jump online, ready to IM whoever I can find signed on. Almost before my computer beeps to tell me that the sign-on process is complete, my screen fills with a message from LuvBug922. It's my girlfriend, Lisa.

LuvBug922: What's up?

I'm about to tell her my news, but decide to kid around with her a little first.

NHBeachBoi: OMG, the rents totally shafted me today! I have to go to Georgia to live with my dad for the summer.

LuvBug922: What!??

LuvBug922: That sux!

NHBeachBoi: I know. My dad says I have to help his friend with his landscaping business

LuvBug922: I'll never see u!

NHBeachBoi: You're going to be at your camp all summer anyway

LuvBug922: But that's only across the lake and I get some days off.

LuvBug922: u can't go to Georgia!

NHBeachBoi: But my rents said I can't just sit around the house all summer

LuvBug922: What are u gonna do??

I've had enough fun. I smile while I type the next message.

NHBeachBoi: I got a job!!!

While I wait for her reply I scan my buddy list to see who else I can tell, but I guess people have things to do on the weekend, because no one else is signed on. Bummer.

LuvBug922: Where!?

NHBeachBoi: The Pink Cone. Pretty crazy huh?

LuvBug922: LOL That IS crazy! You'll probably be the only guy working there! LOL .

NHBeachBoi: At least it's a job. Hopefully now that I have one they won't make me go to Georgia

LuvBug922: I know. They can't send you to Georgia!! It's too hot!

LuvBug922: j/k! I'd miss you too much I wait a long time before I type.

NHBeachBoi: Me too.

LuvBug922: Hey, GTG, I'm supposed to go be social with my cousins who are in town for the weekend. TTYL {{{{Hugs}}}} I Luv U

I wait for her to sign off, trying to avoid having to reply, but her icon stays lit up in my buddy list. She's waiting for it. I feel like a jerk, but I type

NHBeachBoi: <3 u 2. {{{{Hugs}}}} ttyl.

I decide to sign off before she can write back, just in case. Just as I sign off, I hear the front door open, and my mom calls up to me.

"Sean?"

"Yeah," I shout from my room, but get up to go to the top of the stairs. My mom hates having to shout through the house. "Can you help me with the groceries? There's two more bags in the car." She heads toward the kitchen with a brown paper bag clutched in one arm, her purse on the other shoulder, car keys in her hand.

I go out and grab the two bags from the open trunk of the car. I close it with a thud, and take a deep breath to steel myself for the confrontation with my mother. It's time to tell her I'm not going to Georgia.

When I get to the kitchen, her back is turned to me while she puts soup cans away in a cabinet near the stove.

"I found a job."

Her hand pauses in mid-reach for just a moment before she continues putting cans away. "Here in Bell Cove?"

"At the Pink Cone. I start Monday." I decide to leave out the part about having to survive orientation.

I can see her purse her lips, and I'm sure she's going to shoot me down, but then one side of her mouth goes up in a wry half smile.

"Your dad is just going to love that," she says.

Obviously, my dad is going to be furious that I'm refusing to go along with his plan, but I don't see what my job at the Pink Cone has to do with anything.

"Does that woman—what's her name?—Renée something, still run that place?" Mom asks with sincere curiosity.

"The Fabulous Renée? Yeah."

And then I get it. Renée is the most prominent—heck, the only—gay person in Bell Cove, and while I wouldn't necessarily call my dad homophobic, I'm pretty sure he'd be less than thrilled to have his only son working for her. Working at an ice cream shop isn't exactly a "manly" job like landscaping in Georgia, and working for a lesbian is just the cherry on top, pun intended.

"You're going to have to tell him yourself. I'm not going to do your dirty work for you." As if to make her point, Mom gives the cupboard door a little extra shove as she closes it, causing a bang loud enough to make me jump.

I open my mouth to respond but realize I have no words that won't get me in trouble with her. The last thing I need is to have both parental units mad at me, and especially not the one I live with. I press my lips together and exhale through my nose loud enough for my mom to hear. She gives me a look that says, You made your bed.

"Can I at least wait until after dinner?"

I sit on the edge of my bed and punch in my father's number on the phone keypad. I decided I wanted to be alone for this. The phone rings three times before someone picks up. A woman's voice answers.

"Hello?"

It's Jill, my dad's girlfriend. He met her up here in New Hampshire, and it's pretty serious because she agreed to move to Georgia with him. I don't really have anything against her; my parents have been divorced long enough that it's not like I have any secret wish for them to get back together.

"Hi, Jill. It's Sean. My dad there?"

(Continues...)



Excerpted from If I Told You So by Timothy Woodward Copyright © 2012 by Timothy C. Woodward. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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