the summer we realized (Denim days #3)
In the final installment of the hit series Denim Days, Mel and Duncan return to the lake for a week during their summer college for break. Both secretly wonder if there's a spark big enough to re-kindle the flame that was lit two summers ago.
Forget the rearview mirror, forward is the only way to go, and Duncan plans the road trip of a lifetime. From the depths of an iron mine, to the Mississippi headwaters, and a brief stay at the U, Mel and Duncan realize the path of love and friendship is filled with twists, turns, and many detours. Still, the two are determined to stay the course, but can they find a way to commit to the journey of more once the trip is over?
Fans of the first two books will find themselves quickly drawn into Mel and Duncan's witty banter and tender scenes as the star-crossed pair are given a second chance to grow from friends to lovers.
DAY ONE -- Duncan
One-part excitement, one-part apprehension, and two-parts fear crept up on me as I turned the rental car off onto the winding road that led to Mel's lake house. It was strange to think about being in this place on my own, without Mom, Dad, or Cody. Even stranger to think that Uncle Glenn now owned our cottage where I'd spent time every summer when I was growing up. This place held so many memories, most of them good, so how was it possible for a place to feel foreign and like home at the same time? Weird.
I was glad Mel had broken things off with Leif. Selfish? Absolutely. But there was no way I'd have come for a visit if they were still an item. I'd never said that to Mel, at least not in so many words. It was more like, "I know you'll have a lot going on this summer."
Mel had said, "He works at the golf course practically every day." So she knew what I was talking about. She didn't break up with him so that I would visit. I was ninety-nine percent certain of that. She'd broken up because ... well, I didn't know for sure why. She wouldn't talk about it, but I was certain he'd been a dick, and had always been one. I'd been right about that from the start. Call it a best friend's instinct or a bro-dar, but I knew he would never stay faithful to her, the same way I never stay faithful. It takes one to know one, as they always say.
The car crawled past Gustaf's and down the hill toward our shared driveway. My tires crunched on the gravel as I turned in, and an overwhelming sadness masked the happiness I should've felt, like a fog that had settled on the lake and wouldn't clear. Uncle Glenn's camper was parked under the pines down by the lake. That, more than anything else, signaled the change that had happened since last year. Uncle Glenn stood at the back of his pickup trying to heft an over-sized lawn mower onto the flatbed. I got out of the car and jogged over to help him.
"Well, lookit who it is? I didn't know you were coming."
I probably should've called him, but expected Dad would let him know. Instead of answering, I squatted to wedge a shoulder under the mower and used it to lever the thing forward. Uncle Glenn slammed the tailgate and wiped his hands onto faded jeans.
"So what are you doin' here? You're welcome to use the place, but none of us will be up here until next weekend."
"Mel's family is here this week. I'll be staying with them."
"I would've figured if you were coming, it would've been late next, what with your Dad here and all."
He was coming up? Our communication, which was never great, had suffered since he moved out.
"I didn't know," was all I said.
"Well the key to the shed is under the doormat, and you know where I keep the key to the camper. I gotta get back to Duluth."
This exchange was the friendliest Uncle Glenn had ever been to me. I wasn't sure if it was because I was older, and he never knew how to talk to kids, or if it was because he was being kind because of the divorce. Not that it mattered. "Thanks," I said. "I should still be around when you get back."
He climbed into the cab and rested his elbow on the edge of the open window. "Well, have a nice time. Mel's still a looker." Then he fired up the truck and took off, spitting gravel in his wake.
I was pretty sure he meant the comment on Mel's appearance as a compliment, but it creeped me out a little. I walked back toward my car to get the duffle from the backseat and glanced at Mel's porch. Something moved behind one of the curtains. It felt like it could've been my best friend.