the summer we stumbled (Denim days #2)
Mel fell hard for Duncan last summer, and after their first year at college she’s looking forward to finding out if the romance has any chance of thriving when they are re-united at their lake houses. But she’s surprised when Duncan brings a friend – a female friend – from Florida straining their friendship and dousing the romance in water colder than any Northwood’s lake.
Again, they are faced with choices about what they mean to each other: are they destined to be merely friends, or can they find their happily ever after?
The Summer We Stumbled is the second book in the Denim Days series.
DAY ONE -- Melody
This was what happened when Duncan pulled into our driveway at the lake house: a ray of light broke through the clouds overhead to shine on his car, the birds of the forest flocked around his car tweeting like a choir of angels, time moved into slow- mo, and a light breeze blew wisps of hair back from my face.
In my dreams.
Actually, I heard the crunch of his tires and ran to the window to see him pull in. He had a passenger. A female passenger, no less.
I froze. Why didn't Cody warn me? My original plan was to run out the door, throw my arms around his neck and squeal in glee. That didn't seem like an option anymore. Duncan got out of the car, and glanced at the window where I stood. He squinted in the bright light, shielding his eyes from the sun, made a half-wave like he wasn't quite sure if there was anyone there, and walked around to haul luggage from the trunk.
Meanwhile, the girl got out of the car. She was tall—almost as tall as Duncan—and twiggy. Long, skinny limbs on a long, skinny body, with long, skinny jet black hair. A beautiful face, sort of Polynesian looking. She could be a model.
I hadn't heard Mom come up behind me. "So that's Duncan's new friend," she said.
"Ginny told me yesterday he was bringing a friend. You didn't know?" Mom arched one of her brows.
Why would I?
After Duncan's move last summer, we stayed in touch every day for months. Texts. Pictures. Face time. We made plans for when he would be at the U next year. He talked about coming to Minnesota for Spring Break. We joked about how that would be typical Duncan, him heading in the opposite direction from every other college student. But our schedules didn't line up, and those plans fell by the wayside. It wasn't the same as having my best friend with me at all times, but it wasn't horrible either.
In the last couple months of school our communication ebbed. Every text or call was centered around study, study, study. I didn't hear from him during finals and left him alone. I knew he was feeling the pressure to ace his classes. Competition for acceptance to medical school was ridiculous. After exams, our communication never went back to normal. Sometimes it would take a day for him to text me back, so we'd only talked a couple times since. I figured he was stressed out waiting for his grades even though he'd told me he'd done well.
One exchange went like this:
ME: Everything ok?
ME: Finals over?
HIM: last one this morning.
HIM: yay is right.
HIM: hey, sorry. gotta run.
ME: SEE you soon!!
ME: Can't wait!
Sure, I knew something was off. I just didn't think that something would be gorgeous ... and my replacement.
Mom draped her arm over my shoulder. "Go say hello."
I didn't move. Tears were trapped behind my eyes, knocking like they wanted out.
"You've been friends with him since you were born, and it's been a year since you saw him. Swallow your hurt and be the bigger person."
I was the bigger person all right. Did she see how skinny that girl was? All of a sudden the five pounds I'd gained freshmen year felt like fifty. I might as well have been Jelly Melly.
I sighed. Mom's expression said she understood how I felt. It said she was sorry and she wished there was a way she could fix it. I hugged her and headed for the door. Before stepping outside, I took one deep breath, threw my shoulders back, and tugged on the bottom of my sweater. Whatever happens... do... not... cry. Whatever happens... do... not... cry. Do. Not. Cry.
"Hey! Duncan!" I tried to smile.
He dropped his duffle on the driveway and trotted to me, picking me up in a bear hug. I threw my arms around his neck as he swung me around, one tear leaking out despite my mantra. It was how I'd imagined our reunion, except for the beauty queen standing on the other side of the car. As he held me, flashes of the drive-in bombarded my thoughts. Our kisses. His caresses. Finally he put me down. I didn't want to let go.
"Nice shirt," He teased.
"I wore it just for you," I joked back. And actually I had. I knew he'd comment on it, and I'd plan to say something like, "Go ahead, try to get it off me," but you know what they say about the best laid plans.
By then, the beauty queen slunk over to us. No lie, that's how she moved. She looped her arm around Duncan's waist.
Duncan swallowed hard enough to make his Adam's apple bob. "Mel, this is a friend of mine from school—Mina."
Did I hear him right... Mean, ah? "Come again?"
The queen glanced first at Duncan. "Friend? Is that what were calling it?" Before he could respond, she said to me, "Mina. Rhymes with Tina. My mother is a huge fan of Stoker's Dracula. And your name is Mel? Like the old Jewish man who owns a diner?"
I don't know what her name has to do with Dracula, but the vampire tie-in seemed apropos. "Actually, it's Melody. Duncan's never been a fan of anything over two syllables." I winked at Duncan, and hoped he understood I was nervous and just trying to find some common ground, which at the moment was only him.
"I guess it's good my name is Mina, then." She laughed in a tinkling way that could best be described as annoying.
During our exchange, Duncan shifted from one foot to the other, clearly—at least to me—
uncomfortable. She and I were like two cats, backs arched and circling. If I'd been smart enough to know I was out matched, I'd have walked away, but I wasn't quite done. "How did you guys meet?" I resisted the internal compass that made me want to look at Duncan, that made me want to ask him, and I held her eyes instead.
"We sat next to each other in Organic Chemistry this semester."
Her claw delivered a scratch to my heart. He'd known her for months, and he hadn't mentioned her, even when we were still talking every day.
Her eyes narrowed. She looked ready to pounce. "How about you two? How did you meet?"
Scratch number two. Duncan hadn't told her about me.
Duncan laid his hand on her upper arm, almost like he was holding her back. "I've known Mel forever."
"Yeah, our moms were friends when they were preggers."
"Right," she said. "Now I remember. The fat one."
The scratch on my heart tore open. Time to run away before she could inflict any more damage. I looked at the ground, holding back tears, and turned toward my house. Duncan called to me, "Mel! Hey, wait!"
I stopped in my tracks.
"Mina's been after me the whole way here to get on the Jet Ski. Want to meet us at the dock in ten?"
Let's see. It only holds two passengers and it's not my favorite. "Nah, I'll catch up with you later. Have fun." I tried to keep my voice light. If there was one thing I'd learned during all my fat shaming at school it was that you never let them see how much they could hurt you. It only made it worse.
"Okay. See you later," Duncan said.
"Yeah, later. Nice to meet you," Mina added in a perky voice, as if she'd suddenly remembered her manners.
I wish I could say the same about her.