Authors: Michelle Dalton
For Tom S.
Who possibly knows everything. And definitely knows more than I do!
hy do lupine flowers have to be such an old-lady color?”
I open one eye, then the other. I squint at my best friend, Cynthia Crowley, who stands in front of the full-length mirror hanging on the back of her bedroom door. She fluffs the grayish-Âbluish-lavenderish skirt of her formal dress.
She isn't all wrong. If you've ever been to Maine, you've seen lupines. They're the tall, spiky, green-leafed plants that kind of look like corn on the cob on top, but with flowers instead of Âkernels. They're everywhere. Standing proud like soldiers in gardens, marching along the roadside, reproduced on tea Âtowels, souvenir mugs, and postcards. Even T-shirtsâthough I don't think any Mainers wear those, just tourists.
Lupine flowers are all kinds of purple in real life. Translated into Cynthia's gown, the color somehow ended up pretty fusty. But that's what happens when the Ladies of the Lupine Festival League sew the dress themselves.
I shut my eyes again and fling my arm over my face to block out the morning light streaming through the bay window. “Why does the Lupine Queen have to begin her reign at the crack of dawn?” I moan.
I hear the rustle of chiffon and fake flowers and know Cynthia is about to pounce.
“Good morning, good
!” she belts out in her “I'm going to be a Broadway star” voice. The song is from one of her favorite old movie musicals, one with lots of singing and dancing, and I can see why she likes it. I guess I kind of like it too. I actually prefer blockbuster action films, but Cynthia thinks they're “juvenile.”
I roll away from Cynthia just as she lands on the bed. She bounces on her knees the way we used to in third grade, jostling me so much I grab one of the poles of her four-poster bed to keep from rolling off. The bright blue canopy flutters above us.
in Cynthia's room is a bright colorâand usually bejeweled, appliquÃ©d, or fringed, too.
“Your dress!” I scold. “You'll ruin it!” Only I'm laughing so hard I doubt she understands me.
I pull myself up to a sitting position and lean against one of her many jewel-toned pillows. I rub my face. “How come we both got zero sleep,” I grumble, “and you're already dressed and looking camera ready?”
Cynthia gives me one of her coy “li'l ol' me?” looks. “Just the kind of girl I am,” she quips in a babyish voice.
She isn't wrong about that, either. When Cynthia wakes up, she's ready to start the day. All energy, enthusiasm, and blond hair. It's why she's had boys pursuing her since they stopped seeing girls as cootie carriers.
Me, not so much. Sure, I've had boys ask me out sometimes, but mostly as a way to penetrate Cynthia's inner circle, since I'm the innermost ring. At least, that's how I figure it.
Cynthia climbs off the bed in a flurry of chiffon. “Seriously,
Mandy,” she says in her normal voice. “I have to be there at nine for the kickoff at ten. You've got to get ready.”
“I can't believe you're abandoning me for the summer for musical-theater camp!” I pull a bejeweled pillow onto my stomach and punch it. Then I tuck it behind my head and add sulkily, “Even though I'm very happy for you.”
happy for her. Mostly. I know how much going to camp means to her. She's taken tap, ballet, jazz, and hip-hop dance classes since she could walk, along with voice lessons that were a whole hour drive away. Since I've known her, Cynthia's been itching to get out of “Rock Bottom” (her name for Rocky Point) to pursue her performing-arts dreams. I wish I had such direction. My mom wishes I did too.
I force myself up off the bed and cross to the window. If I get into the exact right position, I can see the lighthouse peeking out of the morning fog, overlooking the restless sea. Red stripes circle its white three-story tower, so everyone calls it Candy Cane. The skinny strips of Maine's jagged coastline reach out like tentacles, as if they're trying to grab the many islands that pepper the waters, with Candy Cane the striped fingernail on the finger that is Rocky Point.
Before there was even a real town here, there was the lighthouse. It was decommissioned long before I was born, another sign, according to Cynthia, of how unimportant Rocky Point is to the rest of the world.
This, she isn't exactly right about. The Coast Guard built a newer, more modern one on Eagle Island farther out into the water back in the 1940s. We can hear Eagle Island's automated foghorn and see the red-light flashes. But Candy Cane is one of
the few reasons tourists come to Rocky Point. So maybe it's the
important thing about Rocky Point to the rest of the world.
I turn away from the window. I'll be seeing far too much of Candy Cane this summer. Mom roped me into working for the Historical Preservation Society, and the lighthouse is their star attraction. “Working” in the sense I have to show up, not in the sense that I'll be getting paid.
One of Cynthia's pillows whacks me in the face. Luckily, it's a fringed one, and not one covered in tiny mirrors.
“Hey!” I complain, tossing the pillow onto the bed. “What was that for?”
“Stop looking so dire!” she scolds. “You'd think
were the drama diva, not me!”
I fling a hand across my forehead and clutch my chest. I stumble across the room to gaze piteously at our shared reflection. “I don't know what's to become of me!” I wail in a terrible Britishy accent. “Trapped in the tower as a servant to an evil witch.”
Cynthia giggles and flicks me with her stretchy headband. I snatch it and twist it around my wrists. “Save me,” I beg, dropping to my knees and holding up my bound hands. “I'm a prisoner! The witch kidnapped me when I was a mere babe. She absconded with meâ”
Cynthia raises a honey-blond eyebrow at me. “Absconded? Working on your SAT vocab already?”
“Absconded,” I repeat, raising my own dark eyebrow back at her. She gestures magnanimously for me to continue.
with me to a land where buildings are made of candy canes.”
Cynthia's mouth twists as she tries not to laugh. “She used her powers to trap you inside a kiddie board game?”
“Not Candy Land,” I admonish her. “A
She holds up her hands in surrender. “I stand corrected.” She goes back to frowning at her dress, studying it from every possible view.
I slump against a bedpost. “At first I loved all the fudge, saltwater taffy, and caramel. But soon my stomach hurt all the time, my teeth rotted, and the peppermint scent of my prison gave me awful headaches. Now I desperately await the arrival of a prince with a serious sweet tooth to free me.”
Cynthia gives up searching for the elusive angle that would make the dress passable and turns to face me. “You done?” she asks, reaching for her headband.
“For now.” I unwind the headband and give it back to her.
She slips it over her head and pulls her hair back from her face. “Maybe one of the summer boys will rescue you.”
I snort. “Yeah, right.”
“Could happen,” Cynthia says. She picks up her signature bubblegum lip gloss and points it at me. “So. Could. Happen,” she repeats, using the lip gloss to punctuate each word.
“Are you kidding me?” I flop back onto her bed. “Like who?”
Cynthia narrows her eyes, considering. I can practically see her flipping through her mental file labeled “Summer Regulars.” “Someone new,” she concludes.
“Would have to be,” I say. “Since not a single Regular is even remotely an option.”
Rocky Point doesn't have the long, sandy beaches that some
of the coastal communities in Maine have, and isn't close to the big towns with loads of things to do. So we have people who come for the whole summer, mostly because they have ties to the area: They're here visiting relatives, or they grew up here or nearby and keep a cottage as a summer place. They generally come year after year, so we've watched the kids in those families grow up from toddlers to our age.
The only “true” tourists we get are usually on their way somewhere else. They break up the drive by spending the night at one of our two bed-and-breakfast inns because they have the charm and romance missing from the land of suburbia. Or so I figure it. Sometimes we get groups on a Lighthouses of Maine tour visiting Candy Cane since it's the subject of a famous painting featured on Maine postcards. There are also Artists and Artisans tours. Every Maine schoolkid can rattle off the names of the famous artists who painted here: Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, N. C. and Jamie Wyeth among many others. So tourists check out the art galleries and our genuinely showstopping views that inspired so many paintings, then go on their touristy way. Still, it's Candy Cane that's the star attraction.
Satisfied with her makeup, Cynthia slips off the headband and refluffs her hair. “Your mom's not an evil witch, ya know.”
“Not to you, maybe,” I grumble. “And now she's my boss. As if she's not on my case enough already. And with Justin gone for the summer . . .”
“Why would anyone
take summer classes?” Cynthia shakes her head.
“I know! Mr. Overachiever Double-Major just makes my
grades seem even more pathetic. Even though they were actually better this past year.” I sigh. “I can't believe he's staying at school all summer.”
Cynthia gives me a sympathetic look in the mirror. Now that my brother and I have outgrown our childhood attempts to kill each other, I kind of adore him. Mom certainly does. They practically
fight. And while Justin was away at college this year, Mom and I got into it more than ever.
Can my summer get any worse? No Cynthia. No Justin. That means no baby steps into the ocean until Cynthia yanks me under with her. No nightly trips to Scoops to try every flavor at least three times before voting for Best New Flavor at the Good-bye to Summer Festival. No action flicks with Justin to relieve the frustration of the third-straight day of rain. And no outings to local theaters to watch Cynthia perform.
Nope. This summer is going to be all me, Mom, and Candy Cane.
“Your mom can't hang around the lighthouse,” Cynthia points out. “She has her job at the library.”
“She'll find a way,” I groan.
“I've done all I can.” Cynthia lifts and releases the overskirt in one last attempt to make the dress turn into something wearable, and concedes defeat.
“Aren't you going to freeze?” I ask, frowning at the strapless gown.
Even though the Lupine Festival is the “official” start of summer in Rocky Point, Maine, our first day of summer is chillier than the last. Most of the Summer Regulars haven't even started
arriving yet, so it's like one big party for the locals. That's why I like itâthere's lots to do, but it's still super low-key. The calm before the summer season storm.
Cynthia picks up a gray-blue-lavender chiffon shawl and drapes it around her shoulders. “I've got this lovely item, to complete the grandma look.” She pouts at her reflection. “I can't believe they expect me to wear this to the Lupine Dance tonight too. It will be everyone's last memory of me.”
“You're not dying.”
She waves a hand dismissively. “You know what I mean. This is how everyone will picture me while I'm away.”
“Not with all the selfies you post,” I tease.
She sticks out her tongue and goes back to arranging the shawl, before shouting, “Would you puh-leeze get up already!” She tosses my clothes onto the bed. “I have to be there in less than half an hour.”
“Okay, okay.” I get up, grab my bag with my toothbrush and toothpaste in it, and slump across the room to the bathroom. “But I expect you to keep your eyes peeled for my prince.”
y nose wrinkles at the full-on assault. The only downside of the Lupine Festival is that it's a serious fish feast. Last year I couldn't get a decent order of French fries for a week because they tasted like fried clams. My mom swears they don't fry them in the same oil, but I don't believe her.
It's hard to be the only person in Rocky Point who hates seafood. Maybe the only person in all of Maine. It's not just weird;
it's practically sacrilegious, since fishing is a major component of the Maine economy. My English teacher's husband is a fisherman, the Brownie troop leader's son is a fisherman, the Little League coach is a fisherman, my neighbor owns the marine supplies store on the wharf . . . Long story short, fishing isn't only a way of life here, it's
way of life.
Music blares from the little stage set up on the commercial pier where a band called the Rock Lobsters performs passable covers of classic songs. I turn away from the food booths on the public pier and keep my face to the ocean. Still briny, but the salty air blowing off the water helps tone down the fish smell. It's a little biting, with a slight chill still in the air, but I love the wide-awake feeling the ocean spray gives me.
I wave at some kids I know from school who are handing out flyers for Whistler's Windjammers cruises. The only takers today are the people with houseguests; locals don't go on the high-priced cruises since a lot of them have boats of their own, or have friends who do. I scan the crowd but don't see anyone to hang with, so I start over to the nonfish booths. At least they had the good sense to separate them this year.
Cynthia will know exactly where to look for me. Salivating in line waiting for my first fried blueberry pocket of the summer. Yum. That's a booth where I can trust the oil is lobster- and clam-free. Pure. Nothing but pastry dough in that grease.
I'm blissfully Mom-free for the festival, so no lectures today on how many are too many pockets. Right now she's standing at the foot of the circular staircase that leads up Candy Cane's tower. I can picture her there wearing her 1840s-style dress that
could have been worn by Katharine Gilhooley, the wife of the first lighthouse keeper. Thanks to James and Katharine's large family, the keeper's house beside the lighthouse is pretty big. About ten or so years ago, the historical society did a fund-raiser to turn the house into the Keeper's CafÃ© and Gift Shop.