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Chapter I

1,975 words as of this post.

It was a dark and stormy night, which was totally unfair because Kaylee had wanted to watch the ocean out the windows of the rental car. True, she could see glimpses of tossing waves through the pouring rain when lightning happened to strike, but it didn't really resolve into anything resembling a picture; it was pretty difficult to reconcile this view with the ones in the resort brochure. She wished the airline hadn't been so late with their luggage so they could maybe have made the drive before dark, if in the rain.

The airport had been a zoo. It was the day after Christmas, so of course people were flying all over the place, to or from wherever to visit friends and family for the holidays. Of course their flight had been delayed, and they had missed their connection in Atlanta, which was why their luggage had wound up being re-routed through who knew where and they had had to stand by the carousel thingy for an hour and a half. Kaylee had gone and got a frozen yogurt, instructing her best friend Alicia to watch out for her pink-and-green-striped suitcase while she was gone, but when she had returned, everyone was still waiting--except for Dad, who had gone to the Avis counter to stand in line for the rental car. It had turned out to be a Ford Focus, and so Alicia, Kaylee, and Kaylee's little brother Matty were packed in like sardines.

Matty shifted uncomfortably in the middle of the back seat, his bony elbow pressing into Kaylee's arm. She sighed, and huffed, "Mom! Matty's touching me!"

"Can't really help it," Matty, all of ten, grumbled. "There's no room back here. Anyway, how come you got to bring a friend along, and I didn't?"

"Maybe if you had any friends, nerd-boy," Alicia muttered from the other side of him.

"You should talk!" Matty retorted hotly. "You're more of a nerd than I could ever hope to be."

"Be quiet, you three," said Kaylee's dad, craning his head around the neck rest of his bucket seat. "Your mother's trying to pay attention to the road."

"Sorry," said Alicia contritely. "We'll be quiet, Mr. Tanner."

"I think this is it," said Kaylee's mom, slowing down and putting on her left blinker. "Yep, okay. We're here."

"Thank god," said Matty. "I don't know how much more of this I could take."

"Watch it, young man," said Kaylee's dad.

Kaylee's mom turned the car into the drive with the sign reading "Three Palms Beach Resort" and, following around the curve, pulled into the parking space outside Unit 5C. It was a two-story clapboard condominium, painted--it looked like--a slightly different color than each of the other units on its row, probably to help differentiate them. Kaylee's mom popped the trunk and the five of them piled out of the car, grabbed their luggage and made a mad dash for the little overhang outside the door of the unit. It wasn't enough shelter to cover all of them; Kaylee was getting pelted with big fat drops of rain, as well as dripped on in the head by the water collecting on the overhang. Alicia was ducking her head, trying to keep the rain off her glasses, while Kaylee's dad fumbled with the keys.

"This one!" he said triumphantly, shoving it in the lock and finally throwing open the door. The Tanners and Alicia poured into the living room of the three-bedroom condo; there was a beep and a flash of the headlights as Kaylee's mom locked the car with the remote, and Kaylee's dad slammed the door behind them, flipping the lightswitch.

There were...a lot of pastels. It looked like the place hadn't been redecorated since the 80s, by someone who watched a lot of Golden Girls. There was a sofa and a loveseat, both white wicker with bad abstract print cushions, and a glass coffee table.

In the kitchen, visible over the half-wall that divided it from the living and dining area, the glow of the microwave clock announced that it was 11:36 p.m.

"Well," said Kaylee's mom, "let's get settled in and get some sleep. It's been a long day."

The five of them trooped up the stairs to sort out the bedrooms. Matty, being the only boy, got one all to himself; Kaylee and Alicia were to share, which, all things considered, they didn't much mind. It would be kind of like a week-long sleepover, except with a beach and two different pools and nobody had to sleep on the floor. They were in the first room off the staircase, which had two twin beds and shared a bathroom with Matty's single room. Kaylee's parents were across the hall in the master, which had a queen and its own bathroom.

It didn't take long to get unpacked and, tired, Kaylee was fully prepared just to fall into bed, but she had to wait for Alicia to brush her teeth before Kaylee could brush hers; Alicia was her guest, after all, even though they were all on vacation. After that had been attended to, however, the girls closed their doors and climbed into their beds. Kaylee murmured appreciatively as she nestled into the crisp sheets; there wasn't much on earth better than the feeling of climbing into a clean bed.

She wished she had been able to fit her own pillow into her suitcase, though. This one smelled funny and it didn't have the comfortable dent in the middle.

"Do you think it will be sunny tomorrow?" she said wistfully.

"Probably," said Alicia. "Far as I know, weather blows over pretty fast in this kind of climate."

Thunder rumbled lazily; Kaylee couldn't tell when the lightning had come. This light-blocking shade was pretty good.

"I hope it's not still raining in the morning," she said. "I am seriously looking forward to the beach."

"Maybe there will be cute boys there," Alicia said mischievously; Kaylee couldn't see her expression, it being pretty much pitch dark in the room, but if she could have, she knew Alicia would be grinning, her eyes crinkled up at the corners.

"I bet there won't be that many boys." Kaylee rolled over, trying to fluff her pillow into some semblance of the familiar shape of the one she had at home. "It's off-season, there's probably not that many tourists right now."

"So then we get the locals, maybe," said Alicia. "Maybe the lifeguards will be cute."

"Lifeguards usually are," Kaylee murmured, and yawned.

Alicia laughed. "Okay, sleepy time for Kaylee. I'll see you in the morning."

"Or the afternoon," said Kaylee, closing her eyes.

When she woke up, it was because Alicia had opened the curtains and flung up the shade to let the sunlight pour in through the window. Kaylee blinked and squinted in the sudden brightness, feeling her face crunch up trying to let less light into her eyes. She opened her mouth to berate her friend for blinding her in this appalling manner.

Then she noticed that Alicia was holding a half-eaten chocolate frosted donut.

"There are donuts?" cried Kaylee, tumbling onto the floor in a tangle of bedclothes in her haste to get to the sugary goodness.

"Your dad went out and got them," said Alicia. "They're in the kitchen."

"That looks like Krispy Kreme," said Kaylee urgently from the blanket pile on the floor.

Alicia giggled. "That's because it is, dumbass," she said.

"Alicia," said Kaylee very seriously. "Why didn't you wake me up as soon as there were donuts?"

"You looked so peaceful," said Alicia. "Sleeping there just like a little angel."

"Alicia," said Kaylee. "I will hurt you. But later. Right now I have to get a donut."

"You better hurry before Matty eats them all," was Alicia's only comment as Kaylee dashed out of the bedroom and down the stairs.

Matty was indeed sitting at the glass-top dining table with a partially consumed donut in each hand. There was chocolate frosting and sugar glaze all around his mouth.

"You little sneak!" said Kaylee. "If those are the last two I am going to kick your butt so hard."

Matty, his mouth full, pointed wordlessly to the open donut box, where, as Kaylee could now see (having come around the sofa and thus viewing the box from a new angle), rested five perfect specimens of Krispy Kreme deliciousness.

She narrowed her eyes at her brother. "You were lucky. This time."

Matty shrugged.

Kaylee helped herself to two of the donuts, stacking them on top of a paper napkin, and headed back upstairs.

"Where are my parents?" she asked, coming through the door of the bedroom to see Alicia, now dressed in her swimsuit and cut-off shorts, sitting on her bed and liberally applying SPF 65 sunblock to her long, pasty white arms.

"They went to the grocery store," Alicia replied. "Said to eat the donuts and hang out, and we can have lunch when they get back."

"So we're doing the beach?" said Kaylee.

"Sure," said Alicia. "That was the plan, right?"

"Should we swim this soon after eating?"

Alicia rolled her eyes. "Kay, that's totally a myth. You're not any more likely to get cramps from swimming after you eat than at any other time. I think the parents made it up so they could have an excuse to make their kids sit still for half an hour."

Kaylee nodded, polishing off her first donut. "I guess that would make sense."

"Besides," said Alicia, "we have to wait for Matty. We can't just leave him here."

"Of course not!" said Kaylee indignantly. "I wouldn't leave the little sprout by himself."

"And then we still have to find a place to set up our towels," Alicia went on, as if Kaylee hadn't spoken. "Preferably close to both the lifeguard stand and the snack bar."

"And I have to finish my donut," said Kaylee indistinctly around a mouthful of the delicious breakfast pastry in question.

"Right," said Alicia. "And put on your sunscreen." Kaylee rolled her eyes. "Don't look at me like that, Kay. I know you don't burn as bad as I do but you still need to protect yourself. Do you want to get skin cancer?"

"No," Kaylee muttered.

"It puts the lotion on its skin," said Alicia, throwing her tube of sunblock across to land on Kaylee's bed.

"Let me finish my donut first!" said Kaylee. "I don't want it tasting like whatever the hell is in that stuff."

"Well, duh, Kaylee," said Alicia. She picked up her flip flops and--already packed--beach bag. "I'm going to go see if there's anything mildly entertaining on TV."

Kaylee shoved the last bite of donut into her mouth. "Be down in a bit," she said.

While the sound effects of Alicia's television pick--something on Cartoon Network, by the sound of it--floated tranquilly up the staircase, Kaylee changed into her red-and-white polka dotted bikini and started spreading Alicia's super hardcore sunblock on her skin. She had a lot more skin to cover than Alicia, and she was just trying futilely to reach the middle of her back when Alicia came back upstairs to ask, "What's the holdup?"

"Help," said Kaylee, presenting her back to her friend.

"Oh," said Alicia. She helped.

When they got downstairs, Kaylee noticed Matty was wearing a T-shirt and, not a pair of shorts as she had previously assumed, but his swim trunks. He had donned his flip flops and was carrying a rolled up beach towel under one arm.

"Matty, did you put on sunscreen?" said Kaylee, picking up the extra key from where one of her parents had left it on the coffee table.

"Yep," he said, bouncing up and down slightly. "Come on, let's go. I wanna see the ocean."

They went.


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