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Summer Sisters (Judy Blume)


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  All her life she'd dreamed of being seventeen, like the Dancing Queen. And now she was, or would be very soon. On July Fourth she and Caitlin were singing along with Debbie Harry as they cruised up island in Caitlin's rusted red pickup. By the time they hit Menemsha it was after five. They figured they'd do sunset there, then head for home. But as soon as they stepped onto the beach they spotted Bru and Von tossing around a Frisbee.

Caitlin pushed her canvas tote at Vix, kicked off her Tevas, and flashed her a wicked smile as she raced down the beach, leaping into the air to snatch their Frisbee in mid-flight. Vix hung back, watching, as if she were in sixth grade again, studying Caitlin for the secret to success.

Caitlin was dazzling at seventeen. Her hair cascaded down her back, her skin was moist and flawless, and the expression on her face dared anyone to mess with her. She'd reached her full height that year, leaving Vix three inches behind. She was all legs, like Barbie, but without the ridiculous chest. Caitlin saw this as a defect, some trick nature had played on her.

The girls at school encouraged her to send a photo to Elle or Cosmo or even Seventeen. The boys drooled over her. Even the teachers found her irresistible, but irritating. She was so bright. Why didn't she apply herself? She could be anything, do anything, with just a little effort. But half the time she didn't turn her papers in when they were due, and she refused to study for tests. "School has nothing to do with life," she'd say.

She'd gone skiing with Phoebe over spring break, to the Italian Alps, and returned with big news for Vix. "Congratulations are in order," she'd announced. "I'm no longer a virgin."

So, Caitlin had been first, just as she'd guaranteed. Well, Vix wasn't surprised. She wasn't even disappointed. "Who?" she asked. "Where?"

"A ski instructor," Caitlin said. "Italian. Very physical. You know the type."

Vix didn't.

"We met on the tram. He was all over me by the time we got to the top of the mountain. We could hardly ski down fast enough."

Vix felt her heart beating faster. "And?" she asked, not certain how much she wanted to know.

"It just happened."

"It can't just happen."

"Well, first we had to get out of our ski clothes if that's what you mean."

That wasn't what she meant. "Did it hurt? Did you feel the Power? Was it exciting?"

Caitlin laughed. "Exciting? Yeah, I guess so...for about two minutes. That's how long it took till he finished."

Vix laughed, too. "Did he use something?" she asked.

"Of course. I'm not totally crazy!"

"Do you love him?"

"Love him? I hardly know him. I'll probably never see him again. It was mostly...curiosity. But at least I got it out of the way."

Vix had no intention of doing it just to get it out of the way. Caitlin called her impossibly romantic, swearing that sex and love not only can be separated but should be. "What gets women into trouble is the way they confuse the two," she said. "Men have always understood the difference. That's one thing I've learned from Phoebe."


And so, as Vix watched Caitlin whooping it up with the guys on the beach, she assumed there would be no holding back this summer. When Caitlin called "Vix...catch!" and the Frisbee sailed overhead, Vix reached up and grabbed it, then zigzagged along the beach, trying to avoid Bru who was heading straight for her. She managed to get rid of the Frisbee just before she hit the ground. She heard Caitlin shriek, then she was flat on her belly, wrists pinned, with Bru straddling her.

"Promise to be good and I'll let you up," he said.

"I'm not making any promises," she told him, spitting out sand.

"Then you can't get up."

"Okay." She wished she'd left her T-shirt on over her bikini because eventually she was going to have to get up and when she did he was going to get an eyeful. She never should have bought this stupid suit with strings instead of straps.

The second he let go she raced for her beach bag, rummaged through it, but couldn't find her shirt. She pulled out a towel instead, quickly draping it over her shoulders, and just in time, too, because he was back, dropping to his knees beside her in the warm sand, offering a beer.

She still hadn't learned to like the taste of beer. She couldn't understand why the Chicago Boys went on and on about it, debating the merits of ale versus lager, draft versus bottled, but she was thirsty, so she took it, held the can to her mouth and tried swigging. It made her cough and when she did, she dribbled beer down her chin and onto her chest--reminding her of that night two summers ago when the redhead had thrown beer in Bru's face.

"So, what's behind that mask, Double?" Bru asked, pulling the towel from her shoulders. They were no longer Double Trouble, the team. As of today they'd become individuals. She was Double and Caitlin was Trouble.

"Mask?" Vix asked.

"Yeah, that mask you're always wearing."

"You're the one with the mask," she told him, whipping off his mirrored sunglasses. Right away she regretted it because now he looked directly into her eyes, making her squirm. She broke the spell by looking away first.

"Now Trouble..." he said, leaning back on his elbows, watching Caitlin and Von frolicking like puppies, "she wears it like a badge. But you don't need to advertise, do you?"

The side of her brain that could still think, still function, was impressed by his observations. He reached up and caught a strand of her hair as it blew across her face, then tucked it behind her ear, letting his fingers drift to her neck, across her shoulder, down her arm, making her breasts ache and her Power tingle. When he got to her hand, he turned it over. If he kissed it the way the Countess once had she'd faint. Faint dead away. She'd tell him it was the sun, that she always passed out from too much sun. But no problem, he traced a line across her palm instead. She could hardly breathe. So this is what it's like, this is how it feels.

He let go of her abruptly, cleared his throat, chugalugged some beer. "How old are you now?" he asked.

"Seventeen." Her voice came out a whisper. "Seventeen this month."

"Seventeen," he repeated.

"And my name is Victoria." She couldn't believe she'd said that. Never once had she called herself Victoria.

"Victoria," he said.

"How old are you?" she asked.

He found this funny. "How old do you think?"

"I don't know...maybe twenty..."

"Twenty-one in September."

"You were or you'll be?"

He looked at her and shook his head. "You worried about me being legal?"

No, that wasn't what was worrying her. She reached into her bag again, determined to find her T-shirt. This time she came up with it.

"Cold?" he asked, as she began to pull it over her head.

"No."

"Then don't..."

So she didn't.

His hand was on her shoulder again. She tried to swallow, as if by swallowing she could make her thoughts go away. Her skin was burning. All she could hear was her heartbeat and Pat Benatar warning her--Heartbreaker...love taker...

Finally he said, "You're not scared of me, are you, Victoria?"

"Scared?" she said, too loud, as if she were some parrot who could only mimic words. She shrugged, wishing she could say, No, I'm not scared of you. I'm scared of these feelings.

"Don't be scared." And he gave her that slow smile, the one she'd first seen at mini golf the night she'd celebrated her thirteenth birthday.

Later, during the famous Menemsha sunset, Bru leaned back against a rock with his legs outstretched. She fit into the space between and relaxed into him, her back against his chest, his arms around her, although by then she was wearing a sweatshirt and wasn't really cold.

There were no official fireworks up island but someone with a yacht delivered an impressive show, lighting up the sky for fifteen minutes. When the display ended Bru walked her back to Caitlin's truck, stroked the side of her face with the back of his hand, then kissed her good night, a warm kiss, but quick, as if he didn't want to get started. She felt dizzy, weak, the crotch of her bathing suit was damp. She didn't want it to end yet. "You're not scared of me, are you?" she teased in a husky voice, a voice she didn't recognize as her own.

"Yeah, I am..." And from the way he said it she was almost sure it was true.
 
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Excerpted from Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. Copyright © 1998 by Judy Blume. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.