Chapter 1

I hated summer, I really did.

The heat that makes you want to die and stay at home under the air-conditioning the whole day. The flies that buzz around you and make you think a life-threatening bee is around, causing you to spaz and have friends laugh at you. And most of all, the sun that burns your skin and makes for a very uncomfortable couple of weeks.

People say I complain too much.

I guess that the only saving grace is the lazy nights, where I sleep at 4am and wake up at 2pm, because I'm nocturnal like that. It also lets me avoid the sun. Which I like, because the sun sucks severely.

Heh. That's an alliteration. Take that, Mrs. Parker-Who-Thinks-I'm-Dumb-And-Unable-To-Come-Up-With-An-Alliteration.

Wouldn't that name be a bitch to write out on your tests.

I suppose there's also another reason why I hated summer.

And this is it.

[***]

"What sounds more unique, this, or that?"

One of my friends, Julia, sat cross-legged on the grass with two letters in front of her, both with descriptions of herself on it. We found the perfect spot where she could lie in the sun, and I could lie in the shade.

Julia was obsessed with being different. Some people would label her as a 'hipster'. But I knew the real reason she was so adamant to be different in everything was the fact that her sister was the follow-the-crowd type. The type that knows all the latest songs playing on the radio, the latest trends, and so on. And Julia just wanted to set herself apart from her sister...especially because they look exactly the same.

"Mhmm...both are good," I said absent-mindedly, scrolling through the contents of my iPod. The Spill Canvas was playing on low through my earphones.

"No, I need you to help me choose one!" Julia said. "This pen pal is all the way in London, England, and he sounds...epic. Oh you would not believe it, he listens to all the same bands I do..."

"You're such a music snob, Jules," I half-joked. Because she was.

"Hmph," Jules said. "Just because I don't listen to all that Top 40 stuff. Anyway, choose one."

I looked over the choices. They both seemed nearly the same, with interesting quotes that tied it together and vague answers that made her seem mysterious. I randomly picked one and waved it in front of her.

"This one. This one sounds more unique."

"Perfect," Jules grinned. "I love you."

"Right back at you," I said.

The truth was, I sometimes found Jules to a bit pretentious. She had a facade, almost, that I saw her put up. She spent ages on her Facebook profile, making sure it made her sound the way she wanted people to see her as. Appropriate bands under her music, indie films under her movies, and a 'unique' profile picture. I knew a lot of people did that, but Jules made sure hers was perfect.

"So what are you doing this summer?" Jules asked, turning onto her back and shielding her eyes against that stupid sun. Urgh.

"Probably just laze around," I said.

"Find a summer love?" Jules asked, turning around to lie on her stomach and look at me with a grin.

Jules, and probably all my friends, teased me about boyfriends and love the most. It was because I had never expressed any interest whatsoever in any boy, and they would have thought I was lesbian if it wasn't for the fact I hadn't expressed any interest in girls either. Most people thought I was asexual. I wish I was. I was just a jaded girl with trust issues. You came across them easily enough.

"Maybe," I replied. "I guess you'll never know."

"I love that about life," Jules said. "I don't think anyone would like life if you could see what's coming around the corner. If your life was scheduled, and someone told you exactly what was coming next."

I amused myself with a small cartoon in my head of getting emails of exactly what's going to happen next. Dear Summer, today you're going to receive a soccer ball to your head, but that's okay, because a cute boy will come up to you and ask you if you're okay. You'll proceed to tell them to fuck off, but the boy will keep insisting and you'll go out and have a delightful scoop of ice-cream and proceed to tell each other your life stories. Have a great day, Summer!

And now you've found out my dreadful name. It's all terribly ironic, I know.

What I imagined would never happen, because that stuff only happened in novels. And I should know, because I just read one where that exact scene happened. I found the fact that the main character spilled the beans about getting abused at home so easily – if I was getting physically abused I wouldn't have done that. It was so unrealistic that I closed the book.

No, that was a lie. I skipped to the last pages to see what happened.

They lived happily ever after, in case you were wondering.

"I think that life would be safe," I said. "Risk free. Shouldn't a safe life be a happy life?"

"Hell no," Jules replied.

"Mhmm..." I said. I trailed off to give the idea to Jules that I was pondering the subject, but in fact I wasn't. I was thinking about what I was going to have for dinner tonight, because apparently according to the 'schedule' it was my turn to cook. See, my Mother was the type of person that would have loved little emails detailing what was coming up next. It would save her the trouble of actually writing it out herself.

"Well, I've got to go," I said, ungracefully standing up. "I'll see you later, alright?"

"Yeah," Jules said. "Stay gold."

That was Jules' normal parting goodbye, because she loved the book The Outsiders. But as the book said, what's gold never stays gold.

I set off on the journey to my house, and I remembered the time when I was little, I would pretend it was an actual journey. The trip from my house to the park wasn't long, only about a seven minute walk, but I remembered when I felt it was ages and I used to pretend I was on the run from someone. Someone interesting. Someone that was after my diamonds. But I would always out smart them, because that's how heroes worked. Heroes out smarted villains, no matter what. Even if the hero was stupid and couldn't work out 2 + 2...they still thought up of a ridiculously good plan that would save everyone in the end.

Well, how could I settle for reality after figuring that out?

When I got home, Mom was already home, and my heart sank. However I still opened the door, I still went in and chucked my keys on the side table like everyday, and I still greeted her. Because I didn't know what else to do.

"You know its –" Mom started to say.

"My turn to cook dinner, I know," I finished off for her, entering the living room. She was sitting in her armchair (her armchair) with the remote control in her hand. She always had the remote control in her hand. I used to imagine her with a remote control in her hand, but the remote control didn't control the television. It controlled me, and my life. I used to think up of scenarios of when she would press the buttons, and what buttons she would press. That kept me amused for a while – even though afterwards I realised that her having control of my life was not something I should get amused by.

"Well you better get to it then," Mom said, not even looking at me.

I wanted her to look at me. So I kept looking at her, wondering if she would get the hint.

"Are you off in your own dream world again?" Mom said, still not looking at me.

One day, I had confided in her that I liked to make things up, and imagine things in my head. That I did it to distract myself from the real situations. She thought it was stupid, and I think that's why I'm always so defensive when I'm caught day-dreaming or something.

"No," I said. "I'll just...get right to it."

"Good," Mom said. "My day has been horrible."

Yeah, because that's relevant.

I shook my head and went to the kitchen, quickly deciding to make something quick and easy, like spaghetti. Okay, I always make something quick and easy, but Mom never complains about it. Actually she does, but she just likes to complain about me more.

As I prepared the spaghetti, I wondered whether my older brother, Luke, would ever come back. He was twenty-two, and in college somewhere across the country. Mom treated him worse than she treated me, which was saying something. He emailed me sometimes, but mostly he told me to get the hell out of the house. Well, I wanted to, but it's not like I could do anything, could I?

Mom came into the kitchen and grimaced. "Making spaghetti again? We just had that."

I sighed. Despite the fact that my mom was controlling and mean towards me, and organised and the one with the job, it sometimes felt like I was the mom and she was the kid. Especially when she complained. Maybe that's why I complain so much – I got it from my mother.

"Do you have no variety, Summer?" Mom asked me, looking through the mail on the dinner table. "Oh, Lord, your good for nothing brother sent us a letter. Let's see what he has to say to us."

My heart jumped. Luke sent us something? Was he coming back for the summer? At least for a while? Please, please, please say that he was. Immediately my mind conjured the scene when Luke would come back. I would jump in his arms and – no wait, that was too much like we were a couple. And we were siblings. So ew. No. I would hug him, and Mom would say something cynical (like she always does) and then Luke would talk to me in that lively, upbeat way of his and Mom would go into the background and I wouldn't have to deal with her. Just for a little while.

"What did he say?" I said carefully, looking at my mom's reaction while she was reading the letter.

"He wants to come stay for a while," Mom said, "with his...girlfriend...Isabelle."

My eyebrows rose. "Girlfriend? He never mentioned that."

"Yeah well, it looks like I have to go make up the guest room," Mom grumbled. "This changes everything this summer. Well I guess I have to move things around. What a pain in the arse."

"I'm sure he wouldn't mess up any of your plans," I told her.

"Mhmm..." Mom said. "Well, kids are always messing up your life."

And she said that with a straight face.

"How long is he staying for?" I asked.

"Er...a few weeks," Mom said, looking back at the letter. "I guess it'll be interesting to see what kind of girlfriend he has."

My mind went to imagine what kind of person Isabelle was. She definitely had brown hair. Blue eyes. Pretty, but the girl-next-door kind of pretty, like Luke's ex-girlfriend. Really nice. Too nice. Just the kind of person Mom hated. I would get annoyed by her over-enthusiasm, but Luke would compliment her perfectly.

Yeah, I've got this all figured out.

"Time to eat," I told her.

"Good," she said. "I'm starving."

Yeah, well Mom, so am I. So am I.

[***]

The air-conditioning was on full blast in my room cooling me down after being in the living room for so long. We only had air-conditioning in two rooms – mine, and my mom's. My room wasn't a very good reflection of my personality. Just a double bed pushed against the wall, a desk, a laptop on that desk, a beanbag...the normal stuff. On the wall I had a huge piece of paper taped up called 'Things I Will Do Before I Die' and I always add to that, basically everyday. I also had some old vinyl records up on my wall as well, because I decided they looked good.

I quirked my head at my 'Things I Will Do Before I Die' poster-like thing. I took out a sharpie and added something else to it.

Get a boyfriend.

I wrote it, smaller than all the others, and stared at it for a while. Get a boyfriend. Did that sound too shallow? Did that sound selfish? Should other things be on there? Was I too 'oh my god, I need a boyfriend or I will die'?

Because really, I can breathe fine without a boyfriend.

It's just...

Whatever. It's stupid. And unnecessary. I crossed it out.

I kept staring at the cross-out.

[***]

The next day, I was invited to go to a cafe with Jules and some of her friends. Note: her friends, not my friends. It's not that I only had Jules; it's just that my other friends didn't hang out with Jules. They weren't in the same crowd, and lately I hadn't been hanging out with them. Only Jules.

When I entered the cafe, I inwardly grimaced. Great. This crowd.

"Summer!" Jules called from the back of the cafe, making me put on a smile and wave at her.

"Hey," I said as I slipped into a chair that they had obviously left for me. I guess it felt kind of good, having a place somewhere. To be remembered.

Everyone else greeted me in their own way, and I felt myself feeling uncomfortable in this crowd that knew every underground band, every foreign film...

I exaggerate but hey.

It's almost like they have this file, just for people like them. It's got something on it that says If you're not a hipster, your eyes can not gaze upon the contents of this file. And in the file are these pieces of paper that contain all the latest bands you need to know, and it updates like, everyday. It automatically downloads them onto your iTunes and then onto your iPod. It's an elite file. A snobby one. If the file could talk, it would say nothing to me because I was just too common and listened to bands that lots of people knew.

"So, you guys heard of the band that's playing tomorrow night?" someone said. I didn't know their name, but...Jules' friends all blurred together somehow.

"Um, hell yeah, who hasn't?" Jules snorted. "I bet even Summer here has."

They told me the name of the band. I hadn't heard of them, but I just nodded and played along.

"Cool. You going then?"

"Of course," Jules replied. "And Summer's coming with me. Aren't you, Summer?"

"Erm," I said. "Yeah. Sure. Okay."

"You just accepted in three different ways," one of 'the friends' said, sounding amused at me. "That amused me."

Oh, God. It was her. One of Jules' friends always said 'that amused me'...after everything that amused her. As if we couldn't tell from the way she laughed, or the tone of her voice. She had to go 'that amused me'. It was freaking annoying, really, if you hung out with her for more than one hour at a time. One hour was pushing it.

Wouldn't you just love it if there was this wizard person who could be summoned at will, and you could tell them to just remove phrases from people's everyday speech? That would be handy. You know what else would be handy.

If I could actually have a backbone and reject invitations sometimes.

But no. I have to accept. In three different ways.

"Cool," Jules said. "We're gonna have an epic time."

Oh, yeah, or we're going to ruin my summer.

Later, I realised, that was a pretty accurate thought.

[***]