The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls


Page 5 of 25


Chapter Seven

KAT

After they sign the cast list, Kat and Pen walk over to Gert’s for celebratory ice cream. Pen offers to drive Kat home afterward, but Kat decides to walk. It’s a gorgeous, sunny day, and Gert’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Shoppe is only a dozen blocks from home. If she’s going to have ice cream and Bea’s strawberry crumble, she wants to burn a few calories.

As Kat walks, she thinks about Adam, and her strides lengthen into a sort of angry march. How dare he accuse her of mean-girl shit—and in that frustrated, weary voice, like he’s so above it all. Like the age difference between them is five years instead of one. Okay, maybe she and Pen played a few pranks on Jillian: Pen stole her phone and changed all her contacts to Harry Potter characters; Kat hid her clothes after gym (but Jillian eventually found them, so it wasn’t that bad); and Pen made up a fake email to spam Jillian with poorly spelled messages for breast reductions. That last one was kind of childish. But they could have done way worse. They could have spray-painted slut on Jillian’s cute red Mini Cooper or spread a rumor that she was pregnant; that would have been real mean-girl shit. But that’s not how Kat rolls.

Still, maybe she’s going about this all wrong. Now Adam feels protective of Jillian, like she’s the victim, and he thinks Kat is even more of a drama queen than before. If she wants to flip the balance of power, she has to use his enormous ego against him. She has to convince him that she’s moved on.

As Kat marches past the Tabby Cat Café, she spots Mason Kim behind the register, messing around on his phone. She wonders if anyone’s texted him that he got the role of Laurie yet. Mase is well-liked, but he’s been kind of a loner since his boyfriend left for college last fall. Kat peeks in the front window, angling around the HELP WANTED sign. Mase is always on his phone. Brandon, his boyfriend, decided to work at the Kings Dominion amusement park this summer instead of coming home.

Kat opens the door tentatively. She had her eighth, ninth, and tenth birthday parties at the café, but she hasn’t been here for ages. Cat cafés might be all the rage in places like Los Angeles or Tokyo, but this one is geared toward little kids and old ladies and nobody in between. The furniture is mostly uncomfortable, flowered love seats and armchairs. Ugly cat figurines and decorative china plates clutter every table and shelf, half of them knocked askew by the cats. The litter boxes are upstairs, but the place reeks of potpourri in an overzealous attempt to cover the smell.

“Hey, Mase.” Kat closes the door as he grabs a curious black-and-white cat before it can escape. The name tag on its collar reads Suri.

“Hey, Kat. What’s up?” Mase says. They’ve been in a few shows together, but they aren’t really friends. He’s a year older, like Adam and Jillian.

“Did you hear? The cast list is up. I’m Jo.” She smiles proudly. “Congratulations. You’re my Laurie.”

Mase nods. “Cool.”

Cool? That’s all? He got the male lead—why isn’t he more excited? “Isn’t that the part you wanted?” Maybe Mase has a major scheduling conflict and needs to take a smaller role, and then Adam will get to be Laurie after all. “You’re not running off to Kings Dominion too, are you?”

“Nope.” Mase clears his throat. “There are no trips to Virginia in my future.”

“Are you sure?” Kat asks, petting Suri, who has escaped Mase’s grasp and wandered over to her.

Mase’s smile flattens. “Pretty sure, yeah. Brandon and I broke up.”

“Oh,” Kat says softly. “I’m sorry.” They’d been together for two years. That is practically forever in the world of Remington Hollow High showmances. “The long-distance thing must have been hard.”

“I didn’t think it was that difficult.” Mase’s jaw twitches. “Till he cheated on me.”

Kat purses her red lips sympathetically. “What an asshole.”

“Yeah.” But Mase looks brokenhearted, and his delivery lacks conviction.

“Adam cheated on me too,” she offers.

“I heard,” Mase says. Everybody heard. When she saw Adam and Jillian kissing backstage, she cussed them both out so thoroughly—and so loudly—that the vice principal gave her detention. “It’s not the same thing. Brandon and I… He was my first love. And he slept with somebody else.”

“That sucks,” Kat admits. Poor Mase. He must be going totally stir-crazy working here all day with nobody to talk to besides Miss Lydia. He clearly needs someone to confide in. Someone to help him out of his heartbreak.

“I still love him,” Mase confesses, his shoulders slumping.

“Yeah? What are you doing about it?” Kat props her elbows on the counter. Suri, annoyed at being neglected, tears off across the room.

“Doing about it?” Mase runs a hand through his spiky black fauxhawk. “I don’t know. Eating my feelings? Stalking him online? Texting that I miss him?”

Kat scrunches up her face. “What the hell? No. Mase, come on. That is a terrible strategy.”

Luna, Miss Lydia’s one-eyed gray cat, jumps onto the counter and butts her head against Mase’s arm. “It’s not really a strategy,” Mase says.

“No kidding. You can’t let him know you miss him! That gives him all the power.”

“He has all the power. He’s the one who broke up with me.”

“But he doesn’t have to know you’re pining.” Kat picks up a cat toy—a feather on a string—and twitches it back and forth. “Look. You have to make him miss you.”

“How? I’m spending my summer working here.” Mase gestures around the empty café. “I play with cats and dick around on my phone all day while I serve tea to little girls and old ladies.”

Kat looks at the front window, where Cinnamon, the original tabby, is taking a nap in the sun. Where the pink HELP WANTED sign is taped to the glass. “Miss Lydia’s hiring?”

Mase nods. “She wants someone to help her spruce up the place.”

“It could definitely use sprucing.” The seed of a brilliant scheme plants itself in Kat’s mind. Now that she’s sixteen, she could have a summer job. A real one, instead of working at Arden. And she loves cats. She’s always wanted one of her own, but Des is super allergic. “Wait a minute. How much sprucing? Like…a total makeover?”

Suri darts back across the room and stands on her hind legs to bat at the feather toy. “I don’t know about that. Sales are down. Adoptions are down,” Mase says. Miss Lydia works with the local rescue to feature cats available for adoption, as well as the ones that she’s adopted herself.

“Bummer.” Kat crouches—not easy in three-inch platform heels—and pets Suri. “Well, I know how to make things look cute for cheap. We aren’t exactly rolling in cash. Would you put in a good word for me?”

“With Miss Lydia? I guess, but—” Luna nudges Mase till he pets her again. “Not to be self-absorbed, but how does this help me get Brandon back?”

“Between your good word, my natural charm”—Kat tosses her hair—“and what I’m assuming will be a real lack of applicants, I’m a shoo-in. And I have big ideas for this place.” She looks around with a critical eye. “This could be cool. We could make it cool.”

“We could?” Mase raises his well-sculpted eyebrows, clearly dubious.

Kat stands. “Yeah. I follow some cat cafés on Instagram. We’d have to get rid of the furniture first. Toss all those hideous figurines and china plates and cat pillows. Keep the pink wallpaper. Maybe paint this wall with chalkboard paint, and make signs for selfies.” Kat strides around the room, pointing, with Suri trotting after her.

“Selfies?” Mase echoes. “Who’d want to take selfies here?”

Kat runs a finger over the textured pink wallpaper. “Everyone, once we’re finished with it. We’ll get futons with slipcovers so we can wash off the cat hair, and shaggy pink and black throw pillows. Think modern. Sleek, but super cute. Still a place that little girls want to

come for birthday parties, but also a place that people our age would come and hang out and play with the cats. You get teenage girls, you get money. We’re tastemakers. Don’t you read Teen Vogue? Teen girls are totally leading the resistance.” The more she talks, the more she loves this plan. “Brandon will see the place blowing up on social media, and he’ll be intrigued.”

Mase shakes his head. “Brandon doesn’t care what’s going on in Remington Hollow. He’s moved on.”

“That’s part two of my plan. Maybe you should move on too.” Kat grins. “Make him jealous.”

Mase stares sadly at his retro wingtip shoes. “I don’t think I’m ready to date anybody else, honestly.”

“I know.” Kat pats him on the shoulder. “But how about fake dating?”

Mase rolls his eyes. “Like, invent some other guy? Isn’t that kind of pathetic?”

“Not a guy, and not made up.” Kat twirls in a circle and does jazz hands. “Me!”

“You?” Mase stares at her, clearly thrown. “What?”

She sighs. “Mase. It’s so obvious. You want to make Brandon jealous. I want to make Adam jealous. We’ll be spending a lot of time together anyway between the play and me working here. It’s brilliant.”

“It’s crazy.” But she can tell he’s considering it. He’s eyeing her like he’s evaluating whether they’d take good selfies. And they would. She’s already thought this through. They both have great style. Mase is cute, in a punk sort of way, with his fauxhawk and guyliner and skinny jeans. He’s got…what’s the word Gram uses? Moxie. Kat digs moxie. It can’t be easy being a bisexual Korean American drama nerd in a small town, dating another guy, and working at a cat café. When they were younger, back in middle school, Mase got bullied a lot. Then his brother, Jacob, kicked Troy Randall’s ass and let it be known that he was coming for anybody who came for Mase, and nobody messed with Mase again.

“Come on. Your current strategy is clearly not working, right?” Kat insists.

Mase shrugs. “Truth. So, hypothetically speaking…how would this work? We post a cute Insta story?”

“No, that’s not big enough. We have to stage it.” A smile creeps across Kat’s face. “You aren’t averse to public displays of affection, are you?”

Mase shrugs. “Nah. It’s like stage kissing.” He stares at her. “If I say yes, am I going to regret it? How do I know I can trust you?”

“What have you got to lose?” Kat fires back.

“If this gets out…my dignity? Self-respect?”

“It would be even worse for me. Everybody already thinks I’m a hot mess. I’m the stereotypical jealous ex-girlfriend,” Kat admits. “But nobody will find out. I promise.” She thinks for a minute. “What if we make our debut tomorrow night at Spencer and Dylan’s party?” Spencer Pennington is totally obnoxious, but the parties she and her brother throw every summer are legendary.

“Your confidence is weirdly convincing.” Mase nods. “All right. I’m in.”

Kat grins. “This is going to be so much fun. Trust me.”

Chapter Eight

VI

Vi is setting a trap.

She has very slowly meandered the eight blocks from home back to Arden. In one hand, she holds the new Nina LaCour book. In the other, she holds a leash that leads to a sweet, fluffy white chow chow named Juno, who stops to sniff curiously at every flower, tree, bush, and telephone pole they pass. Vi is dog sitting while her next-door neighbors, the Mitchells, are on vacation.

Vi has decided to take Des’s advice and stop hiding from Cece. She overheard that Cece wanted to read this book, the bookstore was sold out, and Vi had a copy on her bookshelf at home. It was easy enough to go home and grab it, pick up Juno for her evening walk, and then head in the direction of Tia Julia’s, where Cece works most Friday nights.

Not that Vi has memorized Cece’s schedule or anything. She’s just noticed when Cece’s there and when she’s not, since Tia Julia’s is right next door. Vi is very observant.

Especially when it comes to Cece Pérez.

And Juno is the perfect Cece bait.

Vi takes a deep breath, runs a hand over her carefully rebraided hair, and walks past Arden. Des has dragged the chalkboard sign advertising tomorrow’s story time inside and is closing up. Vi has stalled as long as she possibly can. If she wants to get home in time for family dinner, she has to put her plan into action now and then return Juno to the Mitchells’. She tugs the dog along the brick sidewalk, past the couples sipping sangria and bright frozen margaritas in the front windows of Tia Julia’s. Cece is stationed behind the outdoor hostess stand in the courtyard. Her dark hair is pulled up into a high, bouncy ponytail, and she’s wearing a black dress that falls right above her knees. She is so, so ridiculously pretty.

Cece flies out to the sidewalk as soon as she sees the dog. “Juno! Who’s a pretty girl?” She crouches to pet Juno, heedless of getting white dog hair all over her black dress. “Who’s a good floof?”

Vi hides a smile. “Hi, Cece.”

Cece looks up as if she’s only now noticing that a person is attached to the dog. “Vi! Hey!”

The butterflies in Vi’s stomach do cartwheels when Cece says her name. Like, of course Cece knows her name. They were best friends in preschool. They have been in the same grade, with more or less the same hundred people, since kindergarten. They don’t have the same friends—Cece is popular and Vi is not—but last year, they were in the same algebra and government classes.

Still. Cece said her name.

“How do you know Juno?” Cece kneels on the brick sidewalk and pets the dog’s big furry head. Juno wags her tail happily and licks Cece’s cheek.

“Juno!” Vi chides. “I’m sorry.”

“I don’t mind.” Cece laughs and rubs her hand over her cheek. Her nails are painted a bright bubblegum pink. She wears pink a lot, Vi has noticed.

“Juno lives next door. I’m dog sitting.” Vi feels almost unbearably awkward in her own skin. She doesn’t know what to do with her hand that’s not holding the leash. It’s just sort of hanging by her side, clutching the book that Cece hasn’t noticed yet. What do other people do with their hands? She tucks the book against her chest.

“She’s adorable. I’d rather babysit her than my brothers.” Cece pouts, and Vi tries—and fails—not to stare at her pink-lipsticked mouth. “I love dogs.”

“I know,” Vi says, then grimaces. She doesn’t want to sound like a total creeper. “I mean…me too.”

“When Remus died last year, Mami said we couldn’t get another dog. She said we’re here all the time and it’s not fair to them.” Sirius and Remus were the Pérezes’ Great Danes. “She said it’s hard enough for her to manage the restaurant and the boys without worrying about giant dogs.”

“Des is super allergic to dogs, so we can’t have one either,” Vi explains. “But I watch Juno whenever the Mitchells go out of town. This summer, I’m walking her at lunchtime. I’ve been walking the Chans’ new puppy sometimes too.”

“Athena? Oh my gosh, she’s the cutest!” Cece squeals.

Vi loves that Cece knows all the neighborhood dogs’ names.

“Yeah, she’s such a puppy still. She has so much energy. She and Juno are kind of a handful together. Actually…if you ever wanted to walk them with me…I could use the help,” Vi says. This is going so well! Is she being too obvious, though?

“That would be so fun.” Cece stands up, bouncing a little on her toes. “If I don’t have to work, I’d love to. Will you text me next time?”

“Sure. Yeah. Let me get your number.” Vi hands Cece the leash while she fishes her phone out of her back pocket. She’s getting Cece’s number!

Cece rattles it off, and Vi adds it to her contacts. When she looks up again, Cece is staring at her chest instead of the dog. Vi looks down, self-conscious. Her Empowered Women Empower W

omen T-shirt does have a lower neck than she’d usually wear. Is her bra showing?

Wait, no. Cece is reading the back of the book in Vi’s hand. The book Vi brought specifically to lend her. Right. Get it together, Vi. Cece passes the leash back to her, and their hands brush. Vi hopes she isn’t blushing.

“Is that the new Nina LaCour book?” Cece asks. “I tried to buy it today, but Arden was out. Des said it’s your fault ’cause you’ve been recommending it to everybody.”

“It’s so good. Here.” Vi hands Cece the book, trying to sound casual, as though this hasn’t all been carefully orchestrated. Cece immediately flips the book open and reads the flap copy. “Do you want to borrow it?”

Cece looks over her shoulder, like she’s suddenly remembered she’s supposed to be working, but there’s no one waiting at the hostess stand. “Oh. Thank you, but…Des said she’d order it for me. I mean…aren’t you reading it?” Cece flips to the first page and sighs. “She’s such an amazing writer. Everything Leads to You is one of my all-time favorites.”

“Mine too. And I love the book she cowrote with David Levithan, You Know Me Well. Have you read that?”

Cece nods. “I read in the foreword they were writing it when the Supreme Court ruled on marriage equality.”

“I wasn’t out yet then. I was still kind of figuring out that not everybody was that into Clexa, but…” Vi trails off, flushing. Cece isn’t going to have any idea what she’s talking about. Nobody in Remington Hollow ever knows what Vi’s talking about. Not even her sisters.

“Clexa?” Cece echoes.

“That’s, uh, the ship name for Clarke and Lexa. They were a couple on the TV show The 100 in seasons two and three?” Vi has to stop herself from rambling. Clarke and Lexa’s slow-burn romance—and the fan fiction that Vi devoured about it—led to her joining Tumblr and starting to write her own fanfic.

Cece smiles. “I’ll have to check it out.”

“It’s on Netflix,” Vi says, before she realizes Cece is probably only being polite.




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