We borrowed the car to see a movie with subtitles.
It was playing one town over. Something in French. Something with a beautiful man in a top hat singing to a woman. A married woman. A married woman with a gorgeous name who we all wanted to murder because the man in the top hat loved her instead of us. We bought popcorn and smuggled in candy. We filled up a cup with half Coke, half Diet Coke. We pretended we were annoyed when the boys behind us heckled the film, but midway through, it was clear that the movie was terrible and the jokes were stellar. Teenage boys have the unique ability to light into something in a way that makes you feel bad for laughing, but you laugh anyway. On screen, the man in the top hat was smiling so wide that his big white teeth were shining light onto us like a moon of Jupiter. We regretted not bringing more Skittles.
April has the room on the second floor of the house.
Miranda has the basement.
Clarissa has the attic.
The rest of the house is the domain of a Saint Bernard named Copperfield and our father. He’s a man of forty-seven who sometimes thinks he would like a son until he encounters any young man our age, at which point, he decides that he would choose to have several thousand more daughters in place of one boy named Sean or Shawn, who would smell funny and say three words a day and always flirt with the idea of getting a chest tattoo, but never do it.
Our father doesn’t tell us what to do, but when we do something he disapproves of, he’ll slide his glasses down the bridge of his nose. If he leaves them there for more than a minute, we know he’s really disappointed. Once, when the three of us snuck into a bar downtown on the 4th of July and got caught and returned home by our aunt, our father slid his glasses down his nose and left them lingering there for a solid three minutes. Miranda began to cry, and it was only then that our father permitted us to go upstairs to bed.
April is fourteen.
Miranda is fifteen.
Clarissa is sixteen.
When the tourists are in town, we go to the private beach next to the El Muscato Hotel. If one of the lifeguards questions us, we pretend to be the three daughters of one of the guests. The lifeguards are usually our age or a little older. They don’t care enough to look into our story. They just need to be able to say we had one. April likes sunscreen lotion that smells like citrus. Miranda likes the one that smells like what people who make ocean-scented candles think the ocean smells like. Clarissa doesn’t use sunscreen and she never burns despite her fair complexion. She’s magical in that way and in other ways. She once held a dead goldfish in her hand and when she slipped it back into its bowl, it was alive again. It was April’s fish. She was six at the time and Clarissa was eight. She hugged her big sister so hard, Clarissa was worried her eyes would pop out, but she allowed it, because how often does a little sister hug a big sister like that? Even an eight-year-old understands that those times are rare.
When it’s off-season and warm, we leave school and travel down Ambler Street. At one end, the shops offer t-shirts with seashells on them and sweatshirts with sand castles on them and baseball caps with crabs on them. Nobody buys this merchandise off-season, but the people who run the stores keep them open for a few hours a day as part of the charade that the town is operable even when it’s winter. Every so often, a traveler on a midlife crisis road trip up the coast will step into one of those stores and buy a baseball cap, a pack of gum, and a keychain shaped like a jellyfish. For this, the stores stay open from eleven to two five days a week. At the other end of Ambler is a pizza place where Clarissa works on Saturday nights. We go to visit her towards the end of her shift and she slips us a free slice of the Hawaiian and two free slices of the Montana. We have her get us a cup with half Coke, half Diet Coke. At the table across from us, two teenage boys are throwing pepperoni slices at each other and pinching each other’s nipples through their torn t-shirts. We decide which ones are going to grow up to be handsome and allow ourselves to fall in love for a moment before Clarissa tells us it’s time to go and the three of us hop in her car and sing show tunes as loud as we can all the way home.
April stays up all night looking out her window in case vampires take over the town.
Miranda recites the names of Vice-Presidents until she falls asleep.
Clarissa takes a flashlight under the covers and carefully opens acceptance letters from colleges she never had a chance to visit.
We meet in the kitchen while Copperfield snores on the living room rug. It’s still off season, but spring only makes a fleeting appearance these days before summer barges in for its residency. Miranda hands out the blue spoons. April gets the red bowls. Clarissa is in charge of scooping the ice cream--two vanilla, one chocolate, one butter pecan.
Upstairs, we can hear whatever movie our father fell asleep to winding down on the television in his bedroom. Tonight, it sounds like Notting Hill, but it could be Runaway Bride. Our father prefers to fall asleep to Julia Roberts, but he won’t admit to it. He says he’s strictly a Meg Ryan guy, but we never hear him falling asleep to You’ve Got Mail. Downstairs, our ice cream tastes twice as good, because we’re only supposed to eat it after Sunday dinner as a treat, and it’s the middle of the night in the middle of the week and Clarissa will be away at college next year and the year after that Miranda will be in London doing an internship at the BBC. April will be standing in this kitchen alone--in charge of her own blue spoon and her own red bowl and divvying up the scoops as she sees fit.
We each tell each other a secret that night we’re all together. One secret is about fear, and one secret is about excitement, and one is a prediction that will never come true.
April says she’s thirsty and Miranda makes her a half Coke, half Diet Coke even though the caffeine will keep her up.
It doesn’t matter.
Miranda has to stay up anyway.
You never know when those vampires will show up looking to buy a sweatshirt with a sand castle on it.
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This was a nice story but I really like the way you write. It flows so well.
Thank you, Danny.
I really loved your story! I think it captures being a teen girl in a beach town (which I used to be). My only comment is that I thought there were 4 sisters throughout the story, up until you only introduced the 3 sisters. But as I continued to read the story, I still thought the narrator was separate from the 3 sisters. I could have totally misread it though, and I still really loved the dialogue! You're a really talented writer and I can't wait to read more of your stories!
Thank you so much. I've been spending a lot of time in a nearby seaside tourist town, and it's become a big inspiration.
Well you nailed it!
That was nice. I enjoyed the characters — their temperament was lovely. It’s such a serene and endearing story. Thank you.
Thank you, Tricia!
Sup Kevin, I'm going to comment as I read. - I actually really liked the first line. It reads like something young and quirky. - I feel like the first paragraph (after the first line) really establishes the voice of the story. - I laughed at this: "Miranda likes the one that smells like what people who make ocean-scented candles think the ocean smells like." - Haha, "Our father prefers to fall asleep to Julia Roberts, but he won’t admit to it. He says he’s strictly a Meg Ryan guy, but we never hear him falling asleep to You’ve Got Mail." ...
Thank you! I'll look at that last line again.