the house, so secure in her standing as Hollis’s one and only. “You never know,” I said. “Maybe Hollis has changed, and they’ll get engaged.”
My mom turned around and narrowed her eyes at me. “Now, Auden,” she said. “What have I told you about people changing?”
“That they don’t?” “Exactly.” She directed her attention back to the sink, dunking a plate, and as she did I caught sight of the pair of black, hip-nerdy eyeglasses sitting on the counter by the door. Suddenly, it all made sense: the voices I’d heard so late, her being up early, uncharacteristically eager to clean out everything from the night before. I considered picking the glasses up, making sure she saw me, just to make a point of my own.
But instead, I ignored them as we said our good-byes, her pulling me in for a tight hug—she always held you close, like she’d never let you go—before doing just that and sending me on my way.
My dad and Heidi’s house was just what I expected. Cute, painted white with green shutters, it had a wide front porch dotted with rocking chairs and potted flowers and a friendly yellow ceramic pineapple hanging from the door that said WELCOME! All that was missing was a white picket fence.
I pulled in, spotting my dad’s beat-up Volvo in the open garage, with a newer- looking Prius parked beside it. As soon as I cut my engine I could hear the ocean, loud enough that it had to be very close. Sure enough, as I peered around the side of the house, all I could see was beach grass and a wide swath of blue, stretching all the way to the horizon.
The view aside, I had my doubts. I was never one for spontaneity, and the farther I got from my mom’s, the more I started to consider the reality of a full summer of Heidi. Would there be group manicures for me, her, and the baby? Or maybe she’d insist I go tanning with her, sporting matching retro I LOVE UNICORNS tees? But I kept thinking of Hollis, in front of the Taj Mahal, and how I’d found myself so bored all alone at home. Plus, I’d hardly seen my dad since he got married, and this—eight full weeks when he wasn’t teaching, and I wasn’t in school— seemed like my last chance to catch up with him before college, and real life, began.
I took a deep breath, then got out. As I started up to the front porch, I told myself that no matter what Heidi said or did, I would just smile and roll with it. At least until I could get to whatever room I’d be staying in and shut the door behind me.
I rang the doorbell, then stepped back, arranging my face into an appropriately friendly expression. There was no response from inside, so I rang it again, then leaned in closer, listening for the inevitable sound of clattering heels, Heidi’s happy voice calling out, “Just a minute!” But again, nothing.
Reaching down, I tried the knob: it turned easily, the door opening, and I leaned my head inside. “Hello?” I called out, my voice bouncing down a nearby empty hallway painted yellow and dotted with framed prints. “Anyone here?”
Silence. I stepped inside, shutting the door behind me. It was only then that I heard it: the sound of the ocean again, although it sounded a little different, and much closer by, like just around the corner. I followed it down the hallway, as it got