M y life changed forever this summer. And it wasn’t because I turned thirteen, or that we’d just survived our second hurricane. This will forever and always be the summer I touched my first dead body.
Okay, not a whole dead body. A bone. But close enough.
It started out like any other summer Saturday. I ate my bowl of Cap’n Crunch, caught a rerun of MythBusters , managed to avoid a shower after finishing my stupid chores. Then I finally talked Mom into letting me go meet my best buddy, Jonah, down by the pier.
“Hey, Reed,” he called as I rolled up on my skateboard, the wind off the water whipping his too-long hair into his eyes. “What’s up?”
I jumped off my board and popped it up into my hand, bypassing a seagull feasting on a trashed hamburger on the sandy ground. “Nothin’. Same ol’. Well, Isabelle was in my room stealing my anime books again.” My little sister was the bane of my existence. Brat.
He nodded, commiserating, as we strolled the sand dunes, the rushing waves pounding in the background. He probably understood more than most, having five younger siblings and one older brother. “Yeah. Matthew, Mark, and John all ganged up on my video games yesterday.” Did I mention they all have Biblical names? Straight up Old Testament for the older two, New Testament for the babies. Except for the youngest, Esther. His parents said there were no good girl names in the New Testament. Weirdos.
“Bummer. Sorry,” I said as we walked on in silence, the gusts of salty air rushing through our hair and stinging our eyes. But this was still our favorite place to hang out. Always had been, probably always would be. The girls in bikinis didn’t hurt either.
We criss-crossed some old sand flats, walking farther than usual, until we finally stopped and plopped down. Jonah pulled a crumpled package of Wrigley’s from his pocket and offered me up a piece. “Seen Melissa’s tits lately? They’re getting big.” He held up a hand to indicate a nice handful—at least a ripe granny smith—though I think he was exaggerating.
I grinned, forcing my gaze away. I couldn’t let him know how I felt about all that. I was an idiot, crushing on the hot girl. “Nah, dude. They’re not that big.” But I’d noticed too, cuz Melissa, well, she was Melissa . I noticed everything about her. Her long, brown hair the same color as Megan Fox’s. (Wowza.) And, if I got close enough, I could catch whiffs of her sweet shampoo. I’d also seen inside her locker . . . she liked the Misfits, anime, and horror movies. It didn’t get much more perfect than that. But it did. She also had the coolest brown eyes. Not brown, not black, but some dark, liquidy color in between. And, she was smart.
Yeah, I’d noticed. Not that I’d had the guts to talk to her.
“Whatever.” Jonah smacked his gum and flopped onto his back to stare up at the sky.
I squinted and studied the flowing, murky blue water. “So, you coming over for dinner?”
He shuffled his ratty tennis shoe deep into the sand, disrupting an old piece of plastic wrap, and a tumble of sand rolled down our small hill above the beach. He didn’t look at me. He didn’t have to. I knew the answer. “Sure. I guess.”
Jonah came to dinner nearly every night. I didn’t think his parents knew or cared where he was—no, I knew they didn’t. All those Biblical names were just for show because the King family wasn’t all that Christian and caring. Not to their kids, anyway. And I think Mom knew more than she let on, because she barely let me go over to their house, and I heard her say something once about two-faced serpents . . . and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t talking about any snakes in the garden. But she didn’t mind Jonah coming over. It seemed sometimes like she loved him more than she loved me. But it was cool. Most of the time. He’d been my best friend since we were ten and my family moved to this little Texas refinery town for my