Personal Touch

Personal Touch by Caroline B. Cooney Read Free Book Online

Book: Personal Touch by Caroline B. Cooney Read Free Book Online
Authors: Caroline B. Cooney
the rain. I especially pitied Eloise in the toll booth. I wondered if they had heat in those little booths.
    At five o’clock the telephone rang. Nobody ever called Second Time Around. I was apt to forget it even featured a phone. In a book shop you tend to think the only means of communication is the written word.
    “Hello?” I said dubiously.
    It was my mother. When Mr. Hartley came to substitute for me so I could go have supper, she wanted to know, would I please come over to Chair Fair instead of going to a restaurant?
    “Sure, Mom, why?”
    “It’s pouring down rain, Sunny. Everybody in town here is buying umbrellas, tarpaulins, plastic drop cloths and rain hats. They all seem to have scheduled picnics that must go on regardless of a little thing like rain. I need you. Tim and I can’t quite manage alone.”
    The word Tim wriggled through my entire body.
    “Stop it,” I whispered, and I slapped at the word as if it were a mosquito.
    My mother kissed me good-bye over the phone. She always does that. It comes over the line as a little puckery smack.
    Kisses, I thought.
    I got very firm with myself.
    A mother’s kisses, I said. They connote security. Concern. Family. Merely in this case a technique of saying good-bye.
    Whereas a boy’s kisses…
    I got very very firm with myself. I had kissed Leland. Big deal.
    Mr. Hartley came in, drenched, to cover for me. I told him the problem at Chair Fair and he said, “Oh, heck. Stay there. Don’t bother to come back here. Nobody’ll exchange books in the rain. If I get bored, I’ll just close up. Bye, Sunny, see you tomorrow.”
    I draped myself in newspaper and ran through the rain. I am going to my mother’s store, I told myself.
    But my feet were running to somebody else.
    I refuse to participate, I muttered to the rain. This is the pits, the absolute pits. I have better taste. I’m not going to play this game. I quit.
    I strode into Chair Fair determined to see the rotten, worthless, creep of a delinquent who’d ruined my last five summers.
    I saw Tim. Tall, husky, handsome, gallant…
    Oh, no, I thought. Oh, six hundred times no.
    I turned blindly away from Tim and walked purposely up the aisle toward picnic supplies and plastic glasses.
    It was like a sudden summer thunderstorm. The one where you’re lying placidly on the beach and you see this black cloud on the horizon. You tell yourself it’s nothing, just a mirage, and then suddenly the cloud is rolling toward you, getting darker and more menacing, and then you’re madly packing up the beach chairs and the Thermos and shoving your crossword puzzle into your beach bag and thumping desperately across the sand to try to get into the car before you get soaked.
    There was this huge black cloud coming. Descending on me.
    Never ask for something, I said to myself. I went and asked for a crush on a handsome rich gallant summer boy. Look what I got.
    Now he was going to ruin the sixth summer in a row.

    I REMINDED MYSELF THAT Tim was the person who had stood outside last summer watching me knock Japanese beetles off my mother’s roses into the jar of kerosene and instead of admiring my new lavender and pink terry cloth jumpsuit, told me I had just the right figure to get a job as a bookmark.
    It was entirely possible that Tim still bore scars from where I kicked him.
    Two people like us could not love each other. Impossible.
    “We’ve run out of telescoping umbrellas up here, Sunny,” said Tim. “Mind running out into the stockroom and bringing me another box? They’re on the left about three shelves up.”
    He gave me the sweetest smile on earth.
    Don’t fall for it, I told myself. Last time he smiled at you like that was just after he purposely left you stranded on the tidal flats.
    Then I realized the sweet smile had been for the customer’s benefit and not mine. In fact the customer was standing there beaming back at Tim as if Tim were a rock star and the customer’s sole reason

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