Julianne dragged her feet across the ground, the soles of her worn-in red ballet flats leaving sand trails on the cement behind her. Twenty yards ahead on the beach, Chloe was waiting for her, tapping one platform espadrille impatiently. “Jules, move it or lose it! This party waits for no man!” Julianne squinted to see her sister through the ten o’clock moonlight and shivered as a burst of early-June breeze broke through the warm night and crept up her spine. Around her, the sky was blue-black, and the only things she could make out clearly were the reflection of the water and the shape of the dunes.
Although Chloe’s tone was light, Julianne rolled her eyes in her sister’s direction and let out an exasperated sigh. She hunched her shoulders, shoved her hands deep into the pockets of her faded Citizens, and grumbled. “It doesn’t matter. I’m sure by the time we get there someone will have snatched up the beach rights and we’ll have to head back home anyway. I mean, it isn’t about who’s been here the longest. If some arrogant jerks with buckets of money decide to, oh, I don’t know, build a massive addition onto their huge glass house, they can just take over the beach to do that any time they want—
“Oh, Jules …” Chloe sighed, lacing her fingers through the belt loops of her denim miniskirt. Julianne noticed that her sister’s tangerine manicure matched her braided ribbon belt perfectly. Chloe was obviously trying her best to ignore the recent developments threatening their home. Even though their artist mother had purchased the family’s ocean-side property and its cozy 1960s cottage-style house, full of quirky nooks and little balconies nearly thirty years ago, changes in the neighborhood were now threatening to force the family out of their beachside house.
Over the past few years, wealthy families, enchanted by the beauty of the beach, had begun moving into the neighborhood en masse. It seemed that a new mansion was springing up around them practically every month.
With each new mansion came a new lawyer knocking on the door trying to cajole, guilt-trip, or bully the family into selling their land so that the new neighbors could build some “really amazing” hot tub, cabana, or heliport on the beach.
“We’ll be okay,” Chloe continued, turning toward the ocean. “It’s been our house for thirty years; no one can take it from us. Mom and Dad had their first date on our beachfront, they got married in the house, we have both lived our entire lives there, and Mom … well, you know.”
Neither girl wanted to finish Chloe’s sentence.
Although their mother had been dead for several years, the house was still full of her creativity and warmth.
“I don’t know,” Julianne protested. “The Moores really mean business. They’re way more intense than any of the other families have been.” The Moore family had only moved in a few weeks earlier, but they were incredibly vocal about their plans to build a huge addition onto their already massive mansion. “I mean, it’s totally insane. They move in, level a whole chunk of the beach, and build this huge glass castle looking out onto the ocean. Okay, whatever, they’re not the first. But now they want to build a gigantic addition, too? For what?
Servants’ quarters? A horse stable? What else could they possibly need?”
“I know. I don’t trust them either,” Chloe conceded.
“But we can’t do anything about it tonight, so we might as well enjoy ourselves.” They had stopped moving toward the party, and Julianne shivered slightly as a whisper of cool ocean breeze broke through the warmth of the night. Fearing that Jules might turn around and head home, Chloe switched tactics. “Listen, Little Mary Sunshine, we’re going to this party and we’re going to have a good time—whether you like it or not. It’s non-negotiable. So you can enjoy yourself or you can pretend to enjoy yourself, but those are your only options.”
“Ooh, don’t I get to look behind door number three before I decide?”
“Nope, that’s it. You can learn to love it or you can learn to fake it,” Chloe chirped, enumerating Julianne’s options with her fingers. She looked like a very determined camp counselor trying to wheedle some bratty child into drinking the bug juice. Julianne felt her shoulders relax and couldn’t help but let out a short laugh.
Laughing felt like gulping huge mouthfuls of air after being underwater for a very long time.
“Okay, then,” Julianne conceded. “Sounds like a plan. I can do fun. I love fun. Fun is my middle name.”
“Um, Jules?” Chloe swept her hair back off her shoulders and arched one well-maintained eyebrow toward her younger sister. “You don’t have a middle name.”
Julianne shrugged her shoulders and giggled, noticing Chloe’s triumphant expression. “You got me there, Captain Literal. Whose party is this, anyway?”
“Okay. So, do you remember Jess and Molly? From Kappa Delta?” Chloe had rushed the sorority her first semester at UCLA and already had more friends than Julianne could keep track of. Julianne pursed her lips together, trying to match faces to names. “Anyway,”
Chloe continued, “it’s their old roommate, Kristen.
“Did she go to high school with you? I don’t remember her,” Julianne cut in. Chloe always knew everyone, everywhere, and it was generally difficult to keep track of which friends were from which school, job, or club. In the summer in the Pacific Palisades, though, Julianne felt like everyone was friends. Surrounded by sand and sunshine, it was almost impossible not to have fun.
“Nope. I think she went to private school somewhere.
I met her during rush. Anyway, she has a bonfire permit, kegs, the whole nine. I’m sure we’ll probably know at least half the people there. And …” Chloe’s voice trailed off as she twisted a strand of coffee-colored hair around her finger.
“And?” Julianne prodded.
Julianne’s eyes met Chloe’s, both flashing in recognition at the same time. “Oh no,” Jules sputtered. “Oh no no no no no.”
Chloe shifted her weight and looked at her sister,