Chapter One: The Last Sprinkle Sunday before Tokyo!
CHAPTER ONE THE LAST SPRINKLE SUNDAY BEFORE TOKYO!
“Okay, Sprinkle Sundays sisters, are you ready?”
My besties, Tamiko and Sierra, each gave a thumbs-up from behind the counter. I switched the sign on the front door from CLOSED to OPEN. “Ta-da! Molly’s is open for another beautiful summer day!”
It was a Sunday afternoon, and Tamiko, Sierra, and I were working our usual shift at my mom’s ice cream parlor, Molly’s. The bell on the door jingled as our first customers of the day entered the store.
“Let the post-day-camp games begin!” joked Tamiko, while Sierra greeted a mom and two sweaty and tired-looking little boys wearing camp T-shirts.
“Hey, I went to Whalers Camp when I was your age!” said Sierra to the boys, and suddenly they weren’t tired at all but were chatting enthusiastically to Sierra about Spikeball tournaments and swim races and skippers-versus-captains team competitions.
Tamiko laughed and shook her head. “I don’t know how she does it!”
“What?” I asked, though I was pretty sure I knew what she meant.
“Sierra charms everyone! That girl can’t go five minutes without making a new friend!”
I watched as Sierra gave the boys their ice creams and then showed off a complicated Whalers Camp high-five handshake that left them all laughing. “Yeah,” I said. “She’s living proof of that saying ‘A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.’ I can’t relate! I’d pretty much always rather be reading a book instead.”
“I agree. Who wants to waste energy on people you don’t even know, who might be annoying anyway?”
“Tamiko!” I had to smile because she was so outrageous sometimes. “That’s not nice!”
Tamiko shrugged. “I just can’t pretend to be interested. Anyway, I already have enough friends.”
“But, Tamiko, how can you talk about not needing new friends? You’ve made all those new friends at the Y!”
With school out for the past month, each of us had done different things. I had gone back up to my old camp, Holly Oaks in New Hampshire, for three awesome weeks of cool weather, arts and crafts, and swimming in the crystal clear lake. I had a bunch of old friends there from when I was little, and I just relaxed and didn’t have to worry about my social life. Unlike here at home, where I’d had to move and leave my besties, Tamiko and Sierra, at my old school without me (and I’d had to try to make friends at my new school)… all because of my parents’ divorce.
For the previous five years, I’d gone to camp for the whole summer, and I’d adored it. This year, our budget had only allowed for a half session at Holly Oaks camp. But as consolation, my parents had let me sign up for a food-writing class for kids at the Y here in Bayville, which started tomorrow. I loved reading and writing and food, so I was excited to combine all three in one class, even though I was nervous about meeting new kids again. Despite what Tamiko had said, she was actually pretty good in the friend-making department, while I was shy.
“Blah, blah, blah,” said Tamiko. “That doesn’t count. Those kids and I share interests, like colleagues, so it’s more like networking. We’re all artistic and creative, and we all have blogs and portfolios that we help one another with. We have a lot in common. I don’t just bond with random strangers all over the place, like this one!” She jerked her thumb at Sierra, who had sent the happy customers on their way and joined our conversation.
“What? I’m not bonding with random strangers! Those kids go to my camp!”
Tamiko and I looked at each other, and we both rolled our eyes. “You could find common ground with anyone, Sierra,” said Tamiko. “It just comes easily to you. Look at all the new friends you’ve made this year! No rhyme or reason.”
Sierra bristled. “That’s not true! MacKenzie is in my science class. The girls from my band are… in my band. The student council kids… Well, forget about them. The kids from soccer and softball—we have our teams in common.”
“Right, but what about Jenna, who you met at the park; and Sweeney, your ‘cat-sitting’ friend; and Philip from the pet food store?”
Sierra just shrugged and shook her head. “What can I say? I’m a people person!”
“And don’t forget all her rock-band camp friends!” I added quietly.
Sierra and the rest of her band, the Wildflowers, had attended a local rock-band camp this summer. Since I’d been back for a week, I’d noticed that all the kids from the program had been stopping by the store and trying out songs for one another. My mom had even let Sierra play Wildflowers songs on the store’s sound system once she’d approved them. Molly’s Ice Cream was suddenly getting a reputation as a talent incubator for local bands, and I wasn’t quite sure I liked it. I had wanted the store to be more of a literary ice cream parlor, and had even introduced a few bookish traditions early on, like book and ice cream pairings, that had kind of fallen by the wayside.
“Oh, well, the rock-bank camp kids are such a great group of people, and we have so much fun together! I always learn something new from each of them. For example, one of them just did a Kickstarter campaign—”
Tamiko did a facepalm and shook her head. “I’m so sorry I have to leave you to deal with this crazy socialite by yourself while I’m away, Alley Cat!”
Sierra just grinned and shook her head at us.
Tamiko and her family were leaving the next day for their vacation in Japan. I was dreading her departure, since she was so much fun and the three of us were so well balanced as a work team and best-friend group. It was funny, but I almost felt nervous about it being just Sierra and me alone. Tamiko had a way of speaking the truth, clearing the air, and calling us on any silliness, and she always kept everything running smoothly.
Plus, I didn’t have a ton of friends, so with Tamiko away, 50 percent of my best friends would be gone.
I guessed Sierra felt sad about it too, because she moaned, “It’s not going to be the same without you here, Tamiko!”
Tamiko sighed dramatically. “I’m going to Japan, not another planet,” she said. “And it’s only for three weeks. We’ll keep in touch via SuperSnap, and we can even FacePage if you want. Instead of being sad, think of all the cool souvenirs I’m going to bring you back from Tokyo. You know, in Japan it’s a tradition for businesspeople to bring souvenirs—usually food—back for their coworkers when they go on business trips.”
My mom had just come into the front of the store from her office. She heard us chatting and said, “And all the ice cream research you’re going to do for me makes this kind of like a business trip!”
“Mmm! I can’t wait!” said Tamiko, patting her stomach.
My mother had given Tamiko fifty dollars to spend on researching the “soft cream” flavors in Japan. Soft cream was like our soft-serve ice cream—and it was popular for its unusual regional flavors, like soy sauce or yam or corn. Since my mom was always looking for new ideas to keep things at Molly’s exciting, and since Tamiko was such a good trend-spotter, we had high hopes for Tamiko’s post-trip recommendations.
“We can’t wait to hear what you find. Check in often and hurry back!” I said wistfully.
“We’re all going to miss you, Tamiko, but hopefully we won’t have much time to be sad,” my mom said.
We all looked at her, confused.
“It’s summer! Ice cream season!” she reminded us. “We’ll be so busy, the time will go by like that.” She snapped her fingers for emphasis.
I nodded. “That’s true. Hopefully we’ll blink, and—presto!—Tamiko will be back.”
Tamiko made a fake-annoyed face. “Well, you can miss me a little,” she said, and everyone laughed.
Then the post-lunch crowd started to roll in and we got busy.
Besides a steady stream of day campers, a number of Sierra’s music friends came in, including one of her bandmates, Tessa, who made me a little nervous. She had a crush on my good friend Colin from my new school, and… so did I, I guess. I made myself busy with another kind of crush while Tessa was there—crushing toppings at the back counter (okay, hiding) while Sierra chatted with her.
I caught the name “Colin,” and my ears perked up. I felt myself blushing a little bit.
“…haven’t seen him much at all,” Sierra was saying.
My blood boiled a little bit. It was true that he hadn’t visited Molly’s since I’d returned from camp, but I didn’t want Tessa to know that.
“Me neither,” Tessa said.
Well, that was good anyway. If I wasn’t seeing him, at least she wasn’t either.
Sierra and Tessa chatted about new lyrics for a song they were both struggling to finish. I heard the bell jingle, and a bunch of Tamiko’s photography “friends” (colleagues?) came in. I sighed and let her handle their orders while I cleaned and prepped. If things got crazy—which they would, shortly—I’d rejoin the fray and take orders. For now, I preferred to stay in the background and feel sorry for myself about not having a lot of friends who could visit me at work.
After a little while, Tamiko called, “Allie! Rush! All hands on deck!”
I washed up and joined the girls at the counter. There was a line almost out the door, and I’d been so lost in my own world that I hadn’t even noticed!
By the time things settled down, almost an hour and a half had passed. We’d been so busy, I hadn’t even had time to look at the clock. Gosh, I thought. How were Sierra and I going to handle these crowds when it was only the two of us? Maybe things really would be so crazy with Tamiko gone that the time would fly.
Later, as we cleaned up the mess we’d made during the rush, Sierra began singing her new Wildflowers song. It was all about loving someone she hadn’t even met yet. Only Sierra!
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Sierra, you are so funny! You love meeting people so much that your songs are about loving people you haven’t even met yet!”
“Well, hey, it’s true! All our future boyfriends are out there somewhere right now!”
Tamiko folded her hands and put them to her cheek in a fake-dreamy pose. “Yes, and mine’s so busy inventing a new social media app that will take the world by storm, he has no time to meet anyone else.”
We all chuckled, and Sierra said, “Well, my future boyfriend is busy writing incredible songs that the whole world will sing along to one day!”
I kept wiping the counter, but I was smiling.
“How about you, Allie?” joked Sierra. “What’s Colin up to right now?”
I swiped at her with the rag, and she jumped away, shrieking.
“I don’t even know where Colin is these days!” I said, trying to keep my voice light.
“Wait. Haven’t you texted him since you got back from camp?” asked Tamiko.
“Why not?” asked Sierra. “The last time I saw him, he asked me when you’d be back.”
“He did?” I tried to hide my smile.
Sierra nodded. “Maybe he doesn’t know you’re home.”
“Allie, he’s, like, your best friend at Vista Green. Why haven’t you told him you’re back?” said Tamiko. “That’s weird.”
“I… I just didn’t want to seem like I was stalking him.”
“You weirdo! How would it be stalking to tell a close friend that you’re home after being away for a long time?”
I shrugged again.
“Were you hoping his love radar would make him magically sense you were back and he’d just appear?” Tamiko teased.
I swatted her with the rag, but she wasn’t completely wrong. I had told Colin more or less when I’d be home, and I had hoped he’d be keeping track and contact me as soon as I’d returned. But he hadn’t.
“Maybe he’s worried about acting like a stalker,” said Sierra thoughtfully. She was so kind that she always looked at every side of a situation.
I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but I pushed that idea out of my mind. I still wanted him to come find me! “Maybe,” I said.
Tamiko and Sierra exchanged a glance. “Don’t be a shy little turtle,” said Tamiko. “You have to stick your neck out sometimes.”
Sierra pushed her head forward like a turtle to illustrate, and we all giggled.
It was all well and good for Sierra to stick her neck out, but I was a shy little turtle. I’d do anything to avoid sticking my neck out. Even if that meant not texting a so-called crush.