What if all you knew was a lie?
Alycia Fuentes is back in Pueblo, Florida where her dad lives. She and her mom left when she was 10 because he was leaving them. She left everything, and everyone behind. Including Dylan, who can't seem to forgive her for breaking his heart. When secrets begin to come to light about the past, Alycia is left wondering how she can fix the what was inadvertently destroyed.
In this summer, secrets will arise, hearts will break, and love will come in all forms.
I last saw my dad when I was ten and don't get me wrong, it isn't that I don't love him or anything, but he left mom alone after thirteen years. Five of those years were spent fighting, the last five, but they are my parents--compared to my friends' parents, a fight in the middle of the night was still miles better than a silent treatment faze.
The year before he left, dad would occasionally go out for drinks with his co-workers. I knew this because I could always smell the alcohol on his breath. I also remember the scent sticking to his worn t-shirts and slightly torn jeans.
Hugging him wasn't as much of a pleasure anymore.
Even seven years later I can still remember his clumsy footsteps echoing lazily off the walls, his shoes forgotten on his feet. The darkness in the hallway was my ally every night as I watched him clomp into my parents' bedroom, my mom's sigh alerting my senses. I can still smell the ghostly odor of whiskey when my memory lowers its protective walls. It invades my nostrils, forcing me to not look mom in the eye for several minutes at a time.
My name's Alycia Fuentes and I'm seventeen, a senior at Sandalwood High School. A year after dad left, mom decided to move us to Toronto. After months of self-help courses and sleepless, tear-filled nights, she decided that it wouldn't be healthy for us to stay in the beach town that I was born in. Pueblo, Florida hosts almost our entire family, save for a few straggling uncles and second cousins who are scattered around the world.
Unlike my mom, I enjoyed my life in Pueblo. Before dad left, I had friends. Before he began his drinking nights, I spent endless summer days fishing colorful shells from the shoreline that ran all the way to the large doll-house vacation homes. Dad always told me stories of when he was younger and brave enough to jump the big white fence that separates the rich world from our own. I had once loved the town, reveling in its richness of everyday sunshine and new traveling faces. I was a kid who had yet to fall down in life. I was naive and my dad did not love my mom.
Mom walks back to me from the ticket booth, her blond hair is in a long French-braid and her green eyes are marked by crow's feet. Her ballet flat-clad feet are soundless on the marble floor as she approaches me quickly, the sounds of the crowd around her silencing her movements.
I tried arguing with her that I didn't have to do this. This summer is important, my best friend Becky Lively and I are supposed to tan on her balcony that overlooks Lake Ontario. We're supposed to visit Chinatown during Canada's rare hot days and buy cheap jewelry. The hustle and bustle of tourists in the city during the summer is one of the most exciting moments of the year, and I'll be missing it all.
"Here you go," mom says with a smile. She never wore braces and that is a fact that she shares almost every time she receives a compliment regarding her straight, white teeth. "Now, he'll pick you up at the airport in Miami," she grimaces when she sees my unbelieving face. "Aly, this is going to be fun."
I snort. "Right," I say, "because not seeing dad in seven years after he abandoned us in a town that has probably forgotten about us sounds so promising."
"Stop it," she says, "you'll give him a chance and you will have fun."
"Like you did?"
Her eyes look at everything and everyone, but at me and I know I've hit a nerve. "Sorry," I take the plane ticket from her clutched hands. "I just don't get why now, of all the years that have passed, he suddenly wants to see me."
"Because he misses you," mom sits down beside me on the cold metal bench. We both watch a woman race through the crowd to make her flight, her bags rustling loudly as they break through the crowd around her. "Because you're his only child and he thinks you're ready to see him."
"If that's possible."
"Aly," mom puts her hand on my thin shoulder. "Please."
I nod and start grabbing my luggage. "I guess I better get going," I stand up and try hard to ignore the butterflies that are ravaging my stomach.
Mom puts her small hands on my shoulders and looks down at me like she used to when I was little. "Give him a chance," she says again. "I don't want you to not want to see him because of me, he is your father--the only one you'll get kiddo."
The thing is, I know people who've lost their dads in a more permanent way than how I lost mine, but every time I remember him or his voice or his alcoholic scent, it is with a sense of grief. A man forever lost.
Two things surprise me instantly about being back in Florida, where I was born seventeen years ago. The long-forgotten heat burning through my thin t-shirt is one and my dad, groomed and smiling, waiting for me in the arrivals section, standing out in the crowd of pale tourists and sign-wielding chauffeurs, is the second thing.