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Dinner the first night was always the same: a big pot of spicy bouillabaisse that Susannah cooked up while she waited for us to arrive. Lots of shrimp and crab legs and squid—she knew I loved squid. Even when I was little, I would pick out the squid and save it for last. Susannah put the pot in the middle of the table, along with a few crusty loaves of French bread from the bakery nearby. Each of us would get a bowl, and we’d help ourselves to the pot all throughout dinner, dipping the ladle back into the pot. Susannah and my mother always had red wine, and we kids had grape Fanta, but on that night there were wine glasses for everyone.

“I think we’re all old enough to partake now, don’t you, Laur?” Susannah said as we sat down.

“I don’t know about that,” my mother began, but then she stopped. “Oh, all right. Fine. I’m being provincial, isn’t that right, Beck?”

Susannah laughed and uncorked the bottle. “You? Never,” she said, pouring a little wine for each of us. “It’s a special night. It’s the first night of summer.”

Conrad drank his wine in about two gulps. He drank it like he was used to drinking it. I guess a lot can happen over the course of a year. He said, “It’s not the first night of summer, Mom.”

“Oh, yes it is. Summer doesn’t start until our friends get here,” Susannah said, reaching across the table and touching my hand, and Conrad’s, too.

He jerked away from her, almost by accident. Susannah didn’t seem to notice, but I did. I always noticed Conrad. Jeremiah must have seen it too because he changed the subject. “Belly, check out my latest scar,” he said, pulling up his shirt. “I scored three field goals that night.” Jeremiah played football. He was proud of all of his battle scars.

I leaned in next to him to get a good look. It was a long scar that was just beginning to fade, right across the bottom of his stomach. Clearly, he’d been working out. His stomach was flat and hard, and it hadn’t looked like that since last summer. He looked bigger than Conrad now. “Wow,” I said.

Conrad snorted. “Jere just wants to show off his two-pack,” he said, breaking off a piece of bread and dipping it into his bowl. “Why don’t you show all of us and not just Belly?”

“Yeah, show us, Jere,” Steven said, grinning.

Jeremiah grinned right back. To Conrad, he said, “You’re just jealous because you quit.” Conrad had quit football? That was news to me.

“Conrad, you quit, man?” Steven asked. I guessed it was news to him, too. Conrad was really good; Susannah used to mail us his newspaper clippings. He and Jeremiah had been on the team together these last two years, but it was Conrad who’d been the star.

Conrad shrugged indifferently. His hair was still wet from the pool, and so was mine. “It got boring,” he said.

“What he means is, he got boring,” Jeremiah said. Then he stood up and pulled off his shirt. “Pretty nice, huh?”

Susannah threw her head back and laughed, and my mother did too. “Sit down, Jeremiah,” she said, shaking the loaf of bread at him like a sword.

“What do you think, Belly?” he asked me. He looked like he was winking even though he wasn’t.

“Pretty nice,” I agreed, trying not to smile.

“Now it’s Belly’s turn to show off,” Conrad said mockingly.

“Belly doesn’t need to show off. We can all see how lovely she is just looking at her,” Susannah said, sipping her wine and smiling at me.

“Lovely? Yeah, right,” said Steven. “She’s a lovely pain in my ass.”

“Steven,” my mother warned.

“What? What’d I say?” he asked.

“Steven’s too much of a pig to understand the concept of lovely,” I said sweetly. I pushed the bread to him. “Oink, oink, Steven. Have some more bread.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” he said, breaking off a crusty chunk.

“Belly, tell us about all the hot friends you’re gonna set me up with,” Jeremiah said. “Didn’t we already try that once?” I said.

“Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten about Taylor Jewel already.”

Everyone busted up laughing then, even Conrad.

Jeremiah’s cheeks turned pink, but he was laughing too, and shaking his head. “You’re not a nice girl, Belly,” he said. “There are plenty of cute girls at the country club, so don’t worry about me. Worry about Con. He’s the one missing out.”

The original plan was for Jeremiah and Conrad to work at the country club as lifeguards. Conrad had done it the summer before. This summer Jeremiah was old enough to do it with him, but Conrad changed his mind at the last minute and decided to bus tables at the fancy seafood buffet instead.

We used to go there all the time. Kids twelve and younger could eat there for twenty dollars. There was a time when I was only twelve or younger. My mother always made sure to tell the waiter that I was younger than twelve, as, like, principal. Every time she did it, I felt like disappearing. I wished I was invisible. It wasn’t that the boys even made a big deal out of it, which they easily could have, but it was the feeling different, like an outsider, that I hated. I hated it being pointed out. I just wanted to be like them.

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