"Can you believe summer is actually over?" Sasha asked as the girls sat on the pier enjoying what they knew could very well be the last ice-cream cones of the season. The sky was blue and the sun shone brightly off the gently rolling ocean waves, but the breeze was noticeably cooler than it had been just a week before. They'd started wearing long sleeves again, although Sasha, Annie, and Kate were still in shorts. Cooper, of course, was dressed in jeans and her favorite black Doc Martens.
"It went by really fast," remarked Annie as she took a bite of her strawberry cone. "Why did it seem to last longer when we were kids?"
"Maybe because when we were kids all we did was play outside instead of worrying about cancer, breaking up with our boyfriends, and becoming a little too much like the goddesses we were invoking," Cooper suggested thoughtfully.
The others glared at her for a moment before breaking out in laughter. "Leave it to you to sum up the past two months so succinctly," said Kate, wiping traces of vanilla almond fudge off her lips.
"Well, it's all true," Cooper replied as she licked the edge of her mint chocolate chip cone just before it dripped on her leg.
She was right. All of those things had happened to them in the short time since their sophomore year had ended. In fact, a lot more had happened. First, Cooper had temporarily left their Wiccan group after a strange run-in with some out-of-control kids at a Midsummer ritual. Then, Kate's aunt had been diagnosed with cancer and they'd done a healing ritual for her, much to the concern of Kate's suspicious parents, who clearly were wondering just how involvedtheir daughter was in Wicca. Most recently, Annie, who earlier in the summer had been saddened by the sudden death of one of the residents at the nursing home where she was volunteering, had undergone a weird transformation after invoking the goddess Freya during a full moon ceremony, causing all kinds of problems.
Although each of them had had her own issues to face, they'd all shared one particular ordeal during the summer: boyfriends. Sasha was still reeling from a terrible relationship with an ex from California, and Annie had gone on her first date and had her first kiss with Brian, a guy she'd met at a record store. Cooper and her boyfriend, T.J., had almost broken up after disagreeing about how public Cooper should be about her interest in witchcraft. And Kate and her boyfriend, Tyler, were still trying to figure out exactly where they stood on that same subject, with Tyler urging Kate to be more open about her involvement in the Craft and Kate unsure of how to do that.
"I think it was easier when we just had to play hide-and-seek," said Kate.
"But not nearly as interesting," Annie added. "I wonder what will happen next."
"I hope nothing happens," Kate said. "I'd like it to be a stress-free junior year."
Nobody said anything for a few minutes as they all licked their cones and enjoyed the afternoon. Then Annie popped the tail end of her cone into her mouth, wiped her hands on her napkin, and proceeded to unzip her backpack. She pulled out a sheaf of papers.
"Here," she said, handing one piece to each of them. "As promised, I collated all of our schedules and put them on one page so we can see where everybody will be and when."They'd received their schedules a couple of weeks earlier. Although they'd each been excited to see that they'd gotten into classes they'd wanted, there had also been some unpleasant surprises. Looking at all of their daily routines combined on one page, they were reminded that not everything had come out the way they'd hoped.
"Algebra at eight in the morning," Cooper said grimly. "I could barely do it at eleven in the morning last year. I'm doomed."
"At least you don't have to take gym at the end of the day," Kate said.
"Nobody told you to play basketball, jockette," replied Cooper jokingly. "And this year you'll be on the varsity team."
"If I decide to play," Kate said. "I still haven't made up my mind."
"Your parents will flip if you don't," said Annie.
Kate nodded. "I know," she said. "But I'm not sure I'm as into it as I used to be. Besides, Tara and Jessica will be on the team, and that might be weird."
They were all silent as they thought about what Kate had said. Tara and Jessica were two of her former best friends. Things had been up and down between them ever since Kate had stopped hanging around with them and Sherrie Adams, the other member of their once-inseparable group. The situation had been further strained when Sherrie had spread a vicious rumor about Tara after she'd helped Kate and her friends embarrass Sherrie in public. And when Annie slapped Sherrie in front of Jessica a few weeks before the end of the summer, it had seemed to sever the last ties between Sherrie and the girls who had once hung on her every word.
Kate, Cooper, and Annie were all happy to see Sherrie get her comeuppance, but they didn't know what might happen next. Sherrie wasn't one to take defeat quietly, and they all suspected that she might try to cause trouble for them if she could. Annie in particular was apprehensive about seeing Sherrie again. And although Tara and Jessica appeared to have given up on Sherrie, none of the girls knew where they stood with the two of them now.
"You guys worry too much," Sasha said, breaking the silence. "Look at the bright side -- we all have lunch together..."