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Summer Promise

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Overview

The first nine books in the popular Christy Miller series are now available in three treasured volumes
Bestselling author Robin Jones Gunn packs each one with enough action, romance, and drama to keep you reading and wanting more. It all starts the summer Christy vacations on a California beach and meets two friends who change her life forever. But after moving across the country with her family, Christy must begin her sophomore year of high school uncertain where she'll fit in. A red-headed new best friend, a try at cheerleading, a job at a pet store, and expectations for the prom fill Christy's high school years with a string of laughter-and-tears moments. Fireball Katie keeps everyone guessing what she'll do next, and surfer Todd keeps showing up while popular Rick has determined to get her full attention As these memorable years unfold, Christy and her God-loving friends find out what it means to be a "peculiar treasure." Follow Christy Miller as she stays true to her identity in Christ, drawing closer to God for help in realizing her dreams and dealing with her disappointments.
Whether you're meeting her for the first time or have known her for years--
Christy Is a Forever Friend
"Summer Promise "
Fourteen-year-old Christy Miller has the dream summer ahead of her in sun-kissed California, staying with her aunt and uncle at their beachfront home. Aunt Marti loves to shop, and those surfers are cute--especially Todd. Christy promised her parents she wouldn't do anything she'd regret later, and some of her beach friends are a little wild. But Todd and his "God-Lover" friends are giving Christy a new image of all things eternal. Can this summer live up to its promise?
"A Whisper and a Wish "
Christy's family has moved to California just in time for her sophomore year of high school. But they're not in Newport Beach, where she spent the summer. Instead they're an hour and a half away and Christy has to start all over making friends. Despite an embarrassing escapade at a slumber party, things are going pretty well.until some midnight fun leads to a trip to the police station. Does God really hear every whisper? Does He know our every wish? Then why is it so hard to know who your friends really are?
"Yours Forever "
Christy is back at Aunt Marti and Uncle Bob's house on the beach for the entire week between Christmas and New Year's.and Todd is in town, too The cute surfer completely captured Christy's heart last summer, and she's eager to spend every possible minute with him. But soon Christy and her aunt are barely speaking, and it seems like all her friends are mad at her, too--including Todd Is he hers or isn't he? And why would God let things get so tangled?
Story Behind the Book
"The Christy Miller series was actually born when a group of thirteen-year-olds challenged me to write a novel. I'd been questioning the content of their favorite books when they said, 'Why don't you write a book for us?' I told them no, I only wrote picture books. But they persisted: 'How hard could it be? We'll even tell you what to write We want a love story with teenagers at the beach.' And there you go. "Summer Promise "first released seventeen years ago and is now translated into five languages. I continue to hear from readers all over the world, many girls saying that they gave their life to Christ after reading" Summer Promise. "I love that "
--Robin Jones Gunn

Details

  • SKU: 9781590525845
  • SKU10: 1590525841
  • Title: Summer Promise
  • Series: Christy Miller Collection
  • Qty Remaining Online: 18
  • Publisher: Multnomah Books
  • Date Published: Dec 2005
  • Pages: 489
  • Illustrated: Yes
  • Age Range: 13 - 17
  • Grade Level: 8th Grade thru 12th Grade
  • Weight lbs: 1.04
  • Dimensions: 8.50" L x 5.37" W x 1.45" H
  • Features: Price on Product, Illustrated, Ikids
  • Themes: Theometrics | Evangelical;
  • Category: FICTION, CHRISTIAN
  • Subject: Religious - Christian - General
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Chapter Excerpt


Chapter One

Dreams for a Price

Oh yeah! We've got the spirit Oh yeah! That cougar spirit Say, hey! Get outta our way Cougars are on the prowl TODAY!

Christy Miller ended the cheer with a long, leggy leap. The other girls watched her land just slightly off balance.

"Good, but try to keep your arms straighter next time," the cheerleading adviser said.

Christy nodded at Mrs. James and tried not to feel self-conscious, even though so many girls were standing around watching her.

"And be sure you stretch out after practice today." Mrs. James turned her attention to the next girl in line.

Stepping away from the critical stares of the varsity cheerleaders, Christy took a deep breath and silently mouthed the cheer. Keeping her arms straight, she began going through the motions again.

It seemed to Christy that the first few days of practice hadn't been very hard or very competitive. Now that it was getting closer to tryouts, fewer girls were showing up every day. And the ones who did show up were, in Christy's opinion, all much better at jumps than she'd ever be.

"Give it a rest, Miller!" one of the varsity girls said, coming in her direction. It was Renee, a junior with short dark hair and eyes like a raven.

Christy tried to ignore Renee and finished the cheer with a solid jump.

"Give it up. You're not cheerleader material, and you know it. Besides, you're only a sophomore."

"Sophomores can try out like anyone else," Christy said quietly, lifting her damp nutmeg brown hair off the nape of her neck. She shaded her blue-green eyes from the afternoon sun and tilted her head. "Tryouts are only two weeks away, Renee. And I'm not going to drop out."

Christy meant the statement to sound firm and threatening, but it affected Renee as much as a harmless kitten batting at a thread.

"You only made it this far because of Rick Doyle." Renee flung the words at Christy. Two of her friends now stood beside her. "So don't look so innocent. We know what's going on between you and Rick."

"Between me and Rick?" Christy couldn't stand the way the three girls were staring at her. She wasn't sure what Renee was trying to prove. "Rick and I are just friends."

"Oh, right. Friends. Buddies. That explains why the most popular guy in school hangs out with a little sophomore who thinks she's going to be next year's star cheerleader."

Christy felt her heart pounding and her throat swelling.Why is Renee all over me like this?

"Come on, Renee," said one of the other girls, who walked over toward Christy. "Leave her alone. It's not Christy's fault Rick turned you down."

Renee spun around. "Who asked for your opinion, Teresa?"

"It's Teri. Only my grandmother calls me Teresa. 'Teresa Angelina Raquel Moreno,'" Teri mimicked in a high-pitched voice with a heavy Spanish accent. "But you're not my grandmother, Renee. So you can call me Teri, like the rest of my friends."

Christy admired Teri's friendly spunk. She obviously wasn't threatened by Renee. Christy wished she could appear as confident as Teri. But then Teri was a junior like Renee, so that had to count for something.

Renee turned to glare at Christy with a hard, pinched expression. "You're not good enough, Miller. Okay? You're not good enough to be a cheerleader, and you're definitely not good enough for Rick Doyle." Renee turned with a flashy cheerleading swish and marched off the field with her two friends beside her.

"What was that all about?" Christy asked Teri. Her hands were shaking. "What did I ever do to her?"

"It's not you." Teri wrapped her long, wavy brown hair up in a knot and tried to secure it with a scrunchie. "She's mad at Rick, and she's just taking it out on you. Don't let her get to you. You're doing great, Christy. By the time tryouts get here, you'll be ready. Don't worry."

But Christy did worry. She worried all the way home. As soon as she was in the front door, the first thing she did was call her closest friend, Katie, to tell her about the incident.

"Oh come on, Christy," Katie said in her bubbly, self-assured voice. "You know what Renee's problem is. It's Rick. She likes Rick. Didn't you know that? Everybody knows that."

"Katie, almost all the girls at Kelley High like Rick. He and I are good friends. You know that."

"Sure I do. But Renee doesn't. She thinks he's taking you to the prom."

"The prom? Why in the world would she think that? My parents would never let me go to the prom. You know how strict they are."

"Well, get this," Katie said. "I heard that Renee asked Rick to the prom, and he turned her down."

"You're kidding! Why?"

"That's what she's so upset about. He didn't give her a reason, but from what she heard from one of his friends, Renee thought he was taking you."

"No way! He'd never ask me. He could choose from a dozen girls, all seniors. Besides, I think a senior guy should take a senior girl. I mean, it's their last year of high school and everything."

"Christy, get a clue! He wants to take you. The problem is, he thinks you won't go with him since you're not supposed to date until you're sixteen."

Christy twisted the phone cord around her finger. "But Katie, I'm the kind of girl Rick teases and calls when he's bored. I'm not the popular rah-rah type he'd take to the prom. He's probably waiting to find out who's got the best chance of winning prom queen. That's who he'll take."

"Wake up, girl! Don't you see what's happening? Rick is turning you into the rah-rah prom-queen type. You're like putty in his hands. He's making you into the perfect girlfriend."

"Katie, that has to be the most ridiculous thing you've ever said!"

"Ridiculous or not, it's the truth."

A frustrating silence hung between them.

"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings," Katie said, all the fire doused from her voice. "But if you don't think I'm right, then just ask yourself to honestly answer one question." Katie paused.

"Yes?" Christy knew that although Katie often went overboard with her exuberance, she also could be right sometimes.

"Ask yourself, Would I have tried out for cheerleading if Rick hadn't talked me into it and gone with me to practice the first day?"

"Yes," Christy answered immediately. "I would've gone on my own."

"Don't answer me. Answer yourself. Honestly. And if you're honest, I think you'll see what I'm saying. Rick has more control in your life than you realize."

For at least twenty minutes after they hung up, Christy remained sitting on the hallway floor with her back against one wall and her stocking feet against the other, searching her heart for an honest answer to Katie's question.

The tricky part was, Christy had always wanted to be a cheerleader. She had thought about it a lot when tryouts were announced. But maybe Katie had a point. Deep down, Christy wasn't sure if she ever would have worked up the nerve to try out if Rick hadn't coaxed her into going to the first practice.

However, Todd had a lot to do with it too. If Katie wanted to talk about Todd's influence on Christy, well, that was another story. She would gladly admit that Todd had a unique way of challenging her and directing her decisions. He had ever since the day they met on the beach last summer. She remembered looking up into the screaming silver-blue eyes of this tall, blond surfer and thinking how he fit her description of the perfect guy. Then she got to know him, and Todd became an important part of her life. He strongly influenced her when it came to things that mattered in her heart.

Even though Todd lived two hours away, when it came right down to it, if she had to define their relationship, she would consider Todd much closer to one day being her boyfriend than Rick. Christy and Todd saw each other only a couple times a month, but Todd was in her heart. Forever. Nothing could ever change that. And what mattered to Todd mattered deeply to Christy.

She tugged at her socks, cuffing them and uncuffing them, remembering when she had scrunched in the hallway last week, the night before the first cheerleading practice, and talked on the phone with Todd for an hour. Christy had told him all about how she was thinking of going out for cheerleading and eagerly waited for his opinion and encouragement.

But all Todd had said was, "I think if you're going to do it, you should do it for the Lord."

"You mean I should pray about it?" Christy asked.

"That's part of it. But you need to think about how you can take some risks on your campus. If you become a cheerleader, you'll have an audience."

"An audience?"

"There will be lots of people who suddenly know who you are, and they'll watch your life a lot more closely. You can't just blend in with the crowd anymore. Being a cheerleader might put you in a good position to let people know who you really are and what your life is all about."

"I hadn't thought about that."

"Being up front can be good. It kind of forces you to take a stand for what you believe."

Christy had taken Todd's words to heart, and that night she had written in her diary:

God, I want to do this cheerleading thing for You. I know Todd's right. If I become a cheerleader, people will look up to me and respect me. That will give me a better chance to tell them that I'm a Christian and maybe to invite them to church with me or something. I just want whatever is best, and I want to be a good example to others.

In thinking through the whole situation now, Christy felt certain that even if Rick hadn't walked her to practice that first day, she still would have gone. Her heart was set on doing this, and just as Todd had advised, she would do it for all the right reasons.

"Christy," her mom called from the kitchen, "are you off the phone yet? Dinner is ready. You need to come set the table."

"Coming!" Christy left her cheerleading thoughts huddled in the hallway as she went into the kitchen. Her mom had made stew, which wasn't her favorite dinner. Mom's stew generally consisted of whatever leftovers had been in the refrigerator long enough to be unappealing if eaten by themselves. They were all dumped into the Crock-Pot in the morning and left to simmer all day until they became "stew."

Venturing a sniff of the concoction, Christy had to admit it smelled good. She teased her mom, saying, "Spices are your friends, aren't they?"

"What?"

"You know how to put in just the right seasonings to make even leftovers smell as though you started fresh."

Mom gave Christy a puzzled look.

"Never mind." She realized what she was saying was not exactly a compliment and would be better left unexplained.

Her mother stepped in to make a familiar point. "We need to be thankful we have food on the table, Christy. It may not be fancy, but we've never gone hungry, and we should be grateful for that."

"I know," Christy said quietly. She pulled the silverware from the drawer and began setting four places at the kitchen table. The last thing she wanted to be reminded of tonight was how tight money had been since her family moved to California from Wisconsin. Or how all of them needed to work harder to stay on their budget.

At dinner, Christy's nine-year-old brother, David, monopolized the conversation. Christy and her mom and dad all listened patiently as David reenacted, with considerable exaggeration, his teacher's facial expression when she found gum on her shoe.

He was kind of funny, for a little brother. But Christy would never tell him that. It would only encourage his goofiness.

As soon as David excused himself from the table, Mom leaned over, and a sweet smile spread over her lips. Christy knew that look. Her mother was trying to create an encouraging environment. Christy also knew that her mother was about to say something Christy probably wouldn't be glad to hear.

"Dad and I have gone over the paper you brought home from the cheerleading adviser, and we've decided that the only way for this to work is if you find a way to come up with half of the money."

"Half!" Christy squawked. "That's more than three hundred dollars!"

"Well," Dad said slowly in his deep, authoritative voice, "is this something you want to do? Are you willing to commit yourself to the practices and the games?"

"Yes." Christy tried hard to hold back the tears that pressed against the corners of her eyelids.

"Your mother and I think it's a worthwhile goal. It's also a big commitment. And an expensive one. We feel you should share a part of that responsibility by participating in the financial responsibility."

Christy wanted to say, "But you don't understand! There's more to this than me fulfilling my goal. Can't you see that? This is something I need to do so I can take a stand on my campus." But as usual, Christy couldn't make the really powerful words come out, and all she said was, "How am I going to come up with that much money?"

"You have to understand, Christy, that this expense isn't in our budget. But we're willing to find a way for it to work out for you if you're willing to come up with your half. You could babysit this summer," Mom suggested.

"Get a position during the weekdays with someone who has small children. Perhaps you could advertise in the toddler Sunday school class you've been helping out with the last few weeks. You could let some of the parents know you're available."

"Babysit? This summer?" This wasn't a good time to mention to her parents that she had been planning to stay in Newport Beach all summer with Uncle Bob and Aunt Marti, just like last summer. Christy already had a long list of plans for things she and Todd would do. She hadn't even considered the possibility of staying home in Escondido all summer-especially to babysit.

"You decide how you want to come up with the money," Dad said. "If you're serious about cheerleading, we're with you 100 percent, and we'll find a way to come up with half the cost. But you've got to put in your share too. It's time you learned there are no free rides."

"I definitely want to do it. I mean, I want to at least try out and see what happens," Christy said.

Mom sat back in her chair. "Before you give such a firm answer, why don't you think about it some more. In the meantime, do you have much homework tonight?"

"Tons."

"I'll do the dishes, then," her mom said. "You can do them tomorrow night. You'd better get at your homework."

In the sanctuary of her room, Christy found it impossible to concentrate on her "tons" of homework. She went over to her dresser and picked up the San Francisco music box her aunt had bought her on their trip there last summer.

Winding the brass key on the bottom, Christy set it back on the dresser and watched the ceramic cable car move up the little hill as it played "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."

Wish I knew where I left my heart. It certainly doesn't seem to be where it's supposed to be tonight, Christy thought. I feel pulled in so many directions.

She was convinced that becoming a cheerleader ranked as an important dream at this point in her life. It was a worthy goal. Weren't adults always telling her to set goals? She believed being a cheerleader would be something she could always look back on and say, "I did it! I worked hard, and I accomplished my goal." Plus, she would be able to take a stand for what she believed, as Todd had said.

But she never dreamed she would have to come up with half the money. And babysitting all summer was practically the last thing Christy wanted to do with her precious free time.

It seemed there were so many obstacles to her trying out for cheerleading. The incident with Renee had been discouraging enough. Now she had the money part of it to struggle with too. She never guessed it would be so hard.

Do I want to be a cheerleader badly enough to really work for it? With a determined twist of the knob, Christy wound up the music box once more. Effortlessly, the little cable car took its free ride to the top of the glassy hill.

(Continues.)


Chapter One

A Lightning Bolt from Heaven

"Over the years many people have given their opinions on friendship. I would like this class to work off the handout I've given you and write a three-page essay. Begin with the phrase, 'A true friend is.' You may use the rest of the class time to work on it. Any questions?"

Sixteen-year-old Christy Miller glanced across her English class and noticed that her friend Katie had her hand up.

"Is it okay if we use some of the quotes from the list?" Katie's red hair swished as she tilted her head.

"Of course you may. Now, no talking. This is project time."

Christy adjusted her long legs under the desk and studied the handout. The page was full of quotes from people like Constantine and Aristotle. She smiled when she read what Charles Dickens had to say about friends: "Friendship? Yes, please."

Taking out a fresh sheet of paper, she wrote at the top of the page, A true friend is .

Only one word came to mind: Todd.

That was not the word she was looking for. Christy pushed the thought aside and scolded herself. Come on, you have lots of friends. What are you doing thinking of Todd? He's not even part of your life anymore. Think, think, think. What is a true friend?

She began to write. A true friend is someone who sticks up for you and .

Todd, her mind said again.

. and they always look for the best in you. A true friend likes you even when you don't like yourself very much. Then, without meaning to, she wrote, My true friend is Todd Spencer.

There. She finally admitted it to herself. By writing it down, it was as if she admitted to the world that Todd was her true friend. How did Todd say it almost a year ago when he placed the engraved "Forever" ID bracelet on her wrist? Here's my friendship; I promise it to you. It's yours forever.

Christy thought of how Todd had backed up that statement about two months ago. It was morning on a deserted beach. The night before, without really wanting to, Christy had agreed to start going out with Rick Doyle. There she was, in the early morning California fog, trying to explain it to Todd.

Christy tried to give back the bracelet, but Todd wouldn't take it.

"No matter what happens," he said, "we're going to be friends forever."

Then he announced that he was going to Hawaii to try out for the world-tour surfing team. She hadn't heard from him since.

Christy drew a tiny heart in the corner of her paper and let memories of Todd fill her mind. Each memory prompted a little doodle. Soon the margins danced with sketches of a tandem bike, a picnic basket with seagulls circling over it, a bouquet of carnations, an old Volkswagen bus, and down the entire right side of her page, a waterfall crowned with a bridge across the top.

The shrill bell jolted her back to her Friday morning English class. Snapping her notebook shut, Christy grabbed her books and waited at the door for Katie.

"Did you get yours done?" Katie asked, her green eyes sparkling as though she had a secret.

"Not really." Christy pushed back her nutmeg-brown hair. The new shampoo she had used on it last night made it too silky, and it kept falling in her face today, driving her crazy. "Did you?"

"Almost," Katie said as they walked down the noisy hallway. "Who did you write about?"

"Well, I didn't come up with anything final yet. I guess I'm going to have to work on it this weekend."

"I wrote about the person I consider to be my truest friend in the whole world." Katie's eyes kept twinkling. "I want you to read it, but not until I'm finished."

A horrible feeling hit Christy. Katie's acting like she wrote about me! Like I'm her best friend. Katie has been a true friend to me, and I've taken her for granted.

By lunchtime, Christy had formed a plan. She wanted to do something that would let Katie know how much she appreciated her. They met at their usual spot outdoors. Kelley High was an older school, and their cafeteria was small and tended to be dominated by the freshmen. Most of the upperclassmen went off campus for lunch. Christy and Katie had gotten into the routine of bringing sack lunches and meeting on the grass under one of the large shade trees. Being able to eat outside most of the year was one of the things Christy liked best about living in Southern California.

"Katie, I'm going to ask you something, and I want you to give me a straight answer," Christy said once they'd sat down, away from the noisy crowds at the picnic tables.

"Okay, shoot."

"I want to know what you'd like to do together sometime. Just you and me."

"What do you mean?" Katie asked.

"What is something you'd like to do? Would you like to go shopping or what? Name it."

"You're sounding like something's wrong, Christy. We do stuff together all the time. Why do we need to make special plans to do something together?"

Christy took a deep breath and stuffed the remainder of her sandwich back in her lunch bag. She hadn't figured it would be this complicated. "Can I be honest with you?"

"No, I want you to lie to me." Katie pushed Christy on the shoulder. "I'm only kidding! What are you being so serious about? You're scaring me."

"Katie, you have been such a good friend to me. I feel like I haven't been as good a friend back to you. You're the most gracious friend I've ever had."

"Gracious?"

"Yeah, you know. Like last year when my aunt and uncle took me to Palm Springs. You didn't get to come because of the football game. You were so gracious about it-"

"But-" Katie started to interrupt.

Christy kept going, not letting Katie have a chance to disagree with her. "Then this summer when I went to Maui. You know I wanted to take you, but I had to take Paula with me because she was visiting that week. It was all set up by my aunt, and I didn't have any say about who went with me."

"I know, Christy. You don't have to explain."

"That's what I mean! You're always so supportive. You were gracious about Palm Springs and Maui. You were even gracious when Paula was a snip to you-"

"Christy," Katie finally cut in, "you're making it sound as though I was being heroic. I wasn't. It killed me that I didn't get to go with you those times."

"But you didn't act like it. That's what I'm trying to say. You've always been supportive of me. Always."

"Well, almost always," Katie said. "If you will recall, I wasn't exactly supportive when you were dating Rick."

"Yes, you were. You just had a strong opinion about him."

"I still have that opinion. I didn't need to say all those things to you about him though," Katie said thoughtfully. "You handled the situation fine without my nasty comments."

"No," Christy disagreed, "I needed you to say whatever you wanted to say. I needed to hear your opinion. And, as I've said before and will probably say a thousand times, you were right. Going out with Rick was a huge mistake."

"And as I've told you a thousand times, going out with Rick was not the problem. Going steady with him was . well, if you want my opinion, it was about the stupidest thing you've done in your entire life."

Christy laughed as Katie's honesty brushed over her. "Okay, well, I guess some things I have to learn the hard way. You know, it still hurts when I think about him."

"Why? Because he was such a jerk, and he treated you like slime?"

"No, Rick didn't treat me badly; you know that."

"Oh, right. He only stole the bracelet Todd gave you, hocked it to a jeweler, and is now making you buy it back with every paycheck until Thanksgiving. Silly me!" Katie slapped her forehead for emphasis. "I guess that's the way every girl hopes her boyfriend will treat her. I just haven't reached a level of maturity to be able to understand such deep, caring, emotionally enriching relationships."

"Okay, okay!" Christy threw her hands up in surrender. "You're right! Okay? Rick was sort of a ."

". grade-A, first-class, total jerk," Katie filled in for her.

"I guess you could put it that way," Christy gave in. "But he wasn't like that all the time. There's a tender side to him too. I'm not saying I want to go out with him again. It's just that I don't feel like my relationship with Rick is resolved."

"You told him to get lost. What more needs to be resolved?"

"I can't explain it. I'm not sure I really know. I want him to understand why I broke up with him. One of these days I'd like to sit down with him and talk everything out."

Katie ventured slowly, "You mean the way you talked things over with Todd that morning on the beach? I mean, can you honestly say you now feel your relationship with Todd is over and resolved?"

Christy shook her head, feeling her hair tumble over her shoulders as she lowered her eyes. Uninvited tears brimmed behind her lower lids. "No," she said softly. "It's not over with Todd. I think about him all the time."

"So?" Katie perked up. "Why don't you write him? Send him a card. One of those cartoon ones. You told me your uncle gave you Todd's address last week. What are you waiting for?"

"I don't know." Christy blinked back a tear. "A lightning bolt from heaven, I guess."

"Then here," Katie said, playfully bopping Christy on the head with a foil-wrapped Ding Dong. "Consider this your lightning bolt from heaven, and this is your message: 'Goeth thereforeth and writeth to Toddeth.'"

Christy laughed, her clear blue-green eyes making contact with Katie's. "Since you put it that way, okay, I will. I shalt goeth and buyeth a card todayeth."

Katie smiled her approval, "You know, an occasional bonk on the head with a Ding Dong seems to do you some good. Remind me to do that about every fifty thousand miles."

Not until Christy was sitting in her Spanish class after lunch did she realize that Katie had never answered her original question. Christy still didn't know what Katie would like the two of them to do together.

About the only time they had spent together during the summer was at church. Then school started, and Christy's job kept her busy every weekend.

When Christy started going out with Rick, Katie had talked about having the annual back-to-school slumber party at her house. Only Christy hadn't been able to find a free weekend for the party since she worked every Friday night and then had gone out with Rick on Saturdays after work. With Rick out of the picture, Christy thought maybe she could help Katie plan a slumber party with a bunch of girls like they'd had last year.

Christy drove right from school to the mall, where her job at the pet store started at four. Her boss, Jon, greeted her with a big smile.

"Guess what?" Jon said.

His long hair was pulled back in its usual ponytail, and he had on his typical jeans and T-shirt. Christy didn't notice anything different about Jon. It must be something about the shop.

She glanced around but didn't see anything that had changed. "I don't know. I give up. What?"

"I sold Walter this morning." Jon beamed.

Even the mention of Walter gave Christy the willies. She would never forget the night when the fifteen-foot python escaped from his cage and slithered out into the mall.

"You seem pretty happy about selling him. Beverly told me you'd had him forever. I didn't think you'd ever sell him."

"I did have him forever. Not because I was fond of Walter, but because nobody wanted to buy him. This morning some guy from Fallbrook came in and paid full price. Walter has a new home, and I couldn't be happier for him."

Jon picked up a clipboard from under the counter and said, "I've been meaning to ask you. Are you still happy with your hours, or do you want to change them so you can spend more time with your boyfriend?"

Christy felt her cheeks turn red. "Oh no," she said quickly. "My hours are fine. I don't need to change them. Really."

Jon looked Christy in the eyes with the same scrutiny a doctor uses when checking a patient's throat. Then, as if he had found what he was looking for, he looked back at his clipboard. "I'm sorry."

Christy felt a little confused by his examination. "You're sorry that I don't want to change my hours? I can change them or trade with somebody else if you need me to."

"No, your hours are fine with me. As a matter of fact, they're great. I'm sorry you broke up with . what was his name?"

"Rick." The moment Christy said his name, she felt as though she had bitten into a wild, tangy raspberry.

"His name is Rick," she added, hoping to purge herself of the raspberry sensation. "We broke up about a week ago. But it's fine, really. We're just friends."

Jon looked her in the eyes again. Then he flashed her a big grin, snapped the clip on top of the clipboard, stuck his pen behind his ear, and turned toward the back of the shop. "Well, I guess there comes a time when you have to say good-bye," he commented. "It's not always easy, but you've got to let the ol' snake go. Let somebody else have him for a while."

Christy was about to jump in and defend Rick when Jon turned back to face her and said, "You know I'm talking about Walter, of course. That ol' snake, I mean."

"Right." Christy smiled back. "Walter. Of course. I knew that."

She slipped her backpack under the counter and took her position behind the register.

Guys. Who needs them? Not me.

Christy began to straighten the countertop, ready to concentrate on work.

I'll show Jon and Katie and everyone else that I don't need a guy in my life.

Taking a deep breath, she mumbled, "Now, if I can only convince myself, I'll be fine."

(Continues.)


Chapter One

Off to a Bad Start

"I hate you! I hate you!" Christy Miller shouted at her reflection in the closet-door mirror. With a wild grrrr she wadded up her beach towel and heaved it at the mirror, watching it wobble and distort her lanky proportions.

"Christy darling?" came a shrill voice from the hallway. "Are you back from the beach so soon?"

"Yes, Aunt Marti." Christy grabbed a brush and pretended to be untangling her long, nutmeg-brown hair.

Her aunt, a slim, stylish woman in her forties, opened the guest room door and looked around. "What was all the commotion? Who were you talking to?"

"Nobody. Just myself," Christy answered calmly, trying to suppress the volcano of fiery emotions boiling within her.

"Why aren't you out on the beach, dear? It's a gorgeous day, and here you sit in your room, talking to yourself." Aunt Marti dramatically pointed her acrylic fingernail toward the door. "You should be out there enjoying yourself!"

Christy bit her quivering lip and didn't answer.

"This is California. Live a little! We didn't fly you all the way from Wisconsin so you could spend the summer hiding in your room. Get out there and make some friends."

Suddenly the internal volcano erupted with great force, spewing words with the hot tears. "I tried, all right?" Christy choked. "I tried to get in with some of the beach kids, but they're all a bunch of snobs! I can't stand them! They're rude and mean, and they laughed at me." Christy covered her face with her hands; the tears oozed through her fingers.

"I had no idea!" Her aunt switched tones and ushered Christy to the edge of the bed. "There, there. Tell me what's bothering you, dear."

It took Christy a few minutes to compose herself before she said calmly, "I don't fit in with the people here. They think I'm a nerd."

"Well, are you?" her aunt challenged.

"Am I what?"

"A nerd."

Christy didn't answer. She stared across the room at her reflection in the mirror.

"Well?" her aunt prodded.

"Look at me, Aunt Martha!" Christy jumped up from the bed and stood in front of her. "I'm as white as a frosty cone-sort of shaped like one too! If that doesn't make me a nerd in Newport Beach, I don't know what does!"

"Really, Christy. A frosty cone?"

"Well, look at me." Christy stretched out her arms to provide a full view of her 5-foot-5-inch, 110-pound frame. Her one-piece bathing suit covered her Olive Oyl torso like a bright green Ace bandage.

"Tell me I don't look like a frosty cone."

"You don't look like a frosty cone."

"You're just saying that." Christy plopped on the floor and folded her arms across her stomach.

"Oh, come now, Christy. You might be a bit of a late bloomer, but really, you're a very sweet girl, and you've got a lot of potential."

"Yeah, right. Tell that to the surfers out there. The one who said, 'Hey! It's a walking green bean.'"

Her aunt looked confused. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Christy let the tears drip and sniffed loudly. "Don't you see?"

"I see that you got upset over a little remark about a green bean. That doesn't make sense at all."

"They meant me, Aunt Marti! No other girl on the beach had on a bathing suit like this ugly one! I'm the walking green bean!"

Christy covered her face with her hands and cried until the tears ran down her arms. It was the kind of crying that comes from the pit of the stomach and brings a headache with it. The kind that makes a person snort and gasp, and no matter how idiotic you feel or how hard you try, you can't stop.

"Do calm yourself, will you, dear? It's not as bad as all that. We can certainly buy you a new bathing suit easily enough. And just think. They called you a bean, not a frosty cone. See? They're saying you're thin. That's almost a compliment."

Christy gasped in short spasms, trying to relax.

Her aunt took the opportunity to make her point. "This is exactly the reason I told your mother I wanted you to spend the summer with us. You deserve more than your parents can give you right now, and goodness knows your mother and I didn't have much when we were growing up."

Christy wiped her nose with the back of her hand.

"Here. Use this, will you please?" Marti handed her a tissue. "As I was saying, my goal this summer is to treat you to some of the finer things in life and to teach you, Christina Juliet Miller, how to become your own person."

Christy blinked and tried to suppress a wild belch that bubbled up as a result of so much sobbing. Too late. The muffled urp leaked out.

"You're certainly not going to make this easy for me, are you, dear?"

"I'm sorry." Christy felt an uncontrollable urge to laugh. "Are you sure you're ready to transform a belching green bean frosty cone into 'her own person'? Could be kind of dangerous!" Christy broke into laughter.

Aunt Marti shook her head and didn't join in. "We'll start tomorrow, Christina. I'll call and make an appointment for you to have your colors done at nine, and then we'll start shopping for your new wardrobe."

Christy instantly sobered. "I didn't bring much money with me."

"Don't be silly! This is my treat. A few outfits are certainly not going to break me. And one other thing: We really should have your hair cut. Something short and stylish. My hairdresser, Maurice, does marvelous work. By the time we're done with you you'll look and feel like a new person."

She said it with such finesse, Christy almost believed her. A new wardrobe? A new hairstyle? And what did her aunt mean by "having her colors done"?

"Why don't you shower and dress, dear? Your uncle doesn't know it yet, but he's going to take you to an early dinner and a movie tonight." Aunt Marti swished out the door.

Christy approached the mirror with a new perspective. Twisting her long, nutmeg-brown hair on top of her head, she posed this way and that way, trying to imagine how she would look with short hair. She couldn't quite picture the change.

She wished Paula were there. Paula, her best friend back home, always gave her advice when it came to major decisions like this. But then, what did Paula know? She was the one who helped her pick out the dumb green bean bathing suit!

Christy scrunched up her nose and stuck her face close to the mirror, examining her skin for new blemishes. No new and ugly bumps today. But her cheeks were flushed, and her nose was bright red from crying. Even her eyes showed the effects of her crying spree; they were puffy and bloodshot.

"I have such stupid eyes," she muttered. "They're not blue, and they're not green. They're just sort of nothing-like the rest of me."

"Knock, knock," Uncle Bob called out from Christy's open door.

She immediately released her hair and turned away from the mirror, embarrassed that he had caught her in the midst of such scrutiny.

"Looks like we've got a date tonight for the movies." His merry eyes looked at her from beneath his baseball cap. He must have just come back from golfing, judging by the perspiration stains on his polo shirt. "Anything special you want to see?"

"No."

"Okay. I'll take a look in the paper to see what's playing. Your aunt's not much of a movie fan, so I hope you don't mind that it's just you and me."

"No. That's fine."

"We'll leave in about an hour, okay?"

"Okay."

"By the way," he lifted his baseball cap and wiped his forehead, "I haven't told you yet, but I'm glad you came to stay with us this summer." Then he added, "You are my favorite niece, you know."

"I also happen to be your only niece!"

"Minor detail, my child, minor detail," he quipped, politely closing the door.

With a sigh, Christy flopped onto the bed. She didn't feel like showering, and it wouldn't take her that long to change. With an hour to kill, she decided to write to Paula.

Christy liked to write-especially when she had a lot on her mind. She would get everything out on paper, and then when she reread it, it would be like looking at her own thoughts in a mirror. Usually things came out clearer on paper than when she tried to say them.

Finding the pad of stationery Paula had given her when she left Wisconsin, Christy set to work. Paula insisted that she write the first letter to her on this stationery.

Dear Paula,

Hi! How's everything back on the farm? The plane trip out here was fun for the first hour, but then it got boring. I didn't see any movie stars at the airport, but I still have your notepad, so I can get some autographs in case I see anybody famous.

Remember when you called last Thursday and I told you I couldn't talk? It was because my parents were giving me a big lecture about my trip out here. They made me promise I wouldn't do anything this summer I would regret later. Can you believe that?

The funny part is, the only thing I regret is that I ever came here. I hate this place! There's nothing to do, and everybody is so stuck up. It's so boring. At night, all I do is sit around and watch TV.

At least one good thing is going to happen. Tomorrow my aunt is going to take me shopping, and guess what? I'm probably going to get my hair cut! Can you believe it? I'm kind of scared, but I think she's trying to give me a new image or something.

Well, I've got to go. I'll tell you how the big makeover turns out. Just think, you might not recognize me when I step off the plane next September. You'd better write to me.

Love,

Christy

(Continues.)

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