UNTIL THE OCEAN FREEZES , a sneak preview...
“Can you give me a hand, honey?” Lizzy’s mother, Margot, asked.
She was pulling bubble wrap off dishes and arranging them in the just-washed cabinet above the sink. Hair still wet from the shower, Lizzy put down her book and came over to help. She reached into a box on the floor and pulled out a small bundle.
“Oh, here are my buddies!” she exclaimed, ripping the newspaper to reveal her favorite salt-and-pepper shakers, the ones shaped like Westie dogs.
“Let’s leave them out, to keep an eye on you,” said her mom with a wink.
She placed the ceramic figurines on the countertop, next to the coffee maker and the blender used to make Lizzy’s dad’s protein smoothies, which smelled like gym socks but were supposedly good for him.
“So how was swim class? Daddy said you were quiet on the way home,” her mom asked as she collected a pile of bubble wrap and began to stuff it into a white garbage bag.
It had only been three days since the movers packed up her yellow house in New Jersey after the last day of fifth grade and brought everything in a big truck to this apartment.
Their things were still in the middle of being unpacked. Although most of the furniture was arranged, boxes and balled-up paper were everywhere, and framed artwork leaned against the wall. Lizzy’s room was a total disaster.
“I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to move back to our old house.”
“I know this is hard, but we can’t move back,” said her mother. “I’m about to start my new job. And living here is better for Dad. We’ve been over this, sweetheart.”
She crossed her arms over her chest and stared at her mother. “Dad’s fine. He doesn’t even seem that sick.”
“Dad is doing well, but you know he has good days and bad days, right? And being close to his doctors makes a lot of sense.”
“Okay, but I don’t want to take swim lessons, Mom. Why are you making me?”
“Lizzy, I told you, you’ll get exercise and meet people,” her mother said. “Isn’t that a good thing?”
“Why can’t I take a drawing class instead?”
“Because there aren’t any appropriate art classes at the Y. I’ll look for a more advanced class for you somewhere else. Maybe at one of the museums. In the meantime, please do your best. It’s important to try things you’re not so comfortable doing, like swimming. It builds character.”
Just then, Lizzy’s dad, Cal, and her little brother, Julian, came in, a pizza box balanced on the handles of the stroller.
“Lizzy! We found an ice cream store! It’s called Frosty’s!” shouted Julian, interrupting Lizzy’s conversation with her mother. “We’re going to go after dinner. Daddy said!”
He jumped from his stroller and ran past his father into the kitchen. Penny, the family’s scruffy rescue terrier, sprang up from her spot on the couch to greet them. Lizzy grabbed the pizza and put it on the table.
“Here, Jules, have a drink,” said their mom, filling his sippy cup with cold water from the faucet.
Julian, who just turned three, had dark hair and the bright blue eyes of a husky. They were that blue. His coloring was like their dad’s, except his eyes were lighter. Chances were good that he could end up with his father’s big nose, but it was too early to know for sure.
For now, Julian’s nose was an adorable button in the middle of his round face, and he had pink cheeks and the softest skin Lizzy had ever felt, almost as soft as the fur on Penny’s belly that she loved to have rubbed.
Lizzy’s eyes were green, like her mom’s, and she had pale skin and way too many freckles. Her hair fell in messy waves around her face. Most days, she tied the loose pieces back with a clip.
Instead of forgettable brown, Lizzy’s red hair was so vibrant it made it hard for her to hide in the back of a classroom or walk down the street unnoticed. Everyone noticed redheads.
But back in Mount Olive, Lizzy was just one of the girls in fifth grade. Even with her hair, she felt like she fit right in. She missed her old friends so much. Being with them was always easy.
She never had to think about what to say or what to do. It just happened. She wondered what Hannah and Amy were up right now.
Subject : Hi!
I am going to alternate writing to you and Hannah. I wrote both your names on pieces of paper and folded them up into little squares. Then I made Julian pick one out of my breakfast bowl (that was before I poured in my corn flakes and milk, don’t worry!)—and it was you! I guess you had a 50% chance so it’s not all that amazing. Anyway, I’m writing to you first. I’ll write to Hannah next, probably tomorrow since I’ll have nothing better to do.
First of all, I HATE IT HERE!!! It’s going to be the worst summer ever!!! I want to move back to Mount Olive. You would not believe how small my room is. I have barely enough space to fit my little bed and my dresser. I put my stand-up mirror on top with my pink hairbrush, my Lip Smackers (Bubblegum flavor!) and my asthma pump.
NYC already makes me wheeze. I don’t have a closet or a desk. My mom thinks I’ll be fine doing my homework on the dining table by the front door (we have no dining room!!!), which sounds like the worst place in the world to concentrate. And we all have to share one bathroom!
The city is busy and dirty, and everyone is in a hurry. There are zero houses—just tall buildings and so much construction everywhere! The sidewalks are so hot and the garbage stinks. And there are homeless people begging for money. I feel sorry for them but they kind of scare me too. I miss riding my bike.
On the good side, it is fun to ride the elevator up to our apartment on the fourth floor. I haven’t officially met anyone in the building yet, but I’ve seen a bunch of weird-looking people.
A large dog growled at Penny when we took her out for a walk. She probably still smells like New Jersey. I read somewhere that dogs think with their noses! Isn’t that fascinating?!
I wish we were at the Memorial Pool right now. My mom is making me take swimming lessons at the Y. The first class was horrendous (I had to look up how to spell that!). I have to figure out a way to get out of this stupid idea of hers. Maybe I’ll get sick or run over by a taxi. I wish she had signed me up for an art class instead. Hey, did your mom take you shopping for a new swimsuit yet? Mine is same old ugly.
I’m still wearing my friendship bracelets. Hope you and Hannah are too! I’m never taking them off!
I gotta go—we’re going “exploring”—whatever that means. I miss you a lot. Like so so so much. E-mail me back soon!!!!!!!
Love ’til the ocean freezes,
P.S. BEST FRIENDS 4-Ever!