Fall With Me

Page 10


“Well, you and your lungs could come over here and help us get the rest of this food prepared, if you’re looking for something to do.”
“Sure,” he says. “You’re the boss.”
“Actually, I’m not.” I push the bowl of ground hamburger toward him. “Because if I was, you wouldn’t still be around. Here, you can help me make the burgers.”
He grins and starts to reach for the bowl. “I’m happy to squeeze some beef for you, baby—”
“God, can you just shut up? Do you have to act like such a moron all the time? And wash your hands first! I don’t even want to know where they’ve been.”
Karen is staring at me, her mouth hanging halfway open. I shoot her a look. Griffin slinks over to the sink, but I know he’s still got a smile on his face.
“It’s unhygienic,” I tell Karen. “You of all people should care about that.”
“It’s just . . . you don’t have to be so harsh,” she says.
“If he’s going to be working here, he’s got to set a good example. The campers look up to him. Why they look up to him still remains a mystery to me—”
“Hey, hey, easy,” Griffin says. He runs his hands under the water, soaping his arms all the way up to the elbows, like he’s a doctor about to go into surgery. “Sweetheart, you need to settle down. I’m not trying to get anyone worked up here or anything, okay? I just wanted to—”
“You just nothing. Don’t come in here and start telling me what to do. In fact, we don’t actually need your help in here; why don’t you go back out and find some adoring campers to fawn over you, because that’s clearly where you excel. Your presence is not needed or wanted in here.”
He finishes rinsing the suds from his forearms. From the corner of my eye, I can see Karen giving me a horrified look.
“Okay,” he says slowly. “I guess I will go do that, then.” He slinks out of the kitchen.
“What is your problem?” Karen asks. “Why did you yell at him like that? He just wanted to help!”
I grit my teeth. I can feel the stress building in my neck and shoulders. “I think we can handle it in here,” I tell her. “As long as we stop talking about it and just get to work. Okay?”
She nods but then looks at the door where Griffin has just disappeared.
Great. Someone else who is on his side.
Chapter 11: Griffin
The phone that Cam sent me arrived, and I might be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure he did in fact address the envelope himself. I choose a whimsical ring tone and leave it my pocket, though it hasn’t rung yet. Allison has been bugging me to give her the number, but I don’t, claiming I don’t know, which actually is the truth.
Later that night, I see Jill heading to her cabin. I watch her as she walks, the big strides she takes with those long legs. She’s wearing cutoff jean shorts, with probably a four- or five-inch inseam, but there’s still a lot of slender thigh there on display.
I jog after her. “Hey,” I say as I approach.
She turns. “What do you want?”
I smile. “Nice night for a walk.” It’s foggy and there’s a fine mist falling, but whatever.
She doesn’t look amused. “So take a walk, then.”
“Care to join me? I’m not really that familiar with the area. I wouldn’t want to get lost.”
“I’m tired. It’s getting late. I want to go inside, take a shower, and go to bed.”
“Want a back massage?”
“No, but I bet Allison would.”
“Aw, come on Jill,” I say. “Can’t you at least pretend you like me? Let’s just take a little walk, and then I promise I’ll never speak to you again, if you want.”
She stares at me. She’s got a long, thin nose, and a small mouth, but full lips. I have never had a girl turn me down before, and the fact that she so clearly hates me is such a turn on that I almost tell her. But I don’t. Because this is new. And fun.
“So if I take a walk with you now, you won’t speak to me for the rest of the summer?”
“Yes. Well, only if you want it like that.”
“Okay,” she says. She pulls the hood of her sweatshirt up. “I definitely want it like that. It’s a deal.”
We walk down to the beach. She stays about five feet away from me, but I match her stride for stride.
“Are we having a race?” I ask.
“I’m naturally a fast walker.” But she slows a little and looks at me. “Was there a purpose to this walk or did you just need to burn off the last of your energy?”
“I don’t know. I thought maybe we could try to make amends. I just see you and you seem so miserable and I hope I didn’t have a role to play in it.”
“It really doesn’t have anything to do with you,” she says after a minute. “I mean, was I expecting you to show up here like this? No. But whatever. Clearly you’re not a psychopath and you’re good with kids, so in that regards, it’s working out.”
“Why Jill,” I say. “I do believe that’s the first compliment you’ve ever given me.”
“And probably the last.”
“So what else does it have to do with, then?”
“It’s just a bad time of year.”
“Summer is the best time of year.”
“Yeah, not when it’s the season that your parents were in a car accident that killed your father and paralyzed your mother.”
“Oh.” Good one, asshole, I think. “I didn’t realize . . . I’m sorry.”
She stuffs her hands in the front pocket of her sweatshirt and starts walking fast again. “How were you supposed to know?”
“I wasn’t, I guess. I’m still sorry. When did it happen?”
“Almost a year ago.”
“Oh, wow. So it’s still pretty recent.”
“It always seems like it’s the wrong people who end up dying. This probably sounds horrible, but I don’t think it will bother me too much when my old man finally kicks it. Which will probably happen never, because he’s one of those assholes who’s going to live forever.”
She glances at me. “That’s kind of a horrible thing to say. But I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t had those thoughts before myself.”
We walk quietly for a few minutes, and I think I am starting to understand why she’s been as hostile as she has. Though tragedy has not been a prevalent theme in my life, usually it seems like people seek routine, the familiar, to help them get through it. Her summer job here is routine; I am not.
“So you don’t get along with this lion-hunting father of yours?” she says, breaking the silence.
“That’s one way of putting it. And considering he was going to refuse to pay my ransom, I’d say the feeling is probably mutual.”
“You’re still going on about that.”
“It’s the truth. And I know—no one believes me. Well, I think my brother might. He express mailed me this phone the other day, so he could call me—since my other one got lost the night I was abducted—and he hasn’t called yet, but I think he’s going to.”
“So you were kidnapped but your brother wasn’t?”
“Yes. My brother is not the sort that would ever get kidnapped. He wouldn’t let himself get into that sort of situation. Whereas me, on the other hand, I’m always getting into those situations. It’s kind of amazing I hadn’t been kidnapped before.” I glance at her. There is no trace of a smile on her face. Usually all I have to do is even think of opening my mouth to say something and the girl is usually falling over herself, laughing at what I’m about to say. Which actually can be a little unnerving sometimes. “You and my brother would probably get along really well,” I say. Yes, she’s just the kind of girl Cam would go for, and he’s probably just the kind of guy she would be into. Griffin the Matchmaker. Happy to help.
“If your brother is even half as annoying as you are, I’d say not,” she says.
“Jesus, girl! Are you this prickly with all guys, or do I just bring it out in you?”
Finally, she gives me a wry smile. “Don’t say ‘prick’ in front of me.”
I laugh. “Okay, fair enough.”
We’re both quiet for a minute. She’s looking at me, and I wonder what she’s thinking about, but I don’t ask. It is actually nice to be standing here with her, not saying anything.
She shakes her head and starts walking again. “Is your father famous or super rich or something?” she asks.
“He’s definitely rich, and in his mind he’s famous. He’s Mr. Big Man on Campus at Concord Frazier Group, who I’m sure you’ve never heard of, which perfectly illustrates how famous he really is.”
An odd look crosses her face. “What . . . where?”
“Concord Frazier Group. It’s basically a company that owns a bunch of other companies. Pretty boring shit. But to the old man, it’s the most important thing in the world.”
She stops walking and stares at me for a minute. I cannot, for the life of me, read the expression that has crossed her face. “I have to go,” she says. She turns and strides down the beach.
Chapter 12: Jill
I hurry away, a strange feeling rooting itself firmly in the center of my chest. I can hear Uncle Nate’s voice clearly, echoing through my head: This all goes back to when Mike worked for CFG. Concord Frazier Group. Dad oversaw the management team that ran Organica, owned by the Concord Frazier Group.
My thoughts whirl around my head. Dad worked for Griffin’s father? It seems so implausible, so unlikely that this could be the case. What are the chances of his son washing up on the beach of the summer camp that I worked at?
It was no accident, Jill, mark my words. What kind of sign are you waiting for? What the hell needs to happen to make you realize that there is something more going on here?
I can hear Uncle Nate’s voice like he’s right there, yelling in my ear.
Maybe it’s nothing, I tell myself.
Maybe it really is just a coincidence.
But what if it’s not?
I glance behind me a few times, to see if Griffin’s following me. He isn’t; he’s moved further down the beach in the opposite direction. I walk back to my cabin and go inside, shut the door, both the screen door and the wooden one.
I go back and forth between believing that it’s just an insane coincidence and that it’s the sign Uncle Nate was talking about.
Suddenly, I recall something else Uncle Nate said that day at brunch.
I can’t just sit back and not take action. It’s not in my blood.
A cold feeling settles over me, even though I’m still in my sweatshirt with the hood pulled up and the cabin is actually rather warm.
Maybe Griffin really has been telling the truth all along.
Chapter 13: Griffin
The problem with people like Allison is they’re used to getting what they want. I should know.
So when she finds me Saturday morning and asks if I want to take a drive up to San Francisco with her, it’s clear she’s not so much asking as expecting.
“Shouldn’t we stay here?” I don’t actually feel like driving up to San Francisco.
“We could. But Mom and Dad are taking the campers down to Watsonville for the day.”
“Their friends own a raspberry farm. They’re going to get a tour and work a little.”
“Maybe we should go, too.”
“Don’t worry about it; Mom and Dad plus Jill and Karen can handle it. I already cleared it with them.”
“With Jill?”
“She’s not your boss. With Mom and Dad. They think it’s a good idea.”
I relent, mostly because after our beach walk the other night, I don’t think Jill ever wants to see me again, though I’m not exactly sure what happened.
That’s what I think about as we drive up to the city. I’m usually not one to replay events over in my head and try to figure out where I went wrong, but the entire scene has been running in my mind like a movie on repeat.
I’d thought we were actually on the path to making amends, with her opening up about her parents. Well, sort of opening up. It felt like if we were getting some place. Like maybe she was starting to not see me like the gigantic asshole she so clearly thinks I am.
But then she just took off like that. What had I been talking about? My dad? Is my dad such a toxic person that even mentioning him in conversation causes people to retract? I mean, what the fuck?