THE ART OF FALLING IN LOVE RELEASES IN ONE WEEK! Have you seen this video of me opening my first paperback copy?! Cue me simultaneously flailing and sobbing in the corner. To celebrate, how about a sneak peek of the first three pages?
My head pounds as I suck in a breath. Okay. Focus.
Across the room, my laptop is open, cursor blinking on a blank screen. Despite my aching skull, today is the day I figure out what I’m going to do to get into Flagler College. I’ve always thought of myself as an artistic soul, but truthfully, I haven’t ever stuck to—or mastered—any one medium. Still, art school is the only place I’ve ever wanted to go for college. And in order to do that, I need to create a project that shows my true talent, but I’m stumped. Maybe I have no actual talent?
No. I have to stop thinking that. This summer was supposed to be about Opa helping me figure it all out. This was going to be our Summer of Art. Opa said it’d be special.
He always made everything so special.
I choke off a breath and push thoughts of him away. I click over to another screen, eyes glazing over as I do.
I’m only a few bullet points deep into my list of possible entry projects when a shadow in my doorway interrupts me.
“Claire, there’s someone at the door. Do you mind?”
Mom’s hands rest on her hips, and her eyebrows rise in my direction. Judging by the dark circles under her eyes, she’s in no shape to chat with strangers. The distance from the front door to my bedroom doorway is so short that anyone standing outside could hear any word spoken, so I mouth silently to Mom.
“Who is it?”
She throws her hands up and shakes her head, loose dark curls left over from the funeral yesterday swinging. “No clue,” she mouths back.
I quickly run a brush over my own stringy hair and go to solve the mystery. When I open the door to find the porch empty except for a rectangular package, I sag against the doorframe. I’ll admit part of me hoped to see Opa, here to announce that the past week was all a big, sick joke, but after seeing his body at the viewing, I know this isn’t a joke.
It’ll never be a joke.
I heave the package up with both hands and shut the door behind me. Mom has already disappeared, probably back to her room with a washcloth over her eyes to nurse her headache. I don’t need her to tell me where to put the mail, though. All of Opa’s papers always go straight to his study. I haven’t even peeked inside since we got here yesterday. Too many memories. Too hard to look around and realize he isn’t there in the black- leather swivel chair, one elbow propped against his mahogany desk.
I suck in a breath in preparation and swing the door open. Peppermint stings my nose as soon as I step through the doorway. It’s all the same as it’s always been: neatly organized chaos. Stacks of papers line the back of the desk, leaning against the wall. Clear plastic containers, one on top of the other, sit in rows against the other wall, and each of them contains even more paper clippings, important documents, probably a lot of my early art projects. My hands itch to grab onto all of it and take any piece of him that’s left. His desk is smooth and cold under my touch as I run one hand along the dark wood and drop the package on top with my other hand.
Opa never minded me wandering around his study before, but now that he’s gone, I glance around like he’ll pop up from behind the mess to yell at me.
I turn quickly to leave, but something flutters behind me, and a mountain of papers slips off the desk, the top pages taking their sweet time gliding to the ground. I stoop to gather them. Then I cross my legs underneath me and sit in defeat amongst the mess. My hand hovers over a brightly colored paper at the bottom of the pile, and I bring it closer to my face to inspect.
TEEN SAND SCULPTING COMPETITION, the flyer reads in bold rainbow-colored print. It’s promoting a competition at the beach, hosted by the recruiting team at Flagler. My eyes roam the paper for the details, which include a scholarship prize to the winner. Another paper is stapled to the back, and when I flip it over, I recognize Opa’s small penmanship immediately.