Fiction Friday: The return of The Bandbox Hat


Thanks for your patience while I wrapped up some other projects. I’m back to Sarah Jane this week.

The Bandbox Hat

Previously: Sarah Jane, her new friend Cassie and three other girls are invited to a beach date with Austin and his mom. Cassie and Sarah Jane were playing volleyball against Austin and Amanda. Cassie served the ball and Amanda screamed.

Chapter Twenty-Seven

By the time the show’s medic’s stopped Amanda’s nosebleed, gave her an icepack, and escorted her to the beach chairs away from the volleyball court, she had slowed down swearing and yelling at Cassie. Mostly.

“I know you did that on purpose, you—” she screamed over her shoulder. Thankfully, the medic she leaned on stumbled in the sand and she turned her fury on him so we didn’t get to hear what she was about to call Cassie.

Austin caught my eye. “Guess volleyball doesn’t bring out the best in her.”

Cassie chuckled. “I wish I could say I did it on purpose, just so she’d show her true nature, but it really was an accident.”

I scrunched my toes in the warm sand. “I think I’m done with volleyball. Do you mind if I quit and go it the water for a bit?”

Before I finished my sentence, three other girls swarmed onto the court.

“I’ll take her place,” Hayley said to Austin. “Your mom and I had a lovely visit.”

“No, I will.” A tall redhead elbowed the blonde aside. “Ready to match me, Austin?” Her eyebrows waggled at him.

I turned and made my way to the water’s edge. The last few strides hurt the bottoms of my feet. The sun had warmed the sand to blistering.

“Ahhh,” I said, as the cool water welcomed my smoking toes.

“Ouch.” A familiar voice sounded behind me.

I turned to see Linda wading in.

“Is Amanda okay?” I asked, nodding at the shelter where Linda had sat.

“I think her pride is more hurt than her nose.” Linda’s sunglasses kept her eyes hidden. “And if I were you and Cassie, I wouldn’t turn my back in a dark alley. If you know what I mean.” She spoke softly.

I nodded, though I wasn’t sure I really did know what she meant. Oh, I knew Amanda was petty and small. She looked at Austin like he was bacon and she was a vegan. But this was a reality dating show. No one found true love while cameras recorded their every move. Right?

“The water is nice,” Linda said. “No cameras out here.”

I looked over my shoulder. She was right. A man with a bulky camera on his shoulder and another man with a boom mike stood a few feet above the wet sand mark.

“Cool and private,” I said, turning back to gaze at the horizon. Blue-green water met a blue horizon dotted with white clouds.

“So tell me, Sarah Jane—”

I heard splashing and Linda and I turned at the same moment.

Austin ran through the water and scooped up his mother into a bear hug. “Having fun?”

She laughed. “Put me down.”

“Make me.” He swung her around but staggered. He wobbled.

I reached out to steady him but too late.

Austin and Linda fell and came up sputtering and batting water at each other.

“You big bully.” Linda stood, hair drooping.

Something brushed against my knee and I reached down to grab Linda’s sunglasses before they were swept away with the tide. “Here.” I held them out to her.

She took them and handed them to Austin. “Dry these off.”

He grinned but took them and splashed back to shore.

“That boy.” She chuckled.

“You’re very close,” I said. Good one, Sarah Jane. State the obvious.

She nodded. “Are you close to your parents?”

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