The Bandbox Hat
Previously: SarahJane and April swim in the ocean and talk. April tells SarahJane that her mother turned Opa’s room into a sewing room and she said that if SarahJane wasn’t back by the Fourth of July, her room will become a media room. Liam calls SarahJane back to shore where she learns that Nathan has been asked to stay on the show.
I stared at Cassie. I understood the words: Liam wants Nathan to stay and join the show. But they didn’t compute. “Wait … what?” My head shifted from Cassie to Nathan to Linda and back to Nathan. “What did I miss?”
Linda chuckled. “This I going to be good.”
“What? Someone tell me what’s going on.”
“Liam said the producers want to change things up and introduce a new bachelor. The girls will have two men to fight over.” Cassie’s gaze ping-ponged between Nathan and me.
“I’m not doing it,” he said with a vehemence I only heard when he talked about the beauty that is a GoldDust peach or if the Dodgers could ever win another Series championship.
I barked a laugh. “Of course you will.” I spun on my heel and hurried to catch up with Liam. I caught him stepping into the production RV.
He turned but didn’t step off the metal landing.
“What are you thinking? Date My Son is always about one bachelor. And our mother—” I gulped “—is dead.”
He shook his head. “Ratings are down. This will bring a new element. It’s a godsend. A tall good looking man will throw the whole house into a tailspin.”
“Who’s tall and good looking? I thought you asked Nathan to stay?”
Liam barked a laugh. “Exactly.” He twisted the door knob and disappeared inside the RV.
I stared at the closed vinyl door for a minute before turning away.
“Sarah Jane!” A trio of girls hurried to my side. “Is it true? The new dude is your brother? And he’s staying?”
I pushed through the press and slogged through the sand again back to Cassie and Nathan. Linda was back under her popup shelter chatting with two girls. “Out of Darkness, Into Hope…” I heard the passion in her voice even across the sand. “There’s so much to be done but so few workers.” The camera stared at her and she ignored it, talking to the girls as if they were listening instead of calculating how long they had to nod before asking for a tip about how to snag Austin’s attention away from the volleyball bunnies. At least that’s what I presumed they were thinking.
“SarahJane, I didn’t come here to be on any show. This was all about April and you—”
“I know.” I raised a hand to stop his protests. “It’s okay. I admit it threw me for a second, but it might be okay.” If Linda could put up with the cameras and the inane chatter in order to publicize her non-profit foundation, then surely I could go with the flow and let my brother along on my adventure. This whole thing was supposed to be about breaking free and trying new things, about forgetting about Jesse and Rachael and Anna and Dad. But a part of me missed home and my brothers. Having Nathan around would ease that. And being the little sister in his shadow was a role I was used to.
“It’s harvest time. I can’t stay.” He rubbed the back of his neck, a sure sign he wasn’t as sure as he sounded.
“The early peaches are done. You can take a few weeks off. Jake and Abel and Daniel can handle it.” Even as I said the words, my last defenses melted and I wanted him to stay. Time to use my secret weapon: the farm. “Really, Nathan. It could be fun. You can talk about the farm and get people interested in our fruit. Talk about the organic acreage and tell people where they can buy our fruit. You can’t buy this kind of publicity.”
I knew I had him when he quit rubbing his neck and his hand moved to his chin.