As the warm sunlight faded, there was a faint chill in the breeze coming off the harbor. Brianna popped a pill, washed it down with water, and ate a tortilla chip. Dad took a long pull on his Corona. They were the only people sitting on the terrace of Captain Cancun’s Mexican Ristorante on the Tuesday after Labor Day.
"So," Dad said, and with that one word, she could tell he was about to hit on some topic she didn’t want to talk about. That "so," delivered with that expectant tone, was always the way he launched
them into some kind of awkward discussion she didn’t want to have. "So," he’d say. "Any cute boys in class this year?" or "So. How’s the hangover?" or, tonight, "So. When are we going to go college visiting?"
Brianna dipped another chip and looked out at the harbor. Just at the line of the horizon, she could see a boat. As she watched, it disappeared over the horizon, off to sea, off maybe to Spain,
where it would end up if it kept going straight from here all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. Except it wouldn’t be straight, because the idea of straight on a curved surface was kind of sketchy.
It would actually be a direct line following the curvature of the earth.
"I dunno. I mean, I don’t think . . . Melissa wants us to take the commuter rail in so she can have a tour and an interview at BU. So maybe I’ll just do that."
"I looked on the Web site. MIT has info sessions twice a day. I really think you should schedule an interview and go, Bri."
Suddenly, the tortilla chips were very interesting. She picked one up, thought briefly that calculating the area of this chip would be difficult because, again, it wasn’t a collection of points in a two dimensional plane, it was a three-dimensional surface with a pronounced curvature. All the better to scoop up the last of the salsa. As she scraped it from the bottom of the white bowl, Brianna decided she didn’t want to fight tonight. She was finally feeling better, and even with that little chill in the air reminding her that school was starting in two days, it still felt like summer. She wanted to hold on to this night, this last glimpse of summer, and not screw it up with tears and name-calling and telling Dad what he didn’t want to hear. She looked out at the harbor, felt the breeze on her face, and thought she’d probably never see the end of summer again, so it was just easier to say, "Okay, Dad."
Dad’s shoulders relaxed. He’d been gearing up for a fight, and she could see the relief on his face. "Thanks," he said.
Brianna smiled. "Least I can do."
Dad said, "Well, we’ve gotta be up early tomorrow. I guess we should hit the road." Brianna knew he also didn’t want her on the back of his bike after dark, but she decided not to bust his chops.
Dad raised his arm to signal the waitress, and the sleeve of his T-shirt slid up slightly, revealing the tattoo of Brianna’s name and birth date inside a heart. The waitress came over, and Brianna saw her eyes flit down to Dad’s massive bicep. "Anything else for you tonight? Another Corona?" she asked hopefully.
"Not tonight," Dad said. "Driving."
The waitress smiled. "Okay then," she said, gathering up their plates. "Let me just get this out of your way, and I’ll be right back with your check."
"Thanks," Dad said.
Brianna looked over to the beach. It was getting dark, and she could see the last few dedicated beachgoers collecting their coolers, blankets, towels, and umbrellas, and heading away from the sea. She fought back a pang of sadness. Every other September she could remember, she’d looked forward to the start of school, the new classes, the new clothes—it had always felt exciting, like everything was starting fresh.
But now she didn’t feel like anything new or exciting was starting; she just felt like something was ending.
Excerpted from FOREVER CHANGES by Brendan Halpin.
Copyright © 2008 by Brendan Halpin.
Published in 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.