Melanie comes jogging towards us, hugging Zoey first, then Ant, and then approaches me. She looks as if she’s not sure if I’m a “hug-y” person, and to be honest, I’m not—but she’s different. I hold out my arms a bit, and while it’s awkward, it’s an invitation nonetheless, and she takes it. She’s warm against my chest and I can feel her curves through her clothes, and I’m not overwhelmed by perfume or anything like that. She smells like drying leaves and strawberry shampoo. I like it.
“So glad you all made it,” she says once we pull apart, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “The hot dogs have just been taken off the grill, and I’ve got a veggie burger cooking just for you, Zoey. So what do you think, Ant? Should I give Shiloh the property tour?”
Ant grins. “Of course! Isn’t that the grand Cauther tradition?”
“It certainly is. What do you say, Shiloh? After saying hi to some people, how would you like to see the house?”
I nod, and she grabs my arm, leading us up the steps to the elevated back porch. It stands several feet above the sand and weeds, looking out over the grey waves of the lake and I’m suddenly self-conscious—did I brush my teeth this morning? Is my choice of clothing acceptable? Am I really as pale as I think I am? God I hope not.
The deck is crowded with perhaps two-dozen people of all different ages—there are children running about, adults in groups, and four or five college students drinking beer, and as I look down to the shore, there are about six other kids playing in the shallows, the younger ones clad in life jackets. If I study some of the faces around me, I can pick out those that are related to Mel—something about their features, I guess. I also recognize Ms. Opal, though thankfully she’s too preoccupied with her conversation to notice me. Good.
Anyway, Mel first leads me over to a tall, plump woman who looks extremely familiar, though I’m not sure where I’ve ever seen her. But I can tell that she’s Mel’s mother. They’ve got the same kind of eyes and face, though her mother’s hair is brown instead of blonde. Mel introduces me to her, and my suspicions are confirmed.
“So you’re the infamous Shiloh Tucker,” Susan, or I suppose I should say Ms. Cauther, says pleasantly, taking my hand in hers and shaking it. “I hear that you’ve become quite the little gentlemen as of late.”
Mel winces. “Mom-”
“No, it’s fine,” I cut in, not wanting things to become any more awkward. “And it’s all thanks to your daughter—she gives me regular etiquette lessons and everything.”
“If only she would apply those here at home,” her mom laughs.
Mel groans and drags me away, though I still can see fondness tugging at the corners of her mouth. “Sorry about her,” she says. “She’s always like that.”
“Nosy. Embarrassing. You know how moms are.”
I blush a bit. “Uhm… mine died.” Great way to start a cookout, Shiloh. Tell her your mom’s dead—that’s really a kicker.
Mel frowns and squeezes my arm. “I’m sorry.” And no more was said on the subject, and I couldn’t have been happier. She didn’t pry, she didn’t look at me with pity, which I was incredibly thankful for.
Next she introduces me to her brother, Andy. He’s tall, taller than their mother, and broad-shouldered, too. Looks like he belongs in a Ralph Lauren spread or something. Standing before him, I feel even more insecure about my skinniness and my paleness, which is understandable, I think. He’s extremely nice, though—takes my hand in what I expected to be a shake, but instead pulls me into a bro hug that makes me feel scrawnier than ever.
“Great to meet you—we’ve heard a bit about you. California boy, right?” he asks, and I nod. He glances over to another guy who looks like a college boy, too. “Hey, Cal, come and meet Mel’s new arm-candy!”
My face heats up even more, but I try not to look too conspicuous as the guy comes towards us. He’s short and spritely and dark skinned, dressed more formally than everyone else on deck. I think he’s black mixed with some other race I can’t identify. Doesn’t matter of course, but I’m still secretly curious.
|Freddie Highmore||as Shiloh Tucker|
|AnnaSophia Robb||as Melanie Cauther|
|Betty White||as Grandma Grace|
|Pierce Brosnan||as George Tucker|
|Helen Mirren||as Ms. Opal|
|Maggie Smith||as Ms. Harriet|
|Taylor Lautner||as Ant Sullivan|
|Robbie Kay||as Lucas|
|Lucas Till||as Andy Cauther|