Chapter 1

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The bright Florida sun was shining and a warm breeze blew my dark purple hair back from my face. February in Florida felt like April in Kansas. I pulled the hood up over my head, looked out past the pier to the calm ocean beyond and wished I was back in Kansas having a snowball fight with my friends.

Beside me was my dad, Reed Bennett, the chef. It's all his fault we're now living in Florida. Six months ago, he uttered the second worse phrase I'd ever heard. The worst was when he sat down next to me and held my hand then spoke "I'm sorry to have to tell you this Riley. Your mother was killed in a car accident. She was in the van when it exploded." It felt like the world imploded that day. Three months later he said the second worse sentence. "Honey, we're moving to Florida."

In the few months we've lived here, he hasn't once asked how I felt about moving away from home where I could still remember Mom. With the passing of each day, I feel her slipping away. Every night I stare at her photograph and remember everything we did together. I have to keep her photos hidden because he gets angry at me for keeping them out.

The fish market on the pier was crowded as usual for a Saturday. There were a variety of vendors on the pier selling a variety of fish, shrimp, and crab. Over at Ralph's table was a pretty woman with blonde hair that had the prettiest green highlights. She looked relaxed in her blue sundress and wide brimmed hat. Ralph handed her a bag of jumbo shrimp and she paid him. Many of the other vendors had already sold out of their supply. Dad stepped up to the table and asked for shrimp as well. He was buying seafood for a wedding he was catering.

"I'm sorry. I'm a pound short."

"Do you know of anyone else who might have fresh shrimp? I'm catering the Kennedy wedding this afternoon." Ralph screwed up his face then looked past me.

"Lydia. Come back."

"What's wrong Ralph?"

Dad turned around and looked curiously past me to Lydia. Their eyes met and he smiled, no, really smiled for the first time since before mom left for California.

She smiled back at him. Yuck!

"I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm short a pound of jumbo shrimp for the Kennedy wedding. Could I buy them from you?"

An angry expression crossed her face. "I'd hate for the son of Mayor Kennedy to miss out on shrimp cocktail at his wedding," she said with a touch of malice in her voice.

Key West wasn't much bigger than the town I grew up in in Kansas. Small town life was the same wherever you went. I tried to stay out of the politics as much as possible.

Dad's shoulders sunk and the smile vanished.

"What's wrong with Burt Kennedy?" I asked. I met him once at the chamber mixer dad hosted. He seemed like a nice guy.

"He does absolutely nothing to promote keeping the beaches and the bay clean. Far too many of the dolphins, tortoises and other wildlife get caught and killed in the trash that float in the waters. Not to mention how much of the coral reef is gone. Everytime I call his office to ask him to join in clean up days, I get put on hold and left there. It's also bad for tourist business but he just won't listen."

"I understand Mayor Kennedy isn't to everybody's taste but I'm new in town and trying to keep my restaurant going and this wedding would help in attracting new customers. How about my daughter Riley and I come and help next time you have a clean up day?"

"That would be wonderful," Lydia beamed. "We start tomorrow at two o'clock."

I glared at dad but I couldn't hold in my excitement to spend time on the beach, even if it was to pick up trash. I've always wanted to swim in the ocean. It's the one good thing about moving to Florida except it's too cold to go swimming this time of year. My eyes returned to the graying skies and the murky waters below. In the distance I thought I saw what looked like a pirate ship with tall masts and billowing sails. I blinked and it was gone.

Her eyes lit up and the smile returned to her face. "Could I also be one of your hors d'oeuvres servers? That way he can't ignore me." She giggled maniacally. I was almost beginning to like her.

Dad smiled back. I smiled too. This way I could get out of server duty. I hate serving hors d'oeuvres. I looked at dad and smiled the biggest grin I could and nodded emphatically. He chuckled.

"O.M.G. Do you see what I see? It's been so long." Go ahead Dad, mock me. You'll regret it later. "It's good to see you smiling again Riley." He pulled me in close beside him and gave me a side hug. I rolled my eyes. "I think she wants to get out of being a server. Do you think she'd like to wash dishes or serve punch instead?"

I gave him the evil glare while I crossed my arms. I'd rather be home playing video games online with my friends back home.

"Fine, you can have the afternoon to yourself. But I expect you to have your room cleaned up, the dishes done and laundry folded and put away before you turn on the video games."

I did my own version of a happy dance. Dad laughed and Lydia joined him. I stopped in embarrassment, leaned against the railing and crossed my arms. Now I was really starting to hate her. I hope he doesn't fall for her.

"Well," he sighed, "at least she smiled even though it was short lived."

"Teenagers," she said.

"Yep. No matter how much you love them, they still make you pull your hair out." They both laughed again.

"What time do I need to be there?" she asked.

"The ceremony is at five and the reception starts at six. I'll need you there at four."

"Why so early?"

"So you and I can get to know one another." She giggled and I rolled my eyes. I spun around to stare at the sea again. The tall ship had reappeared. I stuck a pair of quarters into the tourist binoculars and peered through.

"Dad. Your shrimp are getting warm."

"Oh, right. I'll see you later Lydia?"

"I wouldn't miss it."

I followed dad to his silver Volvo. I stayed ten feet back so I wouldn't hear him anymore than I had to. He took the shrimp to his restaurant, poorly named the Captain's Table. Why couldn't he have found a more creative name? I walked home.


"How did you get out of being a server?" Rachel asked. We'd been friends since we were three. Her family lived across the alley. Both of us would go and see Granny out at the farm and chase chickens and rabbits.

I adjusted my headset and laughed maniacally. "Dad found a willing volunteer with an agenda."

"An agenda?"

"She want's Mayor Kennedy to help with beach cleanup."


"Lydia." I moaned. "Dad's eyes started sparkling the minute he looked at her."

"You're kidding."

"I wish. He still won't let me hang pictures of mom in my room and her paints are locked up in his closet."

"What is wrong with him?"

"He just doesn't understand."

"So, what's Lydia like?" Rachel seemed genuinely interested. If she tells me to give her a chance I'm going to not talk to her for a week.

"She has green hair," I glowered.

"Your hair is purple." Rachel said.

I scowled in silence, perhaps for too long. I know I shouldn't judge her by the color of her hair. I really don't want to like her. I really, really don't want dad to like her.

"You still there?"

"Yeah," I sighed.

"What else?"

"I don't know much about her. We just met her today while shopping for shrimp at the fish market, but I think she works for the marine sanctuary because Dad volunteered me to help with the next beach clean-up."

"Ew, that's gross. Don't they pay people to do that?"

"Only from dumpsters. It still means I get time on the beach."

"I'm jealous. Of the beach, not the trash." We both laughed.

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