You press your hands firmly against the frosty glass window, and stare in at the rows of big plastic buckets filled with vibrantly colored ice cream. 129 flavors in all.
Like everything else in Hatterly, South Carolina, Ice Cream Dreamz started out quaint and quiet. But when Baskin Robbins moved in up the street, the owners aced their big chain bully head on: they installed flat screens, pumped in loud music, and hosted The Hatterly One-Hundred, a contest to name and create that many new flavors. In the end, afraid to offend a single potential customer, they made every entry a winner. A whopping 107 new flavors were born and branded, including the one by your 9-year-old foster brother Mason, oh so humbly named "Mason's Masterpiece." It consisted of vanilla ice cream with chunks of white chocolate, coconut shavings, and white sprinkles.
"Momeeee!" Mason whines on cue. "I want my ice creeeem nooowww!"
"Hang on, Pumpkin," your foster mom Karen pleads to her son. "Just a few more seconds. Those other people were ahead of us in line."
One look at Karen's platinum blonde hair, pallid complexion, and whitewashed, shabby chic, spotless, colorless, odorless home, and it's pretty easy to figure out who was the real "mastermind" behind Mason's winning flavor. She's not a germa-phobe or anything, she just likes things to be neat and orderly. "Everything has a place," Karen always says, and she has no problem telling you where it is as long as you put the thing there, the right way, of course.
While he stops complaining momentarily, Mason continues to moan.
"Mommmmmmeeeeeeee," he simpers.
You gotta give it to him, he's good. You were halfway to the mall when Mason managed to throw a screech fest so nasty that Karen immediately diverted the family SUV, and steered straight for the one place - the only place- that sells his kryptonite by the cone.
Mason didn't start out this spoiled or rotten. He was hit by a car when he was three, and...wait for it...Karen was behind the wheel! She didn't mean to hit her own kid, of course. It was one of those horrible accidents that happen in the blink of an eye.
Karen was backing out of the driveway and thought Mason had gone inside with the babysitter. The babysitter thought he was with Karen. You know the story.
Miraculously, he turned out okay, suffering a minor concussion and some scrapes that healed up without a trace. Karen, on the other hand, was permanently scarred by the incident. Now she doesn't let him leave her side. Karen's guilt about the accident crippled her ability to say no, even when Mason is bad. Like a little genie in a bottle, all he has to do is rub Karen the wrong way and his every wish is her command.
Like today. It was supposed to be girls' day out, last minute errands before you left for school and for good. But then Mason whimpered that he wanted to come and *poof!* he got his wish. Karen could have left Mason at home with David, your foster dad, who is working in his garage like he does every Saturday afternoon. David is a really nice man who works hard, loves his family, and likes to be told what to do - so it makes sense that he married Karen, because she's really good at that. He doesn't mind running to the grocery store late at night for something Karen forgot but can't live without (like bleaching strips or fat free mayo), or planting a new row of pansies on a Sunday morning after church. He'll do all the "honey-do's" she can dream up as long as he's left alone for a few precious hours of "David Time" every Saturday.
"Which flavor are you feelin' today?" the college kid behind the counter shouts enthusiastically over the latest Avril Lavigne single blasting through the sound system.
You snap out of your own little ice cream dream and peel your numbed hands off the glass.
"Metaphorically speaking, I'm Rocky Road, but in reality, lactose intolerant, so nothing for me, thanks. Just give that kid over there his cone? So we can get back on the yellow brick road..."
He cocks his head, gives Mason a quick glance, then winks at you and cruises down the counter, head bobbing to the music. This guy gets it. He's kind of cute, too, like a less GQ version of Jake Gyllenhaal, and with a much smaller head. Could he be the one? His lips look a little chapped. Otherwise, he's got rhythm, clear skin, nice hands, good bone structure. Just as you're imagining what it would be like to plant one on him, he glances over at you and catches you staring. You pretend to be engrossed in the sign posted over his head explaining the nutritional contents of ice cream. This happens a lot lately - you imagining kissing random guys, and then getting caught in some embarrassing moment. Ever since your best friend Emily wrote to you from sleepover camp last month giving you the juicy details of her first kiss, you've become obsessed with procuring yours.
Luckily, Ice Cream Guy gets distracted when Karen empties the contents of her tote bag onto the counter in search of her frequent buyer card. Three lipsticks, a tube of breath mints, and a tampon roll off the counter and onto the floor by his feet. He fumbles to collect all but one lipstick, which he has to get down on his hands and knees to search for under the milkshake machine. Mortifying. And a total buzzkill for your fantasy kiss.
"Go find us a table, will you, sweetie?" Karen pleads to you as Mason clings to her leg yelling, "I want my ice cream NOW!" You wander past the discarded spoon bucket...gross...and take a seat by the door. The tiny bells above the door jingle as a slow paced pack of Senior citizens hobble in. That's when it happens.
It always starts the same way: a gentle tingling that begins in your feet and slowly creeps up your legs. Your face feels flushed. Your palms grow hot, even though they were freezing moments before. The noises in the room become a muffled echo, as if you're underwater. And finally the shimmer itself: a hazy image that glimmers around the edges, like a movie playing in your head.
Some would call it a gift, but to you it's a curse. You never know when you're going to shimmer, how long it will last, or what you'll see. But what you do know is that some time in the following days/weeks/months, the shimmer will come true. Shimmers, you see, tell the future.
This one is extra weird.
A thick stack of aged paper sits on a tabletop. The once white sheets have turned a faded umber tinged with brown spots. The edges are tattered from being fingered and turned and the spine is curling from exposure to moisture in the air. A woman's hand puts a radiant gold fountain pen to the page and begins to write. The ink sparkles as though it is mixed with stardust that bleeds into the fibers of the paper like little sunbeams forming a halo around each letter. Her handwriting loops and curves slowly, but her palm is blocking the word she is forming. Just as you are about to see the first letter....
"You ready to go?" Karen suddenly asks. The ice cream shop begins to come back. The shimmer fades. You're looking at Mason sitting smugly next to his mom, slurping up the last bits of coconut and sprinkles from his cone. Your shimmer must
have lasted a couple of minutes.
"Sure," you say brightly, standing up. You look around. No one is staring, pointing at you, or whispering. No one is even looking in your direction. Good, no one noticed.
"Okay, then," Karen says. "Time to do some serious shopping." You force a big smile and nod.
YOU ARE READING
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