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When I Look at You

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Now available on Galatea! Kerri knows she is in for a summer of hell when her Mom drops her off at her estranged father's house. Nothing though could have prepared her for what was in store for her next. Kerri hasn't seen her father in ten year--not since he took off, leaving her and her mother to fend for themselves. So she's not very pleased that a court order has her landed her in a mandated summer there. A summer of dealing with her absentee father and his new blonder family doesn't seem to be her idea of how she planned to spend her summer vacation. She promises herself to make the most of it by capturing the great sites that North Carolina has to offer. She had no plans though of meeting Blaine Forester, a local photographer who offers to show her the time of her life while she's trapped there. Things are starting to look up until a familiar face rolls into town and with it, brings a dark cloud that is about to change Kerri's life forever.

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Chapter One

“I don’t want to be here.”

“I know you don’t. That doesn’t matter though. It’s court-ordered.”

“Send me to jail then. Rather spend my summer there than with him.”

“It wouldn’t be you sitting in the jail, sweetheart. It’d be my ass in the slammer then you’d have to move in with him until I got out. I’d like to think that one summer would be better than till you are eighteen.” I gave my mother a glare from the corner of my eye as she drove. Her reddish brown hair was pulled back in a loose bun and large sunglasses gazed out at the open road. I crossed my arms and sat back in my seat of our beat up BMW.

“We could go on the run together.” I suggested, shrugging my shoulders. “Just keep driving past Bastifield until we get to Mexico. No one would find us there.”

“Kerri, it’s one summer. 52 days. 51 nights. I am 100% sure that you will survive this. Your father isn’t as horrible as he use to be. He’s changed a lot since he got married.” Yeah. Too bad he wasn’t the reason I was dreading this.

“She’ll be there too? With her…things?”

“I suppose so, Ker. She does live there. Your father told me that the younger daughter was away at some kind of sports camp all summer. The other girl, Hannah maybe? She’ll be there. You’ve met her. Is she nice?” I shrugged again.

“Must be if she was worth replacing me.” I muttered. She made a noise in her throat. The same noise she has made for the last almost sixteen years of my life that was suppose to signify her annoyance. I rolled my eyes and looked out the window. I could already smell the salty air of the ocean and traffic was thickening around beach exits on the highway.

“I think this will be a good thing for you and your dad. You haven’t spent any real time with him since you were ten. You guys can get to know each other again.”

“He’s the one that left us, Mom. He decided then that he didn’t need us. Why does he need me now?”

“There’s nothing either one of us can do about it. Drop it.” She slightly snapped.

I didn’t blame her. Ever since we went to family court this past February, I hadn’t been the easiest force to be reckoned with. The judge had granted my father permission for a summer long visitation. Even though my father abandoned my mother and I when I was ten years old to run off to North Carolina. My mother had told me that he had this lifelong dream to open a restaurant on a board walk somewhere. Without us, he did just that in Bastifield, North Carolina. He also met a single mother of two girls down here. They tied the knot about five years ago and have been living the good life down here in the sun. Meanwhile, my mother and I are up in Maine barely making it. Priorities.

Mom took the exit that said Bastifield in capital white letters. The traffic grew thick again, mostly tourists and other travelers. We drove for a few more miles before she stopped in front of a wooden building. The Wharf was written in white on the side of it and a neon OPEN sign hung in one of the large front windows. There was a porch that wrapped around it to what appeared to be it’s own dock in the marina that the restaurant overlooked. She put the BMW in park before killing the engine. Sighing, she looked at the building then at me. “Ready?” I gave her a look. “Right. I’ll grabbed your suitcase.” She opened her door and climbed out, her rather short and skinny frame moving quicker than usual. I scooped my backpack from the back seat and climbed out myself. The sound of a bell ringing, made me look up. A man came jogging out of the door the Wharf. With brown shaggy hair pulled in a ponytail, a tight t-shirt with blue and green swimming trunks and flip flops, my father smiled in my direction before stopping at our trunk next to Mom.

“I’ll get it, Lynn. Here.” I heard him say. He talked to Mom the same exact way as he did when I was younger. A flashback of them walking hand in hand on the boardwalk in Portland, Maine flashed in my mind. I shook my head, reminding myself who he was now. I shut my door and grabbed my backpack strap tightly.

“Thanks, Chris.” Mom replied, shutting the trunk. They walked towards me, Chris holding my suitcase in one hand. He held up the other in an attempt to hug me. He stopped though as my Mom made her throat noise.

“Right. Kerri, I know you think you are being dragged here against your will. I promise that it’s not going to be horrible. I’ll do my best to make you feel at home. Tammy and I both are looking forward to this.”

“Tammy?” I questioned, knowing full well who she was.

“My wife.” He replied, raising an eyebrow. “You met her at the court hearing.”

“Oh. You’re new family. Gotcha.” I responded. Mom glared at me.

“I deserved that.” He turned to her. “You want to stay for dinner, Lynn? We’re having a clambake in honor of Kerri’s arrival.”

“No. I gotta get back home by tomorrow. Maybe when I come down at the end of the summer.” Clams were Mom’s favorite food. I’d never seen her turn one down in my life. I could tell he thought the same.

“Of course. I’m going to run your bag into the house. See you in a bit.” He jogged back towards the Wharf, this time veering towards the left. He climbed the steps of a large white and blue house and disappeared into the front screen door. Mom sighed, grabbing my hand.

“If anyone should be mad at him, it should be you. It’s been a long time though. Give him a chance. Now give me a hug and pretend you aren’t about to face a firing squad.” I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed. “And you can call me anytime, day or not. I expect one call a day.”

“Yes, Mom.” I said, letting go. I saw tears in her eyes. I’ve never been gone for this long before. “Don’t cry. Please. I’ll be fine.”

“I know. Ok. I gotta go. Behave yourself.” She pointed at me before climbing back into the BMW. She fired it up and waved before driving away.

“Great.” I whispered, turning to face the house. Slowly, I made my way to the porch. It was a very nice house with a large white porch. The siding was a light blue and smelled as if it was freshly painted. I pulled the screen door open and entered, letting it slam behind me. I found myself standing in the front hall. The walls were a tan color and several had hanged murals hung on the walls along with seashells and other standard seas life decorations you would find in any naval theme. There was a coat rack to my left and a staircase to my right.

“Hello?” A female voice called up the hall. A head full of blonde hair poked out from a far doorway. It was a woman around my father’s age with tanned skin and bright blue eyes. Go figure. Her face lit up in a huge smile full of perfect white teeth and she fully emerged into the hall. She was a little taller than me with a thin waist and boobs that could knock out a small child. She came running up the hall, screaming and before I knew it, I was engulfed in a hug, my face smashed against her rack. “Oh Ker-Bear! I am so glad you are here! I’ve been waiting all year for you to come stay with us!” She exclaimed, holding tighter. Shocked and losing oxygen, I pushed her off the best I could. It didn’t phase her a bit. She beamed down at me with a huge smile, rambling on about my hair and what she had planned for this summer. “Oh! You have to introduce yourself to Hannah again! Hannah! HANNAH!” She bellowed up the stairs. There was movement above our heads as I tried my best to inch around the insane thing my father married. Feet came bounding down the stairs that belonged to a miniature version of Tammy herself. The only difference was the fact that her daughter looked young. She reminded me of a Teen Vogue model. Her blonde hair practically flowed behind her in waves. You gotta be kidding me.

“Yeah, mom?” She asked, looking at her mother. It was like I was invisible. Good.

“Hannah, this is Chris’ daughter Kerri. You met her last year.” Hannah nodded. I felt something cool in her stare as her eyes flicked towards me.

“Oh yeah. Hey.” She said, nodding at me.

“Hi.” I replied.

“Come on! You two are sisters! Hug!” Tammy exclaimed, practically shoving Hannah at me.

“Tammy!” My father’s voice called up the hallway. It sounded like a warning. He appeared next to her, in between Hannah and myself. Whew. “We talked about this.”

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to make sure we all know that this is a big happy family.” Tammy replied, sounding almost offended.

“Where am I staying?” I asked, interrupting the touching family moment of the family I wanted no part of. Chris turned and looked at me.

“I emptied out my office so you’d have your own room. Come on.” He turned back to Tammy. “Greg and Jenna should be stopping by soon. You gonna finish up dinner?” She nodded. He signaled me to follow him up the hall. I did just that, passing the two blonde psychos with relief. We passed by several doorways, one being a kitchen and another a bathroom. “You gotta forgive Tammy. She tried too hard sometimes.” He said over his shoulder.

“At least someone does.” I muttered. I wasn’t sure if he heard me. I didn’t care. If he did, he didn’t show it. He stopped at a door at the end. Turning the knob, it opened. You could tell it was an office. Or use to be. Bookcases lined three of the walls, built right into the foundation. Books and small trinkets lined the shelves. On the far right side of the room was a desk with a laptop set up on it. On the other side there was a brand new queen size bed. I knew it was new because it smelt it was fresh out of the package. Powder blue and white sheets and a comforter were fitted on the mattress along with several fully pillows near the dark wooden headboard. He set my suitcase near the desk and watched me as I looked around. “You can use the computer whenever you want. There’s a landline phone in here too but I figured you’d mostly use your cell. Tammy went out and bought you some clothes. They are in the closet. You don’t have to wear them.” I nodded, tossing my bag on the bed.

“Whose Greg and Jenna?” I asked.

“They are Hannah’s boyfriend’s parents. They live a few houses up. Nice people. Greg is my business partner.” I didn’t say anything. He cleared his throat. “Well I am going to go and help Tammy with the rest of dinner. We’re going to eat out in the backyard. I’ll call you when everyone gets here.” He left.

“So looking forward to it.”

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