Twice in a Blue Moon

“Did you ever get hurt?”

Sam shook his head. “Hangovers? Sprained my ankle once. But it’s mostly just a group of us being idiots. Most of the girls around are way smarter than we are and could kick our asses. It kept us from going too far.”

Nana turned around, waiting for us to catch up. “What are you talking about?”

I grinned over at Sam. “He’s talking about drinking beer in fields, tipping cows, and building an airplane.”

I expected Luther to say something about the cows or the beer, but he just nodded proudly. “That plane nearly flew, didn’t it?”

Sam looked down at me, grinning. He knew exactly what I was trying to do—get him busted—and when Nana and Luther turned back around, he dug a long finger into my ribs, tickling. “Looks like that backfired, missy.”

Mom called me that night, right as I was slipping out the door to meet Sam. I took my flip phone out of the room with me, not wanting to wake up an already-snoring Nana.

I’d been wondering whether Mom was lonely with us away in London, though I knew how much work it took to keep the café open, and even with a couple women from town helping her while we were gone, I was sure Mom didn’t have a lot of time to think about anything but work. Still, if it was nine o’clock at night in London, it was nearly six in the morning at home; Mom should have been running around like mad getting things ready for the breakfast rush. Unless . . .

“What’s wrong?” I asked immediately.

She laughed. “Can’t I miss my kid?”

“You can,” I said, “but not when you’re supposed to be opening the café. Nana will lose it.”

“It’s Tuesday,” she reminded me. “We’re closed. I’m still in my jammies.”

I pressed the down button on the elevator, relieved. “I have no sense of what day it is.”

“That’s the best thing about vacation.”

This triggered a small, guilty realization. “When was the last time you took a vacation?”

The only one I could think of was when she took me to Seattle for a weekend a little over a year ago. Other than that, it felt like Mom had become a happy, settled fixture of Guerneville. Just like Nana.

“Seattle,” she confirmed, and I felt a weird wiggle of guilt that we didn’t just close up the café and bring her along. “But don’t worry about me. You know I love summers here.”

I always had, too. The heat came rolling in across the river and down the dried creek beds bursting with fat blackberries. The air grew so sweet and the sun heated the beaches and sidewalks so hot, we couldn’t go barefoot for even a few seconds. If we needed a reprieve, we drove just a few miles west, where the ocean met the Russian River. On the coastal beach just past Jenner, we would be blasted with air so cold we needed jackets in the middle of July. The town filled with tourists and their money and there was always a line outside Nana’s café, all day long.

“Maybe once I start school, over a break we can go on a trip, me and you,” I said.

“That sounds nice, muffin.” She paused. “Are you walking? What time is it there?”

Guiltily, I admitted, “I’m sneaking out to hang out with Sam.”

“Do you think you two could make it work?” she asked. “Cross-country?”

“Mom.” A bright flash of genuine irritation jetted through me at how quickly she went from me hanging out with Sam to imagining a long-distance relationship. I loved her romantic streak, but sometimes it was more pushy than anything. “I’m eighteen, and we aren’t a thing.”

“I’m not setting you up to be a child bride, Tate. But to just . . . have fun. Be eighteen.”

“Isn’t it your job to discourage this kind of behavior?”

I could almost see her waving this concern away “You get plenty of that from Nana. I’m just dreaming, you know me, having the fun conversation and what-ifs.”

“I like him but—I don’t want to get my hopes up and start talking about what-ifs.”

“Why not?” she asked. “It’s not like you won’t be disappointed regardless if nothing happens. I don’t know why people think permanent denial is better than temporary disappointment.”

I knew she was right, allowing myself a few moments of fantasy as I made my way from the elevator to the back doors that led to the garden. My only boyfriend to date lived a half mile down the road from me. What would it be like to date someone in another state, clear across the country?

“I mean,” I said, giving in, “he’s so cute, Mom. But he’s more than that, he’s really easy to talk to. I feel like I could tell him anything.”

Mom paused again, and in that silence I heard how quickly the unspoken question formed. Finally: “Did you?”

What was I hearing in her voice? Fear or excitement? Sometimes they sound the same—thin and tight, words clipped.

Would she be angry if I’d told him? Or would she understand my desire to lay claim to this glimmering history of ours? Sometimes I got the weird sense that I was disappointing her by not rebelling and shouting from a megaphone who I was, who she was, where we came from. In London, I wanted there to be a reason for my small-town clothes, bland ponytail, outdated style. I told myself it could be fun, playing the role of the country mouse in a big city. But in the privacy of my own thoughts and as selfish as it sounded, I wanted the world to know that it was just an act, that I wasn’t meant to be a fish out of water in this land of cosmopolitan women.

Daughter of world’s most famous actor has been living a simple life in a tiny town and never learned fashion. She’s so down to earth!

But I told Mom a lie instead of the truth. “No way, Mom. I would never.”

She exhaled, humming quietly. “Okay, muffin. Let’s talk tomorrow?”

I blew her a kiss before hanging up, feeling the sour weight of the lie settling in my gut.

Not unlike pulling a curtain closed, the guilt melted away as soon as I stepped outside into the dark, glimmering night. Sam didn’t look up as I settled beside him on the chilly grass, but I could feel the way he shifted, sliding just a little bit closer.

“’Bout time,” he said. It was dark but I could hear the smile in his voice. “I was getting sleepy.”

The urge to reach out and hold his hand spread through me like an electric wave. “Sorry. My mom called to see how things are going.”

He turned to me in the dark. “Is she jealous, with you and Jude all the way out here in London?”

“I wondered the same thing.” I sat up and crossed my legs, looking down at him. Inside, I felt keyed up, sort of jittery.

“You okay?” he asked.

“She asked me whether I told you about Dad.”

Sam smiled up at me. “You mentioned me to your mom?”


“And?” He waggled his eyebrows. “What’d you say?”

“That I met a guy named Sam.”

Playful disbelief took over his expression. “That’s it?”

I hoped he couldn’t see my flushed neck and cheeks in the darkness. “What am I supposed to say?”

“That I’m handsome, and both talented with words and know my way around a farm.”

This made me laugh. “I’m not sure you’re talented with words or farms; I haven’t seen proof.”

“I notice you didn’t argue with me about being handsome.”

“Are you trying to impress my mother?”

He pushed up onto his elbows, giving me flirty eyes. “What did you tell her?”

“I told her you’re nice and—”

“No,” he said, waving me off. “I mean when she asked whether you told me about your dad.”

“Oh.” I bit my lip. “I lied. I said I hadn’t.”

This seemed to surprise him. “Would she be mad?”

“I don’t know.” I tucked my hair behind my ear and noticed that his gaze was following the path of my fingers. “I don’t think she would?” I looked up at him and then winced. “But I was thinking about it the other day, and I realize this sounds totally spoiled, okay? But part of me wants to get to enjoy the perks of being Ian Butler’s daughter a little.”

“Why on earth do you think that makes you sound spoiled? Everyone in your position would want to be able to see how the other half lives.”

“I think because that life ruined my mom, and here I am, wanting a reason to go back there.”

“Did it ruin her?” he challenged me. “Or did she just have a shitty marriage?” He ran his fingers through the grass. “Roberta had a crappy first husband. Got her pregnant so young, cheated on her. She was different after that, I bet, but then she moved to the farm and fell in love with Luther and they’ve sort of become these bedrock citizens. Everyone relies on them for advice and help and just wants to soak up their wisdom. She’d’ve never met Luther if she hadn’t had a bad one the first time around, and I know she’d never tell me not to get married just because it didn’t work for her once. I don’t imagine your mom would want you to avoid something just because it didn’t work for her.”

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