- Pages: 320 Pages
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Imprint: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
- ISBN: 9780593112564
An Excerpt From
Melt With You
We’re getting low on the cookie dough, Mom,” I say, scooping out my thirty-seventh ice cream cone of the afternoon and passing it to her.
“I’m sorry, the what?” Mom gives me a look as she passes the cone to the next person in line. She adjusts the pin-striped hat on her head, careful not to unleash her wavy brown hair—complete with a lone patch of gray she calls her skunk stripe—and crosses her arms, waiting.
I roll my eyes. Right, she’s going to make me say it. She always makes me say it. I clutch my hand to my heart and tap my eyelashes together dramatically. “I’m sorry, Mother. I meant we’re getting low on I’ll Never Let Dough.”
“Much better.” She laughs. “I’ll text Carmen to run some over. She’s at the lab anyway.”
Carmen is my mom’s best friend. They met in seventh grade and have been joined at the hip ever since. About five years ago, when they both found themselves to be divorced single moms trying to work around school hours, they decided to take a risk on a rickety old ice cream truck.
Only instead of the usual melty Spider-Man pops and ice cream sandwiches, they took Carmen’s experience as a “tastemaker” at a gourmet candy shop and my mom’s experience in marketing and combined it with both of their obsessions with romance movies. The result: Love at First Bite, a small-batch ice cream service that operates solely out of this truck and a rented “lab space” at a local commercial kitchen.
Which means instead of cookies and cream, it’s I Like Your Boots, and instead of plain vanilla, it’s Just Whelmed Waffle Cone. But what they’re most famous for is Beauty and the Feast, an “aggressively chocolate ice cream swirled with French vanilla and a dash of citrus, topped with a blue-and-yellow homemade macaron and an assortment of red rose-petal sprinkles.”
“I think this one’s for you, Fallon,” Mom says, gesturing toward the window. I lean over the freezers, grinning when I see my best friend, Jami, on the other side.
“Hey! I thought you had a lesson today,” I say, wiping my hands on a rag. The ice cream might be off them, but the sticky-sweet cream scent will cling to my skin for days. There are worse things, I guess.
“Yeah, I cut out a bit early,” Jami says, biting her lip. Her long blond hair is pulled into a low ponytail, and she’s still in her riding clothes: tight tan pants and high black boots with sturdy heels. The Lion King tank top she scored from Target last week sort of ruins the classy motif she’s got going from the waist down, though.
“You can do that?” I raise my eyebrows. Jami takes her riding lessons very seriously, so this is wildly unlike her.
“Kinda.” She winces. “I told Stefan I had really bad cramps, and he got so uncomfortable he practically threw me out of the barn.”
“Sounds about right.” I laugh. Some people are so weird about periods. Like it’s this deep, dark, gross thing and not a regular occurrence for, like, a lot of the population.
“Can you take a break?”
I glance at my mom, who nods. The line has died down enough now that she should be able to handle it.
“So, Chloe’s home,” Jami says when I step out the back of the truck.
I sigh, pulling off my hat and shaking out my hair—wavy brown like my mom’s but with more frizz than shine—and hop up onto one of the empty picnic tables behind the truck. The ground around it is littered with cigarette butts from all the random food service workers who park their trucks here sometimes. I guess this is our version of a break room, not that I spend much time back here. There’s no cover from the sun, and being whiter than white, I tend to burn in five seconds flat. Jami follows me, sliding onto the bench and eyeing me nervously.
It’s not that this was unexpected. Chloe just finished her freshman year out in California. I knew she had to come home eventually. You can’t stay at college forever, I guess.
This is where I probably should mention that Chloe happens to be Carmen’s daughter—yes, the same Carmen who co-owns Love at First Bite with my mom.
And also that Chloe used to be my best friend.
And then more.
And then nothing.
Oh, and did I mention Chloe also works here?
I toss my hat onto the table beside me. “Maybe I can leave early. I’ll hide out at your place until I can convince my mom it would be a massive mistake to schedule us together. I just can’t deal with any surprise Chloe visits today.”
“I still don’t get why you can’t just work somewhere else.”
I love Jami, but she’s constantly teasing me and our other best friend, Prisha, about the “undying loyalty” we seem to have to our respective family businesses: me, the ice cream truck; Prisha, her dad’s grocery store. She doesn’t get that these are our families’ livelihoods. Not only are we expected to help, but they actually, truly need us to. Jami’s mom’s an accountant at a big commercial firm; it’s not the same.
I shake my head. “You know they can’t afford to hire someone else.”
“Responsible to the end.” Jami sighs.
“It’s not just that,” I say, because we’ve been over this. “Besides, I worked it out last night. If we each cut our hours a little, we can stagger our schedules so that we never have to be here at the same time. It seems like the best solution all around.”
“We leave in a month!” Jami says, widening her big eyes cartoonishly. “Are you sure you should be cutting hours right now?”
The trip. Right. The other thing I forgot to mention. Jami and I have been planning a trip to Montreal for almost a year now. It’s supposed to be our last hurrah before we get ripped apart by college. Jami is going to RISD for architecture, with a minor in performance, and I’m heading to UT Austin, my dad’s alma mater, to study business. My friends tease that I should go to school for film, since I’m obsessed with movies—horror in particular—but I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to load up on student loans for something my Dad calls “frivolous” when he’s all too happy to help out with tuition now that I’m following in his footsteps.
We picked Montreal primarily because of Jami’s obsession with cathedrals, but it’s really for the both of us. She can study the building design, and I’ll get the chance to scope out the filming location of one of my favorite indie horror movies of all time, Too Dead to Die, directed by my hero, the absolutely incredible Adya Mulroney. Because if Iwere going to do something “frivolous,” it would be directing smart, funny, feminist horror exactly like hers.
There’s just one problem: Jami fronted the money for the whole thing for my broke ass. The ice cream business really slows down during winter in upstate New York—shocking, I know—so I barely got any hours for the past nine months. Still had to always be on call, though, so it’s not like I could add in another job. Oh, and did I mention Jami funded our trip with the money that was supposed to go toward her textbooks this fall? Yeah.
Normally, I’d be the human embodiment of the wince emoji over that, but it currently feels like a much smaller problem compared to a summer spent working with my ex. If I have to stand next to Chloe and mix up The Malt in Our Stars, a strawberry milkshake drizzled in dark chocolate fudge and sprinkled with smashed-up heart candies—Chloe’s favorite flavor, by the way, perhaps an omen I definitely shouldnot have ignored—I’ll absolutely scream.
“I’ll figure it out. Don’t worry,” I say, and I mean it.
“Cool.” She nods. “I’m not trying to, like, be all up in your face about it, but I leave in a few days, and I’d like to be sure our trip is even happening before I go.”
“It’ll happen,” I say firmly, because I need this trip to look forward to.
“The refund deadline is—”
“I’ll get the money, I promise,” I say, because I will, no matter what it takes. “I wish you weren’t leaving, though.”
Now that school’s over, Jami’s getting ready to head out to Stars in the Woods, an immersive three-week theater experience that only the best of the best get invited to. Jami has been the lead in literally every school play since the third grade. She’s been going to the camp for years, and now, finally, she’s been brought on as a senior counselor and assistant director—an actual paying job. Those three weeks alone will be more than enough to cover her half of the trip.
“Three weeks,” she says. “And I promise I’ll facetime you from the forest every day.”
“Or just take me with you. I wouldn’t have to see the Wicked Witch of the West all summer, I’d have enough money to pay for our trip, and we wouldn’t have to be apart. Win-win-win.” I grin, wishing it could really be that easy.
She narrows her eyes. “You hiding some performing arts experience I don’t know about?”
“Oh, totally,” I say, and then we both laugh because the one time she convinced me to actually try out for a play, I puked during my audition. I am not the girl who gets in front of people and sings and dances. I’m the girl who sits in the back of the auditorium during rehearsals, doing her math homework while quietly bemoaning the lackluster choices the director is making.
“Right,” she says. “Looks like you’re staying put, then. Besides, even the cook jobs are wait-listed at this point. You snooze, you lose.”
I sigh. “I can’t believe I have to slog through the start of summer with Chloe here and you gone.”
“Maybe it won’t be that bad,” Jami says. “It’s been almost a year. Maybe you two could—”
“Could what?” Now she’s starting to sound like my mother, who’s desperate for Chloe and me to make up, even though she doesn’t really know what happened between us in the first place. No thank you.
“Okay, I’m not going there with you today. Just admit that at some point you do need to get over what happened.”
Jami huffs out a breath and drops her head back. “Seriously, Fallon, you are the most stubborn girl I’ve ever met in my entire life.”
I gently boop her on the nose. “And you love me for it.”
“Only very, very occasionally,” she says, shoving me.
I clutch my heart dramatically and then grab her hand, tugging us both up to standing.
“Come on, let’s go see if my mom will let me leave early.”
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