For as long as Marnie and Lucas can remember, they haven't gotten along. Where Marnie is the popular, almost-girlfriend of a senior jock, Lucas is her nerdier, know-it-all opposite. Sure, their parents are longtime friends, but that sort of closeness isn't in the cards for two such drastically different people. Or so they think.
When their families decide to uproot their city lives and move to the countryside, Marnie and Lucas are forced to live in even closer proximity. Suddenly, their days are filled with chores, fields, and endless sky—but those aren't the only major changes. Marnie has to admit: The North Carolina sun shines a new light on the boy she thought she despised.
In the following excerpt of An April Love Story, weeks of sexual tension have slowly given way to first love. Finally, Marnie and Lucas are able to break from their work, and share a private moment in the nearby blueberry fields...
Read on for an excerpt from Caroline B. Cooney's An April Love Story, and then download the book!
Lucas collapsed with exhaustion after unloading fifty hundred-pound bags of lime from the delivery truck and sat folded over on a stack of three lime bags. “Do sit with me,” he said, his voice coming from between his knees where his head was hanging. “I have this lovely seat at the opera here. They’re doing Madame Butterfly. Won’t you join me?”
“Partying again?” I said. “Really, Lucas. You playboys.”
“Too much high living,” he said. “Going to my head.”
And there was the lady from Boston who had heard we kept geese, and wanted a supply of empty goose eggs to decorate for her Christmas tree. She was obviously a little leery of associating with such filthy hicks as Lucas and me. I guess we looked like a cartoon strip to her, complete with overalls, scarves on my hair, cap on Lucas’, and Lucas had recently taken up chewing long grasses, which perpetually hung out of his mouth. We had eleven goose eggs we could give her, but I tripped coming down the porch steps and she only got two goose eggs for all her trouble.
“Let’s go to California,” I said to Lucas, as he washed the scrapes on my knees.
“I hear they hire a lot of migrant labor out there,” he said. “We could set up house in the VW van and follow the crops all over the West.”
I would have scraped my knees open daily for the privilege of Lucas kneeling beside me and worrying about my skin.
“Actually,” he said, “I’ve chartered a yacht for the week. Shall we sail to Bermuda?”
“No. Let’s just sit here and watch the traffic go by.”
The lady from Boston was trying to back out of our driveway. It really was rather entertaining, until the lives of our animals were in danger. Lucas drove it out for her, but she lined the seat with newspaper first so he wouldn’t ruin it.
“Six P.M.,” said Lucas. “Bedtime.”
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
“The health I can see. The wealth is proving a bit elusive. And as for wisdom I’m really not sure. We may be featuring it and we may not.”
“The lady from Boston definitely feels we’re not.
One rainy day my mother was sewing, Aunt Ellen was weaving, Uncle Bob was at the vets’ conferring about something or other, and my father was trying to build a goat stanchion. Lucas and I had been assigned the task of caulking the windows so that next winter the wind’s roar would be down to a whistle as it passed through our walls.
The stuff was a quick-drying foam insulation that came in a rather small tube, but upon emerging became puffy and bloated thus filling up your cracks quite well. By now, of course, Lucas and I were quite sure we knew how to do everything, so we didn’t bother to read the directions. We moved from window to window, making quips about possible dates, kissing whenever we were out of the view of a parent, and generally enjoying ourselves. It took about two hours.
“Whew!” said Lucas, throwing away the empty tubes of foam. “Now let’s wash this muck off. It’s all over my hands.”
It was all over mine, too. Thick, scabby-looking white stuff, faintly resembling cement. We went outdoors to the pump and pumped water over each others’ hands.
The stuff didn’t come off.
We tried soap. We tried cleansers. We tried sand. We even tried steel wool and tweezers and a knife blade.
It didn’t come off.
We looked at each other in horror mixed with hysterical laughter. I retrieved the foam tubes from the trash. “Apply only when wearing gloves,” I read. “Do not get on skin. Forms immediate permanent bond.”
I stared down at my hands. They looked infested.
It was not possible to hide the hands from our parents. We got all the usual, “Why didn’t you follow the directions? Why don’t you ever listen? What’s the matter with you?” stuff. But none of it cleaned our hands.
It took five days for the stuff to wear off. My hands were sore and tender for weeks afterward. But it had its good points. Lucas and I had a very good reason to sit quietly in the dark, rubbing lotion into each other’s hands, and although I wouldn’t do the same thing the next time I caulk a window, it was sort of—almost—worthwhile.
“You’ll never guess what I found growing over in the damp place by the woods,” said Aunt Ellen. “Where that underground spring is.”
“No, what?” I said. If it was more work, I hoped it would just fade back into the woods from whence it came.
“Blueberries. About a dozen high bush blueberries. Somebody must have planted them there years ago. They’ve become so thick and bushy and tall, and what’s more, full of perfect, ripe berries. The birds have pecked a lot off the tops of the bushes, but we couldn’t reach up there anyway. There’s a tremendous amount just waiting for us.”
My mother smiled at me. We hadn’t talked much about Lucas and me partly because we were all so busy, but she knew how I felt, and had seen the change in Lucas. “I think Lucas and Marnie should spend the day picking blueberries,” she said. “We’ve got plenty of pails. Let them take sandwiches and a thermos of lemonade and get us enough blueberries for the entire winter.”
Nobody argued. Nobody mentioned eleven urgent chores requiring Lucas’ expertise. Nobody listed essential errands for me to run.
Lucas hitched the small wagon to the tractor. My father filled it with pails, Mother put in the picnic basket, Lucas tossed in a blanket, and yelled for me to come on.
“A blanket?” said his father. “You’re supposed to pick berries, not take naps.”
“Marnie,” said my mother.
“We aren’t going to do anything, Mother.”
“A boy, a girl, and a blanket? Don’t be ridiculous, Marnie, of course you’re going to do something. Just don’t do very much, okay?”
I giggled. “This is supposed to be the free life, remember?”
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“You’re not that free.”
“Mother, I don’t even know if Lucas wants to do anything with me. For all I know he’s bringing the blanket to spread the sandwiches on.”
“No,” said my mother. “He is not bringing the blanket for the sandwiches.”
“Marnie!” yelled Lucas. “Hurry up. Those blueberries are growing old.”
“And so am I, so am I,” murmured my mother.
“Oh, Mother, stop worrying. You’re the one who suggested it, anyhow. And no fair climbing the hill with binoculars.”
“I’d never do a thing like that,” she said indignantly. She hugged me suddenly, and kissed me, as if she were sending me off to college or war. Lucas yelled again and I ran to get in the wagon.
“For pete’s sake, Marnie,” said Lucas, “don’t ride in the wagon.”
“There’s nowhere else to sit.”
“My lap, my lap.”
We bounced over the fields to the blueberry patch.
The sun was hot. There was no wind. After a while Lucas said, “Mind steering, Marnie?”
I steered. Lucas leaned back and stripped off his shirt. “Hot,” he explained. I leaned back against him again, and decided that this ride was even better than the chairlift. Less between us. And no icy wind.
The blueberry bushes were right where Aunt Ellen had said they would be, and just as she had said, they were dripping with berries. And my father had put eighteen buckets in the wagon.
“Eighteen?” said Lucas faintly.
“Do they really expect us to fill eighteen buckets?” I said. “We won’t be able to do anything except insanely heave berries into buckets from now until dark.”
“Oh, were you thinking of doing anything besides picking blueberries?” said Lucas.
“I personally am not sufficiently fond of blueberries to spend an entire day of my life on them.”
“Besides, a few blueberries go a long way. One handful for a whole mess of pancakes, and how often do we have pancakes?”
We spread the blanket on the grass and spread ourselves on the blanket. After quite a long while Lucas mentioned that the blueberries did not seem to be filling the buckets on their own.
“Thoughtless of them,” I said.
We lay on our backs and stared into the blue sky. “Our sky,” said Lucas. “Our hill, our trees, our world.”
“Do we really need city life when we can have all this, Marnie?”
We laughed and kissed again.
“Nice,” said Lucas.
“It would be nicer in the city.”
“I’m sure a kiss is a kiss.”
“Lucas, I’m feeling guilty.”
“About what? Kisses? Marnie, you’re a bona fide farm girl now. You know very “well we haven’t done anything to feel guilty about. Though if that’s what you want, I’ll be more than glad to—”
“No, guilty about not picking blueberries. They’re all home, work, work, working and we’re here—”
“Necking,” said Lucas. “Isn’t that a dumb word? I detest it.”
“I think the neck is where you’re supposed to stop.”
“Let’s not stop.”
But we did stop, at the same moment, without speaking any more. It hurt to stop, like being wrenched by something invisible. Lucas worked the shady side of the bushes and I worked the sunny side. The blueberries annoyed me terribly. I had so many important things to think about—Lucas, for example—and there was always a goat or a parent or a blueberry between us.
Why had we stopped? I wasn’t really sure. Pressure, almost, from parents who weren’t there, and a duty to work we’d developed in the last year and a half. Maybe a little fear, too. That neither of us was ready for more than kissing.
The blueberries stopped plinking against the metal of my bucket, and landed softly on top of each other. I could have Lucas right now, I thought, and I chose blueberries. Weird.
“Marnie?” said Lucas through the leaves and the deep blue rounds of the berries.
“I love you.”
The words hung in the air, as if the sun’s heat were rising from them. Lucas walked around the bushes, set his pail down, and looked at me, the edges of a grin beginning on his lips. He had said it first, not me. “I love you, Lucas.”
Of course we’d have had a more successful embrace if I hadn’t been holding my pail in front of me, but when it dropped the blueberries seemed of little importance.
“Your lips are blue,” accused Lucas. “You’ve been eating more blueberries than you’ve picked.”
“Your lips are normal. Didn’t you eat a single one?”
“Allow me to feed you some of my number one, superior grade blueberries, then.”
What with one thing and another when dusk came hours later, we each had but one pail of blueberries, and neither of those full.
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Created on 24 Apr 2018