It’s 1968 and Melanie is turning thirteen. It seems like everyone is growing up faster than she is, but that doesn’t stop her from being an incurable romantic. When a gorgeous new boy shows up in her boring, small town, she’ll do anything to be noticed by him.
When an unexpected sequence of events lands her the job of trusted babysitter for his unusual little sister, Melanie is thrilled to be admitted to his inner circle. But then she has to figure out what really matters—a chance to be around him or staying true to her family and her best friend.
Read this dramatic coming-of-age story and be immersed in a time of turmoil and change in the heart of one memorable young girl.
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The lion boy stood waist-deep in the pool. There was no other way to describe him.
Melanie’s magazine dropped to her lap and the watery racket of children’s voices around her faded to a soft hum. The boy held his back and neck with regal straightness, surveying his surroundings with fierce disdain. His eyes flickered at various points around the pool. He was an exotic, caged animal looking for a way out.
Where on Earth did he come from?
Those eyes. What an astonishing shade of deep ocean blue. His princely mouth appeared displeased and amused at the same time. Blond hair hung low over his eyes. She noticed his lean, muscular body, but those eyes seemed to leap from him like wild beasts. How had such a gorgeous guy appeared out of nowhere to stand stock-still in the middle of the Alma Corners Community Pool, while the little kids from town bobbed, splashed, and flailed all around him?
Not like the usual weasel boys and frog boys. Wait till I tell Jo.
As Melanie stole repeated glances at him, he froze as if posing for a photographer. Though he never looked right at her, he pulled her attention to him like a powerful magnet.
Maybe he was a lifeguard. He looked a little young. Melanie scanned the sides of the pool and located the usual lifeguards. She pretended to be reading her magazine for a minute in case any of them caught her staring at the amazing stranger. Nearby snored Mrs. Murphy, who always brought her kids to the pool and fell asleep in a lounge chair.
That boy was probably from the City. She grimaced at the gaily striped plastic chairs strewn around like this was a posh pool at a resort instead of the dingy old YMCA pool. She wished she wasn’t sitting so close to Mrs. Murphy.
What if he thinks she’s my mother?
Melanie shrank away from the sight of Mrs. Murphy’s cavernous mouth yawning open to catch a breath before the next robust snore.
Maybe the royal visitor was someone’s cousin from out of town. She nodded to herself. That had to be it. No one who looked like that would ever actually move to Alma Corners.
He looked up and she followed his gaze. Diane Harman and Jessie Udall were walking out of the women’s locker room, swinging their towels and whispering. She watched his cool appraisal of them with a familiar thudding sensation in her chest. Guys were always impressed with Jessie’s long model legs and brassy blonde hair. She lowered her eyes to her magazine, forcing herself to concentrate on the pictures of this month’s teen idol, as the mystery boy climbed out of the water to head toward Jessie.
“Figures.” She sighed, gritting her teeth, as she watched him grab one end of Jessie’s towel and give it a playful tug. She hated Jessie’s loud, fake laugh, and that snorty giggle Diane always trotted out when boys were around.
Melanie tried to plump up her thin, mousy-brown hair and scanned her legs in disapproval. There they lay, sprawled out and unglamorous against the cracked cement: skinny calves, knobby knees, and sturdy farm-girl ankles. She sniffed and clutched the magazine to her chest, trying not to think about the fact that nearly all the other girls in eighth grade were wearing real bras by now.
Her unkind inventory was interrupted by a screech of pain from the middle of the pool.