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The Au Pairs #3: Sun-Kissed

in seat 12A, mara hopes that all good
things come to those who wait

As the pilot circled LaGuardia Airport, Mara Waters switched off her iPod mini and put away the Dartmouth College catalog she'd been reading. She looked out of the tiny airplane window down at the Manhattan skyline -- a luminous vision of steel and glass obscured by a late-afternoon haze. She'd made the forty-minute shuttle trip from Boston to New York several times now and was familiar with the commute. It was a pleasant enough journey that included stacks of complimentary magazines at the terminal and the company of crisp-looking professionals in worsted wool suits or crumpled corporate khakis, twinkling Bluetooth headsets discreetly curled behind their ears.

It was the first week of June, and barely forty-eight hours ago, she had officially graduated from high school. The ceremony itself had been a relatively straightforward affair, with a dull speech from the myopic valedictorian and the halfhearted singing of the class song (Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" -- chosen by the administration after the class's real choice, Green Day's "American Idiot," was banned). The only excitement had come when a member of the marching band flashed the stage, showing he was wearing nothing underneath his gown as he accepted his diploma. (His brightly uniformed colleagues quickly struck up a sassy bump-and-grind version of "The Strip.")

Mara had won the English prize, along with a two-thousand-dollar college scholarship. Her mother cried and her father took way too many pictures with his new digital camera while her sisters cheered from the stands. To the hearty beat of "Pomp and Circumstance," she'd joined the three hundred other Fighting Tigers in tossing their cardboard hats into the air. Afterward, over watery punch and stale Mint Milano cookies at the gym, she'd watched as her classmates exchanged new college e-mail addresses and promised to visit each other the next fall.

If only she had been able to do the same.

Mara frowned at the Dartmouth catalog, feeling envious of the cable-knit-clad coeds photographed studying on the lawn. Wait-listed. That was what the one-page letter inside the slim white envelope had said. Not "yes" or "no", but "maybe".

She could find out she'd been accepted in a week or even a few days before school started. Or she could never be accepted at all. Luckily, she'd been offered a place at Columbia with a generous financial aid package, and she'd put down a deposit to hold her place just in case Dartmouth didn't come through.

So now her whole summer stretched out in front of her, filled with anxiety and dread, since she didn't know where she would be in the fall. It was just so unfair. Dartmouth was her first choice, her only choice -- as far as she was concerned. Ryan, after all, was going to be a junior there.

Ryan. When she thought of his name, she couldn't help but smile. Ryan Perry. Her boyfriend. It had finally happened -- the two of them together at last. They'd met two years ago when Mara was working as an au pair for his younger siblings, and they had immediately hit it off. But other things and other people quickly got in the way. That first summer, Mara still had been with Jim Mizekowski, her high school steady. Mara finally gave Jim the boot the week before she was leaving, and she and Ryan had spent a blissful week together in the Hamptons. But later that winter, Mara broke up with Ryan after feeling totally insecure about the whole background-incompatibility thing -- Ryan being one of those boys born to everything, while Mara was a girl who had to work hard for everything in her life.

So they'd spent the second summer apart as well. Mara had found solace in the arms of Garrett Reynolds, the rich, tomcatting heir-next-door, while Ryan sought comfort even closer to home -- hooking up with Eliza, one of Mara's best friends. But that was all in the past now. Garrett was forgotten and Eliza forgiven. Over the past year Mara had often visited Ryan in New York and New Hampshire, and Ryan had finally made the trek to Sturbridge.

All her fears about what he would think -- that her house was too shabby, her parents too weird, her sisters too loud -- had been immediately dismissed once Ryan arrived. He'd bonded with her dad over football and polished off a record four helpings of her mother's chicken-fried steak. Megan pumped him for celebrity tidbits from New York ("Your friend did a body shot off Lindsay Lohan? Are you serious?") while Maureen declared Ryan was a great name for a boy as she patted her pregnant belly. And he hadn't said a word about the unfinished bathroom with the piece of cloth nailed to the window that substituted as a curtain or the fact that her parents kept the house at a chilly fifty-eight degrees in the middle of winter to save on heating bills.

This summer was going to be the best one yet -- she didn't have to au pair anymore since she'd gotten a job as an intern at Hamptons magazine through a connection of Anna Perry's. It was a standard entry-level post -- fetching, faxing, and answering phone calls for the editor in chief, but it tantalizingly promised a few -- underline few -- writing opportunities. "We need someone to caption all the party pictures," her boss had told her. Mara got the impression the job required the ability to accurately distinguish one Fekkai-blond socialite from the other rather than real writing talent, but at least it was a first step on the journalism ladder.

It didn't pay as much as the nannying gig (irony of ironies), and she would miss the kids and the girls -- Jacqui was the only one left working for the Perrys, since Eliza had something else planned, as usual. But the best part of the job was that she would be free to live with Ryan on his dad's yacht. They were going to live together, like a real couple. It was going to be the most romantic summer ever.

Mara sighed, dreaming of sailing on the bay, Ryan at the helm while she lounged on the deck, suntanning. The two of them kissing while the sun set behind them.

The plane glided into the gate, and Mara turned on her phone, which immediately buzzed with Ryan's signature callback ring tone: John Carpenter's Halloween theme. Doo-do-do-do doo-do-do-do...

She smiled as she flipped open her phone. So what if she was wait-listed? She was still spending her third summer in the Hamptons with the boy she loved, who was waiting outside the terminal for her arrival.

And no one could take that away from her.

The Au Pairs #3: Sun-Kissed
by by Melissa de la Cruz

  • Genres: Fiction
  • paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1442474114
  • ISBN-13: 9781442474116