The Stars of Summer, страница 1
ALSO BY TARA DAIRMAN
All Four Stars
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
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Copyright © 2015 by Tara Dairman.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The stars of summer / Tara Dairman.
Sequel to: All Four Stars.
Summary: Dragged to summer camp by her friend Charissa, twelve-year-old Gladys Gatsby, an undercover restaurant reviewer for a big New York City newspaper, meets a young bestselling author and finds a way to practice her cooking and restaurant reviewing skills.
[1. Camps—Fiction. 2. Cooking—Fiction. 3. Journalism—Fiction. 4. Friendship—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.D1521127St 2015 [Fic]—dc23 2014031819
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
ALSO BY TARA DAIRMAN
DAD ON ICE
CAKE AND PRESENTS
THE CAMP CRITIC
A TASTE OF CAMP
SALTY MEAT ON WHITE BREAD
THE “HAM HERB”
SABOTAGE (ON A SESAME SEED BUN)
CAT EATS MOUSE
A WATCHED INBOX NEVER BOILS
BOBBING LIKE A HOT DOG
THE RIGHT BALANCE
NEW YORK CITY’S NEXT TOP HOT DOG
A (HOT) DOG DAY OF SUMMER
OIL AND WATER(CRESS)
BEIGE GLOP ON BUTT-BREAD
CARROTS AND CUPCAKES
RICE THIS AND BEANS THAT
MORE LEAFY GREENS
ALL BUTTERED UP
SALT AND SAND
THE ONION TRICK
OPERATION TOP DOG, TAKE TWO
A STUDY OF TECHNIQUE
LIKE A KNIFE THROUGH BUTTER
MORE ROTTEN THAN ROTTEN EGGS
ICING ON THE CAKE
THE BITTERNESS OF DEFEAT
A TASTE OF THE RSA
GLADYS GATSBY’S SIGNATURE SANDWICH
NOT SO STALE
THE STARS OF SUMMER
GLADYS GATSBY’S TWELFTH BIRTHDAY should have been her happiest one yet.
She was at a fabulous new restaurant in Manhattan on an outing she’d been planning for weeks. Back at home, a three-tiered, strawberry-lime birthday cake (which, of course, Gladys had baked herself) was waiting to be eaten. And best of all, Gladys’s parents had allowed her to invite her friends along for the festivities. A year ago, Gladys hadn’t had any friends to invite to a birthday party—but now she had three, and they were all here at Fusión Tapas with her.
Too bad they weren't speaking to one another.
Gladys glanced around the table. Parm Singh’s thick black eyebrows knit into an angry scrunch as she scowled alternately at Charissa Bentley and Sandy Anderson. Next to her, Charissa was flicking her high brown ponytail over her shoulder about ten times a minute, shooting sneers in Sandy’s or Parm’s direction each time. And Sandy—whose round cheeks were flushed almost as red as the bottle of spicy sauce in the middle of the table—had scooted his chair so far away from both girls that he was now practically sitting in Gladys’s dad’s lap.
All this bitterness, and they hadn’t even gotten their food yet!
The evening had started off much more smoothly, with the Gatsbys piling into their station wagon to drive into the city. “Hey, I don’t remember agreeing to throw a party like this,” Gladys’s dad had joked as he turned the key in the ignition. “Gladdy, I knew that hanging around with that Bentley girl was going to give you big ideas.”
Gladys smiled. It was true that she’d gotten the idea to spend her birthday at a restaurant in the city from Charissa, who’d brought Gladys into Manhattan on a birthday outing just three months earlier. But Gladys’s ulterior motive had nothing to do with wanting to be popular like Charissa.
It had everything to do with her top secret job as a restaurant critic for New York City’s biggest newspaper.
It wasn’t a job she had even meant to apply for, but a few months back, Gladys’s entry for the New York Standard sixth-grade essay contest had somehow ended up on the desk of Fiona Inglethorpe, chief editor of the Standard’s Dining section. Fiona must have liked what she read—and must have assumed that Gladys was a professional adult writer—because she had e-mailed Gladys with a reviewing assignment for the paper.
Almost overnight, Gladys had morphed from a regular sixth-grader into a sort of foodie secret agent. She couldn’t let her editor know her age, or she’d get in trouble for being too young. She couldn’t let the restaurants find out she was a critic, or they’d give her special treatment, trying to influence her reviews. And, most important, she couldn’t let her parents know about her new job. These days, they only let her indulge her love of cooking at home because they thought she spent the rest of her time being a “normal kid.” If they found out that she actually spent most of her free time writing about food for the country’s biggest newspaper . . . well, she could kiss those kitchen privileges good-bye forever.
So Gladys’s parents didn’t know that she’d chosen this restaurant for her birthday dinner because she needed to review it for next week’s Dining section. But Sandy did, and since he lived next door, he was the first of her friends to join them. Jogging up to their car, he looked different than usual: He wore pressed khaki pants instead of shorts, and his usually mussed-up blond hair had been sculpted with gel into a severe wave. But underneath all that was the same old Sandy.
“Happy birthday, Gatsby!” He fist-bumped her as he climbed into the car, then shoved a wrapped package into her lap. “Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Gatsby, thanks for having me. This is gonna be excellent—I can’t wait to try the tapas!”
He was overplaying things a little, Gladys thought, but her mom seemed to buy it. Swiveling around in her seat, she beamed at him. Gladys’s mom thought that having an active social life was very important, so she grinned at just about everything that came out of Gladys’s friends’ mouths—even if it was enthusiasm for tiny plates of Spanish-inspired cuisine.
“You’re very welcome, Sandy,” she said. “We’re just thrilled to have you along.”
“You’ve got your notebook?” Sandy whispered as the car turned onto Landfill View Road. Gladys gave him a tiny nod and patted her dress pocket. Inside were the materials she needed to carry off her secret mission: a tiny reviewing journal and two sharp golf pencils.
Sandy nodded and slid two folded-up printouts out of his pocket. Gladys quickly stuffed them into her journal. She and Sandy already had their orders memorized, as did Parm, who also knew about Gladys’s secret work for the Standard. As for the other diners, Gladys had been dropping hints about what they should order all week and hoped she’d planted seeds in their minds: seeds that would grow into roasted asparagus for her mom, fried eggplant for her dad, and stuffed peppers for Charissa.
Soon the Gatsbys’ car pulled into the Singhs’ driveway. Parm stepped outside wearing a beautiful salwar kameez of green chiffon, but she kept her head tucked down as though she were embarrassed. When Sandy pushed open the back door, she grabbed a fistful of her fluttery scarf and nearly vaulted into the far backseat.
“Happy birthday, Gladys,” she said, handing over a small gift bag tied shut with a curl of ribbon. “And sorry about . . . this.” She glanced down at her outfit, which consisted of flowing pants and a matching top. “My mom looked at the restaurant’s website, and when she saw how fancy it is, she made me dress up.”
“That’s okay,” Gladys said, pointing to her own striped sundress. “Mine did, too, see? Anyway, you look really nice.”
“Yeah,” Sandy chimed in. “You look like a princess!”
Parm’s eyes narrowed. Uh-oh, Gladys thought. That was definitely the wrong thing to say to a girl who spent most of recess either kicking around a soccer ball or punching Owen Green.
Sandy, though, seemed oblivious to Parm’s glare. “I’m Sandy, by the way,” he said. “Sandy Anderson. Maybe your parents know my mom? She teaches at East Dumpsford Yoga, and she studied in India.”
“Well, if she studied there, then she must have met my parents,” Parm said witheringly. “It’s not like there’s over a billion people in India or anything.”
Sandy twisted to look at Gladys, a bewildered expression on his face. “I thought she was supposed to be the nice one,” he muttered.
Gladys couldn’t think of how to respond. Sandy went to a private school, so he had never met Gladys’s other friends. But if Sandy and Parm already weren’t getting along, then adding Charissa to the mix definitely wasn’t going to help.
And just as she suspected, Gladys heard both of her friends groan audibly as Charissa flounced down her front walk five minutes later. She wore an elaborate red dress trimmed in black lace with matching high heels, and carried an enormous present wrapped in shiny gold paper.
“Is she wearing gloves?” Parm asked incredulously. “It’s eighty degrees outside!”
Gladys looked closer and saw that Charissa was wearing gloves, though they were black lace ones with no fingertips, so she was pretty sure they were meant to be fashionable rather than warm.
“Maybe temperatures are cooler in The Seabreeze,” Sandy said. The Seabreeze—East Dumpsford’s most exclusive waterfront neighborhood—was where the Bentleys’ large house was located.
“Right—not like sweltering, overpopulated India,” Parm snapped.
“Dude, I didn’t say anything about India!”
“Cool it, you guys,” Gladys begged—but before she could say more, the car door flew open.
“Hola!” Charissa squealed. She dropped her huge gift on the floor, threw her arms around Gladys, and planted a lipsticky kiss on each of her cheeks. “That’s how they say hello in Spain,” she informed everyone as she climbed in. “And this is what they wear. Or what flamenco dancers wear, at least.” She smoothed the skirt of her dress with one of her gloves. “Since we’re going to a Spanish restaurant, I thought it would be the perfect outfit. I had Mommy order it specially for me from Madrid!”
“How thoughtful of you, Charissa!” Gladys’s mother exclaimed. It was no secret that Gladys’s mom liked Charissa the best of Gladys’s friends, possibly even more than Gladys liked her. Charissa loved to be the center of attention and tell everyone what to do—traits that made her pretty much Gladys’s opposite. But they had one important thing in common: They both loved good food, and could talk about it for hours on end. Gladys wasn’t sure yet that she could trust Charissa with her restaurant-reviewing secret, but if she was going to a fancy restaurant, she knew she wanted Charissa with her.
As the station wagon merged onto the highway, Sandy gawked at Charissa’s dress. Gladys couldn’t blame him; it gleamed like fluorescent strawberry juice, even in the low light of the car.
Charissa eyed Sandy coolly. “You know it’s rude to stare, right?”
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
Charissa pursed her brightly colored lips, and Gladys felt sure that she was about to chew him out. But instead she said, “That’s okay. You’re Gladys’s little friend—Sandy, right?” She shot him an indulgent smile. “I wouldn’t expect someone so much younger than the rest of us to know about proper manners.”
“I—what?” Sandy spluttered. “I’m only a year younger than you!”
“Yes,” Charissa continued, “but boys are less mature than girls to start. So an eleven-year-old boy is really the equivalent of, like, an eight-year-old girl. Don’t you think, Parm?”
“I’m staying out of this,” Parm said.
Gladys had to jump in. “Sandy’s very mature,” she assured Charissa. “Like an adult sometimes, really. You should see some of the computer games he’s designed!”
Sandy gave Gladys a small smile of thanks.
“Well, Gladys,” Charissa drawled, “it’s your birthday, and he’s your friend, so of course you’re right. I’ll say no more.”
And she didn’t. In fact, nobody did all the way into Manhattan—not even Gladys’s mom, though in her case it may have been due to nerves. Unlike Gladys’s dad, who took the train into Manhattan every day for work, her mom hardly ever ventured into New York City. She said that the tall buildings made her feel claustrophobic, and she worried about pickpockets. In fact, she had left her purse at home and insisted that Gladys’s dad take only his driver’s license and a single debit card on the birthday outing to help limit their losses in case of a violent holdup.
“This is completely unnecessary,” her dad had grumbled as he emptied his wallet onto the kitchen table. But he’d given in to avoid starting the night off with a fight.
As everyone lined up in the entryway to Fusión Tapas, Gladys hoped that her friends wouldn’t be fighting all night. She had a job to do, after all, and she was going to need them to work together to pull it off.
Sandy was standing closest to her, so she decided to check in with him first. “Which three tapas will you be ordering again?” she whispered.
“The calamari, the potato omelet, and whatever special number two is,” he whispered back. According to the restaurant’s website, it always served two specials in addition to the regular menu, so Gladys had planned to order one of them and have Sandy—her least finicky friend—order the other. “Don’t worry, Gatsby,” he assured her. “I’ve got this.”
She nodded; no matter what else happened, she knew she could rely on Sandy. Gladys turned to check in with Parm next, but found Charissa standing in her way.
“Gladys, do you know what you’re going to get?” she asked excitedly. “I’ve been studying the menu online all week! I have to get the smoked almonds; that’s a given.”
Gladys had assumed this—since she knew how much Charissa liked nuts—so it was already filled in on the ordering chart. And as for the other two slots next to Charissa’s name . . .
“How about the stuffed piqui
Charissa’s button nose wrinkled. “I don’t know,” she said. “Isn’t goose really greasy? I wouldn’t want to get stains on my dress.”
“Right,” Gladys said, doing some quick calculations in her head. Maybe she could order the goose and let Charissa have the griddled polenta cakes that were next to her own name on the chart. “Well, how about the—”
Just then, something slammed into Gladys’s shoulder—hard. It was Parm. “Stupid sandals,” she muttered. “I never trip in my cleats.”
“So, Parm,” Charissa said, tossing her ponytail over her shoulder, “what are you going to order? I thought you didn’t eat anything other than, like, plain spaghetti.”
Gladys felt Parm’s body stiffen and hoped her friend remembered the answer they had practiced in case this question came up. In truth, Parm was the pickiest eater Gladys knew; she ate a couple of things besides spaghetti, but not much, and certainly nothing that would be found on the menu of a Spanish restaurant.
“In honor of Gladys’s birthday, I’m going to be adventurous,” Parm recited. “I’m going to try some new dishes and hope to be pleasantly surprised.”
Gladys gave Parm’s pinkie a grateful squeeze. She felt confident now that Parm remembered her role, too: keep track of what everyone else orders, and then order whatever is left on the menu. Gladys knew Parm had no intention of putting even one morsel of tapas into her mouth, so it really didn’t matter what she ordered in the end.
“Gladys Jane?” the maître d’ called out. “Party of six?”
Gladys’s hand shot into the air. “That’s us!” Thankfully, her parents had allowed her to make the dinner reservations, and she’d been careful not to give the restaurant her last name, since she published her reviews under the byline “G. Gatsby.” But as the maître d’ swept them off to their table in the middle of the loud, mirror-paneled dining room, Gladys couldn’t help but worry. There were still so many moving parts to her plan.