Denise was lying face down on a chaise lounge, her long blonde hair draped from her head all the way through the slats in the chair down onto the ground. As Astrid approached, she saw that a bottle of sun block was lying on the pavement beside her.
“Did you use that sun block?” asked Astrid.
“I couldn’t reach my own back, could I?” asked Denise, without looking up.
The girl inventor sat down beside her friend and began applying the lotion to Denise’s back. Looking around, she saw that the tiny cloud had moved on and the sun was shining warmly. A gentle breeze was just enough to ruffle the many flowers without moving the trees. When Astrid was done, Denise sat up and returned the favor by applying sun block to Astrid’s fair skin.
“Where are they going?” asked Denise, nodding her head toward the path that led down to the beach.
Astrid turned to see Toby, Christopher, and Austin heading toward the ocean, carrying snorkels and fins. Austin already had his facemask on.
“They’re taking Austin snorkeling.”
“You don’t suppose he’ll drown, do you?”
“Not as long as Toby and Christopher are there,” replied Astrid. She didn’t need to ask Denise who she thought might be the drowning victim. Disaster had a way of seeking out Austin. “Speaking of Christopher, what’s going on with you two?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, the two of you went to the Spring Fling together. Has he asked you to the Junior Prom?”
“Not yet,” replied Denise. “I don’t know if he’s going to ask and I don’t know if I want him to.”
“I thought you liked him.”
“Well of course I like him. But we’re such good friends that when we think about being anything more than friends, it just gets weird.”
“Come on,” said Astrid. “Let’s try out this pool.”
The pool was roughly oval in shape, with a table and umbrella built into one end. A person could swim right up to the table and have a seat without even getting out of the water. Astrid entered the water, doing a perfect jack knife off the diving board at the other end. Denise followed with a one and a half forward flip. They swam laps for a while and then pretended they were synchronized swimmers, before getting back out and drying off in the sun.
Neither girl needed to look to recognize the owner of the voice, but they did look up just in time to see Valerie and her robot twin bouncing toward them. Following behind them were Valerie’s parents and Astrid’s mom and dad, and behind them—Astrid’s aunt Penelope.
“Look who we picked up in Denver,” said Mrs. Maxxim.
Penelope Maxxim could have been Astrid’s sister rather than her aunt, since only eight years and two inches separated the two of them. They shared a great family resemblance, with similar large, expressive eyes and cute button noses, but Penelope’s jet-black hair was a contrast to Astrid’s strawberry blond.
“Surprise!” said Penelope, as Astrid hopped up to give her a wet hug.