The summer of 1964. Four teenage lives intertwine as each searches for love, identity, and a passage through painful family conflicts, social isolation, and the confusion of sexual orientation.
During a sailing class, four teenagers meet.
Jessie Schaffer is fourteen, an intelligent and solitary girl, who dreams of becoming a writer. When she sees nineteen-year-old Lindsay Ames, the instructor, standing on a dock, sunlight illuminating her blond hair and blue eyes, Jessie falls in love but is too afraid of her feelings and what they mean.
In an attempt to reassure herself she is “normal,” Jessie becomes involved with two boys in the class: Kenny Crenshaw, also fourteen, a darkly handsome and flirtatious guy, and Calvin Brayburn, a year younger, who will be in their freshman class because he’s academically brilliant.
On the first day of sailing, Cal is smitten with Jessie, though he is hindered by shyness. As the romantic relationships take unexpected twists, Jessie, Lindsay, Calvin, and Kenny relate their individual stories, their hopes, fears, and longings, all the while being buffeted by intense pressures.
Set in coastal New Jersey, the plot roams from its beautiful rivers to lush scenes in St. Thomas and Vietnam’s jungles during the war.
NineStar Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/turnabout/
Laury A. Egan © 2021
All Rights Reserved
“I’m not going!” I state this as a firm fact; my mother hears acquiescence.
“And wear your new clam diggers and that boat-neck shirt I bought you.”
“No! I feel like an idiot in those clothes!”
My mother, who dresses perfectly for every occasion, arches an eyebrow, one that took hours to sculpt. “You are attending sailing class, and I want you to look nice. We will hear no more about it, Jessie.”
When the singular “I” migrates into the royal “we,” my goose is cooked.
“I will see you in the car. Ten minutes,” she says.
After she leaves the room, I go to the closet, slip the fake nautical clothes off hangers, and throw them on the bed where I slump beside them. “I’ll look like a fool,” I mutter as I stare at the blue-and-white-striped shirt and the white clam diggers decorated with red piping and baby sailboats. I shut my eyes in frustration and follow imperial orders.
I’m standing by the entrance to the Lenape Sailing and Yacht Club, hoping my mother will reconsider and take me home. I turn to plead with her, but she’s already backing the big black T-Bird out of the drive, its whitewalls spitting sand four feet past its chugging tailpipe. For a minute, I picture the car getting stuck but no luck. It’s me who’s stuck.
I scan the sky and beach. The morning sun has taken a hike, leaving a mash of clouds in its wake. The breeze sucks the tops off the cattails and raises goosebumps on my arms and the whitecaps on the river. With no real alternative, I walk through the clubhouse’s double doors, wishing I could fly out the other side, shoot off the dock, and do a Superman back home.
Inside, it smells like salt air, tired sun, and dried old wood. About ten kids—probably my class—are milling around looking self-conscious. Even though they appear nervous, my years of experience tell me they’ll do just fine, once the preliminary jitters smooth off, while I will not. Oh, sure, I can pick up the sailing stuff, but the rest? I stand by the window, thinking I don’t like groups because groups don’t like me.
I turn. A boy with thick glasses is staring at me with a curious expression. His hazel eyes, magnified by the lenses, appear intelligent. He has small cuppy ears, an epidemic of brown freckles across his face and arms, and bright-red hair cut in straight bangs and parted unevenly on the left side of his square head. The boy is a little hunched, as if he’s already apologizing for future tallness. Despite his neat green shirt and navy cotton shorts, he doesn’t wear his body comfortably. The kid looks as ill at ease as I feel.
“Hi,” I reply, though I’m lukewarm in interest. I look over the group, hoping there is someone better to hitch up with. Most of the kids are about my age. Next week, on July 5, I’m turning fourteen.
“My name’s Calvin Brayburn.”
Calvin seems younger. Perhaps twelve nudging thirteen and oblivious to the huge barrier a year’s difference makes.
“Jessie what?” He tilts his head and squints a little, as if his poor eyesight dulls his hearing.
“Jessie Schaffer.” I’m not a chatty type, particularly with strangers, which includes just about everyone I’ve ever met. How can I lose this kid? Should I play it high and mighty or chilly-neutral? Then, the teacher enters from a side room, saving me the decision.
“Hello, everyone. I’m Lindsay Ames, your sailing instructor.”
Lindsay is tall, or at least she is from my five-foot-four perspective. Short blond curly hair. Blue eyes. Long arms and legs already tan from being outside. Can’t tell if she is a senior going to be a freshman or a freshman home from college. Probably four or five years older than I am. I breathe easier. I’m more comfortable around adults.
Lindsay hands out mimeographed papers. “The parts of a sailboat and two pages of nautical knots,” she explains. “Don’t worry—we’ll go over them, but you’ll have to memorize the parts and how to tie a bowline and a cleat hitch by next week.”
One of the girls giggles and nudges her neighbor. I don’t see anything funny about knots, but maybe that’s because I’ve already taught myself a few—Dad said this would be expected.
“It’s too windy to go out today,” Lindsay continues, “so we’ll get acquainted and learn some of the basics.”
She takes a seat in a wooden armchair, and everyone sprawls onto couches and chairs around her as if she’s going to tell us a story. I sit on the floor opposite and stare at the blue Keds’ stamps on the back of my white sneakers.
“Let’s go around the room.” She nods to a girl with a ponytail. “What’s your name?”
When the kid smiles, silver braces glint like chrome on a Chrysler grille. “Melinda Whitmore,” Ponytail replies. “Hi!” She jerks her hand in the air and gives half a wave. She’s growing boobs that overwhelmed her training bra a long while ago.
“Hi, Melinda,” Lindsay replies. “Welcome aboard.”
I’m not positive I like this sailor heartiness, but so far, Lindsay seems okay. She then points to a guy with black, wavy hair and dark Romeo eyes.
“Hey,” he says in a false sheepish tone. “I’m Kenny Crenshaw.”
Melinda and the other girls exchange blushing glances. Kenny is instantly crowned “king” without any contest. I’m no slouch at rating pecking orders in social gatherings. Of course, none of the girls look at me for confirmation, a fact I also file away in my mental account ledger.
As if he senses his royal anointment, Kenny squares up his shoulders and drops his voice. “I already know how to sail,” he explains. “My dad has a boat.”
“Oh? What kind?” Lindsay asks.
Kenny Crenshaw smiles, confidence spreading across his face. “It’s a thirty-two-foot O’Day.”
“Nice boat,” the instructor says, smiling. “So, you must be quite accomplished.”
He stares at his feet and shrugs, as if he’s embarrassed. In that moment, my dislike of him rushes in like a squall.
“Yes, I am,” he answers. “Sort of.”
The “sort of” is another attempt to appear modest, though it doesn’t wash with me. His smug perfection stings like a pissed-off wasp. We’ll see who the better sailor is. I don’t have a clue why I’m feeling so competitive.
Melinda’s friends are Janey and Gretchen. The three of them are jump-rope types. That’s how I used to classify the popular girls in elementary school. I never mastered their games—skipping rope or their other activity—flirting—and still nourish a fine disdain for both. Sure, back then, the girls let me play sometimes, so I wasn’t on the outer orbit of Pluto, but I wasn’t really accepted, which is typical of the flip-flop nature of my life. Graduation from eighth grade didn’t improve my standing with boys either, and neither did the spring dance, a perfect ten on the misery scale. My mother tortured me into going solo and wearing an itchy chiffon dress and patent leather shoes that pinched. I was the weed amid the wallflowers and didn’t dance once. I’m glad we just moved to Bingham, where I’ll attend high school and hopefully make some friends.
There are four more students who introduce themselves: Steve, Cathy, Mary Lou, and Gene. The girls all cross their arms over their chests, protecting their budding growths, and the boys look careless and bored, like they’d just as soon be throwing rocks at beach rats. Everyone is sort of average looking compared to Kenny and Melinda, who, despite her dental work and giggles, has drawn the longest glances from the boys. Calvin is saving me from last place on the unpopularity register. When it’s my turn to say hello, I’m tempted to tell everyone my father has a sixty-nine-foot sailboat, just to see how it goes down. But one of my rules is that I only lie when I’m sure no one will catch on. Because I don’t know who makes boats that size, the last thing I want is King Kenny announcing there is no such thing. So, after giving my name, I clam up, ceding round one to him. At least Lindsay gives me a warm smile, but she smiles at all the kids.
After that, we go outside and investigate a Turnabout, a little ten-foot catboat we’re using for our lessons. Lindsay gives us the port/starboard/stern/bow info, shows us how to tell which way the wind is blowing by the little pink ribbon fluttering near the top of the mast, and demonstrates how to attach and hoist the single sail. The whole time she does this, my new friend Calvin sticks to my side tighter than a tick. Whenever I look at him, he grins like we’re already buddies. Melinda and Kenny aren’t listening to Lindsay because they’re whispering and digging elbows into each other.
Two hours later, when my mother arrives, I announce I don’t want to take sailing lessons anymore. She doesn’t listen.
Meet the Author
Laury A. Egan is the author of the YA novel, The Outcast Oracle; three suspense novels, Jenny Kidd, A Bittersweet Tale, and The Ungodly Hour; a comedy, Fabulous! An Opera Buffa; a collection, Fog and Other Stories; and a literary work, The Swimmer. Four limited-edition poetry volumes have been published: Snow, Shadows, a Stranger; Beneath the Lion’s Paw; The Sea & Beyond; and Presence & Absence. She lives on the northern coast of New Jersey where she sailed Turnabouts during her teenage years.
This competition ends on November 30th 2021 at 12am EST. Competition hosted by NineStar Press.