This Is What Happy Looks Like - By Jennifer E. Smith

It was not all that different from the circus, and it came to town in much the same way. Only instead of elephants and giraffes, there were cameras and microphones. Instead of clowns and cages and tightropes, there were production assistants and trailers and yards upon yards of thick cables.

There was a sense of magic in the way it appeared as if from nowhere, cropping up so quickly that even those who had been expecting it were taken by surprise. And as the people of Henley showed up to watch, even the most jaded members of the film crew couldn’t help feeling a slight shiver of anticipation, a low current of electricity that seemed to pulse through the town. They were used to filming in locations like Los Angeles and New York, cities where the locals gave them a wide berth, grumbling about the traffic and the disappearance of parking spots, shaking their heads at the huge lights that snuffed out the darkness. There were places in the world where a movie shoot was nothing more than a nuisance, a bothersome interruption of real life.

But Henley, Maine, was not one of them.

It was June, so the crowds that had gathered to watch the men unload the trucks were fairly large. The size of the town rose and fell like the tides. Through the winter, the full-timers rattled around the empty shops, bundled against the frost coming off the water. But as soon as summer rolled around, the population swelled to four or five times its usual size, a stream of tourists once again filling the gift shops and cottages and B&Bs that lined the coast. Henley was like a great hibernating bear, dozing through the long winters before coming back to life again at the same time each year.

Most everyone in town waited eagerly for Memorial Day, when the seasons clicked forward and the usual three-month frenzy of boaters and fishermen and honeymooners and vacationers invaded. But Ellie O’Neill had always dreaded it, and now, as she tried to pick her way through the thick knots of people in the village square, she was reminded of why. In the off-season, the town was hers. But on this blisteringly hot day at the start of June, it belonged to strangers again.

And this summer would be worse than ever.

Because this summer, there would be a movie too.

A few seagulls wheeled overheard, and from some distant boat a bell began to clang. Ellie hurried past the gawking tourists and away from the trailers, which now lined the harbor road like a gypsy caravan. There was a sharp tang of salt in the air, and the smell of frying fish was already drifting out of the town’s oldest restaurant, the Lobster Pot. Its owner, Joe Gabriele, was leaning against the doorframe, his eyes trained on the flurry of activity down the street.

“Kind of crazy, huh?” he said, and Ellie paused to follow his gaze. As they watched, a long black limo glided up to the main production tent, followed by a van and two motorcycles. “And now photographers too,” he muttered.

Ellie couldn’t help frowning as she watched the explosion of flashes that accompanied the opening of the limo door.

Joe sighed. “All I can say is, they better eat a lot of lobster.”

“And ice cream,” Ellie added.

“Right,” he said, nodding at the blue T-shirt with her name stitched to the pocket. “And ice cream too.”

By the time she reached the little yellow shop with the green awning that read SPRINKLES in faded letters, Ellie was already ten minutes late. But she didn’t have to worry; the only person inside was Quinn—her very best friend and the world’s very worst employee—who was hunched over the ice-cream counter, flipping through the pages of a magazine.

“Can you believe we’re stuck in here today?” she asked as Ellie walked in, the bell above the door jangling.

The inside of the shop was wonderfully cool and smelled like spun sugar, and as always, there was something about it that made the years recede for Ellie, peeling them back one at a time like the layers of an onion. She had been only four when she and her mom moved here, and after the long drive up from Washington, D.C.—the car heavy because of all they’d taken with them and silent because of all they had not—they’d stopped in town to ask for directions to the cottage they’d rented for the summer. Mom had been in a rush, eager to finish the journey