Spring Secrets - Allie Boniface

Chapter One

“No peeking!”

Sienna covered her eyes and tried not to laugh. Someone whispered on the other side of the wall. The refrigerator door opened and closed. More whispering, a cabinet door knocking, silverware rattling. A cell phone chirped with a notification. Abruptly, the lights turned off, and then she didn’t have to worry about peeking, because she couldn’t have seen a thing even with her eyes open. But the whispers continued.


“Is everyone ready?”

“Hang on, is Jason here?”

A twinge poked between Sienna’s shoulder blades. They’d invited Jason? They shouldn’t have. She’d broken up with him months ago.

The lights flashed on.



“Open your eyes!”

“Get her picture. Frank, are you getting her picture?”

Voices shouted one over the other as Sienna blinked into the sudden brightness of her parents’ living room. Balloons and streamers hung from every lamp and piece of furniture. Her father stood in the doorway to the kitchen, holding his cell phone three feet from his face and punching buttons as he tried to record the moment. Her mother beamed over an enormous chocolate cake. Her younger brother lounged on the sofa, looking bored. Nate Hunter and his daughter Autumn stood on the stairs holding a handwritten banner proclaiming London or Bust! And Jason Kingsley stood just inside the front door, hands in his pockets, an uncomfortable look on his face.

The whole house vibrated with energy and excitement and the smell of her mother’s cooking. It was too warm, as always, with the woodstove in the corner kicking out heat. And it was too small for the crowd of people jammed inside for this belated celebration. Still, for just a moment Sienna felt a pang of longing. How could she leave all this, even for the prestigious Allbright Award? Yes, it was given to only four people each year. Yes, she’d beaten out three thousand other applicants to win the chance to work in another country. But she’d lived in Whispering Pines her entire life. How could she just pick up and move to the other side of the ocean?

“Are you surprised?” her mother asked. “You didn’t guess, did you?”

“No,” Sienna lied. “I had no idea.”

Nate grinned as he handed her an envelope. “From Max. She can’t wait until you get there.”

“I’m not leaving for another six months.” Against all odds, Sienna and her best friend Maxine had both won fellowships to work in London, but while Max had left the week after Christmas to work as a research librarian, Sienna’s teaching position didn’t start until July. “Not that I’m counting the days or anything,” she added.

“I know. But look inside,” Nate said, pointing at the card. “I’m pretty sure it’s a list of must-dos before you go.”

“Of course it is.” No one made more or better lists than Max did. “When do you both leave?”

“Next week!” Autumn said as Nate curled one broad arm around his daughter. “We get to fly on a big plane and everything.” Her cheeks shone, and Sienna hoped she’d feel the same enthusiasm when it was her turn to board. She’d never flown anywhere, not even to Florida on spring break.

“Well, I can’t wait to hear all about it,” Sienna said.

“Here, sit down so you can open your gifts,” her mother said. She set the cake on a side table. “Louie, please get the forks and plates from the kitchen. And a knife so I can cut this.”

Louie rolled his eyes. At sixteen, everything bored him. “Do I hafta?”

“Yes, you have to. Stop asking me that. And stop using slang, like you weren’t taught proper English in this house. When your mother asks you to do something, you do it.”

Louie shrugged and ambled into the kitchen.

“You know he won’t be able to find anything,” Sienna said. She waited one, two, three seconds, then pointed at the kitchen.

“Ma!” Louie called. “Where are they?”

Her mother groaned. Everyone else laughed.

Later, after Louie had begged off to a friend’s house and Nate had taken a sleepy Autumn home, Sienna sat on the couch next to Jason. Her parents were doing the dishes, a joint effort that her father insisted on every night. She could hear her mother singing under her breath in Spanish and her father banging around pots and pans like he still hadn’t learned where they went. It was sweet, really, the way they still enjoyed each other’s company after all this time. They called each other sweetheart and honey and kissed like they meant it. Sienna wondered if she’d be lucky enough to find someone like that someday.