“Halfway.” I tried to think about it seriously. I knew Gat wouldn’t settle for a flippant answer. “When things are bad, I’ll pray or imagine someone watching over me, listening. Like the first few days after my dad left, I thought about God. For protection. But the rest of the time, I’m trudging along in my everyday life. It’s not even slightly spiritual.”
“I don’t believe anymore,” Gat said. “That trip to India, the poverty. No God I can imagine would let that happen. Then I came home and started noticing it on the streets of New York. People sick and starving in one of the richest nations in the world. I just—I can’t think that anyone’s watching over those people. Which means no one is watching over me, either.”
“That doesn’t make you a bad person.”
“My mother believes. She was raised Buddhist but goes to Methodist church now. She’s not very happy with me.” Gat hardly ever talked about his mother.
“You can’t believe just because she tells you to,” I said.
“No. The question is: how to be a good person if I don’t believe anymore.”
We stared at the sky. The dogs went into Windemere via the dog flap.
“You’re cold,” Gat said. “Let me give you my jacket.”
I wasn’t cold but I sat up. He sat up, too. Unbuttoned his olive hunting jacket and shrugged it off. Handed it to me.
It was warm from his body. Much too wide across the shoulders. His arms were bare now.
I wanted to kiss him there while I was wearing his hunting jacket. But I didn’t.
Maybe he loved Raquel. Those photos on his phone. That dried beach rose in an envelope.
AT BREAKFAST THE next morning, Mummy asked me to go through Dad’s things in the Windemere attic and take what I wanted. She would get rid of the rest.
Windemere is gabled and angular. Two of the five bedrooms have slanted roofs, and it’s the only house on the island with a full attic. There’s a big porch and a modern kitchen, updated with marble countertops that look a little out of place. The rooms are airy and filled with dogs.
Gat and I climbed up to the attic with glass bottles of iced tea and sat on the floor. The room smelled like wood. A square of light glowed through from the window.
We had been in the attic before.
Also, we had never been in the attic before.
The books were Dad’s vacation reading. All sports memoirs, cozy mysteries, and rock star tell-alls by old people I’d never heard of. Gat wasn’t really looking. He was sorting the books by color. A red pile, a blue, brown, white, yellow.
“Don’t you want anything to read?” I asked.
“How about First Base and Way Beyond?”
Gat laughed. Shook his head. Straightened his blue pile.
“Rock On with My Bad Self? Hero of the Dance Floor?”
He was laughing again. Then serious. “Cadence?”
I let myself look at him a long time. Every curve of his face was familiar, and also, I had never seen him before.
Gat smiled. Shining. Bashful. He got to his knees, kicking over his colorful book piles in the process. He reached out and stroked my hair. “I love you, Cady. I mean it.”
I leaned in and kissed him.
He touched my face. Ran his hand down my neck and along my collarbone. The light from the attic window shone down on us. Our kiss was electric and soft,
and tentative and certain,
terrifying and exactly right.
I felt the love rush from me to Gat and from Gat to me.
We were warm and shivering,
and young and ancient, and alive.
I was thinking, It’s true. We already love each other.
We already do.
GRANDDAD WALKED IN on us. Gat sprang up. Stepped awkwardly on the color-sorted books that had spilled across the floor.
“I am interrupting,” Granddad said.
“Yes, I most certainly am.”
“Sorry about the dust,” I said. Awkward.
“Penny thought there might be something I’d like to read.” Granddad pulled an old wicker chair to the center of the room and sat down, bending over the books.
Gat remained standing. He had to bend his head beneath the attic’s slanted roof.
“Watch yourself, young man,” said Granddad, sharp and sudden.
“Your head. You could get hurt.”
“You’re right,” said Gat. “You’re right, I could get hurt.”
“So watch yourself,” Granddad repeated.
Gat turned and went down the stairs without another word.
Granddad and I sat in silence for a moment.
“He likes to read,” I said eventually. “I thought he might want some of Dad’s books.”
“You are very dear to me, Cady,” said Granddad, patting my shoulder. “My first grandchild.”
“I love you, too, Granddad.”
“Remember how I took you to a baseball game? You were only four.”
“You had never had Cracker Jack,” said Granddad.
“I know. You bought two boxes.”
“I had to put you on my lap so you could see. You remember that, Cady?”
I knew the kind of answer Granddad wanted me to give. It was a request he made quite often. He loved retelling key moments in Sinclair family history, enlarging their importance. He was always asking what something meant to you, and you were supposed to come back with details. Images. Maybe a lesson learned.
Usually, I adored telling these stories and hearing them told. The legendary Sinclairs, what fun we’d had, how beautiful we were. But that day, I didn’t want to.
“It was your first baseball game,” Granddad prompted. “Afterward I bought you a red plastic bat. You practiced your swing on the lawn of the Boston house.”
Did Granddad know what he’d interrupted? Would he care if he did know?
When would I see Gat again?
Would he break up with Raquel?
What would happen between us?
“You wanted to make Cracker Jack at home,” Granddad went on, though he knew I knew the story. “And Penny helped you make it. But you cried when there weren’t any red and white boxes to put it in. Do you remember that?”
“Yes, Granddad,” I said, giving in. “You went all the way back to the ballpark that same day and bought two more boxes of Cracker Jack. You ate them on the drive home, just so you could give me the boxes. I remember.”