And all four of us Liars, laughing so hard we felt dizzy and sick. But what was so funny?
What was it and where were we?
I do not know.
I used to ask Mummy when I didn’t remember the rest of summer fifteen. My forgetfulness frightened me. I’d suggest stopping my meds, or trying new meds, or seeing a different physician. I’d beg to know what I’d forgotten. Then one day in late fall—the fall I spent undergoing tests for death-sentence illnesses—Mummy began to cry. “You ask me over and over. You never remember what I say.”
She poured herself a glass of wine as she talked. “You began asking me the day you woke in the hospital. ‘What happened? What happened?’ I told you the truth, Cadence, I always did, and you’d repeat it back to me. But the next day you’d ask again.”
“I’m sorry,” I said again.
“You still ask me almost every day.”
It is true, I have no memory of my accident. I don’t remember what happened before and after. I don’t remember my doctor’s visits. I knew they must have happened, because of course they happened—and here I am with a diagnosis and medications—but nearly all my medical treatment is a blank.
I looked at Mummy. At her infuriatingly concerned face, her leaking eyes, the tipsy slackness of her mouth. “You have to stop asking,” she said. “The doctors think it’s better if you remember on your own, anyway.”
I made her tell me one last time, and I wrote down her answers so I could look back at them when I wanted to. That’s why I can tell you about the night-swimming accident, the rocks, the hypothermia, respiratory difficulty, and the unconfirmed traumatic brain injury.
I never asked her anything again. There’s a lot I don’t understand, but this way she stays pretty sober.
DAD PLANS TO take me to Australia and New Zealand for the whole of summer seventeen.
I don’t want to go.
I want to return to Beechwood. I want to see Mirren and lie in the sun, planning our futures. I want to argue with Johnny and go snorkeling and make ice cream. I want to build bonfires on the shore of the tiny beach. I want to pile in the hammock on the Clairmont porch and be the Liars once again, if it’s possible.
I want to remember my accident.
I want to know why Gat disappeared. I don’t know why he wasn’t with me, swimming. I don’t know why I went to the tiny beach alone. Why I swam in my underwear and left no clothes on the sand. And why he bailed when I got hurt.
I wonder if he loved me. I wonder if he loved Raquel.
Dad and I are supposed to leave for Australia in five days.
I should never have agreed to go.
I make myself wretched, sobbing. I tell Mummy I don’t need to see the world. I need to see family. I miss Granddad.
I’ll be sick if I travel to Australia. My headaches will explode, I shouldn’t get on a plane. I shouldn’t eat strange food. I shouldn’t be jet-lagged. What if we lose my medication?
Stop arguing. The trip is paid for.
I walk the dogs in the early morning. I load the dishwasher and later unload it. I put on a dress and rub blusher into my cheeks. I eat everything on my plate. I let Mummy put her arms around me and stroke my hair. I tell her I want to spend the summer with her, not Dad.
The next day, Granddad comes to Burlington to stay in the guest room. He’s been on the island since mid-May and has to take a boat, a car, and a plane to get here. He hasn’t come to visit us since before Granny Tipper died.
Mummy picks him up at the airport while I stay home and set the table for supper. She’s picked up roast chicken and side dishes at a gourmet shop in town.
Granddad has lost weight since I saw him last. His white hair stands out in puffs around his ears, tufty; he looks like a baby bird. His skin is baggy on his frame, and he has a potbellied slump that’s not how I remember him. He always seemed invincible, with firm, broad shoulders and lots of teeth.
Granddad is the sort of person who has mottos. “Don’t take no for an answer,” he always says to us. And “Never take a seat in the back of the room. Winners sit up front.”
We Liars used to roll our eyes at these pronouncements—“Be decisive; no one likes a waffler”; “Never complain, never explain”—but we still saw him as full of wisdom on grown-up topics.
Granddad is wearing madras shorts and loafers. His legs are spindly old-man legs. He pats my back and demands a scotch and soda.
We eat and he talks about some friends of his in Boston. The new kitchen in his Beechwood house. Nothing important. Afterward, Mummy cleans up while I show him the backyard garden. The evening sun is still out.
Granddad picks a peony and hands it to me. “For my first grandchild.”
“Don’t pick the flowers, okay?”
“Penny won’t mind.”
“Yes, she will.”
“Cadence was the first,” he says, looking up at the sky, not into my eyes. “I remember when she came to visit us in Boston. She was dressed in a pink romper suit and her hair stuck up straight off her head. Johnny wasn’t born till three weeks later.”
“I’m right here, Granddad.”
“Cadence was the first, and it didn’t matter that she was a girl. I would give her everything. Just like a grandson. I carried her in my arms and danced. She was the future of our family.”
“We could see she was a Sinclair. She had that hair, but it wasn’t only that. It was the chin, the tiny hands. We knew she’d be tall. All of us were tall until Bess married that short fellow, and Carrie made the same mistake.”
“You mean Brody and William.”
“Good riddance, eh?” Granddad smiles. “All our people were tall. Did you know my mother’s side of the family came over on the Mayflower? To make this life in America.”
I know it’s not important if our people came over on the Mayflower. It’s not important to be tall. Or blond. That is why I dyed my hair: I don’t want to be the eldest. Heiress to the island, the fortune, and the expectations.
But then again, perhaps I do.
Granddad has had too much to drink after a long travel day. “Shall we go inside?” I ask. “You want to sit down?”
He picks a second peony and hands it to me. “For forgiveness, my dear.”
I pat him on his hunched back. “Don’t pick any more, okay?”
Granddad bends down and touches some white tulips.