“Where’s Fatima?” I ask. “Where’s Prince Philip?”
“They’re gone,” says Mummy.
“Be nice to her,” says Granddad. He turns to me. “They passed on a while back.”
“Both of them?”
“I’m sorry.” I sit next to him at the table. “Did they suffer?”
“Not for long.”
Mummy brings a plate of raspberry scones and one of bacon to the table. I take a scone and spread butter and honey on it. “She used to be a little blond girl. A Sinclair through and through,” Granddad complains to Mummy.
“We talked about my hair when you came to visit,” I remind him. “I don’t expect you to like it. Grandfathers never like hair dye.”
“You’re the parent. You should make Mirren change her hair back how it was,” Granddad says to my mother. “What happened to the little blond girls who used to run around this place?”
Mummy sighs. “We grew up, Dad,” she says. “We grew up.”
GIVEAWAYS: CHILDHOOD ART, botanic prints.
I get my laundry basket from Windemere and head to Cuddledown. Mirren meets me on the porch, skipping around. “It’s so amazing to be on the island!” she says. “I can’t believe I’m here again!”
“You were here last summer.”
“It wasn’t the same. No summer idyll like we used to have. They were doing construction on New Clairmont. Everyone was acting miserable and I kept looking for you but you never came.”
“I told you I was going to Europe.”
“Oh, I know.”
“I wrote you a lot,” I say. It comes out reproachful.
“I hate email!” says Mirren. “I read them all, but you can’t be mad at me for not answering. It feels like homework, typing and staring at the stupid phone or the computer.”
“Did you get the doll I sent you?”
Mirren puts her arms around me. “I missed you so much. You can’t even believe how much.”
“I sent you that Barbie. The one with the long hair we used to fight over.”
“I was crazy about Princess Butterscotch.”
“You hit me with her once.”
“You deserved it!” Mirren jumps around happily. “Is she at Windemere?”
“What? No. I sent her in the mail,” I say. “Over the winter.”
Mirren looks at me, her brows furrowed. “I never got her, Cadence.”
“Someone signed for the package. What did your mom do, shove it in a closet without opening it?”
I’m joking, but Mirren nods. “Maybe. She’s compulsive. Like, she scrubs her hands over and over. Makes Taft and the twins do it, too. Cleans like there’s a special place in heaven for people with spotless kitchen floors. Also she drinks too much.”
“Mummy does, too.”
Mirren nods. “I can’t stand to watch.”
“Did I miss anything at supper last night?”
“I didn’t go.” Mirren heads onto the wooden walkway that leads from Cuddledown to the tiny beach. I follow. “I told you I wasn’t going this summer. Why didn’t you come over here?”
“I got sick.”
“We all know about your migraines,” says Mirren. “The aunts have been talking.”
I flinch. “Don’t feel sorry for me, okay? Not ever. It makes my skin crawl.”
“Didn’t you take your pills last night?”
“They knocked me out.”
We have reached the tiny beach. Both of us go barefoot across the damp sand. Mirren touches the shell of a long-dead crab.
I want to tell her that my memory is hacked, that I have a traumatic brain injury. I want to ask her everything that happened summer fifteen, make her tell me the stories Mummy doesn’t want to talk about or doesn’t know. But there is Mirren, so bright. I don’t want her to feel more pity for me than she already does.
Also, I am still mad about the emails she didn’t answer—and the loss of the stupid Barbie, though I’m sure it’s not her fault.
“Are Johnny and Gat at Red Gate or did they sleep at Cuddledown?” I ask.
“Cuddledown. God, they’re slobs. It’s like living with goblins.”
“Make them move back to Red Gate, then.”
“No way,” laughs Mirren. “And you—no more Windemere, okay? You’ll move in with us?”
I shake my head. “Mummy says no. I asked her this morning.”
“Come on, she has to let you!”
“She’s all over me since I got sick.”
“But that’s nearly two years.”
“Yeah. She watches me sleep. Plus she lectured me about bonding with Granddad and the littles. I have to connect with the family. Put on a smile.”
“That’s such bullshit.” Mirren shows me a handful of tiny purple rocks she’s collected. “Here.”
“No, thanks.” I don’t want anything I don’t need.
“Please take them,” says Mirren. “I remember how you used to always search for purple rocks when we were little.” She holds her hand out to me, palm up. “I want to make up for Princess Butterscotch.” There are tears in her eyes. “And the emails,” she adds. “I want to give you something, Cady.”
“Okay, then,” I say. I cup my hands and let Mirren pour the rocks into my palms. I store them in the front pocket of my hoodie.
“I love you!” she shouts. Then she turns and calls out to the sea. “I love my cousin Cadence Sinclair Eastman!”
“Overdoing it much?” It is Johnny, padding down the steps with bare feet, dressed in old flannel pajamas with a ticking stripe. He’s wearing wraparound sunglasses and white sunblock down his nose like a lifeguard.
Mirren’s face falls, but only momentarily. “I am expressing my feelings, Johnny. That is what being a living, breathing human being is all about. Hello?”
“Okay, living, breathing human being,” he says, biffing her lightly on the shoulder. “But there’s no need to do it so loudly at the crack of dawn. We have the whole summer in front of us.”
She sticks out her bottom lip. “Cady’s only here four weeks.”
“I can’t get ugly with you this early,” says Johnny. “I haven’t had my pretentious tea yet.” He bends and looks in the laundry basket at my feet. “What’s in here?”