Another memory comes.
SUMMER FIFTEEN, MIRREN sat next to Taft and Will on the steps of our favorite Edgartown clam shack. The boys had plastic rainbow pinwheels. Taft’s face was smeared with fudge he’d eaten earlier. We were waiting for Bess, because she had Mirren’s shoes. We couldn’t go indoors without them.
Mirren’s feet were dirty and her toenails painted blue.
We had been waiting a while when Gat came out of the shop down the block. He had a stack of books under his arm. He ran toward us at top speed, as if in a ridiculous hurry to catch us, even though we were sitting still.
Then he stopped short. The book on top was Being and Nothingness by Sartre. He still had the words written on the backs of his hands. A recommendation from Granddad.
Gat bowed, foolishly, clownishly, and presented me with the book at the bottom of the pile: it was a novel by Jaclyn Moriarty. I’d been reading her all summer.
I opened the book to the title page. It was inscribed. For Cady with everything, everything. Gat.
“I REMEMBER WAITING for your shoes so we could go into the clam shack,” I tell Mirren. She has stopped talking now and looks at me expectantly. “Pinwheels,” I say. “Gat giving me a book.”
“So your memories are coming back,” Mirren says. “That’s great!”
“The aunties fought about the estate.”
She shrugs. “A bit.”
“And Granddad and I, we had this argument about his ivory statues.”
“Yeah. We talked about it at the time.”
“Tell me something.”
“Why did Gat disappear after my accident?”
Mirren twists a strand of her hair. “I don’t know.”
“Did he go back with Raquel?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did we fight? Did I do something wrong?”
“I don’t know, Cady.”
“He got upset at me a few nights back. About not knowing the names of the staff. About not having seen his apartment in New York.”
There is a silence. “He has good reasons to be mad,” says Mirren finally.
“What did I do?”
Mirren sighs. “You can’t fix it.”
Suddenly Mirren starts choking. Gagging, like she might vomit. Bending over at the waist, her skin damp and pale.
“Can I help?”
She doesn’t answer.
I offer her a bottle of water. She takes it. Drinks slowly. “I did too much. I need to get back to Cuddledown. Now.”
Her eyes are glassy. I hold out my hand. Her skin feels wet and she seems unsteady on her feet. We walk in silence to the harbor where the small motorboat is docked.
MUMMY NEVER NOTICED the motorboat was missing, but she sees the bag of fudge when I give it to Taft and Will.
On and on, natter natter. Her lecture isn’t interesting.
I may not leave the island without permission from her.
I may not leave the island without adult supervision.
I may not operate a motor vehicle on medication.
I can’t be as stupid as I’m acting, can I?
I say the “Sorry” my mother wants to hear. Then I run down to Windemere and write everything I remembered—the clam shack, the pinwheel, Mirren’s dirty feet on the wooden steps, the book Gat gave me—on the graph paper above my bed.
START OF MY second week on Beechwood, we discover the roof of Cuddledown. It’s easy to climb up there; we just never did it before because it involves going through Aunt Bess’s bedroom window.
The roof is cold as hell in the nighttime, but in the day there’s a great view of the island and the sea beyond it. I can see over the trees that cluster around Cuddledown to New Clairmont and its garden. I can even see into the house, which has floor-to-ceiling windows in many of the ground-floor rooms. You can see a bit of Red Gate, too, and the other direction, across to Windemere, then out to the bay.
That first afternoon we spread out food on an old picnic blanket. We eat Portuguese sweet bread and runny cheeses in small wooden boxes. Berries in green cardboard. Cold bottles of fizzy lemonade.
We resolve to come here every day. All summer. This roof is the best place in the world.
“If I die,” I say as we look at the view, “I mean, when I die, throw my ashes in the water of the tiny beach. Then when you miss me, you can climb up here, look down, and think how awesome I was.”
“Or we could go down and swim in you,” says Johnny. “If we missed you really badly.”
“You’re the one who wanted to be in the water of the tiny beach.”
“I just meant, I love it here. It’d be a grand place to have my ashes.”
“Yeah,” says Johnny. “It would be.”
Mirren and Gat have been silent, eating chocolate-covered hazelnuts out of a blue ceramic bowl. “This is a bad conversation,” Mirren says.
“It’s okay,” says Johnny.
“I don’t want my ashes here,” says Gat.
“Why not?” I say. “We could all be together in the tiny beach.”
“And the littles will swim in us!” yells Johnny.
“You’re grossing me out,” snaps Mirren.
“It’s not actually that different from all the times I’ve peed in there,” says Johnny.
“Oh, come on, everyone pees in there.”
“I don’t,” says Mirren.
“Yes, you do,” he says. “If the tiny beach water isn’t made of pee now, after all these years of us peeing in it, a few ashes aren’t going to ruin it.”
“Do you guys ever plan out your funeral?” I ask.
“What do you mean?” Johnny crinkles his nose.
“You know, in Tom Sawyer, when everyone thinks Tom and Huck and what’s-his-name?”
“Joe Harper,” says Gat.
“Yeah, they think Tom, Huck, and Joe Harper are dead. The boys go to their own funeral and hear all the nice memories the townspeople have of them. After I read that, I always thought about my own funeral. Like, what kind of flowers and where I’d want my ashes. And the eulogy, too, saying how I was transcendentally awesome and won the Nobel Prize and the Olympics.”
“What did you win the Olympics for?” asks Gat.
“Is there handball in the Olympics?”
“Do you even play handball?”