“Nothing. I lie there and wait, and remind myself over and over that it doesn’t last forever. That there will be another day and after that, yet another day. One of those days, I’ll get up and eat breakfast and feel okay.”
Now he turns and bounds up the roof in a couple steps. Suddenly his arms are around me, and we are clinging to each other.
He is shivering slightly and he kisses my neck with cold lips. We stay like that, enfolded in each other’s arms, for a minute or two,
and it feels like the universe is reorganizing itself,
and I know any anger we felt has disappeared.
Gat kisses me on the lips, and touches my cheek.
I love him.
I have always loved him.
We stay up there on the roof for a very, very long time. Forever.
MIRREN HAS BEEN getting ill more and more often. She gets up late, paints her nails, lies in the sun, and stares at pictures of African landscapes in a big coffee-table book. But she won’t snorkel. Won’t sail. Won’t play tennis or go to Edgartown.
I bring her jelly beans from New Clairmont. Mirren loves jelly beans.
Today, she and I lie out on the tiny beach. We read magazines I stole from the twins and eat baby carrots. Mirren has headphones on. She keeps listening to the same song over and over on my iPhone.
Our youth is wasted
We will not waste it
Remember my name
’Cause we made history
Na na na na, na na na
I POKE MIRREN with a carrot.
“You have to stop singing or I can’t be responsible for my actions.”
Mirren turns to me, serious. Pulls out the ear buds. “Can I tell you something, Cady?”
“About you and Gat. I heard you two come downstairs last night.”
“I think you should leave him alone.”
“It’s going to end badly and mess everything up.”
“I love him,” I say. “You know I’ve always loved him.”
“You’re making things hard for him. Harder than they already are. You’re going to hurt him.”
“That’s not true. He’ll probably hurt me.”
“Well, that could happen, too. It’s not a good idea for you guys to be together.”
“Don’t you see I would rather be hurt by Gat than be closed off from him?” I say, sitting up. “I’d a million times rather live and risk and have it all end badly than stay in the box I’ve been in for the past two years. It’s a tiny box, Mirren. Me and Mummy. Me and my pills. Me and my pain. I don’t want to live there anymore.”
A silence hangs in the air.
“I’ve never had a boyfriend,” Mirren blurts.
I look into her eyes. There are tears. “What about Drake Loggerwood? What about the yellow roses and the sexual intercourse?” I ask.
She looks down. “I lied.”
“You know how, when you come to Beechwood, it’s a different world? You don’t have to be who you are back home. You can be somebody better, maybe.”
“That first day you came back I noticed Gat. He looked at you like you were the brightest planet in the galaxy.”
“I want someone to look at me that way so much, Cady. So much. And I didn’t mean to, but I found myself lying. I’m sorry.”
I don’t know what to say. I take a deep breath.
Mirren snaps. “Don’t gasp. Okay? It’s fine. It’s fine if I never have a boyfriend at all. It’s fine if not one person ever loves me, all right? It’s perfectly tolerable.”
Mummy’s voice calls from somewhere by New Clairmont. “Cadence! Can you hear me?”
I yell back. “What do you want?”
“The cook is off today. I’m starting lunch. Come slice tomatoes.”
“In a minute.” I sigh and look at Mirren. “I have to go.”
She doesn’t answer. I pull my hoodie on and trudge up the path to New Clairmont.
In the kitchen, Mummy hands me a special tomato knife and starts to talk.
Natter natter, you’re always on the tiny beach.
Natter natter, you should play with the littles.
Granddad won’t be here forever.
Do you know you have a sunburn?
I slice and slice, a basketful of strangely shaped heirloom tomatoes. They are yellow, green, and smoky red.
MY THIRD WEEK on-island is ticking by and a migraine takes me out for two days. Or maybe three. I can’t even tell. The pills in my bottle are getting low, though I filled my prescription before we left home.
I wonder if Mummy is taking them. Maybe she has always been taking them.
Or maybe the twins have been coming in my room again, lifting things they don’t need. Maybe they’re users.
Or maybe I am taking more than I know. Popping extra in a haze of pain. Forgetting my last dose.
I am scared to tell Mummy I need more.
When I feel stable I come to Cuddledown again. The sun hovers low in the sky. The porch is covered with broken bottles. Inside, the ribbons have fallen from the ceiling and lie twisted on the floor. The dishes in the sink are dry and encrusted. The quilts that cover the dining table are dirty. The coffee table is stained with circular marks from mugs of tea.
I find the Liars clustered in Mirren’s bedroom, all looking at the Bible.
“Scrabble word argument,” says Mirren as soon as I enter. She closes the book. “Gat was right, as usual. You’re always effing right, Gat. Girls don’t like that in a guy, you know.”
The Scrabble tiles are scattered across the great room floor. I saw them when I walked in.
They haven’t been playing.
“What did you guys do the past few days?” I ask.
“Oh, God,” says Johnny, stretching out on Mirren’s bed. “I forget already.”
“It was Fourth of July,” says Mirren. “We went to supper at New Clairmont and then everyone went out in the big motorboat to see the Vineyard fireworks.”
“Today we went to the Nantucket doughnut shop,” says Gat.
They never go anywhere. Ever. Never see anyone. Now while I’ve been sick, they went everywhere, saw everyone?
“Downyflake,” I say. “That’s the name of the doughnut shop.”
“Yeah. They were the most amazing doughnuts,” says Johnny.
“You hate cake doughnuts.”
“Of course,” says Mirren. “But we didn’t get the cake, we got glazed twists.”