“Mirren and those guys could use the room.”
“This is my house. You can’t expect me to give it up because Bess had too many children and left her husband. You can’t think it’s okay for her to snatch it from me. This is our place, Cadence. We’ve got to look out for ourselves.”
“Can you hear yourself?” I snapped. “You have a trust fund!”
“What does that have to do with it?”
“Some people have nothing. We have everything. The only person who used the family money for charity was Gran. Now she’s gone and all anyone’s worried about is her pearls and her ornaments and her real estate. Nobody is trying to use their money for good. Nobody is trying to make the world any better.”
Mummy stood up. “You’re filled with superiority, aren’t you? You think you understand the world so much better than I do. I’ve heard Gat talking. I’ve seen you eating up his words like ice cream off a spoon. But you haven’t paid bills, you haven’t had a family, owned property, seen the world. You have no idea what you’re talking about, and yet you do nothing but pass judgment.”
“You are ripping up this family because you think you deserve the prettiest house.”
Mummy walked to the foot of the stairs. “You go back to Clairmont tomorrow. You tell Granddad how much you love Windemere. Tell him you want to raise your own kids spending summers here. You tell him.”
“No. You should stand up to him. Tell him to stop manipulating all of you. He’s only acting like this because he’s sad about Gran, can’t you tell? Can’t you help him? Or get a job so his money doesn’t matter? Or give the house to Bess?”
“Listen to me, young lady.” Mummy’s voice was steely. “You go and talk to Granddad about Windemere or I will send you to Colorado with your father for the rest of the summer. I’ll do it tomorrow. I swear, I’ll take you to the airport first thing. You won’t see that boyfriend of yours again. Understand?”
She had me there.
She knew about me and Gat. And she could take him away.
Would take him away.
I was in love.
I promised whatever she asked.
When I told Granddad how much I adored the house, he smiled and said he knew someday I’d have beautiful children. Then he said Bess was a grasping wench and he had no intention of giving her my house. But later, Mirren told me he’d promised Windemere to Bess.
“I’ll take care of you,” he’d said. “Just give me a little time to get Penny out.”
GAT AND I went out on the tennis court in the twilight a couple nights after I fought with Mummy. We tossed balls for Fatima and Prince Philip in silence.
Finally he said, “Have you noticed Harris never calls me by my name?”
“He calls me young man. Like, How was your school year, young man?”
“It’s like, if he called me Gat he’d be really saying, How was your school year, Indian boy whose Indian uncle lives in sin with my pure white daughter? Indian boy I caught kissing my precious Cadence?”
“You believe that’s what he’s thinking?”
“He can’t stomach me,” said Gat. “Not really. He might like me as a person, might even like Ed, but he can’t say my name or look me in the eye.”
It was true. Now that he said it, I could see.
“I’m not saying he wants to be the guy who only likes white people,” Gat went on. “He knows he’s not supposed to be that guy. He’s a Democrat, he voted for Obama—but that doesn’t mean he’s comfortable having people of color in his beautiful family.” Gat shook his head. “He’s fake with us. He doesn’t like the idea of Carrie with us. He doesn’t call Ed Ed. He calls him sir. And he makes sure I know I’m an outsider, every chance he gets.” Gat stroked Fatima’s soft doggy ears. “You saw him in the attic. He wants me to stay the hell away from you.”
I hadn’t seen Granddad’s interruption that way. I’d imagined he was embarrassed at walking in on us.
But now, suddenly, I understood what had happened.
Watch yourself, young man, Granddad had said. Your head. You could get hurt.
It was another threat.
“Did you know my uncle proposed to Carrie, back in the fall?” Gat asked. I shook my head.
“They’ve been together almost nine years. He acts as a dad to Johnny and Will. He got down on his knees and proposed, Cady. He had the three of us boys there, and my mom. He’d decorated the apartment with candles and roses. We all dressed in white, and we’d brought this big meal in from this Italian place Carrie loves. He put Mozart on the stereo.
“Johnny and I were all, Ed, what’s the big deal? She lives with you, dude. But the man was nervous. He’d bought a diamond ring. Anyway, she came home, and the four of us left them alone and hid in Will’s room. We were supposed to all rush out with congratulations—but Carrie said no.”
“I thought they didn’t see a point to getting married.”
“Ed sees a point. Carrie doesn’t want to risk her stupid inheritance,” Gat said.
“She didn’t even ask Granddad?”
“That’s the thing,” said Gat. “Everyone’s always asking Harris about everything. Why should a grown woman have to ask her father to approve her wedding?”
“Granddad wouldn’t stop her.”
“No,” said Gat. “But back when Carrie first moved in with Ed, Harris made it clear that all the money earmarked for her would disappear if she married him.
“The point is, Harris doesn’t like Ed’s color. He’s a racist bastard, and so was Tipper. Yes, I like them both for a lot of reasons, and they have been more than generous letting me come here every summer. I’m willing to think that Harris doesn’t even realize why he doesn’t like my uncle, but he dislikes him enough to disinherit his eldest daughter.”
Gat sighed. I loved the curve of his jaw, the hole in his T-shirt, the notes he wrote me, the way his mind worked, the way he moved his hands when he talked. I imagined, then, that I knew him completely.
I leaned in and kissed him. It still seemed so magical that I could do that, and that he would kiss me back. So magical that we showed our weaknesses to one another, our fears and our fragility. “Why didn’t we ever talk about this?” I whispered.
Gat kissed me again. “I love it here,” he said. “The island. Johnny and Mirren. The houses and the sound of the ocean. You.”