“Well, he did. Mr. Hero to the Rescue again. It’s the thing you always get. While I get…Daniel.”

I want to say You picked Daniel, but that wouldn’t make anything better. She’s red in the face now, with that look I know comes right before tears. “Nan—” I begin, but she cuts me off.

“I don’t need your pity. And I don’t want your friendship.” Picking up her purse and hauling it up onto her thin shoulder, she says, “Come on. I have to lock up.” I follow her into the hall. She flips the deadbolt, turns, and walks away. At the last moment, she swings around, looking skinny and stiff. “How does it feel not to get what you want, Samantha?”

I’ve never felt like this before.

I’ve had that thought again and again since I met Jase. But it’s always meant good things, not this pit in my stomach that travels with me everywhere.

Jase picks me up at the B&T, asking if I mind if we swing by the hospital.

I feel a fist grip my insides. I haven’t seen Mr. Garrett since what Mom did. “Of course not,” I say, the kind of polite lie I’ve never told him before.

The ICU is on the fourth floor and we need passes to get up there. When we do, Jase braces himself visibly before heading into the hospital room. Invisibly, I do the same.

He looks so shrunken in his hospital gown, tubes sprouting everywhere, his tan skin startlingly pale in the bluish hospital light. This is not the man who carries stacks of wood easily on his shoulders, hoists Harry and George up high, arcs a football effortlessly. Jase pulls the chair closer and sits, then reaches out for his dad’s hand with the tape and the tubes. He bends to say something in Mr. Garrett’s ear, and I stare at the heart monitor going up and down and up and down.

Driving home, Jase stares straight ahead. He doesn’t reach for my hand as usual, but keeps both of his on the wheel, gripping tight enough that his knuckles whiten. I edge down in my seat, propping my heels on the dashboard. We drive past the exit for Main Street.

“Aren’t we going home?” I ask.

Jase sighs. “I thought I’d head to French Bob’s. See what he could give me for the Mustang if I sold it back. I’ve put a lot of time into it, not to mention cash.”

I grab at his arm. “No. You can’t. You can’t sell the Mustang.”

“Just a car, Sam.”

I can’t stand it. All the hours Jase has spent on the Mustang, whistling through his teeth, tinkering away. How he pores through Car Enthusiast or Hemmings magazine, dog-earing the pages. It’s not just a car. It’s the place he goes to relax, find himself again. The way I used to search the stars. Or watch the Garretts. The way I swim.

“It’s not,” I say. “Only that.”

Instead of continuing on the highway toward French Bob’s he pulls off now and loops back on the long road that lines the river, stopping in McGuire Park.

The Bug is old and noisy, but that’s probably not why it’s so silent when he turns the key and shuts off the ignition. It’s the first time I’ve been here since that night. There are noises—the slow lap of the waves on the rocks, since a speedboat has just hurried by, seagulls calling and plunging, dropping clams on the rocks. Jase climbs out, nudging at a rock on the dirt road with the toe of his sneaker, headed not to the Secret Hideaway, but toward the bend in the road by the playground.

“I keep calling them,” he tells me. “The police. They just say there’s nothing, really, they can do. Without witnesses.” A well-aimed kick sends the rock skittering off the sandy road onto the grass. “Why did it have to be raining that night? It’s hardly rained all summer.”

“Does it really matter that it was?” I ask.

“If not”—he drops into a crouch, moves his finger in the dirt—“there might have been something. Tire tracks. Something. As it is…whoever did this will get completely away and will never know how much harm they did.”

Or they’ll know and not care.

Shame burns in my chest now, replacing the anger over Nan. More than anything in the world I want to tell him the truth. From the start, it’s been easy to tell him that, truths I’ve never told anyone. He’s always listened and understood.

But there’s no way to understand this.

How can he, when I don’t understand it myself.

Chapter Forty-three

“Hi sweetheart! I’m making up some meals for you to have on hand. I’m gone so often these days that we don’t get to have dinners together. I don’t want you living on that garbage from Breakfast Ahoy or the snack stand at the club. So I’ve made up some dinners—that roast chicken one you like with the mushrooms, and some pasta Bolognese.” Mom says all this cheerily as I drag myself into the kitchen after coming home from lifeguarding. “I’ve labeled them all and I’m going to put some in the freezer.” And on and on.

Her voice is firm and calm, chatty. She’s wearing a watermelon-colored wrap dress and her hair down, looking young enough to be my older sister. Mrs. Garrett has circles under her eyes these days, is gaunt and perpetually distracted. Though I’ve tried to keep things clean, the Garretts’ house gets messier by the day. Patsy’s fussy, George clingy, Harry misbehaving, Andy and Duff fighting like bears. Jase is tense and preoccupied, Alice even more acerbic. Everything is different next door. Nothing’s changed here.

“Would you like some lemonade?” Mom asks. “They had Meyer lemons at the Gibson’s Gourmet the other day, so I made it with those for a change. I think this is the best batch ever.” She pours me a glass, the picture of graceful efficiency and maternal solicitude.

“Stop it, Mom,” I say, sliding into the kitchen stool.

“You don’t want me to mother you so much, I know. But all the other summers when I’ve had to work, you’ve had Tracy to keep you company. Should I post a chart of what’s frozen and what’s fresh? I don’t need to do that. You’ll remember, right? I just suddenly realized how alone you are.”

“You have no idea.”

Something in my tone must get to her because she halts, glances at me nervously, then continues rapidly, “When this election is over, we’ll take a good, long vacation. Maybe somewhere in the Caribbean. I’ve heard great things about Virgin Gorda.”

“I can’t believe you. Are you, like, a robot now? How can you just act like everything’s normal?”