I’m smiling so hard my cheeks are starting to hurt. I check Cass’s face. He’s intent on the water, the tiller, all focus and game face. I need to tone it down. He was so weird before. And he’s still not talking.

But then, he clears his throat and says, “Thanks. For com-ing. Sorry I was”—he nods back in the direction of shore—“a douche on land.”

“Yeah,” I say, “what was going on there?” Then add hur-231

riedly, “If it’s about the lessons, you don’t have to do them.

We’ll understand. I mean, even just that one was great and it’ll probably come more easily now. He just needed to get over being afraid.”

“It takes longer than an hour to get over being afraid. It’s not that at all. I was just . . . thinking about stuff. Nothing about you two. A family thing.”

I remember him using that same phrase after The Great Hideout Save.

“Should I ask if you want to talk about it?”

The jib flaps a little and he tightens the line, almost unconsciously, without even having to look, then clenches and unclenches his hand, looking down for a second before quickly returning his attention to the crowded waters around us. “That conversation with my brother you, uh—”

“Eavesdropped on?”

He flashes me a smile. “Yeah, just like I did with ol’ Alex at the rehearsal dinner. But yeah, that talk is one I get a lot at home.”

“I got that impression. You going to tell me what your Big Sin was now?”

He moves the tiller to the left, getting us out of the line of fire of a Boston Whaler with a bunch of girls in bikinis in it. “I got a million of them.”

“Mostly alongside Spence?” I say, then regret it, expecting him to snap something about us having that in common, those Spence sins, or just shut down completely.

But he says, “Yeah. We started together at Hodges in kinder-garten. It wasn’t so bad then, but the older you get, the more it su—the worse it is. I mean—the rules, and what they think is important and just all this—shi—garbage. He hates that as much as I do and cares less about pretending he doesn’t. So we started messing around—” He hesitates.

“Define messing around.”

Cass shoots me a smile. “Not like that, obviously. Just stuff— like—there’s this big statue of the guy who founded Hodges— marble, in a toga, with a wreath—”

“Hodges was founded in Ancient Rome?”

“Asinine, right? So, sophomore year, Spence and I would, you know, put a bra on it or a beer in its hand or whatever. We did that for a few weeks, and then they caught us.”

“Don’t tell me they kicked you out for that. You’d have to do way worse to get booted from SBH. The last kid who was expelled set all the choir robes on fire while sneaking a ciga-rette in the chorus closet.”

“Yeah, and from what I hear about that one, he was smashed and it wasn’t exactly a Marlboro he was smoking. That guy managed to pull off all three strikes and you’re out in one day.

Chan and me . . . not that efficient. So, yeah, disrespecting our illustrious founder”—he makes air quotes around those two words—“strike one. Then we borrowed the groundskeeper’s golf cart and almost drove it into this little pond they had.”

“Small-time, Somers.” I lean back, folding my arms across my chest. Until I realize how stupid that probably looks with a life jacket on. And that I’m totally borrowing his gesture. Isn’t mirroring a mating signal in the animal kingdom? Soon I’ll be rolling over and exposing my soft underbelly.

“Now I’m supposed to impress you with How Bad I Am, Gwen? Is that what it takes? Okay, so the dining hall looks like . . .” He drags on his earlobe, searching for words. “Hog-warts. No, worse, like where Henry VIII would go to eat a whole deer leg or whatever. Or Nottingham Castle. So, Spence and I figured we ought to up the authenticity of the whole medie-val thing. We borrowed a key from the custodian—snuck in at night with a couple bales of hay and these big wolfhounds that Spence’s dad had. And a chicken or two. This pot-bellied pig.

Long story short, the headmaster was not as much of a fan of historical accuracy as you’d think. That was that. Strike three.”

I’m laughing. “I hate to tell you this, but you’re going to have to work a lot harder to go to hell. Or even jail.”

But he’s unsmiling, clenching that fist again.

“Oh God. I’m sorry. I just don’t think that’s so bad. Honestly, if they had a sense of humor. I mean, I’m sure your family is very funny, I mean, not like funny-strange but like they—”

“I get what you mean. And they do have senses of humor.

But, uh, not about getting expelled. From a school that your dad and your brothers and your mother and grandmother all went to. Not to mention that my brother Jake is on staff there, a coach. None too cool to have your loser little brother booted.”

Loser? Cass?

“Ouch. I’m sorry.” I rest my hand on his, the one on the tiller, leave it there for a second, feel this shiver—each nerve ending, one after another, vibrating with awareness—spread up my arm. I yank my fingers away, busy them in twisting my hair back into a knot again.

“But I’m not. I’m not sorry.” His voice rises, like he’s drowning out someone else’s voice, not just the waves. “That’s the thing. Getting out of there was . . . right. It was not the place for me. SBH is—I like Coach better, the team is better, the classes are fine . . . I’m happy to be where I am.”

“Your family’s still mad? After all this time?”

I have this image of Cass’s dad bringing a bunch of us— summer kids, island kids, whoever wanted to come—out in their Boston Whaler that summer. He’d take a pack of us tubing or waterskiing, things we island kids never got to do.

Keep going out all day to make sure everyone who wanted a chance got one. He let us take turns being in the bow, hold-ing on tight as it rose up and slapped down, soaking us with spray. And once, when I stepped on a fishhook at the end of the pier, he carried me all the way back on his shoulders to the house they were renting so he could clip it off with pliers and ease it out, telling me these horrible knock-knock jokes to distract me.

“They’re not mad,” Cass says. “‘Disappointed.’”