Cass is behind me in an instant. “No running away.”

“I’m not.” I laugh. “Really. I’ll be right back. Stay here. No, wait—go in the bathroom. Stay there until I tell you to come out. Maybe . . . maybe take a shower. Or something. Just give me five minutes.”

Cass studies me, then asks warily, “I need a shower? Do I—”

“No, no, it’s not about that. You smell delicious. I mean. Oh, God.” I cover my eyes with a hand, lower it. “I mean—”

The dimples make an appearance. “Maybe just go in and wait? You are planning to let me out, right?”

The rain is coming down harder. “Yes, yes. Get in there.”

And he does.

Mom’s books, Grandpa’s movies—I know all about the things that spell romance. Candles, roses, soft romantic music, gentle golden light coming through a window. All of it so carefully staged.

I can’t do anything about the light through the window, or the fact that I left what I brought outside in the rain. But this is in fact, carefully staged. And yet still nerve-wracking. Even though I’ve thought about it, planned it, know it’s right.

In Cass’s room, I embellish his bureau with candles, set them on the nightstand, line them on the windowsill. Luckily, the yard boy hasn’t been wielding his hedge clippers on the Field House shrubbery; the canvas bag I hid beneath the bushes was protected. Not much got wet in the downpour . . . except, of course, the matches. Great. I hurry back inside to the kitchen, adjust the sagging Dockside Delight bag I’d set on the counter.

Then I light one candle at a burner, use that to light the next, then the next, and the next until the darkened room glows gently. I’m suddenly glad it’s rainy out.

His bed’s unmade, covers tossed around. Sheets . . . of course . . . pale pink.

I flip the comforter straight, fluff the pillowcases, then feel a little weird and want to switch them back to the way they were. I hover over the bed, unsure, when Cass calls out, “Can I—?”

“Not yet!”

The dress isn’t even damp, thank God.

“Okay, you can come out now.”

He opens the door, letting out a cloud of steam. He actu-ally showered. And changed his clothes. His eyes flick to mine and he drops the towel he’s rubbing through his hair to the ground.

“Hey,” he says.

“Um,” I answer, as if that is an answer.

He looks me over, my hair, my black halter top dress, my bare feet. I curl my toes, raise my chin, act like this is all easy for me.

But he knows, Cass knows me.

“Well,” he says. “Wow, Gwen.”

“I think we need to get this over with,” I blurt out.

He starts to laugh. “Just what every guy wants to hear. We all want to be the Band-Aid you rip off fast.”

“You’re not. I want this. I mean . . . I . . . I . . . I brought candles,” I say.

“And a Dockside Delight,” he adds. He walks over slowly, sets his hands on either side of where I’m standing by the kitchen counter. I lean back against it. He just looks. “You planned this.”

“Yes. I did. I . . . did.”

He raises his hand, cups my face. Bends to tip my forehead to mine. Says the words I know he’ll say. “Thank you.”

“It’s not about a jumbo box of condoms,” I say.

“Never was,” Cass says simply.

He slants his hand against my jaw, tips his mouth to mine.


Set up on the wide square green between Low Road and Beach Road, where Seashell weddings are always held, is a castle.

Well, the high-peaked tent looks like one, festive as something from my namesake’s Camelot, with blue and white streamers—Stony Bay High colors—flapping in the wind from the tops of the canvas turrets, twinkling white lights wrapped in the rafters and looped around the poles, and blue and white flowers everywhere.

The “Congratulations!” banner droops crooked on one side, and Al Almeida is gesturing impatiently at someone to fix it.

Not me, though. Not tonight. Or Hoop or Pam or Nic or Viv.

Tonight we’re guests, no clamshell T-shirts or rented tuxes.

It’s an informal Stony Bay High tradition for seniors to leave graduation and drive to the lake near town, and dive in fully clothed. We all did it, Hoop, Nic, Spence, Viv, Cass, and me, piling into the Porsche and the Bronco, Hoop’s truck, Cass’s battered BMW, joining the lineup of our classmates for the plunge, screaming as we each hurtled ourselves over the water, and then driving across the causeway to Seashell for our own celebration—jumping off the pier at Abenaki in those same soggy clothes.

Hoop yelped that the water was freezing. Cass, already far toward the breakwater, called him a wimp. Spence paddled lazily, far from the fierce strokes that, combined with Nic’s backstroke and Cass’s flawless butterfly, made the SBH team state champions for the first time ever.

And now we have a party—not a tradition but something that will only happen once, celebrating all we are leaving behind, public and private, in school and at home. Spence’s dad wanted to throw a big one at the B&T, but in the end, only Seashell seemed right.

“How’d that happen?” I asked Viv when she told me.

“I used my superior managerial skills,” she said.

“You threatened to cry, didn’t you? Spence can’t handle that.”

“No, I don’t do that. When it’s real love, no manipulation necessary.”

“I still think you should get that job at Hallmark.”

She shakes her head, “It would interfere with my college career.”

Stony Bay Vocational has culinary courses, and Viv plans to take them this fall, picking up credits that, a year ago, she thought weren’t important. If things go well, she can trans-fer to Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island in the spring. Spence will be at Harvard. Whether they can survive the distance is a page they haven’t turned yet. They’ve already survived the school year, survived awkward family occasions at the B&T, where Viv was the girlfriend instead of the waitstaff, survived comments of Spence’s like, “Wow. I’ve never been faithful this long. Or at all.”

My high heels, another female torture device, like eyelash curlers and endless articles about how to “get a beach body,”

were killing me, so now I’m standing in the grass outside the tent, heels kicked off, absently rubbing one foot. Through the folded back tent flap, I can see Mom doing the same. She’s spent the last few weeks opening houses on Seashell, shaking the sheets off the furniture, sweeping away the cobwebs.