Castle’s opened last week, Dad grumbling over the tour-ist buses, everyone wanting their breakfast sandwiches made a certain way. Frustrated that no one wants smoked bluefish breakfast burritos. Now he’s here, in a plaid sport coat I have never seen before, talking shop with Cass’s dad, jabbing his finger toward the distant ocean, where a Herreshoff, one of Dad’s dream boats, sails by, slow and majestic in the water as a king on procession.
Nic tilts against a table, sipping a Coke, but not morose. He got into the Coast Guard Academy, will go there in the fall. He watches Viv for a minute, then his eyes drift out over the ocean in the distance, out to his own horizon.
“You are not dancing, why?” Grandpa Ben demands, sud-denly beside me with Emory in tow. He’s actually in a tux, with Emory dressed in a scarily identical miniature, both of them complete with jaunty black bow ties. Grandpa found them in some classified listing in the Stony Bay Bugle a few weeks ago, and brought them both home as if they were that treasure he’s been searching for with his metal detector. He insisted they both try them on immediately. “Fred Astaire, pah,” he’d said.
“Look at us, coehlo. He should eat his heart out.”
“Scratchy” was Em’s response. “Want swimsuit. Now.” All winter, Grandpa—and sometimes Dad, freer once Castle’s closed down—took him to swim at the Y in White Bay. Em can dive now, clean and clear into the water, coming up with a smile. And Hideout smells like chorine.
I edge out farther along the grass, looking back at the tent, the swath of lawn, the gray-shingled mansions and the low ranch houses. Seashell.
All the things that stay the same . . . and everything that’s changed.
It was an uneasy truce for a while, all of us adjusting, our shifting alliances. But, in its way, it’s all happened before, and it’ll all happen again. Summer turning to fall, crisp breezes replacing warm salty ones. Corridors and classrooms and indoor pools replacing sandy paths to the ocean, replacing the boathouse, fried clams at Castle’s, the wide open sea. My grandfather, a young man, flexing his muscles as he mows the lawns, whipping up his special lobster sauce. My grandmother, the daring young woman who drove too fast into town, the distance between summer people and island people shorter than the causeway, only as long as it takes to step across the invisible line that only exists if you insist on it.
“Hey,” Cass says, coming up next to me, jacket already off, sleeves already unbuttoned and rolled up. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
The B&T hired the jazz band (thank God not the barbershop quartet) and they’re smoothly playing the lush old-fashioned songs I know so well from Grandpa Ben, the mellow music drifting softly into the night, out over low tide.
Cass is a better dancer than I am—not hard—but we know how, we know now, how to move together, so he dips and twirls me to the music, dance steps I never knew before.
“You’re leading,” he breathes against my cheek.
And I am. “Sorry,” I whisper.
“S’okay,” he says. And it is.
By chance, and maybe a little bit by design, we’re going to the same university, State College. He to study cartography, me, thanks to a Daughters of Portuguese Fishermen scholarship (granddaughter, really, but Grandpa Ben talked his way around the logistics), to study English lit.
I love you, I told him, that night at the Field House. Sort of fiercely, in this aggressive tone I immediately wished I could take back—a challenge more than an admission.
But Cass gets it. He gets me.
“I know,” he said simply. And I knew he did. That that was true.
The old-fashioned music fades away, starts into something jangly and current. Cass pulls my hand and we head farther out into the grass, to the top of Beach Road where we can see everything—ocean, land, even a hint of the causeway far, far off. And I can glimpse it all, trace the path we’ve come along, like the lines on a map. Four kids lying on the sand, fireworks as bright as shooting stars. Two friends on the dock, looking out at the unknown. A little boy leaping for his life, an older one doing the same. A firefly glowing in the night, caught by a boy who shows it to a girl. This girl bending to that boy’s kiss. An old woman who hasn’t forgotten what it was like to be a young one, leaning back on her glider, rocking her feet against the floorboards, looks out over the water, the ocean that changes and never changes. Horizons that seem like end-ings but only bend farther into the sky, curving into something new, beginning all over again.