My heart started to pound faster. “What?”
“This guy is…”
“What? Tell me,” I practically yelled before downing the rest of my water.
“He’s…gorgeous. Absolutely freaking gorgeous.”
Covering my face, I said, “Jesus. Please don’t tell me that.”
“Take a look.”
Before I could refuse again, Tracy shoved the phone in front of my face. It shook in my hands as I took it.
Why did I even look?
From what I could see in the one photo, he was beautiful—just like I remembered, but at the same time, really different. Grown up. He was wearing a gray beanie and had a fair amount of chin scruff that he was never able to grow when I knew him. In the profile pic, he was leaning into a guitar and looked like he was about to sing into a microphone. The look on his face was intense and gave me the chills. When I went to click on the other photos, it wouldn’t let me in because his profile was set to private.
Tracy reached out for the phone. “He’s a musician?”
“I guess so,” I said, handing it back to her.
He used to write songs for me.
“Are you going to contact him?”
“I guess I don’t even know what to say to him. Whatever is meant to happen will happen. I’ll end up having to talk to him eventually. I’m just not gonna be the one to make the first move.”
“How exactly is this housing arrangement going to work anyway?”
“Well, the attorney gave me a set of keys and told me that another set was sent to Justin. Both of our names will be on the deed. Nana also set aside some money to be used for house repairs and maintenance to the property during the off season. I’m assuming he’s been made aware of all of the same info.”
“You don’t want to sell the house, right?”
“No way. There are too many memories, and it meant so much to Nana. I’m going to use it this summer and then maybe eventually rent it out if he agrees to it.”
“So, you have no idea how he plans to use his half? You’re just going to show up there in a few weeks, and if he’s there, he’s there, and if he’s not, he’s not?”
“Oh, this is going to be interesting.”
Fourteen Years Earlier
The boy that Nana started watching this summer was sitting outside of her house. There was no way I could let him see me looking the way I did right now. Peeking through the curtains of my bedroom window, I wanted to just watch him without him knowing I was there.
There was little I knew about him. His name was Justin. He was about ten years old like me, maybe eleven. He’d just moved here to Rhode Island from Cincinnati. His parents had money; they had to have if they could afford the large Victorian house they bought next door to Nana’s. They both worked in downtown Providence and paid Nana to watch Justin after school.
Now, I could finally see what he looked like. He had shaggy dark blond hair and was apparently trying to teach himself how to play the guitar. I must have stood there at the window for almost an hour watching him strumming the strings.
Out of nowhere, a sneeze escaped from me. His head whipped upward toward the window. Our eyes met for a few seconds before I immediately ducked. My heart was pounding because now he knew I’d been watching him.
“Hey. Where did you go?” I could hear him ask.
I stayed crouched down and silent.
“Amelia…I know you’re there.”
He knew my name?
“Why are you hiding from me?”
Slowly standing up with my back facing the window, I finally answered, “I have a lazy eye.”
“A lazy eye? Is that like a wandering eye?”
“What’s a wandering eye?”
“I’m not sure. My mom always says my dad has a wandering eye.”
“A lazy eye means I’m cross-eyed.”
“Like cock-eyed?” He laughed. “No way. That’s so cool. Lemme see!”
“You think it’s cool to have an eyeball that goes inward?”
“Yeah. I would love that! Like, you could look at people, and they wouldn’t even know you were staring at them.”
He was starting to make me giggle.
“Well, mine is not that bad…yet.”
“Come on. Turn around. I want to see it.”
Unsure of what came over me, I decided to let him see me. I couldn’t avoid it forever.
When I turned around, he flinched. “What happened to your other eye?”
“It’s still there.” I pointed to my right eye. “This is just a patch over it.”
“Why do they make it the same color as your skin? From here, it looked like you had no eye. Scared the crap out of me for a second.”
“It’s under the patch. My eye doctor is going to make me wear this four days a week. Today is the first day. Now you see why I didn’t want you to see me!”
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It just startled me at first because I didn’t know what was coming. So, your cockeye is under there? I want to see it.”
“No, actually, the covered eye is my good one. The doctor says that if I don’t use my good eye, the lazy eye will strengthen and straighten out over time.”
“Oh…I get it. So, can you come outside now? Since you don’t have to hide from me anymore?”
“No. I don’t want anyone else to see me.”
“What are you gonna do when you have to go back to school tomorrow?”
“I don’t know.”
“So, you’re just gonna stay inside all day?”
“For now. Yes.”
Justin didn’t say anything. He just dropped his guitar, stood up and ran over to his house.
Maybe I did really scare him off after all.
Five minutes later, he came running back toward his spot in front of Nana’s. When he looked up into my window again, I could hardly believe my eyes. (Well, “eye.”) Covering his own right eye was a gigantic black patch. Justin looked like a pirate. He sat down, lifted his guitar and started strumming. To my surprise, he then began to sing a song. It was a take on Brown Eyed Girl, except he’d switched the lyrics to One Eyed Girl. That was when I figured out that Justin Banks was equal parts insane and adorable.
After he finished singing, he took a black Sharpie marker out of his pocket.
“I’ll color yours in, too. Will you come outside now?”
A feeling warmer than I’d ever known filled my heart. Thinking back, that was probably the exact moment that Justin Banks became my best friend. That was also the same day he first graced me with a nickname that would follow me through our teenage years: Patch.
It was definitely the calm before the storm; I just didn’t know it yet.
The property was in good shape because the neighbor, Cheri, who was also Nana’s good friend, had been looking after it. Two weeks into my stay at Nana’s summer house—my summer house—I was knocking on wood that the peace and quiet would continue. No word from Justin. No word from anyone. Just me, myself and my books as I enjoyed a tranquil start to summer amidst the salty ocean air that surrounded me on the island.
Never in my life had I been more appreciative of this kind of peace. It was just over a month ago that it felt like my world had ended. Not only had Nana just died, but I’d also just discovered that Adam, my boyfriend of two years, had been cheating on me. The night I found out, we’d just had sex when he went to the bathroom to dispose of the condom and take a shower. He’d left his phone by the bedside, and that was when I saw all of the messages from this bitch named Ashlyn. He normally always took his phone everywhere with him, even to the bathroom, but that night he slipped. I later looked her up on Facebook and saw that half of the pictures she posted were of the two of them. Over the six months prior, I’d been feeling that something was off with him. That was my final confirmation. Just before I left for the summer house, I found out that Adam moved to Boston to live with her.