I show up at 9:04—not to be rude but to prove a point (though I’m not entirely sure what point that is if I’m being honest). And also because I had to make sure my grandparents were in bed.
The Hilliard Cottage isn’t very soundproof. The windows are older than dirt and single-paned, the glass paper thin. The ocean and seagulls and boats motoring by tend to create a white noise of sorts at night, which is an unexpected bonus.
There’s only one interior light on in The Caldecott and it’s around the back of the house, just off the wraparound porch. When I peer inside the window, I find the three cousins sprawled out on different cushions of a leather sectional. Westley fusses with the DVD player remote. Whitley pages through a glossy magazine.
Thayer checks his watch. I bet he’s wondering where I am, if I’m going to show.
I wait another minute on principle and then dragging in a hard breath, I rap three times on the glass until I get his attention.
He pops up from the couch in an instant, his face lit. Or maybe I’m imagining it. I’m kind of in a daze right now because I tried my hardest to talk myself out of coming but in the end, it’s like I was drawn like a moth to a flame for reasons I can’t fully comprehend.
All I know is I want to be here.
Even if every atom in my body, every particle in my soul knows I shouldn’t.
Whitley’s words earlier today echoed in my mind all afternoon. I so badly want to believe Thayer’s a regular, nice person and not a Douche Charming with ulterior motives.
“You came,” he says when he gets the back door.
“Only because I’ve been dying to see Mystic River.” It’s true.
Thayer moves back and I step inside and remove my shoes. The place is set up like a makeshift home theater slash family room. Movie posters on the wall. A popcorn maker standing in the corner. A bookshelf filled with an impressive collection of DVDs.
“Hey, hey,” Whitley says, giving a wave without looking up from her magazine.
“Aaaand there we go.” Westley presses a button on the DVD remote and the main menu fills the screen.
“Sit anywhere you like,” Thayer tells me as he dims the lights.
I choose the corner seat of the sectional, and when I sit down, my body melts into the downy cushions until it’s practically enveloped in luxurious softness. This might be the nicest sofa I’ve ever sat on in my life. My mind wanders to the logistics of how this sofa got here—how everything got here, actually… Were the houses built on site? Built off-site and ferried over? Grandma said the mail plane comes once a week (usually Tuesdays or Thursdays)—weather permitting. And another boat drops boxes of groceries off at the end of the dock on Mondays.
This sort of life would never be my cup of tea, but I have to admit it’s fascinating.
“Is this okay?” Thayer asks, voice low as the credits roll.
He takes the spot next to me, but in his defense, the only other option was sitting between the twins, and I don’t blame him for not wanting to be sandwiched between them.
I want to tell him to stop being so damn nice, but part of me secretly appreciates his refreshing politeness—genuine or not.
“Yes, now shhh,” I whisper, pointing to the TV.
The movie begins and I try my hardest to concentrate as I’ve waited months to see this and I’ve heard nothing but amazing things, but every few seconds, I can’t help but find myself watching Thayer from the corner of my eye.
The light from the TV screen flickers against him, painting his face in all sorts of colors, illuminating and highlighting his perfect features: chiseled jaw, full lips, straight nose, broad shoulders straining through his white Yale t-shirt …
It’s so weird how we’re all sitting here actually watching a movie. Or at least I’m watching for the most part. Pretty sure the other three are fully invested already. It’s the strangest thing to actually sit with a group of people my age who aren’t attached to their phones like life support.
For a moment, I think about my friends back home. I’ve been trying not to think of them all week because whenever I do, I miss them too much and then I get wrapped up in wondering about all the things I’m missing in addition to missing them …
I thought about sending letters since I don’t have a cell phone out here, but with all the chaos and commotion of the past couple of weeks, I didn’t think to ask for any of their addresses and seeing how we don’t have so much as a cell tower or internet connection here, I’m sort of screwed. Grandma said I could use their phone, but I’d have to buy a calling card from the store on the mainland. One of these days I’ll get around to it, I’m sure.