But still, I’ve been here less than a week. I can’t rock the boat. I can’t flirt with rebellion. If there’s anything the last several weeks has taught me, it’s that life can get real in a matter of seconds.
All it takes is one moment and your entire life can change.
Just like that.
“Thayer, you want to take over once I get us turned around?” Granddad steers us portside as Westley tightens the flapping sheets in the second mast of the ketch. It’s just us three this afternoon on the water. Junie packed us a picnic basket filled with enough food to feed an army, and Rat Pack music plays from the tinny speakers of a portable radio.
I’m lying on my back, hands behind my head and the sun warm on my face.
“You need me to?” I ask, sitting up.
Granddad’s smile fades, and I realize he was only asking because he takes pride in watching me follow in his footsteps in any capacity. He never had a son—but the way he treats Westley and I, you’d think we were his.
“I got it,” I say, motioning for him to get out of the way as I take over steering duties.
He moves to the windward side, taking a seat and grabbing the handrail for balance. There’s a look on his face, the one he gets when there’s something he wants to talk about, so I brace myself.
“So.” Granddad clears his throat. “That girl. That … Lila.”
“What about her?” I adjust my sunglasses. I’ve done my best this week to avoid being overly friendly, but I couldn’t help talking to her when I came back from my hike and she was in my room. It would’ve been rude not to make small talk when we were in such close quarters, and I refuse to ignore her, to treat her like she’s beneath me just because she’s a housemaid.
Granddad chuckles. “Don’t play dumb with me, boy. Wasn’t born yesterday. I know what it means when a young man looks at a young lady a certain way …”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
He leans forward, elbows on his tanned knees. “She’s a beautiful girl, and I remember what it was like to be nineteen. That said, I just want to make sure you remember our conversation the other day.”
Westley finishes tightening the sheet and glances back at us, removing his hat and replacing it as he tries to determine if he should join us or not.
“Granddad, I can assure you I would never create a liability for you,” I say.
“You’re a good kid, Thayer,” he says, and I cringe at the fact that he still views me as some knobby-kneed, freckle-faced child running around the island. “But you’re young. And you’re naïve. And there’s a lot of life you haven’t experienced yet. All I’m saying is if you’re smart, and I know you are, you won’t waste your time on some meaningless fling. She might be beautiful, but beauty fades and summer always ends.”
“All due respect, I’m not sure why you’re telling me this.”
He leans back, almost grinning at the water like he’s lost in his own thoughts for a second.
“Because as different as we are, I still see so much of myself in you,” he says. “And I see a whole future for you that won’t happen if you lose yourself in someone else at your age.”
“I’ll never lose myself in anyone.”
He turns back to me, removing his sea-misted aviators. “That’s what I always said too. And then I met your grandmother.”
He draws in a long breath between parted lips before slipping his glasses back over his nose, and then he lets it go, shoulders sagging. He always gets like this whenever she’s mentioned—contemplative, melancholic. And I get it. She was the love of his life. She was his person, his everything, his soulmate.
A part of him died along with her, and he’s never been the same since. At least that’s what my mother says. I was only four when Gram passed. I don’t remember much of what he was like before that, but I do have pictures of him bouncing us on his knees, playing “horsey” and letting us try on his skipper hats.
I know he means well, he’s just trying to protect me from the hurt and the pain he’s been suffering since losing her, so I let the conversation go.
The gruff old man with the hard outer shell turns his face from mine, and from the corner of my eye, I watch him wipe a single tear from his eye.
“May I ask if Westley got the same warning or does this only apply to me?” I ask in partial jest, though I’m curious to know just the same.
“I’ve already had this talk with Westley on three separate occasions,” Granddad snips back, his tone a wordless reminder that it’s none of my business. “Anyway, should we check the lobster traps?” he asks a second later, as if the last two minutes never happened. “Yes. I think we should. And we will. Westley …”