The two of them adjust the mainsheet and boom, and I steer us toward one of Granddad’s lobster traps.
The rest of the afternoon is spent in contemplative silence, Granddad likely thinking of better times with Gran and Westley probably thinking about lacrosse.
By the time we get back, the sun’s just beginning to set over the water, and once the ketch is stowed away and we head back up to Granddad’s, it’s almost dark and there’s a chill in the air.
The Twins will be starting the bonfire soon over at the alcove, and I can’t help but wonder if Lila might change her mind about coming and show up.
I can’t say I’d be disappointed.
Quite the contrary.
Granddad can lay down all the laws he wants, but it doesn’t make me any less curious about her. Despite the fact that we’ve spent all of maybe ten minutes around one another total, I can already tell she’s unlike anyone else I’ve ever met.
On the outside, she’s the quintessential sun-kissed, bleached-blonde Californian, but there’s nothing warm or laidback about her. She’s guarded and distant, but I know there’s something more beneath all of that. All the times she’s caught me staring at her, she’s stared right back—and I don’t even know if she realizes it. And earlier? In my suite? I clearly made her nervous. She couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
All I know is she’s a cocktail of contradictions and I find her utterly fascinating.
I have a couple of hours to myself after breakfast clean-up Saturday morning, so I take it upon myself to do a little exploring.
There’s another cottage, practically a carbon copy of the one my grandparents live in, just over one of the cliffs and down the hill. I noticed it the day I arrived and my grandma mentioned it had once belonged to the nurse who was hired to care for Mrs. Bertram some fifteen years ago when she was ill, but once Mrs. Bertram passed, the nurse’s job was done and no one has set foot in there since.
I traipse through a grassy path filled with wild flowers that hide the stones that once made a proper path, and when I get to the front door, I peek in the window, fully expecting to find nothing but dusty dilapidation. But to my surprise, the place is fully furnished, complete with books and magazines littering the coffee table in the living room. Almost as if someone was here just yesterday and picked up and left.
Just for the hell of it, I twist the doorknob, but once again I’m shocked to find the place completely unlocked. Then again, on an island inhabited by nothing but family and two caretakers, there’s not much reason to lock doors around here.
Showing myself in, I close the door behind me and step across the small foyer. There’s a dining room to my right, filled with a farmhouse-style table and white wooden Windsor chairs. To my left is a living room which holds a hunter green and burgundy floral sofa, a worn leather recliner, and a boxy TV resting on a wooden TV stand.
I reach down and grab one of the magazines—People, May 17, 2004. It appears to be an issue dedicated to what’s real and what’s fake in the world of reality television. I put the magazine back and find a stack of books, mostly Danielle Steele and Nora Roberts novels, beside it.
Moving on to the kitchen, I poke and prod my way through drawers and cupboards, all of which are empty, but there’s an adorable farmhouse-style sink with a window above it that overlooks a small bay on the west side of the island.
When I’m finished there, I head down a hall, poking my head into two bedrooms and a bathroom before meandering into the biggest bedroom, which also happens to have breathtaking ocean views.
It’s a shame this place sits here alone, unused. I’m sure my grandparents would love these views, but Mr. Bertram probably demands that they live in the closest cottage to his estate.
I take a seat on the bed in the center of the biggest room and let the silence swallow me for a moment, soaking in as much of the present as I can.
The burn in my chest is followed by the hot sting of tears in my eyes. Ever since Mom passed, I’ve been going back and forth between feeling nothing and feeling everything. And I swear all week my grandparents have been constantly watching me from the corner of their eyes to make sure I’m okay, whispering amongst themselves in their bed at night, as if I can’t hear them through the paper-thin walls that separate us.
But here, alone with my thoughts, away from prying eyes, I can miss her in peace.
Crawling up to the head of the bed, I lie on my side and bury my face against the musty white pillow beneath me and allow myself to cry, really cry, for the first time in over a week.