Wednesday: Chapter no 11

The Summer of Broken Rules

I woke up with a slight headache and heard something buzzing on the floor. It was pitch-black in Wit’s room, but unlike yesterday morning, our flung-out arms had found each other—Wit’s curved around my waist and mine holding on to his T-shirt. Both of us were fully dressed, having reluctantly fallen asleep after making out for not long enough. I smiled to myself.

The vibrating stopped, then began again. I carefully shimmied out of bed to find my phone near my discarded shoes and dress. What the hell? I wondered, yawning as I bent down to grab it. It has to be past two in the morning…

My legs almost gave out when I tapped the screen. While 2:00 a.m. had indeed come and gone, I saw that I had a few missed calls and one voicemail from Ben.

No, I thought, a chill creeping up my spin. Why?

Why couldn’t those texts have been the end? I wanted everything with him to end.

Don’t listen to it, I told myself as I contemplated the voicemail. Block him, and let that be it.

But curiosity got the better of me. I glanced over at Wit, he and his hilarious mouth breathing still sound asleep. “Be right back,” I whispered and then slowly slipped through his screen door. Thankfully, its hinges cooperated this time.

There were no stars in the sky. It was completely covered by clouds, and the wind whirled through the air. I stepped off the porch and strayed onto the front lawn, away from the house. My fingers shook as I typed in my phone’s passcode, and my whole body started shaking when Ben’s voicemail began to play.

“Hey, Mer,” he said, his voice slow and slurred. I could almost see the drunken glaze that always washed over his face. “We’re all at Finn’s house.” There was music and laughter in the background. Ben took a breath. “And I wanted to say I miss you, babe. I really do. Like, so much. That picture you posted the other night, you looked so pretty.” Another deep breath. “I’m thinking maybe we were too hasty about things. Maybe we shouldn’t have made that decision yet.”

My cheeks flamed. We? I thought. You broke up with me, Ben Fletcher.

Don’t you dare put this on me.

“I would’ve come with you,” he continued. “Babe, I really would’ve come to the wedding.” He chuckled and repeated what he’d said the night he’d dumped me: “You’re still my favorite girl to have on my arm.”

You’re still my favorite girl to have on my arm.

I used to love that line, but now I hated it. That was it. This was it, once and for all. I ended the message and hit redial, and when Ben answered, I said what I should’ve said last month. If only I’d had more strength. If only I’d realized that our relationship was imbalanced, the scale always tipping in Ben’s favor.

If only I’d truly listened to Claire.

But now I made sure to speak loud and clear. “For the record, Shithead,” I said, “I wouldn’t have been on your arm.” I swallowed and gripped my phone as tightly as possible. “You would’ve been on mine.”

Then I hung up and blocked his number.

It felt like a chain had been unlocked from around my heart.

* * *

Daylight streamed through the windows the next time my eyes opened, and I was nestled into Wit’s warm chest with a leg draped over his thigh. “Wake up,” I whispered and kissed him. “Wake up, cutie.”

Wit grunted something.

“What was that?” I asked.

“I said, hard no on cutie,” he mumbled. “I’m not Ethan’s age.”

“But you’re still cute,” I said, stealing a kiss on the lips when his eyes fluttered open. “Incredibly cute.”

He kissed me back, and I squealed when he trapped me in his arms and began tickling me. “How about handsome?” he asked, fingers somehow already knowing all my ticklish spots. “Can’t I be handsome instead?”

I giggled. “You’re that, too.”

Because he was—even with the bedhead, wrinkled T-shirt, and blue-green bruise, he was so damn handsome.

Wit smirked and kept tickling me until I squealed again, which prompted a bang on the wall from next door. “Dammit, Wit!” Michael’s best man shouted. “It’s not even seven!” Pause. “But, like, good for you, man.”

That only made Wit and me laugh. He rolled me onto my back and pulled the covers up over us to stifle it. “I should go,” I said after a while, even though I loved the feeling of Wit’s lanky body on top of mine and his soft lips on my neck. “I have to go.”

“No, you don’t,” he replied. “Stay here with Handsome.”

“Okay, I am not calling you ‘Handsome,’” I told him. “It’s so superficial

—it says nothing about you.” I thought of Claire and her penchant for personal, affectionate, inside-joke nicknames. She believed they made a relationship more intimate.

“I was only kidding,” he said, propping himself up on an elbow. “That’d make me sound like such a douchebag.” He gave me a long look. “But I must say, you are quite pretty.”

My heart stopped.


Wit started drawing spirals on my skin. “I didn’t get to tell you last night,” he went on. “I mean, I was nervous to tell you last night, but yes, you are so


“Don’t call me pretty,” I interrupted, pulse spiking. “Please don’t call me pretty or cute or…anything like that.”

His eyebrows furrowed. “Why not?”

I shook my head. “I have to go. Aunt Rachel’s probably waiting for me, to meditate.”

“No way, Killer,” Wit said. “You aren’t going anywhere.” “Wit,” I whined and tried to wiggle out from under him.

“Meredith.” His voice was no-nonsense. “You’re actually going to risk going over to the Camp?”

It took a second, but then it clicked.

“If your aunt Julia’s really on Ian’s side,” he said, taking the words out of my mouth, “I bet you anything she’s tipped him off and that he’s in full stakeout mode.”

I sighed. Wit was probably right, and it was disappointing, especially since I’d had a meditative breakthrough yesterday. With Aunt Rachel’s help, I really had been able to zone out and relax. It had helped put me on track for the day. “Will you do some recon to make sure?” I asked him.

Wit pushed back the blankets. I shivered when he climbed out of bed, body heat no longer radiating onto me. He dug through his dresser for a sweatshirt, and before heading out the door, he turned and gave me a look. “Stay here.”

I pulled his blankets back up like I planned on going back to sleep.

But because I also wanted to see him sweat like last night, I dramatically stripped off his T-shirt and tossed it at him. Now my bare shoulders were visible above the sheet.

Wit opened his mouth, then closed it.

“Recon,” I reminded him, and his cheeks reddened. He nodded slowly, then turned to leave for war. I blew him a kiss that he couldn’t see.

The door groaned shut, and then I heard him say to himself, “Holy fuck.”

I fell back against his pillows, covered my face with my hands, and laughed.

* * *

He was gone all of ten minutes, but I was up and back in my dress by the time he returned. “Wait, what?” he said, seeing me buckling my wedges. “I thought I told you not to leave.”

“And I haven’t,” I said and did a twirl. “I’m right here.” Wit ran a hand through his hair.

I smirked. “Oh, come on. I was teasing.”

“Yeah,” he mumbled, “and it wasn’t very considerate.”

I went over and hugged him, both arms around his waist. “I’m sorry.” He responded by tiptoeing his fingers down my back.

“Wit!” I exclaimed, but my voice came out breathy. “What?” he asked. “I was teasing.”

“So not funny.” I knocked my head into his chest a few times. He laughed and kissed my shoulder. We swayed for a minute, and then I asked the big question: “Was he there?”

“Yep,” Wit said. “With his own yoga mat, too.” “Probably Aunt Julia’s,” I muttered.

“I figured.”

I broke out of our hug. “Well, no meditation for me today.”

Wit raised an eyebrow. “You were really going to meditate in that ensemble?”

I jokingly raised my fists, as if raring for a fight. He smirked. “Where’re you going now?”

“Home,” I replied. “I should check in with my parents.” I leaned in to kiss him, wanting to burst when he deepened it. “But meet me at the tractor barns,” I added with a wink. “I’m taking you to breakfast.”

“Breakfast with Wit?” my dad said once I was back at the Annex, changed and drinking a glass of water by the sink. He nodded. “That’s a good move, Mer. Get him off The Farm, make him feel comfortable, get him to open up.”

“Tom, something tells me this has nothing to do with Assassin,” my mom said. “Absolutely nothing.” She gave me a look, amused. “Is that where you’ve been the past couple of nights? The Cabin?”

I thought about lying. I had a strict curfew at home: midnight, and if plans changed and I wanted to stay over somewhere, I had to call them.

And, I mean, I wasn’t always honest. A few times, I told my parents I was sleeping over at a friend’s when in reality I was staying at Ben’s house.

But now I didn’t lie. My parents’ rules were lax at Paqua, and they seemed happy this morning. “Yes,” I said. “I’ve been hanging out with him. We just…fall asleep talking.” I shrugged.

“Well, I’m not sure—” my dad started, but Mom put a hand on his arm.

Her amused expression had turned into a smile.

“Have fun,” she said, and I raced out the door with my backpack before they could ask any other questions.

* * *

Dock Street Coffee Shop was where all the locals had breakfast, but luckily Wit and I only had to wait a few minutes before snagging two seats in the narrow restaurant. With its iconic sign out front, Dock Street had an old-fashioned diner vibe with just the right amount of grunge factor. An eclectic mix of photos and drawings hung on the walls, and all the seating was red stools along one long counter. Directly behind it was the kitchen, with a

colossal grill and red-and-white checkerboard curtains covering the lower cabinets. You could watch your breakfast being made.

Our stools were in the back, on the very end. We had a few minutes to flip through our menus before a guy came up to take our order. Whoa, I thought, since he was seriously built. An Adonis, but younger-looking than Michael. “All right, what can I get you guys?” he asked. Reddish-blondish hair peeked out from under a navy blue baseball hat. BULLDOGS, it said across the front. “Drinks to start?”

“Coffee,” Wit and I both said.

“Cream? Sugar?” he asked, and after a beat of hesitation, “Maple syrup?” I made a face. “Maple syrup?”

Our server scratched his ginger-colored stubble. “I don’t know,” he said. “My brother swears by it.”

We played it safe by asking for milk and sugar. “Do you know who that is?” Wit asked once he walked away to get our coffees.

“Uh, no,” I said. “Should I?”

Wit nudged my knee with his. “Do you follow college hockey?”

I shook my head, and he sighed. He clearly lived for college hockey.

But Ben had played basketball, so I’d followed basketball. For three years in a row, I had won our March Madness bracket. Villanova did not disappoint.

The hockey hotshot returned with a pair of mugs and a coffee decanter. “Now, food,” he said once we were stirring in sugar with spoons. “What’re we thinking?”

I ordered my usual, a stack of pancakes with home fries and bacon, but Wit couldn’t decide between a sausage-egg-and-cheese and the Monte Cristo sandwich. He asked our server, with awe in his eyes, what he recommended.

“Well, both are epic,” he replied. “But I’d get the Monte Cristo.” He smiled, a dimple appearing in his cheek. “It’s my girlfriend’s favorite.”

Wit nodded, and twenty minutes later, I watched him bite into his sandwich. Melted cheese oozed out and dripped down onto his plate. “Good?” I asked.

Mouth full, Wit shot me a look—an incredulous Are you kidding me? look. “Good?” he said after swallowing. “Good?” He tilted his head back to shamelessly shout, “Where has this place been all my life?!”

“Not in Vermont!” a woman shouted back, and another added, “Or in the Big Easy!”

Their voices were familiar…too familiar. “Oh my god!” I grabbed Wit’s arm when I noticed Honey and Sarah sitting several stools down the counter. They were both ignoring their menus in favor of spying on us. “Hide!”

“Where?” Wit asked as he waved at them. “Why?”

“Because they are the two biggest gossips on the island!” I told him.

Wit smirked, powdered sugar still on his lips. “But what,” he said lightly, “could they possibly have to gossip about?”

“You and me,” I whispered. Wit widened his eyes. “Ah.”

“It’s not a joke. Sarah’s going to go back to The Farm and tell Michael that—”

“—she saw us having breakfast,” Wit said, putting his hand on my knee. “Which means Michael will keep grilling me about you.” He cocked his head. “Apparently you’ve run into him while leaving my room these last couple of days?”

All I could do was blush.

Wit stole a strip of my bacon to munch. “Eat up,” he said, pointing to my fluffy pancakes. “Another big Assassin day ahead.”

“Shoot,” I said.

“I’ve learned that’s the point, yes.”

“No.” I shook my head and drizzled maple syrup over my pancakes. “Shoot as in, ‘Shoot, everyone will think we’re accomplices.’”

“Why?” Wit asked. “Because we’re breakfasting together?” I gave him a look. Well, yeah.

He took a long, thoughtful sip of coffee before shrugging. “Okay, so let them.” He spun my stool to face his, widening his legs so that they bracketed mine. Suddenly Sarah, Honey, and the café vanished; it was only us. “We don’t need to publicly confirm or deny anything,” he said. “But sure, let them think we’re this Assassin power couple.”

His words sent shivers through me. Power couple. I knew he meant it as nothing more than an expression, but still. “We do have a pact,” I reminded him.

Wit chuckled and took another bite of his sandwich. “How was that only three days ago?”

“I have no idea.” I smiled, and then I couldn’t help myself—I leaned in and kissed him, kissed powdered sugar off his lips. “I like you,” I whispered. “I really like you.”

“I really like you, too,” he said back, grinning. “I like you quite a lot.”

* * *

After paying our bill, Wit asked if we could take a lap around Edgartown. “Sure, I’d love to,” I said, but my eyebrows knitted together. “You were here all day yesterday, though.”

“Yeah,” he told me, “but I couldn’t explore—I was shepherded from place to place.” He put his hands on my shoulders and pushed me up the brick sidewalk. “Nope, straight ahead, Witty,” he imitated Michael. “We have reservations!”

I giggled and shook him off so I could take his hand. “I’ll give you the grand tour, then,” I said. “We’ll go anywhere and everywhere.” I paused to

feel the sun shine down on us. “But I insist that we start at a certain someone’s favorite spot.”

The bookstore. Whenever Claire and I had biked into town, we’d locked our bikes at the nearby rack and gone to Edgartown Books first. It was a beautiful white house with black shutters and a green-and-white awning shading its peaceful porch. Right now, two little girls sat on the porch chairs with their grandparents, reading the books they’d bought. I watched them for a moment, grateful when Wit squeezed my hand.

We walked inside to hear a bell chime above us and see the staircase leading up to the second floor. Books of all different colors were painted on each step’s riser, along with a genre written in delicate script. Yes, I thought. Yes, here we are.

My sister’s wonderland.

“This way,” I said and led Wit through the archway on the right. “Claire called this the parlor.”

Because back when this was a family home, the main room probably was the parlor. The big windows made the space light and airy, the walls a creamy yellow and lined with maple bookcases. MARTHA’S VINEYARD, the plaque above one read—the local interest section. Wit, like the explorer he was, let go of my hand and made a beeline over there. Meanwhile, I just basked in the warm glow.

Until I heard someone speaking at the register by the bookstore’s big front window. Not a customer but the bookseller on duty. He had a book flipped open in one hand and held his phone to his ear with the other. “No, I can’t eat another lobster roll,” he said in a low voice. “How about you get sandwiches from Skinny’s and meet me here? We’ll find a spot outside?”

Holy crap, I thought when I noticed the tortoiseshell glasses and flop of black hair. “The bookish type,” Eli had said.

This guy was a dead ringer and pretty dang cute.

“Turkey with pepper jack on sourdough, please,” he said. “Lettuce, tomato, onion.” A pause. “Oh yeah, and honey mustard.” He rolled his eyes. “Uh-huh, you know me better than I know myself.” He smiled. “I love you, too.”

Okay, okay, I thought as Wit mentioned he was moving to the travel section. So he’s in a relationship…

After the bookseller hung up and stuffed his phone in his pocket, I wandered toward the travel shelves to find Wit with a Martha’s Vineyard history book under his arm, now perusing something Australia-related. “I’m heading upstairs to look at the young adult stuff,” I told him, ruffling his hair.

He nodded, then pointed to his cheek without taking his eyes off the page. I gave it a good old grandmotherly pat.

“I wanted a kiss,” he said once we met back up at the register. The shy bookseller quietly scanned our stuff, putting a turquoise Edgartown Books bookmark in each one before slipping them into our bag.

“Hmm, did you?” I said dryly. “I didn’t catch that.” But then I pointed to my own cheek.

Wit lightly flicked it. “Ouch!” I exclaimed.

“Fifty-three eighty-eight,” the bookseller said, and I caught him glancing at his watch. Wishing for lunchtime with his love. It’d be tough to break the news to Eli later; thank goodness he was partial to the sailing instructor. Again I thought about Claire and how she would’ve amazed customers here with her endless energy and passion for books.

You could do that, too, Mer, she said, a whisper in my mind. I’m not the only one with that energy and passion…

“Where to next?” Wit asked once the bell dinged us outside. He swung our bag back and forth. “What’s the next stop on Claire Fox’s tour?”

Claire Fox’s tour.

I immediately brightened. “The Candy Bazaar,” I said, our hands finding each other again. “Down by the yacht club docks.”

Wit nodded. It seemed a little stilted, but he nodded all the same. “Lead on,” he said.

“Okay.” I stretched and kissed his cheek. “Follow me.”

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