Chapter no 21

The Summer of Broken Rules

I want you.

What did Wit mean by that? Was he pretending like we’d agreed? Or was he telling the truth? I couldn’t decide, but it sounded awfully true.

I made my way to the Pond House—or, as Aunt Christine kept calling it, “the bridal suite.” Sarah had invited me to get my hair, nails, and makeup done with her and her bridesmaids. It was only noon, but I had a plan to elegantly crash their brunch, in the mood for French toast.

More reception preparation was happening over at the Big House, the pace less leisurely than yesterday. Round tables and wicker chairs were being carried into the tent, and in keeping with Sarah’s Pinterest board, there would also be a wide dance floor in the center with delicate fairy lights strung across the ceiling. There had also been pictures of various table centerpieces, and I wondered which one she had chosen.

My feet couldn’t help but detour to the Big House—not to get closer to the hustle and bustle but to see if Wink was on the porch. “Meredith!” He looked up from his book. I didn’t know how he could read with all the noise. “I thought you’d be on your way to the Pond House by now.”

“Oh, not yet,” I said, suddenly no longer in the mood for French toast. “They’re probably still having brunch. I should wait a little longer.”

“I don’t think Sarah would mind,” my grandfather said as I settled into the hammock. He took a sip of his tea. “Not in the least.”

I nodded but didn’t leave. Neither of us spoke for a few beats until Wink put down his mug and brought up Wit. “Very impressive,” he said. “His triumph today was very impressive. That’s why Honey and I have so few rules, you know—to see how creative players can get.” He chuckled. “I told him that he has an open invitation to The Farm and must come back to defend his title.” He looked out at the horizon. “The two of you have breathed new life into the game.”

My heart dipped.

“And it’s admirable,” Wink continued before I could say anything—not that I had much to say. It felt like someone had stolen my voice. “I think it’s admirable that he has recognized his discontent at school and is taking time to self-reflect and see if he wants to make changes.” He whistled. “New Zealand is far, but it’ll be an adventure. One worth taking, from the way he talks about it. Therapeutic, too, from my perspective. That’s why Honey and I decided to move here full-time. No matter the season, The Farm heals you. It has curative powers.”

“Yeah, it does,” I heard myself say. “It really does.”

But my stomach squirmed. We weren’t talking about Wit anymore; we were talking about me. Me, and my choice to go to Hamilton this fall…an incredible college, but the college where my dad worked, and the college that was less than a mile from my house. I’d applied early decision last November, was accepted in December, and from then on hadn’t thought twice about it.

Do you want to be close to home? I knew my grandfather was asking now. Or do you need to be close to home?

Need, I thought. At least back then—it had been less than a year since we’d lost Claire, and I remembered still feeling so crippled with grief that I couldn’t imagine leaving Clinton. The idea of my parents being a phone call away instead of a walk down the hill from campus rattled me. I’m safe had been my reaction upon reading my acceptance letter. I’m going to be safe.

The bottom line: I’d applied to college in my hometown because I was scared of leaving. My sister had died on her first big adventure away from home, so I didn’t want an adventure. I wanted family; I wanted familiar.

But now, after this week…after celebrating Claire’s legacy and meeting someone who was so determined to live life to the fullest…

I was beginning to think need might not be my answer anymore. That thought was terrifying but one I knew I had to confront.

“Resume your reading,” I said to Wink, hopping up from the hammock. “I’m going to go get myself some French toast.”

* * *

Sarah and her bridesmaids were all wearing matching satin pajama sets, but Aunt Christine steered me out of their suite before they changed into their dresses. Wit was walking up the driveway as I was walking down it. The guys must’ve gone surfing after all; Wit had a wet suit pulled down to his waist. “What’re you doing?” I asked, heart catching.

He looked…

“I’m getting my makeup done,” he said and gestured to his face. His green bruise hadn’t quite faded to an unnoticeable yellow. “Aunt Christine texted me to get my ass over here.”

“Why does she have your number but I don’t?” I blurted. Wit cocked his head. “You want my number?”

“Of course!”

He gave it to me. I quickly tapped his details into my phone but didn’t text him so that he would have mine. Hi! It’s Meredith! sounded so ridiculous.

“Don’t go in there,” I said, taking a step closer and fiddling with one of his floppy wet suit sleeves. “Let your shiner shine.”

Wit grinned. “It would give these wedding photos some more character.” He slipped an arm around me. We turned to head away from the house

together. “You know they’re supposed to take two hours?”

“Yeah, that’s what Sarah said,” I replied. “Why don’t you come to the Annex? I’ll make you some snacks so you don’t get hangry.”

“You make snacks?”

“Yeah, really good ones. Have you ever heard of puppy chow?”

Wit picked me up and twirled me around. My guess was that meant yes. “Hey, careful!” I giggled. “Don’t ruin the hair!”

The hair was something I never would’ve been able to accomplish myself. Danielle the Maid of Honor had blown it out before weaving it into an effortless braid crown.

“Sorry, sorry.” He put me back down on the ground and after a pause said, “The hair looks lovely.”

I smiled. “Thank you.”

We kept walking, and after loading him up with a Tupperware of Chex Mix covered in chocolate, peanut butter, and powdered sugar, I kicked him out to get ready.

“So here’s the thing,” my mom said after I modeled my dress for her: strapless and cream with shell-pink and deep blue lilies all over it. The skirt swirled when I spun, my heels were high, and I wore Claire’s bridesmaid necklace. “You’re going to bike to the church.”

“Wait, what?” I stopped spinning around the sitting room, stopped imagining Wit spinning me around the dance floor later. “I’m going to bike to the church?”

“Yes,” my dad said. “Christine said parking was a headache yesterday at the rehearsal. We don’t want to take many cars since that street is so narrow.”

“Oh, okay.” I nodded. St. Andrew’s Church was nestled down North Summer Street in Edgartown, and while it was incredibly idyllic with its historic red brick and white arched windows, the church and everything around it was tiny. “Does that include biking up The Farm road?”

Because three miles on the sandy dirt road in semiformal attire? I didn’t think that would end so well.

“No.” My dad shook his head. “Brad and I have already made several runs in the truck. A fleet of bikes is waiting near the obelisk.”

“Who else is riding?” I asked.

“This is nuts,” Luli said a half hour later, climbing onto her orange mountain bike. “We could be late. We could literally walk through the doors during the ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ part.”

“We aren’t going to be late,” Pravika replied. “It’s only a fifteen-minute ride.”

“And they’re still taking pre-ceremony pictures,” Eli said with a sigh. Unfortunately, he hadn’t been able to photobomb any.

“Well, should we go, then?” Jake asked, throwing a look at Luli. “If you’re so worried?”

And so the five of us began biking into town with a band of children in tow. Luli and Jake had agreed to lead the way, Eli would ride in the middle, and Pravika and I would bring up the rear. She and I had both ditched our heels and put them in our bike baskets, deciding to ride barefoot. It would be fun.

The sun watched us from the cloudless blue sky, and I inhaled a deep breath of island air as we pedaled down the paved bike path. She’s getting married, Claire, I thought. Sarah’s getting married today.

We passed Morning Glory and its green pastures, cedar-shingled saltbox houses, secret driveways that twisted up into the hills, and eventually bumped onto Edgartown’s brick sidewalks. “Careful!” Eli shouted from up ahead. “Not so close to the curb!”

“They’re like the von Trapp family, Nick!” I heard someone say, and I turned to see a blond girl holding hands with a ginger-bearded boy. “Aren’t they?”

I smiled to myself. That was exactly what we were like.

The parade into the small church was in full swing by the time we’d parked our bikes by the bookstore and directed everyone a few streets over to North Summer. “Okay, gang!” Eli clapped his hands. “Go find your parents!”

I found mine in a pew near the front, and they laughed when I sat down next to them. “What?” I asked nervously. “What’s wrong?” I reached up to make sure my hair was still intact.

“Your shoes,” my mom said. “Mer, where are your shoes?” I glanced down to see only my bare feet.

Shit—I’d forgotten them in my bike basket. There had been so many children to guide.

“It’s a tribute,” I said, wriggling my toes to show off my pedicure. “Sarah goes barefoot on The Farm, so I’m going barefoot at her wedding.”

My dad chuckled again. “I love you, Meredith,” he said before kissing the top of my head. “You have no idea how much your mom and I love you.”

* * *

Just like Sarah and Michael’s wedding invitation promised, the ceremony commenced at four o’clock with a trumpet prelude and the grandparents’ processional. I had to turn and snort into my dad’s blazer when Wink and Honey strolled down the aisle together, my grandmother gleaming like a queen and my grandfather with a satisfied smirk on his face. “I don’t know, Sarah,” he’d joked after her engagement announcement. “I know you want to get married on The Farm, but I’m not sure it’ll be possible without a grandparents’ processional during the ceremony. It’s a true sign of respect.”

“He’s such a show-off sometimes,” my dad whispered now. “He’s the best,” I whispered back.

“Yes,” my dad agreed. “Yes, they both are.”

Next came the bridal party. Danielle and Gavin were the first pair. The bridesmaid dresses were a dreamy blue-green color, and the groomsmen

wore navy tuxes with light blue bow ties to match Michael’s. He was excitedly clacking his chestnut shoes at the altar.

Wit and Nicole looked downright giddy when it was their turn, bouncing down the aisle instead of executing a smooth walk. “Oh, lord,” I heard Jeannie say at the same time as Great-Uncle Richard asked if they were drunk. I knew they weren’t. Their brother was getting married; they were thrilled.

And eventually, Sarah. She was beaming as she walked arm in arm with Uncle Brad, carrying a beautiful bouquet of hydrangeas. Her dress was stunning and simple, white and sleeveless with a long keyhole neckline and low back. She wore her auburn hair down, pulled back to show off her pearl-colored statement earrings. Even though she and Michael had had their “first look” back on Paqua, he was mesmerized. Sarah broke into an even brighter smile when she reached the end of the aisle. Hi, I saw her mouth. Fancy meeting you here.

She continued to shine later when Oscar Witry and a few others did readings before she and Michael exchanged sappy but so incredibly sweet vows. Of course, Sarah’s was not complete without quoting Taylor Swift, a line from the classic “Lover.”

And she became absolutely luminous as Michael kissed her and they walked up the aisle as newlyweds, every guest on their feet, clapping and cheering. Michael pumped a fist in victory on their way out the door.

“Hurray,” I whispered, feeling Claire at my side. “She’s a Dupré.”

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