Search

Sunday: Chapter no 23

The Summer of Broken Rules

The sun was nowhere to be found when my parents and I packed the car the next morning, the sky gloomy with gray clouds. Leaving the Vineyard was always upsetting, and the island felt it. “Okay,” my dad said once he’d slammed the Raptor’s tailgate shut. “Should we start, then?”

I nodded, even though my head ached and my eyes were puffy from crying. Every summer, we did “rounds” before catching our ferry home. While my mom and dad’s first stop was the Big House, I headed to Lantern House to say goodbye to Uncle Brad and Aunt Christine. “You better be in the Showdown next year,” my uncle said as he hugged me. “I feel like we have unfinished business. It was pure luck that I got you when I did.”

“You can count on it.” I hugged him back and then thanked Aunt Christine for a beautiful wedding. “It was one of the best nights of my life,” I told her, the honest truth. “Please plan mine someday.”

“Oh, Mer,” she said, shaking her head and smiling. “You and your mom are going to do that.” She kissed my cheek, then whispered, “But I would be happy to consult.”

After I left them, I wolfed down some waffles with Ethan and Hannah in the Camp. “Swing by the hospital,” Aunt Julia said. “Say goodbye to Rachel and meet the baby.”

“Aunt Julia, we’ll miss our boat if we meet Oliver,” I joked. “You know how much I love babies.” I grinned—we were already planning on stopping

there on the way to the ferry. I couldn’t leave without meeting my newest cousin.

I hugged Ethan and Hannah hard before heading to the Big House. “We’ll send you our art projects,” they said. “For you to hang on your wall at college.”

My stomach stirred.

College.

“Thank you,” I said. “I can’t wait.” But could I?

My parents and I crossed paths on my way to the Big House. “Honey has tea all ready for you,” my mom said.

“And Aunt Julia made extra waffles,” I told her.

“Keep moving, ladies,” my dad said, and my mom and I exchanged an eye roll. My dad was laid-back on The Farm except for the day we departed. Then he was all business, always wanting to catch the earliest ferry so we could get on the road home. Luckily, my mom had convinced him to let us sleep in a little after the wedding.

Wink and Honey were very quiet when I walked into their kitchen—the wind was too rough to sit on the porch. I sipped my Earl Grey in silence. “Yesterday was amazing,” I eventually said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Sarah that happy.”

“Yes,” my grandmother agreed. “Me too—it was a gorgeous night.” She reached out and put her soft hand on top of mine. “Meredith,” she said, “we don’t mean to pressure you, but have you thought any more about what your grandfather said?”

What your grandfather said.

What he’d said to me, all through talking about Wit. Need, want, worry.

Would I go to Hamilton this fall, or would I take a gap year?

I looked at Wink. “I’m thinking,” I whispered. “I’m really thinking.” A lump formed in my throat. “Will you back me up, though? Whatever I decide?”

Wink came over to the kitchen table and put his hands on my shoulders. “I am your biggest fan,” he said. “I have always been your biggest fan. I will stand by you no matter what.”

“As will I,” Honey said, wrapping me in her arms. Her bracelets jingled, and I breathed in her lavender scent. “We love you, sweetie. We support you.”

I squeezed my eyes shut and told them I loved them, too.

Wink pulled away first. “Now, hurry up,” he said. “You’ve got a few more houses to hit and, according to your father, not a lot of time.”

No one was awake at the Pond House, and I skipped the Cabin altogether. Only Oscar Witry and Jeannie were up and about at Moor House. Michael’s mom offered to whip me up some breakfast, but I was still full from my waffles, so I shook my head and hugged her. “I know it’s difficult,” she murmured, rubbing my back. “But please, Miss Meredith, come to New Orleans anytime. There is so much to see, and we would love to have you.”

My final stop was the Nylon Condo Complex. I unzipped Eli and Jake’s tent first—they were both asleep, nowhere to be anytime soon. My friends were staying here through the summer. “I’m going to drown my sorrows at work tonight,” Jake said after I woke him. “Make a sundae and eat it in honor of you…extra rainbow sprinkles.” He yawned. “I’m gonna miss you, Mer.”

“I’m gonna miss you, too, Jake,” I said. “We’ll keep in touch.”

“You better mean that,” Eli mumbled when I told him the same, ruffling his long hair. “And come back next summer.”

“I will.” I giggled. “I promise.”

Because I knew I would. I didn’t know what the next nine months held for me, but I knew that a year from now, I would be here—on the Vineyard, on

The Farm, with my favorite people. Claire and her dreams of working on the island had inspired me. She would forever inspire me.

I took a deep breath before slipping into Pravika and Luli’s tent. Divya was nowhere to be seen—with a groomsman? I wondered—but Pravika whined when I said goodbye. “No,” she said, latching onto my sweatshirt sleeve. “No, not yet. It’s only been a week. You can’t leave us.”

“But duty calls,” I replied, sighing. “I must get back to Clinton and the bagel shop. They need to re-chain me to the register.” (My boss had been genuinely annoyed when I’d asked for a week off.)

From her sleeping bag, Luli snorted.

“Hate you.” Pravika gave me a warm hug. “Love you.”

“Love you, too,” I said and then turned to Luli. Earlier, I’d told myself that I wouldn’t be nervous when I said goodbye to her. I had apologized; I had done everything in my power to clear the air between us. The ball was in her court. There was no need to be nervous. “Farewell, missy,” I said, a joke from when we were younger. Aunt Christine called us both missy whenever we got into mischief. “I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”

Luli didn’t respond at first; I waited, but there was no reply. Then, finally, she rolled off her air mattress and across the tent to Pravika and me. “When I send funny Snapchats,” she said to me, “please answer them. You missed a lot of my best work this year.”

I nodded. “I’ll try to match your genius.”

And then, in a blink, I was out the door. Saying sorry just isn’t like Luli, I told myself, tears pooling in my eyes. I already owed her an apology, and since I didn’t say anything before she came at me, she doesn’t think she owes me one—

“Wait, Meredith!” I heard someone shout. “Mer, wait!”

I turned to see Luli, her dark hair a nest of bedhead, zigzagging through the tents. “What’s up?” I said.

“I’m sorry!” she blurted. “I know this is way late—too late—but I’m sorry for being such a bitch, for what I said in the bathroom about how you dumped us for Ben and how you were doing the same with Wit and about how he was going to break your heart.” She sighed. “And I’m really sorry for telling you to leave after you apologized. I know now…Claire was my friend, but she was your sister. It hurt being ignored all those months, and I know you wish you had handled it better, but she was your sister. I can’t even imagine, if I were to lose Jake…” She shook her head. “I can’t even imagine.”

My eyes welled up again. “Thank you,” I whispered. “Thank you, Luli. That means so much to me. I hope”—I let out a breath—“I hope we can be friends again.”

Luli gave me a look. “Missy, we are friends.” I smiled. “Forever friends.”

“Yes, forever.” She glanced around. “Now, where’s your not-so-secret lover?”

“Oh.” My smile faltered. “We said goodbye already.”

Last night, Wit and I had eventually gotten dressed, folded up our quilt, and silently walked back to the houses holding hands. When we’d reached the Annex’s mailbox, he hugged me long and hard, my feet leaving the ground for a moment. There was no kiss, only the hug. “Bye,” he murmured.

“Bye,” I murmured back.

And then I’d watched him walk back to the Cabin, hands tucked in his pockets and head tilted back to gaze at the stars.

“Goodbye?!” Luli said now. “You said goodbye last night?”

“Yeah.” I nodded. “It would’ve been too painful this morning—”

My friend held up her hand. “Goodbye for now, or goodbye for good?”

“For good,” I whispered, stomach twisting into a knots. “The week’s over, Luli. The wedding’s over—”

“Meredith!” Luli was incredulous. “Are you joking?” I shook my head.

She shook hers, too. “You’re so exasperating sometimes. Everyone with eyes saw how much you two were freaking falling for each other. For god’s sake, I heard you slept in his bed every night this week.” She gave me a look. “Bold, by the way.”

“Well, yeah,” I said. “It’s Wit, and we’re…”

Totally tangled together.

Luli smirked. “See, that’s what I’m talking about. You guys are far from finished.”

“But he’s going to New Zealand!” I exclaimed. “He’s going to the other side of the world for the next year, and yes, he asked me to come with him, but I don’t know. We’ve only known each other a week. I have to keep reminding myself that we’ve only known each other a week.”

“Who cares?” Luli said. “Go with him, or stay here and date him anyway!” She laughed. “I’m sure he loves to FaceTime, and you’re going to get your act together in that department.”

My eyes prickled. “Luli, I don’t know.”

“Meredith, come on,” she said. “This is your chance.”

This is your chance.

I remembered Michael at the reception last night, telling me about almost missing his chance with Sarah. Now here we are, he’d said. Here we all are.

My pulse surged. If you want him, I thought, go get him.

* * *

I hauled ass over to the Cabin only to bang into Wit’s room and find that it was empty. Bed stripped, nightstand cleared, nothing in his dresser or closet. Absolutely empty. My throat thickened, trying to recall if he’d told me when he planned on leaving. His dad and the Duprés were still on The Farm, so why wasn’t he?

Where are you, where are you, where are you?

“Jesus Christ,” Gavin said, his screen door’s hinges squeaking as I pulled it open. “What is with you people and the no-knocking thing?” He sat up in bed, and I noticed he wasn’t alone.

Danielle had pulled his covers up over her shoulders. “Wit’s not in his room,” I said, voice cracking.

“Well, no, he wouldn’t be,” Gavin replied. “He left for his ferry.” He rubbed his forehead. “Heading home to Vermont, I think.”

I gaped. “What?”

“He left,” Danielle said, tone indicating that she wanted me to get the hell out of the room. I could understand why. “He has an early ferry. His mom is picking him up at Falmouth and driving him home to Vermont. Okay?”

“Okay.” I nodded and quickly spun around to leave, both Gavin and Danielle groaning when the door slammed shut behind me. Everyone had hangovers from last night.

“Luli,” I said when she answered her phone. “Meet me at the tractor barn.

We’re going to need the Jeep.”

* * *

“Why don’t you just text him?” Luli shouted over the roaring wind as Wink’s old Jeep raced down The Farm road. She was driving; my hands were shaking too hard to hold on to the steering wheel or shift gears.

“Because I deleted his number!” I responded. After parting ways with Wit last night, I’d collapsed into Claire’s bunk and deleted his contact before crying into my sister’s pillow. Even after so much back-and-forth, I’d thought cutting all ties with him would make me feel better.

Now I was regretting it.

“What about Instagram?” Luli said. “DM him!”

“It’s not loading!” I said shrilly. “The app isn’t loading!” I closed Instagram and checked the ferry schedule again. It was 10:15. The most

recent boat had left Vineyard Haven at 10:00, but there was another leaving in twenty minutes. Hopefully, Wit was going to be on it.

I glanced at the Jeep’s speedometer. Twenty-seven miles per hour.

It felt like five.

“Hurry up,” I said, my heart pounding. “Please, Luli, go faster!” She raised an eyebrow. “Faster?”

“Yes.” I nodded quickly. “Faster.

I still winced a little when she stepped on the gas but less so than earlier this week. Luli was a good driver; we had driven together since before getting our licenses. Wink had taught her well, she was sober, and she had full command of the car. I knew in my bones that nothing was going to happen. Luli stuck to the speed limit on the way to Vineyard Haven, my legs bouncing up and down the entire time. Of course we kept hitting red lights.

“What are you going to say?” she asked at one.

“I don’t know,” I said through gritted teeth. “We just need to get there.” “What if he’s already on the boat?”

“Then I’ll buy a walk-on ticket—” I started before covering my face with my hands. “Fuck, my wallet’s in my backpack! In the Raptor!”

“Don’t worry,” Luli said. “I have mine, complete with some of Jake’s Mad Martha’s tips.”

I leaned across the Jeep’s console and kissed her cheek. “Bless you!”

When we reached Vineyard Haven, the Steamship Authority was an absolute mob scene with all the cars waiting to board The Island Home. Kayaks strapped on top of Volvos, Range Rovers weighed down by luggage and beach chairs, bike racks hanging off massive SUVs. Even the roofless Wranglers were there, but no music pulsated from them. Everyone was mourning their departure.

“Good luck!” Luli told me as I unbuckled my seat belt and hopped down from the Jeep. Cars were being waved up the ramp now, and I did a quick scan of the walk-on line. People were making their way onto the ferry, but I didn’t spot a blond-haired boy among them. Well, I thought, here we go.

I sprinted into the Steamship Authority only to find a line of people waiting to buy last-minute tickets. My stomach stirred as I waited, and when it was finally my turn, blood pumped so loudly through my ears that I couldn’t speak—I just handed over a wad of dollar bills. Even that was blurred.

The walk-on zone hadn’t been cordoned off yet, but I was in such a panic spiral that I worried boarding was about to end. “Wait!” I called. “Wait for me!”

The ticket taker laughed. “Just in time.”

I flashed him a brief smile, then booked it up the ramp and onto the boat. If Wit wasn’t on this ferry, I would wait for my parents on the other end. Luli would tell them everything.

“No, Jeffrey, not yet,” a woman said as I weaved through cars. “I need to unbuckle your seat belt first!”

“You’re kidding me, Becca,” someone else said. “You forgot your charger at the house?”

I made it to the stairwell and tore up the steps. Top deck, I guessed. If he’s here, he’ll be on the top deck.

A fresh breeze swirled around me when I emerged, and the clouds had cleared so the sun could shine, Claire working her magic. It was warm against my back. A bunch of families filled the seats, and near the railing, children stretched to look through the big binoculars.

My stomach dropped.

There he was, tall and wiry with salt-stiff hair, wearing jeans with half-tied sneakers and a familiar light blue T-shirt that read #HURRAYSHESADUPRÉ on the back. The fabric billowed in the breeze,

and my eyes immediately welled up. I blinked the tears away, and even though I still didn’t know what to say, my feet moved forward.

As I crossed the deck, a little girl tugged on Wit’s shirt and pointed to the binoculars. She wanted a turn, and I watched him smile and step aside. He leaned against the railing and gazed out to sea. The ferry horn sounded.

I took a deep breath. And then I did it.

“Hey, Stephen!” I called, and two seconds later, I was right next to him. I grinned, took his hand, and said, “Tell me more about New Zealand.”

You'll Also Like