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That Summer


She is fifteen years old that summer, a thoughtful, book-struck girl with long-lashed hazel eyes and a long-legged body that still doesn't completely feel like her own. She lives in a row house in South Boston with her parents and two sisters, and attends a private school in Cambridge, on a scholarship, where she gets mostly Bs, except for As in English and art. She dreams about falling in love.

One afternoon in May, her mom, who is a secretary for the English department at Boston University, comes home from work with news. One of the professors in her department has two little kids and a house on the Cape. This woman, Dr. Levy, is looking for a mother's helper for the summer, and thinks that Diana sounds perfect for the job.

Her father is against it. "She's too young to spend a whole summer away," he says. "She'll probably meet a pack of spoiled rich kids and come back with her nose in the air."

Together, Diana and her mother go to work on changing his mind. Her mother talks about Diana's college fund, her dreams of the future, how she'll get to spend every day with a real, live writer, and how the $1,500 that Dr. Levy's offered to pay will more than cover her expenses for the coming school year. Diana, meanwhile, reads every novel she can find that's set on the Cape, and de­ scribes for her father the pristine, golden beaches, sand dunes with cranberry bogs and poet's shacks hidden in their declivities. She conjures the taste of briny oysters and butter-drenched lobsters, fried clams eaten with salt water-pruned fingers, ice-cream cones devoured after a day in the sun. For Christmas she gives him a coffee-table book of photographs, holding her breath when he flips to the pictures of Provincetown, and the drag queens on Commercial Street, six and a half feet tall in their heels and more beautiful than most women, but her dad only shakes his head and chuckles, saying, You don't see that every day.

She doesn't tell either of her parents that what she is most looking forward to is what her sisters have told her about their own summer at the beach-how she'll be on her own for the first time in her life, free to enjoy the sun, and the beach bonfires, and the boys.

''And you're going to be in a mansion," Julia says, her freckled nose crinkling at the memory of the cottage in Hyannis where she'd stayed three years before, sharing a bedroom with the kids, and a bathroom with the kids and the parents, in a one-story house that had smelled like mold. "Truro," Kara sighs. "You're a lucky duck."For Christmas, Diana's sisters present her with a yel­low bikini. It's neither polka-dotted nor especially itsy-bitsy, but it's still enough to make her dad harrumph and her mom give a secretive, tucked-up kind of smile.

In the bathroom, Diana tries on the swimsuit, standing on the lip of the bathtub so that she'll be able to see as much of her body as possible in the mirror over the sink, turning from side to side as she sucks in her stomach and regrets the stretch marks that worm across her thighs. She is fifteen years old and has never been kissed, but she knows that a summer in Cape Cod-on the Cape, as people say-will change that.

When her parents finally tell her she can go, she's so happy that she throws her arms around them and says, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Her grandmother gives her a hundred dollars-"you'll need some new things"-and her mother takes Diana shopping. Together, they scour the clearance racks at Nordstrom and Filene's. Diana packs her Christmas bikini, plus a plain blue tank for actual swimming, a denim romper, and a sundress made of white eyelet cotton, with skinny straps that tie in bows on her shoul­ders. She brings worn copies of A Wrinkle in Time, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a collection of Stephen King short stories, and 1he Mists of Avalon, thinking that the familiar books will be a com­ fort, wondering if it will feel different to read them in a new place. The children are Sam and Sarah, four-year-old twins.

Mr. Weinberg, their father, is some kind of attorney. He'll spend his weeks in Boston, come up to the Cape on Friday afternoons, and leave Monday mornings. Dr. Veronica Levy-"call me Ronnie"-is a real-life novelist, with a doctorate in the Romantic British poets, the subject she teaches at BU. She's written three novels, and, ten years ago, one of them, the story of a woman leaving an unhappy marriage, was turned into a movie-not a hit, but they still show it sometimes on cable. "I still can't believe how well that book sold," Dr. Levy says as they cruise along Route 6, through the Eastham rotary and on toward Provincetown. The road narrows from two lanes into one, a dark ribbon twining its way toward the ends of the earth. "Lots of women out there who want happy endings. I was very lucky." Diana can't help gasp­ ing when they crunch up the shell-lined driveway and she sees the house, three stories of glass and silvery cedar. "It's an upside­ town house," Dr. Levy says, and tells her to go ahead and look around-"the kids can help me unload."

Diana steps inside, breathing the faintly musty scent of a house that's been closed for the winter. On the ground floor are two bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, and a powder room in between. The larger room, with framed finger paintings and ABC posters on the wall, is for the twins, and the room across the hall, with a queen-sized bed with a blue-and-green-striped comforter, is hers. Her bathroom (her bathroom!) has marble tile floors and a white-tiled shower, and the floors and the towel racks are heated. It's sparkling clean and looks barely used. As she ar­ranges her handful of toiletries on the counter, Diana can feel her cheeks starting to ache from smiling.

There are two more bedrooms on the second level, including the master suite, where the bed and the bathtub both have stun­ning views of the bay. The top floor is one enormous room, with a kitchen and dining room on one end and a sprawling living room on the other. Floor-to-ceiling windows surround the room, fill­ ing it with light, looking out over the sand and the water, making Diana feel like she's standing on the deck of a ship.There are slid­ ing doors with decks everywhere-decks off the kitchen, with a grill and a picnic table, decks off the second-floor bedrooms, and a half-moon deck off the living room. She's brought a camera, the family's Pentax, and she can't wait to ask Dr. Levy to take her picture, to show her sisters and her mom where she's living and how well it's all worked out.

"What do you think?" Dr. Levy calls from the kitchen.

"It's the most beautiful house I've ever seen in my life," she says, and Dr. Levy smiles, looking pleased and flustered.

"When I was about your age, my parents bought this tiny cottage on a dune, a few miles north. They'd rent it out for most of the summer, but every year we'd come and stay for two weeks, all six of us. Some of my happiest memories are in Truro. I always dreamed I'd buy a place here, and bring my kids for the summer." She hums to herself as she unpacks the groceries, smiling, look­ing younger, and happier, than she did when they left Boston that morning.

Diana quickly falls into the rhythm of the summer days. She's on the clock from eight a.m. to three o'clock in the afternoon, Monday through Friday. She sets an alarm for seven thirty so she'll have time to shower before helping the twins through their morning routines, making sure teeth are brushed and beds are made and breakfasts, which always include fresh fruit, are con­sumed. Three mornings a week, Dr. Levy drives them to Gull Pond, a freshwater pond at the end of a long, rutted dirt road in Wellfleet, the next town over. The pond, carved out of the earth by a glacier, has clear, fresh water with a white-sand bottom, and it's ringed by lushly leaved trees. A few docks protrude into the water. People paddle canoes or tack back and forth in sailboats. Little kids paddle in the shallow end, putting their faces in the water at their instructor's word, blowing bubbles. Teenagers sun themselves on the dock.

Dr. Levy stakes out a spot near one of the scrub pine trees and helps Diana get the twins ready for their lessons. Sam is skinny, and speaks with a lisp. He hates the feeling of sunscreen, and whines and tries to squirm away. His sister's more stoic, pa­tient while Diana dabs the thick white cream on her nose and her cheeks. "Stop being such a baby," she says to her brother, her hands on her hips.

Dr. Levy kicks off her flip-flops and leaves her cover-up hanging from a protruding branch. In her plain black one-piece suit, she wades out until she's waist-deep, then submerges her­ self, dunking her head, standing up with water streaming down her shoulders and back. Once she's taken the first plunge, she launches herself into the water and swims in a slow, steady free­ style, all the way across the pond and back again.

"What if you get to the middle and you're tired? Or you get a cramp?" Diana asks. Dr. Levy looks thoughtful, and then a little guilty.

"I really should use one of those personal flotation devices," she says, half to herself. Then, brightening, she says, "But I'm a pretty good swimmer. Honestly, the only thing to be afraid of are the snapping turtles. And once, I was right in the middle, and something brushed my leg. It was probably just a fish, or a water weed, but I screamed like I was in a horror movie."

Dr. Levy has the same stretch marks as Diana, plus more on her bosom. There are fine lines around her eyes and dark circles underneath them. She pulls her hair back in a scrunchie most days, and doesn't seem to notice, or mind, that it's frizzy. She has a nice smile and an easy laugh, and Mr. Weinberg still looks at her like she's beautiful. She's a good mother, too, calm and pa­tient, never yelling (although Diana thinks it's probably easy to be calm and patient when you've got someone to help you most of the day).

At Gull Pond, while the kids are at their lessons and Dr. Levy's paddling across the pond, Diana sits on the shore with the other nannies and au pairs and mothers' helpers. Alicia, who's got short, feathered brown hair and wide-set brown eyes, a curvy figure and golden-brown skin, is with the Dexters. The previous summer, Mrs. Dexter and the three Dexter kids, plus Alicia, had a place in Nantucket. "Ugh, don't get me started about Nantucket," Alicia says, using her fingers to comb her hair back from her face. "Everyone's white and everyone's thin. Like, I don't even think they let fat people off the ferry. They just make you get back on and go back where you came from. I felt hideous!" she says, and the other girls hurry to reassure her that she's not fat. Maeve, who's Irish, tall and pale and freckled, with red hair and knobby knees, takes care of the Donegans' new baby. The previous summer , Maeve worked at Moby Dick's on Route 6, living in a dorm with thirty other Irish girls employed by the restaurants and hotels on the Outer Cape. Maeve still knows the Moby Dick's crew, so she tells the other girls about all of their parties and beach bonfires, and makes sure they know they have an open invitation.

Marie-Francoise is the Driscolls' au pair, and Kelly works for the Lathrops, who live in a mansion on the same dune as D r. Levy. Kelly helps clean, and watches the Lathrop grandchildren when the grandchildren are in residence.

Most days, Diana and Dr. Levy and the kids spend the late mornings and early afternoons by the water, either at the pond or at Corn Hill Beach with its wide stretch of sand and its gen­tle, lapping waves. Dr. Levy twists an umbrella into the stand, rocking it from side to side to make sure it won't blow over, and Diana plasters the twins with more sunscreen, then gives her own shoulders and back a more modest coating from the bottle of Coppertone she keeps in her tote. Dr. Levy dons a gigantic red-and-white sun hat and sits in a folding canvas chair with an extra-large iced tea and a novel or a People magazine (sometimes, Diana notes with amusement, she'll have the People folded up in­ side of the novel). On Fridays, Mr. Weinberg meets them, bring­ ing them a late lunch of sandwiches from Jams, the convenience store in the center of town, or fried oysters and French fries from PJ's in Wellfleet. "Oh, I shouldn't," Dr. Levy says, helping herself to his fries as the kids come out of the water.

"Feed me like a baby bird!" Sam says.

"Feed me like an animal in a zoo!" says Sarah.

Laughing, Diana gives them chunks of icy watermelon or bites of string cheese or pepperoni, dropping the food from her fingers into their eager mouths. Sometimes, after lunch, the Lewis Brothers ice-cream truck shows up. The driver, a young bearded man with an easy smile, emerges from the olive-green truck and blows a single note on a plastic horn, and the kids, screaming with delight, run out of the water to ask their parents for money. Dr. Levy always obliges. "Don't tell Daddy," she says, digging her wallet out of the tote bag and handing Diana a twenty. "If they've got that mint cookie, can you get me a tiny little scoop in a cup?"

By two o'clock, the kids are tired. Diana and Dr. Levy gather up the blankets and towels, the plastic shovels and the pails full of scallop shells and jingle shells. Diana herds the kids into the outdoor shower, using the handheld attachment to spray their swimsuits and their bodies, making them raise their arms over their heads, then bend and touch their toes so she can rinse away every grain of sand.

After showers comes siesta. Diana gets the kids dressed again and puts them down for a nap. Usually they fall asleep immedi­ately, stuporous from their exertions and the sun. Then she's on her own. "Enjoy!" Dr. Levy says, from her spot on the couch, or behind the kitchen counter. "We'll see you at dinner."

Sometimes she takes a book from the crammed shelves in the living room. Each one, when opened, exudes the smell of sea salt and paper and damp. Sometimes she sits on the deck over­ looking the bay and writes in her journal, describing the pond or the bay or the beach, the color of the sky at sunset or the sound of Maeve's accent. Sometimes she paints-she's brought a little watercolor kit, and a pad of artist's paper, and she's attempted several sunsets and seascapes.

But most days, she puts on her bikini, rubs more sunscreen onto her shoulders, and goes down the six flights of stairs to the beach. For the first two weeks, she strolls back to Corn Hill Beach, where she spreads out a towel and sits in the sun, listen­ ing to the cheerful din of kids and parents, the music from a half-dozen portable radios, the sound of instructions, sometimes patient, sometimes exasperated, as a dad tries to teach his kids how to sail a Sunfish or fly a kite. Sometimes one of her nanny friends will be there, and they'll trade bits of gossip about their families. Diana hears all about it when Marie-Francoise almost gets fired after Mrs. Driscoll found a boy in her bedroom, and when, on a Saturday night in P-town, Kelly spots Mr. Lathrop through the window of the Squealing Pig with a woman who is not Mrs. Lathrop on his lap.

"What are you going to do?"

Diana asks, wide-eyed, and Kelly says, "He gave me forty dollars to forget I saw anything." She shrugs and says, "Turns out, I have a terrible memory."

One afternoon, Diana rides her bike all the way to Provincetown, almost ten miles along the road that hugs the coastline. She passes the Flower Cottages, which are trim and white with green shutters, each one named for a different flower, the two motels, and the cottage colonies that straddle the line between Truro and Provincetown. When she's in town, she locks her bike at the library and walks along Commercial Street. She tries not to gawk at the drag queens, and slips into a store that sells vibra­tors and lubricants and leather harnesses, flavored condoms, and other things, glass dildos and cock rings and anal beads in locked glass cases. She leans over, her breath misting the glass, trying to figure out how each item works, which part goes where, and to what effect. No boy has ever touched her, and at home, with her sister sleeping less than three feet away, she's too nervous to touch herself.

But now, she's got a bedroom to herself, a bedroom with a lock on the door, and her shower has a nozzle that she can slip off its post and hold between her legs, adjusting the flow and the pressure until she's gasping and quivering, limp-limbed and flushed against the tiles, and the water's gone from hot to warm to cold. Having a wonderful summer, she writes, in the postcards she sends home. Really enjoying myself!

One afternoon, she decides to try to get a look at the Lath­rop mansion from the water, so she descends the stairs and starts walking in the opposite direction, toward Great Hollow Beach. She's wearing her Christmas bikini, with a fine gold chain around her right ankle and her hair spilling loose against her shoulders. The sunshine warms her skin as she splashes through the shal­lows, and a school of minnows goes darting past, the fish flashing like shadows over her feet.

Kelly and Maeve have both told her about Great Hollow Beach. The Irish and English kids who work at the restaurants come there when they're off-shift, along with teenagers on vaca­tion. There's a volleyball net, set up on the sand, and boom boxes blaring competing radio stations, and usually beer, and some­ times pot.

"Over here!" Diana peers along the beach until she sees Maeve's waving hand. Maeve is wearing a green maillot, cut way up on her thighs, and her red hair is in a French braid with ten­drils that brush her cheeks. She introduces the boys that she's with: Fitz and Tubbs and Stamper and Poe. ''Are those your real names?" Diana asks, and the boys all start laughing.

"We're the men of the Emlen Academy," one of them­ - Poe? - tells her.

"Ignore them," says Maeve, in her Irish accent. "They're arse-holes." She hands Diana a beer, and Diana sips it as one of the boys snaps open a beach towel, letting it unfurl and float down onto the sand. He's wearing blue board shorts and a Red Sox cap over dark, curly hair. His blue T-shirt says EMLEN across the chest. His teeth are straight and very white. There's a patch of hair on his chest and a trail leading down toward his waistband. Diana lifts her eyes to find the boy watching her. She blushes, but he just grins.

"Want to sit?"

She hopes she looks graceful as she eases herself down, feel­ing his scrutiny, wishing that she'd worn lipstick, or at least a little mascara. Ever since she came to the Cape, she hasn't put anything but sunscreen on her face. But her skin is tanned golden-brown and her hair is as glossy as a chestnut shell. Instead of flinching from his attention, she sits up straighter, and toys with one of her bikini's straps.

"Tell me everything about you," he says.

She laughs, even though she isn't exactly sure if he meant to be funny. "Which one are you again?"

"I'm Poe," he says. "Where are you from?"

She tells him that she's from Boston, that she is working as a mother's helper. He says that he just graduated from this Emlen Academy, and that he and a bunch of his classmates have rented two of the Flower Cottages that line the curve of Beach Road, so that they can be together for one last summer, before they all go off to college.

Diana knows, from friends, and from novels, that she is sup­ posed to listen to him, to flatter, to ask him questions and keep him talking. But this guy, Poe, wants to know about her. Does she like living in a city? ("It's noisy," she says, and tells him that she can't get over how quiet it is here at night, how brightly the stars shine against the black of the sky.) What grade is she in? (Tenth, she says, and hopes he'll think that she just finished tenth grade, when, really, it's the grade she will start in September.) What's her favorite subject? (English, of course.) What does she want to do after high school?

"I'll go to college," she says. "Maybe Smith or Mount Holy­oke." She'll need a scholarship to attend either one, but Dr. Levy, who went to Smith, tells her it's more than possible, and that she'd be happy to help Diana with her essays when the time comes.

''And how about after that?" asks Poe.

"I think I'd like to be a teacher." This sounds more realistic and less arrogant than telling him she wants to be an artist or a writer. "I like kids."

"I believe the children are our future," he tells her, deadpan, and smiles when she laughs. They've both worked their feet into the sand while they've been talking. As she watches, he scoops up a handful of fine sand and lets it spill slowly from his hand onto her ankle. She stares at the trickling grains. Poe isn't even touch­ ing her, but still, this feels like the most intimate thing a boy has ever done to her. For a minute, she's sure she's forgotten how to breathe.

When the last of the sand has fallen, he turns, squinting up at the sun. "I should get going."

"Yeah, me too."

"Well, it was nice meeting you."

"Nice meeting you, too." She's dying inside, her insides curl­ ing in on themselves like a salted slug at the thought that this is the end, when he says, casually, "Maybe I'll see you here tomor­row?"

She nods. "Tomorrow," she says. She can still feel her ankle tingling. Paddling back, she feels shiny, and beautiful, tall and strong as the breeze blows her hair and sunshine warms her shoulders, and she falls asleep picturing his face.


Every afternoon for the next week, she and Poe meet at Great Hollow Beach. ''Ahoy!" he calls when he sees her walking toward him, and she feels her heart rising in her chest, fluttering like a bird. One day he asks if she's thirsty, and passes her a water bottle that says EMLEN on the side when she nods. She puts her lips on the bottle, right where his had been, one step away from kiss­ ing, and she can feel his eyes on her mouth and her throat as she swallows.

Most of their talk is banter, teasing and big-brother-y. He asks if she's ever had a boyfriend (no), or if she's learning how to drive (not yet). When she asks him, after taking a day and a half to work up the courage, if he's dating anyone, he tells her that he'd dated the same girl for the winter and spring of his senior year, but that they'd agreed to break up after prom, so that neither of them would be tied down when they went off to college.

"Do you miss her?" she asks. He's piling sand on her again, handful after handful, until her feet are just vague lumps at the end of her legs.

"Sure," he says. Then he looks at her, right into her eyes. "But I can't say I'm sorry to be single right now."

Diana knows she isn't beautiful, not like Marie-Francoise, with her high cheekbones and her gray-blue eyes, not like Tess Finnegan at Boston Latin, who has a perfect hourglass figure and dark-brown hair that falls in ringlets to the small of her back. But her skin is tanned and her hair is shiny, and, when Poe looks at her, she feels radiant, like a sun-warmed berry, with her thin skin pulled taut over the sweet, juicy pulp of her insides.

Sometimes, she'll realize that she doesn't know very much about Poe. She knows that he is handsome and likes to play pranks, and that the other Emlen boys look to him as their leader. She knows, or can intuit, that he comes from money. He wears leather dock shoes, Brooks Brothers shirts, and Lacoste swim trunks, and, when she's close, he smells like good cologne.

She doesn't know what he does at night, when she's back at the house, reading or watching Masterpiece 1heater and eating ice cream out of a mug. Maybe he's at parties, or at the bars in Provincetown; maybe he's meeting other girls, older ones. She wonders if he thinks about her, if he sees her as a little sister, or as a potential girlfriend, and what will happen as the summer draws to a close.

He occupies her thoughts every minute they're not together. She thinks of him when she's locked her bedroom door, when she's directing the flow of water between her legs, or using her fingertips to touch herself, gently, then more urgently, until she's gasping and trembling. The boys at home all seem like children, like outlines of the people they'll eventually become. Poe is a fin­ished portrait, filled in and vivid, every detail complete. In bed at night, she pictures the way his shoulders pull the fabric of his shirt taut, the dusting of hair on his forearms and the pale hol­lows behind his knees. She thinks about how it would feel if he were to pull her close, until her head rested on his chest; how it would feel for him to kiss her, how his lips would be firm and warm and knowing, how his touch would be possessive and sure. I love you, she imagines him whispering, and her stomach flutters and her toes curl, and she falls asleep with a smile on her face.

Too soon, it's the last week of August. In four days, Poe will be going home, to pack up and start college orientation at Dart­ mouth. On Friday, she and Poe are sitting on his towels at the beach when he sits up straight and whispers, "Look! It's the nud­ ists!" She peers across the sand to where he's pointed and sees an elderly man and woman, in matching white robes, holding hands as they make their way slowly around the curved lip of the beach. "Oh my goodness," she says. Poe has told her about them­

an elderly husband and wife who walk to a deserted inlet and lie naked in the sand-but she's never seen them before.

"They're cute," she says. "They look like matching wallets."

Poe looks at her admiringly. "Good one," he says, and she flushes with pleasure. She hopes he'll bury her feet again, but just then one of the other boys comes trotting across the sand with a volleyball in his hand.

"Hey, lovebirds, wanna play?"

Lovebirds. Diana feels her face get hot, and she ducks to hide her smile.

"What do you think?" Poe asks.

"Sure," she says, and lets him pull her to her feet.

Her gym class did a unit on volleyball the previous year. Over nine weeks, Diana barely managed to get her hands on the ball, but that afternoon, she is unstoppable. They play three games, and win all three. Twice, she sets the ball, and Poe spikes it, sending it rocketing over the net and into the sand. The first time, he high­ fives her, but the second time he grabs her in a bear hug, lifting her up, holding her so that they're skin to skin, chest to chest. She thinks that he's going to kiss her, and that it will be perfect, an absolutely perfect first kiss at the end of the day at the very end of summer, but instead he sets her back, gently, on her feet.

When the game is over, he touches her hand and says, "Hey. A bunch of us are getting together tomorrow night.The last bon­ fire of the year before we all go off to college. Can you come?''

She nods. She has been waiting for this, waiting for him, since the day her sister gave her the yellow bikini; since the first day of that summer, since, maybe, the day she was born.


What to wear, what to wear? Diana's antsy and distracted all day, desperate for the hours to pass. After the beach, she takes an extra-long time in the outdoor shower, shaving her legs and under her arms and at the crease of her thighs, then rubbing oil into the bare skin. Alone in her room, she towel-dries her hair and works mousse through it, from the roots to the ends, then lets it air-dry, touching the curls anxiously, hoping they'll look right, that she'll look right.

At dinner, which is Dr. Levy's famous lobster Cobb salad, she casually says, "Some of the kids I've met are having a bonfire on the beach tonight. Is it okay if I go?"

Dr. Levy and her husband exchange a look across the table. "What would your parents say?" Mr. Weinberg finally asks. "Do you think they'd be okay with it?"

Diana knows the answer is that her parents would probably not be okay. Like her sisters, she won't be allowed to date until she's sixteen, and she knows what they'd have to say about a party with older boys and drinking. She puts on a thoughtful expres­sion and says, "I think they'd tell me to be careful, and not to drink anything, and to be home by midnight."

"That sounds sensible." Dr. Levy gives her a look. "You have to promise, though. I see your mother every day and she'd kill me if anything happens to you on my watch."

Diana nods, her head bobbing up and down eagerly. In her imagination, she's picturing Poe, the line of his back, the way his face lights up when he sees her. She's remembering how it felt to have his arms around her, his whole body pressed against hers, her skin on his skin.

In her bathroom, she swishes mouthwash over her tongue

and teeth, brushes her teeth, flosses and rinses again, and looks at herself in the mirror. Her eyes are bright; her cheeks are flushed. The narrow straps of her white sundress set off the gleaming golden-brown crescents of her shoulders.

Good enough, she thinks, and eases open the sliding door and steps out into the night. She takes the steps two at a time, and once she's on the beach she races, fleet-footed, over the sand, toward the glow of the fire, the smell of smoke, the sound of music and raised voices.

Poe is waiting by the bonfire for her, in khaki shorts and a Ballston Beach tee. She feels suddenly awkward, like her legs have gotten too long, and she doesn't know what to do with her hands, but then he puts his arm around her shoulders and pulls her against him, and she feels herself relax. He smells like fabric softener and whiskey, and she can see a tiny dab of shaving cream on his earlobe that he's neglected to wipe off.

"Come on," he says. She follows him to the fire, sits down beside him, and lets him pull himself against her so that her head is leaning on his shoulder. He takes one of her curls between his fingers, pulling it straight, letting it boing back into place before he tucks it behind her ear, and rubs his thumb against her cheek. Her eyes :flutter shut. She thinks she might faint, or swoon with the pleasure of it. His voice is a low rumble that she seems to feel more than hear.

"You know what I thought, the first time I saw you, on the beach?"

She shakes her head.

"I thought you looked like summer. Like, if I was going to paint a picture and call it Summer, it would look like you." He gives an embarrassed laugh. "That probably sounded stupid."

"No!" She opens her eyes and looks at him. "It's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me. It's perfect." You're perfect.

Smiling, he takes a red plastic Solo cup from somewhere and wraps her hand around it. "Bottoms up." The moon is full and shining, and the stars are brilliant pinpoints in the sky, and she can hear the wind, the churn of the waves, the heave and toss of the dark water, the endlessness of it. As she raises the cup to her lips, she thinks, I will never be happier than I am, right now, in this moment. She thinks, This is the best night of my life.

That Summer
by by Jennifer Weiner

  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press
  • ISBN-10: 1501133551
  • ISBN-13: 9781501133558