Authors: Janet Tashjian
We spend several days with Grandma, watching her bowl, meeting her friends, and eating more desserts than even I thought was humanly possible. Matt almost succeeded in talking his parents into meeting us at Grandma's for an afternoon before they fly to L.A., but his father had to get back for a meeting. Matt and I talk on the phone and can't believe we're both in Massachusetts but have to wait till we're back home to hang out again.
When we leave, Grandma hugs me so hard I'm afraid my spine will break in half. Mom tries again to talk her into coming with us, but Grandma is committed to her tournament and says she'll be out to see us for Thanksgiving. As we drive to the ferry, I can tell Mom already misses her.
My father is excited the ferry has wireless Internet, so he settles into a booth with a cup of coffee and his laptop. Mom and I stroll the deck with Bodi, who stops to sniff the butt of every other dog heading to Vineyard Haven. We check out passengers as they walk byâa six-foot-tall guy in a Patriots jersey who's carrying his wife's floral suitcase, a woman feeding fried clams to a toddler wearing a Cape Cod T-shirt. When the guy next to us makes a loud business call on his cell, Mom makes a gun with her index finger and thumb and pretends to shoot it out of his hand. I love it when Mom's in vacation mode.
Her mood changes, however, when we drive off the ferry. We're behind a large SUV loaded with four bikes and two kayaks, and I realize people come here for reasons other than exploring their past. Mom must be thinking the same thing; she and Dad haven't been to the Vineyard since that fateful trip ten years ago. She seems less animated and fun when she gives my father directions to the pet-friendly bed-and-breakfast she found online.
I eye the four-poster bed, but my parents shoot me looks that say,
Don't even think about jumping on that.
I beg them to open up the pullout couch so I can see where I'm going to sleep, but Mom wants to explore the island and Dad wants to get some lunch. We leave Bodi in the room with a rawhide bone and walk to town.
The three of us browse through bookstores, my parents' favorite thing to do on vacation. I go to the back of the store and hide behind one of the shelves. I know I'm too old for picture booksâOBVIOUSLY!âbut I can't help paging through them. When my mother heads toward me, I toss the book back and grab the nearest chapter book.
“Would you like that one?” Her voice is filled with so much hope, I almost say yes.
I answer no but tell her there's a fudge shop next door. I'm finally rewarded for my patience with a marshmallow-crispy-rice-almond-coconut fudge square.
We go back to the bed-and-breakfast to get Bodi before we go exploring. As we drive from one town to the next, I don't feel as if we're on an island. It's more like rolling farms, old stone walls, and lots of scrubby trees. Nothing here reminds me of California. The public beach is lined with cars with license plates from all over the country, but my mother knows a secret beach, so we wave good-bye to the crowds and head farther south.
When I see a large barn with the sign
, I realize this is where Lauren Hutchins sells her jewelry.
“STOP!” I scream.
My father skids to a halt and tells me I almost gave him a heart attack. I point to the wooden sign. “I thought it said
HOMEMADE ICE CREAM
Dad shakes his head sadly. “I'm not sure Learning Camp has even dented your reading issues.”
“Might as well take a look while we're here.” Mom grabs her purse and crosses the street.
As excited as I am, I'm also anxious. Suppose Lauren Hutchins isn't here today? Even worse, suppose she
here, recognizes me as the kid who killed her best friend, and becomes a raging lunatic? Worse than
happens and I've spent my summer obsessed with something that doesn't have any meaning at all.
As we walk toward the large barn, I wish I were doing anything elseâeven reading. I slip the leash on Bodi and bring him along for good luck.
As Dad checks out leatherbound notebooks, Mom tries on handmade fleece jackets. I quietly make my way from booth to booth until I see Hutchins Designs. I pull Bodi behind a tall CD rack made of twigs and check out Lauren Hutchins. Her long brown hair is in dreadlocks, tied back with a large woven scarf. She wears yoga pants and a tie-dyed hoodie. Her earrings are made with feathers and tiny silver beads; several variations of the same design fill the display case beside her. Before I can assess the situation, she spots Bodi.
“Come here, fella. Come on.” She bends down and gestures to Bodi, who immediately goes to her. When I stop hating girls and start wanting to date themâtwenty or thirty years from nowâI'm definitely taking lessons from Bodi. My dog makes out with more pretty girls than any hunky doctor on TV.
“What's his name?” Lauren asks.
She continues to scratch his head and eventually looks up at me. “You here to buy a present for your girlfriend?”
Her ridiculous comment makes me even more nervous than I already am. I tell her no and pretend to look at the jewelry. I pick up a leather necklace with shells and a few feathers.
“Feathers are good luck, did you know that? Birds were considered messengers from the gods.”
For the life of me, I can't spit out one word that makes sense. When she points to my T-shirt and asks if I skateboard, all I can do is nod yes. To make matters worse, my father strolls over, quietly checking out Lauren's work as if he's some kind of jewelry expert.
I want to say.
This is hard enough without you here
. To complicate things, my mother comes by too.
“Did you and Bodi find a new friend?” My mother smiles at Lauren as she checks out her wares.
I want to cover myself in one of the woven blankets in the next stall and hide until our vacation is over. Lauren looks at each of us with an expression of friendly confusion, as if she's trying to figure out who we are and why we're there.
I read your guestbook entry,
I want to say.
We were both there when Susan James died.
My scheme to tie up this summer mystery now seems like a giant mistake. When my parents move to the pottery display down the aisle, I follow along behind them. I glance over to see Lauren Hutchins one more time, but she's helping an elderly woman try on a bracelet and doesn't look up.
Back in the car, my father makes my mother feel the soft leather cover of the new sketchbooks he bought for both of us. I sit in the backseat and fume about how I just blew my big chance with Lauren. I gather all the strength I have and tell my parents a straight-out lie.
“I left my book inside,” I say.
“You took it in with you?” my mother asks.
“Yes, and I left it on one of the tables. I'll be right back.” I jump out of the car and hope for one last chance at hearing Lauren's story firsthand.