Authors: Anna Davies
Miranda smiled, embarrassed for her relationship to be on display. Besides, it wasn’t
accurate. Sure, she liked Fletch a lot. Maybe she even loved him, a bit. She adored his sense of humor, the way he didn’t take himself too seriously, the way he’d always agree to split an enormous plate of disco fries at the Sand Witch Diner with her, even though she ended up eating most of them.
But was he the love of her life? She glanced dubiously at the water, where Fletcher was holding the Frisbee aloft over his head like a trophy. As soon as he spotted her staring at him, his face broke into a smile and he bounded over, throwing his wet arms around her shoulders and dripping onto her.
“Hey!” Miranda squealed as he leaned down and planted a kiss on the top of her dark hair. “Stop it!”
At that, Fletcher hugged her again. “Maybe I will. What will
you give me if I stop?” He asked, wiggling his eyebrows manically.
Miranda grinned despite herself. Despite his showdog-like name (full name: Fletcher Adamson King, the third) he was pure Whym royalty: A sixth-generation resident whose family owned half the island and whose dad was the former mayor. Fletch was also undeniably hot: At six feet with shaggy brown hair and a muscular swimmer’s build, he was the type of guy who’d cause women at the Harris Teeter supermarket to poke each other and giggle as he walked by. But something else also drew people to him. It was his attitude, how he was so comfortable in his own skin, and never seemed to be at a loss for things to say. His confidence was sometimes overwhelming to Miranda, who couldn’t quite understand why Fletch had chosen her instead of someone like Gray or Lydia—born and bred South Carolina girls who’d no doubt be spending evenings ten years from now at dinner parties with each other, swapping tricks for how to get their kids to sleep through the night. While on the surface, Miranda—with her tall, athletic frame, long brown hair, wideset green eyes, and walk-in closet full of pastel tanks, cashmere cardigans, and Lilly Pulitzer sundresses—looked every inch an island girl, she wasn’t one of them.
Mostly, it was her legacy. She knew her parents’ death had cast an aura of tragedy around her. She knew that her friends’ parents privately and not-so-privately wondered about her well-being. After all, they knew that although Eleanor was
graceful and impeccably polite, she wasn’t warm and nurturing. They knew Miranda’s own mother had had a wild streak. And Miranda was almost positive that Fletch’s mother would have preferred if he’d begun dating Lydia or Gray, girls who didn’t have so much baggage. And sometimes, like now, when she forced herself to switch into full-on flirt mode because she knew it made Fletch happy, she wondered if it wouldn’t have been easier for him if he’d never fallen for her.
“Well, a kiss is all you’re going to get. Take it or leave it,” she said as she allowed her lips to graze his. Miranda wrapped her arms around him, inhaling his familiar sunblock-and-Old Spice scent.
Then she pulled away and turned toward Genevieve. “What were you saying?” she asked, not wanting Genevieve to think she was ignoring her.
“Never mind, just keep on making out with your boyfriend. I was just talking about your future, but it seems you guys are set for life,” Gen said, rolling her eyes.
“Are we?” Fletcher asked, perching on the driftwood next to Miranda. His bare leg touched hers, sending another shiver up her spine. She edged closer to the fire.
“I drew the lovers’ card for Miranda. It’s obviously you, no?” Gen shrugged. “Y’all’re about to be Alexa and Jeremiah,” she said, knowingly jutting her chin over to the water’s edge, where Jeremiah and Alexa were standing. Jeremiah’s fingers were snaking under Alexa’s pink-striped bikini strap, and both
were oblivious to anyone around them. They’d been dating for five years, and still acted like they couldn’t get enough of each other, even going so far as to full-on suck face before Chapel at Calhoun. Miranda and Genevieve both agreed it was gross.
“Please,” Miranda rolled her eyes. She had no doubt Alexa and Jeremiah would get married in the next few years. That was the way it was with island kids—if they found each other early, they felt no reason to wait or explore other options. And that was her whole problem with Fletch. Even if she did love him, a bit, was that the same as wanting to be with him
“Aw, that’s so cute for y’all,” Gray cooed. Miranda stiffened. Even though she knew Gray would never
do anything, she still didn’t make it a secret that she’d always liked Fletch, and that she didn’t quite understand what Fletch saw in Miranda. One time, right after they started dating, Gray had mentioned to Miranda that she was a prime example of the
factor in a relationship.
“It?” Miranda had asked, thoroughly confused. It had been one of the first days of summer, and Gray had been lying on the beach, surrounded by magazines.
,” Gray clarified. “Apparently, guys like girls who are pretty-ish, smart-ish, athletic-ish . . . like, they’re the whole package, but they don’t especially stand out. Like you!” She smiled encouragingly, as if to disguise her critique as a compliment.
“Thanks,” Miranda had said, smiling tightly. Gray may have
thought that she was passive-aggressively insulting her, but it wasn’t anything that Miranda hadn’t known herself. She was
And she liked it. It was better than standing out.
“What’s so wrong with being lovers?” Fletch demanded as he leaned toward Miranda and kissed her hard.
“Fletch!” She murmured, pushing away on his strong chest. “We’re in public.”
“You know that talk turns me on,” Fletch joked. Miranda blushed.
reading, Gen. I want to know what your future is, even though I’m sure it’s full of scandal. Just the way you like it,” she said, leaning over and feigning extreme interest in the cards. She didn’t want to talk about whether or not they were
in front of all their friends. “And Fletch, remember, gentlemen don’t kiss and tell.”
“Who said I was a gentleman?” Fletch asked, but obediently walked over to the cooler.
“Okay, ready?” Genevieve asked, pleased that all the attention was back on her. She shuffled the cards and laid them out facedown in a cross pattern, before flipping over the center card.
Miranda gasped. Gazing up at them was the same smiling, dancing skeleton Gen had drawn for Lydia.
“Weird,” Genevieve frowned. “Usually people don’t get the same thing. But I guess it’s because we’re all heading into senior year, so it makes sense. We’re all changing, no?”
“This game is stupid,” Gray said, wrinkling her nose. “Let’s do something else. Ladies?” She stood up and brushed off the back of her white linen shorts as she walked over to the alcohol-stocked cooler that Alan had brought along.
the skeleton doesn’t mean death? Because it kinda looks that way from here.” Lydia yanked the card from Genevieve’s hand and squinted at it.
“Yeah, it’s just symbolism. Not everything needs to be literal. It just means change,” Genevieve said testily. But she scooped up the cards and threw them in her bag.
Miranda shivered again. It was only getting colder and later. And even if Coach Devlin said her performance tomorrow didn’t matter since it was so early in the season, she wanted to be at the top of her game.
As she was about to tell everyone to head home, Fletcher loped up to her, a beer bottle in one hand, keys in the other.
“Hey,” Miranda said suspiciously, eyeing his hand.
“It’s a great night. Let’s take
out for a spin.”
Miranda shook her head, annoyed.
was the meticulously kept twenty-five-foot bowrider she’d gotten for her sixteenth birthday. She hadn’t even wanted it, but her grandmother had insisted. Miranda later realized it was more for Eleanor than for her; a way to prove that even though she didn’t know how to connect to Miranda, she did care about her. Unlike the other island kids, though, who were more likely to drive their boat than their car, Miranda barely used hers, and
she’d certainly never brought so many people on board. Would they even fit?
“I don’t know,” Miranda hedged. “Isn’t it kind of thundering?” Miranda cocked her head. She thought she could hear rumbling in the distance, but that sound could well be a far-off boat, or fireworks on the mainland.
“It’s the sea witch,” Alan hiccupped.
“Stop,” Darcy said nervously, glancing around. Miranda followed her gaze, but of course, there was nothing except the crackling of the fire and the lapping of waves on the shore. Whym Islanders took legends seriously, especially the one about the sea witch. According to the stories, her name was Sephie, and legend had it that you were never supposed to say her name on board a ship, in case you invoked her wrath, a sort of nautical superstition in the same vein as the one that actors were never supposed to say “
” in a theater, in case they invoked the curse of the play.
Sephie could whip up storms in an instant, cause a low tide to rush inward, or make ships collide with each other. Every accident that had ever occurred on Whym, including the carwreck that claimed Miranda’s parents, was blamed on her. Before her parent’s accident, Eleanor would tell Miranda the sea witch would come get her if she didn’t finish her dinner, or if she made a fuss during her bath. When she was little, Miranda had always been slightly frightened of the sea witch. And when her parents died, of course she thought the sea witch
was responsible. But then she grew up and faced the reality that sometimes bad things happen for no good reason and no one is responsible. It was something the rest of the islanders needed to learn.
“What? I want to see the witch. Sephie!” Alan drunkenly called, stumbling down the beach.
!” Darcy said, even more firmly.
“Let’s go. Alan, if I were you, I’d be more afraid of Darcy in bitch mode than the sea witch,” Gen said. “Besides, the sooner we get on the boat, the sooner we can leave Miranda alone so you can get your beauty sleep before your soccer tournament. Or—” Genevieve grinned wickedly “—have Fletch warm you up.”
“Shut up!” Miranda thwacked Genevieve’s arm and glanced at her friends’ faces. Genevieve had a point. Obviously, not about the Fletch part, but if she brought them on the boat, she could do a spin around the island in less than half an hour, and she could even drop off Genevieve and Gray at the dock by Witch’s Knee, on the other side of the island. She hadn’t been drinking, but they had, and were in no shape to drive home. Besides, there were about two minutes in between rumbles of thunder, which meant the storm was miles away.
“Let’s go,” Miranda added, snatching the keys out of Fletch’s hand. “I’m driving,” she added.
“Thanks, Mom!” Fletch teased.
“Shut up! If you’re not careful, I’ll throw you overboard so
the sea witch will eat you,” Miranda joked halfheartedly. She loved her friends, but they could be exhausting. She’d drop everyone off, she’d make out with Fletch on deck, and then she’d get back home in plenty of time to sleep before the game.
Miranda grabbed Fletch’s hand, walked up the wobbly dock, and stepped on to the shaky deck of
It was the first time she’d been on it all summer. Between epic hangouts right on the beach and driving over to the ferry to get to the mainland, it didn’t make sense. Now, she felt a tug of regret that she didn’t use the boat more often, especially when it was right there.
Alan, Darcy, Gray, Gen, Lydia, Alexa, and Jeremiah tumbled in behind her. Jeremiah’s guitar was slung over his shoulder, and Alexa was carrying the cooler in one hand as she sipped from a beer can in the other. They all squeezed on the polished oak benches flanking the two sides of the boat as Miranda slipped behind the wheel and turned on the navigation system. Fletch slid into the seat beside her and squeezed her knee.
This little lady can drive herself,
as her grandmother’s driver Roger had said during her first lesson. It was true. All you needed to do was enter your coordinates on the console, then steer if the water became too choppy or if you discovered an obstacle in your path. It was easy.
Miranda turned the wheel and pulled away from the dock, relaxing as she did so. She always felt at home on the water—felt like everything, even Fletcher, made a little more sense to
her than on land. It made her feel closer to her parents. Even though her parents’ car had ended up in the ocean the night of the accident, she didn’t think of the water as an enemy. Instead, the wild, untamed waves reminded her of her mother, while the almost-still times in between tides reminded her of her father. She felt like they were
somewhere, just ever so slightly out of reach.
“Hate to break up the love fest,” Genevieve said, glancing at Fletch as the boat jolted onto the waves. She was tipsy, Miranda could tell, and when Genevieve got drunk, she often got depressed. And her creepy tarot cards couldn’t have helped her mood. Miranda felt her heart go out to her friend.
“Nah, the more the merrier,” Fletch said, leaning back and putting his Sperry topsider-clad feet on top of the dashboard. “Just enjoying the night with my favorite ladies.”