If you want to live where people are not afraid of mice, you must give up living in palaces.
A GIANT WIELDS a rusty saw. He gloats and hums as he works, slicing through my forehead and into the mind behind it.
I have less than four weeks to find out the truth.
Granddad calls me Mirren.
The twins are stealing sleeping pills and diamond earrings.
Mummy argued with the aunts over the Boston house.
Bess hates Cuddledown.
Carrie roams the island at night.
Will has bad dreams.
Gat is Heathcliff.
Gat thinks I do not know him.
And maybe he is right.
I take pills. Drink water. The room is dark.
Mummy stands in the doorway, watching me. I do not speak to her.
I am in bed for two days. Every now and then the sharp pain wanes to an ache. Then, if I am alone, I sit up and write on the cluster of notes above my bed. Questions more than answers.
The morning I feel better, Granddad comes over to Windemere early. He’s wearing white linen pants and a blue sport jacket. I am in shorts and a T-shirt, throwing balls for the dogs in the yard. Mummy is already up at New Clairmont.
“I’m heading to Edgartown,” Granddad says, scratching Bosh’s ears. “You want to come? If you don’t mind an old man’s company.”
“I don’t know,” I joke. “I’m so busy with these spit-covered tennis balls. Could be all day.”
“I’ll take you to the bookstore, Cady. Buy you presents like I used to.”
“How about fudge?”
Granddad laughs. “Sure, fudge.”
“Did Mummy put you up to this?”
“No.” He scratches his tufty white hair. “But Bess doesn’t want me driving the motorboat alone. She says I could get disoriented.”
“I’m not allowed to drive the motorboat, either.”
“I know,” he says, holding up the keys. “But Bess and Penny aren’t boss here. I am.”
We decide to eat breakfast in town. We want to get the boat away from the Beechwood dock before the aunts catch us.
EDGARTOWN IS A nautical, sweetie-pie village on Martha’s Vineyard. It takes twenty minutes to get there. It’s all white picket fences and white wooden homes with flowery yards. Shops sell tourist stuff, ice cream, pricey clothes, antique jewelry. Boats leave from the harbor for fishing trips and scenic cruises.
Granddad seems like his old self. He’s tossing money around. Treats me to espresso and croissants at a little bakery with stools by a window, then tries to buy me books at the Edgartown bookshop. When I refuse the gift, he shakes his head at my giveaway project but doesn’t lecture. Instead he asks for my help picking out presents for the littles and a floral design book for Ginny, the housekeeper. We place a big order at Murdick’s Fudge: chocolate, chocolate walnut, peanut butter, and penuche.
Browsing in one of the art galleries, we run into Granddad’s lawyer, a narrow, graying fellow named Richard Thatcher. “So this is Cadence the first,” says Thatcher, shaking my hand. “I’ve heard a great deal about you.”
“He does the estate,” says Granddad, by way of explanation.
“First grandchild,” says Thatcher. “There’s never anything to match that feeling.”
“She’s got a great head on her shoulders, too,” Granddad says. “Sinclair blood through and through.”
This speaking in stock phrases, he has always done it. “Never complain, never explain.” “Don’t take no for an answer.” But it grates when he’s using them about me. A good head on my shoulders? My actual head is fucking broken in countless medically diagnosed ways—and half of me comes from the unfaithful Eastman side of the family. I am not going to college next year; I’ve given up all the sports I used to do and clubs I used to be part of; I’m high on Percocet half the time and I’m not even nice to my little cousins.
Still, Granddad’s face is glowing as he talks about me, and at least today he knows I am not Mirren.
“She looks like you,” says Thatcher.
“Doesn’t she? Except she’s good-looking.”
“Thank you,” I say. “But if you want the full resemblance I have to tuft up my hair.”
This makes Granddad smile. “It’s from the boat,” he says to Thatcher. “Didn’t bring a hat.”
“It’s always tufty,” I tell Thatcher.
“I know,” he says.
The men shake hands and Granddad hooks his arm through mine as we leave the gallery. “He’s taken good care of you,” he tells me.
He nods. “But don’t tell your mother. She’ll stir up trouble again.”
ON THE WAY home, a memory comes.
Summer fifteen, a morning in early July. Granddad was making espresso in the Clairmont kitchen. I was eating jam and baguette toast at the table. It was just the two of us.
“I love that goose,” I said, pointing. A cream goose statue sat on the sideboard.
“It’s been there since you, Johnny, and Mirren were three,” said Granddad. “That’s the year Tipper and I took that trip to China.” He chuckled. “She bought a lot of art there. We had a guide, an art specialist.” He came over to the toaster and popped the piece of bread I had in there for myself.
“Hey!” I objected.
“Shush, I’m the granddad. I can take the toast when I want to.” He sat down with his espresso and spread butter on the baguette. “This art specialist girl took us to antiques shops and helped us navigate the auction houses,” he said. “She spoke four languages. You wouldn’t think to look at her. Little slip of a China girl.”
“Don’t say China girl. Hello?”
He ignored me. “Tipper bought jewelry and had the idea of buying animal sculptures for the houses here.”
“Does that include the toad in Cuddledown?”
“Sure, the ivory toad,” said Granddad. “And we bought two elephants, I know.”
“Those are in Windemere.”
“And monkeys in Red Gate. There were four monkeys.”
“Isn’t ivory illegal?” I asked.
“Oh, some places. But you can get it. Your gran loved ivory. She traveled to China when she was a child.”
“Is it elephant tusks?”
“That or rhino.”
There he was, Granddad. His white hair still thick, the lines on his face deep from all those days on the sailboat. His heavy jaw like an old film star.