Home > The Summer That Made Us(14)

The Summer That Made Us(14)
Author: Robyn Carr

Krista reached out and patted Charley’s knee. “And I have two—and haven’t heard a word from one of them in years. Years. I get a holiday card every year from Bev. I think Ma makes her do that. I always heard from Meggie, though. Isn’t she the best one of all of us?”

Charley stared down into her coffee cup. Meg was going to be here in a few days. She hadn’t done all this just to spend the summer crying because her sister was probably dying. But yes, she thought. Megan was the best one of them all.

“How does it feel to you to be back here?” Krista asked her.

“Surprisingly positive. Or maybe it hasn’t really hit me yet. If it had, surely I’d be banging my head or tearing out my hair. This place...the last summer here... I think it must have been the pivotal point.”

“Bunny...”

“Actually, I wasn’t thinking of Bunny,” she said. “I was thinking of Andrea.”

“Andrea?”

“Andrea, the baby I was forced to give away. I found her... Rather, she found me, about seven years ago. She’s a mother herself now. She’s incredible, Krista. So beautiful, so smart. She has two darling little girls of her own. I was only seventeen when she was born. I did a kind of crazy thing.”

Krista began to laugh. “Sorry—I don’t think you even qualify...”

“No, I mean, just lately. I called Andrea, told her where I was spending the summer and why. I couldn’t really invite her to the lake for the summer, tempting as that would be. The little girls—I think it might be too much for Meg. But I did suggest to Andrea that she try to come this way if possible. I told her I’d pay for their lodging in a nice place nearby. She could see her extended biological family. Some of them, anyway. And if she’s still interested, she could do a little detective work on her biological father.”

“Detective work? You don’t know where he is?”

“I don’t even know who he is. I mean, who he really is. I thought he was a twenty-two-year-old Harvard law student when I fell for him, but when some of the other lodge waiters told him I was the underage granddaughter of a superior court judge, he ran for his life. It turned out he was a nineteen-year-old local boy who hadn’t gone to college at all. He said his name was Mack and that’s all I ever knew. What are the odds Mack is his real name?” She laughed bitterly. “We were whisked away before I even realized I could be pregnant. Before I could even go back to the lodge and ask what his full name really was, although I didn’t want him by then. He really took me for a ride.”

“But...did you want to go on that ride?”

“Oh, yes,” Charley said. “Or no. I wanted to kiss and hug and cuddle and feel love and passion and fantasize about how much better I was going to make my life than our mothers made theirs. And the reality is that if I had not had that awful summer, I wouldn’t have had the volatile power and focus to do what I did. All that anger. It’s what I used to get everything I ever got.”

“I guess if Meg is the best one of us all, then you’re the most successful one of us all.” Krista drank her coffee and looked off in the direction of the first pink streaks of dawn. “And I’m the baddest one of us all. But who cares? Who could care when you look at something like that? God, Charley, have you ever seen anything more beautiful?”

Charley felt the tangy presence of her own sentimental tears—sheer joy at seeing Krista’s reaction to dawn outside the walls of a prison. This was something she hadn’t even considered, that she’d have this kind of reunion. Both with her cousin and with her own consciousness. She could not have appreciated the sunrise half so well without Krista to exclaim on its unique beauty. “Ahhh,” was all she could say, for certainly she had seen dawns more beautiful than this. There was one on the China Sea that had moved her to tears, another from a mountaintop in the Greek isles. Perhaps the most beautiful of all—over the crown of her newborn baby boy’s head, born at dawn eighteen years ago.

“I’m so glad you’re here, Krista.”

“No one’s more glad of that than me! So, who actually owns this place now?”

Charley shrugged, thinking. “I suppose Grandma Berkey does. It obviously hasn’t been sold. Which raises some interesting questions, now that you mention it.”

“I should know who actually owns the place,” Krista said, paying little attention to the prospect of interesting questions. “I know Meg invited everyone to visit this summer, which is nice, but I need a place to stay and I have to have the permission of the owner. You know?”

“You have my permission,” Charley said dismissively.

“No, you don’t understand,” Krista said. “I really have to know who to ask. I have an obsessive need to do things the right way.” She touched Charley’s arm, drawing her attention. “There are rules. Understand?”

“Sure,” she finally answered. “We’ll take care of that.” Then, remembering something, she said, “Krista, I looked in the other suitcase, too. Last night. I wasn’t really snooping. I was looking for your clothes and then for what else you might need.”

“You were snooping,” Krista said.

“Where’d you get the typewriter?”

“My mom sent it. I asked her for it—she found it at a thrift shop. She said she wished it was a laptop, but she couldn’t really afford it. But she wanted me to have something for writing.”

“Can I buy you the laptop?”

“I really don’t need it.”

“I want to. Because you’re doing the one thing no one could do. You’re writing about it. Trying to get it down. I saw the pages. God, I’m so relieved. I’m so glad it’s you and not me.”

“It’s hard. I’d like to do it right. I mean, correct. I mean, true. Shit, I don’t know what I mean.”

“Where are you getting the stuff? The information?”

“Well, I’d ask a question here and there of my mom or Meg. I could get Meg to go undercover to Grandma Berkey. I think she even enjoyed it. Plus, I remember things. Meg doesn’t, Beverly won’t talk about it, you and Hope were pretty scarce with other things on your minds.”

“They know about the book, your mom and Meg? The story? Whatever it is?”

“No. I told them it’s for my therapy. So I could get ‘well.’ And get out. I lied.”

“That’s okay. You do what you have to do. Writing it down is important to everyone, even the ones who don’t know it. And you’re on the right track, I can feel it.”

“You read it?” Krista asked.

“The first sentence. It’s a very good first sentence.”

They had a moment of silent communication as they both thought about that first sentence.

My grandfather kicked my grandmother in the stomach when she was pregnant with her first child, so it’s a wonder any of us are here at all.

Chapter Six

Krista had adored her father but she knew at an early age he was trouble. Roy was ten years younger than his brother, Carl. He was about twelve times more handsome, too. And he could charm the socks off a centipede. He was funny and handsome, could sing beautifully, tell jokes all night, and just the sight of him dancing with Jo was enough to clear the dance floor—people backed away to watch.

While Hope was trying to fantasize another kind of life and Megan couldn’t remember a thing for a whole year, Krista was the observer. She noticed everything and seemed unable to close her eyes to her family’s problems. She had a couple of prominent memories. One was from when she was four or five and the family was getting ready for Christmas Eve with her grandparents and cousins. “Did you wash the dresses like I told you?” Roy asked Jo.

“I don’t see why...” Jo said.

“So they don’t look like we bought ’em for the Christmas inspection!” he shot back. “So the judge and your tight-assed sister don’t say anything about it! And if your sister asks where your ring is, you say you left it by the sink. You got that?”

“Don’t get all worked up, Roy,” Jo pleaded. “That’s usually your excuse to drink.”

“How the hell am I supposed to get through six hours of listening to the old bastard without a couple of drinks under my belt?” he asked. Jo began to weep. “Oh, come on, baby, come on. I forget it’s hard for you, too. I’ll fix you a little something to take the edge off.”

Krista remembered the tension before and after every holiday or weekend gathering at Grandma and the judge’s house. Her other prominent memory was of the secret meetings in her parents’ kitchen. This was something her cousins wouldn’t remember even if they’d been paying attention because Carl and Louise came to Jo and Roy’s house without the kids, after Krista and her sisters were in bed. They’d talk quietly in the kitchen. Krista had spied and eavesdropped a few times. She’d hear her father say things like, I had to get rid of that car because it was a lemon, falling apart on us all the time. I got screwed. But she knew the truth was the car had been repossessed. Or she’d hear her father say, If you can’t loan me the money, I’ll have to sell some stock and I’m trying to hang on to it for the girls’ education. There was no stock.

Carl Hempstead had owned an electronics firm that was prosperous and a couple of times Roy worked for him. It had not gone well and there had been more of those kitchen meetings. Louise would always say, “Family is the most important thing. We will forever and always put family first and we’ll never speak of this again.” What they were never speaking of remained a mystery but Krista had some guesses. She suspected that every time Roy was down on his luck and needed the help of his older brother to dig out of a debt or pay off a loan, there was a kitchen meeting.

Krista had fashioned some of these memories into short stories for a class she’d taken in prison. The writing teacher had praised her work and asked her if she’d ever considered putting it all down on paper, from her earliest memory on. “You have talent,” the teacher said. “Plus, it’s an amazing way to clear the cobwebs—writing about it. The truth about it.”

   
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