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Secrets in Summer

By´╝ÜNancy Thayer

1


It was completely by accident that Darcy Cotterill spied on her ex-husband. She didn’t want to see down into his backyard, or the yards of any of her neighbors, for that matter.

Really, it was the fault of the men who built these houses on Nantucket Island in the 1840s. Almost all the houses in the historic district, within walking distance to town, were built with an English basement, meaning the space was partly below ground but had large windows and its own door on the side of the house.

So, in order to walk in and out the front or back door of the main floor of the house, you had to climb a set of stairs at both the front and back doors.

That put the first floor, the main floor, ten feet above ground level, the perfect height for casually glancing into her neighbors’ yards as Darcy went about her day.

And how was she to know her ex-husband and his new family would rent the house behind hers for the summer? She had no warning. One moment she was relaxing in her garden, and the next moment, heart attack!

Darcy owned this gorgeous house in the center of the town because her beloved, if slightly eccentric, grandmother had left it to her in her will. From the age of ten, Darcy had lived here with Penny, who was the only person in Darcy’s dysfunctional family who stayed in one place long enough to take care of her. Darcy had adored Penny, and even now, every morning, she sent a prayer of gratitude to her grandmother.

Years ago, her grandmother had planted a hedge of spruce around the perimeter of the yard to form three tall thick walls with arched arbors on both sides of the house so friends could enter from the street. The backyard was private, and Darcy liked that. A narrow lane cut through on one side of her house, and she was glad the hedge concealed her yard. She had a public job, and she knew it wouldn’t be appropriate if people passing down the narrow lane saw her as she was on this hot summer day, wearing only her briefest bikini.

And she wanted to keep this job forever. It was the job she had always dreamed of. She was a librarian! Specifically, she was the assistant director of the children’s library of the Nantucket Atheneum. Her work was meaningful and pleasurable and involved lots of people. Still, she was glad when Sunday and Monday rolled around. These were her days off, her own special time to be alone to read and dream, especially in July and August when the island’s population exploded from sixteen thousand vigorous year-rounders to sixty thousand summer people.

On Sundays, Darcy joined a group of friends—some married, some with children, some single—for a lazy day of swimming and boating and cooking out. Monday was her day to run necessary errands and work in the garden or, on a rainy day, lie in bed reading, with her cat, Muffler, beside her.

Because July 4th was next Monday, work schedules were scrambled, so Darcy had today off from work. She had time to relax. She lay on a thick cushioned lounger, surrounded by flowers and birdsong, a wrought iron table nearby for her phone and iced tea.

She tilted her head back so the rays could touch her neck. Her face was protected with sunblock, and she felt as pale as a parsnip. Too many days working. Although, she remembered with a satisfied grin, during the nights she’d spent in bed with Nash Forester, he had liked her skin just fine.

Next Sunday, when the gang met at Fat Ladies Beach, she’d wear something with more coverage, but she enjoyed the thought of Nash seeing her with new tan lines. And that was the kind of thought she hadn’t had for a long while, if ever.

The sun beat down on her closed eyelids. Sweat began to bead up behind her neck, trickling down her shoulders. She remembered last Sunday with Nash, when she was in his arms and the waves rocked their bodies together while they floated in the blue Atlantic and—

Her thoughts were interrupted by the quiet growl of a car as it pulled into the driveway of the house behind her.

Of course. It was almost July. Her summer neighbors were coming—cue music from Jaws—to occupy the houses around her. Some were pleasant, some were loud hard-drinking partiers—as the joke went, “Summer people—some are not.” Some said hello when they saw her on the sidewalk in front of her house. Most ignored her. For them, she existed outside their summer fantasy bubble. It was all good with her. She was glad people could live here for a summer month or two. She had when she was younger, and she’d thought it was paradise.

It still was, even as, on the other side of the hedges, car doors opened and slammed shut. Her new backyard neighbors spilled out into the sun, all talking at once.

“Oh, isn’t it lovely here! And the house looks as pretty as the pictures!” A woman, probably a wife and mother.

“Mom. All the houses are gray.” An adolescent girl, her tone a mix of sarcasm and tenderness.

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