Chapter Twenty-Eight

‘His name’s Harold!’

An hour later I’m in a café in town making a frantic call to Robyn.

‘Lucy?’ She sounds disorientated. ‘Is everything OK?’

‘Did you hear what I just said?’ Ever since Artsy told me his real name, I’ve been desperate to get hold of Robyn to tell her the news, but the signal is so sketchy on the island that it’s only now, back in town, that I’ve finally got reception.

‘Um, sorry . . . say that again.’

‘The artist who I’ve come to see in Martha’s Vineyard,’ I cry down the phone. ‘You’re never going to believe this, but his name’s Harold!’

Robyn takes a breath. ‘You met someone called Harold?’ she whispers.

OK, so I’m slightly breaking the confidentiality agreement.

‘But it’s a secret,’ I add quickly. I was always useless at keeping secrets. By their very nature, as soon as you know one, you have to tell someone. But this is more than just a secret, I think, in justification. This is her destiny. This is Harold!

God, I’m getting as bad as she is.

‘What does he look like?’ she asks quietly.

‘Tall, dark, handsome . . .’ I trail off. ‘Well, he would be if he shaved off the big bushy beard and he wore some different clothes, but I’m sure you can sort that out.’

There’s silence on the other end of the line.

‘Robyn? Are you there?’

‘Yes, I’m here.’ She sounds bizarrely calm. I thought she’d be whooping excitedly down the phone. But no, I’m the one whooping excitedly down the phone. I know, maybe she’s in shock, I suddenly realise.

‘Hey, are you OK?’ I feel a beat of concern. ‘I know it’s probably come as a bit of a shock.’

‘No, not really,’ she says evenly.

‘It’s not?’ Now I’m the one in shock.

‘Of course not,’ she replies, sounding completely unfazed. ‘I always knew he was out there and I’d find him one way or another. How could I not? He’s my soulmate,’ she says with absolute certainty. ‘It was just a question of where and when. Like everything, it’s all about timing and—’ She breaks off. ‘Sorry, D, I’m just on the phone. I won’t be a minute.’

‘Who’s D?’ I frown.

‘Oh . . . um, Daniel,’ she says, sounding cornered. ‘We’re at Rockaway Beach. It’s super hot, so we came here for the day. You’ve never been, have you?’

She’s changing the subject, which means only one thing: she’s hiding something.

‘What’s going on with you and Daniel?’ I ask suspiciously.

‘Nothing,’ she fires back innocently. ‘We’re just friends.’ She lowers her voice. ‘It’s totally platonic.’

‘Hey, Robyn, will you rub some lotion on my back?’

‘You’re rubbing lotion on him?’

‘Sorry, Lucy, but I’m going to have to go.’

Go?’ I look at my phone in disbelief. Did I just mishear? She’s been looking for Harold for months. She’s visited a psychic. Made a vision board. Lit candles. Said her affirmations. Accosted strangers in the street. And now here I am ringing to tell her I’ve found him and she wants to go? ‘OK,’ I say reluctantly. ‘Well, make sure to keep all your fingers and toes crossed. If he decides to exhibit with us, you’ll meet him then.’

‘Meet who?’ she asks distractedly.

‘Harold!’ I gasp incredulously.

‘Oh . . . awesome.’

Is it just me or could she have made that sound any less awesome?

‘OK, well, have fun at the beach.’ I shrug.

‘Thanks! Bye.’


Then she’s gone and I’m left feeling slightly bewildered. Well, that didn’t go quite how I was expecting. I never even got a chance to tell her about Nate being here, I realise. Oh well, I guess it can wait until I get back to New York, I muse. After all, it’s not long now. My flight’s tomorrow morning, so I’ll be home by the afternoon.

Plenty of time to get ready for my date with Adam.

As the thought zips through my brain, I feel a delicious thrill of excitement and nerves. Since arriving on the island, I’ve tried not to think about Adam. I didn’t want to be distracted before my big meeting with Artsy by thoughts of his crazy long eyelashes, the way he looked at me that night we sat on my fire escape, that kiss.

When I haven’t been thinking about Artsy, my thoughts have been hijacked by Nate, I think grimly, rewinding back to last night, me and him, together in the shell room . . . before hastily fast-forwarding back to my date with Adam. OK, focus, Lucy, focus.

Briefly I think about calling him, but the beep of my phone battery reminds me that I’ve forgotten to pack my charger and I still need to ring Magda. I make a quick call to tell her how the meeting went, which brings into sharp focus that I still don’t really have a clue how the meeting went – ‘We dug for potatoes, ate ice cream and talked about umbrellas.’ Then I drain my coffee, leave the café and walk down to the harbour.

A small ferry is making its way across the water. Plonking myself down on the harbour wall, I watch it for a moment. I feel unexpectedly wistful. OK, so I’m not going to miss having to share a bed with Nate, but it would be nice to spend a bit longer here. Explore a little. On the way back from meeting Artsy, I got a very chatty taxi driver who regaled me with stories about the island, including telling me about when Steven Spielberg filmed the famous scenes from Jaws here in Edgartown. Then he told me about the tragic car accident involving Teddy Kennedy and a young girl, who was killed when, late at night, coming back from a party in 1969, he drove off a bridge leading to the tiny island of Chappaquiddick.

That’s where the ferry is coming from, I muse, watching it for a few more moments as it chugs calmly across the short gap between the two islands. I’m used to ferries being huge ocean-going vessels, but this looks more like someone cut a short piece of road and made it float on the water. Look, it can only fit three cars on it, I note, counting them, and just a few foot passengers.

As the ferry chugs nearer, my eyes flick across them. There’s a couple with bikes, a woman with a toddler and . . . Is that Nate? I squint in the sunlight. Yup, that’s definitely him – I’d recognise that combo of navy blazer, pale blue shirt and pleated chinos anywhere. When it comes to clothes, Nate doesn’t do casual; he does middle-aged. He’s chatting to a smartly dressed woman and I watch as they disembark and shake hands. Then he walks towards where I’m sitting.

‘Hey, fancy seeing you here.’ I manage a smile as he passes me.

He looks over and stops. He doesn’t look best pleased. ‘You again.’

I bite my tongue. Think mature. Think Bruce and Demi. Think one more night and then it’s all over. ‘Did you sleep well?’

Pushing his sunglasses up on to his forehead, he shoots me a look. ‘I’ve had better nights,’ he says with irony. ‘What about you?’

My mind flicks back to last night, in that bed, being on tenterhooks and waking up every five seconds terrified I’d mistakenly spooned him in my sleep. ‘I’ve had better nights too.’

‘So we can agree on some things.’ He smiles, despite himself. ‘How was your day?’

‘Pretty good.’ I nod. ‘And you?’

See. We’re being so civil to each other. It’s incredible.

‘Pretty good.’ He pauses. ‘What was it you said you were doing here again?’

I didn’t. I was too busy belching, picking my nose and throwing Tampax around the bathroom, I think guiltily. ‘I was meeting with an artist.’ Well, better not say too much.

If I’m worried Nate is going to ask me questions, I don’t have to worry.

‘Oh,’ he says, but more out of politeness than any genuine interest. Nate never was particularly interested in my work. It was always his career we talked about.

‘What about you?’ I bounce the question back to him.

He waves some brochures he’s holding. ‘Looking at real estate.’

‘You’re buying a place here?’ I gasp. Being curious, I peeked in a few estate agents’ windows earlier just to see, and trust me, it is not cheap.

‘Thinking about it.’ He shrugs casually. ‘For the summer.’

‘Wow.’ God, he really is loaded, isn’t he? A rented penthouse in New York, a summer house in the Vineyard. For a brief second I imagine my life if things had worked out differently. Me and Nate at our stunning hideaway beach house, with our own private beach, just the two of us.

‘Well, I’m going to take a walk back into town.’

‘Yeah, me too.’ I nod.

Actually, the way things are going, that might yet still happen, I think with a stab of fright.

We start making our way up the main high street. Lined with souvenir shops, art galleries and tourists, it reminds me of the Cotswolds. Everywhere you look there’s someone eating fudge, or taking a photograph of something twee, or simply staring aimlessly into shop windows selling painted china cats, terrible art, antique jewellery . . . I watch a couple hover by the small bowed window, their arms wrapped round each other’s waists, her leaning in, him pulling away.

And have an idea.

‘Hey, look over here,’ I pipe up, grabbing Nate by the elbow and steering him towards the store.

‘Huh? What?’ Regardless of the fact there’s hardly any phone reception on the island, Nate has found a weak signal and is chatting away to his realtor about uninterrupted views and under-floor heating.

‘What do you think?’

The couple has now moved away and we have the whole window to ourselves. It’s just as I thought: it’s a whole window of antique rings. Antique engagement rings.

‘Sorry, Jennifer, one minute.’ Slapping his hand over his iPhone, he turns to me in confusion. ‘What have you dragged me over here for?’

‘What about the pink sapphire with the baguette diamonds?’

God, I can’t believe I know all this stuff. Baguette diamonds? Where did I get that from? Females must just absorb this stuff through osmosis.

‘Yes, very nice,’ he says, not even looking before going back to his phone call. ‘Hi, Jennifer. Sorry – you were saying about the under-floor heating?’

This is harder than I thought. ‘Maybe you could buy it for me?’ I say loudly, and gaze beseechingly at Nate.

A sharp crevice splits down his forehead. ‘You want me to buy it?’ he asks, incredulous.

‘Well, that’s the idea.’

‘Sorry, no, Jennifer, I wasn’t talking about the Chappaquiddick house.’ He glares at me. ‘Look, can you give me a few minutes? I’ll call you right back.’ He gets off the phone, his face furious. ‘Jesus, Lucy,’ he gasps. ‘What’s got into you? Why the hell should I be buying you a ring, for Christ’s sake?’

I widen my eyes pointedly. ‘Why do men usually buy women rings?’

He stares in bewilderment. Then suddenly the penny drops. ‘What the . . .?’ He pauses, trying to contain himself. ‘Have you gone insane?’

‘No.’ I shake my head. ‘It’s just . . .’ The words stick in my throat and I swallow hard. OK, come on, Lucy, you can do it. Screwing up all my courage, I think about the Strategy. It was Kate’s second suggestion. She said it couldn’t possibly fail . . .

I screw my hands into tight fists and dive off the edge.

‘I’m in love with you,’ I blurt.

Nate looks at me like I’ve suddenly got two heads. The colour seems to drain from his face and a million different emotions flash across his features – shock, disbelief, horror, scepticism, before finally settling on suspicion.

‘What are you up to?’ Narrowing his eyes, he peers at me.

‘Up to?’ I feign innocence. Badly.

‘You and I both know that’s not true,’ he says simply. ‘I mean, please, those granny panties?’ He pulls a face. ‘No woman would wear those in front of a man she was in love with.’

I feel my cheeks flush. ‘No, but . . .’ I’m about to argue, but what’s the point? It’s not going to work. He doesn’t believe, and who can blame him? ‘OK, so you’re right. I’m not in love with you.’

‘Good. Because as you might have guessed, I’m not in love with you either.’

‘I guess that’s something else we agree on, then,’ I say, feeling rather foolish after my outburst.

He throws me a withering look. ‘Believe me, I’m as horrified as you are that we’ve been thrown together these past couple of days. When you sat down on the plane next to me, my heart just sank.’

‘It did?’

‘Are you kidding me? Like a rock.’ He nods. ‘It was bad enough bumping into you the whole time in New York, but trapped on an island together? I have to confess I thought you were stalking me.’

Me?’ I look at him with indignation. ‘Stalking you?’

‘Well, c’mon, there’s coincidence and there’s coincidence.’ He raises his eyebrows. ‘I thought you were trying to find a way to get back with me.’

I’m speechless. Totally speechless.

‘A friend of mine said it was obvious. I mean, all those calls.’ He throws me a pointed look. ‘Apparently that’s what girls do.’

That’s what girls do?’ I repeat. I can’t believe I’m hearing this.

‘He said you were probably a psycho ex.’

I glare at him in disbelief. ‘Me? A psycho ex?’ Oh my God, wait till I tell Kate.

‘For a moment I almost believed him.’ He pauses, as if steeling himself, then adds in a low voice, ‘Until I saw those panties.’

He makes a scary face, but the corners of his mouth twitch in amusement and I can’t help smiling.

‘It’s been hell for me too, you know,’ I protest.

‘I’m sure.’ He nods. ‘It’s not pleasant for either of us.’

‘You know, maybe we can end up being friends,’ I say, as we move away from the jewellery shop.

‘Hey, steady on,’ he replies sardonically.

‘OK, well, what about acquaintances? Our only contact can be a Christmas card every year,’ I suggest. ‘Unless of course I forget.’

‘Or I delete your address. By accident, of course.’

I feel a shift, as if we’ve entered a new phase in our relationship, an understanding.

‘Sounds perfect.’ I grin.

‘Doesn’t it?’ He grins back.

We end up staying in town and having dinner together. It goes fairly smoothly, apart from when I snap at him for making a fuss about wanting to taste their wine list (I mean, really. We’re in Pappa’s Pizza. They have two wines: house red and house white), and he snaps at me for using my fingers to eat the calamari starter we’re sharing.

Then there’s the bit when he tells me off for glancing at a text that beeps up from Adam – Looking 4ward 2 tomorrow x – and texting a reply – Me 2 x – and I accuse him of being a hypocrite for using his iPhone at the table, which results in him doing that thing with his hand where he tries to shush me for talking too loudly and I get infuriated and tell him to sod off loudly.

Followed by several long sulky silences from both of us.

All in all, though, it’s pretty civil, and although it’s not an experience I’d want to repeat, we both emerge alive, which, considering there were sharp implements of cutlery at the table, is saying something.

After the meal, Nate offers to give me a lift back to the inn in his rental car, which is lucky, as on leaving the restaurant, we discover it’s started raining heavily.

‘Probably a storm coming,’ comments Nate, pausing in the doorway to put up his collar. ‘You get some pretty big ones here in the summer.’

‘Big storms?’ I repeat. ‘How big?’

‘Oh, pretty big.’ He shrugs, then dashes out into the blackness, holding his blazer above his head. ‘C’mon, run!’

Fuck. Bracing myself, I race after him across the car park. A few seconds is all it takes, but by the time I get in the car I’m drenched.

‘Didn’t you have a jacket?’ he says, stating the obvious.

‘If I had, I’d be wearing it,’ I gasp, slamming the door closed behind me and peeling off my soaking cardigan. I glance across at Nate. He’s totally dry. ‘You know, a gentleman would have lent me his.’

‘Why should I lend you my blazer?’ he remarks, putting the car into gear and heading out of the car park. ‘It’s your fault if you’re not sensible enough to bring a jacket. That’s the problem with you, Lucy. You’re never sensible.’

My jaw sets hard. ‘How was I supposed to know there was going to be a storm?’ I reply, trying to stay calm.

‘Didn’t you check the weather report?’

‘No, Nate, I didn’t check the weather report,’ I fire back.

‘Well, there you go,’ he says smugly. ‘Let that be a lesson.’

Argggghhh! He’s so patronising I want to hit him over the head with his bloody weather report, but instead I take a couple of deep breaths and, ignoring him, sit on my clenched fists and stare out of the window.

Outside it’s pitch-black. The island isn’t like New York – there aren’t a million lights illuminating the sky – and we head out of town and start driving down a small road, into thick, velvety darkness. Nate puts on his high beams, but rain is pelting against the windscreen, making it impossible to see.

‘Be careful,’ I say after a moment. ‘You need to slow down. You’re driving too fast.’

‘I’m not driving too fast,’ he replies. ‘It’s fine.’

‘Don’t you know what happened to Teddy Kennedy?’ I reply. ‘In fact . . . are you related?’

He tuts impatiently. ‘Just quit it, OK?’

My patience snaps. ‘No, I won’t quit it,’ I cry above the sound of the windscreen wipers, which are beating furiously. ‘Slow down!’

‘Jesus, I’d forgotten what a nag you are!’ he grumbles.

‘And I’d forgotten what a bad driver you are!’ I mutter, my mind flicking back to when we were teenagers and Nate drove me from Venice to Florence for the weekend and nearly crashed because he insisted on racing the Italian drivers.

He swerves to avoid a giant puddle spilling across the road and I’m thrown back into my seat by my seatbelt.

‘Are you trying to kill me?’ I shriek.

‘Well, that would be one way of getting rid of you,’ he yells, glancing sideways at me.

‘What are you doing? Keep your eyes on the road!’ I yell back.

‘My eyes are on the road!’

‘And slow down!’

‘Lucy, am I driving or you?’

‘You are, but you’re going too fast.’

‘I am not going too fast!’

A huge bolt of lightning splinters the sky, illuminating the inky darkness, followed by a deafening crack of thunder. Every nerve ending jumps and I grip the seat with my fingers. Shit, we’re really in the eye of the storm now. Rain is lashing down, pummelling the car and flooding the road. I feel the back wheels skidding.

‘Be careful. You’re going to hydroplane!’ I roar over the din.

‘Of course I’m not going to hydroplane!’ he roars back.

‘Nate, be careful. Look where you’re going.’


Everything happens so fast. All I’m aware of is our voices sounding in stereo, me shrieking, him yelling, as suddenly he loses control of the wheel. Now we’re being flung across the road. The car is spinning out of control. We’re veering off into the blackness . . . I hear the tyres screeching . . . see flashes of fields, bushes . . . feel the sensation of being thrown forwards.

And then . . . boom!

You're the One That I Don't Want