Silver Girl

By: Elin Hilderbrand

For my daughter, Shelby Katharine Cunningham

I am at a loss for the words to describe you.

Graceful? Vivacious? Captivating?

All of these, yes, my love, and more.





PART ONE





MEREDITH MARTIN DELINN


They had agreed not to speak about anything meaningful until Meredith was safely inside the house on Nantucket. First, they had the highway to face. Meredith knew it too well, just like every other American with a home (or, in her case, three homes) between Maine and Florida. There were the ninety-three tedious exits of Connecticut before they crossed into Rhode Island and, a scant hour later, Massachusetts. As they drove over the Sagamore Bridge, the sun came up, giving the Cape Cod Canal a cheerful pink glaze that hurt Meredith’s eyes. There was no traffic on the bridge even though it was the first of July; that was why Connie liked to do the drive overnight.

Finally, they arrived in Hyannis: a town Meredith had visited once with her parents in the early 1970s. She remembered her mother, Deidre Martin, insisting they drive by the Kennedy Compound. There had been guards; it was just a few years after Bobby’s assassination. Meredith remembered her father, Chick Martin, encouraging her to eat a lobster roll. She had been only eight years old, but Chick Martin had confidence in Meredith’s sophistication. Brilliant and talented, Chick used to brag shamelessly. The girl can do no wrong. Meredith had tasted the lobster salad and spit it out, then felt embarrassed. Her father had shrugged and finished the sandwich himself.

Even all these years later, the memory of Hyannis filled Meredith with a sense of shame, which lay on top of the disgrace Meredith had been feeling since her husband, Freddy Delinn, had been indicted. Hyannis was a place where Meredith had disappointed her father.

Thank God he couldn’t see her now.

Although they had agreed not to talk about anything meaningful, Meredith turned to Connie, who had decided—against her better judgment—to shelter Meredith, at least for the time being, and said, “Thank God my father can’t see me now.”

Connie, who was pulling into the parking lot of the Steamship Authority, let out a sigh and said, “Oh, Meredith.”

Meredith couldn’t read Connie’s tone. Oh, Meredith, you’re right; it’s a blessing Chick has been dead for thirty years and didn’t have to witness your meteoric rise and your even more spectacular fall. Or: Oh, Meredith, stop feeling sorry for yourself. Or: Oh, Meredith, I thought we agreed we wouldn’t talk until we got to the house. We laid ground rules, and you’re trampling them.

Or: Oh, Meredith, please shut up.

Indeed, Connie’s tone since she’d rescued Meredith at two in the morning was one of barely concealed… what? Anger? Fear? Consternation? And could Meredith blame her? She and Connie hadn’t spoken in nearly three years, and in their last conversation, they had said despicable things to each other; they had taken a blowtorch to the ironclad chain of their friendship. Or: Oh, Meredith, what have I done? Why are you here? I wanted a quiet summer. I wanted peace. And now I have you, a stinky international scandal, in my front seat.

Meredith decided to give Connie the benefit of the doubt. “Oh, Meredith” was a quasi-sympathetic non-answer. Connie was pulling up to the gatehouse and showing the attendant her ferry ticket; she was distracted. Meredith wore her son Carver’s baseball hat from Choate and her last remaining pair of prescription sunglasses, which fortunately were big, round, and very dark. Meredith turned her face away from the attendant. She couldn’t let anyone recognize her.

Connie pulled up the ramp, into the ferry’s hold. Cars were packed like Matchbox models in a snug little suitcase. It was the first of July; even at this early hour, the mood on the boat was festive. Jeeps were laden with beach towels and hibachi grills; the car parked in front of Connie’s was a vintage Wagoneer with at least sixteen beach stickers, in every color of the rainbow, lining the bumper. Meredith’s heart was bruised, battered, and broken. She told herself not to think about the boys, but all that led to was her thinking about the boys. She remembered how she used to load up the Range Rover with bags of their bathing suits and surf shirts and flip-flops, and their baseball gloves and cleats, the aluminum case that held the badminton set, fresh decks of cards, and packs of D batteries for the flashlights. Meredith would load the dog into his crate and strap Carver’s surfboard to the top of the car, and off they’d go—bravely into the traffic jam that lasted from Freeport all the way to Southampton. Inevitably, they timed it badly and got stuck behind the jitney. But it had been fun. The boys took turns with the radio—Leo liked folk rock, the Counting Crows were his favorite, and Carver liked the headbanger stuff that would make the dog howl—and Meredith always felt that the hotter and slower the drive was, the happier they were to arrive in Southampton. Sun, sand, ocean. Take your shoes off, open the windows. Freddy did the drive on the weekends, and in later years, he arrived in a helicopter.

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