Home > The Sixth Wedding : A 28 Summers Story(5)

The Sixth Wedding : A 28 Summers Story(5)
Author: Elin Hilderbrand

Link smiled. “You don’t get to the beach much?”

Bess examined the inside of the shell, the swirls of blue and purple—wampum, what used to be traded like money. “I’m taking this home.” They kept walking. “I like thinking that my dad had something of his own, a secret friendship or whatever. Or maybe they’re in love. Maybe they’ve been in love all these years.”

“Maybe?” Link said. The thought was, frankly, absurd.

 

 

Link won’t lie: He’s psyched to have his uncle’s place in Georgetown to himself for the weekend. It’s a bachelor’s paradise. The townhouse on Q Street is three stories tall with a finished media room in the basement, and it’s decorated like something out of a design magazine. The whole house is done in black and white with pops of color—in the living room, there’s a curvy flame-orange sofa and two electric-lime-green cup chairs. There’s a sweeping staircase with a curved black banister. Coop has huge abstract paintings and modern sculpture on pedestals—it’s real art, he goes to the galleries and gets into complicated negotiations with the owners. And then there are antiques scattered throughout—some of the pieces are from Link’s grandparents’ house in Baltimore and some are from the far-flung countries Coop has visited. There’s a chess set from India that resides permanently in the sunny breakfast nook with windows that overlook the back courtyard, and every morning when there’s time, Coop and Link play. Link has gotten pretty good.

Link is thinking about having a party—just some of the other interns from Brookings and his fraternity brother, Woj, from USC, who’s working on Capitol Hill this summer and who knows a crazy amount of smart and beautiful women. It won’t be a full-blown banger—the last thing he wants is to trash Coop’s space—but he’s thinking about some good people and good whiskey (Coop has a wine and whiskey cellar tucked behind the home gym in the basement) out back in the courtyard. He’ll pick up some tacos and banh mi and play some music and generally flex like the place is his own.

Before Coop leaves on Friday morning, he hands Link three hundred bucks—because that’s the kind of awesome uncle he is. Link spends his entire walk to work reminding himself that he has to be a responsible adult and not act like a kid in a movie whose parents are away for the weekend. He’ll cut the party off at fifty people, sixty max.

But when Link gets to the office and starts firing off texts—Party at my house tonight, 8pm—he gets a rude awakening. It’s a holiday weekend, the last before people go back to college, graduate school, etc., and everyone is leaving town. Woj is going to Fenwick Island, the other interns are heading to Dewey, Ocean City, Cape May.

His buddy, Oliver, is going home to his parents’ house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and asks if Link wants to go with him. “My dad has a sailboat,” Oliver says. “And my parents are having a cocktail party on Sunday with a tent and a Dixieland band. It’ll be fun.”

Sailing, cocktails, a Dixieland band. It does sound kind of fun, but it’s not what Link had in mind. If he wanted to be on the water, at the beach, he would have gone with his uncle. He wants city life.

“I think I’ll stay put, thanks, man,” Link says.

His idea for the weekend instantly changes. He’ll just hang out at the house, playing loud music on Coop’s state-of-the-art sound system, he’ll watch movies in the home theater, he’ll sip the whiskey and cognac alone. He was raised an only child; he can entertain himself.

But once Link gets home from work and takes a shower—the city is a smoking griddle, why did he not go to the beach?—he can’t settle down. He feels like a friendless loser, sitting home alone. He should go out. He will go out. He remembers his mother’s story about going to Nantucket when she was his age without knowing a soul.

Honestly? she said. It was liberating. I was in control of my future.

He heads to a place he and Woj sometimes went called Roofers Union in Adams Morgan, and he finds it pumping—there are people his age drinking and laughing at the tables on the street and there’s a line of young, beautiful people snaking out the door. He waits his turn, presents his ID to the bouncer, and heads inside. He goes to the upstairs bar; it’s normally a little less crazy than the one downstairs.

There are three free seats at the far end and beyond those sits a girl with dark hair and glasses, absorbed in her phone. She has a glass of wine in front of her. Is she alone? Link gives her a couple seats as a buffer, orders a Stoli tonic with a twist of lemon, and after his drink arrives and he’s had a sip, he glances over. At the same time, she looks up at him.

He knows her. It’s…

“Oh my God,” she says. “You’re…”

“Yeah!” he says. “Wait, this is weird. I was just thinking about you.” It’s Bess McCloud. This is surreal—although Link has just learned that this phenomenon has a name, where you think about someone and then, out of the blue, they appear.

“My dad went to Nantucket with your uncle and your dad,” Bess said. “He just texted to say he landed.”

“That’s crazy,” Link says. He drinks in the sight of Bess McCloud; she’s just as pretty as he remembers. Nerdy-pretty, with glasses and hair that hangs in her face a little.

“Are you…waiting for someone?” Link asks.

Bess rolls her eyes. “I’m supposed to be on a Bumble date, but the guy is stuck on the Metro.” She holds up her phone. “It says he’s sixteen minutes away.”

Link slides down the bar next to her. “I can hang with you for sixteen minutes,” he says. “Then when your boyfriend gets here, I’ll leave quietly.”

Bess laughs. “He’s not my boyfriend,” she says. “I don’t even know him. He’s a lobbyist for the alcohol industry.”

“A lobbyist?” Link says. “Legal bribery.”

“Exactly,” Bess sighs. “I normally stay away, but…”

But the dude is probably good-looking and rolling in cash, Link thinks. “Looks like I have sixteen minutes to try and lure you away from the dark side,” he says. “I’m working for Brookings. Domestic policy. I analyze the impact of policy decisions on the least served among us and suggest ways to make them more effective.”

“I work in nonprofits,” Bess says.

“Sexy!” Link says.

“Yeah, as sexy as being a producer for public television,” Bess says.

“Hey, do you still have that shell?” Link asks. “That quahog shell that you found on the beach on Nantucket?”

Bess sips her wine and nods. “It’s on my dresser, actually.”

“No…seriously?”

“Swear to God.”

“And did you…?”

“Did I what?”

The thing that Link wants to ask might take another drink, but the clock is ticking. The lobbyist will probably show up with his American Express obsidian card in eleven minutes. “Did you ever ask your dad what was going on between him and my mom?”

Bess’s green eyes find Link’s from behind her glasses. Her eyebrows raise. “I did.” She swivels her head to take in the raucous bar scene beyond them. “Do you maybe want to go someplace quieter and I can tell you about it?”

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