Home > The Sixth Wedding : A 28 Summers Story(6)

The Sixth Wedding : A 28 Summers Story(6)
Author: Elin Hilderbrand

Link laughs. “What about your date?”

Bess checks her phone. “The pin hasn’t moved. He’s stuck on the Metro. I’ll cancel him and we can go over to Lapis for Afghan food. Does that sound okay?”

Link doesn’t care if they go to McDonald’s. There’s no way he’s going to miss a chance to sit across the table from this beautiful nerdy girl and learn something new about his mother. “Sounds great,” he says.





When Leland’s JetBlue flight from JFK touches down on Nantucket, she looks out the window and takes note of the rows and rows of private planes, including an impressive jet with the Frayed Edge coffee logo on the side. She experiences a childish burst of excitement: Fray is here!

She pulls down the front of her denim cloche hat and puts on oversized sunglasses. There are some young women farther back on the plane who recognized Leland at the gate in New York; they asked for a selfie with her, which she indulged even though she’s more than over it. But Leland’s brand and Leland’s Letter are all about women lifting up other women—so she can hardly refuse anyone.

She hurries down the plane’s stairway and practically runs across the tarmac. Nantucket Island—the name speaks of wealth and entitlement, though to Leland the idea of Nantucket is inextricably tied to memories of the best friend she has ever had in her life, Mallory Blessing. The first time Leland set foot on this island was Labor Day weekend, 1993. She had been so young, only twenty-four years old. In those days, she lived on the Upper East Side and worked as an editorial assistant at Bard & Scribe. Leland had thought she was special. She emulated the lockjaw of the Vassar girls she worked with, she dyed her hair pink, she bought all her clothes from thrift shops in the Village, except for a stiff leather jacket from Trash and Vaudeville that she spent a whopping nine hundred dollars on because Ray Goodman himself said that Leland reminded him of a young Patti Smith.

When Leland came to Nantucket on that first trip, she had behaved…atrociously. She kissed Fray—Frazier Dooley, her first love—in the back seat of Mallory’s car, but then once they got to the bar, she bumped into an acquaintance from New York—Kip Sudbury, whose father was in commercial real estate and who had a yacht at his disposal—and Leland left Mallory and Fray and Cooper without a word of explanation. She’d ditched them; it made her cringe to remember it now. The only excuse she had was youth.

She returned to Nantucket a few years later with her girlfriend, the novelist Fiella Roget, Fifi, but things hadn’t gone much better. That was early on in Leland and Fifi’s relationship, back when Leland was still threatened by Fifi’s fame and was alternately possessive and bitter. It didn’t help that Fifi shamelessly flirted with Mallory, maybe as a way of reminding her who in the couple had the allure, the power. Leland should have laughed off Fifi’s behavior—Mallory was so hopelessly straight that she would only have seen the sexual overtures as Fifi being “friendly”—but instead, Leland had lashed out by tearing Mallory down. Mallory had overheard Leland insulting her, and the weekend had been ruined.

Leland had once read an interview with Toni Morrison where the author said she regretted a third of her life. Leland’s percentage was running a bit higher than that.

The last time Leland had been on Nantucket was four years earlier, when Mallory was dying. She had skin cancer that she thought she’d successfully treated, but it metastasized to her brain. It wasn’t fair—Mallory was a good person, a mom and a teacher, a reader and a thinker, the most generous friend in what she was willing to accept and forgive. It should have been Leland in the bed. Leland deserved little in the way of mercy from the universe. Her life had been a cakewalk by comparison. She had always been free to be self-absorbed.

She gets a text. It’s Coop: I’m out front in Mal’s Jeep.

Leland’s fellow New Yorkers are all looking very self-consciously “Nantuckety” in their faded red pants and straw hats. Leland has made a concession to the season by wearing Eileen Fisher, the Queen of Black Linen. Unlike these weekend warriors, Leland feels she belongs here because while they all check their Ubers, she has someone waiting for her out front in a seen-better-days Jeep.

The girls who approached Leland at the gate in JFK are right behind her. She can hear them checking the address of their Airbnb and then one of them says, “Oh my God, look—I think that’s Frazier Dooley.”

Leland raises her eyes. Sure enough, Fray is walking out of the private jet terminal wearing his usual uniform of white T-shirt, jeans, Ray-Ban Wayfarers, and a messenger bag strapped across his chest. His blondish-gray hair is long and unkempt; the hair is his signature, it’s what makes him the most recognizable CEO in the country. When he raises his arm and calls out “Lee!” it’s all she can do to stop herself from running into his arms.

“I’m jealous AF right now,” one of the girls stage-whispers. “He knows Leland Gladstone.”

Leland is tempted to turn around and say, He was my boyfriend in high school. That would have given them something to talk about—but Leland is well beyond defining herself by any relationship she’s had with a man.

“Hey, Fray,” she says with a coy smile. They embrace and kiss, gestures of fondness that Leland missed during the pandemic years. Fray smells like some kind of heavenly, expensive aftershave. He’s so delicious that Leland would like to take a bite of him, a reaction that thoroughly surprises her.

Cooper honks the horn. “Let’s go, kids!” he says.

Fray gallantly takes Leland’s bag and tosses it into the back of the Jeep, then he opens the passenger door so Leland can hitch her skirt and climb in. She sees her fans gawking from the sidewalk and she can’t help herself: She gives a four-finger wave.



“Woo-hoo!” Coop shouts. He turns up the radio, which is playing the top 500 rock songs of all time in honor of the holiday weekend, and number 426 is Van Halen’s “I’ll Wait.” It has been a very long time since Leland has listened to Van Halen (she sticks with female artists—Alison Krauss, Norah Jones, Lizzo) and the song delivers her right back to Deepdene Road in 1984.

She and Mallory are freshmen in high school and Cooper and Fray are juniors. Even though Leland has been around both boys all her life, they attain a new mystique that year because they get their driver’s licenses. Cooper is the good boy—clean-cut, preppy—and Fray is the bad boy. Fray’s hair is long, he wears red parachute pants and walks around with a permanent scowl, flipping his bangs out of his eyes. Leland finds him mesmerizing (but she doesn’t tell Mallory, because Fray is like a brother to her, and…ew). Fray is the arbiter of everyone’s musical tastes. He listens to Van Halen, Twisted Sister, Honeymoon Suite. Fray lives with his grandparents around the corner on Edgevale but he’s always at the Blessing house with Coop and because of this, Leland and Mallory start spending all their time there as well.

Leland and Mallory ask Coop and Fray for rides, even though there’s nowhere to go. Downtown–Inner Harbor is a destination but the shopping is touristy and expensive, and Fells Point is one bar after another that they can’t get into. Still, they beg to be allowed to ride around in the back seat—anything to get them out of the house. They’re sick of watching movies in Leland’s basement rec room and listening to records. They both know there’s life out there somewhere and they’re ready for it.

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