Home > The Sixth Wedding : A 28 Summers Story(8)

The Sixth Wedding : A 28 Summers Story(8)
Author: Elin Hilderbrand

“He had his arm around you,” Fray says, swigging from the bottle again. Just the smell is enough to make the room spin. “I didn’t see you fighting him off.”

“You left me by myself for over an hour!” Leland says. “What did you think would happen?”

He shrugs. “Just goes to show I can’t trust you.”

 

 

Leland would like to say that this is an isolated incident, but the entire three years that Leland and Fray date are marked with similar explosions, like firecrackers on a string. She becomes only too used to what she comes to think of as Fray’s “white-hot sulk.”

But there is love too, real love, desperate love, Frazier clinging to Leland, pressing his face into her neck and murmuring, Please, baby, don’t ever leave me.

 

 

Now, as Cooper turns down the no-name road that leads to Mallory’s cottage and she sees the ocean glittering in the distance, Leland marvels at how much time has passed—and how much has happened. Leland went on to have a decade-long relationship with a woman. Fray became a billionaire. (A billionaire! What must Penn Porter think about that?) Leland’s father, Steve Gladstone, went on to divorce Leland’s mother and marry Fray’s mother, Sloane Dooley. Technically, now Leland and Fray are step-siblings! These are the kinds of things that only happen in novels. In fact, Fifi wanted to write about it—but Leland put her foot down.

“Where’s Jake?” Leland asks when they pull up to the cottage.

“Inside,” Coop says. “He wanted some time to himself.”

No doubt, Leland thinks. If what happened between her and Frazier is one novel, then what happened between Jake McCloud and Mallory is another. Oh boy, is it.

 

 

When they walk in, there’s music playing—Cat Stevens singing “Hard-Headed Woman”—and Jake McCloud is standing at Mallory’s bookshelves, running a finger over the spines.

“I’m glad you’re listening to this song now,” Frazier says. “Get it out of your system so we don’t have to hear it again.”

Jake turns, smiles, and the men shake hands. Leland follows up, hugging Jake and kissing him on the cheek. “Don’t listen to him,” she says.

“Leland, you’re in Mal’s room,” Cooper says.

“You can have Mal’s room,” Leland says to Jake.

“I’m in the guest room,” Jake says. “That’s where I was the first summer.”

“Fray, you can take Link’s room,” Coop says. “I’ll take the sofa.”

Leland carries her bag into Mallory’s room and shuts the door behind her. The room is lovely, with its huge white canopy bed and peach and green attached bath. Leland kicks off her shoes, sits on the bed, and stares at the ceiling. “Can you see us, Mal?” she whispers. “I hope so. I very dearly hope so.”

 

 

Jake

 


He reminds himself that this weekend is for Cooper, not for him.

He also reminds himself that, although it’s Labor Day weekend, it won’t be like any other Labor Day weekend that Jake has spent on this island. Mallory isn’t here, and nobody knows about their rituals but her.

Friday night, they eat at home, just like Jake and Mallory always did—only instead of simple burgers, corn, and sliced tomatoes, Cooper goes to the Nantucket Meat and Fish Market and returns with thick, marbled rib-eyes, blocks of ruby-red tuna, half a dozen twice-baked potatoes, colorful vegetable skewers, a container of Caesar salad, two pies (peach and blueberry), and a container of vanilla Häagen-Dazs.

“And a charcuterie and cheese platter,” Coop says. “In honor of my mother and her penchant for hors d’oeuvres. I also got a case of wine.”

Coop pours glasses of some obscure Riesling that he was tickled to find (Fray has water) and they all go out to the porch that faces the ocean.

Cooper raises his glass. “To Mallory,” he says.

Jake has trouble swallowing. It’s a clear evening, warm and summery. Jake watches the waves curl and crash and he feels that Mallory is here somewhere, but where? In the golden sand, in the soft quality of the light? Jake is sure she would want them to be swimming—they’re not that old, after all, and it’s not that cold. Jake sets his glass down, heads inside to change into his suit, and then goes charging past everyone down the slope of the beach and into the water.

Cooper joins Jake a few minutes later and the two men bob in the waves as they gaze up at Fray and Leland, who are deep in conversation on the porch.

“I just remembered that Mallory told me those two used to have a thing,” Jake says. “‘A thing that refused to die,’ she called it.”

“That was back in high school,” Coop says. “It’s dead, believe me. Long dead.”

“Thanks for inviting me here, man,” Jake says. “I know you didn’t like what your sister and I had going on…”

“You loved her,” Coop says. “That’s all that matters to me. I’m the last person who gets to comment on what kind of relationship is right and what kind is wrong.”

“The minute I realized I’d fallen in love with her, I was right here,” Jake says. “It was maybe year three or four, it was in the morning, and I was swimming when your sister got home from her run. She came out to the porch to stretch and she didn’t see me, so I could appreciate her without her knowing it. And I remember thinking, I love that girl.”

“She had a light inside her,” Coop says. “A funny, innocent light. A good person light.”

“I should have left Ursula and married her,” Jake says. “There were dozens of times I wanted to do it, but I was afraid. I was afraid of life without Ursula, I was afraid your sister would turn me down, and I think we were both afraid that once we were officially together, our love would seem regular, and like regular love, it would die.”

“Remember that one year Mal and I met you at PJ’s at Christmastime and the two of you were dancing by the jukebox? I should have figured out what was going on with you two back then.”

“You should’ve,” Jake says. “But you were too busy chatting up Stacey.”

Coop splashes him. “I’ve got first shower.”

 

 

Right before dinner, Jake gets an idea. He searches through the cabinets until he finds a mason jar and then he goes out the back door and snips the last remaining hydrangea blossom off the bush and puts it on the harvest table as a centerpiece.

Now it feels like Mallory is there.

 

 

They all sit at the narrow table, which is lit only by votive candles. Jake recalls the year Mallory decided to use tapers and one fell while Jake and Mallory were in the bedroom fooling around and the cottage nearly burned down, and one of the firemen who showed up was Mallory’s ex-boyfriend, JD.

After he finishes his second glass of wine, he considers telling this story, but it feels too precious to share.

Leland says, “Let’s go around the table and say which of Coop’s wives was our favorite. My favorite was Tish.”

Cooper laughs. He really is a good sport, Jake thinks. “Tish was my least favorite,” Coop says. “She was in love with someone else when she married me—her ‘family friend,’ Fred from San Francisco. They’ve been happily married for over twenty years and have a business flipping houses in Nob Hill. Their daughter goes to Stanford.”

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