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Alix continued weeping as Izzy handed her one chocolate after another. So far it had been two doughnuts, one of those flat bars of sixty percent cocoa, a whole Toblerone, and a Kit Kat. If this kept on Alix was going to start in on chocolate chip cookies, which meant Izzy would join her and would probably gain ten pounds and not fit into her wedding dress. Wasn’t that above and beyond the call of friendship?
They were on the fast ferry that went from Hyannis to Nantucket, sitting at one of the tables by the snack bar. All sorts of delicious, fattening things were within their reach.
Alix had done well in the last few weeks as she and Izzy finished their final semester of architecture school. On the last day before summer break, they’d turned in their projects, and as always, Alix had been praised by the teacher to the point of embarrassment.
It was that night that Alix’s boyfriend had broken up with her. Dropped her flat. Eric said he had a different plan for his life.
After the disastrous date, Alix went straight to Izzy’s apartment. When the knock came, Izzy and her fiancé, Glenn, had been snuggled on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn. She wasn’t in the least surprised when Alix told her what happened—she’d even prepared for it by having two quarts of chocolate caramel ice cream in the freezer.
Glenn kissed Alix on the forehead. “Eric is a stupid man,” he’d said before heading off to bed.
Izzy thought she’d be in for a whole night of misery, but an hour later Alix was asleep on their couch. In the morning, she was quiet. “I guess I better go pack,” she said. “Now there’s no reason for me not to go.” She was referring to spending a year on the island of Nantucket. A few years before, right after Izzy had met Glenn—and she’d immediately known she was going to marry him—the girls had made a pact. After their last semester of school, they would take a year off before going job seeking. Izzy wanted time to just be a wife and to think about what she wanted to do with her life.
Alix had always known that she wanted to prepare a portfolio of designs that she’d present to a possible employer. Since most students went directly from school to a job, all they had to show was the work they’d done for assignments, all heavily influenced by the likes and dislikes of a teacher. Alix wanted to show her own work, all of it original.
When Alix was told of the year in Nantucket, she had been reluctant. Going somewhere she knew no one was too much. And then there was Eric. Could their relationship stand so much separation? Alix began to come up with excuses for why she couldn’t go, starting with Izzy needing her for the wedding.
But Izzy had said that this was a once in a lifetime chance and Alix had to take it. “You have to do this!”
“I don’t know,” Alix said. “Your wedding . . . Eric . . .” She shrugged.
Izzy glared at her. “Alix, it’s as though your fairy godmother waved her magic wand and gave you just what you need at exactly the right time. You must do this!”
“Think my fairy godmother has green eyes?” Alix had asked and the two of them had dissolved into laughter. Alix’s mother, Victoria, had emerald eyes. Of course she’d been behind obtaining this year of work and study for her precious daughter.
What made them sure Alix’s mother was behind the hiatus was that she’d been the one to tell Alix about the strange provision in Adelaide Kingsley’s will. Izzy had always been in awe of Victoria. Even if she weren’t internationally famous for all those wonderful, exciting books she wrote, she’d still be magnificent. For one thing, she was gorgeous. She had thick auburn hair, a figure like a Spanish soap star’s, and a personality that commanded a room. Victoria wasn’t loud, wasn’t really flamboyant, but when she entered a room everyone took notice. A hush fell over people as they stopped talking and turned to look. It was as though they felt Victoria’s presence as much as saw her.
The first time Izzy met Victoria, she wondered how Alix would react to her mother getting all the attention, but Alix was used to it. To her, that was how her mother was and she accepted it.
Of course it helped that whenever Victoria spotted her daughter entering a room, she stopped charming the people who’d gathered around her and went straight to Alix. They would link arms and turn away to some quiet corner, just the two of them.
When Alix had first been told about the contents of the will of some woman she didn’t remember, she’d said no. Yes, Alix had always planned to take a year off, but not on some isolated island.
The real problem was that she hadn’t told her mother she had a boyfriend whom she was thinking about marrying. If Eric asked, that is.
“I don’t understand,” Izzy said. “I thought you and your mom told each other everything.”
“No,” Alix said. “I said that I find out everything about her. I am very selective about what I tell her.”
“And Eric is a secret?”
“I do my best to keep my love life with any man away from my mother. If she knew about Eric, she’d be here interrogating him. He’d probably run away in terror.”
Izzy had to look away so Alix wouldn’t see her frown. She’d never liked Eric and she wished Victoria would do whatever it took to get rid of him.
After Alix had finished her designs for the last school year and made her model, she’d “helped” Eric with his. The truth was that she’d almost done his whole project for him.
After the breakup and Alix’s decision to go to Nantucket, she’d been very adult about it. “I’ll also have time to study.” To become a licensed architect, one had to take a series of truly horrific exams. “I’ll do well on the tests and make my parents proud,” Alix vowed.
Izzy thought that Alix’s parents couldn’t be more proud of her than they already were, but she didn’t say so. When Alix finally said she was going, it was her depressed, fatalistic tone that made Izzy decide that she would travel with her friend and stay in Nantucket until Alix got settled. She wanted to be there when Alix finally broke down.
It happened when they stepped onto the ferry to Nantucket. Until then there’d been so much to do to get ready for the trip that Alix hadn’t had time to brood about Eric. Her mother had covered all expenses, even shipping their luggage to the island, so the two young women would only have to deal with overnight bags. And they’d left days earlier than the original plan because Izzy was afraid Alix would see Eric again.
Alix had seemed to be doing well until the ferry pulled away from the dock. When she looked at Izzy, there were tears running down her cheeks. “I don’t understand what I did wrong.”
Since Izzy had known this was coming, she had a big Toblerone bar in her bag. “What you did wrong was to be born smarter and more talented than Eric. You intimidated the hell out of him.”
“I didn’t,” Alix said as Izzy opened the chocolate and they took a seat at a table. It was still early in the season so the big boat wasn’t packed with people. “I was always very nice to him.”
“Yeah,” Izzy said. “You were. That’s because you didn’t want to hurt his teeny tiny ego.”
“Come on,” Alix said, chewing. “He and I had some great times. He—”
“He used you!” Izzy’d had to stand back and watch Eric cuddle up to Alix while she practically did his work for him. All the other males in their classes were intimidated by her. Her father was a successful architect, her mother a celebrated writer, and, worse, Alix’s designs won every competition, every prize, and were praised by the entire school. “And what did you expect from him when you were always in the top five in your class? I thought Professor Weaver was going to kiss your feet when he saw your last project.”
“He just appreciates designs that can actually be built.”
“Well, duh. That thing Eric designed before you started helping him couldn’t have been put together by the crew that built the Sydney Opera House.”
Alix gave a small smile. “It was rather like a spaceship, wasn’t it?”
“I expected it to go into orbit at any second.”
Alix seemed to be recovering but then her eyes turned sad again. “But did you see his date at the farewell party? She was barely twenty, if that.”
“Go ahead and say it,” Izzy said. “She was dumb. Really stupid. But that’s what Eric needs for his fragile ego. To make him go up, others have to come down.”
“I don’t know if you’re a therapist or a guru.”
“Neither. I’m a woman and I see things. You’re going to be a great architect and the only way you’re going to find love is with a man who is in a completely different field.” She was speaking of her own fiancé, who sold cars. He didn’t know Pei from Corbusier from Montgomery’s latest organic masterpiece.
“Or I could find an architect who is so good he isn’t intimidated by me,” Alix said.
“Frank Lloyd Wright is dead.”
Alix gave another small smile and Izzy was encouraged to change the subject. “Didn’t you tell me there was a man living in the guesthouse of where you’re going to be staying?”
Alix sniffed as she bit into a chocolate muffin Izzy had bought for her. “The lawyer said that Miss Kingsley’s nephew is staying there and that he can answer any questions I have. Or if the house needs repair he can do it. He’s called Mr. Kingsley.”
“Oh.” Izzy’s voice showed her disappointment. “If Adelaide Kingsley was ninety-something when she died, that means her nephew is at least sixty. Maybe he’ll give you a ride on his electric scooter.”
“Don’t make me laugh.”
“I’m trying to. Is it working?”
“Yes,” Alix said, “it is.” She looked toward the snack bar. “Do they have any chocolate chip cookies?”
Groaning, Izzy silently cursed Eric the ex-boyfriend. As she went to the counter she muttered, “If I gain weight, I’m going to put hair gel in all his glue. His models will fall apart.” She was smiling as she took four big plastic-wrapped cookies out of a basket and paid for them.
By the time the ferry docked, Alix had stopped crying, but she still looked like a martyr about to be led to a stake.
Izzy, full of cookies and hot chocolate—she couldn’t let Alix eat alone—had never been to Nantucket and she was looking forward to seeing the place. With their big leather bags (gifts from Victoria) over their shoulders, they stepped onto a long, wide wooden wharf. Little shops that looked like they used to be fishermen’s shacks were filled with shirts with tasteful logos of Nantucket on them. She would have liked to stop to buy her fiancé some caps and sweatshirts but Alix was plowing on, chin up, eyes straight ahead, looking at nothing, just walking.
Izzy saw some kids come around a corner, ice cream cones in their hands. Maybe if she could get Alix settled with a cone, she could do some shopping.
“This way!” Izzy called and Alix followed her. There was a little ice cream place on the edge of the wharf and Izzy sent Alix inside. “Butter pecan for me,” Izzy said.