Silver Girl


by Elin Hilderbrand

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.

As Meredith looked on the summer revelers now, she thought, Leo! Carver! Leo. Poor Leo. For all of the years of their growing up, Leo had taken care of Carver. Protected him, schooled him, included him. And now, Carver was the one who would be supporting Leo, propping him up. Meredith prayed he was doing a good job.

A voice came over the loudspeaker, announcing the rules and regulations of the boat. The foghorn sounded, and Meredith heard distant clapping. The good, fortunate souls headed to Nantucket Island on this fine morning were applauding the start of their summer. Meanwhile, Meredith felt like she was still three states away. At that very moment, federal marshals would be entering Meredith’s penthouse apartment on Park Avenue and seizing her belongings. Meredith wondered with a curious detachment what this seizing would be like. To go with Connie, Meredith had packed one duffel bag of simple summer clothes, and one cardboard box of personal effects—photographs, her marriage license, the boys’ birth certificates, a few of her favorite paperback novels, one particular spiral-bound notebook from her freshman year at Princeton, and one record album—the original 1970 release of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, which Meredith had no hope of ever listening to, but which she couldn’t bring herself to leave behind.

She’d been permitted to take her eyeglasses, her prescription sunglasses, and her four-karat diamond engagement ring. The ring had been inherited from her grandmother, Annabeth Martin, and not bought with dirty money. There was a strand of pearls from Meredith’s mother, a present on Meredith’s graduation from Princeton, which fell into the same category, but Meredith had no use for pearls now. She couldn’t wear pearls in jail. With a little forethought, she might have pawned them and added the money to the paltry sum she had left.

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