His skin is so tanned. He is lying in the inflatable boat, oars slack in the plastic tholepins, head thrown back, eyes closed. Dark hair almost dry again. He speaks without checking to see if I am paying attention.
You ready to come in now, bee?
I watch him. He doesn't look annoyed or bored or mad. He is patient. It's just a question.
No. Not yet, Caleb. I like being out here by myself. You can leave if you want.
What do you mean, leave?
You can go somewhere else.
Like back to the car?
If you want.
And be the one who left the nine-year-old girl alone on the raft to drown? I don't think that would be good. Some day I want to go to law school, you know.
How come no one trusts me?
You can't swim so well yet, Bridget. Maybe next year, okay?
Lochlan says I'm a good swimmer.
He's trying to encourage you. You will be good but you are small and you get tired easily and the raft is just too far from shore. When you're older it will be fine. You'll be able to dive off the yacht I buy, when the time comes.
He is seventeen and he knows everything, or so it seems. He is way more level than hot-headed Lochlan (at fifteen) or quiet, moody Cole (newly thirteen). He has a driver's license and is therefore God among the lakeside set. He is cool enough to suggest, sometimes, that we skip the lake entirely and head to the beach instead. He, Lochlan and Cole sit in the front, Bailey and I and the other girls cram into the backseat with towels and beach bags pushed down under the seats in front. I am only allowed to go because well, I will raise holy hell if someone goes to the beach without me, and also because Caleb seems to have a soft spot for me.
Nevermind the fact that I was Lochlan's living shadow from the first day we met. I was the mascot. If they took me they were all allowed to go, because how much trouble can you get into if you're busy watching over a fourth-grader?
Right. Not a hell of a lot.
Today is a lake day because he has to work soon only he is stalling. Delaying. Giving me endless minutes to lie in the sun on the weathered boards in order to bake myself dry while he lies in the reflective inflatable boat and dreams about owning a yacht someday.
Will you take me for a ride on it? Really?
You could come live on it, if you want, Bridget.
Won't your wife mind?
Maybe you'll be my wife.
That's gross. I'm nine.
Someday it will seem like we're almost the same age, Bridget. It will be weird. I think it happens around forty or something.
I can't picture being that old, Caleb.
Me neither. But it's inevitable, baby. Just like my yacht.
It's all part of the plan.
Is marrying me part of your plan? my voice comes out vaguely alarmed. Secretly, in my head I marry Lochlan. He is so cute and I drive him crazy. It's inevitable. Caleb, well, maybe he'll marry Bailey. Not that I care about any of that yet. I just want to make sure he brings me back to the shore.
Maybe, Bridget. I guess we'll have to see what life holds.
But what do you really see happening, Caleb? What's your best guess?
I'm guessing someday you will run away and join the circus. And when you come home, you'll marry a prince and live in a castle and eat nothing but cotton candy, three times a day. You'll make tiny braids in your hair but never brush it and your children will look just like you. There will be a girl and a boy and you will be very very happy and content. You will dance and listen to music all the time and everyone who lays eyes on you will smile. Just like they do now.
Wow. I hope you're right.
Me too, Bridget, for your sake. Me too.