“Well, well! Look who it is! What’ll it be today? Half & Half? Pomegranate Pear? Peach Orange?”
“Big Cranberry, actually.” Jess handed a couple of dollars to the cashier, who chuckled amicably.
“Big Cranberry for the little lady! Aaand here’s your change.”
Jess pulled a tight smile, took the change, and hurried out to the parking lot. Even though it was getting dark, the air was still muggy, oppressive. The air conditioning at Flo’s Fabric Barn had been out again, and Jess had stayed late doing felt inventory.
But none of that mattered now.
When she got home, the house was empty. Her mother was probably at Applebee’s with Dillon, her new beau. She’d be back in a few hours, unless they went back to his place. Jess went into her room, closed the door, and opened the bottle of Big Cranberry.
“There are no skunks on Nantucket,” she mouthed. No skunks. She’d gotten that one already, but not for a while. She got on her hands and knees and pulled out one of the many shoe boxes from under her bed.
“ANIMAL FACTS,” it read.
She gently placed the cap with its sisters. A smile lit up her face as she glimpsed one of the first facts she had ever gotten: Tom Scott’s dog Becky is part lab, part springer spaniel, and part shortstop. She closed the lid and pushed it back under the bed. Leaning against the box-spring, Jess closed her eyes and took a long sip of cranberry juice. When she was a little girl, she’d hated the stuff, but today, at 25? The sweet, dry flavor transported her.
She could just smell the ocean air. Some day, she would stand under the shadow of the second oldest lighthouse in the United States, watching for whales on the horizon. If it was April, thousands of daffodils would bob their heads in the breeze. She liked to imagine autumn most of all, though, when the Halloween Parade would march right down Main Street–which, like all streets on Nantucket, has no traffic lights! Just imagine! Maybe a young man in Nantucket Reds would be standing near her in the crowd.
“Did you buy those at Murray’s Toggery Shop?” she would ask casually, and he would grin with surprise.
“Why yes! How did you guess?”
“Well, that’s the first place they were ever sold, you know.” And she could see her breath fogging the air in front of her. And his.
“Hey, do you want to get a cup of hot cocoa or something, uh–”
“Jess,” she would say. “And sure–I know just the place.”