I yawned. It was a beautiful sunny morning in the Keys
 and I was headed to Moonbay. Julia, as she had asked us to
call her, had asked me and Lindsay to come over and try to
 befriend Emery. But Lindsay had slept in late, and couldn't come.

Cheerful sunlight filtered through the mangroves and palms
 surrounding the path, and hibiscus and flowering moss sprang
up around it in a welcoming sort of way. The day before, I had
recruited Roselle and Carrie to help me line the path with stones and
 shells to make it more defined. It was indeed an improvement.

When I reached Moonbay, I knocked on the door, humming
 and not expecting much of a welcome. Julia answered. A wan
smile graced her lips. “Ah, Carmody.” she said. She let me in
 and I sat down in the living room. Julia asked me to wait while
 she attempted to fetch Emery.

A few minutes later, Emery appeared in the living room
 looking rather frumpy in wrinkled pajamas. Her hair
 stood on end as though struck by lightning.

“Why,” she said, in a condescending way,
 “Are you sitting in my living room?”

So Julia hadn't told Emery I was coming. Shocker.

“I-I. .” I stumbled about verbally. “Jul--”

“Julia asked you to come, didn't she.” Emery said,
 narrowing her eyes. “Some rat she is.”

With a sharp intake of breath, I shook my head slightly.

“You shouldn't say that about her.”

Emery looked surprised that I should counter her.

“Why's that, you little urchin?”

Ignoring the insult, I went on. “She took you in. She feeds you.
 She sends you to school. She loves you, she provides clothing
 for you. Yet you scorn her. You should be ashamed.”

Emery's face twisted into an expression of anger, fire, rage.

“You-” she jabbed a finger at me- “Can leave.”

“B-” I started


Just then, Julia walked into the room. She smiled brightly.
 “Everything going okay, girls?” She set down a tray on the

coffee table, and me and Emery sat on couches on either side.

The tray was loaded with good things.

 There were miniature cucumber-and-parsley sandwiches,
 more hot tea, and strawberries chopped with basil.
She also set down a plate of freshly baked toffee.

Emery glowered at me from across the table. “Do eat up, girls.”

 Julia said in her faded but still notable British accent.

Then Julia sprung out of the room to go sweep the porch
 as she said, and me and Emery were left alone.

I timidly took a sandwich and some strawberries.
Emery went for the toffee and tea.

We said nothing. As I quietly chewed my sandwich,
(which, by the way, was delicious) I looked down at

 hardwood beneath me. Emery looked towards the ceiling.
Finally, I stole a peek up at her, and thought I might
have seen a stray tear sliding down Emery's cheek.

Emery saw me looking at her, so she quickly

 straightened and brushed the tear aside.

“Are you okay?” I asked, a bit shyly. I felt like a mouse approaching a cat.

“Yes, of course I'm all right.” she snapped at me.
 But a moment later, she gave a hard swallow, and more
 tears spilled down her cheeks like a waterfall.

“Aunt Bree-” Emery sniffed- “Aunt Bree used to m-make toffee.”

​​​​​​She made no effort to hold them back now. Another moment, and
 she was sobbing. Her chest heaved she put her face in her hands.
 Her plate of toffee and cup of tea fell to the floor. The cup
 broke and spilled steaming tea across the floor. Emery
made no acknowledgment.

My own eyes filled at the sight of a girl so stricken with sorrow,
 but I managed to hold my sadness back. I leaned across
 the table and took Emery's hand. “It'll be alright.” I whispered.
 Emery looked up at me, her face red and tear-streaked, and a little surprised.

I stood up to go, but changed my mind. Instead,
 I stepped over and sat down on the other couch next to Emery.

“You know-” I looked at the ground. Emery still sobbed.
 “You know, when I was nine, my father left.”

Emery looked up again. Her eyes were dark and soft, like that of a fawn.
 Her earrings trembled.

“He told my mother that he didn't love life with her—with us—any more.”

“And so he took his leave. The very next day, he was gone.”

“As if that wasn't enough, he took our money, too. Mom looked in the
 bank account later that week, and the majority of what they had saved
 in the bank was missing. Was gone.”

“It was as if he had disappeared off the face of the earth. Mom tried

 to find him, to find the money, but-” I choked up a bit- “He was gone.”

“It was so hard for Mom to care for all of us. She had a new baby,
a five-year old, a nine-year old and a preteen. It makes me so upset

 when I think of how he left us penniless. He left her alone.” I gritted my
 teeth and sighed.

“So,” I finished, “I've had a share of pain, too. But I want to help you,
 Emery. I do, truly.”

And then something extraordinary happened. Emery Wysten smiled.

The next day, I was walking down the beach with Roselle and Carrie.
We had been sent by my mother to go to the nearest town, Captiva.
 We could have driven, but Mom said she was too busy to take us,
 and besides, she added, the walk would be good for us. It was only
 about a twelve-minute walk there. Most of the walk was through the
woods on a large, well-defined path.

Mom needed a box of rice, some carrots and onions, and a few fillets of tuna.
She didn't know of any grocery stores in Captiva, but she said there must
have been some, because as small as Captiva was, (the population was only five hundred)
there must be one. So we were to scout one out for her.

When we reached the town, we walked up and down a few streets,
 but didn't see any grocery stores. Finally, we saw an old lady,
and asked her. She directed us toward the nearest Winn-Dixie,
 which we had only missed previously by a street.

I bought the carrots and onions from a street vendor,
 got the fish from another, and got the box of rice from the Winn-Dixie.

“Come, girls.” I said to Roselle and Carrie. “We've got to go, or the fish will spoil.”

“But it's packed in ice.” protested Roselle.

“But the ice will melt.” I said firmly.

So we turned to go. But before we did, I spotted a group of girls
 just coming out of the store nearest us, Brittley's Dresses. One of the girls
approached me. She was deeply tanned, had hair the color of the caramel in a
Twix bar, (Except it had purple streaks. Probably extensions.) was very tiny,
 and had green eyes. And her eyes were a wonder.
Large, wet eyes, like deep pools of emeralds.

She walked right up to me. “Who are you?” she said, kind of abruptly.
 “Um, . . .I'm Carmody.” I said. “Who are you?”
The girl looked me right in the eyes. “Charlie. Charlie Myrtilla Vanier.”

I stood for a moment. “Do you live here?” she asked. “No.” I said.
 “We're just renting a beach house for the summer.”
“Which one?” she asked. “Serenity.” I answered.

And then Charlie Myrtilla Vanier nodded. “I know that one.”

“What about you?” I asked. “Do you live here?” Charlie nodded.
“We live in a cottage
 just barely outside of Captiva,
 on Sunset Rock. The house is called Wavesong.”

She asked for the phone number for Serenity.
 I gave it to her, and then she left just as abruptly as she had come.

  “Thanks for visiting.” Julia said. “As you may imagine, I don't get many visitors, because I live so far off. But also because. . .Well, at Emery's school, no one likes her. She's not sociable, and she's very rude.”

Me, mom and Lindsay were seated in the living room of Julia's cottage, which, we found out, was named Moonbay. Our cottage was called Serenity. Roselle and Carrie were playing Jungle outside.

Julia had served up some tea and freshly-baked scones, which were delicious. The tea was not very appropriate, I thought, for the weather, but as Julia explained, in England tea was drunk whenever possible.

Em, or Emery, was not actually Julia's daughter, as Julia explained. “Her poor mum, Lydia, when she was young, lived in Liverpool, in England. And when she was sixteen years old, fell in love with a a young man.” Julia started. It was a good thing Emery wasn't around. “But the man she fell in love with. . .he was a miller's apprentice. And Lydia was a very wealthy, well-bred young thing. They knew their parents would never approve of the marriage, so. . .they ran off. To Ireland. Dublin.”

“In Dublin, the couple married, and soon afterwords had a baby girl.”

“Emery.” My mother put in. Julia nodded, a bit sadly.

“Well, right after Emery was born, her father—Who had gotten a job on the docks, in Dublin—Befell a terrible accident. He had slipped on the slimy docks, and hit his head on a lobster pot. He fell into the water.”

“There was a terrible gash in his head. And, he couldn't swim.”

“But-” I interrupted. “How could he work on the docks and not swim?” I hadn't meant to say it like that. My mother shot one of her “looks” at me.

Julia shook her head sadly. “Most of the dockworkers couldn't swim.”

“So,” she continued, “he drowned. None of the other dockworkers were around; they had all gone home.”

“They found him the next morning. The day after, he was buried.”

“Lydia was destitute. She could not support herself and a child by sitting at home. So she began working at a factory.”

“When Emery was four, her mother caught a terrible sickness. She was frail and weak from working in the factory, and had grown thin and pale. So she could not fight the illness.”

“She died swiftly. Emery was passed along to a distant great-aunt, because her grandparents would not accept her. They were shamed and insulted by their children's elopement.”

“She lived with the great-aunt until last year, when the great-aunt died. She had loved Emery, though, and Emery had loved her. So Emery was very sad. They passed her along to me, her mother's sister.”

“I had lived in America for some time at this point. And when Em came to live with me. . .she was bitter and angry over her great-aunt's death.”

“And she resents me.” Julia finished. A tear slipped down her cheek.

  “GET OUT.”

“I can't. Mom said we have to share this room.”

“I don't CARE. Leave. This is MY room.”

I walked over to the second twin bed that was in the room and set my purse, suitcase, duffel and pillow on it.

“MOOOOOOOM!” Lindsays was screaming at the top of her lungs. “GET HER OOOUUUT!”

“Lindsay!” My mother walked into the room a second later. “Quiet down, what's the matter?”

“Get her out of my room.”

“You're sharing this room.”


“Lindsay. . .I'm sorry, but you have to. You'll probably only be together here at night, and then you'll be sleeping. I promise, it's fine.”

Lindsay groaned. “I'm going to unpack now.”

My mother nodded. “You do the same, Carmody, dear.”

My mother left.

The room was small. It had two large windows and two twin bunks, each against a separate wall. There were two small dressers, two tiny closets, and two night tables, one of each close to the beds. On the night tables were clock radios and lamps. There was a rug in the middle of the floor, and our bedspreads were some kind of greenish flowery kind.

Lindsay sat on her bed and turned on the radio. Only static came through. She turned the knob to change channels. “Oh!” she said, as she stopped on a song she recognized. She stood up, swayed her hips, and started singing. “Oh, who do you think you are, runnin' round, leavin' scars. . Collecting your jar of hearts. .”

I rolled my eyes and turned to unpack my things.

It was the next morning. I was sitting in my bed, yawning. I threw back the covers and hopped out of bed. Lindsay was still snoring away.

I got dressed in a pair of shorts and a Hollister tee, ran a brush through my hair, and went downstairs.

Roselle and Carrie were sitting at the table with dried cereal, munching away. Mom wasn't in the kitchen, but I could hear her voice out on the front porch. I went out there.

“Yes. . .Not really, actually. Well, I mean, she'd love it, but. . .Yes. That'd be great. Thanks. Bye.” My mother hung up the phone that had been against her ear.

“Honey, that was the neighbors. They live through the woods a few minutes away. They saw lights here last night, and heard noise, and wondered if someone had rented the house. They would like to meet us.” said my mother. “The lady I talked to sounded nice.”

“Oh.” I said. “When are we going over?”

“In about an hour.”

I nodded. “I'm going to go sit by the ocean for a bit.”

My mother smiled. “All right.”

An hour later, we all stood on our front porch. Or most of us, anyway.

“Lindsay!” my mother yelled through the screen door. “It's time to go!”

“I KNOW!” Lindsay hollered down the stairs. “I'm COMING!!”

She banged out the door. I laughed at her. She was wearing a fancy flowered sundress, had her hair twisted into some updo, was wearing a pearl necklace and had on heels.

She pulled out her flowered clutch and put on her D&G shades.

Good grief. I was in a tee shirt and jean shorts. I was tidy, but not all done up, like Lindsay.

“Now,” she said through all her lipstick and makeup, “Now I am ready to go.”

“You're going to go through the forest in that?” Roselle said, her eyes wide.

“Yes, Roselle.” Lindsay said impatiently. “I am.” She clonked noisily in her shoes over to the porch steps, descended them, and immediately tripped on the sand and nearly fell.

Carrie laughed.

“SHUT U-” started Lindsay, but was cut off by Mom. “Lindsay!” said Mom. “No.”

Lindsay glowered at Carrie.

And it was so. Lindsay tromped the whole five-minute walk to the neighbor's in her fancy clothes, through the dense undergrowth and briars and mud. By the time we emerged on the other side of the woods, Lindsay looked very bedraggled. Her hair was mussed and falling out, her dress was spattered with dirt, and her shoes were caked with mud. Needless to say, she wasn't very happy. . . .

“I can't go in looking like this!” Lindsay said. “Well, I'm sorry, dear.” said my mother. “You chose to dress so, and now you've got to pay the consequences. Sorry.”

“Mom,” said Roselle, “Is that the neighbor's house?” We were at the treeline, emerging from the woods. Roselle was pointing to a cozy, little brown cottage with a slate roof. Tropical flowers danced up cheerfully around the porch, and there was a tidy shelled path leading up to the front door.

We all stood there, looking around. Birds chirped in nearby bushes.

Suddenly, the front door to the little cottage creaked open, and a small, sharp face peered around it. The face turned back to the house.

“Julia,” she said in a thick British accent, “Who's here?”

A woman, apparently Julia, stepped out the door, followed the other girl. “Hi, you must be the neighbors.” Julia said in an American accent, breathing out the words in a peaceful, calming way. Julia was a small, thin woman, with dark hair pulled back into a tight bun. She had kind eyes and was wearing an apron with a Kiss the Baker logoprinted on it. She was middle-aged and had sharp, protruding cheekbones.

“Oh, Em.” said Julia, turning to the girl behind her. “I must have forgotten to tell you. I invited them over.”

The girl, Em, was tiny and thin like Julia. She had deep, green eyes that looked like pools of emeralds. Her black hair bounced loosely around her shoulders. Her sharp, cruel eyes glazed critically over the visitors.

“Em,” said Julia, “How about you introduce yourself properly?”

Em shook her head, whirled around, and banged back into the house.

“I'm sorry.” said Julia to my mother. “I don't know what to do with that child anymore.” Julia's hands were trembling, and she was twiddling with them nervously in front of her apron.

“That's all right.” said my mother, smiling warmly. “I've got children too.”

We stood for a moment. Then my mother stuck out her hand to Julia. “Caroline Arlington.” she smiled.

Julia gratefully took the handshake. “Julia. Julia Graven.”