Today's Reading

I let us in to the dark foyer and flicked the light switch, my chest tight— what if the power had died here, too? But the chandelier lit up and the HVAC panel summoned the telltale whir of heat. I stepped back on the porch, directing two thumbs up at Phil. He gave a friendly honk and sped away.

Leaving me and Tyler Nelson alone.

We stared at each other. I had never met anyone else with such perfectly sculpted features, with eyes so blue and hair so gold. This boy could get away with murder or fraud or heartbreak, and people would chuckle and pat him on the cheek and say, "What a rascal!"

"Well, Shira," he drawled, and even his voice was beautiful, damn him. "This should be fun."


Here's what went down when Tyler and I first met.

Five and a half years ago, when I was a foolish eleven-year-old, I discovered crushes. I'd never had one before, though I'd watched my classmates giggling about kissing, all fascinated by the bewildering and unstoppable advent of puberty. I understood in the abstract but didn't relate.

Then Tyler Nelson showed up on Nantucket.

My god, the first time I saw him. A miracle, on par with a sea parting, the sun and moon standing still, oil lasting eight nights. The world slowed so each indelible second could be printed on my soul. Olivia Phan—my best summer friend—and I sat eating ice cream outside The Juice Bar. The hydrangeas were in full bloom; the air smelled sweet and floral.

A laugh from someone in line caught my attention.

Usually I only noticed embarrassingly loud laughs, like my Uncle Jason's in the movie theater. This laugh, though, came closer to music than anything else. I could no more resist searching for the owner than I could have resisted rainbow sprinkles.

He stood with a trio of others, who faded into the background like so much noise. The laughing boy shone, not illuminated by light but the 'source' of light, a miniature sun, brilliant and lustrous. "He's beautiful," I breathed.

Beside me, Olivia wrinkled her nose. Also eleven, she was both more interested in and more cynical about romance. "He's kind of bland- looking, isn't he? Like a Disney star."

"You didn't have to ask who I meant, though." "He's obviously the most conventionally attractive."

"Yes," I agreed. "He's stunning." I willed the boy to make eye contact with me, though I had no idea what I'd do if he did. But he and his friends took their cones and walked away.

"He 'has' to be here all summer." A desperation I'd never known before formed a tight band around my chest. "If he's a day tourist, I'll 'die.'"

Olivia crunched down on the end of her cone. "Probably you won't, though."

It turned out Tyler would be there for the rest of the season: his moms had bought the Johnsons' old house, west of Golden Doors. Which meant I saw him that summer and the next, my crush surging back each year like a trick candle. I was drunk on exquisite longing, watching him flirt with summer girls and tourist girls and local girls. He belonged to the same friend group as Olivia's sister and my cousin Noah, so we spent the summers tagging along after them, following the older kids to the beach or squeezing our way close at ice-cream parlors. I had no shame, chasing Tyler with all the nuance of a six- year-old who thought her parents couldn't tell when she lied. I adored him, so how could he not adore me back?

After three and a half summers of being wild about him, I thought, 'now'. I was fourteen and more than ready for my first kiss; I spent almost every night fantasizing about Tyler. Mid-July, I gathered my nerve, along with the prettiest seashells and smoothest stones and sea glass. I woke early one Saturday to form them into foot-high letters on the beach. 'Tyler, date me?'

(I'd originally planned to write 'Tyler Nelson, will you go on a date with me?' but quickly realized it would be way too much effort.)

Olivia guarded the words while I found Tyler where he was playing volleyball with a bunch of the other older kids. Everyone looked shockingly adult, their skin slick with sweat and sunblock, the guys with broad shoulders, the girls confident in their bikinis and retro one-pieces. No braces or constellations of acne to be seen. As the game ended, I picked my way over, nervous and terrified and feeling impossibly brave. He stepped away from his friends to grab his water bottle, and I closed the gap between us.

He noticed me hovering. A flash of something—'Irritation?' I wondered in retrospect. 'Impatience?'—crossed his face, but then he smiled. He'd always been unfailingly kind to the younger kids. "Hi, Shira."

I tried to say something, but no words emerged. "Looking for your cousins?"

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