enough to hear Faith say, âYouâre up in a balloon, you darn fool.â
As they were walking back to the cottage, Faith asked Pix if she ought to invite Jill Merriwether.
âI know Eric and she are an item, yet I donât like to assume that couples go everywhere together.â
âWell, they do seem to be serious. Though Iâve been to lots of things where only one or the other has been invited. Iâd say do what you want. Sheâs very shy, but once you got to know her, I think youâd like her.â
âThen Iâll invite her and make the âCrowâs Nestâ notes with our daring girl-boy-girl-boy-girl table.â
Later that evening, as Faith surveyed the group over the toasted ravioli, she realized she neednât have worried about an unbalanced table, because one of the girls might just as well have been a china doll. Jill didnât look like a china doll, except for her tiny size. They hadnât made bisque in quite that shade of deep tan, nor straight brown hair that fell to her shoulders after traveling in an unequivocal line across her brow. She was pleasant. She smiled. She sat down and ate. She just didnât talk.
Faith made a few attempts to draw her out, which yielded the information that Jill was native to the island but had lived most of her adult life off, returning only for visits to the grandparents who had raised her and managed to put her through college. She had come back four summers ago to start the store. In the winter she lived in Portland and did something in the schools. Probably a speech therapist, Faith reflected.
Eric and Roger were teasing Pix, one of their favorite pastimes, and after two glasses of a full, slightly tart Montrachet Pix was rising to the bait. At the moment it was Pixâs penchant for sweeping generalizations that coincidentally served her purposes. âEveryone knows that developers are going up and down the coast convincing families to sell their land for what seems like a fortune, and then they turn around and make millions while the poor family has to move the trailer they bought with the money, a trailer that falls apart instantly when the warranty expires, inland on a tiny piece of land nobody wants and they never even get to see the ocean hardly.â
âI suppose you mean itâs common knowledge, Pix?â Roger smiled.
Roger was even taller than Eric. He looked like a basketball player of the Kevin McHale variety, big hands, long arms, and slightly pigeon breasted. But basketball players didnât have full beards and hair past their earlobes as Roger did. It was all very tidy and he was an attractive man, yet he didnât seem to generate the energy Eric did. He had gentle, large brown eyes the same color as his hair and beard. His face was tanned, and the whole effect resembled an underpainting waiting for the definitions of color. His voice matchedâcalm, slow, and, Faith was pretty sure, slightly stoned. Pixâs voice, in contrast, was like a circus barkerâs, one who had made a stop at the Winsor School and Pembroke.
âYes I do, and you and Eric know it as well as I do. Could you afford to buy anything on this island? I know Sam and I couldnât, at least not something with frontage.â
Eric broke in, playing devilâs advocate. âIt hasnât been my impression that people on this island are easily talked into anything, Pix, let alone swindled out of their birthrights.â
He stopped suddenly at the thought in everyoneâs mind, then recovered gracefully. âCase in point. Do you think it likely that Matilda Prescott could have been talked into leaving her house to the two of us, delightful as we are, if she hadnât wanted to? Forget for a minute what the whole island is saying.â
âWell,â Pix grudgingly admitted, âMatilda might have been
an exception. Besides, she really could have sold the property for a fortune. Paul