Chapter 1

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JOAQUIN WAS WITH HER WHEN THEY pulled her mother's body from the boat onto the pier in Oak Bluffs. Joaquin had been with her almost every moment for the past nine days since her mother had gone missing. He'd held her hand and hugged her and said reassuring things to her and even wrapped his arms around her as they slept at night—and his mother did not make a fuss about the two fourteen-year-olds alone in the room with the door closed. His presence steadied her. It was what she held on to.

But nothing could make Evangeline Gerard forget that at the moment her mother was likely drowning in the ocean just west of Martha's Vineyard, she was losing her virginity.

The funeral was on Saturday. Before the service, the gray sky seemed to hover right above the ground, Evangeline observed, she wanted to reach out and grab it. Once they were inside, her father, face drawn, stood solemn in the front pew with her holding his hand, and Joaquin holding her other. The priest said his words, but she had a hard time following them. Does anybody ever listen to these things? Probably not. In her whole life, she had only been to one other funeral—her grandmother, her mother's mother, and that had only been the year before. She spied her mother's brother, and the cousins she she saw rarely. Robin Gerard's sorority sisters, and other friends from Boston. Joaquin's parents were sitting a few rows back from them with his other two brothers, Matthew and Christian.

As the priest droned on, getting closer and closer to the benediction, Evangeline glanced over her shoulder and met eyes with Christian. The bruises on his face were almost completely unnoticeable now, but she still saw. She wondered if the scars on his right fist would ever go away. Their eyes met for the briefest of moments, then she looked away, eyes back towards the casket and the monotone priest. No, not there. To her father, tears rolling down his face. Not their either. Her eyes found themselves upon Joaquin's face, who was looking down at her, his face as open and honest and caring as it has always been. When his mother called him at Space Camp in Alabama to tell him the ferry carrying Evangeline's mother had sank, he demanded that his parents get him on the first flight home—he had to be with Evangeline. God, how she loved him!

Nothing would ever be the same again. Her mother was dead. Her father was heart broken. And it was her fault. But at least she had Joaquin.


June 1991—Martha's Vineyard

Down at the end of Seaview Avenue, just before the town of Oak Bluffs gives way to Edgartown, on a stretch of beach between Farm Pond and the Atlantic ocean, the Alexandre home was the quintessential cafe cod style cottage—actually a relatively large home, though simple in design. In the backyard, there was a large pool and an even larger expanse of lawn around it. On the stone pavers between the house and the pool that served as a patio, was an expensive and complicated propane grill. While the house was, for the most part, Diann's domain—he thought installing the pool was a bad idea—Paul Alexandre had few things he splurged on, and his grill was one of them.

The boys wanted steaks, and Paul was happy to oblige. With the school year over, Paul was glad that his oldest son Matthew, having graduated from high school a few weeks prior, was staying on the island for the summer before he started classes as Stanford University, clear across the country. With Matthew leaving, Paul had often found himself thinking recently, the countdown to an empty nest would begin. But Joaquin was still only fourteen—he could worry about that later.

Paul and Diann Alexandre had three boys, Matthew, Christian, and Joaquin, all of them teenagers now, in their nineteen-year marriage. Matthew was the responsible one, a boy who wasn't shy, but quiet all the same. He led by example, and everything he did made his parents proud—he was the homecoming and prom king, as well as student council president. Christian was a classic middle child, a consummate jokester, he had a knack for getting himself into all manner of trouble, and also a knack for talking his way out of most of it. His gift of charm had the whole of Oak Bluffs in thrall. Joaquin, though not nearly the athlete that Matthew and Christian were, was headstrong all the same, and being the youngest, his brothers overprotected him; they doted on him–though Paul remembered when the boys were younger and Christian and Matthew could torture Joaquin just as readily.

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