A long time ago, I lived a fairy tale life. There was always magic around me: magic in the stars, magic in the ocean and magic in the sand. At night when we were only ten years old, Cary and I would lie back on our blankets on the deck of our daddy's lobster boat and gaze up at the heavens, pretending we were falling into outer space, flying past this planet and that, circling moons and reaching out to touch the stars. We permitted our minds to wander and imagine. We said anything we wanted to each other, never ashamed, or too embarrassed to reveal our most secret thoughts, our dreams, our intimate questions.
We were twins, but Cary liked to call himself my older brother because, according to Papa, he was born two minutes and twenty-nine seconds before me. He behaved like an older brother from the moment he could crawl and protect me. He cried when I was unhappy and he laughed when he heard me laugh, even if he didn't know why I was laughing. When I asked him about that once, he said the sound of my laughter was music to him and it pleased him so much, he couldn't help but smile and then laugh, too. It was as if we were enchanted children who heard our own songs, melodies that were sung to us by the sea we loved so much.
As far back as I can remember, there was always magic in the water. Cary could wade in and come walking out with the most spectacular seaweed, starfish, clamshells, seashells, and even things he claimed had washed across the ocean from other countries to us. When it came to the ocean, I believed anything he said. Sometimes I thought Cary must have been born with seawater in his veins. No one loved it as much, even when it was nasty and wild.
What discoveries Daddy let us keep, we kept in either Cary's room or mine. We decided everything had some sort of power to it, whether it was the power to grant us a wish or the power to make us healthier or happier just by touching it. We assigned an enchanted quality to each thing we found.
When I was twelve and I wore a necklace made from the tiny seashells we had found, my friends at school were amazed at the way I identified each and every shell, explaining how this one could drive away sadness or that one could make the dark clouds move on. They laughed and shook their heads and said Cary and I were simply foolish and even immature. It was time we grew up and put away childish ideas. There was no magic in these things for them.
But to me there was even magic in a grain of sand. Cary and I once sat beside each other and let the sand fall through our fingers, pretending each grain was a tiny world unto itself. Inside it lived people like us, too tiny to ever be seen, even with a strong microscope.
"Be careful where you step," we told our friends when they were with us on the beach. "You might crush a whole country."
They grimaced with confusion, shook their heads, and walked on, leaving us behind, enveloped by our own imaginative pictures, pictures no one else wanted to share. We were inseparable for so long, I guess people thought we had been born attached. Some of my jealous girlfriends once made up a story about me, claiming I had a long scar down the side of my body from my underarm to my waist and Cary had the same scar on his body. It was where we supposedly had been connected at birth.
Sometimes, I thought, maybe it's true, that from the moment we entered this world, our separating had begun, a slow and painful process. It was a separation Cary fought much harder than I did as we grew older.
As a very young girl and even when I first entered my junior high school years, I was comfortable, happy and grateful for Cary's devotion to me. Other brothers and sisters I knew argued and occasionally insulted each other, often in public! Cary never said a really bad thing to me, and if he spoke to me in a manner that suggested he was impatient or annoyed with me, he immediately regretted it afterward.
I knew that other girls fixed their flirtatious gazes at Cary and competed with each other for his attention. It wasn't just a sister's prejudice for me to say Cary was handsome. From the first day he could cast a rope or carry a pail, he accompanied Daddy on the lobster boat and helped in the cranberry bog. He always had a dark tan that brought out the emeralds in his green eyes, and he loved to wear his rich dark hair long, the strands lying softly over the right side of his forehead, just above his eyebrow. It looked so much like silk, girls were jealous and all of them longed to run their fingers through it.
My brother carried himself firmly with the demeanor of a confident little man, even when he was just in grade school. Other boys used to make fun of the way he held up his head and shoulders, striding alongside me with his gaze firmly fixed on where we were headed, his lips tight. Soon, however, they started to envy him, and girls in our classes just naturally thought of him as older, more mature.
Frustrated by their failure to win his attention and interest, however, they eventually found comfort in making fun of us. By the time we were in high school, they were calling Cary "Grandpa." He didn't seem to care or even notice. I was sure it bothered me more than it bothered him, and it wasn't unless someone physically got into his face or insulted me in front of him that Cary reacted, almost always violently. It didn't matter if the other boy was bigger or even if there were more than one. Cary's temper was as quick and as devastating as a hurricane. His eyes became glassy and his lips were stretched so tightly they formed white spots in the corners. Anyone who challenged him directly knew they were in for a fight.
Of course, Cary would get into trouble, no matter how justified his reaction was. It was he who had lost his temper and usually he who dealt the most damage to his opponents. Almost every time he was suspended from school, Daddy gave him a beating and confined him to his room, but nothing Daddy could do and no punishment the school could impose would deter him if he believed my honor was somehow compromised.
With such a devoted and loyal protector watching over me, other boys kept their distance. It wasn't until I entered high school that I realized how untouchable I had become in their eyes. Many girls my age had crushes on boys or had boyfriends, but no boy dared pass me a note in class, and none joined me in the hallways to walk from one class to another, much less walk me home. I walked with some girlfriends or with Cary, and if I walked with girls, Cary usually followed behind us like my guard dog.
When I reached sophomore year, however, I, like most of my girlfriends, wanted a boy who showed serious interest in me. There was a boy named Stephen Daniels who had lived in Provincetown only a year, who I thought was very handsome. I wanted him to talk to me, to walk with me, and even ask me to go on a date. I thought he wanted to because he was always looking at me, but he never did. All my girlfriends at the time told me he wanted to, but said he wouldn't because of my brother. Stephen was afraid of Cary.
I mentioned it to Cary and he said Stephen Daniels was stupid and would go out with any girl if that girl gave him what he wanted. He said he knew that from listening to him in the boys' locker room. Later, I found out Cary had actually walked up to him and put his face an inch from Stephen's, threatening to break his neck if he should so much as look twice at me. Naturally, I was disappointed, but I couldn't help wondering if Cary had been right.
In the evenings after we had done our homework and helped Mommy with May, our younger sister who had been born deaf and was attending a special school for the handicapped, Cary and I would talk about some of the other kids at school. No matter what girlfriend of mine I mentioned to him, he found fault with her. The only girl he didn't criticize was Theresa Patterson, Roy Patterson's oldest child. Theresa's father, Roy, worked with Daddy on the lobster boat. The Pattersons were Bravas, half African-American, half Portuguese. The other students looked down their noses at them, especially the ones who came from so-called blue-blooded families, families who were able to trace their lineage back to the Pilgrims, families like Grandma Olivia's, Daddy's mother, who ruled over us like a dowager queen.
Cary liked Theresa and enjoyed being friends with her because he liked the way she and her Brava friends defied the other students. When I asked him if he could ever think of Theresa as a girlfriend, he raised his eyebrows as if I had said the silliest thing and replied, "Don't be stupid, Laura. Theresa's like another sister to me."
I suppose she was, but as I grew older and felt Cary's shadow over my shoulder more and more, I began to wish he found some other girl to win his attention. I did my best to recommend this one or that, but nothing I said made him act any differently toward them. If anything, when I mentioned a possible girlfriend for him, that girl suddenly became ugly or stupid in his eyes. I realized it might be better if I just let nature take its course.
Only, nature didn't.
I used to think nature just missed Cary. She walked by one day while he was out on the lobster boat or something. Other boys his age were trying to get dates, hanging out in town, showing off to get a girl's attention, asking girls to do things with them; but Cary...Cary spent all his free time with me or his model boats upstairs in his attic workshop, a room just above mine.
Finally, one day at lunch I mentioned my growing concern to Theresa. She rolled her dark eyes and looked at me as if I had just been hatched.
"Don't you hear all the talk behind your back? All the whispering and gossip? There isn't a girl in this school who thinks Cary's normal, Laura; and most of the boys have their doubts about you. They don't talk to me about it, but I hear what they say."
"What do you mean? What sort of things are they saying about us?" I asked, trembling in anticipation.
"They're saying you and your brother are like boyfriend and girlfriend, Laura," she replied hesitantly.
My heart skipped a beat and I remember looking around the cafeteria that day and thinking everyone was looking at us, their eyes full of contempt. I shook my head, the deeper realizations taking shape like some dark, ugly beast who had crawled out of a nightmare into my daytime thoughts.
"Look at you," Theresa continued. "You're fifteen now and one of the prettiest girls in this school, but do you have a boyfriend? No. Anyone asking you to the school dances? No. If you go, you go with Cary."
"There are no buts, Laura. It's because of Cary," she said. "Because of the way he dotes on you. I'm sorry," she added. "I really thought you knew and didn't care."
"What am I going to do?" I moaned.
She nudged me with her shoulder like she usually did when she was going to say something nasty about one of the other girls in school.
"Get him a girlfriend who'll stir up his hormones and you'll be fine," she said.
I remember she got up to join her Brava friends and I sat there, suddenly feeling very alone and unhappy. Cary came walking into the cafeteria quickly, spotted me, and marched over.
"Sorry I'm late," he said. "Mr. Corkren kept me after class about my homework again. What's going on?" He looked closely at me when I didn't respond. "Did something happen?"
I just shook my head. I wondered how I could tell him and not hurt him.
I put it off and never really tried to make him understand until the year after, when Robert Royce and his family bought the old Sea Marina Hotel and Robert entered school.
For me and Robert, it was love at first sight and that brought with it a special kind of magic Cary couldn't share.
Somehow I had to make him understand and accept. I had to show him how to separate himself from me.
I only hoped it was possible.
Copyright © 1998 by The Virginia C. Andrews Trust and The Vanda Partnership