The Rumor(16)


by Elin Hilderbrand

There was still no sign of Allegra.

Eddie raised his glass of wine. “Here’s to Madeline’s new apartment,” he said. “Congratulations.”

HOPE

Allegra didn’t come down to dinner until the very last minute. Their mother had called up to her three times, and then Eddie called up to her. Eddie was the only person who held sway over Allegra because he was the one who paid her credit card bill.

Allegra came out onto the deck, her eyes glued to her phone, her thumbs flying.

Hope said, “Who are you texting?”

Everyone else grew quiet—not because anyone else (except for Brick) cared whom Allegra was texting, but because Hope rarely spoke, and so when she did, everyone made a point to listen.

“Nobody,” Allegra said. She finished up and slid the phone into the front pocket of her sleek leather jacket. She was wearing her skinny Citizens, black ballet flats, a black lace blouse from Dolce Vita, and the soft caramel leather jacket. She looked like she’d just climbed off the back of some guy’s Ducati on the Italian Riviera.

She beamed at the assembled families, as if shocked and delighted to find them all there, as if she hadn’t heard them from upstairs in her bedroom for the past half hour.

“Hey, everyone!” she said. “Hey, Brick!”

Brick made an eighth of a turn in his chair, then waved in her general direction. “Hey.”

It was strained—but did he know about Ian Coburn? No, Hope didn’t think so. Allegra had managed to keep her mouth shut about Ian. She hadn’t even told her sworn bestie, Hollis. Hollis doesn’t need to know, Allegra had said on one occasion. And then, on a second occasion, she said, If I told Hollis, the entire school would know before we finished saying the Pledge. I love that girl, but she cannot keep a secret. The only person she had told about Ian Coburn was Hope.

Ian Coburn was taking his final exams at BC. He would be back on Nantucket the following week.

“What are you going to do then?” Hope had asked her sister.

“What do you think I’m going to do?” Allegra said.

Hope had no idea. She could see Allegra breaking up with Brick, and she could also see Allegra breaking up with Ian Coburn. And, she could easily see Allegra having the ego to try to juggle both boys over the summer.

Hope had said, “You’re going to play it by ear? Wait and see how it goes?”

“Exactly,” Allegra said.

Of course this was her sister’s answer. Allegra believed in nothing so strongly as her own good fortune, and in things working out in her own best interest.

But she would blow it.

Allegra put a hand on Brick’s shoulder and then bent over and kissed the top of his head like she was his mother. Hope felt a pang for Brick. Was it not totally obvious that Allegra’s reservoir of sexy, romantic feelings for him had run dry and that she was preoccupied by her phone, which they could all hear vibrating away in her jacket pocket?

“Who’s texting you?” Brick asked.

“Texting me?” Allegra said. She smiled innocently, as though she couldn’t feel the persistent vibration of Ian Coburn’s messages against her left breast. She plucked her phone from her pocket and checked the display. “Oh, it’s Hollis. She’s asking about math.”

She was a born liar, Hope thought. It was incredible. She should skip the modeling career and go straight to politics.

“I don’t believe you,” Brick said. “Show me the text!” He reached out to grab Allegra’s phone, but in the process, he hit Madeline’s glass of red wine—which shattered and sent a Malbecian spray all over Allegra’s Italian leather jacket.

Allegra shrieked.

Madeline said, “Oh, Brick, no!”

Trevor said, “Honey, it was an accident.”

Madeline set about picking up pieces of the wineglass while Allegra whipped off her leather jacket, taking her phone out of her pocket first and setting it on the dry part of the table, right where both Hope and Brick could see it, when Ian Coburn texted yet again.

“Ian Coburn?” Brick said. “Since when do you get texts from Ian Coburn?”

“Jesus, Brick!” Allegra said. “This jacket cost me a fortune!”

Eddie cleared his throat. “Me a fortune,” he said. “Is it ruined?”

Allegra wiped at it with napkins, but the wine had left a shower of dark stains that looked like splattered blood.

“It’s an Italian jacket, right?” Hope said. “You’d think they would make them wine resistant.”

“I can’t believe this!” Allegra said.

Grace got a sponge for the wine, and Madeline threw the shards of glass into the trash. Grace said, “Do you want the sponge for your coat, honey?”

“You can’t put water on it, Mother,” Allegra said.

“Tone,” Eddie warned.

Allegra’s phone continued to buzz.

Her family was so predictable, Hope thought. Possibly they believed that she, too, was predictable—but nobody knew that in a month, maybe two, she would be dating Brick.

Brick said, “Ian Coburn sure has a lot to say to you.”

Allegra snatched up her phone. “It’s none of your business who texts me.”

“Really?” he said.

“I’m putting the shrimp on,” Eddie said.

“I think maybe we should go home,” Madeline said.

Grace handed Eddie a large platter of shrimp and jalapeño skewers. When he laid the first one on the hot grill, there was an angry hiss.

Grace said, “You should not go home. It’s just a glass and a little spill. But, Eddie, you need to apologize to Madeline for giving her a hard time about Rachel McMann.”

Rachel McMann, Hope thought. Ew.

Rachel was the mother of Hope’s sworn enemy, Calgary McMann. Hope had dated Calgary for four weeks before she finally allowed him to get to third base, but he broke up with her right after, making Hope feel like there was something wrong with her. When Calgary and his friends saw Hope in the hallway, they made a strange hand motion that Hope didn’t understand, and there was no one she could ask, but she knew it wasn’t good. In response, she flipped them off, which made them laugh. Calgary had left Hope without a date for the Christmas formal; the red velvet cocktail dress that she and Grace had bought at Hepburn went unworn. Calgary had asked Kylie Eckers to the formal, but Kylie got so drunk at the preparty that the principal and superintendent stopped her at the door and called her parents to come pick her up. When Hope heard that news from Allegra the next morning, she felt somewhat vindicated, but now, five months later, her hatred of both Kylie and Calgary had become indelible, like a fossil in rock.