Tiny Islands

A two-week summer vacation on Mallorca reveals the fraying fabric of an American family

Mallorca was a layer cake—the gnarled olive trees and spiky palms, the green-gray mountains, the chalky stone walls along either side of the road, the cloudless pale blue sky over-head. Though the day was hot, the mugginess of New York City was gone, replaced by unfiltered sunshine and a breeze that promised you’d never be too warm for long.

Franny laughed when they pulled into the gravel drive, so drastically had Gemma undersold her house—another reason to despise her: modesty. In the distance, there were proper mountains, with ancient trees ringing the slopes like Christmas ornaments, and the house itself looked like an actual present: two stories tall and twice as wide as their limestone at home, it was a sturdy-looking stone building, painted a light pink. It glowed in the mid-morning sunlight, the black shutters on the open windows eyelashes on a beautiful face. A good third of the house’s front was covered with rich green vines, which crept across from edge to edge, threatening to climb into the windows and consume the house entirely. Tall, narrow pine trees lined the edge of the property, their tippy-tops poking at the wide and empty sky. It was a child’s drawing of a house, a large square with an angled roof on top, colored in with some ancient terra-cotta crayon that made the whole thing radiate. Franny clapped.

The back of the house was even better—the swimming pool, which had looked merely serviceable in the single backyard photograph, was in fact divine, a wide blue rectangle tucked into the hillside. A cluster of wooden chaise longues sat at one end, as if the Posts had walked in on a conversation already in progress. Sylvia hurried behind her mother, holding on to the sides of her tunic like a horse’s reins. From the lip of the pool, they could see ot her houses tucked into the side of the mountain, as small and perfectly shaped as Monopoly pieces.

“The pool is great,” Sylvia said, though she hadn’t been in. “What time is it?” She had the wild look of someone who hadn’t slept in twenty-four hours, with purplish semicircles underneath both her eyes.

Being eighteen was like being made out of rubber and cocaine.

Sylvia could have stayed up for three more days, easy.

“Want to sort out the bedrooms?” Jim said, scratching his forehead. “I thought Charles and Lawrence . . .” he started, but Franny was already halfway up the stairs.

Predictably, both Jim and Sylvia fell asleep as soon as they were given a bed in which to do so. Franny dragged her bag from the trunk of the car into the foyer. Gemma had left a small dossier on the house, pool, and surrounding towns in a red folder on the kitchen counter, and Franny leafed through it quickly. There were a few restaurants at the bottom of the hill—some tapas, some sandwiches, some pizza—and a serviceable grocery store and vegetable market. Palma, the largest city on the island, which they had just circumnavigated on their way from the airport, had everything else they could need—department stores for forgotten bathing suits and such, Camper shoes made on Mallorca. Gemma herself was fully stocked with beach towels and suntan lotion, pool floats and goggles. There were clean sheets on the beds and more in the linen closet. Someone would come the following weekend to service the pool and take care of the garden. Franny closed the folder and knocked her knuckles against the stone countertop.

They were waiting for Bobby and his girlfriend, Carmen, and Charles and his husband, Lawrence, all of whom would arrive in the morning. Franny still felt residual sadness at having missed the opportunity to be Charles’ beard of a wife, which surely would have happened if they’d been born fifty years earlier. Now he was married to a man he loved, whoop de doo, and she had to settle for being his best friend, a term that meant nothing in a court of law or anywhere else. Married or not, if Charles hadn’t been coming to Mallorca, Franny would have tried harder to cancel the whole trip.

They would drive to a larger supermarket later, maybe tomorrow, but for now all they needed were a few things to make for dinner. Franny was the mom, which meant that all the planning fell to her, even if anyone else had been awake. No matter that Jim no longer had a job—some retirees took up cooking as a hobby, turning their kitchens into miniature Cordons Bleus, filling drawers with brûlée torches and abandoned parts of ice cream makers, but Franny couldn’t quite imagine that happening. Most retirees had chosen to leave their jobs, after decades of service and repetitive-stress disorders, and that wasn’t what had happened to Jim. What had happened to Jim. Franny kicked a loose rock. They’d always enjoyed vacations, the Posts, and this seemed like as good a send-off as any, complete with days at the beach and views to kill. Franny wished she had something to break. She bent over to pick up a stick and flung it over the cliff.

The road to the small town—really just an intersection with a few restaurants and shops on either side—was narrow, as they’d noticed driving up the mountain, but walking along the side of the road, Franny felt as though it had shrunk even further. There was hardly room enough for a fleet of bicycles to whiz by her, let alone a car, or, God forbid, two, going in opposite directions, but whiz they did. She clung to the left side of the road, wishing that she’d thought to pack some sort of reflective clothing, even though it was still the middle of the day and anyone driving could see her plainly enough. Yes, it was true that Franny had gotten thicker in the last decade, but that was what happened unless you were a high-functioning psychotic, and she had other things to think about.

Franny knew plenty of women who had chosen to prioritize the eternal youth of their bodies, and they were all miserable creatures, their taut triceps unable to conceal their dissatisfaction with their empty stomachs and unfulfilling lives.

Franny liked to eat, and to feed people, and she wasn’t embarrassed that her body displayed such proclivities. She’d gone to one horrible Overeaters Anonymous meeting in her early forties, in a stuffy room in the basement of a church, and the degree to which she recognized herself in the other men and women sitting on the folding chairs had scared her away for good. It might be a problem, but it was her problem, thank you very much. Some people smoked crack in alleyways. Franny ate chocolate. On the scale of things, it seemed entirely reasonable.

The grocery store was a modified farm stand with three walls and two short rows of open shelving with canned food and other staples. A handful of people were on their way in or out, some on bicycles, and some pulling their cars off to the nonexistent shoulder of the road. Franny wiped the sweat off her cheeks and started to pull things off the small shelves. There was a cooler in one corner with some sheep’s milk cheese wrapped in paper, and dried sausages hung from the rafters at the other end of the room. A woman in an apron was weighing the produce and charging the customers. If Franny could have chosen another life, one far from New York City, this is what she would have chosen: to be surrounded by olives and lemons and sunlight, with clean beaches nearby. She assumed the Mallorcan beaches were clean, not at all like the filthy Coney Island of her youth. Franny bought some anchovies, a box of dried pasta, two fat links of sausage, and cheese. She bought a small bag of almonds, and three oranges. That would do for now. She could already taste the salty cheese melting into the pasta, the tang of the anchovies. Surely there was olive oil at the house—she hadn’t checked. That didn’t seem like something Gemma would overlook. She probably had her own oil pressed from the trees on her property.

“Buenos días,” Franny said to the woman in the apron. Mallorcan Spanish wasn’t the same as proper Spanish, which wasn’t the same as Catalan. Franny’s plan was to ignore the differences and just plow ahead—it was how she usually got along in foreign countries. Unless you were in France, most people were delighted to hear you try and fail to form the right words.

If she was being truly honest, Franny was slightly disappointed that the women in the market were all wearing perfectly normal clothing, with mobile phones sticking out of their pockets, just like women in New York. It was even true in Mumbai, that a woman in a sari would whip a cell phone out of her pocket and start talking. When Franny was young, everywhere she went felt like another planet, like some glorious wonderland on the other side of the looking glass. Now the rest of the world felt about as foreign as a shopping mall in Westchester County.

“Buenas tardes,” the woman said back, quickly weighing and bagging all of Franny’s items. “Dieciséis. Sixteen.”

“Sixteen?” Franny plunged a hand into her purse and felt around for her wallet.

All of Franny’s friends with children were so excited for her, to have Sylvia finally heading off to school. It’ll be like a vacation, they said to her, a vacation from being a full-time parent.

What they meant was, You aren’t getting any younger, and neither are your children. Some of her friends had children who weren’t even in high school yet, and their lives revolved around piano lessons and ballet class, like Franny’s had so many years ago. Or like it might have, if she’d worked less. They all complained about not having any free time, about never having sex with their husbands, but really they were bragging. My life is too full, that’s what they were saying. I have so much left to do. Enjoy menopause. While it was true that Franny was going to have her life back in some way, it wasn’t going to be the life of a twenty-year-old, all late nights and hangovers. It was going to be the life of an older person. She was six years away from a senior discount at movie theaters. Six years of looking at Jim in the kitchen and wanting to plunge an ice pick in between his eyes.

“Gracias,” Franny said, when the woman handed her the change.

The house was in the foothills of the Tramuntana Mountains, on the far side of the town of Puigpunyent, on the winding road that would eventually lead to Valldemossa. No one could pronounce Puigpunyent (the car rental agent had said Pooch-poon-yen, or something of the sort, unrepeatable with an American tongue), and so when their daughter Sylvia insisted on calling it Pigpen, Jim and Franny couldn’t correct her, and Pigpen it was. It was a twenty-minute drive from Palma proper, “straight up a hill,” which made Franny groan, averse as she was to location-mandated forms of cardiovascular exercise. But who needed to walk anywhere when they had so many bedrooms, and a swimming pool, within minutes of the ocean?

The idea had been to be together, everyone nicely trapped, with card games and wine and all the fixings of satisfying summers at their fingertips.

Things had changed in the last few months, but Franny still wanted it to be true that spending time with her family wasn’t punishment, not like it would be with her parents, or with Jim’s. Franny thought that the major accomplishment of her life was producing two children who seemed to like each other even when no one else was looking, though with ten years between them, Sylvia and Bobby had had very separate childhoods. Now that Sylvia was 18, both childhoods were over, and with them, those blurry zones of happiness and ear infections, half of Franny’s life. The good half.

The Posts hadn’t vacationed in years, not like this. There were the summer rentals in Sag Harbor, the unhampton, as Franny liked to call it until it wasn’t true anymore, and then the one-month-long stint in Santa Barbara when Sylvia was five and Bobby was fifteen, two entirely different trips happening at once, a nightmare at mealtimes. It was too hard to travel all together, Franny had decided. She took Bobby to Miami by himself when he was sixteen, and granted him mother-free afternoons in South Beach, a trip he would later claim as the inspiration for attending the University of Miami, a dubious honor for his mother, who then wished she’d taken him on a trip to Cambridge instead. Jim and Franny and Sylvia once spent a weekend in Austin, Texas, doing nothing but eating barbecue and waiting for the bats to emerge from under the bridge. Franny’s own parents, the Golds of 41 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York, had never once taken her out of the country, and she took it as her duty to provide new experiences for her children. Sylvia’s tongue would soften, her Spanish would go from New York Puerto Rican Spanish to Actual Spanish Spanish, and someday, some thirty or forty years down the road, when she was in Madrid or Barcelona and the language came back to her like her first lover, Franny knew that Sylvia would thank her for this trip, even if she was already dead.

Charles and Lawrence and Bobby and his girlfriend Carmen arrived on time, and Franny was waiting at the airport, where she pretended to be as excited about the significant others as she was her dearest loved ones. Franny did an elaborate switcheroo with the rental cars and sent her son back to the house with Lawrence and Carmen, all three of them bleary-eyed and half-asleep. It wasn’t the simplest plan, but it got Franny exactly what she wanted, which was some alone time with Charles, doing their very favorite activity.

The grocery store in Palma was heavenly. Franny and Charles clutched each other at the head of every aisle. The packaging was sublime, even on canned sardines and tubes of tomato paste. Being in a foreign country made even the smallest differences seem like art. Charles had once painted Franny from a photo in a Tokyo supermarket, her wide face beatific. It was one of their very favorite things to do together.

“Look,” Charles said, holding up a package of flan pudding. “Look,” Franny said, holding up a bag of jamón-flavored potato chips.

The ham aisle was magnificent: chopped ham, bacon, cho-rizo, mortadella, sobrassada, salami, ibérico, hot dogs, ham pizza, sausages, ham jerky. They filled a shopping cart with jars of peanut butter and jam and toilet paper and juice— zumo—and lettuce and oranges and manchego and loaves of sliced bread. “What time is it?” Charles asked, as they stood on line at the cashier. “It feels like three in the morning.”

“Poor little duck,” Franny said, and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. When they’d met, both Franny and Charles had been young and beautiful-ish, with enough style to fudge the rest. Her waist had nipped in with a good strong belt, and his hairline was only just starting to announce itself. They could live to be a hundred years old, and that would still be how Franny saw him—like a shorter James Dean, with curious eyebrows and curvy lips, just as gorgeous as possible. It didn’t matter that Charles was now completely bald, with only a lau-rel of stubble clinging to his skull—to Franny, he would al-ways be the one she loved the most, the most handsome boy she could never have, except in all the ways she did have him, forever.

“How’s it going? With Jim, I mean.”

“Oh, you know,” Franny started, but didn’t know how to finish the sentence.

“Bad. Bad, bad, bad. I can’t look at him without wanting to cut off his penis.”

“Sylvia seems like she’s taking it all well, though,” Charles said, nodding at the cashier. He spoke even less Spanish than Franny did, which wasn’t saying much.

“But you haven’t even seen her yet,” Franny said, confused. “Facebook.”

“You’re on Facebook?” Charles rolled his eyes.

“Sí. And why aren’t you? Oh, lovey, you are really missing out. But yes, Sylvia and I do the Facebook chatting all the time. I think she probably does it at the dining room table, sitting right across from you.” He lowered his voice. “She tells me all her secrets.”

Franny let go of Charles’s shoulder and knocked her body against his, threatening a stack of chocolate bars behind him. “She does not,” Franny said, jealous of both the fact that Charles knew things about her daughter that she didn’t and that Sylvia had found a way to communicate with Charles that she didn’t even know existed. “Sylvia doesn’t have any secrets. That’s what’s so wonderful about her. She’s the first teenager on the planet to just be happy.”

“Of course she is,” Charles said. He bowed his head. So much of being a good friend was knowing when to keep your mouth shut. “And that’s the good part, after all. No matter what happens with Jim, you’ll always have Syl and Bobby. Kids are forever, even if love isn’t, right?”

“I’ll love you forever,” Franny said, sliding her credit card out of her wallet. “Kids, too, I suppose.”

It didn’t matter that most of the party had flown in that morning, and that they would need to have a third wind in order to stay awake through dessert. Franny had cooked, and everyone was going to sit at the table together. She’d bought fish at the market, and lemons, and Israeli couscous, and fruit for a tart, and enough wine to make the whole thing float. Her hands smelled like rosemary and garlic, which was better than soap. She’d found the rosemary growing in the yard, a great big bush of it, well tended and right by the kitchen door. Carmen was in the shower, and Bobby was changing out of his swimsuit, but everyone else was already dressed and in the dining room. Franny liked this moment most of all: being alone in the kitchen after almost everything was finished, and listening to the assembled guests chatting happily, knowing they were soon to be fed. Charles hadn’t come with them on vacation since Bobby was a baby, not for longer than a weekend, and Franny’s pulse quickened happily at the sound of his voice and Sylvia’s together. They were friends. How had that happened? It felt impossible that Sylvia was already eighteen, and that she would be leaving so soon. Leaving. That was the word she liked to use. Not going away, which implied a return, but leaving, which implied a jet plane. Franny would never have been so cruel to her own mother, who had insisted on weekly dinners through-out her first year at Barnard, as if Brooklyn and Manhattan had anything to do with each other, as if she hadn’t just moved to another hemisphere. If she and Jim were really over, Sylvia would have it even worse. When she came home to visit, where would she go? To her mother in an otherwise empty house? To her father in a bachelor apartment, slick and sad with all new furniture? Franny stared into space, her hands still on the corkscrew.

It was siesta time. They’d all been delighted to acclimate to the custom, and now everyone dragged themselves to their separate corners right after lunch, eyelids already heavy. Carmen slept on her back, while Bobby curled up like a seashell next to her, his mouth open. Jim fell asleep on the sofa in the living room, a book on his chest. Sylvia slept on her stomach, her face turned to one side like a swimmer. Lawrence slept like a child, with the covers up to his neck. Only Charles and Franny were still awake, and they were in the master bathroom, Franny in the tub and Charles on the closed lid of the toilet. Gemma had all the best bath products, of course: shampoos and conditioners, exfoliating scrubs, bars of soap with sprigs of lavender embedded in them, bath gels, bubbles, loofahs, pumice stones, the works. Franny planned to soak for an hour, even if it meant using all the hot water in Pigpen. The tub wasn’t very long, but neither was Franny, and her straight legs just barely touched the far end.

“So?” Charles said. He was flipping through a magazine, one of Sylvia’s trashy ones from the airplane. “How’s it been?”

Franny had a washcloth over her eyes. “You’ve seen it.”

“I mean when it’s just the two of you.” He turned the page to a spread of women in sequined evening gowns.

“It’s like this,” Franny said, and then kept her mouth shut for a beat. “It’s like nothing. It’s like I want to punch him in the eyeball almost as much as I want him to actually apologize. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve truly considered murdering him in his sleep.”

“So you’re not mad?” The next page was the entire contents of an actress’s purse, spilled out and identified piece by piece. Chewing gum, a nail file, some makeup, a mirror, another pair of shoes, headphones, a BlackBerry. “What does she read when she gets bored?” he said to himself.

Franny explored the drain with her big toe. “I’m beyond mad. I truly didn’t know this space existed, where he could do something so terrible that the word mad wouldn’t begin to cover it. Do we really do it? Do we sell the house? Does Sylvia become totally unstable and crazy because the minute she goes to college, her parents get a divorce?” She shook the washcloth off into the water, and it made a little splash. “What would you do if Lawrence cheated on you? Would you get a divorce?” She turned around to look at him. Friendships were tricky things, especially friendships as old as theirs was. Nudity was nothing more than a collection of hard-earned scars and marks. Love was a given, uncomplicated by sex or vows, but honesty was always waiting there, ready to capsize the steady boat. Charles closed the magazine.

“I cheated on him once. With one person, I mean. More than one time.”

Franny sat up and swiveled ungracefully in the tub so that she was facing Charles directly. Her breasts were half above the water, half below, her heavy flesh settled into tidy rolls underneath.

Charles wanted to ask her if he could take a photo to paint from later—she would say yes, she always said yes—but realized it was not the time.

“Excuse me?”

Charles leaned back against the toilet tank. There was a small square window on the short wall of the bathroom, and Charles looked through it onto the mountains, which seemed to wave through the ancient glass. “It was in the beginning. Almost ten years ago. We were already living together, but it wasn’t that serious. It wasn’t that serious to me, I should say. Lawrence, bless his little heart, he always thought we were in it for the long haul. He’s the settling-down type, you know, with his real job and his supportive parents. He always wanted to get married, even before it was legal. Whatever documents we could get, he wanted them.

“This was when I was with Johnson Strunk Gallery, remember, on Twenty-fourth? And Selena Strunk always had the cutest boys working for her, the art handlers, kids who looked straight out of some gym-bunny porno, all beefed up and adorable, with little beards they’d just learned how to grow. I don’t know why they liked me—I was already, what, forty-five? But some of them wanted to be painters, I suppose. Anyway, one of them, Jason, he started hanging around the gallery when he knew I’d be there, and he was a nice kid, so I took him out for coffee. When we sat down, he grabbed my dick under the table. Lawrence is such a WASP, he would rather die than admit he even had a dick in public. So I was, you know, surprised. It only happened a few times, over the next few months, at my studio.”

Franny made a noise. “Involuntary,” she said, then covered her mouth with the washcloth and waved him on.

“Lawrence was so young, I didn’t think it could really be it. I didn’t even know if I believed in it. So I fucked around. I felt terrible about it, of course, and the whole thing was over quickly, but I never told him. So.”

“So? So? So you never plan on telling your husband that you had sex with someone else? What the fuck, Charlie?” Franny crossed her arms over her chest, which had a lesser effect than it might have, due to her nakedness, and that she slipped a bit into the tub, and had to pull herself back upright.

“No,” Charles said. “And I’m not telling you because I think that what Jim did wasn’t awful, because it was. I’m just telling you because you asked. I wouldn’t want to know. And if he did, and I found out, I would probably forgive him.”

Franny rolled her eyes. “Well, obviously you would, now.” The water in the tub had cooled, and she turned the hot water back on, refilling the room with a warm steam.

“Even if I hadn’t, Fran, that’s the truth. Marriage is hard. Relationships are hard. You know that I’m on your side, whatever your side is, but that’s the truth. We’ve all done things.”

“That is bullshit. Yes, we’ve all done things.

I’ve done things like put on thirty pounds. He’s done things like put his penis inside a twenty-three-year-old.

Don’t you think one of those is significantly worse?” Franny stood up, her body dripping, and grabbed a towel. She stayed put, the now dingy water sloshing against her calves.

“I am on your side, sweetie,” Charles repeated. He walked over to the side of the tub and put his hand out, which Franny accepted, stepping over the lip like Elizabeth Taylor playing

Cleopatra, her chin lifted from her shoulders, her dark hair wet against her neck.

“Well,” she said, once she was safely on dry land. “Secrets are no fun for anyone. Keep that in mind.” She kissed him on the cheek and padded into the bedroom, listening for the sounds of snoring coming from all the other rooms.

Franny licked some powdered sugar from her finger. She had been feeling inspired and had tried to bake her own ensaimadas, the delicious and flaky pastries that were all over Mallorca. Yeast and shortening and flour and milk, all coiled up like a sugary snail. Islands were such funny creatures, when it came to food. Most of the normal things were imported and therefore upcharged, and so many of the local delights were flown out on airplanes. It felt like a book, maybe—Tiny Islands. What people eat in Mallorca, in Puerto Rico, in Cuba, in Corsica, in Taiwan, in Tasmania. There would be a lot of travel, of course, probably several months’ worth. All through the lens of life after infidelity—everyone was writing books like that, a woman rediscovering herself after love gone wrong. Maybe she’d ask Gemma if she could come back in the fall, after Sylvia was at school. Mallorca by herself. Franny pictured herself sitting in the exact same spot by the pool a few months down the line, the air just warm enough to swim a few laps and then hustle back into the house.

Bobby had limped up to bed right after dinner, and Sylvia was parked in front of the television with Lawrence. One of his movies was on television, miraculously, dubbed into Spanish, but with the push of a button, the actors were speaking English again. It was Toronto made to look like New York, and Sylvia loved to point out the myriad inaccuracies—the subways were wrong, the streetlights, the buildings. Jim was back in Gemma’s study, an ice pack pressed against his face, and so it was only Charles and Fran for the nighttime swim.

The lit-up houses on the other side of the valley were like polka dots in the darkness. Every so often, one would turn black, or another would brighten, stars dying and coming back to life. Franny didn’t want to get her hair wet, and had on a shower cap over her tiny paintbrush of a ponytail. Even so, the short hairs that had fallen out were already soaked and sticking to her neck. Fran did a few laps with her head held high like a Labrador swimming for a stick, and then gave up, tossing the cap aside and diving under.

“I feel like an otter,” she said. “A nocturnal otter.”

“Water is very cleansing.” Charles was swimming in place at the deep end, waving his arms and legs around under the surface.

“Did you read that on a tea bag?”

“Maybe.” He splashed her as she swam by. “Also, remove after five to seven minutes and add honey.”

Franny flipped onto her back and winked at him, though she wasn’t sure he could see her eyes. In New York, darkness was a relative concept; there were always other people’s windows illuminating the night sky, and sweeping headlights. Here, there was nothing except the stars overhead, and the houses across the way, both of which seemed equally magical and far away.

“I always thought that having little kids was supposed to be the hardest part,” Franny said. “You know, taking care of someone who was completely dependent on you. Teaching them to speak, to walk, to read. But it’s really not true. It doesn’t end. My mother never told me that.”

“Your mother raised you like a baby manatee—she let you stay close for a year, tops, and then pushed you out into the ocean.”

“Is that what manatees do?”

“I don’t know, I think so. I read that on a tea bag, too.” Franny opened her mouth and let it fill with water, which she then spat out, in Charles’s direction. The water felt like heaven. They would be cold when they got out, she knew, but it didn’t matter. She wasn’t ever going to leave the pool.

“We’re trying, you know.” Charles hoisted himself halfway out of the pool, his once muscular arms now a bit softer against his upper body.

“Trying what? Don’t talk to me about weird sex stuff, please. I haven’t gotten laid in a hundred years and it will make me hate you.” Franny rubbed the water out of her eyes. She was facing away from Charles and swiveled her body so that he was directly in front of her. The bottom of the pool was slightly pebbled, like a popcorn ceiling, and she drew her knees to her chest.

“No,” Charles said. He let himself fall back into the water with a splash.

“We’re trying to get a baby.”

Franny wasn’t sure she’d heard him right. “Get a baby?”

Charles swam over and put his hands on Franny’s shoulders. She let her legs straighten out and put her hands on his hips, so they were both standing in the shallow end, in fifth-grade-dance pose.

“Get a baby. I mean, adopt a baby. We’re trying to adopt. It’s close. I mean, it could be. Someone picked us, and we said yes, and now we’re waiting.”

Franny didn’t flinch. “My love,” she said, and closed the gap between them, pressing her wet body against his. She wanted to tell him that he would be a wonderful father, and that having her babies—that’s what they were to her still, her babies, no matter how old they got—was the best thing she’d ever done, no matter the stress and complications. She pulled back and saw that Charles’s eyes were wet, either with pool water or tears, she wasn’t sure, but it didn’t matter, because hers were, too. “Yes,” she said. “That is a wonderful, wonderful idea.”

Jacket design and hand lettering by Janet Hansen, jacket illustration by Belhoula Amir

Reprinted from The Vacationers by Emma Straub by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright (c) 2014 by Emma Straub