It’s odd how that can happen in your life. Just one thing. Just one little thing you do—or don’t do—and everything else, for the rest of your life, becomes very, very different from what you had imagined or planned.
I won’t say that what Harriet did that day began as something harmless. It bothered me, right from the first moment. But because of what she did, I found myself in a position of having to make a choice—a choice I never wanted to make. But had to. And it was then—when I made that choice—that everything changed.
We were in one of the souvenir shops—one of the many souvenir shops—and Harriet and I had sort of drifted to different parts of the store. She’d gone to look at clothes; I was looking at a little display of books about Put-in-Bay and the other Lake Erie Islands. I’d already read the old book about the islands that I’d gotten for my birthday years before—Sketches and Stories of the Lake Erie Islands from 1898. But I was looking through some of the others when Harriet rushed over.
“You’ll never guess!” she gushed.
“A boy?” I said.
“Yes!” she cried, ignoring the sarcastic tone in my voice. “But not just a boy,” she went on. “The boy.”
“What does that mean?”
“I mean,” said Harriet, displaying the false patience of someone who can’t believe how someone she’s talking to can be so stupid, “that he is the one I’m going to marry.”
“All right,” I said. “Are you asking me to be your maid of honor?”
“I don’t need to ask that, do I?” she said, suddenly serious. “I mean, we’re going to do that job for each other, right?”
“Sure,” I said, trying to figure out how I could change the subject—though I hadn’t had any luck doing that the past two days. Harriet’s ability to talk about anything but boys had totally vanished.
“Anyway,” she went on, after a deep sigh, “he’s standing right over there”—I looked; he was clearly of college age—“and he’s got a boat!”
“Lots of people have boats,” I said.
“I mean he has a big boat, a … what do you call it?”
“That’s it!” she cried. “A yacht.”
“That’s nice,” I said, turning again toward the book I was holding.
Harriet yanked it out of my hand. “And he’s going to go around to some of the other islands this afternoon and will be back here by five.”
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“I heard him inviting some people over there to join him.”
I looked. The “people” were others of college age—young men and women.
“Harriet, he didn’t invite you, did he?”
I looked at her, waiting.
“I mean, he invited everyone around there—in a voice loud enough for me to hear, so …”
“So you figured he meant you, as well?”
“Of course!” she chirped.
“Harriet”—I tried to sound serious—“he did not invite you. He doesn’t know you. You’re a sixth grader, and—”
“Soon a seventh grader.”
“Whatever. You can’t seriously be thinking of going?”
“I am,” she said. “And you’re going with me.”