Bernie lived on a small island a few miles off Anthemusa Bay. The only thing on it was the log cabin and boathouse that Bernie had built fifty-some years ago for himself and his wife. His wife had died shortly after that, but Bernie stayed there just the same.
Since the only person who lived on the island was Bernie, the people of Capri had taken to referring to it as Bernie’s Island. That wasn’t the official name, but that was how everyone knew of it.
After Gemma’s mother’s car accident, her dad had a tough time. He used to take Gemma and Harper out to Bernie’s Island, and Bernie would watch them while her dad went off to deal with things on his own.
Bernie was always kind to them, and not in a creepy-old-man way. He was funny, and he let the girls have free run of the island. That was when Gemma had really developed her love of the water. She spent long summer afternoons out at the bay, swimming around the island.
In fact, if it wasn’t for Bernie and his island, she might not have become the swimmer she was today.
* * *
“What’s going on with Alex and your sister?” Marcy asked, and Harper lifted her head to see Gemma and Alex holding hands as they walked down the midway.
“I don’t know.” Harper shrugged.
She and Marcy were playing beanbag toss next to a picnic table, until Marcy had gotten distracted.
“You don’t know?” Marcy turned back to Harper.
“No, Gemma’s being really vague on details.” Harper threw her beanbag at the goal, intent on continuing the game even if Marcy was hung up on something else. “I know they kissed the other day because Dad saw them, but when I asked Gemma about it, she wouldn’t tell me anything. I think they might be dating.”
“Your sister is dating your best friend, and you don’t know what’s going on?” Marcy asked.
“Gemma never wants to tell me about her boyfriends.” Harper sighed. Gemma had had all of two of them before, but she was always secretive about her crushes. “And I haven’t really asked Alex about it. I feel a little weird bringing it up.”
“Because you have a thing for him,” Marcy said.
“For the millionth time, I don’t like Alex that way.” Harper rolled her eyes. “It’s your turn, by the way.”
“Don’t change the subject.”
“I’m not.” Harper sat back on the picnic table behind them, since Marcy clearly didn’t plan on playing until they discussed things. “I’ve never had anything other than platonic feelings for Alex. He’s geeky and awkward and just a friend.”
“Guys and girls can’t be friends,” Marcy insisted. “You really need to watch When Harry Met Sally.”
“Brothers and sisters can be just friends, and Alex is like a brother to me,” Harper explained. “Which is the only reason why this is weird for me. Because a guy that’s like my brother is dating my actual sister.”
“Thanks. Can we get back to the game now?” Harper asked.
“No, this game is boring, and I’m starving.” Marcy had a beanbag in her hand, and she gave it a half-assed toss to the side. “Let’s get some cheese curds.”
“You’re the one who wanted to play this,” Harper said as she got off the picnic table.
“I know. But I didn’t realize how boring it was.”
Marcy walked through the park, pushing people if they were in her way. Harper followed more slowly behind her, glancing back over her shoulder to see if she could catch a glimpse of Gemma and Alex together.
Originally, Gemma was going to go with Marcy and Harper to the picnic, but this morning Alex had called over to invite her to go with him. That was when Harper had tried to talk to Gemma about him, but Gemma had refused to give her any details.
Harper was so busy looking for them that she wasn’t paying attention to where she was going, and she bumped right into someone, knocking an ice-cream cone out of his hand and smashing it all over his shirt.
“Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry,” Harper said hurriedly, trying to wipe the chocolate ice cream off his T-shirt.
“You really do hate me, don’t you?” Daniel asked, and Harper realized with dismay that he was the one she’d covered in ice cream. “I mean, destroying someone’s ice-cream cone? That’s vicious.”
Her cheeks reddened. “I didn’t see you there. Honestly.” She wiped at his shirt more frantically, as if she could prevent it from staining if she rubbed hard enough.
“Oh, now I see your plan, and it’s far more devious than I thought.” Daniel smirked. “You were looking for an excuse to grope me.”
“I was not!” Harper instantly stopped touching him and took a step back.
“Good. Because you need to buy me dinner first.”
“I was only…” She gestured to his shirt and sighed. “I am sorry.”
“I’m covered in chocolate. Why don’t you apologize while we go get some napkins?” Daniel suggested.
Harper went with him over to a concession stand, where he grabbed a stack of napkins. Taking a handful from him, she walked to a drinking fountain, and Daniel followed her.
“I am sorry,” Harper repeated. She wet her napkins under the fountain as he wiped at his shirt.
“I didn’t actually mean for you to keep apologizing. I know it was an accident.”
“I know, but…” She shook her head. “I didn’t even properly thank you for helping out my sister, and then I attacked you with your own ice cream.”
“That’s true. You are a menace and must be stopped.”
“I know you’re teasing, but I feel bad.”
“No, I’m dead serious. I should report you for your abhorrent behavior,” Daniel said with a straight face, telling her the same thing she’d told him the day before.
“Now you’re making me feel worse.” Harper looked down at her shoes and balled up the wet napkins in her hands.
“That’s my plan,” Daniel said. “I like to guilt pretty girls into going out with me.”
“Smooth.” Harper narrowed her eyes at him, unsure if he was kidding or not.
“That’s what the ladies tell me.” He grinned at her, and his hazel eyes had a gleam to them.
“I’m sure they do,” she said skeptically.
“You do owe me an ice cream, you know.”