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Stories from Days That Last Forever
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Bask in the brilliance of the "queen of beach reads” (New York Magazine) with nine captivating stories of summer on Nantucket—and days that last forever—to carry us through when those warm sandy days feel far off.
Bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand revisits her most treasured and iconic characters in this magical collection of stories. Collected in a single volume for the first time, Endless Summer ranges from fan favorites to original, never-before-seen works. In “The Surfing Lesson,” the marriage at the heart of Beautiful Day crosses uncertain territory when Margot Carmichael encourages her husband to reunite with his ex-girlfriend. The legendary weekend of a Harvard-Yale football game in “The Tailgate” recharts the course of Matchmaker Dabney Kimball’s first—and abiding—true love. And in a brand-new novella, “Summer of ’89,” we reconnect with the Levin sisters, whose distant adult lives collide once again at a tumultuous family reunion on Nantucket.
With exclusive, behind-the-scenes introductions to each story, this page-turning volume blends Hilderbrand’s irresistible love of Nantucket with her longtime affection for short stories. Endless Summer answers the prayers of both new and seasoned readers everywhere who “would rather be living in an Elin Hilderbrand novel” (Kirkus Reviews).
The Surfing Lesson
(Read with Beautiful Day)
Here is my first-ever e-short, a short story that is of a novel but not part of it. “The Surfing Lesson” is a prequel—it occurs a few years before the action in Beautiful Day, and in it, we get to experience some of the history between my main character, Margot, and her husband, Drum. The opening scene takes place at the Juice Bar, a Nantucket institution. Margot and Drum bump into one of Drum’s ex-girlfriends and instead of feeling jealous, Margot realizes she needs to ask Drum for a divorce. The second part of the story is set at Cisco Beach, which is the best beach on Nantucket for surfing. I loved being able to describe the history of Margot and Drum’s relationship here, because there was no room to do so in the novel. This story also reminds me of the happy years when my two sons were in middle and high school and they used to spend all day long surfing at Cisco.
If anything was going to change Margot’s mind about divorcing her husband, Drum, it was the presence of Hadley Axelram ahead of them in line at the Juice Bar on the third night of their Nantucket vacation. The day had been hot and sunny, with a high of 89 degrees, the second-hottest August 18 on record. There were forty-five or fifty people packed into the front of the shop and in a line snaking down Broad Street, creating a traffic hazard for the Jeeps and SUVs streaming off the late ferry. Margot’s attention was consumed with making sure her three children didn’t get hit by an overly excited driver, so it was surprising that she even noticed Hadley Axelram, although for the past ten years, Margot had experienced a personal barometric drop whenever the woman was nearby.
Hadley Axelram had dated Drum off and on for the three years before Margot met him. Hadley Axelram had a certain kind of look—to Margot, she looked like a twelve-year-old boy—that Drum and various other men found themselves powerless to resist. Hadley was five foot two and weighed ninety pounds. She had no chest and no ass; back in the days when Margot used to see her in a bikini, she had been startled by the sharp protruding bones of Hadley’s hips and rib cage. Hadley wore her dark hair in a pixie cut, which made her brown eyes look enormous and sad, like the eyes of an extraterrestrial stranded billions of miles from home. Hadley always wore a choker. Years ago, it had been a black suede cord wrapped around a jade-green stone that nestled in the hollow of Hadley’s throat. But now, the choker was caramel-colored leather embellished with recognizable gold hardware—Hermès. When Hadley reached up to idly finger her choker, Margot noticed that her nails—longer than anyone would expect on a person so obviously striving for androgyny—were painted the purplish blue of Concord grapes.
Drum had spent much of those three on-again, off-again years competing with his best friend, Colin O’Mara, for Hadley’s affections. Colin had been the second-finest surfer on Nantucket, after Drum. Drum was as graceful and elegant as a person could be on a board. “Like watching fucking Baryshnikov,” Margot had once heard a spectator on the beach say. Colin’s surfing, on the other hand, was all about brute strength and the relentless desire to outdo Drum.
The same dynamic had been true in their pursuit of Hadley Axelram.
“Look,” Margot said now, nudging Drum and pointing ahead in the line with her chin. “There’s Hadley.”
Drum nodded once but said nothing, which meant he had already seen her.
Over the past ten years, Margot had pieced together the following facts: Hadley, who was Indonesian—her grandparents were some kind of royalty in Jakarta—had spent the summer of 1999 drinking nightly at the Lobster Trap, where Drum worked as a bartender, until Drum finally asked her out. They fell in love—Hadley first, but Drum harder. That September, Hadley left Nantucket for graduate art-history studies in Florence. Her departure had stunned Drum and everyone else who’d assumed that Hadley was little more than a Lobster Trap brat and a surfing groupie. Drum felt like he had been shot in the chest (his words), but he put up an unaffected front. “Ciao,” he’d said to Hadley when he dropped her at the airport with her steamer trunk. “Arrivederci.” When Hadley returned to Nantucket the following summer and appeared at Drum’s cottage unannounced, Drum administered what he called a “hate fuck” and then showed her the door. And this was when Colin O’Mara stepped in. Supposedly with Drum’s “blessing,” Colin dated Hadley all summer, going so far as to let Hadley drive his beloved CJ5 all over the island and letting her live with him rent-free in his parents’ enormous summer home on Shawkemo Hills Lane.
The line for the Juice Bar moved forward a bit. Margot and Drum and the kids crossed the threshold into the actual ice cream shop, which smelled powerfully of vanilla and just-pressed waffle cones. The kids knew the rules: Once they were in, they were allowed to talk about what flavors, what sauces, what toppings, what kind of cone. Drum Jr. and Carson became absorbed by this, as did Drum Sr., who read the names of the flavors out loud to Ellie. Margot was free to scrutinize Hadley Axelram, who was four people over and two people ahead, one spot away from ordering.
Hadley had her two children with her. One was a boy Drum Jr.’s age, ten, who had inherited Colin O’Mara’s Irish coloring—the strawberry hair, the freckles. The other child was twoish, younger than Ellie, young enough to be carried, and this child, also a boy, had dark hair and olive skin like Hadley. Margot wondered how Hadley could stand having the child straddling her hip in the close, crowded heat of the shop. She was a good mother, Margot supposed.
The first son was Colin’s, born only five months after Drum Jr., as though getting accidentally pregnant outside of wedlock had been a fad that year. Unlike Drum and Margot, Hadley and Colin had never married; they stayed together for a couple of years and then split. Colin lived in Kauai now; he sent Drum and Margot cards at Christmas, pictures of himself on far-flung beaches or on the lips of volcanoes. In the last picture, there had been a Polynesian woman in a grass skirt at his side; it looked like he had snagged her from the luau at the Hilton.
These cards made Margot sad.
The second son, Margot knew, had been sired by an up-and-coming painter named Jan Jaap. In a victory of biology over history, his pale Dutch coloring had been overpowered by Hadley’s Indonesian genes. Margot and Drum had unwittingly walked into one of Jan Jaap’s art openings in SoHo, and, finding Hadley there, they were treated to the love story. At that time, Hadley had been pregnant. She looked as though she had tucked a cantaloupe into her camisole.
That night had ended in a vile fight between Margot and Drum, as so often happened on nights that involved Hadley. Drum had climbed into a cab and screeched back to the apartment alone, and Margot stumbled into a Burmese restaurant and cried over her momos.
That painter, Jan Jaap, had never quite lived up to his potential, Margot thought. She wondered about the Hermès choker.
Drum Jr. declared that he wanted vanilla ice cream in a cake cone; he was overly cautious with his taste buds, afraid to try anything new no matter how alluring his father made other choices sound.
“How about chocolate fudge caramel ripple, buddy?”
No. Drum Jr. would not be budged. Margot sighed. A twenty-two-minute wait for vanilla in a cake cone?
Carson went the opposite route. He asked for a waffle cup with a scoop of raspberry sherbet and a scoop of maple walnut doused with hot fudge and topped with gummy worms. Margot admired his creativity even as she knew this would end in a stomachache and possibly a cavity.
Ellie wanted a cup of mint chip with chocolate sauce and a squiggle of whipped cream. She would eat three bites, and Margot would be left with the rest, which meant Margot shouldn’t order.
Drum Sr. turned to Margot. “I’m going to have the pistachio.”
He was as predictable as their eldest child. Margot said, “Note the look of surprise on my face.”
That decided, there was nothing to do but wait. Margot eyed Hadley Axelram. The woman had inspired jealousy more insidious than Margot could have imagined. How many times had Margot told Drum that she knew he was still in love with Hadley? How many times had Margot ransacked Drum’s underwear drawer, where he kept photos from the summers of 1999 and 2000? These photos were mostly of Drum and Colin and Dred Richardson and the other guys who had surfed Cisco back then, but some of the group photos featured Hadley. Margot would stare at Hadley’s waifish, sexless figure and wonder what it was that had been so attractive. Then Margot admitted that there were certain women who possessed magic powers, who bewitched and captivated, who got into a man’s bloodstream like a virus that never died—and Hadley Axelram was one of them. Every time they had happened across Hadley in the past ten years, Drum got a look on his face like a kid who wanted a puppy.
But now that Margot’s reservoir of romantic feelings for Drum had run dry—and when she said dry, she meant dry—she found herself excited, happy even, to have an unexpected encounter with Hadley Axelram. This might be just what Margot needed. Hadley Axelram’s presence at the Juice Bar might be seen as a miracle, a last lifeline. Jealousy as defibrillator.
From her spot a chess move away, Margot listened to Hadley Axelram order. Double scoop of butter pecan in a waffle cup with caramel sauce and crushed Heath bars for the older son, a kiddie cup of cookie dough ice cream for the younger son, and… pistachio in a waffle cone for Hadley.
Margot almost couldn’t believe it. But then she recalled that during the periods when Hadley and Drum were dating—not only the summer of 1999 on Nantucket, but also part of the summer of 2001 on Nantucket and briefly in the winter of 2002 in Aspen—Hadley exerted enormous influence over Drum. She was the reason he’d gotten the tattoo of the god Ganesh on his hip, she was the reason he listened to Better Than Ezra, and apparently she was the reason he always ordered pistachio ice cream. For all Margot knew, Drum and Hadley had come to the Juice Bar too many times to count and ordered pistachio ice cream together.
Margot wanted to care. She yearned to care.
Once Hadley had received her cone and cups, Margot beamed in her direction, her smile as bright as a searchlight.
Hadley turned, saw Margot and Drum, and her expression appeared to be one of genuine delight. Not at seeing Margot, of course, but at seeing Drum.
“Hey!” Hadley said. She had her hands full with her ice cream and the child’s ice cream and the child, and she had to twist and maneuver through the crowd to Margot and Drum, which was not a path anyone waiting in line wanted to clear for her.
Margot heard Drum mutter, “Oh, Jesus.”
Normally, it was Margot who would have said this. Years before they had bumped into Hadley at the art gallery, they had seen her at the Matterhorn, in Stowe, Vermont. Wearing a white cashmere sweater and jeans and long feather earrings, she had been drinking a beer at the bar, surrounded by men ten years her junior. Margot had spotted her first and said, “Oh, shit.” She and Drum had had both boys in tow; Carson was pitching a fit after having spent all day in the Kinderhut, and all Margot had wanted was a glass of wine. She was the one who had insisted they stop at the Matterhorn, but once Drum saw Hadley, Margot’s dream of a fun, relaxing après-ski was ruined. Hadley had shrieked with joy upon seeing Drum, causing her other suitors to scatter. Margot was left to deal with her recalcitrant and exhausted children while Hadley and Drum “caught up,” Drum with that insipid look on his face. Margot had been bitterly jealous then, her stomach roiling with concealed rage.
She wanted rage now. She wanted to feel something.
“Hey, Hadley!” Margot said. She bent in and kissed the woman’s tanned cheek. Soft as suede.
“Hey, guys!” Hadley said. “Hey, Drum!”
“Hey,” Drum said. He gave her half a wave.
Suddenly, it was their turn to order. No time for a reunion. Margot said to Hadley, “Why don’t you wait for us outside? We’d love to catch up!”
Hadley said, “Yes, of course!”
She scooted past Margot and Drum and the kids, and Margot caught the scent of Hadley’s intoxicating perfume, a scent that had nearly caused her to vomit at the Matterhorn and again at the art gallery. Did Drum smell it? She looked at him. His mouth was a grim line.
“What’s wrong?” Margot said.
Drum didn’t answer her. He was placing their order with the adorable fifteen-year-old server who wore her hair in two Alpine braids like Heidi. When he was done, he said, “I don’t feel like dealing with Hadley Axelram tonight.”
“We aren’t ‘dealing’ with her,” Margot said. “We’re just going to say hello.”
“It always ends in disaster,” Drum said. He looked at her. He had gotten some nice sun on his face the past three days, and his eyes seemed very blue; he was getting the golden streak back in his hair that Margot had so loved when she first met him. He was such a great-looking guy. He was kind and sweet and a fabulous father and a doting husband. He was the best surfer she had ever seen and maybe an even better skier. But she didn’t love him; that knowledge pierced her like a Chinese throwing star in her gut. “You have to admit, it always ends in disaster when we see her.”
“Well, guess what?” Margot said. “It won’t tonight. I promise.”
Margot met Drum in the summer of 2001, eight days after his second breakup with Hadley. Hadley and Colin O’Mara had been “taking a break” that summer, and one late night at the Chicken Box, Hadley and Drum found themselves on the dance floor, stuck together like magnets. But by the end of July, Hadley had become frustrated with Drum, saying he didn’t make enough time for her, and she returned to Colin. That summer, Margot had been on Nantucket for just one week—the first week of August—although in the previous twenty-five years of her life, she had spent the entire summer on the island, at her family’s home on Orange Street. But that year, Margot had an internship at the executive search firm of Miller, Sawtooth, and a week was all she could finagle. She was lucky to get a week.
Margot had been lying on her towel at Cisco Beach, intent on finally getting some sun on her office-worker-white body, and whiled away the hot hours by watching Drum surf. Margot’s brother, Nick, said he knew Drum casually from “around”—which meant, Margot assumed, that Nick and Drum drank at the same bars and hit on the same women—and Nick introduced them when Drum came in off the water. Margot had been surprised at how tall and solid Drum was; on his board, he crouched and bent and twisted like a jockey riding a temperamental horse. Up close, Margot could see his eyes were silvery blue, the color of water, and he had sun-bleached streaks in his hair. He was as handsome as Apollo the sun god, but Margot refused to let herself worship him. She was twenty-five years old, halfway through her MBA at Columbia. She was a serious person, beyond gushing over a surfer.
Who wanted to be treated to their love story? Drum had asked Margot out pretty much on the spot. “Do you have plans tonight?” And because Margot did not have plans and because the other girls on the beach were looking at Drum covetously, Margot said no. She had always had a competitive streak.
Margot and Drum had gone out every remaining night of her vacation—drives up the beach in his Jeep to see the sunset, dinners at the Blue Bistro and the Galley and Le Languedoc (where Drum always paid with a wad of tens and fives, his tips from bartending). They went to one movie (Ocean’s Eleven) and had lots of very exciting sex in the down-at-the-heels cottage Drum rented on Hooper Farm Road. When Margot left at the end of the week, although Drum had her number and her address in the city, she thought, I will never see this guy again.
A part of her had also thought—admit it!—I won’t go back to New York. I’ll quit my internship. I’ll stay here the rest of the month and watch Drum surf. She had taken this a step further, thinking, I won’t go back to business school. I’ll go to Aspen with Drum. I’ll get a ski pass. I’ll work as a barista.
But she had gone back to New York. Drum stopped to see her on his way to Aspen. He had shown up wearing jeans and a wrinkled white linen shirt and flip-flops; when they made love, Margot noted he still had sand in the whorls of his ears. But during that twenty-four-hour visit, Margot learned other things about him: Drum’s father was an executive with Sony, and Drum had grown up jetting back and forth between New York and Tokyo. He had attended the American International School in Japan until tenth grade and finished high school at Dalton. He could negotiate the subway better than Margot could. He took her to a sushi place in the East Village where the chef came out from the back and conversed with Drum in Japanese. Margot was stunned. Drum had instantly become a different person; he had become a wonder. But no sooner did Margot have this revelation than he was gone to the mountains.
There had been phone calls that winter, drunk, late-night phone calls, most often initiated by Margot, who would sometimes cry. Sometimes she called and Drum didn’t answer. He was asleep. Or he wasn’t home.
The following summer, Margot had a bona fide job offer from Miller, Sawtooth, but in a brilliant bit of negotiating, she didn’t start working until September 15. She would have all summer free to spend on Nantucket. She would have all summer with Drum.
By Labor Day weekend, she was pregnant.
Hadley was standing right outside the door when they exited. Her younger child’s face was smeared with ice cream, and the older son grimaced at his mother and rolled his eyes. He looked so much like Colin O’Mara at that moment that Margot wanted to hug him.
There were repeat greetings. Margot kissed Hadley again; Drum kissed Hadley; the children were introduced.
Hadley said, “Wow, I can’t believe I bumped into you. I’ve been thinking about you all day.”
This was obviously a statement directed at Drum. Hadley would never be thinking of Margot all day, or even for a second.
“We always come the last two weeks of August,” Margot said. “We like to save it for the very end.”
“I’ve been here all summer,” Hadley said. She set the child down, which caused him to whimper, but she ignored this. “I left Jan eighteen months ago. I was dating a private-equity guy, and that has sort of ended as well, although he’s letting us use his house all summer. It’s on the water in Monomoy.”
Margot nodded. It wasn’t surprising that Hadley had left Jan Jaap, nor was it surprising that she had traded up from Starving Artist to Private-Equity Guy. What set Margot’s mind reeling was that Private-Equity Guy would allow Hadley and her children to stay in his waterfront house despite the fact that their relationship had “sort of ended.” This was the kind of thing that only happened to Hadley Axelram.
“Nice!” Margot said. She took quick stock of her children—all consumed with the business of eating ice cream. “So, you were thinking about Drum today?”
Drum made a noise of exasperation, which Margot ignored.
Hadley raised her big brown eyes to Drum. Here it was, Margot thought, the kill. Drum had never been able to resist that look from Hadley. It turned him to vapor. He could deny it, but Margot knew better.
But not today. Today, Drum was staring at Hadley like she was a skunked beer or an invoice for back taxes from the IRS.
“Curtis really wants to take surfing lessons,” Hadley said. She nudged her older son, Curtis, who was staring at his untied Osiris sneakers. “And I found myself wishing that you were around, because who better to learn from than Drummond Bain?”
“No,” Drum said.
And at the same time, Margot said, “Of course!”
There was a look of confusion from Hadley, then an awkward silence, which was broken when the little guy started to really wail and Hadley bent to pick him up.
“I don’t give surfing lessons,” Drum said.
“Sure you do!” Margot said. For the past three days, Drum Sr. had tried to coax Drum Jr. out to the waves. Drum Jr. had no interest in surfing. He would fool around in the water with his brother, and when he tired of that, he would get his lacrosse stick and go in search of other kids to play catch with.
“I really don’t,” Drum said.
“All right,” Hadley said. “Okay.”
“You could, though,” Margot said. “You could give Curtis a surfing lesson. We don’t have anything going on the rest of the week. You could meet him anytime. You could meet him tomorrow morning.”
Drum hadn’t touched his pistachio ice cream. It was starting to drip. He smiled at Curtis. “There’s a guy who hangs out down at Cisco Beach named Elvis. He gives lessons.”
Hadley shook her head. “No,” she said. “That’s not going to work.”
“Oh,” Drum said. “Right.”
Margot looked from Hadley to Drum and back. She had never heard of anyone on Nantucket named Elvis, although he was clearly a holdover from their surfing days. Maybe he was one of the people in the group photos in Drum’s underwear drawer. Maybe Hadley had slept with Elvis. Margot would have to ask Drum later.
Curtis kicked a pebble and it ricocheted off the side of the building. “That’s okay,” he said. “My dad said he’d teach me when I go to Hawaii in February.”
Drum smiled at the kid. “Your dad is a great surfer.”
Hadley made a face. She said, “February is fine, but it’s six months away. I thought it would be nice if Curtis could learn the basics now. He’s ready.”
“I can wait,” Curtis said.
Drum coughed and stared at the melting ice cream in his hand as though he couldn’t figure out what it was doing there. To Margot he said, “We have nothing tomorrow morning?”
“My dad is taking the kids out for breakfast,” Margot said. “And I’m going running. But you are as free as a bird.”
“I’ll meet you at seven o’clock,” Drum said to Curtis. “At the antenna. Do you have a board, or should I bring you one of mine?”
“I have a board,” Curtis said.
“Oh, thank you!” Hadley said. “This is so great!”
“Great!” Margot said.
When she told Drum about the pregnancy, Margot had been certain he would insist on her terminating it. Despite their luminous summer together, their lives were about to go in different directions. Drum was heading back to Aspen to ski, and then in late March he was flying to Sri Lanka to surf. Margot had her job waiting for her in the city. She was going to wear a suit every day and get an expense account. The managing partner of Miller, Sawtooth, Harry Fry, loved Margot. He saw something in her—a tenaciousness, a natural instinct—that made him believe she would succeed. His faith in her would be shattered if he knew she had allowed herself to become pregnant at the age of twenty-five. Go home, he would say. Spend your days drinking wine out of sippy cups with the other mommies at the Bleecker Street playground. Or hire a nanny and do charity work. Harry Fry would never have hired Margot if he’d known this was going to happen.
But instead of giving Margot the money for an abortion, Drum had taken Margot to dinner at the Blue Bistro, where the waiter served her a diamond ring embedded in an Island Creek oyster. When Margot saw the ring, she ran to the ladies’ room to vomit. Once she returned to the table, Drum had cleaned off the ring; it was perched in its velvet box, where it belonged.
He said, “I want you to marry me.”
She said, “Aren’t you supposed to ask?”
He said, “Margot Carmichael, will you marry me?”
Margot knew the sane answer was no. It would never work. Neither a baby nor a husband figured into her plans—not now, possibly not ever. But there was the specter of those drunken, late-night phone calls, a loneliness so profound that Margot had cried, despite living in a city of eight million people. She thought, Drummond Bain, king of the South Shore, wants to marry me. As it turned out, her heart was steel-plated on only three sides. As it turned out, her body was holding on to the cluster of cells growing inside her.
“Okay,” she said.
“Okay?” Drum said. “Aren’t you supposed to say yes or no?”
“Yes,” Margot said.
When Margot was a junior in college, she had “fallen in love” with a graduate teaching assistant in her philosophy course, a Canadian named Reese.
Reese had not returned Margot’s love. Reese had also, thankfully, not seen fit to use Margot for sex and walk away. Reese had been a good guy. When Margot made her feelings known to him one night in the reserve reading room over a confusing passage of Hume, Reese had held her chin and told her the following words about love.
“Nobody knows where it comes from,” he said. “And nobody knows where it goes.”
Where does it go? Margot wondered.
That night, after the kids were in bed and Margot and Drum were sharing the bathroom, washing the stickiness from their hands, Margot said, “Who’s Elvis?”
Drum said, “This guy.”
Margot waited him out. He knew that answer wasn’t close to sufficient.
- "One wonders what the author of 28 novels, sometimes appearing at the rate of two per year, does in her spare time. It turns out she writes what might almost be called Elin Hilderbrand fan fiction, creating short stories piggybacking off already-developed characters and plots....[Endless Summer is] a generous gift to fans."—Kirkus Reviews
- "“The beloved beach novelist’s twenty-eighth book is another tour de force. . .Honestly, who needs Nantucket? It could hardly be more fun than this book."—Kirkus Reviews (on THE HOTEL NANTUCKET)
- "It’s almost summer, which means Hilderbrand’s legions of fans will be eager for her latest....This is classic Hilderbrand...we hope she has many more Nantucket tales in store."—Booklist (on GOLDEN GIRL)
- "“Summer on Hilderbrand’s Nantucket is never dull. This time she focuses on former lovers who now lead separate lives but share an island idyll once a year. Captivating and bittersweet.”—People (on 28 SUMMERS)
- On Sale
- May 2, 2023
- Page Count
- 384 pages
- Back Bay Books