When it comes to picking out a new book, sometimes I can be indecisive. I’m about to commit to this for the next 300 or so pages. Do I want something summery? Something dark and twisted? Or maybe more domestic fiction? It can be a real head-scratcher. That is, until I picked up a copy of Someone Else’s Secret by Julia Spiro, out July 1, 2020, which has a little bit of everything.
After graduating Bowdoin with a degree in art history, no job prospects, and no trust fund or rich parents to fall back on, Lindsey takes a job as a nanny for Carol and Jonathan, a well-to-do and well-connected couple on Martha’s Vineyard. In her care are 5-year-old Robert aka Berty, and 15-year-old Georgina aka Georgie. Lindsey, who comes from a working-class family, doesn’t exactly fit in with the types of people who summer on Martha’s Vineyard (and use “summer” as a verb), like her fellow Bowdoin alum Joanna and her friends. Over the course of the summer, Lindsey and Georgie develop a sort of friendship (or at least, an understanding), until an act of violence shatters their bond. Someone Else’s Secret is Julia Spiro’s first novel, and Betches readers can get an exclusive excerpt right here, before it comes out on July 1.
When her alarm went off at seven thirty, Lindsey was already awake. She had woken up a few minutes earlier and stayed still in bed, staring at the warm sunlight streaming in through the shutter slats, painting the room in bright stripes.
She’d decided not to tell her mom, or Rose, or anyone, about her strange encounter with Jonathan the night before. He was probably just an awkward guy, she told herself. Not everything has to mean something, she resolved. And what was he going to do, really? Hit on her in his own house with his wife and kids there? This was real life, she told herself, not a bad movie.
She thought about Dylan as she rose from bed: the ease of his walk, the way he had gently picked up her bike, the way he had looked at her directly in her eyes when he said goodbye, the way his hand felt on hers, the way her feet seemed to float off the ground when they were together. But in the light of day, she was angry with herself for thinking about him. It was obvious that Dylan wasn’t part of Joanna’s crowd. He was a local, a townie, and even though Lindsey had been on the island for only one night, she knew already that someone like him wasn’t part of her future plans. Where could it possibly go?
She brought her phone with her into the bathroom, skimming through emails as she brushed her teeth. Her phone buzzed with a text from a number she didn’t recognize. Dylan, she thought. She opened the text. Hey, it’s Brian. Nice meeting you last night. Hope to see you around.
Lindsey let the brush hang out the side of her mouth, foam frothing at the corner of her lips. Brian? She had to reread the text again. She had barely spoken to him last night. She hadn’t given him her number. There was no way he would have gotten it from Joanna, she thought.She decided not to respond. And then it occurred to her: Did Brian suspect that she had done something to his car? Was this his way of telling her that he knew?
She remembered then that Brian was a Fitzgerald, that he was part of the family who Jonathan had told her owned the art gallery. She’d been on island one night, and she’d already jeopardized her entire future. She rubbed her eyes with her palms. She knew that she had to walk a tightrope with Brian. She didn’t want to lead him on, but she couldn’t be rude either. She would respond to him later.
For now, she had to focus on her job. It was time to get breakfast ready for Berty. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day, and she could feel the heated sunshine through her window, even in the early hours. Berty had tennis after breakfast, and then Lindsey was taking him over to the beach club. She was looking forward to that. She could see the club from the Deckers’ living room, just across the outer harbor. The club’s shoreline was dotted with red, white, and blue wooden cabanas that made the beach look like a traveling circus. From what Carol and Georgie had told her about the club, it seemed like Berty would have plenty of things to do there to keep him busy. She might even get to relax a little bit.
Downstairs, she heard voices as she rounded the bend into the kitchen. Carol and Jonathan sat at the island, each sipping a mug of coffee. They both looked up as she walked in, and for a moment, Lindsey thought they seemed surprised to see her, like she had accidentally interrupted some intimate moment. She had started to feel that way a lot in the Deckers’ house, like she was always in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Lindsey,” Jonathan said after a second. “Good morning.” He smiled at her, a wholesome, friendly smile that belonged to a father, a doting husband, someone reliable and loyal. He seemed to be an entirely different person than the one she had seen last night. Had he mentioned to Carol that he’d seen her come in? she wondered. For a moment, she considered whether she had been drunker than she’d thought. Maybe she had exaggerated the interaction in her mind as being something more menacing than it actually had been.
“Good morning.” She fidgeted, wishing that she’d worn real clothes over her suit instead of a somewhat translucent cover-up.
“Sleep okay?” he asked. Carol still hadn’t said anything.
“Yes, great.” She felt her voice raise up an octave, sounding too enthusiastic, too eager. “Everything is great.” She felt her stomach rumble.
“Good, good,” Jonathan said, rising. “I’ve got to do a little bit of work, and then I’ve got tennis at ten.”
“What time did we all decide to meet for lunch? Two?” Carol asked him, seeming to ignore Lindsey.
“Yes, two.” Jonathan gave her a kiss on the forehead, quick but gentle; then he turned and left the kitchen.
Lindsey was left alone with Carol, and despite her terrible encounter with Jonathan the night before, she somehow still felt more awkward with Carol. She smiled and exhaled. “Beautiful day, huh?”
Carol nodded. “It is a beautiful day, yes.” She shut her laptop. “Berty is outside, as you can see,” she said. Lindsey looked out onto the lawn. Berty was playing with what looked like a doll. “Georgie is already at work. But she’ll meet us all at the club later for lunch.”
“Great. Sounds good.”
Carol went over some of the logistics with Lindsey again—directions to the tennis club, their account number at the beach club, what kind of sunscreen to use on Berty’s sensitive skin—though Lindsey could tell it bothered Carol to do so. Her words were curt and quick, and she seemed distracted.
“I’ve already registered your name with the beach club. All you have to do is sign in when you get there. You can just put whatever you want on our tab. But Berty only gets one ice cream or treat a day.” Carol stood and carried her coffee mug to the sink. “See you around two, then,” she said and went upstairs. Lindsey felt as though Carol had given her a once-over with her eyes before leaving the room, and she wasn’t sure if her expression implied that she approved of her outfit or not.
She called Berty inside for breakfast and made him a bowl of yogurt with granola and honey. He stirred it repeatedly but didn’t seem interested in eating. After a few bites, he pushed the bowl away.
“I hate tennis,” he whined.
“Well, think about it this way,” Lindsey said, leaning on the counter so that she was level with him. “If you go to tennis this morning, then we can have the entire rest of the day to play at the beach. Doesn’t that sound awesome?”
“I guess so,” he whispered. “Okay.”
The walk to the tennis club was only a few minutes. It was part of the yacht club, which was located on the harbor, Carol had told Lindsey, but there was a separate area just for tennis. Berty was in a tennis clinic with other kids his age. When they got to the club, he ran to his group immediately. They were gathered on one of the courts in back. There was a middle-aged instructor on one side of the net with a basket of balls. The kids lined up on the other side; they knew what to do.
Next to the court was a shaded area with some chairs and a watercooler. Five other nannies were already sitting there. One had a magazine open. They glanced up at Lindsey when she arrived, assessing her, the new girl. Some smiled; others didn’t. Lindsey sat. She knew that none of them was the mother of any of these kids; it wasn’t just that they were slightly too young to be mothers; it was that they looked different from the actual mothers. They weren’t as polished; they all seemed a little bit exhausted. It was clear that they weren’t there to socialize. They were working. They were outsiders. And she was one of them, a fact that she hated.
Looking around at the other women, she noticed that some of them wore outfits that seemed to be emulations of what Carol and other women in Edgartown wore—the flat, Navajo-style leather sandals, seersucker striped skirts, simple shift dresses—yet something about these girls seemed inauthentic to Lindsey, like they were trying too hard. She gazed down at her own clothing, at the silver Tiffany’s charm bracelet that her parents had given her for her sixteenth birthday, and she knew that it was actually her own insecurity, her own feelings of inauthenticity, that bothered her, not theirs. She remembered how out of place she had felt her first week at Bowdoin.
She looked at the text from Brian again, deciding to respond. She started typing something and then deleted it. You too, she finally wrote, hitting “Send” and putting her phone away, deciding that Brian was probably just being friendly.
The club was just up the road on the Chappy side. Members Only read a sign on a white picket fence in front of the entrance. Berty swung the gate door open and barreled in. Lindsey stopped at the reception desk briefly. A young girl in a red swimsuit was manning the desk.
“Hi,” Lindsey said, keeping an eye on Berty, who had gone ahead but was now waiting and looking back at her, annoyed. “I’m with the Decker family; I think Mrs. Decker called in. I’m Lindsey?”
“You’re all set,” the girl said knowingly.
Lindsey followed Berty forward, where the club opened up to a sweeping private beach. It was paradise. There was a long dock, at the end of which was a waterslide and a diving board. “Wow,” Lindsey said to no one. The air smelled of burgers and saltwater, and there was an army of tan teenage lifeguards in red bathing suits parading around the club.
“Come on,” Berty said, tugging her. “I need to get changed.”
In the women’s bathroom, she got Berty changed into his swim trunks. “Let’s go,” he demanded impatiently once they were on. She made him wait another minute while she slathered him in sunblock.
Lindsey found a free spot on the beach, and she put her things down and then took off her cover-up. She was glad that she had worn her one-piece. Everyone at the club—parents, nannies, and kids—were all walking around in their bathing suits, but it was somehow still entirely conservative. Thank God, Lindsey thought to herself, imagining the reactions she would have gotten if she’d worn a string bikini.
Berty liked to go off the waterslide at the end of the dock again and again. A couple of his friends from tennis were there, too, and they all took turns going off the slide, climbing up the ladder, and then waiting for their next turn. A bored lifeguard blew his whistle when one of the kids started to get on the slide before the previous kid had swum out of the way.
After a while, Berty was thirsty, so Lindsey took him to the snack bar. He wanted a lemonade. She got herself an iced tea. Decker was all she had to say. She wondered what the final bill was at the end of every summer. There were no prices on the menu. None of that seemed to matter to anyone there.
She and Berty went to their spot on the beach and sipped their drinks. When he was finished, he went and sat on the shoreline and started building a sandcastle. The club really was the perfect setup, Lindsey thought to herself. She could relax and suntan while Berty was just a few feet away, playing. Lindsey sank into her elbows and let the sun blanket her skin. She could get used to this, if this was what her summer was going to look like.
“Boo!” she heard, and she felt someone’s cold fingers on her shoulders. She turned. It was Joanna. She was wearing a Shoshanna bikini with a pink gingham pattern and structured cups. Lindsey had seen it just yesterday in the store window of Nell. Joanna practically threw herself down onto the beach, stretching out on one of the towels that Lindsey had laid out, and released a dramatic sigh. Lindsey noticed that she was also wearing the exact Ray-Ban aviator glasses that she had wanted for herself. Now she couldn’t get them.
“God, what a night, huh?” Joanna said.
“Yeah,” Lindsey responded. It had been a night, though she wasn’t sure which part had unnerved her the most: keying Brian’s car, meeting Dylan, or the weird conversation with Jonathan. It had all become a surreal blur. “I’m kind of in shock about what”—she paused—“about what we did last night. To Brian’s car.” She wondered if Joanna knew that Brian had texted her. She opened her mouth to tell her but stayed silent. How would she explain it?
Joanna flipped over onto her belly, propping herself on her forearms.
“Don’t worry,” she said, swatting at Lindsey’s thigh. “It’s fine. In fact,” she whispered, pushing her glasses down on her nose and peering out over them, looking around, “nobody will ever know that it was us. Brian totally thinks it was someone else.” She smiled and raised her eyebrows.
Lindsey was relieved. She didn’t like how Joanna had said us. She knew that she had participated in it, but Joanna was the one who’d really done it, in her mind. She just went along with it. Didn’t that make her more innocent? she thought to herself.
“Well, that’s good, I guess,” she mumbled. “Who does he think did it?”
“Some townie guy,” Joanna said, shifting her hips to get more comfortable on the towel. “There’s this guy who has a rivalry with Brian. Something that happened in the fishing derby a few years ago. I don’t know; it’s so stupid. But I guess Whitney saw the guy driving by the party last night on his way back from the beach, so obviously now everyone thinks that guy did it. Makes total sense.” Lindsey’s stomach tightened. Dylan, she thought to herself. As if Joanna knew that Lindsey felt guilty, she continued. “I mean, the townie guy would have done it anyway. I mean, probably.” She paused. “Like, they’re enemies. But whatever, who cares? The point is, Brian got what he deserved, and no one knows that it was us.”
“Joanna,” Lindsey said with caution. “That guy . . .” She paused. She wasn’t sure how much she wanted to tell Joanna. She could sense already that she’d be judged if she revealed that Dylan had asked for her number and she was excited about it. “He gave me a ride home last night. My bike broke, and he saw me and drove me home. He seems really . . . nice.”
Joanna rolled her eyes. “Lindsey!” She pushed her sunglasses down. “You like this guy. It’s so obvious!”
“I don’t even know him . . .” But Lindsey could feel herself smiling. “He does seem like a good guy, though.” She looked around. “You don’t think Brian’s going to, like, retaliate, do you? I mean, Dylan had nothing to do with it.”
Joanna didn’t respond for a few seconds. “Listen,” she said, “Brian and this guy—Dylan, right?” Lindsey nodded. “They already had a beef together. It’s not like we created this. They already had it out for one another. This is just one more thing added to the list. It doesn’t even matter.” Lindsey didn’t agree with that logic. It wasn’t right. Dylan was innocent. They were the guilty ones. How could Joanna just be okay with the fact that they were blaming someone else? “What’s done is done,” Joanna added.
Lindsey’s only hope was that the whole thing might just go away. Maybe Brian wouldn’t even care that much; maybe he’d just forget about it. Though she knew that wasn’t going to happen. Her stomach churned.
“So has Mr. Decker flirted with you yet or what?” Joanna asked with a laugh, changing the subject. “I told you, didn’t I? He’s a little creepy, right?”
“I mean . . .” Lindsey chose her words carefully. She wanted to confide in Joanna, but she also didn’t want to talk badly about her boss, especially when he knew Joanna’s parents. “He does seem a little weird. I saw him last night when I got home. It was just . . . strange.”
“Ew,” Joanna huffed. “I mean, Mr. Decker is kind of hot, but he’s, like, a hard fifty.”
Lindsey shook her head and shrugged.
“Well, whatever. Next week is Brian’s family’s big party,” Joanna said. “It’s going to be so fun.”
“Cool” was all Lindsey could respond. She was too distracted.
Joanna left an hour later. “I’m going home to my pool,” she said, waving the sand off her towel. “It’s so boring here now. All my girlfriends are gone this year. They’re off in the real world, I guess.”
Lindsey smiled, wondering if she should be somewhat offended.
“But thank God you’re here,” Joanna added.
Lindsey watched her as she left the club, her wet hair clinging to her back.
A few hours later, Carol and Jonathan showed up for lunch.
“We’ll get a table,” Carol said. She and Jonathan turned back toward the snack bar. Berty ran behind them. Lindsey tried to towel off as best she could and then threw on her cover-up. Immediately, big wet spots formed around her breasts. She pressed the cover-up over the rest of her stomach, trying to get the whole thing wet so that the spots would blend in.
Jonathan and Carol had put some of their things on a table and were standing in line to order. There was nothing healthy—a cheeseburger, BLT, grilled cheese, chicken salad sandwich. Lindsey wanted to order after Carol. She was curious what she was going to get.
“Hi,” Carol said to the young girl at the counter. “Decker, 7625. Can we please have a cheeseburger, medium, a grilled cheese with tomato, and a garden salad with grilled chicken? Please put the dressing on the side. Jonathan?”
“A BLT, please. Thanks.” It was Lindsey’s turn. She had heard Carol order but didn’t know what was for her or the kids.
“I’ll have the turkey wrap, please. Thank you.” She didn’t really want that. She didn’t want anything. She wasn’t hungry all of a sudden. It felt too uncomfortable to eat lunch with them in the first place. They ordered a few iced teas and went to sit down.
“Georgie should be here soon,” Carol said at the table. “Or at least that’s what she told me.”
Berty told Jonathan that he’d been off the slide a hundred times that morning. Lindsey was grateful that Berty talked so much. She didn’t have anything to say.
A few minutes later, Georgie arrived. She was wearing her work clothes—jean cutoff shorts and a Picnic Basket shirt. She dumped her bag on the ground and sat down, looking around her as if she was trying to avoid someone or trying to find someone.
“Are you going to change?” Carol asked her before saying anything else. “Did you bring a suit?”
“Of course I brought a suit,” Georgie said, annoyed. “I’ll go change now.” Lindsey shifted in her seat. She didn’t see what was wrong with Georgie’s outfit or why she needed her swimsuit on to eat lunch. It was as if Carol was ashamed of her in those clothes. Work clothes.
Georgie emerged from the bathroom in a white eyelet print dress. Lindsey couldn’t tell what kind of bathing suit she had on underneath, but she had transformed from a normal teenager into a younger version of Carol—elegant, well groomed, and sophisticated. It didn’t seem like her.
“So how was work today?” Jonathan asked.
“Good,” Georgie responded, sipping an iced tea. “I saw Brian Fitzgerald.”
Lindsey nearly choked. Did Georgie know something about what she’d done last night? Did she know that Brian had texted her? Had Georgie given Brian her number?
“How is he doing these days? I just saw his father at the club last week. Said Brian was working on some start-up idea. He always was a smart kid.”
“Yeah” was all Georgie said. “He’s really smart.” Over the loudspeaker, their name was called, and Jonathan got up to go get their lunch. He came back with the food on two shiny red trays. Berty dove toward the grilled cheese.
“I took the liberty of ordering you a salad, Gigi,” Carol said.
“Thanks.” Georgie was pissed, that was obvious, but she didn’t say anything else. Lindsey watched Carol dissect her cheeseburger. She ate the patty with a fork, ignoring the bun.
The rest of lunch went by quickly, and Carol and Jonathan left when they were finished. They gave Georgie and Berty pecks on the head and then walked out. Lindsey sensed a common feeling of relief between her and the kids when they were gone.
“We got a pretty great spot down the beach,” she said to Georgie as they cleared the table.
“Cool. It’s still pretty hot out. I need to get a tan.”
Berty returned to his sandcastle on the shore. Georgie rolled out her towel next to Lindsey’s and then took off her white dress. She was wearing a string bikini underneath, to Lindsey’s surprise. Georgie looked around again, and this time, her eyes lingered on a group of girls down the beach. She dropped to her towel, lying on her stomach, and turned her head the other way.
“Cute suit,” Lindsey said to her.
“Thanks.” Georgie didn’t lift her head. It was clear she didn’t want to talk. Lindsey watched Berty for a few minutes, not saying anything.
Georgie released a sigh and flipped over, leaning back on her elbows. She turned her head toward the group of girls down the beach, her gaze settling on them. Maybe those girls had been Georgie’s friends, and something had happened, Lindsey thought. Georgie hadn’t mentioned any friends since Lindsey arrived.
“Everything okay?” Lindsey finally asked.
“Yeah, it’s fine,” Georgie said, turning to stare straight ahead at the water. “There’s just, well, there’s this guy.”
Lindsey was surprised; she had assumed that Georgie was having issues with friends, not with guys. “Oh,” she said, “guy stuff. What’s going on?”
Georgie turned toward Lindsey so that she was on her side, as though to welcome the conversation and to keep it contained between the two of them.
“I mean,” she whispered, “he’s too old for me. I guess. Maybe not in a few years. I don’t know. I just really like him.”
“Well, how old is he?” Lindsey asked. She was thinking about how Georgie had mentioned Brian at lunch.
“I think he’s, like, twenty-four?” she said. “Basically your age, I guess,” she added.
Before Lindsey could even respond and tell her that twenty-four was too old for her, that she should find a nice guy her own age, Georgie interjected.
“He was flirting with me,” she said defensively. “Anyway, it’s dumb,” she continued. “He used to teach me sailing when I was younger, and I think I’ve always liked him.”
So maybe it wasn’t Brian, Lindsey thought to herself, remembering that Joanna had said something about Brian being on Wall Street. Must be some local kid, she thought.
“I understand,” she said, “but I think you’re right. He’s probably a little bit too old. At least for now. But you never know where life will take you. Maybe in a few years, when you’re older, when you’re eighteen, you’ll be in similar places in life.” Lindsey didn’t really mean it; she was lying to Georgie, somewhat, but it felt like a kind lie and the right thing to do.
Georgie nodded. “You’re right,” she said. “Maybe it’s just not the right time.”
“Exactly.” Lindsey couldn’t believe how fast Georgie had come around.
“I mean,” Georgie continued, “I’ve known Brian my whole life, basically, since I was a kid. Our parents are friends. I’m sure I’ll still know him in a few years. Maybe later on it will be the right time.”
Lindsey’s ears pricked at the sound of Brian’s name. What was it about this guy that everyone was so drawn to? He was charming, sure, and cute, in a way, but he seemed ordinary to her and somewhat arrogant. She didn’t understand the magnetic pull he seemed to have on women.
“Well,” she said, trying to figure out what to tell Georgie. She knew that there was nothing anyone could tell a teenage girl to convince her that a guy wasn’t right for her. Georgie had a crush, and there was no going back. But she had to try. “Sometimes you think a guy is right for you, and he ends up being wrong for you.” She started rambling then, telling Georgie about her own high school crush that had ended in heartbreak. Georgie nodded but didn’t say anything. She took out a copy of Glamour from her bag and started reading.
In front of them on the beach, Berty knocked his sandcastle down with his feet, running through it with a slight scream. Lindsey looked at her cell phone but had no new messages. The phone itself felt like a duplicitous piece of evidence that she needed to bury deep down in her bag, like a forbidden weapon. She hadn’t meant to, but already she had basically lied to Joanna, Georgie, and, in a way, to Dylan, and all the lies were somehow connected to Brian. She hadn’t asked Brian to reach out to her, but he had. And now, not telling Joanna and Georgie that information somehow felt like she was actively lying to both of them. She hated the feeling of carrying secrets that she’d never wanted in the first place. She wished that she could extricate herself from the web she’d crawled into last night. But it was too late.
“Excerpted from SOMEONE ELSE’S SECRET by Julia Spiro. Copyright © 2020 by Julia Spiro. Published and reprinted by permission of Lake Union Publishing. All rights reserved.”