Today's Reading

At Gull Pond, while the kids are at their lessons and Dr. Levy's paddling across the pond, Diana sits on the shore with the other nannies and au pairs and mothers' helpers. Alicia, who's got short, feathered brown hair and wide-set brown eyes, a curvy figure and golden-brown skin, is with the Dexters. The previous summer, Mrs. Dexter and the three Dexter kids, plus Alicia, had a place in Nantucket. "Ugh, don't get me started about Nantucket," Alicia says, using her fingers to comb her hair back from her face. "Everyone's white and everyone's thin. Like, I don't even think they let fat people off the ferry. They just make you get back on and go back where you came from. I felt hideous!" she says, and the other girls hurry to reassure her that she's not fat. Maeve, who's Irish, tall and pale and freckled, with red hair and knobby knees, takes care of the Donegans' new baby. The previous summer, Maeve worked at Moby Dick's on Route 6, living in a dorm with thirty other Irish girls employed by the restaurants and hotels on the Outer Cape. Maeve still knows the Moby Dick's crew, so she tells the other girls about all of their parties and beach bonfires, and makes sure they know they have an open invitation.

Marie-Francoise is the Driscolls' au pair, and Kelly works for the Lathrops, who live in a mansion on the same dune as Dr. Levy. Kelly helps clean, and watches the Lathrop grandchildren when the grandchildren are in residence.

Most days, Diana and Dr. Levy and the kids spend the late mornings and early afternoons by the water, either at the pond or at Corn Hill Beach with its wide stretch of sand and its gentle, lapping waves. Dr. Levy twists an umbrella into the stand, rocking it from side to side to make sure it won't blow over, and Diana plasters the twins with more sunscreen, then gives her own shoulders and back a more modest coating from the bottle of Coppertone she keeps in her tote. Dr. Levy dons a gigantic red-and-white sun hat and sits in a folding canvas chair with an extra-large iced tea and a novel or a People magazine (sometimes, Diana notes with amusement, she'll have the People folded up inside of the novel). On Fridays, Mr. Weinberg meets them, bringing them a late lunch of sandwiches from Jams, the convenience store in the center of town, or fried oysters and French fries from PJ's in Wellfleet. "Oh, I shouldn't," Dr. Levy says, helping herself to his fries as the kids come out of the water.

"Feed me like a baby bird!" Sam says.

"Feed me like an animal in a zoo!" says Sarah.

Laughing, Diana gives them chunks of icy watermelon or bites of string cheese or pepperoni, dropping the food from her fingers into their eager mouths. Sometimes, after lunch, the Lewis Brothers ice-cream truck shows up. The driver, a young bearded man with an easy smile, emerges from the olive-green truck and blows a single note on a plastic horn, and the kids, screaming with delight, run out of the water to ask their parents for money. Dr. Levy always obliges. "Don't tell Daddy," she says, digging her wallet out of the tote bag and handing Diana a twenty. "If they've got that mint cookie, can you get me a tiny little scoop in a cup?"

By two o'clock, the kids are tired. Diana and Dr. Levy gather up the blankets and towels, the plastic shovels and the pails full of scallop shells and jingle shells. Diana herds the kids into the outdoor shower, using the handheld attachment to spray their swimsuits and their bodies, making them raise their arms over their heads, then bend and touch their toes so she can rinse away every grain of sand.

After showers comes siesta. Diana gets the kids dressed again and puts them down for a nap. Usually they fall asleep immediately, stuporous from their exertions and the sun. Then she's on her own. "Enjoy!" Dr. Levy says, from her spot on the couch, or behind the kitchen counter. "We'll see you at dinner."

Sometimes she takes a book from the crammed shelves in the living room. Each one, when opened, exudes the smell of sea salt and paper and damp. Sometimes she sits on the deck overlooking the bay and writes in her journal, describing the pond or the bay or the beach, the color of the sky at sunset or the sound of Maeve's accent. Sometimes she paints—she's brought a little watercolor kit, and a pad of artist's paper, and she's attempted several sunsets and seascapes.

But most days, she puts on her bikini, rubs more sunscreen onto her shoulders, and goes down the six flights of stairs to the beach. For the first two weeks, she strolls back to Corn Hill Beach, where she spreads out a towel and sits in the sun, listening to the cheerful din of kids and parents, the music from a half-dozen portable radios, the sound of instructions, sometimes patient, sometimes exasperated, as a dad tries to teach his kids how to sail a Sunfish or fly a kite. Sometimes one of her nanny friends will be there, and they'll trade bits of gossip about their families. Diana hears all about it when Marie-Francoise almost gets fired after Mrs. Driscoll found a boy in her bedroom, and when, on a Saturday night in P-town, Kelly spots Mr. Lathrop through the window of the Squealing Pig with a woman who is not Mrs. Lathrop on his lap.

"What are you going to do?"

Diana asks, wide-eyed, and Kelly says, "He gave me forty dollars to forget I saw anything." She shrugs and says, "Turns out, I have a terrible memory."

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