Five days into their two-week Bahamas vacation, the Harper family of Dearborn, Michigan was still entrenched in stateside habits: Earl and Valerie, the parents, still argued; Kelly, the 12-year-old daughter, still complained about her short fingernails and hunted for the perfect shade of lip gloss; and Dylan, the 16-year-old son, still thought about Stephanie Parker, his high school biology lab partner and secret crush since freshman year. Dylan had already bought Stephanie a souvenir glass jar filled with sea stones and Harbour Island’s famous pink sand. But he wanted to give her something else, something simple but clever enough to hint at his feelings while concealing them at the same time.
So that morning, Dylan walked to Harbour Town for just such a thing. And at the sidewalk table of a vendor woman with cinnamon skin and bright brown eyes, he found it. A carousel rack was crammed with postcards, one of which, titled “Seashells of the Bahamas,” instantly caught his eye. The postcard featured 47 shell species, from the flat white Sand Dollar with its starlike perforations, to the striated whorls of the Queen Conch, to pink and purple bivalve shells that, when opened, looked like porcelain butterflies. Dylan bought the postcard and mailed it to Stephanie in less than an hour, hoping that one day he could explain how those seashells reminded him of her luminous beauty and grace, and how she, like a shell, encompassed his entire heart.