Told largely in flashbacks (though ""flash"" doesn't describe these dragged-out memories), this is the story of 18-year-old Paul's reunion with Mary Lou, now 16; of their earlier acquaintance as sailing partners when Paul was unhappy in a home strained by his father's death; and of his suspended but not totally wasted existence in between. Sailing together now after his mysterious and, it's hinted, sordid two-year absence, each one remembers allusively the shattering event when they were caught up in fog and storm and didn't return home until 3 a.m. Though ""nothing happened"" between them, we gradually learn that her over-strict father, suspecting the worst, had the cops waiting and treated Paul like a rapist. That homecoming scene triggered Paul's flight the next day and has popped into his consciousness several times during his two-year stay with a hippie-druggy commune he's encountered on the road. Through his memories of those times, we learn that Paul has had casual sex (more casual to them than to him) with three of the commune's free-living young women; but he's not sure now that he likes the evident change in Mary Lou from her 14-year-old innocent manner. Her shorter, less specific memories leave readers wondering whether she has or has not ""done it"" with her intervening boyfriends; but when she and Paul finally do, we learn that it's the first time. ("". . . maybe I'm glad and I'm sorry. Once you do it, you can't not have done it,"" she muses afterwards. And Paul, comparing his experiences, ""Pleasure is nice but love is better."") And this time, coming home late, Paul determines that the two will face her father together. All this is treated as far more momentous than it is, as if the author's idea of projecting an adolescent viewpoint is to share in its tortured self-importance.