Summerhouse Reunion

I’ve written the first of what I hope will be a series of three book mini series. The mini series is actually one story told over the course of three books which will publish in April, May, and June. The stories include a mystery, which runs through all three books, as well as two romances, featuring four friends each with their own life changes to deal with. I’ve included chapter one of book one here in this blog for anyone who’d like a sneak peek at what to expect.

Summerhouse Reunion – https://amzn.to/3btaroM 

Topsail Sundays – https://amzn.to/2ULHU79 

Campfire Secrets – https://amzn.to/39Tm07O 

 

Chapter 1 – Summerhouse Reunion

Sometimes life is about letting go. Letting go of the way things were supposed to have been. Letting go of unmet dreams and incomplete plans. Letting go of the anger that consumes you as you struggle to make sense of an unfinished life. I’d spent the last year denying the inevitable, negotiating for a different ending, screaming to the heavens that it wasn’t supposed to happen this way, and finally struggling to accept an ending that should never have been.


Letting go, I realized somewhere along the way, was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do.


“It’s a beautiful day.” A woman with white hair walked up beside me as the spray from the rough sea misted my face.


“Yes.” I turned and smiled. The woman looked to be a few years older than my sixty-eight-year-old mother; unlike my mother, however, who simply could not or would not understand the grief that haunted my every waking moment, this woman looked at me with compassion and understanding. “It’s a little rougher than I like my ferry rides, but beautiful all the same. My name is Kelly. Kelly Green. I’m afraid I can’t immediately place you, but I feel like we’ve met.”


“We have met, although it has been a long time since we’ve seen each other. About twenty years, to be more specific.”


My brows shot upward. “Dottie Pemberton?”


The woman smiled and offered her hand.


“Wow.” I reached out and hugged the woman. “I’m so sorry I didn’t recognize you. It’s just that…”


“It’s just that the fifty-two-year-old woman you remember looked a bit differently from the seventy-two-year-old woman standing before you today.”


“Yes.” I stepped back. “I mean, no. I mean, sure, your hair is different, and I guess we all have a few more laugh lines, but still…” I realized I was rambling, so I stopped and hugged the woman again. “How are you?”


“I’m as well as can be expected. I was sorry to hear about Kayla.”


My smile faded just a bit. The death of my twin sister and best friend still hurt almost more than I could bear. I’d tried to do as others seemed to want and hide my pain, but no matter how hard I tried, the simplest thing—a song, a scent, a memory—would remind me just how much I’d lost, and the grief would return in a wave that would envelop me and then cast me into a sea of darkness once again.


“I guess it must have been extra hard with her in a coma for so long and not knowing how things would work out in the end,” Dottie added after a moment.


She had no idea. In reality, Kayla had died a year ago, when a distracted driver had slammed into the car she was driving, but while everyone assured me that her mind was gone, her body had lived on, and as long as she clung to life, I’d clung to hope. Then, two months ago, her distraught husband decided to pull the plug and let her go peacefully, and I knew that my life would never be the same.


“How’ve you been holding up?” Dottie asked. She looked concerned, which I supposed was understandable because I hadn’t said a word since the moment she’d brought up Kayla’s name. “I do understand how difficult something like this can be. I suppose it is even possible to lose ourselves in our grief.”


I cringed as I remembered the random acts of craziness that had been brought on by my overwhelming grief. “It has been hard,” I finally said. “But I’m hanging in there. Some days are harder than others. Some days it doesn’t seem real. But I guess you might understand that. I heard your Harold passed away as well.”


“Yes. Three years ago. He was the love of my life, and I miss him every day.”


I squeezed her hand. “I’m so very sorry. Sometimes I think Kayla’s death would have been easier to deal with if she’d lived a good, long life before passing. Forty-two is much too young. She had so many things yet to do. She had a husband and two daughters who needed her, and she had me, who probably needed her most of all. But then I stop and ask myself if her passing would have been easier if she’d been seventy or eighty or a hundred, and I can’t help but be faced with the truth—when you lose half of your heart, it is going to hurt no matter how long you’ve had together on this earth.”


“It is true that losing someone you love is never easy. How are her husband and daughters holding up?”


I thought about the husband and daughters left behind. “It’s been hard, but the girls are in college now and live busy lives. The accident did occur a year ago, so I guess you could say they’ve had time to adjust. Mark was a mess in the beginning, but he seems to have moved on. He’s even dating.” I exhaled slowly. “Truth be told, I’m really the only one who hasn’t been able to let go. Everyone says I should. Everyone says the time for grieving has passed. But losing Kayla feels like losing half my soul.”


Dottie smiled in understanding but didn’t respond. She turned to watch a pair of dolphins who’d decided to race the ferry, or at least it seemed as if that was what they were doing. I took a moment to rein in my emotions. They still felt so raw, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that a huge cosmic mix-up had occurred, and Kayla wasn’t meant to die. Not only was she much too young, as I’d pointed out to whatever celestial body might be listening, but in dying, she’d broken a promise, and Kayla was the sort to take any promise she made quite seriously.


A small black bird landed on the railing, not far from where I was still standing next to Dottie. I closed my eyes as I let my mind transport me back in time. I felt the tension fade just a bit as the years fell away, and I conjured up a happier time. I thought about the two little girls who’d looked just the same. Two little girls who were not only sisters but best friends and soulmates as well. I remembered the promise made by those little girls, and I grieved for the hope that had been shattered when that promise was ultimately broken.


When Kayla and I were kids, I guess around six or seven, a friend of ours lost both her parents in an airplane accident. The tragedy was too great for either of us to understand, and I remember that we’d both had nightmares for weeks. The content of our dreams was somewhat different, but the subtext was much the same. We both dreamed of a dramatic event that would rip us from the life we loved, only to be thrust into an empty space, where we’d find ourselves lost and alone.


One night, long after we were supposed to be asleep, Kayla came into my room and climbed into my bed. She was shaking and crying, so I held her close while she shared the depths of the terror she’d been feeling since our friend had been orphaned. I’d been feeling it as well, but I wanted to comfort my sister, so I reminded her that no matter what happened, even if our parents died and we were left alone in the world, we’d always have each other. That reminder seemed to help both of us, so we’d made a pact that we’d always be there for each other, no matter what. We’d even promised to die on the same day, so neither of us would ever have to be alone. As absurd as that might sound, I think there might be a tiny part of me that was angry with Kayla for not upholding her part of the promise.


“So, what brings you to Shipwreck Island after all these years?” Dottie asked after a while.


I tucked a lock of long blond hair that had blown across my face behind my ear before answering. “Carrie Davidson invited me. I guess she had the idea of getting the whole gang together for a long-overdue reunion.”


“So Quinn and Nora are coming as well?”


I nodded. “They are. Carrie rented the summerhouse my family used to own for five weeks.”


“Five weeks. That’s quite the vacation.”


“I’m not sure I’ll stay for the entire period, but I did promise to show up and see how it went. Honestly, I may not have made the effort at all, but this year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the summer Peggy went missing, and Carrie wanted to do something to commemorate the role she played in our lives.” I turned slightly as a seagull landed on the railing beside me, chasing away the small black bird that had occupied the space. “It’s not that I don’t want to remember her; it’s more that I’m afraid my already raw emotions aren’t going to be able to endure yet another reminder of what has been lost.”


“I remember you were close.”


“The closest. She was like a sister to us, and we never really had the chance to say goodbye. Given the fact that she simply disappeared and no one ever knew what had happened, her family never did hold a funeral. I guess they never gave up hope that she’d find her way back to them.”


Dottie didn’t respond, but I could tell that I had her full attention.


“Carrie thought it would be nice to have a small ceremony,” I continued. “Nothing formal. I think it will be just the four of us.”


“I guess it’s been quite a while since the four of you have been on the island at the same time.”


I nodded. “I was here for Carrie and Carl’s fifteenth anniversary party almost five years ago, but Kayla was on a cruise with her husband, so she didn’t make it, and Quinn was overseas doing a story, so she didn’t make it either. Kayla and I came for our birthday when we turned thirty, but Nora was in Europe, and Quinn was in Africa, so I think the last time we were all on the island together was for Carl and Carrie’s wedding. Wow, I had no idea it had been almost twenty years since we’d all been together.” Where had the time gone? “Of course, now that Kayla is gone, I guess we can never all be together again.”


My heart tightened as I thought of the six little girls who lived different lives but reunited each and every year when our families returned to their summer homes. Carrie’s family lived on the island year round, but Quinn, Nora, Peggy, and Kayla and I lived elsewhere during the school year. I remembered how much I’d looked forward to summering on the island. Those summers were some of the best times of my life. 


“I ran into Carrie at the market a few months ago. She’s lost a lot of weight,” Dottie informed me, changing the subject, which was very much appreciated given my fragile emotional state. “I’d wondered if she might be ill, but her mother told me that Carl had filed for divorce, and Carrie wasn’t dealing with things all that well. I guess I don’t blame her. I can’t imagine having the man you loved and planned to spend your life with decide that he preferred to spend his life with someone else.”


“It has been difficult for her,” I agreed. “I’ve chatted with her on the phone on a regular basis since Carl left, and she just seems so lost. I suppose it’s even worse when Jessica is away at college, and poor Carrie is living in that big, old house all alone. I suggested to her that she should sell the house and buy something smaller, but I think there has been a part of her that’s held on to the hope that Carl would come to his senses and return one day. Of course, now that the divorce is finalized, I guess she doesn’t even have that to hang on to.”


“I don’t know Carl well, but based on what I do know, I think Carrie might be better off without him. I’d noticed him noticing other women for years.”


I hated to admit it, but I’d noticed the same thing almost since the day the two married. “I couldn’t agree more,” I voiced. “Carrie really is better off without Carl, although I would never say that to her. I think she is still at the point where she is totally focused on what she’s lost and is not of the mind to consider what she may have gained with Carl’s departure.”


Dottie shielded her eyes from the sun as the ferry turned toward the island. “I ran into Ryder just last week, and he said pretty much the same thing. Based on what I’ve heard from others on the island, he’s been her rock through this whole ordeal.”


I smiled at the memory of Carrie’s little brother. “Ryder always did have his sister’s back, even though he was younger. Carrie told me he’s the mayor now.”


“Yes, and a darn good one he is. Much better than Mayor Hadley, may he rest in peace.”


I crossed my arms on the railing and looked out to sea. “I’m having a hard time picturing Ryder as mayor. When we were kids, he was such a pest and always in trouble. In fact, I think he was voted most likely to end up in prison by his senior class.”


Dottie chuckled. “He does have a colorful past, and he still tools around town on that Harley of his, but in my opinion, he has done more to bring growth and prosperity to the island than any of his predecessors. The boy might wear his hair a bit too long, and I’m not overly fond of the leather jacket he seems so attached to, but Ryder has vision, and he’s a hard worker. He has a promising future ahead of him.”


“Has he kept his veterinary practice open?”


“He has. Being mayor in a small town like Hidden Harbor is more of an honorary title than a source of income, so all our mayors have had day jobs. Ryder is still very committed to the animals he cares for, but now he is committed to the people of the island as well.”


I shook my head as I tried to picture Ryder West all grown up. I hadn’t run into him during my last two visits to the island, but I had seen him briefly at Carl and Carrie’s wedding almost twenty years before. Even then, he’d showed up in a leather vest and leather pants rather than the tux Carrie had picked out for him. Of course, he’d only been seventeen at the time, which meant he must be thirty-seven by now. I had to admit that most people matured quite a bit in the years between seventeen and thirty-seven.


“I guess you heard that Sheriff Renshaw retired after serving the community for forty years,” Dottie continued.


“No, I hadn’t heard,” I said, raising a brow. “I guess I should have expected as much. He must be well into his sixties now.”


“Sixty-nine. He first started working in law enforcement when he was just twenty-five, and he retired two years ago. He was a good man and a good cop who has been missed, although Sam Stone has done an excellent job as well since he took over the role.”


“Sam Stone is the sheriff?” I had to admit I was even more surprised to hear that than I had been to hear that Ryder West was now the mayor. I seemed to remember that Sam was two years older than I was, so I supposed he must be around forty-four by now. As a teen and young adult, he was very much a wild child, but as I’d already told myself once in the past five minutes, people did tend to change. “I think the last time I saw him was at Carl and Carrie’s wedding as well. I remember that he’d been traveling with a rock and roll band and was getting ready to head out on tour.”


“He did leave the island for almost a decade, but then he came back about ten years ago and joined the force as a deputy. He is a hard worker who is well-liked and highly regarded on the island, so when Renshaw decided to retire, he recommended Sam as his replacement. In my opinion, the lad has done an excellent job filling the very big shoes Renshaw left when he decided to move to Oklahoma.”


“Sheriff Renshaw moved to Oklahoma?”


She nodded. “I guess he has kin there.”


I looped my arm through Dottie’s. “You know, when I boarded this ferry, I had very mixed emotions about returning to Shipwreck Island and Hidden Harbor, but after chatting with you about the people I left behind, I find that I am very much looking forward to becoming reacquainted with the men and women who were such a huge part of my life as a child.” I paused to remember the fun Kayla and I’d had every summer when we were children. The friends we’d made, the trips we’d taken, and the little skip we’d used to learn to sail. “Does Old Man Brewster still run the marina?”


Dottie chuckled. “The old geezer is still policing the fishing boats, the same as he always has.”

“To be honest, I’m surprised he is even still alive. I seem to remember him being about a hundred when I was a kid.”


“Brew has lived his life in the sun, so he looked weathered and aged even when he wasn’t all that old. I think he is about eighty-five now. But he is a young eighty-five. Not only does he have the energy of a man half his age, but he is just as ornery as he ever was.”


I grabbed onto the railing as the ferry made a sharp turn. I could see the island in the distance and suspected we’d be docking within the next twenty minutes. “One of the things I really love about Shipwreck Island is the fact that, while many leave within a few years of moving there, those who stay tend to stay for the duration.”


“That’s true. We do have our share of old-timers. Of course, with the bump in tourism that we’ve seen in the last decade, the number of young families moving to the island has grown significantly as well. I guess you must have noticed all the new housing when you were here five summers ago.”


“Actually, my trip five years ago was a quick one. I came over on the ferry on Friday afternoon, attended the anniversary party Saturday, and then went home on Sunday. I didn’t have the time or opportunity to really look around.”


“Well, you’ll need to take the time during this visit. I think you will be surprised at the changes to both sides of the island in the last ten years.”


A voice came over the loudspeaker announcing that the ferry was preparing to dock.


“It’s been really good catching up with you, but it sounds like we should head down to the car deck. Let’s do lunch while I’m on the island,” I suggested.


“I’d like that very much.”


“Do you have a cell? I can text you my number.”


Dottie nodded. “I do have a cell, but I left it in the glove box of my car. If you text me your number, I’ll text you back, and we can arrange something.”


She recited her number, and I added her to my contacts and texted my number to her right then and there. I knew from prior experience that if I didn’t do it now, I’d most likely forget all about it. We both decided to head down to the car deck, so we chatted as we climbed down the steep stairway to the lower level.


Once the ferry docked, I got in line and followed the cars onto Shipwreck Island. The island was surrounded by deep water that allowed even the largest ships to pull right up to the docks that had been built in key locations over the years. Prior to the island being inhabited, the area had seen more than its share of shipwrecks. Based on what I remembered of local history, there had been more than one cargo ship heading up the coast that had failed to see the landmass in the fog and plowed right into it. Of course, now every ship had sonar, GPS, and various other warning systems. Additionally, the island currently boasted six lighthouses, so it had been at least a century since the island had claimed any new victims.


There were two main towns on the island, which was conveniently located off the coast of Central California. Sea Haven was on the east side of the island and closest to the ferry terminal, while Hidden Harbor was on the west side and accessible only by sea or a narrow road that climbed up over the mountain at its center. Due to the small size of the island, the mountain acted as a natural barrier that tended to keep the two communities separate.


The drive up and over the mountain was gorgeous. The meadows were green and dotted with wildflowers, and the rivers ran full after the steady spring rain. When Kayla and I were children, our family lived in San Francisco, where our father worked as a business banker, and our mother ran a charitable foundation. Both our parents worked a lot of hours, but every June, as soon as school let out, our parents would close up the house in Pacific Heights, and we’d all pile into the van to make the trip to Shipwreck Island for the summer. Mom had a busy social life on the island, and Dad continued to work remotely, but the time we spent in the summerhouse as a family was priceless in my mind.


As I arrived at the summit of Sunset Mountain, I could see the town of Hidden Harbor tucked into the harbor for which it was named. Hidden Harbor was settled by rich families from the city, so although the area was remote, the town and the homes surrounding it reflected the opulent lifestyle of its upper-class residents. As I wound my way down the narrow mountain road, I found my anxiety level increasing with each passing mile.


I really was excited about seeing my friends, but the idea of staying in the same house where I’d spent summers with Kayla left me feeling agitated in a way I couldn’t quite explain. When Carrie had first invited me to the island, I assumed she was inviting me to stay with her in her large home, but after I accepted the invite, she’d sprung it on me that she needed to get away from the walls she felt were closing in on her and had rented the same beachside home my family used to own. While she admitted to feeling better about the choice of location for our reunion, the thought of spending time in the home where I’d once been so happy almost caused me to hyperventilate.


I would admit, however, that the summer home my father designed was pretty awesome. Set on one of the nicest beaches on the island, the views were amazing from every window. When I’d lived there as a child, the home featured four bedrooms and five baths, but the investor who’d purchased the house from my mother after my father’s death had converted the huge suite on the third floor into two, still large but smaller suites.


The second floor of the home featured three bedrooms, all with private balconies overlooking the sea, while the first floor housed a huge kitchen, formal dining and living areas, family and game rooms, two bathrooms, an office, and laundry facilities.


The town of Hidden Harbor, often referred to as the village, was elegant but compact. The village was located behind the harbor, which I supposed made sense because rich men and women who docked their yachts in the harbor for a few days could simply walk into the small commercial area that featured upscale shopping, elegant restaurants, and eclectic bars.


I slowed as I approached the outskirts of the town. I knew I’d need to watch for a fork in the road. The village was to the left, while the summerhouse of my youth was to the right. I wasn’t entirely certain when Carrie planned to arrive, but it was a beautiful, sunny day, so I supposed that if I got to the house first, I’d take a walk along the beach while I waited for her.


“It looks just the same,” I whispered to Kayla as I turned onto the coast road and headed north. “The white sand beach, the sapphire blue sea, the rolling waves, and the endless sky. All of it exactly as we remembered.”


My mother hated it when I talked to Kayla, insisting that I really did need to find a way to let her go, but I knew in my soul that I would never let go of this relationship with the sister who shared my heart.


“I’m excited to see the gang, but I’m also terrified that I won’t be able to handle the memories created by staying in the same house where we lived as children. God, I wish you were here. I wish you could see what I see and feel what I feel. I wish we could sit and chat late into the night the way we used to.”


I wiped a tear from my cheek and forcefully steered my thoughts toward something a bit less emotional. As I drove farther toward the north shore of the island, the empty space between the homes increased, giving the area a desolate feel. Many residents moving to the island wanted to be closer to town, which meant the farther from town you traveled, the more sparsely populated the beachfront property became. The house my family used to own was the last one on the coast road. I didn’t know if anyone had built on either side of it since I’d last visited, but when I was a child, the house stood alone along the northernmost point of the white sand beach.


After arriving at my destination, I stopped to consider the house. It had been a pale yellow when we’d lived there. Now it was sky blue. I liked it. The shutters had been painted a dark gray that contrasted nicely with the white trim, and there was a white screened-in porch. It looked as if someone had installed a new roof as well. The silver Mercedes in the drive informed me that Carrie had arrived. I wasn’t sure if I was happy or sad about that, but it was what it was, so I opened the door of my Porsche and stepped out into the drive.


“Kelly!” Carrie yelled as she ran out of the house and onto the drive. “I can’t believe you’re actually here.”


“I can’t believe it either.” I hugged her back.


She pulled away just a bit. “Let me look at you. It’s been so long, but you look just the same.”


I smiled. “I don’t know about that, but I will admit that I haven’t updated my look in ages.” I dug my fingernails into my hand to stop the tears pooling in the corners of my eyes. “You look fabulous and so different. I guess you went the opposite route and changed everything.”


She laughed. “Divorce will do that to you. After Carl left, I looked in the mirror and decided I wanted to change everything about myself. I lost thirty pounds, bleached my brown hair blond, cut it short, and even got blue contacts. Now, when I look in the mirror, I no longer see the frumpy, outdated woman Carl couldn’t wait to replace, but a new woman he most definitely would have looked twice at had we not already been married.”


I supposed I understood why Carrie might want an entirely new look after her husband of twenty years dumped her for a younger woman, but when I looked in the mirror, I saw not only my old, familiar image but Kayla as well. I knew that I would cling to that for as long as I could and wouldn’t change a single thing about my look, no matter how outdated my long hair and simple style became.


“Grab your stuff, and we can choose rooms,” Carrie said. “Personally, I think the two of us should settle into the two larger suites on the third floor. Initially, I felt greedy claiming one of the larger suites as my own, but then I remembered that I was the one who did all the planning for this event, so I deserved one of the larger suites.”


“I agree. You do deserve one of the larger suites.” I thought about my old bedroom on the second floor, and the Jack and Jill bathroom that connected my room to Kayla’s. Part of me wanted to stay in my old room, but another realized that taking a room on the newly remodeled third floor would be a lot easier on my emotions. “And I’ll take the second of the two third-floor suites, as you suggested. I always wished my bedroom, rather than my parents, was up there when I was a kid.”


After we stowed my luggage in the suite, we headed out onto the back deck that overlooked the sea. Carrie poured us each a glass of wine, which I welcomed after the emotional day I’d had to this point. It would be good to relax with old friends. Maybe by visiting the past, I could begin to heal in the present.


“I’ve been struggling with what to say or not say about Kayla,” Carrie said once we’d settled in with our wine. “I’m sure you must be hurting, and part of me feels like it might be easiest for you if everyone just avoids bringing up her name, but Kayla was a huge part of all our lives, and it feels unnatural not to bring her into the conversation.”


I reached over and grabbed Carrie’s hand. “It’s okay to talk about her. I can’t promise I won’t get teary when someone does, but she was part of the Summer Six in the past, and she will continue to be part of the Summer Six into the future.”


“Even if the Summer Six is now only four?” she asked about the six girls who had formed a club of sorts.


“Even if. We didn’t stop talking about Peggy even after she…” After she what? I asked myself. After she ran away, after she was kidnapped, after she died? The not knowing was the worst part.


“After she was no longer a part of our lives,” Carrie supplied. “And yes, you are correct, we didn’t stop talking about her. In fact, in the beginning, we talked about her more than we ever had before. It’s just that…”


“It’s just that you are being sensitive of my feelings,” I provided. “And I appreciate that. But Kayla is gone, and that’s something I need to learn to live with. Maybe if I talk about her enough, eventually, it won’t hurt quite so much to do so.” Even as I said that, I knew it wasn’t true, but one could hope. “When are Nora and Quinn getting here?”


“Quinn is flying in from Paris and wasn’t sure about all the connections, so she didn’t have an ETA, though she said she’d be getting into San Francisco tomorrow, or possibly even the following day. I guess she’ll make arrangements for the ferry over to the island once she arrives.”


“So she probably won’t be here until Monday at least.”


“That would be my guess. You know how busy she is. I’m just grateful she agreed to take any time off at all.”


Diana “Quinn” Quinby was a foreign correspondent for United Press International and traveled extensively. Although I hadn’t seen her in years, I did chat with her on the phone every couple of months, and it seemed she lived an interesting life.


“And Nora?”


“Nora had to postpone her arrival and won’t make it to the island until next week as well,” Carrie continued. “I’m guessing Thursday or even Friday.”


“I’m sorry to hear that. What happened?” Nora was married, with four grown children. She’d married her one true love, Matt Hargrove, right out of high school. Of all the couples I knew, they, it seemed, were the most perfectly suited.


“Shelby has been having some sort of issue with her college admissions packet, and Nora decided to make the trip out to Massachusetts to get it worked out in person. You know Nora; when it comes to those children of hers, a phone call won’t do.”


“I heard Shelby had been accepted to Harvard. That is really something. Nora must be over the moon with pride and happiness.”


Carrie gently nibbled on her lower lip in what seemed to be a nervous habit. “You would think that Nora would be ecstatic that not only has Shelby actually achieved her dream of going to Harvard but, now that she will be going off to college, Matt and Nora would finally have the house to themselves. But when I spoke to her, she didn’t seem happy. She seemed frantic and nervous and sort of sad.”


“Sad?”


“I get the empty nest thing,” Carrie shared. “I began to have all sorts of stress-related issues the moment Jessica started applying to colleges, and then, when she actually left the house where we’d raised her for the last time, I broke down and wept, despite the fact that I knew she’d be back for Christmas break. But I sensed something more than empty nest syndrome from Nora. Shelby is her youngest, and she has said goodbye to three other children. Still, I suppose the last one to leave home is the hardest.”


“I guess we can talk to her to see what’s on her mind when she gets here,” I suggested.


“Yes, we can. I can’t wait until we are all together again.”


“I’m excited to see everyone, but sitting here relaxing with you is nice, too,” I said. “I’d forgotten how blue the sea is along this stretch of beach.”


“It is something special,” she agreed. “I always did think this was the prettiest stretch of coastline on the island. I’ve even thought of buying one of the little cottages down the road after I sell my house.”


“You’re selling your house? That’s great. When I spoke to you last, you sounded like you weren’t ready to make the break.”


She nodded. “I used to love that house, but part of my new life, new me plan includes a new living space. I still want to be on the water, but I want something small that I can maintain with minimal effort. I haven’t definitely decided to move to this end of the island because there are advantages to being close to the village, but I have definitely decided to sell the house. Carl is having a fit about that, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t care. I got the house in the divorce settlement, so it is mine to do with as I please.”


I held up my glass in a toast. “Good for you. I love your new life, new you mantra. I think it is exactly the attitude you need to move past this and get on with whatever the future holds.”

Carrie clicked her glass with mine. “I was a total wreck for a long time, but I really do feel better with each day that passes. I actually feel excited to see what comes next for me.” Her phone buzzed. She looked at the caller ID. “It’s a text from Jessica, letting me know that she made it to France.”


“Jessica is in France?”


Carrie nodded. “I’d hoped she’d spend the summer here on the island, but she insisted that she’d made plans with a friend to tour Europe. I know it’s been hard on her since Carl and I split up, so I didn’t really blame her for not wanting to hang out in the war zone, but I sure do miss her. Now that Carl is no longer in my life, I feel sort of empty.”


“I’m sure that will get better with time.”


“I’m sure it will.” She smiled. “In fact, it already has. Since it is just the two of us tonight, should we head into the village to see if we can break some hearts?”


I laughed. “I don’t know about the breaking hearts part, but I’d love to have dinner in the village. Is Danello’s still there?”


“It is, and they still have the best Italian food you are going to get anywhere.”


“It’s been forever since I allowed myself that many carbs, but I’m game if you are.”


“Oh, I’m game.” Carrie stood up. “Just let me change, and we’ll go.”

Standard

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