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First pages

Prologue

Sea Scope Inn, Twenty Years Ago

 

My brother Glen and I raced up the lighthouse steps. My ponytail swished wildly as my sneakers thumped against the spiraling iron. As usual, Glen pulled ahead and I slowed, my thighs aching. One hundred and sixty-seven steps later I joined him at the rail, hunched over and huffing. Smiling smugly, he stood arms crossed and relaxed. 

“Beat you again, Sarah-slowpoke.” He stuck out his tongue.

I straightened. “You little brat. I'll tell Mom.”

Glen rolled his eyes and turned his back on me as he strolled along the edge of the gallery, peering over the guardrail. 

Then he stopped. 

“Hey, what’s that?” he asked, leaning over the rail. 

I hesitated. The last thing I wanted to do was look down. Glen, however, feared nothing.

“Get away from there, Glen. What did Dad tell us about standing too close to the guardrail?”

“You have to come see this, Sarah. There's a man down there," he said over his shoulder, pointing a chubby finger at the ground.

Despite my queasy stomach, I inched closer to the edge and followed his gaze to a man sleeping in the sandy grass. He lay face down and motionless, arms and legs spread eagle, his plaid shirt ripped. 

Chapter One: Long Island, Present Day

I was planning to leave even before I received my aunt’s letter. The silence between Derek and I had grown too loud, too heavy. This invitation to visit my childhood home came at the perfect time.

I sucked in a cleansing breath and placed the letter on Derek’s desk. He’d ask me about it eventually. Maybe. 

Rolling my eyes, I picked up the note and considered it again.

Dear Sarah,

I hope you are well. I apologize for not being in touch for so long. I’ve been a bit under the weather but that is expected at my age. I plan to open the inn again, and I wonder if you and your husband would like to spend some time there this summer? You can stay a week or two or the whole summer if you’d like. There will be three other guests. I’d rather not the mention them by name, but you know them. I’m sure you will all enjoy becoming reacquainted.

I’ll call you sometime this week to get your decision.

Love, Aunt Julie

Sea Scope Inn had once been a family business. It had belonged to my father and his sister and to my grandparents before them. Aunt Julie managed it after Dad moved Mom, Glen, and me from South Carolina to New York in 1996 when I was ten. She closed the inn to the public that year but continued to live there while she worked at other bed and breakfasts along the coast from Charleston to Hilton Head.

Aunt Julie never married, although there were rumors she had plenty of chances. Why she’d chosen to invite me to Sea Scope now seemed strange, but I took it as a sign. Derek and I needed a break. Maybe going to South Carolina would help.

I put down the letter and went upstairs to what Derek termed, “my garret” where I created sketches and artwork for the children’s books I illustrated. Rosy, my red tabby, came out of hiding from behind one of my canvases. She was the inspiration for my current drawing for “Kit Kat the School Yard Cat,” one of a series of books written by author Carolyn Grant, a good friend of mine.

I sat at the easel before my half-completed sketch of Kit Kat aka Rosy, but I was inspired to draw something else. I grabbed my sketchpad and tore out a sheet. I lay the sheet down on the art table Derek had put together up here when we’d first moved in and began to pencil an outline of what I remembered of Sea Scope. As I drew, my mind filled in details. I recalled my mother telling me that my grandparents, whom I only vaguely remembered, had called the inn Sea Scope because of its view of the nearby lighthouse. Aunt Julie, an artist like myself, had wanted to change the name to Seascape, but our father had insisted Sea Scope was a more suitable name, and so it remained.

The Sea Scope that spread itself across the page as I sketched was huge with several verandas and two floors wrapping around a house that commanded a lovely view of the sea. I recalled the sea gulls circling close to the top floor as Glen and I ran around playing hide and seek. As children with vivid imaginations, my brother and I also liked to concoct ghost stories and mysteries about the inn. Glen would scare me with talk of a murder upstairs in the Violet Room, the one I occupied next to his, that featured purple wallpaper and a purple crocheted blanket over its brass bed. He predicted that one of the guests would be smoking, even though all the guest rooms were non-smoking, and a fire would start and burn the place down. In yet another scenario, some robbers would break in and steal all the statues (there were several beautiful pieces of sculpture that graced both floors). Glen also imagined a time tunnel or a secret door behind the kitchen’s pantry, but I laughed. My younger brother was too imaginative for his own good. How I missed him. A tear threatened to fall, as I continued to sketch. I wanted to add the two children taking the path in front of the house to the lighthouse, but I had to return to my work. The Kit Kat sketches were due to Apple Kids Books by the following day.

As I lay down the Sea Scope picture, the phone rang.

Was it Derek? He never called during the day unless it was an emergency.

“Hello?”

“Sarah. So nice to hear your voice.” It was Aunt Julie.

“Oh, hi. I just received your invitation.”

“Wonderful. I hope you’ve been well. I’m looking forward to seeing you again. Are you and Derek able to make it?”

I paused. Aunt Julie didn’t know we were no longer a couple, or at least headed for a breakup. “No. Derek won’t be able to get off work. I’ll be there, though. Thanks for inviting us, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again, too. How are you?”

It was my aunt’s turn to pause. Through the line and hundreds of miles, I could see her, a tall woman who appeared even taller because of her great posture. She’d taught me to practice walking by balancing library books on my head.

“I’m fine, but a little lonely. I’m so glad you’re coming. I’m giving you your favorite room.”

Aunt Julie, lonely? That was odd. When we lived at the inn, she always had people around her, and I knew she still taught painting and displayed and sold some of her portraits in the town’s art gallery.

“Thank you,” I said. The Violet Room had always been my favorite, and I looked forward to the beautiful view of the sea from its windows. I could arrange to do some of my artwork there. One of the perks of my job was that I could do it anywhere.

“When would you like me to come?”

“I’m still preparing the inn for guests, but I’m telling everyone to arrive on the fifteenth. Is that good for you?”

“That’s fine.” Two weeks was more than enough time for me to pack up and go.

“Perfect. I’ll see you then.” She was about to hang up when I asked, “Aunt Julie, why did you decide to open Sea Scope this summer?”

My aunt was known for having a sixth sense. I could almost believe she’d opened the inn because I needed a place to get away.

“I thought it was time, Sarah. Thank you again for joining me. I look forward to having you back.” Her reply was not what I expected. For some reason, I didn’t believe it.

“Can you tell me something about the other guests?” I was curious about the people she’d invited to Sea Scope along with me.

“That would ruin the surprise. All I can say is that you’ll be in good company. Now let me get back to work. I’m creating a portrait of Glen.”

My heart sank at her words. The hurt was still raw. “I’ll see you on the fifteenth, Aunt Julie.”

“Wonderful. If you run into any problems with airline tickets, let me know. My friend, Karen, still works for United.”

I couldn’t remember Karen, but I thanked Aunt Julie again and said goodbye.

Rosy meowed at me, and I remembered I hadn’t fed her. Derek would need to care for her while I was away. I was worried about how I would explain the trip to him, but I knew he wouldn’t argue with me despite a few rehearsed protests. This was best for both of us, a way to prepare before the real split. In my heart, I hoped things would be different when I returned, but I didn’t believe that absence made the heart grow fonder.

Chapter Two

By the time Derek came to bed, I was almost asleep. He slid in next to me as quietly as possible. It hadn’t always been this way, our moving around one another like strangers. It started two years ago with Glen’s death, but it probably went back farther than that to the day he told me he wouldn’t try any fertility treatments and we had to accept the fact we weren’t going to be parents.

I kept my breathing steady as he turned away from me. We weren’t that old. I had turned 30 back in the fall. Derek was 35. My parents had me at those same ages and Glen two years later, but they’d only been married a year before I was born. Dad’s family thought he was a confirmed bachelor until Mom came along and swept Martin Brewster off his feet.

Derek began snoring. Up until two months ago, we were still making love occasionally but not with the fervor we had while trying to conceive. The doctors assured us we were both healthy. “Unexplained infertility” was the explanation that wasn’t an explanation for our problem.

It was true I’d used birth control regularly until we decided to try for a family, but I hadn’t taken a pill for three years. Glen’s death made our situation more desperate, or at least I was desperate. The doctors said we could try in vitro, but Derek thought that was crazy. He knew our insurance wouldn’t cover it and believed it was possible we could still get pregnant the old-fashioned way. Then he stopped making love to me.

I wondered if all the time he was putting into his classes and taking on extra workshops and intensives, attending teacher conferences and seminars, was his way of coping or whether he was seeing someone else. I hid my pain behind my paintings. Not the cute cat sketches, but a bunch of others I had hidden upstairs – paintings of us when we were happy – on our honeymoon riding a tandem bike, painting the rooms when we first moved into the house, laying on the beach at sunset with champagne glasses to celebrate our first anniversary. Memories that could’ve been in a diary but were composed on canvas instead. I’d never shown them to him, and as I respected the privacy of his office, he never set foot into my art studio unless invited.

There were a set of other paintings, too. I started them after Glen died. They were paintings of my brother and I as kids at Sea Scope inside, around, and on top of the lighthouse. There was only one of Glen as an adult the last time he’d visited me before leaving for California and his death. In the darkness of the bedroom with Derek snoring beside me, I pictured it. Glen shared many of my features in a male version. He was fair and wore his hair shoulder length. I’d always been after him to cut it, but I had to admit it looked good on him. The only fault in his face was a scar on his cheek he’d gotten in a bar fight over Dad. That was the year Martin Glen Brewster shot himself and didn’t even leave a note of explanation.

I pushed these thoughts aside and tried to sleep. If Glen was around, I could confide in him about Derek, something I couldn’t do with Mom or Carolyn even though I knew they both suspected we were having difficulty in our marriage. Glen had a special way of listening, and that’s probably why he became a psychologist. I laughed to myself at the thought of him in his leather jacket riding his motorcycle around L.A. In his office, he provided a safe ear to drug addicts, those struggling with their sexuality, wannabe movie stars, and pregnant teens. He’d sit there with his hands cupped together, give them a deep appraising glance, and make them feel, during an hour on his couch, that they were still worth something, still had something to live for, unlike his own father.

I wasn’t surprised when I finally fell asleep and dreamed of Glen and me at Sea Scope. There was no calendar in my dream, but I knew what day it was. I’d dream about it for years until Glen suggested I see his psychology professor who also had his own practice. I had two visits before I quit. Talking about the dream did nothing to eradicate it because it wasn’t a dream. It was the memory of what happened that summer nearly twenty years ago. The day my brother and I found Michael’s body under the lighthouse.

My consciousness took over, and the scene began to fade. I woke with a start. I was sweating and had thrown the blankets off. My stomach also felt queasy.

Derek stretched beside me but didn’t wake. I glanced at the alarm clock. Two a.m. I didn’t want to go back to sleep. I was afraid of another dream. I lay in bed trying not to think of anything and then decided to go up to my garret and draw, hoping it would relax me.

Chapter Three

Sea Scope, Two Weeks Later

 

Julie Brewster had just finished a phone call with her niece Sarah. She was pleased the young woman was coming and wasn’t surprised she was bringing along a friend instead of her husband, but Julie didn’t like too many strangers at Sea Scope. It reminded her of what happened nearly twenty years ago when that college boy, Michael, was found dead by the lighthouse and her brother moved his family away. A year later, Martin killed himself. She squeezed her violet eyes shut a moment and then opened them wide. No time for tears or regret. Life was for the living. Survival of the fittest and all that, and she was a Brewster, descendant of a fisherman who built Sea Scope and brought his new bride through the doors. Jeremiah and Josephine Brewster made their home into a bed and breakfast to serve many of the town’s tourists. They raised both Julie and Martin there and taught them the hospitality trade. Josephine, a wonderful cook, taught Julie to bake muffins and other breakfast fare in the cozy kitchen where their guests joined them in the morning. Martin helped sweep the porch and upstairs veranda, and he and Julie assisted their mother changing beds.

When their parents retired and moved to an assisted living complex in Florida, it was natural that Julie and Martin took over the family business. Julie had already earned a degree in hotel management, but Martin chose not to attend college and went into the construction field instead. After he married Jennifer, a social worker he met while working on a building project at the Beaufort clinic where she was employed, the couple moved into the suite of rooms at the top of the inn. The children arrived soon afterwards, and Jennifer left her job. Martin supplemented his share of the inn income with his construction work, and Jennifer helped with the inn’s bookkeeping. When they moved away to Long Island where Jennifer grew up, Julie closed the inn to the public and took jobs at nearby resorts. Without a husband and children to provide for, she managed her money well and continued to live at Sea Scope. Last year, on her sixty-ninth birthday, she decided to retire. She knew reopening Sea Scope would be a good source of retirement income, but the old fear returned. She thought it might be a good test to invite a few people she knew to stay there first.

Julie sat at the vanity in her bedroom, the room known as inn’s Gold Room. The walls were wallpapered in cream and gold. The bed featured a yellow and white bedspread and sheets. It had always been her favorite. Only the art studio directly above could compete for her affections. Like her niece, she also enjoyed painting, but her renditions weren’t of cute little animals for children’s books. She liked to capture portraits of people and had a collection of many faces that composed her portfolio of over forty years.

Looking at her own face as she brushed out her still long auburn hair, Julie was happy with her reflection. She knew she could pass for someone in her fifties. The only wrinkles marring her skin were a few laugh lines around her mouth and eyes. She’d had a good life, a full one, and despite her family’s unasked questions about marriage, she’d had many lovers and never regretted avoiding matrimony.

Julie’s violet eyes, which men said reminded them of Elizabeth Taylor’s and which they thought complimenting would get them a fast ticket into her bed, twinkled as she applied mascara. Everything was going to be fine. If things went well, she would ask Sarah to join her at Sea Scope and help her run the inn. She had a feeling her niece was having marriage problems. If that was the case, Sarah might be open to moving back to South Carolina. If not, maybe she could convince Derek to relocate there with her and apply for a teaching position at the local university.

 

Julie still had her robe on when she went downstairs. At Sea Scope alone, she didn’t bother baking muffins and breakfast treats. She grabbed fruit from the bowl on the table, a banana or orange, and put on a pot of tea. Even when one of her lovers stayed over, she rarely made a big deal over breakfast. Usually, she’d talk one of them into getting up and making eggs.

As she chose an apple from the wrought-iron fruit basket, she heard a noise at the front door. There was a small mailbox on the porch, but usually she picked up the mail from the inn’s P.O. Box in town. She liked to take a daily walk there. It helped to keep her figure trim.

As she was about to check the sound, Alabaster came meowing into the kitchen looking for his breakfast. Alabaster or Al, for short, was a black cat she’d adopted to keep her company five years ago. She’d named him for the white stone-like material as a joke and to warn off any fictional bad luck the cat might bring.

“Hi, Al. I was just going to check the mailbox before feeding you.”

The cat followed, tail held high as Julie walked out to the porch. The postal box stood to the side beyond the rockers and patio swing. It was a long white box that needed a touch up. She made a note to repaint it when she had time.

As Al circled her legs emitting short cries that signaled his hunger, Julie checked for mail. There was one letter inside the box. It wasn’t in an envelope and bore no stamp. Someone had dropped it off. She figured it was an advertisement, but when she unfolded the paper, she saw that it was a note written in childish handwriting. Each letter had been marked with a different crayon. As one sensitive to color, she realized that the hues composed a rainbow missive.

She took the paper and sat in one of the high back rockers she had covered with padding with her mother years ago and had replaced one lonely spring when she was between boyfriends.

Al continued to beg for his breakfast.

“One minute, kitty. Let me read this.”

Julie had forgotten her reading glasses inside. She didn’t like wearing them because they aged her face. She squinted at the words, the lighter crayoned letters making them difficult to read.

“Do you really think you should reopen the inn? How many more deaths do you want on your head?”

Your nephew, Glen

She gasped. Al sensed her dismay and stopped crying, his body alert to danger; the fur on his back starting to rise.

She was tempted to tear up the paper, but reconsidered. Should she go to the police? They were never helpful in the past, and this was obviously a prank. Glen was dead, buried in the family cemetery nearly two years ago.

She decided to ignore the note but brought it inside with her and placed it in a drawer in her bedroom.

Even though her morning was now ruined, she went back downstairs, fed Al, and ate an apple. In two days, Sea Scope would open its doors to guests. She wouldn’t change her plans. Neither Sarah nor anyone else need know about the note. Everything was going to be fine.

Chapter Four: Long Island

I didn’t expect Derek, at the last minute, to change his mind about accompanying me to Sea Scope. He was actually pleased that Carolyn was taking his place.

“You two girls will have a great time cavorting around Cape Bretton. Maybe you’ll both pick up Southern guys,” he teased.

I didn’t find his comment funny. “I’m only going because Aunt Julie invited me. The place doesn’t hold the fondest memories.”

He looked up from his coffee cup as we sat at the kitchen table. “I think it’s time you exorcised those demons, Sarah.”

I didn’t honor that with a reply.

He didn’t push but added, “Does your mother know you’re going?”

That was a difficult question. I had intentionally avoided calling her since I received the invitation. I had an aversion to lying, and yet my mother wouldn’t take the news well. I couldn’t risk her having another breakdown. She was on the edge, and only the numbing effects of alcohol and an assortment of pills her psychiatrist prescribed kept her from falling off the precipice. Glen’s death had her hospitalized for two months.

“No. I haven’t spoken with her.”

“You’re probably better off not saying anything.” Even Derek was aware of the danger of mentioning Sea Scope to my mother.

I finished my coffee and rinsed the empty mug in the sink. I was still feeling a bit queasy after the dream/memory from the night before. However, I feared there was another reason for my nausea. It had started when I missed my second period last week. It would be ironic that, after all our arguments about fertility treatments, I would end up pregnant naturally. It was rotten timing and not something I wanted to share with Glen before I left. I couldn’t even be happy about it because of the uncertain nature of our marriage at this point.

 

On the day we were departing, Carolyn arrived later than the eight a.m. time we had agreed to meet. She was always several minutes late, so I wasn’t worried. We had allowed ourselves a full two days to get to Sea Scope with a stopover wherever we both got too tired to continue driving. I would’ve been happy to fly, but Carolyn hated planes.

Derek’s summer intensive workshop didn’t start until ten, so he was there to see us off. He had helped me pack my car and made sure my cell phone was charged and that I had first aid and highway emergency kits. He’d also filled gas tank the night before, something I’d almost forgotten about in my haste to pack.

“Call me when you get there,” he said as we stood outside, the warm July breeze weaving through his dark hair and fanning back my bangs.

He reached out and smoothed them into place with his fingertips. “You take care, Sarah.”

For a moment, I saw the old warmth and wanted to postpone my plans. I could stay here and woo my husband back, tell him about the baby if my suspicions were correct, and make everything between us right again. Then Carolyn pulled up in her red sports car, and I realized it was too late. I was glad we’d agreed to use my slower but sturdier Camry for the drive.

Derek helped Carolyn move her bags into the small space that was left next to mine in the trunk.

“Why do you ladies pack so much? Doesn’t your aunt have a washer and dryer down there?”

Carolyn smiled. I couldn’t see her eyes through her dark sunglasses. She tapped Derek on the arm. “We aren’t only bringing clothes. We need accessories, makeup, and other girl stuff.”

I noted the bright blue scarf she was wearing, one of the accessories she mentioned. I had a thought about Isadora Duncan and then cleared it from my mind.

“Well, you take care of my wife. Don’t drive more than two or three hours without taking a break and switching drivers.”

He came back and stood at my side. “Have fun, ladies.” Although he addressed both of us, he was looking at me. I had another urge to call the whole trip quits, but Carolyn had closed the stuffed trunk and taken a seat on the passenger side to wait for me to join her.

“Thanks,” I said. I wanted to add that I’d miss him, but his lips were on mine cutting off my words. It was a brief kiss, shortened because Carolyn was watching us, but I felt something in it I hadn’t felt in a long time.

“I’ll call you when we stop for the night,” I said, a little breathless from the kiss.

“Even before if you want. My classes end at two today. I’ll check my cell afterwards. Have a good trip, and say hi to your aunt for me.”

I nodded as I got behind the wheel. I considered keeping my visit short. There was no reason I had to stay long. Maybe Carolyn would also want to leave after a week or two. I wondered how Jack had taken the news of her trip.

Derek stood in the driveway waving to me as I pulled away from the house. I also saw Rosy in the front window. Derek had promised to take good care of her while I was gone, but I knew I’d miss her company rolled up on the side of my pillow at night or stretching out by my canvas as I worked upstairs in the garret.

“Aren’t you excited?” Carolyn asked from beside me and then answered the question herself before I could reply. “I am. I’ve never been to South Carolina, and the only lighthouse I’ve ever seen was the one at Montauk Point when my parents took me out East as a kid.”

“Don’t expect much,” I said. “The area is pretty, and I suppose the lighthouse is nice, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” That wasn’t exactly true. The Bretton Island Lighthouse was an attraction that brought many tourists to Cape Bretton, but my memory was tainted by what occurred there. It was the last place I looked forward to visiting.

Carolyn seemed to read my mind. “Sorry. I remember what you told me about what happened at the lighthouse, and I know that must cloud its view for you. Maybe seeing it as an adult will help you get over the experience.”

She echoed Derek’s comment about exorcizing my demons. As I picked up the main road to enter the highway, I wondered if that was possible. Was Aunt Julie trying to do that same thing by reopening the inn?

 

The beginning of our drive went well. We still faced a bottleneck of traffic crossing the bridges and passing through the endless toll booths, but Carolyn kept up a steady stream of conversation and questions to pass our time.

“You have to prepare me, Sarah. What is your aunt like? Who else will be staying there with us? Why did your aunt decide to open the inn now?”

I kept my eyes on the crowded road as we inched along and tried to answer. “My aunt is a strong woman. You met my mother. Aunt Julie is the exact opposite of her.”

“Was your dad like your aunt?”

The sun was in my eyes, and I wish I’d had the sense to bring sunglasses like Carolyn. I lowered the visor to help shield the glare, but my eyes were still tearing. I knew part of the reason was my response to that question. “I thought Dad was strong, but I guess as a kid, you have a different view of the adults in your life.”

“Sorry. I forgot he died when you were eleven.”

Carolyn knew all about Dad’s suicide the year after we moved to Long Island. I changed the subject to answer the earlier questions she’d thrown at me. “Aunt Julie didn’t tell me who else is staying at Sea Scope. I know she invited a few people she said I knew but hadn’t seen since I moved away. The place isn’t officially open yet. She mentioned that this is a test run before the grand opening this fall. She retired last year, so she needs income to supplement her pension.”

“She worked at other resorts in the area, right?”

I nodded but kept my eyes ahead on the road. “Yes, but she never stayed anywhere for long because she liked to be in charge, and the only place she was ever able to totally do that was at Sea Scope.”

“She sounds a bit domineering to me.”

“Not really. I think the best word to describe her is confident. She prefers to guide people rather than lead them. She’ll be seventy next week. She’s my dad’s older sister. He would’ve been sixty-five.”

“I think I’ll like her. You said she also paints.”

I had a quick memory of sitting beside Glen in the oak-paneled drawing room while Aunt Julie sketched us. That drawing still hangs in my garret. “She’s a portrait painter,” I clarified. “I wish I had the skill to paint people.”

“You do a great job with cats.”

I was about to thank her, but we had exited the bridge, and I was looking for an EZ pass lane to pay the toll.

“It’s that one on the right,” Carolyn motioned waving her hand.

“Don’t do that,” I cautioned following her direction.

“Sorry. You can play backseat driver when it’s my turn to take over.”

The red bar lifted, and we passed through the lane. I stayed right to catch the exit south. Derek and Rosy were already miles away.

 

We made a stop after three hours as Derek suggested. The rest stop we chose had a McDonalds and, although it was a little early for lunch, we decided to eat, anyway. We also had to stretch our legs and use the bathrooms that, thankfully, were clean. The temperature was rising close to mid-day, and it would only get hotter as we headed south.

“I could use a cold drink,” Carolyn said reading my mind as we walked into the restaurant.

“Me, too. I think I’ll get a shake.”

There was a long line at the counter. Women and men in t-shirts and shorts, some traveling with their children, were stopping as we did for food and rest.

“Good thing we didn’t wait. Imagine this line at noon,” Carolyn commented.

Ahead of us, a young blonde woman stood next to two sandy-haired children, a boy and a girl about eight and ten.

There was something about the mother that reminded me of mine all those years ago. Other than a weekend in Charleston and a family trip to Disney World when I was six and Glen was four, we had never travelled much while we lived in Cape Bretton except around Bretton Island and Beaufort, one of our neighboring towns.

I watched the little girl, a head above her brother, ask him what he wanted to order. She was acting like a server. She even held a small pad of paper in her hand. It was likely she’d been using it to draw while on their drive, like I used to do as a child.

The boy had a box of crayons. “I’ll write my order down,” he told his sister. She handed him the pad.

“What are you having?” Carolyn asked from beside me.

I still had my eyes on the children. “A cheeseburger and small fries. What about you?”

“I’m a Big Mac girl, and I never pass up the shakes.”

The little boy handed the girl back the pad with his crayoned list. As much as I always loved to draw, Glen used to taunt me by hiding my crayons. He often left notes written in crayon around Sea Scope with clues to where he’d hidden them. He really enjoyed the game. During our last summer there, he’d started leaving Aunt Julie his crayon clues after hiding silverware, a book, or piece of jewelry. She’d never gotten too upset over it, but our mother punished him once when he played the trick on her by hiding her favorite sweater. He’d never attempted it with Dad, but I think our father would’ve found it funny.

The woman was placing her family’s order. She read from the scribbled paper her daughter handed her.

The heat hit me like a sudden blast, and I felt faint.

“You okay, Sarah? You look pale. Don’t worry. We’re next. The food will do you good, and then I’ll take the wheel.”

I smiled. “That prospect doesn’t make me feel better.”

She laughed. “I know I’m a bit heavy on the pedal, but I’ll wait until we’ve finished eating before racing us off.”

“Thanks so much.”

The kids walked with their mother out of the restaurant holding their Happy Meals and sodas and squabbling over the toys.

We were next at the counter. Carolyn insisted on paying for us both with the proviso that I would pay for dinner.

There were a few benches outside, but most people were eating in their cars or saving the food for another stop. The benches had umbrellas, and I welcomed the shade as I took a seat across from my friend.

Carolyn took her Big Mac out of the brown bag and unwrapped it. “I’m starved.” She put a straw in her shake and sipped it down with a bite of burger.

I ate a piece of my cheeseburger and two fries and then drank my vanilla shake.

“Not hungry, Sarah? If you eat at that rate, we’ll need three days to get to Sea Scope.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Debbie De Louise is an award-winning author and a reference librarian at a public library on Long Island. She is a member of Sisters-in-Crime, International Thriller Writers, Romance Writers of America, Long Island Authors Group, and the Cat Writer’s Association. She has a BA in English and an MLS in Library Science from Long Island University. She is the author of the Cobble Cove mystery series published by Solstice Publishing. She has also written short stories of various genres.

Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
I have a website that includes a blog and a mailing list subscriber form. It is located at https://debbiedelouise.com
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
I believe that most people have past, unresolved situations that they sometimes wish they'd handled differently. However, if given the opportunity at a later time to revisit those regrets, they usually find that they are no longer as important to them because age has changed their perspectives.
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A.
I've always loved reading and hoped to one day become an author. I was features editor on my college newspaper and later published articles in pet magazines and a short mystery in an anthology. I self-published a book in 2008 and have since published 3 books and other works with a small publisher.

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