A Lime To Kill: A Key West Culinary Cozy - Book 1 (2 page)

BOOK: A Lime To Kill: A Key West Culinary Cozy - Book 1
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Chapter 3

 

 The next few
days were fun and productive. Tiara worked with Marilyn on finances, paperwork,
and plans for expansion. The office was completely re-organized, and she’d made
a list of necessary upgrades for her mother to look over, along with a strategic
business plan for the next couple of years.

 

The shop was
closed on Tuesdays so that Marilyn always had at least one day off, and she was
excited to be spending the day with Tiara after working so hard with her on
getting the new expansion set up.

 

“Honey, you’re
really good at this. Where did you learn how to be such a gifted business
woman?” she asked as the two women walked side by side on their way to their “Yoga
on the Beach” class.

 

“I would
speculate that it definitely had nothing to do with my business owning,
growing, and maintaining mother,” she gave her mother a mischievous grin.

 

“You seem really
happy,” Marilyn remarked, noting a new glow about her daughter.

 

“I guess it’s
because I’ve made the decision to stay here for a while, I feel good about it,”
she shrugged nonchalantly. “Actually, mom, I wanted to talk to you about that…”

 

“About what?”
Marilyn asked, trying not to show her alarm.

 

“About staying
here,” she said, impatiently, as though her mother should be reading her mind.
“I was wondering if I might be able to get an advance,” she said, looking at
Marilyn hopefully.

 

“What kind of
an advance are we talking about?” she asked, not wanting to commit without a
specific dollar figure. It wasn’t at all that she didn’t trust Tiara, she just
made it a point to be very prudent with her spending.

 

“I need
fifteen hundred dollars. You could deduct it from my paycheck in two hundred
dollar increments until it’s paid off.”

 

Marilyn
stopped walking. “Fifteen hundred dollars? Honey, that’s a lot of money…”

 

“Right, but it
would just be a loan, and I’ve already verified that you’re able to do it
without impacting your expansion plans at all.” Tiara kept walking while she
explained, forcing her mother to catch up.

 

“That’s not a
problem, sweetie, but what’s happening in your life that causes a need for
fifteen hundred dollars?” Marilyn asked, consumed with thoughts of dark
scenarios.

 

“Ok,” Tiara
paused. “I’ve been trying to think of a way to tell you this…and I really don’t
want to hurt your feelings.”

 

Marilyn took a
deep breath, trying very hard not to panic.

 

Her daughter
continued, “I was thinking…you know Jess and Stacey? They had a girl living
with them who just moved out, and that leaves one of the bedrooms in their
apartment open. I thought it would be good for both of us if I had a place of
my own.”

 

Marilyn pulled
her daughter to her and hugged her hard, “Oh, thank heavens…I always do think
of the worst things when you start a conversation that way,” she exclaimed,
wilted with relief.

 

“So it’s ok
with you? If I move in with them?” Tiara prodded.

 

“Of course
it’s okay with me, you’re an adult. I’m just glad that you’ll even be on the
same island. But, I can’t promise that I won’t drop by unannounced and force
Jess and Stacey into binge-watching zombie movies with us,” she teased.

 

Tiara chuckled
and they walked the rest of the way to the beach in silence. Marilyn threw her
arm around her daughter’s shoulders, knowing that her stubbornly independent
offspring would only allow it until the guilt of leaving home wore off.  

 

 


So my
daughter moved in and now is moving out again
,” Marilyn thought as her feet
touched the sand. There was precious little time for reflection about life and
the passage of time, however, they had reached their destination. It was almost
nine and the sun was relentless. Everyone attending the yoga class wore
sunglasses and sunscreen. Most had worn swimsuits, some under their clothes
like Marilyn, and some who were confident enough to do a full hour of yoga in
nothing but a bikini.

 

Plopping her
bag down in the sand, Marilyn noted with wry amusement that her daughter had
suddenly become one of those supremely confident bikini people. Her daughter
was an exact physical opposite to her mother in every way. Marilyn was 5’4,”
Tiara was 5’9”. Marilyn was a brown-eyed brunette, Tiara was a blue-eyed
blonde. Of course, the physical differences between the two could only be
attributed to Daniel, the insensitive ex-husband and lackadaisical father. He
was tall, blue eyed, and blond, with an athletic build that had once upon a
time made Marilyn swoon. Oddly, fifteen years ago, Daniel had looked a lot like
their current yoga instructor…who was now headed in their direction.

 

“Good morning
ladies,” he grinned benevolently, showing teeth that appeared to be incredibly
white because of his deep tan.

 

Marilyn got
the impression that he wasn’t really talking to her so she smiled then looked
to her daughter. Tiara showed her dimples and tilted her head in a way that
revealed to her mother exactly why the teacher had approached them specifically.

 

“Hey, Drew,”
she said coyly.

 

Marilyn
noticed for the first time that morning that her daughter was wearing make-up.
In fact that color of her lips looked remarkably similar to that of her
favorite lipstick. She picked up the tee-shirt Tiara had worn to the beach and
discarded upon arrival.

 

“Here you go,”
she said, handing the gray cotton tee to her daughter. Tiara frowned at her
mother, slung the tee shirt over her shoulder, then turned back to the teacher.

 

Marilyn had
been coming to this class on and off for the past two years and she couldn’t
remember ever having heard the instructor’s name before.

 

“I’ve been
working on that arm balance all week, and I think I’ve got it,” Tiara put her
hands in the sand and her knees on top of her elbows.

 

Marilyn
watched as her sweet little girl lifted her barely-clad bottom up into the air
as Drew looked on. She didn’t quite know how to react to the uncomfortable
situation. She could let herself “stumble” into her daughter right now,
knocking her over, or “accidentally” kick sand at the instructor’s feet, or yell
“shark”. Thankfully Tiara’s pose collapsed all on its own, solving the problem.

 


This is
what happens when I leave my daughter alone in yoga one time. One single time,

she thought to herself, pursing her lips and shaking her head. Last week
Marilyn had decided to spend the morning curled up in a hammock with a slice of
key lime pie, coffee, and the newspaper. This was her penance for the shameless
indulgence.

 

To begin the
class Drew put on his teaching voice and circulated among the fifteen women who
actively sought his attention and guidance. Marilyn became very aware of the
fact that there were no men in this particular class and a rather large group
of dedicated women. She frowned, wondering, “How old is this Bernard anyway?”

 

 

“Focus your
breathing and let yourself become one with the sound of the ocean,” he directed
gently, beginning their journey to peace.

 

Suddenly every
syllable that the attractive instructor uttered was suspect and subject to
scrutiny. Become one? Just what exactly did he know about becoming one? And why
mention it in a yoga class?

 

If she had to
guess she’d have to say that he was likely in his mid-thirties. “
What kind
of thirtysomething flirts with a twenty-one-year-old girl? Probably
most
of them would respond to my lovely young daughter if she smiled at them that
way
,” she admitted to herself, realistically.

 

Marilyn moved
fluidly through her first series of poses. Noticing that he was indeed rather
attractive, she covertly looked at him upside down from beneath her raised leg.
Instead of attaining the perfect union of body and spirit this morning, she
spent the rest of the class looking from Tiara to Drew and back again. She
tried to covertly read their body language and facial expressions. Whenever he
came around to move Tiara physically deeper into a pose Marilyn watched like a
hawk, as if she were trying to figure out how to do the pose properly herself.

 

By the end of
class, she was exhausted. Her shoulders tense, her mind was alight with
jangling thoughts, even her eyeballs felt stiff. As they all said, “Namaste,”
Marilyn was already wondering how quickly she could spirit Tiara home.

 

Trying to play
it cool, she playfully suggested, “Race you home?” Tiara stared at her mother
like she’d just lost her mind.

 

“Go ahead, I’m
going for a swim to cool down.” She nodded at the water and Marilyn noticed
Drew drawing closer.

 

“I’ll jump in too,
what a great idea, honey. Come on, let’s go in.” Marilyn said in the same
overly enthusiastic way.

 

“You go in,
I’ll be right there…”  Tiara drilled her with a look, as if her mother would
pick up on the significance of the suggestion and actually respond
appropriately.

 

“Hey,” Drew appeared
with his aging beach-boy smile.

 

“Class was
great,” Tiara said in the saccharine way that her mother had never seen before
today.

 

“Thanks—”

 

“—Yeah, class
was great!” Marilyn cut in.  

 

“Uh…thanks…”
the instructor gave her a rather puzzled look, then turned his attention back
to Tiara. “So…” Drew pulled a hand back through his hair in a very movie star
manner. “I just heard that a new species of fish was found in the reef… it’s
probably impossible to find but I thought, since you dive…maybe—”

 

“That sounds amazing!”
Marilyn blurted, drawing a warning look from her daughter.

 

“Yeah,” he
gave her a polite smile and again directed his attention to her barely-clad
daughter. “There are at least a hundred species of fish right around here, but
this one was just discovered. I guess they, the scientists, or marine
biologists, or whoever, have to submit their findings before it’s official
but…I thought you might want to take a look. I have a boat so we could pick a
couple different dive spots,” he offered.

 

Tiara was
temporarily struck speechless by his invitation, but clearly excited at the
prospect. In absence of a response from the star-struck girl, and feeling Marilyn’s
hawk-like gaze, Drew turned to her.

 

“You’re welcome
to come too…if you’d like…” The manner in which the question was asked let
Marilyn know that it was offered to be polite, rather than being an indication
of genuine interest in having her tag along.

 

“Wow, I would
love to…that is if you really don’t mind?” she beamed, satisfied with the idea
of chaperoning.

 

“Sure…come
along,” Drew looked from Tiara back to her mother. “The more the merrier…”

 

Chapter 4

 

Suddenly,
business-savvy, mathematically gifted Tiara was a teenager again. “Mother how
could you do that to me?” the red-faced young woman demanded, hands on hips.

 

“Oh dear, I’m
sorry, honey, it just popped out of my mouth before I realized it,” Marilyn
explained, somewhat contrite. She really hadn’t meant to invite herself along
on her daughter’s date, but on the other hand, she certainly felt that she had
valid concerns about her young daughter keeping company with a yoga teacher who
was several years her senior. “Well, we can either tell him that I have a
conflict in my schedule, or we could just make the best of it,” she shrugged,
not quite understanding why her typically level-headed daughter was throwing
such a fit.

 

“I don’t
believe this.” Tiara was power-walking down the boardwalk at such a fast pace
that it was difficult for her mother to keep up.

 

“Ok, now,
let’s just calm down,” Marilyn reasoned. “There’s really no need to be so
upset.”

 

Tiara snorted
derisively, shot her mother a scathing look, turned, and began walking in the
opposite direction. Rather than trying to follow, Marilyn decided to let Tiara
walk off her anger and approach the subject again when her suddenly sensitive
daughter had cooled down a bit. Sighing and shaking her head, she headed for
home, sad that the beauty of the day had dimmed somehow.

 

**

 

Marilyn was
surprised to find a woman waiting for her at the shop a full two hours before opening.
While she completely understood the intense yearning for key lime pie, she’d
never had a customer camp out in front of the store.

 

“Good morning!
Can I help you?” she asked pleasantly.

 

“Are you
Marilyn?” the petite redhead asked with a smile.

 

Marilyn took a
quick mental inventory of people she knew and places in which she might have
been introduced to this woman, but couldn’t quite place her.

 

“I am. Have we
met?” Marilyn asked tentatively.

 

“No,” the
woman responded. “I believe I’ve spoken with your daughter.”

 

“Oh?” Now she
was really confused.

 

“About the
position,” she explained, catching on that the befuddled owner obviously had no
idea who she was or why she was there.  “I’m Susan Dwyer,” she reached out her
hand.

 

She seemed
nice enough, plain, maybe a bit older than Marilyn. Susan’s hand gave the fact that
she was a baker away immediately. Something changed in your skin’s chemistry
when you washed your hands thirty times a day, punched dough, mixed, whipped,
stirred, and had the occasional burn. Marilyn could feel years of baking in
this hand.

 

“So you’re a
baker?” she smiled, feeling an instant kinship with the woman that she’d just
met.

 

“Yes,” Susan
sounded relieved. “I responded to your daughter’s ad yesterday. She seems
incredibly efficient.”

 

“Yes, she
certainly is,” Marilyn smiled with pride. “Come on in, Susan. It’s nice to meet
you.” Unlocking the store, she pulled the tables and chairs to the outdoor
area, turned on the ovens, and returned to the front to speak with her
prospective employee.

 

“Well, why
don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself?” she encouraged, leaning against
the front counter.

 

“I grew up
rural Idaho, my daddy owned a farm and my mama was very much a farmer’s wife. I
was supposed to find a local man to marry but… there was this one boy...” she
trailed off, nostalgic.

 

“Isn’t there
always?” Marilyn nodded sagely as she grabbed a few of her prep supplies and
started washing her hands.

 

“Would you
mind if I help?” Susan asked, looking at the supplies. “I think better when I’m
baking.”

 

Marilyn
smiled. It was only two minutes since she’d met this woman and she was already
beginning to like her. She nodded with an understanding grin and Susan, looking
relieved, put her purse down, rolled up her sleeves, grabbed one of Marilyn’s
extra aprons and washed up. Just moment before, she had seemed shy and a tiny
bit awkward, and now the industrious woman was filled with energy and vitality.
She clearly felt very much at home in the kitchen and was beginning to hit her
stride.

 

“Have you made
Key Lime before?” she asked, feeling as though she already knew the answer.

 

“Blindfolded
and with my hands tied behind my back, honey,!” Susan smiled mischievously.

 

The two women
began separating ingredients. Marilyn portioned out graham cracker crumbs, and
Susan instinctively gauged that the amount was sufficient for four crusts,
portioning out butter and sugar accordingly.

 

“I started
baking when I was a girl, which is a perfectly healthy past time in farm
country,” she winked, waiting for the whirring of the industrial mixer to
subside before continuing. “I won prizes at the State Fair for my cakes and
pies, then started submitting to more contests and won those too. I’m sure if
my parents ever imagined I would use my baking to run away from them, they
would have shut down those plans right away.” She scooped out a chunk of the
sweet, sticky mixture and pressed it evenly into a pie pan. “I never actually
went to school for it, just taught myself by trial and error.”

 

“Well, you
seem to have a gift for it,” Marilyn remarked, surprised at how they seemed to
automatically work well together. Susan knew what needed to be done without
having to be told.

 

“It was a
lucky thing too, my family certainly wouldn’t have been able to afford culinary
school. It wasn’t an option,” she made a face, remembering.

Despite her
humble beginnings, Susan seemed to have her life together. She wore an
immaculately pressed outfit - capri pants, simple button-down summer-weight
blouse, nice shoes, and a nice purse. Her haircut and color were definitely not
cheap, and her accessories were tasteful.

 

“What happened
to the boy?” Marilyn asked.

 

“We got
married,” she smiled, trimming the edge from a crust with a knife. A series of
emotions that were hard to decipher colored her gaze. It looked to Marilyn as
though perhaps it was a combination of good memories followed by a sad ending.
Susan took a deep breath, released it with a soft sigh, and didn’t say anything
until she’d finished pushing the next crust into the pan. “He was going in for
his second heart surgery…and...” she broke off tremulously, her eyes filling.

 

Marilyn
reached over and placed her hand over the frail hand that rested on the
counter, not knowing what to say. Saying she was sorry seemed ridiculous, so
feeling incredibly inadequate, she just squeezed the hand that sadly clung to
hers for a moment.

 

“Anyway,”
Susan took a deep breath, withdrawing her hand and scooping up another glob of
dough. “So now I’m on my own and I thought that I should move here,” she
finished, bravely trying to smile. “I’ve always loved sun and sand and the
ocean…everything I wanted to see when I left the potato fields of Idaho.” 

 

“That sounds
like the perfect thing to do. There’s just something special here, it’s a balm
for the soul,” Marilyn said, meaning every word, and knowing it to be true from
personal experience. Key West was safely insulated from the hustle and bustle
of non-island life.  If there was one place to go when you thought you might
never have another chance at happiness—this was it. She liked to call it the
“Resort of Last Resort.”

 

“Ok, let’s put
these in and we’ll start the filling,” Marilyn smiled.

 

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