Authors: Kristan Higgins
It takes about an hour and a half to reach my destination, and the drive is beautiful. The ponds gleam an electric blue under the cloudless sky, the leaves are that engaging shade of pale green. The sun beats through the windshield and I crack my window a little, turn up the radio and sing along.
I haven’t heard from Father Tim since our last conversation a week ago. He hasn’t come into the diner, but the word is out that he’s leaving. Most of Gideon’s Cove is devastated. As for me, my feelings are still a bit mixed; I’ll miss him because he was nice to have around, but I sure won’t miss feeling so stupid when it came to him.
The directions I got off the Internet last night are fairly accurate, and I find the car dealership with no trouble, right next to McDonald’s, as promised on Mapquest. I pull into the lot in my battered Subaru, a lump of coal among diamonds.
A rather pleasant thrill of anticipation and nervousness runs down my legs as I get out. I glance at my reflection in the car windows, then turn and go inside.
“May I help you?” asks a pretty woman behind the desk.
“I’d like to see Skip Parkinson, please,” I say pleasantly.
“Of course.” She presses a button on the phone. “Skip, please come to the front desk. Skip, front desk, please.” Her voice is soothing and robotic.
I glance around the showroom while I wait, admiring the sleek lines and tasteful colors of the expensive cars. Cars are like racehorses to me—I enjoy looking at them and have little use for them. Given where I live and what I do, I require something far more pragmatic than a seventy-five thousand dollar big-boy toy.
“Hi, can I show you something today?” Skip’s voice comes from behind me. I turn around.
“Hi, Skip,” I say. He’s wearing a beautiful charcoal suit, his blue shirt open at the neck, stylish as a European duke.
His mouth drops open with a quick intake of breath. “Maggie! Wow.”
“Do you have a minute?” I tilt my head and smile. It’s so much more pleasant, being the surpriser, not the surprised.
“Um, sure. Sure. Uh, come on back to my office.” He walks me to a soulless room in the back of the dealership, his windows overlooking the parking lot. A chrome-and-glass coffee table holds some expensive-looking sales brochures. There’s a matching bookcase along one wall, a large desk covered with papers.
I sit in a leather chair and look around. Scattered on the walls and shelves are pictures of the Parkinsons—Annabelle, their children, even one of his snobby parents.
“So, Maggie, what a nice surprise,” Skip says carefully, lowering himself into the chair opposite me. “Are you looking for a car?”
I chuckle. “No. No car, Skip. I’m just here to see you.”
He tugs on his shirtsleeves and tries to look pleasantly interested, but a flush is creeping up from his collar. “Well. How nice.”
I cross my legs and just look at him. Still a handsome devil. But his face is bland, a classic American face, well-proportioned features, brown eyes, the hint of gray in his tidy little beard. Only the lines around his eyes give him any distinction at all. I imagine being married to him, having him come home to our big, lovely house, handing him one of our kids. We might have a cocktail, and I’d feign interest as he told me about the irritating customer who went with the Audi instead of the Lexus SUV he can’t seem to unload.
I’m glad we didn’t end up together. That wasn’t always true, but it is now. Suddenly, I realize I don’t need anything from Skip.
“So, Maggie…” Skip says, pasting a fake smile on his lips. “What can I do for you?”
“Well, I guess I came for that apology you owe me, Skip,” I answer. The smile falls off his face with a nearly audible thud. “But…well, I don’t know. I thought it mattered. But it doesn’t.”
“Oh,” he says. The flush has his face in its grip now. “Well.”
“It was pretty bad, you know,” I tell him. “You bringing Annabelle to town, not telling me that we broke up.”
“That was a long time ago,” he mutters.
“You’re right. I guess I’ve sort of been cleaning house emotionally, you know? And it occurred to me that you never really…well. Like you said, it was a long time ago.” I stand up. “Sorry I wasted your time.”
Skip stands also. “That’s it?” he says, a hopeful note in his voice.
I laugh a little. “Yeah. Kind of anticlimactic, isn’t it?” I stick out my hand. “Take care. Your wife seems very nice.”
His hand is softer than mine, smooth and pampered. “Thank you, Maggie,” he says carefully. “Take care, yourself.” He makes a movement to the door, but I wave him off.
“I’ll see myself out. Goodbye, Skip.”
When I’ve just reached the door, his voice stops me. “Maggie?”
I turn. “Yeah?”
“I am sorry.” He looks a little forlorn, somehow. “I wish I’d done it better.”
I pause, then give a nod. “Thanks for saying so.”
I wave to the receptionist and walk out into the bright sunshine. “Well, that was a waste of gas,” I say to myself as I climb back in my car. But I’m laughing as I say it.
Around five, I find the building where my mother works and climb the stairs to the third floor. For a second, I just watch her from the doorway—she sits behind the reception counter, wearing a headset, talking animatedly. The wall behind her has
painted in large green letters.
“Hi, Mom,” I say when she clicks off from her conversation.
“Maggie!” she cries. We hug and kiss, and I breathe in her familiar perfume, realizing that I’ve missed her.
“Don’t you look nice!” she says.
“You, too. I love your hair,” I tell her. She really does look lovely…not younger, exactly, but very stylish in her bright green top and pretty scarf.
“Let me introduce you,” Mom says, pulling me along. “Linda, this is my daughter, Maggie. Maggie, this is our editor, Linda Strong.”
“Nice to meet you,” I say, shaking her hand.
“Maggie owns a restaurant,” my mother announces. “Cara, this is my daughter, Maggie.”
“Hello, Maggie. We’ve heard a lot about you.” Cara shakes my hands. “Where are you going for dinner, Lena?”
“Well, first I’m going to show her my apartment, then I thought we’d go to Havana.”
The three women take a moment to discuss the various restaurant choices while I revel in the rare glow of my mom’s pride. A restaurant owner. She’s never called me that before. Formerly, I was a cook or I ran a diner, but today, I own a restaurant.
She loves hearing about my visit to Skip, loves showing me her tiny apartment. Honestly, I can’t remember a time when she’s gone for so long without criticizing me.
“Do you miss Dad?” I ask as we eat dinner.
She thinks a minute. “Yes and no,” she says. “It’s quiet in the evenings. I’m so used to having him just be there, I suppose.” Her voice trails off. “I don’t really do anything on my own yet. But there are times when I think I’ve never been happier. I caught a mistake the other day, and Linda told me she didn’t know I could proofread, and now she’s asked me to look over everything before it goes out.”
“That’s great, Mom. It sounds like you really like it,” I say, watching her flush with pleasure.
“I do. But there are also times when I cry, I’m so lonely,” she adds.
“We miss you. All of us.”
“I’ll be home this weekend,” she says. “To see the baby, and everyone else, of course.” She pauses. “How are you, honey?”
“I’m okay,” I say. “I…well. There are some things that are clearer to me these days, and I’m trying to kind of sort them out.”
“Like what?” Mom asks.
“Oh, I don’t know.” I take another bite of fish, then decide to tell her. “I’m over my stupid crush on Father Tim.”
“Finally.” She smiles, not unkindly. “Are you seeing anyone, Maggie?”
I feel my back stiffen, preparing for battle. “No.”
“I might have someone for you, dear,” she says. “He works at—”
“No, thanks, Mom. I need a little break from dating, actually,” I interrupt. I take a breath. “I was seeing someone for a few weeks. Remember Malone?”
“Malone? The lobsterman?”
“Right. Well, we were kind of seeing each other, but then we had a fight.” I take a gulp of water.
“Did you apologize?” Mom asks.
“Why do you assume it was my fault?” I snap, setting my glass down with a thunk and a slosh.
“Was it?” she says with a smile.
I grit my teeth, then give a rueful nod. “Well, yes, actually, it was. And I did apologize. But he’s not the forgiving type.”
“Well, when you’re ready, then, you let me know and I’ll give you this person’s number. But you don’t have—I mean, I hope…”
You don’t have much time…I hope you won’t wait too long....
I know what she wants to say. But to her credit, she stops herself. “Well. Good luck.”
“I should probably get going,” I say, glancing at my watch. “It’s a long drive.”
Mom’s eyes fill with tears. “All right,” she says, fiddling with her bracelet to hide the fact. “It was so wonderful seeing you, honey.”
We walk together to where we parked. “Drive safely, now,” she says. “Let the phone ring once so I know you made it home all right.”
“Okay, Mom. Will do.”
I kiss her cheek, hug her tight for a minute. It’s still a bit of a shock that I’m taller than my mom. Even though that’s been the case for more than fifteen years, I still expect to look up to her.
’M SO TIRED
of being a joke, Christy,” I tell my sister as we walk along the shore one afternoon. Violet sits in a backpack on my back, babbling happily.
“You’re not a joke,” Christy assures me. “You just drew the wrong conclusions, that’s all. It could happen to anyone.”
That’s the nice thing about having an identical twin. Loyalty. I smile gratefully. Up ahead, a group of puffins scatters at our approach.
“Dird!” my niece yells. “Dird!”
Christy’s mouth drops open in glee. “That’s right, Violet! Bird!”
“She’s so smart,” I tell my sister. Violet pulls my hair vigorously, jerking my head back.
“No, Violet,” Christy says, unwrapping her daughter’s pudgy fist. “No pulling.”
The air is cool and damp, clouds blowing in from the east. Rain is in the forecast. Gulls cry above us and the waves slap at the shore.
“So what’s wrong with Jonah these days?” Christy asks.
“I don’t know,” I admit. “He’s been a real sad sack. Unlike him.”
“Woman trouble?” Christy guesses.
“Maybe,” I answer. “I saw him with some cute young thing a while back. They were kissing. He hasn’t named names, though, so I really don’t know.”
“What about you?” Christy asks, bending down to pick up a piece of sea glass. She studies it for a moment, then slips it into her pocket. “What about your love life?”
I sigh. “I think I’m just gonna sit tight for a while,” I say. “No more obsessing, no more dates. Someone will come along someday, maybe. And if not…”
“If not, then what?” she asks.
“If not, then I’m still okay,” I tell her with a smile. “Can’t have everything, unless your name is Christine Margaret Beaumont Jones.”
It’s true. It’s taken a while, but I’ve been pretty…happy these days. The weight of Father Tim is off my back, as it were, my crush and wonderings finally gone for good. No more guilt over lusting after a priest, no more wasted hours imagining us together. I feel clean, somehow. Emptier, brighter. Like my apartment.
I smile at my twin, who looks beautiful today, her cheeks flushed with the damp breeze, her hair blowing in wisps around her face. “When are you going to tell me?” I ask her.
She stops dead, her mouth falling open, and I laugh and hug her. “Congratulations, Christy,” I say, tears of happiness pricking my eyes.
“How did you know?” she asks.
“How did I miss it?” I ask back. “So how far along are you?”
She smiles hugely. “A month. It was a surprise, but we’re thrilled.”
“Of course you are. And so am I! Violet,” I say, craning my neck to address my niece. “You’re going to be a big sister!”
“Ah do!” she proclaims. “Go ba!”
When we get back to town, Christy and I part ways, and I watch her walk away. Melancholy pricks my heart. It’s not that I’m jealous of her—I love her more than I love anyone. But she doesn’t feel the same way about me. She has Violet and Will, and now a new little crittah on the way. And while that’s as it should be, there’s a small part of me that feels left behind. Once,
were all we needed, Christy and I. Just the two of us.
I see the
coming into the harbor. There are two figures on deck, a man and a woman. Jonah mentioned that Malone’s daughter is going to be his sternman for the season. It must be nice for Malone, having his child with him all summer. Imagining that closeness, that biological link, causes a sting of jealousy to burn in my heart…and a prickle of shame, too. Because though Father Tim once said I made people feel wonderful, I’m quite sure I didn’t get to do that for Malone. He did it for me, but I didn’t reciprocate.