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Authors: Kristan Higgins

Catch of the Day (41 page)

BOOK: Catch of the Day
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“Why? Why would she do that? Doesn’t she—”

“Because, honey, you’re twenty-six years old. And she’s what, thirty-nine? She said a few things....” My voice trails off. “I bet it’s you, Jonah. I think you need to ask her again.”

My brother’s face lights up in a sudden burst of joy. “Oh, my God, Maggot! Holy shit!” He claps his hands against his head. “Holy shit! Hold the wheel, will you, Mags?” He shoves me against the wheel, then goes aft.

“Jonah! Joe! Come on, you know I’m stupid around boats—”

“Chantal! Chantal!” Jonah bellows, cupping his hands around his mouth. In front of us, Sam’s head jerks around.

“Jonah!” I bark. “The boat! I don’t know what I’m doing here! We’re gonna hit Sam!”

“Chantal!” Jonah yells again, his voice breaking. Heads start turning on the dock. “Chantal!”

Sure enough, we can make her out, her red hair as noticeable as a lighthouse beacon.

“Jonah,” I warn, trying to figure out which lever will slow us down, “this is not the time—”

He ignores me. “The baby’s mine, isn’t it?” he bellows.

“Jesus, Jonah!” I yelp. “Mom’s gonna kill you!”

People are pointing and talking, then shushing each other. “I love you, Chantal!” my idiot brother shouts. We’re about thirty yards from the dock now, close enough that people definitely hear him. The crowd turns to look at Chantal, who is frozen like a moose about to be hit by a pickup truck.

“Chantal! The baby’s mine, isn’t it? I love you, I want to marry you!”

“Shut
up,
Jonah!” Chantal yells back.

Oh, to see my mother’s face at this moment! I can’t help it. I start laughing. I hear a splash, and sure enough, my brother has jumped overboard and is swimming to the dock. If the water is fifty degrees, I’d be surprised.

“Jonah! You fuckin’ idiot!” yells Sam.

“Sam, I think I’m gonna hit you!” I call out.

“Steer out to sea, dumb-ass!” he barks.

“Okay, okay! No need for names.” I obey, turning the wheel east. The
Twin Menace
cruises away from the parade. I decide to just turn the damn engine off and bob there. Safer than anything else I can think of. Besides, now I can watch.

The blessing has been put on hold as Jonah, always a good swimmer, works his way toward his lady love. He makes it to the dock and someone, Rolly, it looks like, pulls him up. I can’t hear him, but I can see my brother clear as day. He pushes his way to Chantal, streaming water, and makes his case, his hands flying. I see her shaking her head, then putting her hand over her mouth. Jonah takes her in his arms and kisses her while my parents look on in stunned horror, and in spite of my reservations about Chantal, I find that my eyes are a bit wet.

Billy Bottoms pulls out of the parade and comes alongside the
Twin Menace
and jumps aboard as neatly as a mountain goat. His son, Young Billy, waves to me from the wheel of their boat.

“Hey theah, deah,” Billy says. “Looks like your brothah’s gonna be a fathah!”

“Looks like it,” I agree, happily surrendering the controls to someone who won’t get us killed.

The blessing resumes, albeit completely overshadowed by Jonah’s proclamations, and Billy steers us past the dock, where Father Tim and Reverend Hollis dutifully bless us.

“Would you let me off here, Billy?” I ask.

“Sure enough, deah.” Billy maneuvers the boat alongside the dock and I jump out. Christy is waiting for me.

“Holy. Mother. Of God!” she proclaims.

“Ayuh,” I agree.

“Did you know?”

“Not until about five minutes ago,” I say. “Where are they?”

Christy leads me up the ramp and through the crowd. My brother, a blanket draped around his shoulders, is drinking a cup of coffee, gripping Chantal’s hand.

“Hello,” I say.

“Hey, sis,” Jonah says.

“Chantal,” I grind out, “didn’t I tell you Jonah was off limits?”

She grimaces. “Sorry, Maggie.” She looks at the ground. “The damage is done.”

“So it’s his?” I ask.

“Yeah.” She looks nervous, but her hand is in my brother’s.

I take a big breath, then another, then take the coffee from my brother and have a long sip. “Well! Looks like I’m going to be an auntie again!”

What the hell. I give Chantal a big hug, because really, what else can I do? “Break his heart and I kill you,” I whisper.

“Got it. Oh, Maggie, please forgive me,” she whispers back. “He’s just so…”

“Spare me the details, okay? He’s my baby brother.”

“She says she won’t marry me, Maggie,” Jonah says. “You need to work on her, okay?”

“Why would I do anything for you, idiot?” I ask Jonah, smacking his head. “You stranded me out there.”

“And yet here you are.” He smiles, his eyes filling with tears. “Thanks, Maggie. For figuring it out.”

“You’re welcome, dummy.” I give him a hug, too. I guess it’s not the worst thing in the world that could happen.

And then, aware that just about every single member of Gideon’s Cove is standing around us, my vocal cords start doing their special thing.

“I hope you’re all proud of yourselves,” I announce. “For weeks now, you’ve been bad-mouthing Malone, spreading rumors, cutting his lines, all because you have nothing better to do than gossip. Shame on you! Malone did nothing except keep his mouth shut, which is more than I can say for anyone else here. Including me.”

“It was a logical guess,” Stuart speculates. “Malone never denied it.”

“Malone shouldn’t have to deny anything,” I say hotly. “Besides, he wasn’t even sleeping with Chantal. He was sleeping with me. So there.”

Oops.

A speculative murmur goes up from the crowd. My mother frowns, my dad goes white, Christy grimaces, Jonah laughs.

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

W
E SPEND THE REST
of the day as the chief entertainment.
Ah, the Beaumonts, always good for some laughs.
Jonah is beaming with pride. Chantal does a fair amount of eye rolling, but the pall that’s been hanging over her is gone. She seems happy. I don’t know if she’ll stay with Jonah, but hey. Anything is possible.

“Another grandchild, Mom,” I comment as the two of us sit at a picnic table.

Mom swats her arm; the blackflies are making themselves known. “Yes,” she sighs. “And won’t that be nice.”

“Are you upset?” I ask tentatively. “I know Jonah’s your favorite....”

“Oh, Maggie, don’t be silly. Mothers don’t have favorites. Someday you’ll know that for yourself.” She pats my arm. “I’m not upset. It’s Jonah’s life. I hope things work out for him, but it’s really not my problem, is it?”

“I guess not,” I murmur.

“I’ve reached a stage of life, Maggie, where I finally realized that your kids are going to do what they want. My job is done. You don’t need me hovering, do you?”

“Well, I guess not, Mom. Not hovering. But still, we want you involved.”

My mom smiles, then glances at her watch. “Well, I’ve got to get going,” she says. “It’s a long drive.” She kisses my cheek, and I stand to hug her. “See you next week, all right, Maggie?”

We’ve decided to have lunch twice a month, just the two of us. “You bet, Mom. I’m looking forward to it.”

“Me, too. Maybe you can get something done about those roots when you come.”

Oddly reassured that she’s still my insulting mother, I wave as she walks off.

Blessing Weekend is over. Families drift to their cars. Tables are folded, grills extinguished. Noah Grimsley is taking apart the podium. One of Octavio’s kids runs past me, calling out a greeting, and then flits away, quick as a hummingbird.

“I’ve come to say goodbye, Maggie.”

“Father Tim,” I say. A lump rises in my throat.

“I’ll be leaving first thing in the morning.”

“Well. Do you have a replacement yet? For St. Mary’s?”

“Father Daniels will be filling in until they find someone more permanent,” he answers.

“Right.” Father Daniels, now retired, is the priest who gave Christy and me our first communions.

“Take care of yourself, Maggie,” he says, smiling though his eyes are bright with tears. “If you ever need anything…spiritual, that is…”

I laugh and pat his shoulder. “Take care, Father Tim.”

 

 

W
ITH
F
ATHER
T
IM GONE
, the festivities over and everything cleaned up, I go to Joe’s and make myself a cup of coffee. Sitting at the corner booth, I look out at the quiet street.

Father Tim’s era is over, in my town and in my life; the new phase is waiting to begin. And suddenly I feel the overwhelming urge to see Malone. Before I know it, I’m walking, practically running to the dock. The tide is out and the ramp to the water is steep, but the lobster gods have heard me, because the
Ugly Anne
is pulled right up, not out, not at its mooring, but right there at the end of the dock, as if the fates want me to see Malone. As if it’s meant to be. My feet pound against the weathered boards.

“Malone?” I call out, skidding to a stop. His boat is tied stern to dock, the bow farthest from me. A head pops out of the wheelhouse. Not Malone’s head.

“Hi,” she calls. The new sternman. His daughter.

Her resemblance to Malone is unmistakable—sharp cheekbones, thickly-lashed blue eyes, long and lanky. She’s a beautiful, beautiful young woman. How old did Malone say she was? Seventeen?

Whatever force has propeled me this far suddenly falters. Maloner the Loner is lonely no more. Maybe he never was. After all, he’s had a marriage, has a child, this lovely creature who’s spending the summer with him. He already has his little family. He doesn’t need me.

“I’m Emory,” she says, picking her way gracefully around the coils of rope that litter the deck. She’s wearing cutoff jeans and a tank top and yet she looks like she stepped out of a photo shoot. The lobstermen must be smitten.

I swallow. “Um…hi. Yeah. I’m Maggie.”

“Looking for my dad?” she asks pleasantly. I don’t answer.
What am I doing here?
I ask myself. If Malone wanted anything from me, he’s had weeks to find me.

Emory raises her eyebrows. “Did you want to see Malone?” she repeats, and I feel even more like an idiot.

“Um, yeah. Actually, it’s no big…deal. I’ll come back—”

“Malone!” she calls. “Someone to see you, cap!”

Malone emerges from the storage area in the bow, wiping his hands on a grease-stained towel. “Aye-aye, skipper,” he says, grinning. He snaps the towel at her as he walks past, and she giggles and leaps away.

God, he seems so
happy.
Malone of the scowls and lines has what he needs to be happy, and it ain’t me. I briefly consider jumping into the water to escape. Worked for Jonah.

Malone catches sight of me, and the smile on his face falls like a stone. “Maggie.”

I take a big breath and release it. “Yup. Hi.”

He jumps off the stern onto the dock and puts his hands on his hips, and even though his daughter is watching, I can’t help feeling the effect he has on me. My chest feels tight, my eyes hot and dry.

“You met Emory?” he asks.

“Oh, yes. Yup. Sure did. She’s…she’s…beautiful.”

His face softens into a smile as he glances back at the subject of our conversation. I swallow against the lump in my throat. “Yeah,” Malone agrees. “So. What’s up?”

“Oh…it’s—well…” Any plans I had have evaporated. To hide the fact that my hands are shaking, I stuff them in my pockets. “Um, well, guess what? It turns out that Jonah…you know, my brother, well, he’s the father of Chantal’s baby. And he just figured it out, and they’re together, I guess. Sort of. So no one thinks it’s you anymore.”

His bottom lip is so full and soft-looking among the black razor stubble. Those irritating lashes drop for a moment as Malone looks at the dock.

“You knew, didn’t you?” I ask. “About Jonah.”

“Ayuh.”

“You could’ve told me, Malone.” My voice sounds soft and trembly.

He sighs. “Chantal didn’t want me to. I thought you should know, but…well. Not my call.” He frowns and looks back at his boat. He starts to say something, then apparently changes his mind.

I give in to my urge to flee. “You know what, Malone? I have to run. But you know, nice seeing you and all. Have a good night.” I wave to Emory, who looks as graceful as a swan even as she stuffs a bait bag. “Bye. Nice meeting you.” She smiles back, very sweetly, and tears burn in my eyes.

Turning to leave, I actually take a few steps before stopping. I came for a reason, after all. “Listen, Malone,” I say, turning around. “Um, I just want you to know that… Listen. I accidentally helped spread that rumor about you and Chantal. I’m sorry for that, and I’m sorry I never gave you the benefit of the doubt. You deserved better.”

BOOK: Catch of the Day
8.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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