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Authors: Lynda Simmons

Island Girl

BOOK: Island Girl
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Table of Contents
“Ruby, put the scissors down.”
I turned, saw Mark in the doorway. “I can’t,” I told him. “I have work to do.”
“No, you don’t. We’re going canoeing, remember?”
“I can’t go anywhere now. I have clients. Grace can’t handle this alone.” I looked around. “Where’s my notebook? I need my notebook.”
“I don’t know about the notebook,” Mark said. “But I do know that Grace is doing okay on her own.”
“Okay? Okay? Mark, look around. She’s made a mockery of everything.” I turned to the woman in the chair. “What’s your name?”
“Ruby, it’s me,” she said. “Joannie from Algonquin Island.”
“Of course you are.” I swung around to the women on the couch. “The rest of you . . . I don’t know. I’ll figure something out. But right now I need my goddamn notebook.”
Mark put his hands on my shoulders. “Ruby, give me the scissors.”
Maybe it was the way the silence suddenly pressed in on me or the looks on the faces all around me. I don’t think I’ll ever know what stopped me, what made me come back to the moment. But for some reason, I was acutely aware of what I had just done.
My daughter was outside, crying. My best friend was on the verge of it herself, and my clients, women I’d known for years, women I considered friends, were staring at me as though they’d never seen me before. They were right. They hadn’t. This was the new Ruby. Big Al’s girl. And she was down by more than a few points.
Titles by Lynda Simmons
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2010 by Lynda Simmons.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form with-
out permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of
the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Berkley trade paperback edition / December 2010
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Simmons, Lynda, 1954-
Island girl / Lynda Simmons.—Berkley trade pbk. ed.
p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-44569-3
1. Alzheimer’s disease—Fiction. 2. Mothers and daughters—Fiction. 3. Domestic fiction. I. Title. PR9199.4.S’.6—dc22 2010027941

For Hedy,
with love from the troll
While I was working on this book, people who weren’t familiar with the Island would often ask, “Is this a real place?” I was always delighted to tell them yes, the Island is real, and magical, and truly unique. A place where farm animals and Ferris wheels blend easily with parkland, bird sanctuaries, and a neighborhood of homes that only survived because of the dedication of those who stood together to stop the destruction of everything that had once been. As a result, history on the Island isn’t merely a reenactment or a collection of empty buildings and commemorative plaques. History here is part of a living and vital community. And the Island is the only place I know of where it doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have. If you want to own a little piece of this paradise, you have to get in line and wait like everyone else—and I hope that never changes.
I’d like to thank the many Islanders who shared their time and their stories with me, including Peter Holt, who answered questions about the smallest details with a patience that was always appreciated. Elizabeth Amer, who served me tea and gave me wonderful insights into the fight to save the Island homes. David, Ellen, and Eric Smiley, who allowed me a glimpse into everyday life on the Island. And, of course, Albert Fulton, who not only opened the archives to me but also helped me navigate through the volumes of information he lovingly gathered and painstakingly maintained for so many years. And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a tip of the hat to Toronto Island Connection, the online group who welcomed me into their discussions of Island lore, and made an outsider feel like one of the gang.
I also owe a debt of gratitude to the families and patients who were so generous in sharing their experiences with Alzheimer’s. And a kiss to Lorraine and Edna, whose lives have touched me deeply.
If I were a teenager, this would be a coming-of-age story. But having celebrated my fifty-fifth birthday yesterday—complete with champagne, cake, and more candles than anyone wants to see in one place—I suppose this is more a coming-of-old-age story. The tale of a woman well aware that the best is no longer yet to come. Proud that all the years of canoeing and weight training and green tea have given her firm arms, a straight back, and a heart so strong the little darling will probably beat for years and years to come. Yet knowing with aching clarity that none of these things will stop, or even slow, the inevitable decline before her.
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. As those thoughtful cards from the Humorous Birthday section of the Hallmark store pointed out, I may be “Over the Hill” and “Past My Best Before Date,” but I am also officially a “Junior Senior” now
entitling me to a free coffee refill at Donut King and a 10 percent discount on power tools this week at the hardware store on Sherbourne. Pity I swore off coffee twenty years ago and already have a shed full of tools courtesy of Jack Hoyle—the man who finished renovating my second-floor bedroom yesterday and shared it with me last night after the party.
While I never expected my handyman to hang around for the long good-bye, a kiss on the cheek or even an elbow in the ribs would have been better than waking up to find an empty pillow on my right and a few words scrawled on the back of an envelope stuck to the fridge.
Catching early flight from Hanlan’s. Tools in shed for safekeeping. Good luck, Jack
I couldn’t believe it. After everything I’d explained, after everything he’d read, the idiot had still booked a flight out of the Island Airport. Another blatant example of self-interest trumping reason. Then again, what else could I expect from a man with broad shoulders and a narrow mind?
“Good luck to you too, Jack,” I whispered, dropping the note into the garbage and smiling as I went to plug in the kettle. I’d always meant to tell him that the old shed leaks like a sieve, see if he wanted to stick around a while longer, maybe fix it for me. But like so many things these days, it must have slipped through a crack in my Junior Senior mind, and I can’t imagine I’ll remember to add that repair to one of my lists any time soon.
The lists are everywhere now. Grocery lists, address lists, lists telling me where to go and when and why. I write them to keep myself on track, to stem the flow of details through those damn cracks. For the most part they work, which is why I am dressed in my best trousers and jacket with my hair freshly highlighted and sprayed into submission. The next ferry leaves at 8:30 A.M. and I plan to be on it, because the first line on today’s to-do list reads,
Find Liz,
and the city is as good a place to start as any.
Of course as my Grandma Lucy used to say,
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley,
which roughly translates into
Shit happens
, and while I was dropping tea bags into the pot, one of those Junior Senior cracks opened wide and in danced Mary Anne Biggs, my closest neighbor, my best friend, and my first Tuesday morning appointment—something I would have remembered had I checked my appointment book before climbing the stairs with Jack last night.
BOOK: Island Girl
4.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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