Authors: Judith Arnold
Copyright © 2014 by Barbara
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Table of Contents
had no idea how many straws a camel could carry on its back. She only knew that
if she was a camel, she’d reached her limit.
really, it was not a big thing in and of itself. Just one last straw. Just
Jimmy being Jimmy.
enough. Her back had broken. She was done, done, done.
sat at a table at the Faulk Street Tavern, nursing a glass of wine. Maybe she
should have ordered something stronger, but she wanted to remain clear-headed
while she contemplated that single, final straw and waited for her best friend
to join her. Emma was teaching an art class at the Brogan’s Point Community
Center, but she’d promised to come to the pub as soon as her final student
departed. Monica calculated that Emma’s trip from the community center to the
bar would take about ten minutes. Emma didn’t own a car, although her
gajillionaire boyfriend could buy her a fleet of Lamborghinis if she asked him
to. Of course, one reason he was so crazy about her was that she would never
ask. His wealth meant nothing to her.
acquired a bicycle, however—used but in excellent shape—which
enabled her to scoot around town a little more rapidly than traveling by foot.
Monica glanced at her watch and hoped Emma would arrive soon. If she finished
her glass of wine before Emma showed up, she might order another, and that
would be the end of her clear-headedness.
night was the tenth anniversary of their first date: the junior prom in high
school. Monica hadn’t even been aware that Jimmy Creighton knew who she was
back then. They’d traveled in different circles. She’d been an A student,
diligent and disciplined, working at her parents’ inn when she wasn’t doing
homework or pursuing other moderately egg-headed activities. Jimmy had been a
cut-up, a funny, handsome guy who took nothing too seriously. Yet for some
reason—maybe on a dare—he’d invited her to be his date for the prom. And for
some reason—maybe because he was the cutest guy who had ever asked her
out—she’d said yes.
had their ups and downs over the past ten years, but Monica had thought they
were mostly on an up right now. They both had jobs, he selling cars and she
moving up into management at the inn. The sex was good. They hadn’t had a fight
in more than a month.
our anniversary,” she’d told him, “I want to make a special dinner for you.
of course,” he’d said. “I love when you cook for me. If it wasn’t for you, I’d
be living on buffalo wings and beer.”
scheduled a day off for herself yesterday, although she’d shown up at the inn
before dawn that morning so she could accompany one of the chefs from the inn
to the docks to pick up lobsters fresh off a boat. From there, she’d journeyed
to the green-grocer for organic vegetables, and from there to the butcher, and
from there to the wine store for a thirty-eight dollar bottle of Bordeaux. Then
she’d let herself into Jimmy’s apartment, donned an apron, and gotten to work.
She’d made lobster bisque. She’d made Veal Oscar, garnishing the veal with
lobster meat and asparagus spears and topping it with a
sauce. She’d warmed a loaf of bread. She’d prepared a tossed salad and
scalloped potatoes. She’d spread a white linen cloth over the café table that stood
in one corner of his living room, and lit a tapered white candle. And waited
for him to show up.
Ford dealership where he worked closed at six. Even allowing for traffic, he
should have reached his apartment before seven. At eight-thirty, she phoned his
cell. “Oh, hey,” he’d said cheerfully. “I’m over at Dave’s place. A group of us
decided to pop some beers and catch the Sox game on TV. I’ll be home by
okay. Final straw. Monica had blown out the candle, tucked the wine bottle under
her arm, and walked out of his apartment, leaving behind her key to the place.
was yesterday. Today she’d gotten through the day, keeping her grumpiness in
check until she realized she wasn’t terribly grumpy, after all. After previous
break-ups with Jimmy, she’d felt angry or depressed, lost or confused. This
time, not really. This time she was ready to shed all those straws Jimmy had
been heaping onto her back for the past ten years. She was ready to move on. A
little mournful, a little anxious, but ready.
Faulk Street Tavern was rarely crowded on a weekday afternoon, and today was no
exception. Gus Naukonen, who had owned the place since before Monica was born,
occupied her usual station behind the bar, wiping surfaces, filling bowls with
munchies, arranging bottles. None of the wait staff had arrived yet, but anyone
who wanted a drink could walk up to the bar and ask for one, which was what
Monica had done. Presumably, so had the young guys in polo shirts and khakis
seated around one of the big tables with a couple of pitchers of beer and
heaping bowls of popcorn. They were too clean-cut and rich-looking to be a
fishing crew. Monica guessed they were college kids, their spring term over and
their wealthy families settling into the rambling summer homes that dotted the
northern end of town, where the upper-class folks owned what they
euphemistically called “cottages” but which Monica called mansions.
wasn’t much older than those boys, but she felt older. No—she felt
Jimmy was a baby. She’d outgrown him.
few other tables were occupied, and a man the far side of middle age sat at the
bar, slumped over an empty glass. From where Monica sat, she could see Gus
shooting occasional glances at the man, as if to make sure he didn’t lean too
far in any direction and topple off his stool.
Monica stood the jukebox. She had her back to it, but she knew it was there, a
magnificent antique rumored to possess magical properties. With its arched wood
frame and its stained-glass inset of two peacocks nestling together, it was
beautiful enough to belong in a museum. Its contents were a mystery: old songs
that had been recorded back when vinyl records were the only available technology.
No one knew what songs were in the jukebox, though. They weren’t listed on the
machine. You couldn’t choose a particular song. According to legend, the songs
would choose you.
had grown up hearing the myth of the jukebox’s reputed magic. She knew that if
you put a quarter into the machine, three songs would play, and no one knew
what those songs might be, other than that they’d be oldies, dating to her
parents’ era or even longer ago than that. Sometimes a particular song would
strike someone in the room a particular way, bewitching that person, or
transforming her, or…
Monica hadn’t really bought into the
legend until her friend Emma and Max, the gajillionaire, had both fallen under
the jukebox’s spell and found true love in each other’s arms.
supposed that when it came to the jukebox, she was currently an agnostic. She
didn’t quite believe it was magic, but she didn’t quite
bar’s door opened, and Monica glanced over the back of the banquette. At the
sight of Emma’s wild red hair, she smiled. She was not going to cry on Emma’s
shoulder. She was not going to fall apart, bemoan the death of her decade-long
relationship with Jimmy, turn the afternoon into a pity party. Instead, they
were going to hoist their glasses high and drink a toast to Monica’s
Emma said, ambling over to Monica’s table and sliding onto the banquette facing
her. “I hope you didn’t have to wait long.”
burst into tears.
marinas had a rule stipulating that sailboats had to approach their slips on
their motors. Ty Cronin preferred the marinas that didn’t have that rule. To
him, maneuvering a boat into a slip on wind power alone was a welcome
challenge. Gauging the coastal breezes, riding in on the jib, tweaking the
rudder an inch one way or the other until you eased alongside a mooring or into
a berth… Sweet. What was the point of sailing if you had to rely on the motor?
North Cove Marina at Brogan’s Point didn’t have a motor-only rule, so Ty
brought the Freedom into its slip on wind power and technique. He’d had a good
run up the coast from Key Biscayne. Some nasty weather off the Carolina coast,
but nothing he couldn’t handle. The Freedom was a gorgeous vessel: tiny but
well-equipped galley, comfortable upholstered sleeping benches, an inboard
shower and state-of-the-art commode in the head, and big sails that swelled and
curved and maximized the wind’s power. He hadn’t even bothered with the
spinnaker. The boat moved fast enough without it, and this trip wasn’t a race.
was a job. Wayne MacArthur had offered him a nice chunk of change to transport
the boat from his winter home in the Florida Keys to his summer home in this
seaside town north of Boston. Ordinarily, Wayne had explained, he would sail
the Freedom up the coast himself, but he had some business issues detaining him
in Florida, and he wanted the boat moored in Brogan’s Point before Memorial
Day. Ty was cool with that. The list of adventures he’d prefer over spending a
week doing a solo ocean run was pretty short. Getting paid for the privilege
was a bonus.
never been to Brogan’s Point before—or, for that matter, any part of New
England. So what the hell. He’d sail up, spend a few days, and fly back to
Florida. He had nothing going on there that couldn’t wait for a couple of
navigated the Freedom into its assigned slip and glided the boat into position
with barely a tap against the old tires cushioning the side of the dock. He
leaped off the boat and onto the smooth pine planks of the dock, lashed the
boat fore and aft, and stood for a moment, his feet planted on the dock’s solid
surface, his legs adjusting to the lack of roll and pitch.
May afternoon was mild, warm but nowhere near as humid as the heavy air
smothering southern Florida at this time of year. A refreshing breeze lifted
off the water, flinging a lock of Ty’s hair across his nose. He’d washed his
hair that morning when he’d showered, but after a day that had started off the
coast of Rhode Island, carried him through the Cape Cod Canal, and blown him
into his destination on brisk, strong gusts, he could use some freshening up.
on the boat, he spent a few minutes lowering the jib and wrapping it. He
cleated the ropes, secured the rudder, and shut down the onboard navigating
equipment. Then he ducked into the cabin, yanked off his shirt, and wedged his
six-foot-two-inch frame into the closet-size bathroom. Tepid water, a bit of
soap, more water and a few swipes with a towel invigorated him. He squinted at
his reflection in the small slab of mirror above the sink. A raspy stubble of
beard had sprouted since he’d shaved yesterday morning, somewhere around New
Jersey, but he didn’t feel like shaving again. He felt like getting rich and
donned a fresh shirt, stashed his duffel and laptop inside a storage bin
beneath one of the upholstered benches, and secured the bin with a padlock. No
saying who might be hanging around this marina. No point taking chances.
wallet and cell phone stuffed into the pockets of his jeans, he emerged from
the cabin and sprang back onto the dock. He snapped a couple of photos with his
phone. The boat in its berth. The supply shack at the end of the dock, a
massive wooden crate overflowing with bright orange life vests beside the open
door. The much larger building on shore, situated midway between this dock and
the next one, with a phony-looking anchor painted on its side, and above it the
words “North Cove Marina” in nautical blue and gold lettering. Ty texted the
photos to Wayne, along with a brief message: “Made it safe and sound.” Then he
less than a minute, his phone vibrated. “Check’s in the mail,” Wayne had texted
back. Ty tapped the phone to open his PayPal account. Twenty thousand dollars
had just been added to it.
grinned, transferred the money to his bank account with a few clicks, and
strode up the deck to dry land. The door to the large building was open, and he
front room was ugly in a familiar way. The pale green walls were decorated with
a few nautical-themed prints, framed maps, oversized ropes and doughnut-shaped
lifesavers. More boxes of bright orange life vests stood on the floor. A
counter extended the length of the room, manned by a skinny kid who looked
barely out of high school. He wore a polo shirt with the cute-cartoon anchor
insignia stitched above the pocket, and salmon-red slacks.
Ty greeted him. “I just sailed Wayne MacArthur’s boat in.”
kid opened a loose-leaf notebook. The fancier the yacht club, Ty had noticed
over the years, the more old-fashioned. He’d worked at some marinas that
operated out of shacks no bigger than an outhouse but managed their slips and
monitored conditions with up-to-date computer software. An upscale place like
this, where the staff wore shirts with anchors above the pockets, used
slip did you park in?”
recited the number of the slip Wayne had instructed him to use. The kid flipped
through the pages of his notebook, found what he was looking for, then glanced
out a window behind the counter and eyeballed the boat. “Nice ship,” he said.