Something Read Something Dead | Chapter 8 of 35

Author: Eva Gates | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1475 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter Five

Last night, prior to storming out of the restaurant, Josie had declared that she was not going dress shopping with her relatives today. I didn’t know if her resolve would last. Mary Anna, Florence, and Mirabelle were staying at the Ocean Side Hotel, but Gloria was at Ellen and Amos’s, which gave the family matriarch abundant opportunity to work her will on Ellen and through Ellen on Josie.

Cell phone reception inside the thick stone walls of the lighthouse varies from difficult to impossible, so I have a landline in my apartment. This morning I thought a short text message would be more suitable than a phone call, so I composed my message, pressed send, climbed onto the window bench, cranked open the room’s single window, leaned as far between the iron bars as I could get, and stuck my arms out. ARE WE GOING TO RALEIGH?

The message must have gotten through, as the answer was immediate. NO!!!!!!!

Now I was faced with a day off and nothing to do. I could call Ronald and ask to swap again, but he’d rearranged some things on his schedule, so that wouldn’t be fair.

Not that having a day with nothing in particular to do was a bad thing.

I put the coffee pot on, got eggs and bread out of the fridge, and made myself a lovely, leisurely breakfast, which I enjoyed while reading the news online. Charles, however, did not have a day off, and so I opened the door and shooed him out.

The phone rang as I was washing up my few dishes.

“Morning, Lucy,” said Connor McNeil. “I called the library, and they told me you’re having the day off.”

“I switched with Ronald so I could do some wedding things with Josie, but something came up and she canceled.”

“Does that mean you’re free? All day?”

“All day.”

“I had an early-morning budget meeting with the police chief, and that never leaves me in a good mood. This afternoon, I have to put a shift in at my practice.” Connor was Dr. McNeil, a dentist. While he was serving as mayor, he kept his dental office open part-time so he could still see some of his longtime regular patients and keep his skills up-to-date. “Are you free for lunch?”

“That would be nice.”

“Do you want formal or casual?”

“Let’s go to Josie’s. I need to check on her.”

“Why?”

“I’ll tell you when I see you. I’ll drive myself into town, as I have some errands to do later.”

“One o’clock?”

“Perfect.”

We hung up. I realized I was smiling. Simply talking to Connor had that effect on me.

*   *   *

I arrived at Josie’s Cozy Bakery first and waited on the sidewalk for Connor. He was a couple of minutes late and apologized profusely. A citizen had phoned with a complaint as he was leaving the office and said citizen would not be mollified.

Unlike in the height of summer, today no lunchtime lineup stretched across the bakery floor, out the door, and down the sidewalk.

“You grab a seat,” Connor said. “And I’ll place the order. What would you like?”

“A sandwich, please. Anything on a baguette.” Josie makes what are probably the best baguettes in North Carolina. “And a latte.” I found a seat at a table made out of a reclaimed whiskey barrel in a corner. Josie’s place was hip urban coffee culture meets traditional Outer Banks. Gleaming steel and chrome at the counter, white subway tiles on the wall behind, hissing espresso machine and glass-fronted display case. The walls of the dining area were whitewashed, accented with paintings of lighthouses and storm-tossed ships; the tables were made of scarred pine or weather-worn barrels, the chairs upholstered blue and white. Everything smelled of warm spices, melting butter, and bread and pastries hot from the oven. I loved this place.

Connor brought our drinks to the table and sat down. Josie came out of the back, wiping her hands on her apron with the Cozy Bakery logo of a croissant curled around a lighthouse. “Thought I heard your voice, Mr. Mayor,” she said, bending into a hug.

“Everything okay?” I asked her.

She tucked a lock of hair into her hairnet. Only Josie could look beautiful in a floury apron and hairnet. “I was worried about how the business would do over the winter, but it’s all been good. We’ve been steady all month.”

“You know that’s not what I mean,” I said.

Connor looked between us.

Josie dropped into a vacant chair with a sigh. “Yeah, I know what you mean. All’s good. The wedding’s back on.”

“That was in doubt?” Connor said.

“No,” I said.

“Yes,” Josie said. “But not really. Jake and I still want to get married, but my grandmother has arrived and is …”

“Full of helpful suggestions,” I added.

“To put it mildly,” Josie said. “I called Jake last night as soon as I got home, and we talked it out. I apologized for storming out, and he said he understood. He also said he was only trying to be friendly to Mirabelle, but he understands that she might not have taken it that way.”

“Who’s Mirabelle?” Connor asked.

“Jake and I decided it’s important to keep peace in the family, and that means giving Grandma Gloria some of what she wants. As for the morning suit …”

“Jake’s going to wear a morning suit?” Connor said. “Does that mean I have to wear one too? I don’t have such a thing. Not a lot of call for morning suits in Nags Head.”

“Fear not, Connor,” Josie said. “Jake put his foot down at that. We’ve agreed to give in on one point and have a sit-down dinner at the restaurant. That means hiring a catering company, because we can’t expect our wedding guests who are employees of the restaurant to serve, and I won’t have Jake slaving away in the kitchen. Jake hates to do that in his own place, but if it will get Grandma Gloria off our backs … I mean, make her happy, so be it.”

“What about Mirabelle and Florence?” I said.

“Who’s Mirabelle?” Connor asked again. “And who’s Florence?”

“They’ll have to stay out of it. I can live with purple flowers, if I must, but I don’t want their sticky fingers in anything else.”

“Florence seems sensible to me,” I said. “She pointed out that you can’t have the planners arranging something the client doesn’t want.”

“Florence may be sensible, but Mirabelle isn’t. I suspect Mirabelle has her own agenda, and it isn’t giving me the wedding of my dreams.”

“Who’s Mirabelle?” Connor said.

“What sort of agenda?” I asked.

“I don’t know. And I don’t intend to find out.” Josie pushed herself to her feet. “I have to get back at it. I might agree not to make my wedding cake—I only said that in anger—but I intend to supply the desserts for the shower on Sunday.”

“I sort of agree with your grandma on that, Josie,” I said. “The party’s to celebrate you. It’s not intended to make more work.”

She gave me a grin. “I’d been about to step down from that and ask you to arrange something with the other bakery, but if I’m not doing my cake, I am doing my shower.”

“Don’t forget to make some gluten-free things.”

“Why would I do that? I know Mom’s friends, and they’ll eat anything I bake.”

“Last night at the restaurant, Gloria asked for crackers rather than bread, and Mirabelle said she was on a gluten-free diet. Didn’t you hear?”

Josie let out a puff of air. “Guess I missed that. Probably on purpose. I’m not doing anything special for her.”

“It wouldn’t hurt to make nice, Josie. You make gluten-free treats all the time.”

“Might as well cut up some slices of cardboard and put frosting on them,” Connor said. “Gluten-free equals flavor-free.”

Josie smiled at him. “Not if I make them.”

“If you don’t want to, I suppose I could,” I said, dragging the words out. “Although I don’t have much of a kitchen. Or any equipment. Can I borrow some baking pans?”

“Oh, all right. You win. I’ll play nicely and make a plate just for Mirabelle.”

“I understand,” I said. “About your dress …”

“I can’t talk about that now, Lucy. Mom won’t be able to keep it secret from Grandma that we’re going shopping, and Grandma will tell Mirabelle, and …”

“Is someone going to tell me who Mirabelle is?” Connor said.

“… and then Mirabelle and Florence will be all over it. We’ll go shopping for the dress when they’ve gone home. Mom said she’s hoping they’ll leave on Monday, after the shower.”

“You’re leaving it pretty late.”

“If I have to buy something at the consignment shop, so be it. I won’t have Mirabelle …”

Connor slapped the table. Then he lifted his hands and made the time-out gesture used in football games. “Why do I feel as though I’ve suddenly become the invisible man here?”

“Because.” I scooped foamy milk off my latte. “When it comes to wedding planning, men are always invisible. Mirabelle is a second cousin, and Florence is Josie’s first cousin once removed. Or is it the other way around?”

“I can never sort those things out,” Josie said. “You can bet Grandma knows everyone’s relationship back to fourth cousins seven times removed.”

“Or seventh cousins four times removed,” I said. “Anyway, regardless of the relationship, Florence seems nice enough, and well meaning, but Mirabelle …”

Josie cut me off. “Mirabelle is a menace. If I’m really lucky, someone will bump her off before she can do any more damage to my wedding and to my relationship with my fiancé. I might even take care of that myself.”

“Here you go.” The waiter dropped our sandwiches onto the table. “Sorry about the delay. We’re, uh”—he glanced at Josie—“kinda backed up.” He scurried away.

“Is he new?” I asked. “I don’t think I’ve seen him before.”

“That’s Blair and he’s new, yes. And not working out so well. If he can’t deliver a sandwich on time in January, I can’t imagine how he’ll cope in July. He might have to go before that.”

Josie kept her voice down, but Blair must have good ears. He glanced over his shoulder with a look that wasn’t friendly before disappearing into the kitchen.

Josie pushed herself to her feet. “I’ve got to get back. Talk to you soon.” She walked away.

“Just as well I’m the invisible man,” Connor said, biting into his sandwich. “I don’t think I want to know what all that was about.”

“Trust me,” I said. “You do not.”

*   *   *

It rained heavily that night. The window of my apartment is set into four-foot-thick stone walls, but all night I could hear thunder crashing overhead and rain pounding on the panes of glass.

Whenever I stirred, I could feel Charles’s soft warm body pushed closely up against mine. I’m not afraid of storms, but that night it was nice to know the big cat was near.

I woke to sunlight peeking around the edges of the drapes and Charles digging his claws into my blankets.

“Good morning to you,” I said with a yawn. He yawned in return, and I threw the covers off. “Not too frightened, were you?”

He lifted his little chin and leapt off the bed.

“Yes, you were,” I said to his retreating tail. “But you’re too proud to admit it. Never mind, I won’t tell.”

First order of business for the day, as every day, I fed the cat. That done, I put the coffee on and jumped into the shower while it brewed. I tried to settle my curls into some sort of order, put on a swipe of blush and lipstick, and got dressed. I had my coffee with a bowl of yogurt and muesli while I checked my email. Replies to the shower invitations were coming in, all of them accepting with pleasure.

I’ve been living in the Outer Banks only a few months. I’m from Boston, but my mom is an OBX native. She fled for the big city the moment she was old enough, but she brought her kids here for vacation every summer of my childhood, and I grew up close to Aunt Ellen, Uncle Amos, and their three children. Years later, I enjoyed working in the libraries at Harvard very much, but when my long-long-longtime boyfriend finally proposed (egged on by our mothers, not through any desire for commitment on his part), I bolted. I left him, quit my job, loaded all my possessions into my teal Toyota Yaris, and drove to the Outer Banks to throw myself into the loving arms of Aunt Ellen. In a bit of marvelous serendipity, Ellen’s good friend Albertina James (whom everyone called Bertie), director of the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library, had been looking for a new assistant librarian. I was lucky enough to get the job, and here I am today.

And very happy to be so.

I studied the guest list for the shower Aunt Ellen had given me. I recognized almost all the names. In Boston, my life was divided into compartments: friends of the family or people from my parents’ country club, my sisters-in-law’s acquaintances, people from work, girlfriends from college. Few of those people knew each other. Here, as is probably the case in most small communities, the compartments break down and lines of connection tangle all over each other. Most of Aunt Ellen’s friends were library volunteers or members of my book club; the mayor played pickup basketball with the groom as well as being my boyfriend; one of my best friends was in a relationship with the groom’s brother; clients of Bertie’s yoga studio were friends of Ellen’s.

And then we had Gloria, Mary Anna, and Florence. And, of course, Mirabelle. I hoped they wouldn’t feel too much out of place at Sunday’s shower.

I closed the computer. “Time to go,” I called to Charles. I opened the door and he dashed out. Charles loves to go to work. I locked the door behind us and took the one hundred stairs that make up my daily commute.

As usual, I was the first to arrive. I switched lights on, powered up the computers, and went to the break room to start the coffee. As I was grinding the beans, Charles strolled in, leaving a trail of muddy paw prints in his wake.

“What have you been into?” I asked.

He didn’t answer. I switched the coffee maker on and pulled the mop out of the broom closet. I went out of the break room, down the hall, and into the library proper, wiping the floor as I passed. The wet prints ended beneath the wall in the alcove where we feature seasonal or special displays. I looked at the enormous puddle on the floor in considerable surprise. The pool of water seemed to be growing right before my eyes, but we were nowhere near a window. A small river was pouring down the wall. I reached out and touched it, and my fingers found a crack in the stone beneath the water. I ran for towels and laid them on the floor, but they were soon soaked through. I found a bucket in the back of the closet and set it beneath the crack. When the bucket was about a quarter full, the flow of water began to slow.

Bertie arrived to find me studying the mess. “What’s happened here?”

“Looks like a crack in the wall, and a lot of water got in.”

“That can’t be good,” Bertie said.

“No. But it seems to be stopping.”

“We should probably have it looked at. Can you call George Grimshaw, Lucy, and ask him to come out? His company does a lot of work on old buildings.”

“Sure,” I said.

“It probably just needs a patch. No hurry, but we should get that done before the next rain makes it worse.” Bertie went into her office. Ronald and Charlene arrived shortly after, and the three of us stood around the damp floor, staring at the crack.

“I don’t like the look of that,” Ronald said.

“This is an old building,” Charlene said. “Bound to get a few cracks now and again.”

“Old, but strong,” I said.

“True,” they chorused. “It’ll turn out to be nothing.”

“Nothing at all,” I agreed. I made the call, and Mr. Grimshaw said he’d be right out to have a look.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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