SELLING OUT: SURPRISE PARTY (PART 5)
Mac would have enjoyed Labor Day in Harbor Cove. It came off just as Roxy planned, but for his wake, rather than his surprise birthday party. If he was in heaven watching, he had to be loving it, especially all the nice things that were being said about him.
At the memorial service, Mac's friends told great stories that brought bursts of laughter along with the tears. At the wake afterwards, the rabble-rousing went long into the night. It would have done justice to any good Irishman.
At the end of the night, the band struck up Billy Holiday's and Louie Armstrong's rendition of "Summertime." It was Mac's favorite song--one he sang to his daughter as a baby and even as a grown up. To everyone's delight, she came up to the stage and sang it to honor her father. Those who wept, did so as much in joy for knowing the man, as in sadness for losing him.
When they were alone, Mel gave Roxy a hug and said, "Stay for a few more days, if you get restless, you can always give Betsy a hand in the kitchen."
"Thank you. But after that, I'll need to return to the cabin and and close it up. Winter will be here before we know it."
"It's comforting to know Betsy will be here with you. I have to fly to California in the morning. My restaurant in Sausalito is having problems. Didn't want to leave you, but I must. Betsy's future is at stake as well as my own."
"Oh Mel. I'll be fine. Don't apologize. You have to do what you have to do. I understand."
* * * * * * *
With all that'd happened that day, Roxy wasn't able to sleep. Wanting to chat with Mel, again, she decided to send him a text message, rather than wake him.
"Mel, I'm going to miss you. You've been everything to me these past few days. I know this sounds silly, but I have grown to love you--like a sister of course--but it's no less meaningful. Thank you for being you. You are wonderful."
She'd no sooner hung up when she found herself feeling like a big hypocrite . . . a sister? Sisterly love? Maybe so, but if that was true, why did her body ache? Why was she longing to hold him? The memory of being in his arms made her weak.
"Good God, she muttered, "am I falling in love?"
* * * * * * *
Mid-morning, Roxy found a message from Mel.
"I got your text. I'm about to board the plane, but before I left, I wanted you to know I agree with what you said. But unlike you, I can't honestly say that my feelings are brotherly. Let's not jump to any conclusions and leave our options open. That'll work for me, if it will for you. In any event, some kind of love has taken root between us and is growing. Take care of yourself my darling friend and know I'm here for you. Call me sometime."
A week later Roxy called. He ended up telling her about his restaurant problems."Oh, Mel. I'm so sorry. I should come out and help you."
"I wish you could, but you need to stay there and take care of your self and your own situation."
"Mel. Nobody's buying real estate right now and with winter coming on, it will be completely dead, especially with the economy the way it is . . . "
"Roxy, I didn't mention it before because I didn't think it mattered, but I'm in a relationship here . . . a sticky one. If you were to come, it would make things even more awkward than they already are. Stay in touch. We'll have dinner in the spring, when I return to Harbor Cove."
* * * * * * *
A "relationship?" Mel has a relationship out in California? It had never occurred to her. She felt like such a fool. Throwing her cell on the bed she went for a walk. Beneath the startling blue sky and puffy white clouds she noticed her multi-colored inpatients still bloomed.
Protected under big green umbrella's on cold frosty nights they'd continue to thrive long after autumn leaves had all fallen, yet they, like her relationship with Mel, were doomed to fade away and die.
Everything that had happened in the last three weeks, good and bad, seemed to have served a purpose. But now, reality was sinking in--bills were pouring in and her assets were depreciating. Her's and Mac's once expensive and desirable property was now only worth a fraction of what it had been due to poor economic conditions. Real estate especially, had taken a hard hit.
"Damn parasite politicians," she grumbled, "they show no mercy towards good people who've worked hard all their life." Stomping her feet she slammed the screen door and yelled, "Don't those bleeding heart ignoramuses know if they keep doing this they'll not be getting any taxes to pay for all their frivolous self-serving programs? Do they think they or the people they have under their thumbs will survive long without money?"
Throwing herself down on the patio chaise, she broke down and sobbed. Looking to the sky she half talked, half prayed to Daddy Mac.
"Oh Mac, you would turn over in your grave if you could see all I'm facing. I am so sick of problems, of thinking everything is okay and it's not. It was bad enough losing you, but now Mel has gone. I probably will never see him again either."
* * * * * * *
EIGHT MONTHS LATER: SPRINGTIME
The domes and turrets and quaint little gardens of Harbor Cove had waited patiently for their owners to return. As always, Roxy was the first one back. But this time, she had returned practically homeless, albeit, cash richer. She'd sold her beloved cabin May 15, and now had thirty days to move prized possessions she'd excluded. Additionally, there was a Buy and Sell agreement on Mac's real estate office that looked like it would go through. If it did, It she'd retain ownership of an adjacent guest cabin, it's furnishings, a storage shed and two acres.
With both Daddy Mac and Mel out of her life, she didn't know why she retained anything, except deep down, she needed a place to call home. Out of all the places in the world, only Harbor Cove felt right.
As she sat on Mac's balcony breathing it all in, once again she was reminded, the area was not only beautiful, but breathtaking.
The Lake Michigan cottages along the beaches and on the hill sides were alive with trilliums and assorted wild flowers and to the delight of May tourists, melting ice chunks floated in the bay providing a unique obstacle course for small sailboats.
Seeing it all again with fresh eyes underscored the wisdom of her decision to retain a portion of her property. It was her home, and she loved it. Content in that realization she went inside to take a catnap.
It was nearly dark when she woke up. Hiking up the bluff to get her mail, her eyes focused on all the summer cottages still deserted--all boarded up--and suddenly she felt very alone.
Usually, it calmed her to look at them, to be the only one watching over these magical places that were rarely ever lived in, but not this time. Instead it compounded the unreality and isolation she'd felt since Mac's funeral. It reminded her of "Up Here In Paradise, Living In Hell," a poem she'd written when she and Bubba started having problems.
Dark thoughts hit her every once and awhile. "God only knows I could use some relief tonight," she said to an inquisitive looking deer that had frozen in its tracks. Then as if an answer to her prayers, the phone rang. It was Mel.
In an instant, all her cares melted away and she couldn't stop smiling.
"So how is Harbor Cove and Roxy doing without me?"
"Well, let me put it this way, it does better with you. Are you coming back?"
"Have your headaches gone away?"
"Only if you say you're here in Harbor Cove and we're going for dinner."
"Darling, I wish I were. I called to let you know I can't come back this summer. The manager, the woman I had the relationship with, ran my restaurant into the ground. She's out of the picture now, but I'm still not out of the red. Can't afford to be gone. It's prime time here for tourist."
"At the risk of being rejected again, how about if I come out there and help you? I've sold Dad's business and I have nothing to do this summer but watch sailboats."
"Roxy, my mother didn't raise any fools. When can you come?"
"Give me a week. Two at the most."
"Great! In the meantime I'm sending you a copy of a painting I did of you this past winter. It was inspired by those snapshots I took of you at the wake. It's a bit risque, but understand, it's all in my line of work. Sketching nudes. I teach Life Drawing here at the local college as Professor George. Used you as an example. Hope you don't mind."
"I'm flattered Mel. I can hardly wait to see it. You too."
* * * * * * *
Note: Refer to Madison's Photo Album: Surprise Party
To Be Continued: Part 6