Jasper Cline had been dead exactly eight days when his widow, Marietta, loaded two heavy suitcases into the back of the car, hammered a For Sale sign into the red clay under the apple tree in the front yard, and left. Without informing him, she’d neatly printed her brother Macon’s phone number on the For Sale sign. He’d figure it out later and by the time the calls started coming in, she’d be long gone. Too far away to hear his incredulity clearly. Too far away to care.
Always in possession of uncanny foresight, Jasper’s old spaniel, Marvel-Ann, had dropped dead two weeks before her master. Of old age, the vet said. Privately, Marietta thought the dog simply wanted a head start. Southern born and bred, just like Jasper, Marvel-Ann would have had no intention of accompanying Marietta to a cliffside cottage above the storm-tossed shores of the northernmost state on the east coast. So for the first time in her entire life, Marietta Warrington Cline was alone, unfettered. At sixty-seven, she didn’t know how many years she had left, but she planned to live them as she pleased. In a cottage by the sea.
As fate would have it, she’d been eyeing this property in Maine for months. It had long been her habit, after Jasper and Marvel-Ann had turned in for the night, to slip out of bed and peruse Maine real estate websites on the computer in the den. Truth was, the furtherest north she’d ever been was up to Virginia when she was six, for the funeral of her great-uncle Henry who’d died of colon cancer. She’d always found it a bit strange that the only thing she knew about that great-uncle was what he’d died of, but because of him she had to check the box on the doctor’s forms that indicated colon cancer ran in her family. She always imagined great-uncle Henry waving at her from across the waiting room each time she filled one of those things out. Families are irritating things sometimes. They glom onto you even if you’ve never been properly introduced.
She didn’t remember anything about the scenery of Virginia save for the flocked wallpaper of the funeral home on Formosa Street. She’d never even known anyone from Maine. But when the photographs of the cottage in Hancock slowly loaded onto her screen one hot July night, incrementally revealing horizontal lines of wood, stone, and sea, her heart had leapt like Christmas. She’d scrolled down to the price. Being the one who’d always kept their bank accounts, Marietta knew that amount was doable, even without the sale of their Colonial. She’d watched that website for months, expecting each time she went there the house would be sold, and feeling unexpected relief each time it wasn’t. It was a folly, she knew that. She knew Jasper would never consider it. And she knew she’d never leave Jasper.
But then, in a span of two short weeks, it was Marvel-Ann and old age; Jasper and the ladder. He’d never pay the money to hire that red-headed neighbor boy to clean his gutters like the rest of the men on the street. She’d told him. Well, at least it was quick. His head hit the corner of the window box on the way down and that was that. There’d been a wren’s nest in that window box. Not a one of the tiny blue eggs had been broken.
The funeral was on Tuesday and Marietta bought the cottage on Wednesday. She packed up all her books and CD’s, her Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn movies, her mother’s china, the photographs and the paintings, and left it all in large boxes in the entry hall for the movers to pick up the next week. The furniture could stay; Macon could throw the lot of it in the dumpster down at the Piggly Wiggly for all she cared. She didn’t need as much as she’d had, and besides, the cottage on the coast was furnished. From what she could tell in the pictures, the rooms had a nautical look. Weatherbeaten wood, overstuffed chairs in faded floral linen, old four-posters sitting high off the floor between windows opening out to the sea. All this suited Marietta Cline perfectly. She was smiling as she pulled onto the interstate and didn’t look in the rear view mirror once.
To Be Continued...
To Be Continued...