On the day before Halloween, Marietta finally drove back into town. She parked her car by the wharf and started up Pleasant Street, poking her head in the tiny grocery store (though she needed nothing, thanks to the kindness of her new neighbours), the library, and the art gallery that sat at the top of the street. The ice cream shop had closed for the winter but a row of cakes in the window of the small cafe caught her eye, and she went in.
It was a charming place, with moss-coloured tablecloths draped over small round tables and a delicious aroma of cinnamon and coffee in the air. A young woman with bright green eyes smiled at her from behind the counter. Marietta said, “I couldn’t resist. Those cakes in the window look wonderful. Can I have a slice of the chocolate one?”
“Sure thing,” the girl said, pulling the tall, glossy cake out from the case. “This is my favorite, too. First cake I learned to bake.”
“Oh, are you the baker? How marvelous. I’ve always wished I had been a better baker. Never seemed to have the knack. My husband wasn’t fond of sweets, so I never felt the need to learn. I do love them, though. Who taught you how?”
“My mom. She was the best baker in town, hands down. Christmases when I was little were unbelievable. The whole house was like a bakery. Chocolate everywhere. Fudge, cakes, pies. It was the best time ever.”
“Does she help you here in the bakery”
The young woman’s face fell a bit, her green eyes bright. “No ma’am. She died a few months back. It’s been pretty hard. She always helped out here in the bakery this time of year. We get busy during the holidays, you know. And she loved it. You passing through town? We don’t get many tourists this time of year. Weather’s a bit iffy. But I think October is one of our prettiest months.
“No, actually, I’ve just recently moved here. And I agree with you, October is a beautiful month here.”
“Really?” The young woman smiled. “Where are you living?”
“The cottage on the hill. On Sea Street.”
There was a clatter as the knife slipped from the girl’s hand and landed on the hard brick floor. “Oh!”, she exclaimed. “Sorry. I just, well, I never thought. I mean, I’ve never actually known anyone who’s lived there.” She bent to pick up the knife, never taking her eyes off Marietta. “What’s it like?”
“It’s…. “. Marietta looked up into the girl’s green eyes, certain she’d seen them before. “Uh, it’s … well, it’s really a lovely place.” There was no mistaking it. These were mirror images of the eyes of Kendra Pierce, the lady who’d brought her the cake on that rainy morning last week.
“My name’s Marietta, by the way. Marietta Cline.”
“I’m Lorelai Pierce. But everybody calls me Lolly.”
That last name was what Marietta was expecting to hear even as she fervently prayed she wouldn’t. Finishing her cake in silence, all the while certain it tasted exactly like the one she’d been given last week, Marietta paid her bill and felt Lolly Pierce’s bright green eyes watching her closely as she left.
She stood on the pavement for a moment aware that she was holding her breath. Then, turning right, Marietta headed straight up Pleasant Street to the James General Store, threw open the wooden door and headed straight into the shadows towards the rear of the shop. A few customers watched her with badly concealed curiosity as she rapped loudly on the door to Corrine James’ office. When the door opened, Marietta found herself face to face with an elderly man in a red flannel shirt. Glancing over his shoulder, she could see a dusty, cluttered office - complete with an antique roll-top desk, threadbare oriental rug and a rather lumpy dog bed on which was now curled a rather lumpy Basset Hound.
“Can I help you?”, said the man.
Her head aswirl in incomprehensible thoughts, Marietta simply said, “No. No, I really don’t believe you can.” She turned slowly and left the store, only half aware of the whispers that followed her in the cedar-scented air.
The weather was changing as Marietta drove into her drive, oyster shells cracking beneath the car wheels. She got out and walked inside, giving no thought to the rain that peppered her shoulders. Throwing her coat on the kitchen table, she went to the desk in the parlor and opened the top drawer. There lay the vivid pink folder. Marietta opened it and began rifling through the papers inside. There was the deed to the cottage. Nothing too unusual there. And … let’s see… yes, here it was. The contract she’d so excitedly signed on that Wednesday after Jasper had died. Goodness, the print was tiny. She couldn’t even read it. Rummaging around in the desk she found an old magnifying glass and held it over the minuscule writing.
The font was strange. It looked almost like hand-writing. Old-world style. Marietta cursed a little as she stared harder. Most sentences were impossible to decipher. She recognized the word, Portal, and then … the words, Consequence.... Tarriance.... Empyrean.... Eternally....
Marietta closed the file and let it slide back into the desk drawer, carefully covering its unnatural pinkness with the sepias of stationery and whites of credit card bills. The words of the phantom Corrine James echoed in her ears. “Remember your dream of living by the sea. You have what you’ve always wanted now. You can be content forever, if you wish to be.’
It was seventy-two years before Lolly Pierce came to visit Marietta Cline. A bright spring morning when the sea was as still and shiny as crystal and the lilacs perfumed the air. Marietta had been watching for Lolly for several weeks, having made it a habit to check the obituary pages occasionally. She’d never been overly wild about surprises. She’d laid the table for three but decided to enjoy her cake out on the porch with Roy. She’d let Kendra and Lolly catch up.
Most people in Hancock soon forgot about Marietta Cline. She had virtually no need to go into town; everything she possibly could have wanted or needed was provided to her by her visitors. A kind and interesting bunch, she looked forward to their every knock on her door. Her days were carefree and full; she spent them comfortably snug in the cottage of her dreams. Most evenings after dinner she’d head out with Roy to wander the seaside hills, both of them lost in the sort of wonder that comes from accepting the impossible.
Marietta Cline was content.
Thanks so much to everyone for reading along.
I hope you enjoyed your Halloween!
I hope you enjoyed your Halloween!
Do stop by on November 1st at midnight.
A big surprise is coming!!
Ho, Ho, Ho!!