The Summer of Good Intentions

BOOK: The Summer of Good Intentions

Praise for
Three Good Things

“A toothsome tale . . . a debut as light, sweet, and fluffy as Danish pastry dough. Culinary romance lovers—fans of Sharon Boorstein, Susan Mallery, and Deirdre Martin—will devour it.”

—Library Journal

“Like gossip over morning coffee in the kitchen . . . warm and comforting.”

—Kirkus Reviews

Three Good Things
is a flavorful tale of sisters and second chances, fresh starts and sweet surprises. Wendy Francis has written a rich debut, sure to delight the lucky readers who discover her here.”

—Barbara O'Neal, author of
The All You Can Dream Buffet

“There are so many good things to say about
Three Good Things.
It's a warm, witty, and wise story of sisters on their journey through love and life. Wendy Francis's new novel is as delicious as the kringles made in Ellen's bakeshop.”

—Susan Wiggs, author of
The Beekeeper's Ball

“Wendy Francis's
Three Good Things
is as sweet, rich, and comforting as a Danish kringle, spiced with lots of good surprises.”

—Nancy Thayer, author of
Nantucket Sisters

“A lovely story about people you wish were your next-door neighbors. I wish, too, the kringle shop were next door, because I loved the mouthwatering descriptions of its treats. Curl up with this book, along with a cup of tea and a kringle (what else?) and lose yourself in a world you won't want to leave after you turn the last page.”

—Eileen Goudge, author of
The Replacement Wife

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For my mom and dad, both gone too soon

The mess is holy. . . . There is beauty in what is.




The salty Cape air blew in through the window, and Maggie listened to the steady thump of blinds hitting the windowsill. The spot next to her in bed was empty, the sheets dimpled. Mac must have already gotten up to fetch the paper and coffee at the Blueberry Bagel down the road. It was one of her favorite things about their annual month on the Cape: iced coffee waiting for her on the kitchen counter when she managed to pull herself out of bed. For eleven months of the year, she was the one in charge, responsible for waking the kids, making sure they were dressed before they climbed on the bus, packing their lunches, ferrying the twins to dance, soccer, drama, and entertaining baby Luke. Of course, Luke was no longer a baby. He'd be entering kindergarten in the fall.

But in July everything shifted. Mac was home, and at last, Maggie had some precious time to herself when she could sit in the sun or nurse a glass of wine after dinner, looking out over the ocean without a care. Or, at the very least, she could
she didn't have a care. In July, Mac turned off his scanner, and the office knew better than to bother him unless a case turned up that only his expertise could unriddle. Maggie had understood it wouldn't be easy being married to a Boston cop when she walked down the aisle fifteen years ago, but she wasn't prepared for the constant worry of whether her husband would return home at the end of his shift. The worry had nearly driven her crazy during the first years of their marriage, but then the twins were born and a whole new host of concerns emerged. Her fears about Mac had faded to a low-grade hum that played in the background of her days. On the Cape, however, for this one precious month, the family had Mac all to themselves.
was all she could think. Happy was what she felt.

She rolled over and felt the heat drifting in like sheets on a breeze. The sun pooled on the wide plank floors of the master bedroom. The house was quiet. Either Mac had taken Luke, her usual first riser, to the coffee shop with him or Luke was still asleep like his sisters. They'd arrived last night—a jumble of bags, canvas totes, coolers, and inflatable water toys—as the sun was starting its descent in the sky. The drive, normally an hour and a half, had unspooled into nearly three with the vacation traffic. The kids' iPads and I Spy had entertained them for the first hour, but eventually the children had whined with impatience. Maggie could hardly blame them.

They inched their way through the Hingham merge, where traffic always slowed, then past Marshfield and Duxbury. The giant wind turbine spun up ahead, a towering white knight in the evening sky. When at last they reached the Sagamore Bridge, she silently thanked the heavens. Greeting them, as it did each summer, was a sign from the Samaritans that asked in bold letters,
with a number to call posted underneath. It always gave her a perverse chuckle. How did they know, Maggie wondered, that carloads of parents were ready to jump off the bridge at this precise moment?

The shock of verdant green that met the eye as they topped the bridge surprised her each July. On either side of the canal, blue and purple hydrangeas dotted the roadside and swayed in the cool evening breeze, as if waving to them in greeting. In this final stretch, Maggie exhaled and finally allowed herself to enjoy the familiar mix of humanity around them. Rickety pickup trucks packed with lobster crates rode bumper-to-bumper with expensive convertibles on their way to catch the last ferry to the Vineyard or Nantucket. Plenty of SUVs, like theirs, were loaded to the top for a summer's escape.

In some ways, the house on the Cape felt more like home to Maggie than their rambling Victorian on Boston's South Shore. The summer house, where she and her sisters had been coming since they were little girls, held some of her most precious memories: fireworks on the beach, late-night s'mores, her first kiss, her first heartbreak, and the day she and Mac were married under a big white tent on the sand. Her dad had been down in May for a general check of the place, but a musty smell, coupled with something sweet, like air freshener, greeted them when they pushed open the front door. Maggie pulled back the heavy curtains and threw open the windows in the common area, then shooed the kids upstairs to do the same. She tugged the dusty sheets off the couches and hung them on the deck to air. Eventually the lights flickered on (though it was always a wild card as to whether the electric company had actually
turned on
the electricity on the date they'd requested) and the water began gurgling up through the pipes.
Ah, summer,
she thought.
At last.

The Cape house was cozy, manageable. A common room filled with well-worn couches opened onto a deck with stairs that led directly down to the beach. An antique chest of drawers housed the board games played over the years—battered boxes of Yahtzee, Monopoly, Life, all with missing pieces. Upstairs was a modest master bedroom, a guest room with a double bed, and the kids' room, with three bunk beds and barely passable rows in between. The kitchen, with its 1950s linoleum floor, was stuck in time, but Maggie thought it charming, especially the wallpaper with its happy yellow roses. From the kitchen, she could see the dining area, where a long wooden table served as both their supper table and late-night game console, scattered initials carved into it from when they were young. Coming here was like falling into the arms of a comfortable, familiar lover.

She'd had a slight scare, though, when she flicked on the downstairs bathroom light last night and discovered the bottom window transom broken, a few pieces of glass punched out. A swirl of dark dots lay splattered across the white tile floor like chicken pox. She bent down to touch them, then pulled her hand away. Was it blood? Dried blood?

“Honey? Can you come here?” she called out.
Had someone broken in? Were they still in the house?
Her thoughts raced to the kids upstairs. Mac arrived to investigate.

He checked the window, the blood on the floor. Peeked in the medicine cabinet, still flush with Tylenol and cold medicine. “I don't think we had an intruder,” he said, reading her mind. She appreciated his use of the past tense.
. “If we did, there would be more glass on the inside.” He tried opening the window, but the sash was jammed. “When did you say your dad was down again?”

“In May?” She grabbed her cell phone and punched in Arthur's number. At first, her dad had pretended not to know what she was talking about. “What? A window? Where?” But after Maggie described the damage, he grew frustrated. “Why didn't you say the
window? Yes, yes, that was me. Broke the damn thing trying to open it. Forgot to call Jay.” Jay was the family's handyman on the Cape.

“Okay, I'm just glad someone didn't break in. We'll get it fixed. Are you all right? It looks like you might have cut yourself.”

“Of course,” Arthur said curtly. “Pricked my hand on the glass. No big deal.”

But the conversation had nagged at her last night.

“Don't you think it's weird about my dad and the window?” she asked Mac in bed. He was nearly asleep, weary from the long drive and a few double shifts the week before.

“Weird?” he mumbled from his pillow.

“Like he didn't want to admit he broke it.”

“Maybe he was embarrassed. Or maybe he forgot. He's not getting any younger, you know.”

But it wasn't like her dad to let something like a broken window go. That he'd let it sit unattended for two months was almost unthinkable. Maybe, she reasoned, he felt silly when it happened and then guilty about not getting it fixed. She decided to let it slide.
This was her month not to worry!
Besides, she felt guilty herself for not checking on the house all spring. She could hardly jump on Arthur for having done just that.

She stretched her body down to her toes and fingertips, arms out at the sides. Today they would put in the dock. The pieces to it lay under a tarp in the backyard, and every year on the first day of vacation, they assembled the various sections that hooked together like enormous Lego blocks. Jess and her family would be arriving later this afternoon, and between the four adults—Mac, Maggie, Jess, and Tim—they'd manage during low tide to lay out piece by piece the modest dock that provided a jumping-off point for the kids all month. For Maggie, putting in the dock marked the official start of summer.

She thought back to when she and her sisters were kids, how she and Jess would race to be the first ones in the water as soon as the car pulled into the driveway (they'd insist on wearing their bathing suits for the ride down). She could almost smell the scent of lavender in their freshly dried beach towels. Honestly, where had the time gone? Her parents had been so happy then. And life so much simpler. Now everything was endlessly complicated. Virgie lived on a different coast. Jess was drowning in her responsibilities as a high school principal. The sisters hardly got a chance to see each other outside of their one idyllic month on the Cape. And Arthur and Gloria had been divorced going on a year and a half now.

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