he invitation to the shower didn't arrive until Saturday. As usual, Lucy was cleaning, and today she had the house almost to herself because Bill and Elizabeth were working and Sara and Zoe were visiting friends. Only Toby was home, sound asleep. A typical college kid, he slept until noon whenever he got the chance.
She had just finished wiping down the kitchen counters when she looked out and saw that the little red flag on the mailbox was down. She trotted down the driveway to get the mail, and there among the bills and credit card offers was a little square envelope.
She opened it as she walked up the drive to the house, and a handful of variously colored cards tumbled out and fell to the ground. Lucy stooped to pick them up and discovered they were cards from the stores where Sidra and Ron had registered their wedding gift preferences. They were all in New York, and the only one Lucy recognized was Tiffany's.
As she stood there flipping through the cards, she felt a curious mix of emotions. Did they really want her company at the shower, or were they just after a gift? A rather expensive gift at that, judging from the cards. And why did they think they had to tell her where to shop? It was insulting, and furthermore, it made her feel inadequate. Even if she wanted toâand she realized guiltily that she didn't want toâhow could she afford a gift from Tiffany's?
Replacing the cards in the envelope, she studied the invitation. The shower was to be on the yacht, on the evening of July 4. A handwritten PS invited her to stay for the fireworks in the harbor.
Now that was better, thought Lucy. It would be fun to see the fireworks from the boat. And no doubt there would be plenty of delicious food, and it would be lovely to see Sidra again and meet her friends from New York.
In the kitchen, Lucy attached the invitation to the refrigerator with a magnet. Then she reached under the sink for her bucket of cleaning supplies. She still had to clean the bathrooms and dust and vacuum the downstairs. The upstairs would have to wait until after lunch.
She was making herself a sandwich in her sparkling kitchen when Toby appeared, looking disheveled and seeking coffee.
“It will have to be instant,” she told him.
“Fine with me,” he said, slumping into a chair at the kitchen table and reaching for the morning paper.
She finished making her sandwich and fixed him a cup of coffee. When she leaned over him to place it in front of him at the table, she got a whiff of alcohol.
“Big night last night?” she demanded, hands on her hips.
“What do you mean?”
“I can tell you were drinking. Which, by the way, is not a good idea since you're underage and you shouldn't drive. . . .”
“Mom, how could I drive? I don't have a car. Friends brought me home.”
“Who? Eddie? He's underage, too.”
“Some of the guys from the Bilge.”
Lucy's eyebrows shot up. The Bilge was the most disreputable bar in town, located just a few feet from the harbor. It was also, she remembered, the place where the fishermen had agreed to meet to plan their protest against the new harbor policy.
“So what were you doing at the Bilge?”
“I went with Geoff, for a meeting.”
“Geoff bought you beer?” Lucy was astonished.
“No. I bought myself beer.”
“Considering the way you smell, you bought a lot of beer.”
Toby shrugged. “He left early. I stayed.” He swallowed some coffee. “Do we have any aspirin?”
Lucy fought the urge to get up and bring him aspirin. “There's some in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.”
Toby absorbed this information but didn't act on it. Tough, thought Lucy. He deserves a hangover.
“Anything interesting happen at the meeting?” she asked, keeping her tone carefully casual.
This was like pulling teeth, thought Lucy. “Were they putting something together for the waterways commission meeting on Monday?”
Toby was peering in the refrigerator, probably hoping for a slice of cold pizza or some leftover spaghetti. He settled for some orange juice and pulled the container out. “Not exactly,” he said, tilting the container and pouring the juice into his mouth. Lucy would have made a fuss, but she knew the container was nearly empty.
“But I thought they're unhappy with the new transient policy.”
“Oh, they are. But they figure going to the meeting will be pointless. They've got something else in mind.” He tossed the empty container in the garbage and headed for the bathroom.
“Sorry. I promised.”
Lucy found herself talking to a closed door. “Promised what?”
The door opened a crack. “Promised not to tell you.” Then it closed again and she heard the shower.
Irritated, she put her plate and glass in the dishwasher and slammed it shut. It didn't seem fair. She fed and clothed and educated himâat great expense. The least he could do was pass along a hot news tip.
Later that afternoon, Lucy was reclining on the chaise longue in the gazebo. Her conscience was clear. After cleaning the entire house, she deserved a rest. Kudo seemed to agree; he was stretched across the top step, making sure no one would disturb her.
When Bill's pickup turned in the drive, he leapt to his feet and went to meet him with his tail wagging. A few minutes later, they both joined her. Bill had changed out of his work clothes and was carrying a beer.
“This is peaceful,” he said, sitting down.
“I'm pooped,” said Lucy. “I cleaned the whole house.”
“You wouldn't have to do it all in one day if you weren't working full-time,” he said.
Lucy shrugged. She didn't want to argue.
“How's the boathouse going?” she asked.
Bill was currently restoring a nineteenth-century boathouse for some summer people who owned one of the big “cottages” overlooking the water on Smith Heights Road.
“Good,” he said, gazing out across the yard to the mountains. “You know, I heard the oddest thing today. From the porta-potty guy.”
Lucy dropped her magazine.
“He said you'd ordered a couple of porta-potties for the first weekend in August,” continued Bill. “Lucy, why did you do that?”
“For the wedding.” Lucy's voice was very small.
“Sue wants to have Sidra's wedding here. Right here in the gazebo. Won't that be nice?”
Bill narrowed his eyes. “And when were you going to tell me?”
“I am telling you. Now you know.”
Bill took a long drink. “I live here, too, you know. It would be nice if you'd checked with me first, don't you think?”
“I figured you'd be excited about it. It's a
. Everyone loves weddings. It's a big honor.”
Bill sighed. “How much is this honor going to cost me?”
Lucy smiled at him. “Either a lot or nothing. Thelmaâshe's the mother of the groomâwants to have it at the Hadwen House.”
“Go, Thelma,” said Bill.
On Monday morning Lucy was already at her desk, working on the lobster story, when Phyllis arrived.
“Did you get an invitation?” asked Phyllis as she stashed her purse in the bottom drawer of her desk.
“Well, I hope they don't think I'm going to buy a shower gift from Tiffany's!”
“You're not?” Lucy feigned surprise.
Phyllis stared at her. “No, I'm not. I'm heading straight for K-Mart after work. I'm going to get some of those cute Martha Stewart dish towels. They look vintage, but they're new.”
“Those are nice,” agreed Lucy. “I don't have any ideas. Especially since I'll be getting her a wedding present, too.” She sighed. “I want to get her something nice; I really do.”
“No problem. Just call Tiffany's. They even gave you the phone number.”
“It was thoughtful of them,” said Lucy sarcastically. “But these days, even K-Mart is a stretch for me. Tuition's due in August, you know.”
“You're always picking up stuff at yard sales. Why don't you give her something from your collection?”
Lucy was intrigued.
“Can I do that?”
Phyllis shrugged. “Why not?”
“I did find a set of those nesting Pyrex bowls at a yard sale last month. . . .”
“The red and yellow and blue ones? Those are hot now.”
“I got the whole set for five dollars.”
“That was a steal.”
“I know.” Lucy smiled smugly, thinking of how she had arranged the bowls on the top shelf of the pantry where they were part of a growing collection of 1950s kitchenware. She really loved those bowls.
“Why not give her those?”
“I couldn't,” said Lucy, resisting the idea. They were her bowls and she didn't want to part with them.
“Not in good shape?”
“Mint,” Lucy admitted. “I don't think they were ever used.”
“I don't see the problem,” said Phyllis, reaching for the phone.
Lucy sat silently, wrestling with her conscience. The voice of her Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Pilling, whispered in her ear. “It is better to give than to receive.” She groaned out loud.
Phyllis had finished talking on the phone. “Are you all right?” she asked.
“Okay, okay. Sidra gets the bowls.”
Phyllis beamed at her. “That's a really nice gift, and they'll go great with my dishtowels.”
The door opened, making the little bell jingle, and Ted walked in.
Lucy and Phyllis immediately busied themselves at their desks.
“Now, this is more like it,” he said, setting his briefcase on a chair. “Monday morning, everybody's at work, nobody's talking about weddings.”
Lucy pursed her lips together tightly, but a little giggle escaped from Phyllis.
That night Lucy went to the waterways commission, confident that she wouldn't mix up any names. Ted had coached her before letting her leave the office.
“The chairman is Wilfred Wiggins.”
“Right. The members are Henry Wigginsâ”
“Yes. Then there's Alf Cobbâhe's married to Wilfred's daughter Clara.”
Ted wasn't sure. “Whatever. Alf's missing a couple of fingers. Winch accident.”
“Then there's two older men, retirees. Al Sklar, who used to run the boatyard, and Herb Mason. You can't miss him. Even when he's on land he looks like he ought to be on a boat.”
“I've got a feeling this is going to be interesting. Toby told me the fishermen are planning some kind of protest.”
“Just remember to keep your head down. Those guys can get rough.”
But when Lucy arrived at the meeting room in the basement of town hall, nobody was there but the commissioners and a few regulars, mostly retirees who made a hobby of attending meetings.
As she waited for the meeting to begin, she studied the commissioners. Wilfred Wiggins, the chairman, bore a strong resemblance to Frank. His hair was the same reddish color, only there was less of it, and he didn't have a mustache. He had the same wiry body, however, and a prominent Adam's apple.
Tom Wiggins wasn't Wilfred's son, Lucy knew; he was his nephew. Tom's mother was Alf's sister, and she had apparently married someone with black hair. Tom had a full head of thick, dark hair and a stocky build.
Alf Cobb was only related to the Wigginses by marriage, but oddly enough, with his sandy hair and bad teeth he could have been mistaken for Frank's brother.
The three men obviously enjoyed each other's company. They were chuckling over something, and their attitude made Lucy feel a bit like an intruder. The other two board members seemed to feel the same way, for they were seated together at the end of the table, occasionally commenting to each other.