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In memory of Kady Elkins, Marilyn Furman,
and Maureen Venti, fierce lovers of books and
nature, and all taken too soon from this world
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Time: 8:18 A.M.
Wind Speed: 6 MPH
Wind Gust: 0 MPH
Precipitation: 0.0 in.
The hurricane was a thousand miles offshore when my ex-boyfriend called to offer me a ride to safety in his private jet.
“No, thanks,” I said, cradling my phone against my shoulder as I wiped a jelly smear off the Formica counter. “That’s really nice of you. But I’m not going anywhere.”
“Sabrina,” Caleb said. “There’s a Category Five hurricane headed straight for you.”
“It’s not headed straight for me. It’s headed for Miami.”
“Little Bridge Island is only a hundred and fifty miles south of Miami.” Caleb sounded exasperated. “The storm could change course at any time. That’s why they call the hurricane track the cone of uncertainty.”
He wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. But it was typical of Caleb to feel it necessary to explain the weather to me.
“Thanks for your concern,” I said coolly. “But I’ll take my chances.”
“Take your chances of dying? Do you really hate me that much?”
This was a good question. Caleb Foley had had his good points: like me, he loved a good painting. His family owned one of the largest private collections of nineteenth-century Impressionist works in North America.
He’d also been great in bed, always waiting politely to orgasm until after I did.
But when I’d needed him most—which was definitely not now—what had he done?
And now he thought he could make it up to me with a free ride in his Gulfstream just because a hurricane might sideswipe the little island to which I’d fled in order to recover from my heartbreak?
Sorry. Too little, too late.
“It’s nice of you to offer.” I ignored his question. “But like I said, I’m not going anywhere.”
I thought of telling him the real reason why—Gary, with whom my life had become inextricably tied, but who was in no shape to travel at the moment.
But what would be the point? I knew what Caleb would say about Gary. He wouldn’t understand.
It felt a little weird keeping something that meant so much to me from this person with whom I’d once shared every little thing in my life.
But it also felt right.
“Besides,” I added, instead, “no one here is evacuating.”
It was true. Instead of panicking and running around, throwing all of their stuff into the backs of their cars the way I always imagined people would when a hurricane was in the vicinity, the residents of Little Bridge Island, population 4,700, seemed to be taking the news in stride. The café where I worked was packed with the usual breakfast crowd, and though a lot of people were talking about the storm, no one seemed alarmed, only vaguely irritated. . . .
Like Drew Hartwell, whom I could hear next to me informing someone over the phone that he wouldn’t be replacing the hundred-year-old window sash they’d hired him to restore anytime soon.
“Because there’s a storm on the way,” Drew said, sounding a little testy as he dabbed more hot sauce onto his Spanish omelet, “and there’s no way the glazing’s going to dry before it gets here. That’s why. If you want an inch of rainwater all over your bathroom floor, that’s your business, but personally, I’d wait until it passes.”
Normally I don’t make a habit of eavesdropping on my customers’ conversations, but then normally Drew Hartwell didn’t use his cell phone in the café. He was good about following the rules that Ed, the Mermaid’s manager slash owner, had listed by the cash register:
NO SHOES, NO SHIRT, NO PROBLEM.
USE YOUR CELL PHONE? GET OUT.
One person who isn’t so good at following the rules? Me. The last one, anyway.
“Beckham!” Ed bellowed at me from behind the counter. I whipped around and saw him glaring at me. He jerked a thumb at my cell phone, then the glass side door. “Take it outside if it’s that important.” His irritated gaze fell on Drew, who happened to be his nephew, but whom he still treated like any other customer. “You, too.”
Drew held up a calloused palm, nodding as he slid off his orange vinyl counter stool and headed toward the door, his phone still clutched to his chin. “Look,” he said to whoever was on the other end of his call. “I get it. But you’re going to have the window boarded up anyway. So it’s not going to make any—”
The rest of his conversation was lost as he stepped outside.
Sorry, I mouthed to Ed. Then, to Caleb, I said quickly, “Listen, I’m at work. I never should have picked up in the first place. I only did because . . . because . . .”
Why had I picked up, especially since Caleb and I hadn’t spoken in months? Maybe because it was eight o’clock in the morning, and he never called this early. I’d assumed it was an emergency, only not an emergency concerning him.
“Look,” I said. “If that’s all you wanted, I’ll talk to you later, okay?” As in, never.
“No, Sabrina. I’ve got to talk to you now. The thing is, your mother—”
I knew it. My pulse quickened. “What about her? Is there something wrong?”
“She’s fine. But she’s the one who’s been bugging me to phone, since you won’t pick up when she calls.”
My heartbeat slowed. Of course. I should have known. Caleb would never have called, let alone volunteered to fly fifteen hundred miles to get me of his own accord . . . not after the way we’d ended things. Or not we, exactly, considering the fact that I was the one who’d packed up my things, handed my keys to his doorman, and left, making me, technically, the one who had ghosted.
But not really. What else could I have done? What kind of relationship had the two of us even had? Not one I’d wanted anything to do with anymore.
Now I was heading for the door again—the Mermaid’s side door. A rush of humid, saltwater-scented air greeted me as I stepped out onto the sidewalk, ignoring the glare from Ed as well as the curious looks my fellow servers, Angela and Nevaeh, threw me. Neither of them could imagine what was