In the following weeks, Cammie and I ran into each other regularly, usually walking the beach early in the mornings. She offered nothing more than a weak smile and a wave, so it came as quite a surprise when one morning she stood on the beach in front of my house and called my name.
“Hey,” I stepped outside and waved from my deck, “good morning.”
“Hi,” she looked down at her feet then back up at me, shading her eyes with one hand, the other fluttering about as if it had nowhere to land. “I hate to bother you, but you wouldn’t happen to have an extra cup of coffee would you?”
I was so shocked, I was slow to reply.
“Sorry,” she stammered looking back down at her feet, “I shouldn’t…”
“Of course I do,” I interrupted. “Come up. A little company this morning would be nice.”
The dogs were wagging their tails, excited by the idea of more hands to pet them, I’m sure. Cammie climbed the stairs, opened the gate at the landing then continued up to my deck. The t-shirt she was wearing had seen better days. It was sky blue by default, as though it had been thrown in with the whites and a little bleach time and again. She’d rolled a pair of sweat pants to meet just under her knees, lose and baggy in the butt. I wasn’t sure how she was managing to keep them up.
“It’s good to see you,” I greeted her. “Let me get you a cup and bring out the coffee pot. Do you take anything in it?”
“Yes, if you don’t mind; a little milk or something.”
I handed her a cup and set the pot and creamer on the table. “Please, have a seat and help yourself.” The umbrella was up, offering a nice reprieve from the early morning sun. We both chose seats in the shade.
“Thank you,” she poured a healthy amount of half and half into her cup, stirred and took a sip. She closed her eyes and smiled. “Umm…this is so good. I’ve been out for a few days and can hardly live without it. I really appreciate this.”
I wondered why she hadn’t just gone to the store. “My daughter-in-law was out for the weekend and made molasses sugar cookies. They go pretty good with coffee if you’d like one.”
“Oh, that would be wonderful,” she smiled enthusiastically.
From the kitchen I glanced out the window at the tiny waif of a person sitting on my deck. Her hair was nearly as big as she was. Her skin was tanned and her arms, small as they were, appeared fit, almost muscular. She’d certainly kept herself fit.
I put half a dozen cookies on a plate. “Here you go. Have as many as you want. I’m trying to get rid of them before I end up eating them all myself.”
I watched her bite into a cookie and take another sip of coffee. “So good,” she murmured.
“Anyone out up on the hill?” I asked. “Any neighbors? Seems like things are pretty quiet this year.”
The hesitation didn’t go unnoticed. “No, no one on either side of my anyway, at least that I know of. But I like keeping to myself most of the time, so I don’t really know.”
We sat quietly for a few minutes, taking in the birds and the salty sea water air, sipping our coffee. I poured her a heater-upper as she reached for another cookie, a far- away look in her eyes. “This has been a good restful place for me. I need the peace and quiet.”
“Well, I understand that,” I nodded in agreement. “I cherish it myself. But you know, if you ever need anything, please feel free to ask. I’m always here.”
“Thanks.” She sat quietly for a minute, then took a deep breath.”So, how well do you know my uncle and his family?” She took a bite, wiped a few crumbs from her lip, then looked cautiously in my eyes. I realized she was trying to be casual although she wasn’t exactly pulling it off. Something was up. She was referring to her uncle as if he were alive.
“Not at all, actually. I’ve met him and his wife a couple of times over the years but honestly, I can hardly remember them. I ‘m a good friend of Magdalene Connely, the neighbor to the south. She was close to the Orton’s for many years; still is I believe. They just haven’t been out much since Dale died. Do you think they’ll end up selling?”
Cammie froze. A tiny bit of color flushed her neck. “I wouldn’t know.” The words stumbled out of her mouth. “No one has mentioned anything to me about it. My aunt just told me to use it for as long as I’d like. I’d never sell it if it were my cabin.” She gazed out at the water and lifted the cup to her lips with both hands, keeping things steady. It was pretty obvious she’d been caught off guard. Magdalene was due back from her trip in another week. I knew I could get the scoop from her. In the mean time, I planned to play it cool.
To Be Continued