The Nantucket Inn
Her only options are to sell the house and move off-island or, since she has cooking and entertaining skills, turn her home into a bed and breakfast. She desperately needs that plan to succeed because she has four grown children with problems of their own and she wants to stay close to them.
Her oldest daughter, Kate, has a fabulous career in Boston—working as a writer for a popular fashion magazine and engaged to a dangerously handsome photographer who none of them have met.
Kate's twin, a local artist named Kristen, has been reasonably content with her on-again-off-again relationship with an older separated businessman.
Her son Chase runs his own construction business and is carefree, happily dating here and there but nothing serious. Youngest daughter Abby is happily married to her high-school sweetheart, and they've been trying to have a baby. But it hasn't happened yet, and Abby wonders if it's a sign that maybe their marriage isn't as perfect as everyone thinks.
Come visit Nantucket and see how Lisa's new bed and breakfast has an impact on almost everyone in her family.
Release date: April 19, 2019
Publisher: Piping Plover Press
Print pages: 324
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The Nantucket Inn
The money was running out. Lisa Hodges sighed as she sat at her kitchen island and looked over the month-to-date transactions in her checking account. How did it disappear so quickly? She couldn’t remember the last time she’d bought herself new clothes, and she’d cut way back on going out to dinner with friends. But living on Nantucket was expensive, especially now that her husband Brian was gone—food, cable, insurance, it all added up too fast.
They’d been married for just over thirty-three years when Brian learned he had stage four colon cancer. Six months later, he was gone. That was almost a year and a half ago and when she’d finally been able to push aside her grief long enough to look at the bills, she’d been shocked at the state of their bank account.
Brian had always handled all the financial matters in their relationship. He earned the money, managed the banking accounts and paid the bills. She had access to their main checking account of course and knew there was always plenty of money in it to pay their day-to-day expenses. She also knew they had a healthy savings account that Brian regularly contributed to.
They’d always lived a comfortable lifestyle. Not extravagant, but there was always money for one or two vacations a year, college for the kids and dinners out a few times a month. And she’d assumed there was still a life insurance policy. She knew that at one time, there were million dollar policies on both of them. Brian earned his living as a financial planner and she’d always deferred to whatever he suggested as she’d never been good with numbers.
Lisa had been an English major in college and an elementary school teacher until she had the twins and then Brian pointed out that the math didn’t add up for her to go back to work. They would pay as much in day care for Kate and Kristen as she’d earn teaching. So, the decision was made for her to stay home with their children. And she’d loved doing it. In the next few years, they had two more children, Abby and Chase.
Brian’s only vice was that he was a bit of a gambler. He’d loved to go off-island with his buddies to visit the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos. And he and his friends always had poker nights the first Saturday of every month. She’d always assumed they played for small amounts and that it was all in good fun. It wasn’t until Brian was gone and she dug more deeply into their finances that she discovered he actually had a serious gambling addiction.
Brian had stopped paying the premiums on their life insurance policies several years ago and the balance in their savings and retirement account was shockingly low. The retirement account was gone. There was nothing there at all. He’d withdrawn everything that was in their 401k, paid the penalties and used the money to settle debts that she’d never even known about.
There was money in their savings account still, but Lisa knew she’d have to cut way back on her normal spending habits to make the money stretch. By her calculations, if she did that, she might be able to make it stretch for almost two years, if she was lucky.
She wasn’t too worried at the time though, as she figured she’d be able to get a job and the savings could be her safety cushion. But, she quickly found out that the market for fifty-something women with no recent work experience was nonexistent. And Nantucket was a small town, with limited opportunities.
She could possibly get a job as a cashier in one of the shops, but those paid minimum wage, which wouldn’t go far. Restaurant work paid better. She knew that servers could do very well on tips, but she’d never worked in a restaurant and everyone wanted experience. It was almost time for her to make a big decision, one that she’d been putting off for as long as possible.
She sighed as she closed her laptop, stood up and peeked in the oven. The artichoke and spinach casserole was just beginning to bubble. In a few more minutes, the cheese topping would be golden brown and it would be done. Her two best friends, Paige and Susan, should be along any minute. They’d suggested going out to dinner, but she’d talked them into having appetizers at her house instead before they went downtown for the festive Nantucket Christmas Stroll.
It was always held the first weekend in December, and they looked forward to it every year. She’d been living on the island for over thirty years now and the stroll had been around even longer than that. It had started as a way for local shops to drum up a bit of business in the off-season and to prevent the locals from doing all their shopping off-island. It always felt like the official kickoff to the Christmas season.
Lisa stepped outside to check her Christmas decorations before her friends arrived. She’d just decorated the house earlier that day. She took a deep breath as she surveyed the house. Nantucket Sound was just a few hundred yards away, and she could hear the waves as they crashed on the beach, a sound that she always found soothing. The air was cool and crisp, and she could smell a whiff of smoke coming from the fireplace of the house next door. She breathed in deeply as a gust of salty air blew her shoulder length hair back. She heard footsteps behind her and turned to see Paige and Sue coming down the walk.
“The house looks gorgeous! Where did you find that blue wreath? I love it!” Paige exclaimed.
“Do you really like it? I made it this morning.” She’d walked along the beach and collected scallop shells and sea glass and used fine wire to wrap it around several pieces of driftwood that she’d glued into a circle and spray painted a pale blue. A snowy white bow at the top was the final touch. It had been a fun project, and she’d been pleased by how well it had turned out.
“It looks like you bought it at a fancy boutique,” Sue said. “I brought my baked scallops,” she added as Lisa opened the front door and they followed her inside. Paige was holding a platter and set it on the kitchen island and removed the tin foil cover. A selection of cheeses and sliced salami surrounded a small bowl of spiced nuts. She reached into her tote bag and pulled out a bottle of red wine.
“Peter said this one is supposed to be good. I haven’t tried it yet.” Peter Bradford was about their age and owned Bradford’s Liquors, which was the only place to buy alcohol in Beach Plum Cove, the area of Nantucket where they all lived. Lisa found a wine opener and poured them each a glass. She set the bubbling spinach and artichoke dip in the middle of the island and opened a box of crackers to serve with it.
They sat around the island, nibbling on everything as they sipped their wine. Sue’s baked scallops were buttery, fresh and sweet, and Lisa was glad to see that her dip was a hit. When they were just about done, she brought up the subject that she’d been putting off as long as she could.
“If you were to use a realtor who would you go with? Missy Cunningham or Trevor Eldridge?”
Paige raised her eyebrows, “Who needs a realtor?”
“I might,” Lisa said.
“I thought you said you’d never sell?” Sue looked confused. “You’re not thinking of moving off-island?”
“I don’t want to sell. But I may not have a choice. My money is running out, and even though the taxes on Nantucket are low, the real estate prices are high.”
“But Brian was a financial planner. I thought you were all set for retirement,” Paige looked both furious and worried at the same time.
Lisa sighed and then told them about the gambling debts and the retirement account and savings that had been drained.
“You didn’t know about any of it?” Sue asked.
“I had no idea. Brian always handled that, and since it was what he did for work, I never thought to question him. I thought I would have been able to find a job by now. I really hate the thought of moving.”
“Even if you sell, everything else on the island is expensive. You might have savings for a while, but you’ll still need money to live,” Sue said.
“I know. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to stay, but I am at the point now where I just don’t think it’s possible. At least there’s no mortgage, so once I sell, I’ll have a little time to decide what to do next. I could always rent for a while, maybe.”
“Nantucket rentals are ridiculously expensive.” Paige looked thoughtful as she added more wine to their glasses. “Your house is awfully big for one person. How many bedrooms do you have?”
“Six total. Five upstairs and the master on the first floor.”
“Have you ever heard of Airbnb? You could make some money renting out the rooms.”
“To strangers?” Sue sounded appalled at the idea of it. “That doesn’t sound very safe.”
“People do it all the time. It’s the newest way to travel.”
“I’m not sure how I feel about that,” Lisa said.
“You’re a great cook and you love to entertain and to decorate. You could turn the house into a bed and breakfast and still have plenty of room for yourself.”
“A bed and breakfast, that is an interesting idea.” Over the years, Lisa had thought more than once that it might be fun to own a bed and breakfast someday, to serve some of her home made favorites to guests. But dreaming about it was one thing, actually doing it was another.
“Would you actually consider it?” Sue sounded surprised.
“I don’t think so. I love the idea, but I would imagine it would take a lot of money to get it up and running.”
“I don’t think it would. Your son is a builder. He could probably help you out. All you’d really need to do is close off most of the bottom floor so guests could only access the dining room and stairs to the second floor. And you’d still have your privacy.” Paige made it sound so simple. Lisa didn’t think that it would be, but she supposed it wouldn’t hurt to at least act like she was considering the idea.
“I’ll ask Chase to stop by one day this week and see what he thinks.” She was pretty sure that he’d think they were all crazy.
“Have him over for dinner and make something delicious. Can’t hurt….” Paige laughed.
“I’ll do that. So, are you ladies ready to go strolling? I need to walk off this dip.”
* * *
Kate Hodges rushed back into her bedroom and looked around until she saw the shoes she was looking for under Dylan’s jeans. He’d left them in a crumpled heap on the floor, as usual. She slid her feet into them and glanced at the bed, where her fiancé lay sleeping. His dark hair fell over his forehead and he looked so sweet and peaceful. And so handsome, that he took her breath away. He yawned just as she turned to go and his sleepy voice stopped her.
“Is it that time already?”
“I’m going in early, it’s not even eight yet.”
Dylan stretched and grinned. “Kiss before you go?”
“I really have to run,” Kate said as she walked over and kissed him lightly on the lips.
“My last shoot should end by six, want to meet me for dinner in the North End?” Dylan was a photographer and often did work for the magazine Kate worked for. That was how they’d met almost two years ago. He’d swept her off her feet, and she’d resisted as long as she could. Dylan was so charming and so good looking that it made her nervous. He was a flirt and girls were drawn to him. Kate didn’t trust that his interest in her was real at first. But he won her over and six months later he’d proposed and she’d moved in with him.
They hadn’t set a date yet as they were both very busy and for now it suited them to just live together. If Kate was being honest, she’d admit that she wasn’t totally sure that what they had was a forever kind of love. Dylan was still a big flirt and sometimes it bothered her. He always laughed it off and told her she was being silly. And he was moody and distant at times. But whenever she’d question him about it he said it was just part of his creative process. And then he’d focus his attention on her fully and she’d feel foolish for doubting him.
“North End sounds great. I’ll meet you at Al Dente at six.” They almost always went to the same restaurant in Boston’s Italian neighborhood. They’d had their first date there, and it was always so good. And then they’d stroll down Hanover Street and share a cannoli at Modern Pastry. Kate’s office near South Station was an easy walk there after work.
Their condo in the Charlestown Navy Yard was just a fifteen-minute ferry ride across the harbor to the Aquarium near South Station. Kate loved living in Charlestown and looking across the water at the Boston skyline. Although she still got homesick at times for Nantucket. As much as she would have loved to stay on the island with the rest of her family, Boston was where she needed to be for her career.
The office was quiet when she arrived. The only person there was Amanda, which was no surprise. Amanda was Boston Style’s founder, and she was always in the office. She was an older woman, in her early sixties, divorced, and very stylish—she lived and breathed Boston Style. The magazine was a regional one with a focus on local fashion, food and politics. It was well respected and Kate had felt very lucky to land a position there right out of college.
She’d started as an assistant, doing the things no one else wanted to do. But she’d done it all with a smile and an eagerness that had been rewarded. Her dream was always to write—anything from articles to columns and maybe someday, a book. She often did big investigative features which she’d won several awards for, and her mother bragged about them to all her friends.
Kate settled at her desk and quickly got lost in the project that had to be done by the end of the day. She finished a little before three and after emailing her feature to Amanda, she decided to reward herself with a vanilla chai latte. She was stiff from sitting and the walk would do her good.
Fifteen minutes later, she returned and was sipping her foamy drink as she came through the revolving front doors and almost walked into two laughing girls—Tasha, their Art Director, and Ellie, a drop-dead gorgeous blonde model they’d recently used for a fashion feature. Dylan had photographed her and had raved about her, saying that the light loved her.
But Ellie stopped smiling when she saw Kate. A cold look came over her face, and Kate took a step back in surprise. But Tasha didn’t seem to notice.
“Hey, Kate! Tell Dylan when you see him that he really outdid himself. The last batch of photos he sent were amazing.”
Ellie’s expression changed again as she smiled and teasingly said, “Of course they were, I’m in them!” They both laughed and Kate smiled too. She must have imagined the frosty glare, or maybe Ellie had meant it for someone else as she was all smiles as the two of them walked off.
* * *
Dylan was waiting for her at the restaurant when she arrived a few minutes after six. Al Dente was just around the corner from Hanover Street, where most of the restaurants and shops were. Kate always felt like she’d stepped into Italy whenever she went there. The food was always good, and the servers recognized them as regulars and always made them feel welcome. They had a delicious dinner as usual and were finishing the last of the bottle of Chianti they’d ordered when Kate brought up going to Nantucket for Christmas.
“I talked to my mother earlier and everyone is coming over Friday for Christmas Eve. I thought we could stay until Monday and make a long weekend of it?” Dylan had only met her mother once, when she’d come to Boston and he’d never met any of her siblings, which they liked to tease her about. She understood somewhat though. It was a bit of a project getting to Nantucket. It wasn’t like they could just drive over for dinner. It took some planning and Dylan traveled quite a bit for his work and so far, their schedules just hadn’t worked to make it happen.
Dylan lifted his glass and swirled the wine around before taking a sip. He looked deep in thought and Kate started to feel her stomach tighten. She was counting on him to go to Nantucket for Christmas.
He took a long sip before saying, “I don’t know if I can make that work, Kate. I have a shoot in California a few days before. I might need to stay longer. Plus my mother is in L.A. I can’t go there without visiting her. You know how it is?”
She sighed. “I do. I just want you to meet the rest of my family. They tease me now that you don’t exist.”
He flashed her the smile that used to make her melt. “Why don’t we go after the New Year? It won’t be as busy, and we’ll be able to see your family then?”
“We’ll see. Maybe you’ll finish up early and can visit your mom and still make it to Nantucket.” Kate knew though, as she said it, that it wasn’t going to happen.
“I’ll try. No promises though.” After paying the bill, Dylan smiled. “Did you save room for dessert? We could go to Modern?”
Kate wasn’t the least bit hungry, but needed something to put her into a better mood. “Sure, let’s get a cannoli.”
* * *
The light that had been so glorious all day was beginning to fade, and Kristen was too. She stood and stretched to relieve the muscles that had grown stiff from sitting in the same position all afternoon as the sunlight had poured in through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Her studio was a colorful mess, as always. Sketchpads were strewn about the room, canvases in varying stages of completion leaned against the walls, and magazines and books threatened to topple off her coffee table.
But she knew where everything was, and it worked for her. It was her happy place. And she was feeling good about her latest project. She was using a photograph she’d taken as inspiration for a watercolor, and it was almost done. When it was finished, she’d add it to the collection she was building for her next art show.
She glanced at the clock on the wall and began to feel stressed. Sean, her on-again boyfriend of sorts, was coming for dinner, and she still needed to shower and figure out what she was going to cook for him. When she’d invited him a few days ago, it had seemed like a good idea, but all she felt like doing now was taking a long, hot bath, and maybe pouring herself a glass of wine. But, she needed to get moving.
When she reached the kitchen, her phone rang, and the caller ID showed that it was Sean. He was probably running late, as usual. Ordinarily she’d be annoyed, but today, she welcomed the extra time.
“Hi Sean. What’s up?”
“It’s about tonight,” he began.
“Are you running late? If so, no worries.”
“No, it’s not that. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to reschedule. Andrea called to remind me that Julian has a big game tonight. If they win, they make the playoffs. I should be there.”
“Oh, of course you should! We’ll do it another time. Tell Julian I said good luck.”
“I’ll do that. Thanks for understanding. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Kristen hung up the phone feeling both relieved and irritated at the same time. She was happy to have the night to herself, but hated picturing Sean sitting with his wife as they watched their son play basketball. It also annoyed her that they were still separated for over four years now and neither had filed for divorce yet. The few times she’d brought it up, Sean had just said that it was complicated and changed the subject.
Sean owned one of the most successful real estate offices on the island, and Kristen suspected that he wasn’t ready to give up half of his financial holdings and Andrea wasn’t ready to give up everything that went with being Mrs. Sean Prescott. Sean was well connected in town and had a membership at the most exclusive country club and their waterfront estate was massive. Andrea was still living there with Julian while Sean had moved into a smaller place, a condo on the pier, across from where the ferries docked.
Kristen was about to pour herself a glass of chardonnay and go sink into a hot bath when her cell phone rang again. This time it was Abby, her younger sister. Abby rarely called just to chat.
“Are you busy? I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” she sounded agitated.
“Of course not. I’m done for the day. Is everything okay?”
There was a long moment of silence before Abby spoke. “Yeah, it’s just been a long day, and I’d love to meet for a drink and catch up unless you have other plans?”
“My plans just got canceled actually, so I’m all yours. Do you want to go out or come here? I have a bottle of wine I was about to open, and I could make us some pasta or something?”
“How about I bring our favorite pizza? I could pick it up and be over in about a half hour or so.”
Kristen took a quick shower and relaxed as the hot water soothed her tired muscles. She changed into her favorite yoga pants and a soft, long sleeved t-shirt and had just finished blow-drying her shoulder length, stick-straight brown hair when she heard footsteps outside. Abby had arrived.
She could smell the pizza as she reached the front door and opened it. Abby stepped in and handed her the box.
“Spinach, artichoke and feta?” Kristen asked. “It smells amazing.”
Abby grinned. “Of course.”
“Great, I’ll pour us some wine if you want to get the paper plates out of the cabinet.”
She poured them two generous glasses of chardonnay and they each loaded two slices of pizza on their plates and went into the sunroom. Kristen’s cottage was small, but cozy, and when she wasn’t in her studio, she loved spending time in the sunroom. In the summer months she kept the windows wide open, to let the fresh air in. She wasn’t on the water, but even the most inland house on Nantucket still had crisp, ocean breezes.
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