Please know this was written with the highest regard for my home state of New Jersey and my beloved Long Beach Island where this plot and my characters have lived and worked. Though Last Call is still fictional, the timeline, path and destruction of the storm, Governor's orders and the resulting damage is entirely accurate. I envisioned a long time ago where Last Call Bar & Grill was on the map of Long Beach Island, as well as Bella & Edward's home in Loveladies and the Cullen's beach home in Harvey Cedars. The damage all three of these buildings sustained is in keeping with the damage that happened in the actual neighborhoods where they're located. My research was solid. New Jersey and all of the victims of this terrible storm deserved as truthful an accounting as this fictional story can relay.
~Counting Our Blessings~
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Bags! Bags everywhere! My fingers feel like they're falling off!
Why couldn't I do this in more than one trip? "Help! A little help, please!" I call out to any Good Samaritans possibly hearing my cry as I stumble through the back door of Last Call.
"Well, what the heck are you doing? Couldn't you send a text saying that you'd be here in a minute and 'come outside to help, please?'"
My brother-in-law to the rescue.
"Sorry, my brain was too focused on where to put all the decorations. I'm so excited for the costume party!" I squeal and give him a kiss on the cheek as he saves my fingers from certain annihilation.
James pries about six of the bags out of my hands, leaving me with the other five. Together, we haul the loot into the office and throw it all on the couch and floor.
"427 dollars, Bells? Did you deplete Party City of every Halloween decoration they carried?"
I giggle. "Pretty much! Look!" I hold up the witch that looks like she just slammed into a tree. "This never fails to crack me up!"
James laughs and crouches down with me, helping me rifle through the bags. "Oh, this is totally mine. I call dibs on the Jason Voorhees hockey mask!"
I snatch it out of his hand. "Gimme that! You can't wear it! I bought it as a decoration for the wall, doofus! You and Char have to come up with your own costumes!"
I'm so excited that we decided to have a costume party at Last Call this year. Patrons can't get into the bar without some form of get-up, even if it's only a mask. We're having a contest for the best costume. Forget Oscar and Emmy, first, second and third prizes on October 31st are going to be the most sought-after awards ever! First prize is a complimentary four-night stay at Four Seas Bed and Breakfast to be cashed in at any time of the year; no blackout dates. Second prize is a catering voucher from Four Seas for up to $500 and the third prize is a fifty-fifty split with the bar of whatever the door earns from the cover charge that night.
I convinced James and Edward to beef up their Halloween event this year and this is what we all came up with. James was sold on the idea without even hearing all the details. Edward took a little more convincing. My reasoning was that by the end of October, the crowds are completely gone. There are only locals around, unless somebody makes a special trip out to LBI, so it's more like a thank you to all the people coming out to support Last Call on a daily or weekly basis anyway. We have the money and ultimately, it will be a ton of fun. He still seemed a little hesitant about the amount of work it would require, so I brought out the big guns.
I put on a lacy royal blue corset, matching boy shorts and the coordinating robe and showed up at the bar after hours one night last month.
It took all of five minutes before he agreed willingly to have the party.
Use whatcha got, I always say!
"So, when are we gonna start decorating?" James questions, now with an eye patch over his left eye and a pirate hat on his head.
"Would you quit messing around with this stuff? This is for the wait staff at the party! They have to be able to maneuver through the crowd, so they can't wear elaborate costumes," I say, yanking the hat off his head.
"Listen to you two, if I hadn't made you his brother by marriage, I'd swear you were already siblings by the way you bicker," I hear my very own personal phone-sex operator's soothing voice behind me.
I pop up from my crouched position. "Hi, hubby," I sing out, leaping into his well-defined arms that wrap around me instantly like a reflex.
"Hello, my wife," he hoists me up further and gives me a peck…then dives back in to suck on my upper lip, which of course, succeeds in eliciting a soft mewl from me.
"AHEM!" James not-so-subtly clears his throat. "I'm still in the room, horndogs!"
I reluctantly pull back with a goofy grin matching Edward's.
"Don't you have somewhere to be, little brother?" Edward asks, his gorgeous eyes locked on mine.
"No, but it appears that you do!" James snickers and I roll my eyes.
Edward lowers me to the ground and prepares to bite back, "You leave my sex life out of this. You're just jealous because Charlotte is traveling so much."
I smack Edward's bicep as James stands up, wearing a court jester's cap. "Well, I won't argue with that. She'll be home from Italy this coming weekend, thank God. I'll need a solid forty-eight hours off, if you can swing it."
"Oh, I can swing it for forty-eight…the question is, can you?"
I widen my eyes at my husband, wondering why the hell he's starting a sexual endurance smack-talking competition with his brother.
"Oh, my God… you two! Back to your corners. You—" I point to James, "gimme back that jester's hat and go tend bar with Justin, and you—" I turn to Edward, "get back over here and kiss me some more. I haven't seen you since yesterday afternoon!"
Edward's half grin goes to full-on blasting smile as he steps forward and scoops me up.
"WHAT?! Oh, I am so getting the short end of the stick on this order!" James exclaims, his arms folded across his chest.
"Trust me, dude, there's nothing short about my stick," Edward retorts, waggling his eyebrows at me while embarrassment forces me to bury my face in his shoulder, groaning.
"Okay…this conversation has taken a serious nose-dive into depravity…and I LOVE IT," my brother in law shouts. "But yeah, Justin's getting slammed; I'm outta here…keep the moaning to a dull roar!" He closes the door behind him, leaving me and my husband of almost five months all alone and laughing as we fall into the couch surrounded by the Halloween decorations, including a dozen cans of silly string.
He sees them in the bag next to him and cocks his eyebrow with a mischievous grin.
I raise my eyebrows in excited question, my mouth smirking like it's going out of style.
Oh yeah, things are about to get freaky.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
"Hey E, have you seen the news today? That hurricane is doing some major damage in the Caribbean and Haiti. Mudslides, flooding…they're saying the death toll is up to fifty already," I hear James talking to Edward in the office as I approach from the kitchen. It's almost two in the morning on Thursday. The doors of the bar are locked and it's just the three of us closing down for the night.
"Yeah, I was watching CNN earlier today. We'll keep an eye on it, but we're usually pretty lucky up here. If it isn't Florida, it's usually North Carolina that gets slammed when it turns toward the north." Edward makes eye contact with me and I pinch my lips into a mini-frown, sad to hear such a tragic statistic about Haiti. He shakes his head. "I'm sure Jersey will be fine, we'll get the typical residual wind and rain, we might lose a foot or two of beach and business will be nil for twenty-four hours…no big deal," he finishes, convincingly.
I hear James blow out a tired breath. "Okay…until we know more, we'll just keep one eye on the news and hope for the best. I'm outta here, kids. Talk to you tomorrow."
"See ya, bro!" Edward and I call out at the same time.
"You ready, babe?" I ask, yawning, as I collapse on the couch face down.
"Yyyyyyyup…just let me finish this one time sheet…aaaand done!" He roars a yawn and it makes me giggle. I hear him power down the computer, lock his filing cabinet and then walk toward me.
"Come on, woman. Up. Take me home to bed," I hear him politely demand and then feel his lithe fingers dancing up and down the backs of my legs.
I squirm a bit under his warm and slow touch. Feels so, so good. I could… really—
I jolt and pick my head up, completely disoriented, "Huh? What?"
Edward snickers and pulls my arm up so that I'm in a seated position. "Come on, baby. You fell asleep for a minute or two. My magical massage was a little too relaxing." He yawns again. "Let's go home so we can enjoy our next two days being work-free together and start them off the right way— in our bed."
"Deal." I say groggily, mustering up the best smile I can after a long day and night at Last Call.
Friday, October 26, 2012
The smell of coffee isn't unwelcome, but it's slowly rousing me from the most pleasant of dreams. My husband and I are on a secluded beach in the tropics and he's rubbing suntan lotion on my back, his fingers dipping here and there, in places where the sun really isn't going to be shining. I do appreciate his effort and how thorough he's being, though.
I feel the stubble of his face tickling my bare back while kisses are being peppered along my spine.
"Morning, pretty girl."
My eyes flutter open and I can see that we're nowhere near a tropical beach, but I can't find it in me to care, because the delicious aroma of hot coffee is wafting over from my night stand and Edward is still most definitely dropping gentle, wet kisses along my back and shoulders as his fingers roam and dip and roam and dip some more. Maybe that part wasn't the dream—again, not complaining.
He drapes his strong arm over my waist and pulls me back toward the center of the bed, pressing our warm bodies flush against each other. I sigh when our skin sizzles at the contact.
"Mmmm, there you are. I didn't know how much longer you were going to fight reality," the sexy timbre of his voice and his hot breath on my neck causing goose bumps to sprout all over my body.
"Coffee?" I question, in a breathy and weak voice, attempting to reach for the steaming mug. But Edward reaches up, grasps my forearm and drags it back over my hips, landing it squarely on his deliciously thick and erect cock.
"Later," he groans as I fist him and squeeze gently, tugging on the up stroke and swiping my thumb across the tip before heading down to the base again.
Trying to give each other equal affection in the spooning position is never an easy dance. It's cumbersome and, more often than not, one person gets the bulk of attention while the other gives. I'm trying desperately to be a giver right now, but Edward isn't making it easy on me. He starts thrusting into my hand, and in turn, into my back. I'm a flexible girl, but my arm can only bend so much.
His tongue and lips are focused on my neck and doing a damn good job of making me forget my name, but never his.
"Edward," I softly moan while he sucks and bites. His hand has been resting on my hip this entire time, but I feel it start its journey south toward my pussy, which is literally dripping, waiting for him; I can feel the wetness in between my thighs. His right arm snakes under my upper body and wraps around my chest as his fingers find my very awakened nipples…and he starts to pluck…to pinch…to twist.
I can almost feel my orgasm brewing just by the attention he's giving my breasts. I fold my right arm backward over my head, reaching for his hair. I find it, tugging and scraping at his scalp; which only causes him to thrust more into my left hand.
God Almighty, this foreplay is for the record books this morning. Yet, I'm desperate to feel him inside me.
Just as I'm completing that thought, his fingers travel ever-so-leisurely down to where I'm craving them. He slides one finger slowly through my lower lips…taunting, teasing, circling, dipping…
"Ahhh!" I cry out in excited frustration and he chuckles behind me, still licking and nibbling on my neck.
"Happy five-month anniversary, pretty girl," he softly croons in my ear as one of his long digits finally, FINALLY claims my pussy and I clench around it, whimpering.
I'm desperate to give my husband the hand job he more than deserves, but with him fingering me so intently, his thumb strumming my clit, his unwavering attention to my neck and ear with his mouth and his other hand tweaking my nipples, I am less than useless. I give up my attempts at rubbing him and reach my left hand up to cup his cheek. The moment my hand finds his stubbly cheek that turns me on exponentially, he turns and kisses my palm, now twisting his two fingers inside me, and starts playing with my G-spot.
The writing is on the wall. I scream out and completely fall apart under his spell. "That's it, baby. God, Bella…you're so fucking sexy…"
He withdraws his fingers from inside my body while whispering, "I need you." He runs his hand down my thigh and lifts my leg up and settles it on top of his hip. All I can do is nod in agreement. "Need to feel your walls around me." My eyes are pinched shut, still feeling the after effects of my orgasm. "Right…the fuck…now." And without further warning, Edward slides inside, fully joining us.
I let out an enormous, ecstatic breath in as my husband momentarily halts his kisses and I feel his forehead fall to my shoulder, him moaning in pleasure, as well.
He pulls out slowly and drives right back in, eliciting a throaty gasp from me. I do my best to tighten my pussy around him as he does the lion's share of the work from behind.
I press my face into my pillow, overcome with feeling so full from this position. My fingers continue to thread through Edward's wayward locks; a harder tug here and there causing him to grunt and huff.
"Fuck…so wet for me Bella," he groans, his hand moving from my thigh back to my clit. I can feel his fingers playing where we're connected as he gathers the juices and brings them up to my swollen bundle of nerves. His thrusting increases in speed and he starts rubbing back and forth in double time.
My breaths are coming quicker now. I can feel my impending orgasm in my tightening abdomen. Edward has known how to read my body like a book ever since our first time. His sexth sense, as I've come to call it, never fails to know exactly when to push forward and when to pull me back from the brink of tipping over.
In this case, the sexth sense knows damn well that tugging at my nipples is about to make me scream like a banshee…which is exactly what we both want.
"Come on, Bella…give it to me. I wanna hear you." Jesus, if his ministrations weren't doing the trick just fine, his silky smooth voice would surely make me crumble.
I'm whimpering and whining. He's now pounding and pounding. The sounds of our skin slapping and the smell of our arousals have mixed with the scent of hazelnut coffee, making this the kinkiest smelling coffee shop on the planet.
"Ohmygodohmygodohmygo-hod," I'm squealing and crying out as my body freezes, capturing the moment. His panting and grunting are a sure sign that he's on his way. I clench, clench, clench and Edward literally roars with his explosion.
Like I said, he's doing the lion's share of work; he deserves to roar like a jungle cat.
A minute passes with only the sounds of our attempts to control our breathing.
"Damn, woman. You have my heart racing…but then again, you always do," he whispers, placing a gentle kiss between my shoulder blades. "I love you, baby."
I hum in response and turn over to face him. "I love you, too. And yes, a very happy five-month anniversary, indeed."
Friday, October 26, 2012 (cont.)
I can hear the obnoxious buzzing of my cell vibrating on my nightstand. I look over at my wife, sleeping soundly. Then I check the clock to see it's only 9:45 in the morning. Normally we'd be up at this hour, but our super-early sexy morning romp allowed us to fall back to sleep an hour ago.
"Sorry to call so early on your day off E, but we've gotta talk. Have you seen the news at all since last night?"
"No, why…is it bad?"
I hear James sigh. "Yeah, it's looking like a major shit storm is about to rain down on us, no pun intended."
"Okay. I'm getting up. You at the bar or the B&B?"
"Let me wake Bella. I'll be there in twenty."
"'Kay, see ya."
"Baby, I've gotta get up," I sigh, rubbing my hand down her side.
"Mmmkay…wait, why? Is everything all right?"
"James just called. He said there have been some developments with the storm and it might be heading our way. We need to talk and figure stuff out."
She sits up, the sheet falling away from her fantastic tits, causing me to smile in reverence and thanks for my blessings. "Okay, gimme ten minutes and I'll come with you."
"You don't have to come," I start pulling her back onto the bed, "I just wanted you to know I was taking off. I'll be back after I work things out with J."
Her face contorts and she looks confused. "What are you going to talk about?"
"Just about the storm, watch the weather predictions and see if we need to make some decisions about boarding the windows, getting our hands on sandbags, generators…stuff like that."
Her eyebrows shoot up and I suddenly realize I might be in trouble. "And why wouldn't I be involved in that discussion or the decisions that are being made?"
My mouth drops open, realizing that she thinks I'm acting like she doesn't count…that her opinion doesn't matter.
"Wait, wait, wait. I wasn't saying anything about your status as my wife or that you're not our partner in what gets decided for the businesses…I was just trying to let you sl—"
"Well, if I'm all those things, shouldn't I be up early with you, helping to make the tough decisions, whatever they may be? So that I'm in the loop and if we need to scatter and get stuff done quicker, I know what's going on?"
Yup. All that. She's completely right.
"Yeah, you're right. You're absolutely right." I grab her hand and thread my fingers through hers. "Dumb husband award goes to Edward Cullen," I pick her hand up and kiss it. "Mad at me?"
She smirks and huffs. "Not at all. I just wanted to remind you that I'm in this with you. This is our life. I'll never try and take over what you and James built, but I'm here for you. I just want to help, that's all."
"I know," I say, nodding, "I was just trying to let you enjoy your day off...nothing more than that. But somehow I'm thinking we might have a couple of days off coming, whether we want them or not."
"Okay. Let's go figure this out together."
We exchange a quick kiss and then in a whirlwind, we're out the door fifteen minutes later.
"So, Governor Christie is saying that he might put out a mandatory evacuation of all the barrier islands if it keeps on the path it's been going," James says, offering us a bite of the western omelet and hash browns he just whipped up.
Bella grabs a fork and starts digging in as James sits down next to her on the couch.
"Yeah, and weather dot com is saying that this cold front and storm that are brewing in the northeast will collide with the hurricane and make it like the perfect storm."
"Like the George Clooney movie?" Bella asks, through a mouthful of potatoes.
My eyebrows rise and I nod. "Sounds like it could be bad if it really continues on this path. It's only one mile per hour under a category three storm right now."
"I have a sinking feeling we'll be postponing our Halloween party until next year," adds my wife, resigned.
James scrunches up his face in disappointment and clicks his tongue in agreement with Bella. "Okay, so what's the next step?" he pipes up, and then shoves an enormous chunk of omelet in his mouth.
"We head to the storage room in the hotel. We've never dealt with a storm like this in the three years we've owned this place, but I remember the owner said he'd leave the sandbags. I haven't ever needed to check the count…there's a first time for everything, I guess!"
"Oh, shit! Yeah, now I remember!" James exclaims. "Hopefully we have a decent stash to start with so we don't have to run around the state looking for supplies that everyone will be after. What's the guest count at the hotel today?"
"I spoke to Alicia yesterday and she said there were three rooms booked for the weekend, nothing beyond that," I shrug. "Maybe people have been smart enough to stay away knowing the storm was flirting with the East Coast." I glance at the schedule for the staff at Last Call for the next forty-eight hours. Six in all, including the three of us. Thank goodness this is happening in the off-season. We'd have even more of a headache on our hands if this were the middle of July. "All right. First, let's check the supplies we do have and then we'll head to a hardware store if necessary for the ones we still need. Good?"
James and Bella nod, both their cheeks stuffed like Chip and Dale stashing nuts for the winter. I have to laugh.
"The B&B only has two sets of guests this weekend. Julie said they're booked through Sunday," Bella adds after gulping down some cranberry juice.
"Okay. That's everyone then. We'll keep them informed once we know more. Even though this thing is still over the Caribbean, if it's really gonna hit us, we'll have to scramble," I grumble and steal the buttered toast off the plate they're sharing.
"We'll be all right," James states confidently. "Eagle Scout, remember?" he says, puffing out his chest.
"You were an Eagle Scout, J? How come I never knew that?" My stunned wife inquires, dammit.
"Edward doesn't like to bring it up…he was always jealous."
"Why jealous, honey?" Bella asks, oozing sarcastic sympathy.
Freakin-A, man! "Because I never made it past Cub Scouts, okay? I was too busy playing basketball and street hockey! And— I never got my Webelos Arrow of Light Award…I didn't finish the requirements in time…it still hurts," I trail off, feigning a sob. My wife's eyes are wide open in shock and James has fallen onto the floor in convulsive laughter.
After a minute of raucous laughter from the three of us, we head over to the supply room at the hotel.
Saturday, October 27, 2012
I line up the next stack of sandbags James and I have carted over from the hotel. Luckily there were over two hundred bags in storage, so we were able to put up a decent wall around the outside of the buildings. Now we're working on the inside. He's downstairs in the wine cellar securing the door and setting up the generators, then heading back over to the B&B where Bella and Julie are trying to plug up any weaknesses they see.
"Hey Ed! You really shutting down?"
"Six o'clock, John! So finish up that Manhattan! You need to get home to Evelyn so you can pack up and go."
Mr. Cunningham blows some raspberries and starts in again. "They do this to us every storm, Ed! You know that! You really think it's gonna hit us?"
I shrug but try to sound convincing. "I know they've been wrong in the past Mr. C, but just in case, J and I need to be safe, right? They're calling it Frankenstorm because it's gonna collide with Halloween! I might feel a little foolish if we were the only ones doing it, but the governor has been pretty convincing, and everyone else is boarding up their windows. "
"Ehhh, I don't know. My son is in Philly; says he's coming to get us. I suppose we could go stay with him if they put out a mandatory evacuation order." He sours his face. "I hate traveling though."
I smile, understanding his predicament. An eighty-five-year-old man shouldn't have to pack up his life and leave the only home he knows because Mother Nature wants to kick up a fuss. But…what's the alternative?
"Alright, kid. I'm outta here." I see him slap a twenty on the bar and put on his fedora. "Take care of your sweet Bella, okay? Stay dry."
I smile and pat him on the back. "You too, Mr. C. Be safe…and don't give your son too much trouble. He's just lookin' out for his old man, y'know?"
He raises his hand to acknowledge he heard me as he pushes the door open and walks the two blocks back to his bungalow on Ninth Street on this dismal, cloudy day.
A storm is most definitely heading our way. The amount of damage we'll sustain is still the question that remains.
"Wine cellar is done!" James shouts as he comes running up the stairs.
"I'm done up here, too. Ready to board up the windows?"
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Governor Christie orders the mandatory evacuation of all the barrier islands of New Jersey. Every resident must clear out by four o'clock in the afternoon.
"You pack up everything you need, baby?"
"Yeah, I'm just throwing my shampoo and stuff in my bag." Bella is rushing around the room while I'm grabbing stuff from my closet and tossing it in my duffle. I have no idea how long the evacuation order will stand, but I have clothes for several days…and my parents certainly have laundry facilities in Cherry Hill.
"And you really think we're as secure as we can be here? I've never done this before," Bella comes out of the bathroom, hands full, her bottom lip pulled in between her teeth.
"Hey." I stand up from where I was hovering over the bed and walk over to her. She tosses her bottles of every girly toiletry imaginable on our bed and drops her head to my chest. My arms wrap around her and we just stand there holding each other. Hoping…worrying…trusting that our life's investments are going to be fine. That everything will be standing after all of this is said and done.
"I'm scared, Edward."
"I know. They're painting a pretty bleak picture, but we've done all we can. Our homes are boarded up. The bar, hotel and B&B are as sandbagged and secure as we can make them. Now we just have to hope for the best."
She nods against my chest and raises her face to meet mine. "Okay. I guess that's all we can do then," she sighs and gives me a peck. "Let's get moving, then. We have to be off the island in forty-five minutes. Is J ready?"
I nod, zipping up my hoodie. "Yeah, he's just waiting on us in Harvey Cedars. Once we all caravan outta here in our three cars, the rest will be in God's hands."
She smiles tentatively. "I guess that's the safest place for it to be."
Monday October 29th and Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Monday and Tuesday came quietly, and for us, so did Superstorm Sandy, as it officially came to be named. It made landfall in Atlantic City on Monday evening and continued to pound the northeast throughout all of Tuesday. Not knowing at all what was happening down on LBI, all we could do was sit around and wait. It was so strange to hear all of the reports out of New York and Northeastern Pennsylvania, because where we were, it simply looked like a miserable rainy Monday night and Tuesday. Yes, the wind was blowing a bit from what we observed, but nothing near what news outlets were reporting. It wasn't until days later that we discovered the reason why the storm didn't seem so devastating. It was because the eye passed directly over Southern New Jersey. We hoped for the best for our island, but with the ocean and bay surrounding it on all sides, the odds were certainly stacked against it.
The lights flickered off once on Tuesday afternoon, and we figured that was it…here comes the blackout. But less than a minute later, everything came back on and we had power, cable, phone…everything. We certainly counted our blessings as we continued to hear the reports saying that cities across the northeast were plunged into darkness.
Passing the time was actually pretty nice, just sitting around with Bella, my brother and parents. No holidays to celebrate, no rushing around to cater jobs all over Jersey or Philly, no constant running that has us all passing like ships in the night. We just got to hang out. We watched movies, played Phase Ten and Spades and ultimately cooked up a storm. My parents are going to be eating for weeks. When James and I are locked up for too long, we end up stocking the freezer and fridge with all sorts of dishes.
It wasn't until Wednesday the 31st that the first images of the devastation caused by Sandy started being released. We sat with our mouths open seeing some of the aerial footage of the destruction along the Jersey coastline. Videos went viral saying it was Long Beach Island, when it really wasn't. We were all on edge and couldn't do anything.
Each of us took turns on the computer scouring still and video footage, trying to pinpoint landmarks in order to help us orient where we were looking, because literally, there was ocean water everywhere at first…and when the water went away, the streets were covered in sand. Not a light coating; it looked as if a blizzard had fallen and coated the island— a blizzard of sand.
James and I held it together in the beginning, but as those first few days after the storm dragged on, we both became really grumpy and just wanted to get back to the island. Problem was, it was all considered a hazardous area, and the causeways onto all of the islands were shut down and blocked off by the authorities. The only reason we were seeing images from time to time was because there had been a few holdouts who truly did ride out the storm, ignoring the mandatory evacuation order. It was a really stupid move on their part, because as we continued to hear stories of children swept out of their mothers' arms and cars that floated away with people still inside…so many things came into perspective. There is nothing, not a thing on this planet, that can't eventually be replaced. But people were dying. People who didn't heed warnings, and even some who did…but in the end, Superstorm Sandy was the monster storm that had been predicted and all the preparations in the world couldn't have stopped some of the horrific damage that occurred.
Poor Charlotte was at her wits' end up in Manhattan. Late Monday night, the hospital where her dad was admitted last week for complications with his COPD, lost all power. The storm was so brutal that even their backup generators failed. He, and about fifty others, including babies in the neo-natal unit and many cancer patients, were evacuated to other hospitals. Her dad ended up at Sloan-Kettering, which was the best place for him since he was additionally diagnosed with cancer this past spring. She and her mom spent almost all of their time with him since he was transferred, because their apartment in the city had been without power since that night as well. If James wasn't suffering enough from cabin fever just wanting to get down to the shore to assess the damage, once he heard from Char on Tuesday evening, he wanted to be anywhere but Cherry Hill. He felt helpless just like the rest of us. There was so much suffering going on. Dad insisted that we change the channel after a while because Mom and Bella often had tears in their eyes watching the news and hearing the awful stories of tragedy as well as the uplifting ones of heroism.
By Sunday, we were emotionally drained. The state of emergency had been lifted a couple of days after the storm, so we were at least able to get out into the fresh air and drive around. For the most part, things got back to normal where we were in Southern New Jersey, but again, we were the lucky ones who only dealt with the eye of the storm.
News outlets have announced that on Monday officials will be opening the causeway only to residents, from seven in the morning until three in the afternoon. We have to bring proof of home ownership and they'll allow us onto the island. We're going down in five cars so that we can try and salvage as much as possible, depending on what we find. That attitude might seem a bit dire, but we'd rather be prepared than show up thinking everything is fine and discover a nightmare instead.
Monday, November 5, 2012
Our first stop is the B&B. I don't know if this will end up being a smart choice or not. There's sand everywhere…all over the streets, all over our property. I can see from the driveway that our fire pit is destroyed and, though the house is standing, the water mark where the bay flooded the land sits about thirty inches above ground.
In our last-minute preparations, we had put all the ground floor furniture up on cinderblocks, but even that didn't stop the water damage. The floor, all the furniture, the appliances in the kitchen, it's all been trashed. We all just walk silently through the house, pointing things out to each other and then somebody whispers like we're on solemn ground. It's a humbling experience. We make a quick assessment of the rooms upstairs, which thankfully, turn out to be fine; all the windows are in one piece and held up thanks to the boards. It's going to cost a decent amount to replace what was damaged, but we are blessed, because what isn't covered under insurance, we can make up for easily because of our bank account. I just wish that was the situation for everyone on this island. Sadly, I know that isn't the case.
Aside from the sand factor, inescapable anywhere on the island, the structure of Last Call held up really well. The sandbags did an excellent job of keeping most of the water out. We can see that the floor is a bit wet when we walk through, so we know it did flood to a certain extent. Once we have an inspector come through, we may only have to clean the floors rather than repair them, but if we discover mold, we'll have to rip up the floor and start again, and possibly even have to replace the bar. Either way, we're beyond thankful to see the hotel and bar still on their foundation. We knew it was financially more important to have the wine cellar supported with backup generators during the power loss, but the refrigerators and freezers in the kitchen weren't able to keep everything fresh, so all of that food has to be trashed.
Next we head down to Harvey Cedars to check out Mom and Dad's house. There's definitely water damage on the first floor, but again, nothing that can't be repaired. Same goes for our house. The dunes on the beach truly saved our property. Again, we saw water damage in the basement, but miraculously, it's been empty ever since last year, when Bella and I finished going through all the boxes that her late aunt had kept for Bella after the car accident and coma.
All in all, we know insurance will pay for a bulk of the damage and whatever isn't covered, we can easily pay for ourselves. What faces us now is the cleanup. It's going to be exhausting, but we'll pull together as a family to do it. We're thankful that we are all safe. We're thankful this happened on the off-season, and if it's within our power, we will have everything cleaned up and ready to go by Memorial Day Weekend of 2013. That will make it a very happy one-year anniversary for Bella and me.
We've been back on the island since the tenth of November and we've been working like dogs every day. We agreed that it was a race against the clock to minimize the mold and mildew damage that would set in, so our first goal was to tear out all the flooring at our homes and the floors and appliances at the B&B. After dropping a huge amount of cash at Lowe's and Home Depot in Cherry Hill and Manahawkin for the supplies we'd need, we made it our business to work as best we could every day in order to make some gains. Once all the flooring and damaged furniture was hauled out of all five buildings, James and I started in the basement of our house and then Mom and Dad's first floor, where we successfully installed the new flooring. Bella, aside from helping us haul materials, was our port of call for all things insurance-based. My sweet wife spent hour after hour, day after day on the phone with the insurance companies, as well as ordering all the supplies for the B&B and the bar. Unfortunately, they discovered mold in the radiator panels, so the ground floor of the hotel as well as Last Call had to be torn up, too. For that, we did go ahead and hire a contractor.
Our working days started by eight in the morning, with Bella always making a run to Dunkin Donuts over the causeway so we could have our morning coffee and bagel, jelly and Boston Cream donuts too, of course. My wife loves me something fierce. Somehow we had electricity in Surf City but nowhere else on the island. We decided to sleep at the hotel; it made the most sense, so we could at least have running water and charge our phones and the tools while we slept. Plus, when we got tired of eating fast food, we were able to heat up home-cooked dishes at the restaurant and keep going with our work. We labored as hard as we could during the daylight hours, because once the sun set, we really didn't want to be using nail guns in the dark. With the amount of work to be done, none of us had any time for injuries!
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
With the lights voluntarily turned off, I watch Bella's scantily clad, shadowy figure approach the hotel bed. It's a ridiculously early hour considering our pre-storm habits, but with the way we work from sun up till sun down, we more than deserve it.
"I hate this," Bella whines, climbing in and curling into my body.
"I hate that we see so many friends in need and it's all we can do to get our feet back under us and get our own lives going again." I rub her arms and kiss her temple. "I feel like I want to do something for them."
"We've all been through a huge trauma. And the cleanup is an enormous undertaking. But the good news is that James and I are finished at both houses. The floors are completely redone, so once the electricity and gas lines are working again, we can move back home…that's something, right?"
She rolls on top of me and claims my lips in a powerful kiss.
"It's more than something, it's amazing. What you and J have accomplished—"
"We, Bella. You're in there, too. You've been working just as hard as we have," I interrupt, making sure she knows that we couldn't have done half of our job without her tireless communication efforts with the insurance and supply companies.
"Okay, we. What we've done has been pretty awesome…in just these ten days since they let us come home to LBI…I—" she pauses, "I just wish we could do more. Clone an army of Cullens to help out our friends and neighbors, you know?"
I run my hands through her hair, tucking the stray pieces behind her ears. "I know, baby. I know. I don't think anyone ever expected this to happen. It's going to take years to rebuild some of these coastal towns, especially up north."
"I had these big ideas that we could host a Thanksgiving dinner for everyone on the island, you know? Anyone who's here working…just come to Last Call and we'll feed you." She lays her head on my chest and threads her fingers through mine while our other arms dance and rub, soothing each other. "Pretty stupid, huh?"
"Hey." I tap on her chin so she'll turn her face up toward mine. "Never stupid. I wouldn't have expected anything less from you. Your heart is so amazing…your bravery continues to astound me every day." I pick my head up from the pillow and kiss her tenderly. "You never back down from a challenge, and I'm so proud to be the one who stands next to you through it all. C'mere." I squirm so that she knows I want to sit up. She readjusts herself and I pull her back onto my lap again, her legs straddling me.
I swipe my thumbs under her eyes to clear the tears that just spilled over. "I know Thanksgiving is a lost cause because it's just two days away, but check this out. This is my promise to you, Bella. No matter what happens over the course of the next month, we will feed our friends and neighbors on Christmas, okay? Conectiv is saying the entire island should have power in the next week or two, which means that we will be back in our home full-time and concentrating all our efforts on repairing Four Seas and Last Call. Once we have electricity and gas, this is what we're gonna do. We're going to let anyone we know and trust stay at the B&B and here at the hotel. Even if we want to let people stay at our house, we can do that for our friends, okay?"
She smiles and I continue. "People who need to be here to clean up and repair their home or business, if we can make the accommodations for them, we'll have them stay so they can be that much closer to LBI and aren't forced to live unsafely or have to travel back and forth from wherever they are on the mainland."
Bella dives in and hugs me tightly. "You're the best, you know that Edward? I love you so much…thank you for understanding my need to help."
"Baby, I've felt the same way, I just knew it would be a lot to take on and I didn't want to stress you out any more than what we're already dealing with. But listen to me, aside from letting people stay, we will cook them a Christmas dinner. It certainly isn't the way I intended to spend my first Christmas with you as my wife, but this is who we are; this is what we do."
She pulls back from our hug and we just stare at each other for a moment smiling. "Go Team Cullen," she adds with a giggle.
"How does all that sound?" I ask, already knowing the answer now that she's started softly kissing my neck, her warm, sweet breath and slow, grinding hip motions creating chills up and down my spine. My cock, tragically underused since this storm came to town and flipped our lives over, is happily standing at attention under the heat and friction my wife is creating for us.
"It's perfect," kiss. "You're perfect," lick. "We're perfect," suck. "Shall we seal the deal with a handshake?" nibble.
I chuckle deep in my throat and drag one finger down over her breast and circle her nipple. "I'm pretty sure we can do better than a handshake," I say, tipping her back as I pull her luscious breast into my mouth, eliciting a gasp.
"Yes…yes…it was your special kind of handshake I was hoping for," she moans.
"Say the word, and it's always yours, pretty girl. Anything you want; we're in this together...forever."
A/N: Much love and thanks to Team Cabana: LaMomo my beta, and my prereading Cabana Girls: Cejsmom, Born & Jules.
I think this is my final farewell to this story unless something hits me like a bolt of lightening. Their story has been told and we know how happy their future turns out to be from the epilogue and futuretake.
It's hard to believe this is my official goodbye to Last Call. The support my readers and friends have shown me for the first story I ever wrote is unimaginable. Banners by Kitkat, Cara & Ladyeire at different times throughout my publishing timeline were so fantastic, they blessed me over and over. And for the 100+ women of the world who are walking around with Last Call Girl T-shirts, what can I say? I love you for loving Last Call so much...and I hope we can meet someday and have that drink with the one and only Cabana Boy pouring.
Still want a t-shirt? The fourth list has formed in the FB group...PM me or join the group! The list closes on January 31st.
Spearward is capturing hearts left and right...have you discovered the "Tip of the Spear" yet? Check out my second story...link is on my profile.
So much love for all of you. The readers, reviewers, pimpers, etc...you helped make Last Call what it has turned out to be. Hovering at four thousand reviews...not bad for a rookie author.
Peace out from the Cabana...
xoxo always, Jen