Lost and Found
My start to what I thought was going to be a great morning, turned to shit as soon as I walked into the kitchen.
I arrived to discover Uncle Paul on his hands and knees frantically shutting off valves with one hand while mopping up oceans of water with his other.
"Puta que pariu esta merda!"
Emmett taught me how to swear in Portuguese when I was a kid and he was an excellent teacher. But I admit I'm not sure if Paul is calling the faucet a whore, or a piece of shit. I take a look at his face and decide it doesn't matter; pissed off looks the same in any language.
I have half a mind to get my ass out of here and return to Bella so fast that it'll make Paul's ass spin. But I don't. Instead, I let out a sound that is somewhere between a chuckle and a sigh and head over to the closet where Mrs. C keeps the linens and towels.
Speaking of Mrs. C, I need to call her this morning and check on Harold. The last time I talked to her she told me he was "progressing nicely" and that if all went well he would be moving into a rehab center soon. She also asked me to check on her house since it is right on the bay and last year a group of teenagers had a bonfire that got out of control and nearly burned down her 200-year-old carriage house.
'They're a terrible lot, Teddy. Hooligans. But I suspect they'll soon right themselves and become fine upstanding citizens just like all the other bad lads I've known over the years. Providing they don't burn themselves and my carriage house in the process, that is'
Thinking about calling Mrs. C makes me remember my promise to Bella; I have to call her father.
I'm not looking forward to that at all, so I toss this thought out with the soiled towels. I'll call him later this afternoon.
I turn to Paul with renewed interest; suddenly mopping the floor doesn't seem like such a bad thing after all.
Two hours later, the valves are fixed, the floor is dry, and the freezer has found a new home next to the pantry.
I look around amazed; the kitchen looked fantastic. Paul and his crew head over to the bar where Angie is waiting to pour them each a draft of their choice to celebrate. They still have to work on the bathroom; the toilets didn't arrive yesterday like Paul was told they would. He tells me he has to drive out to Mashpee and pick them up himself.
"I didn't think they would be open today, it is The Fourth of July," I remind him.
"Yeah well, Botello owes me a few favors and it's time for me to cash them in. Listen, these guys want to get out of here and head home. The Souza family reunion is all meeting down at Cotuit, and they gotta get the clambake started. I'm gonna let them go after they finish their breakfast of champions, and I'll install the commodes myself when I get back."
I look at the guys sitting at the bar flirting with Ange and grin; breakfast of champions; it's not even eleven o' clock, and they're already having their first brew of the day.
"Hey Edward, I'm getting ready to step out; walk me out to the truck, will ya?" Paul asks with a pointed look.
"Sure, what's up?" I ask. I hop off the stool and walk him out back where his truck is parked.
"Guess what the cat dragged in last night?" he asks with a smirk as he leans against the cab of his Ford Ranger. I notice his door handle is broken and is tied together with a piece of string. What a shit box.
His truck used to be a funky mustard color that could only be described as baby shit brown, but it's now faded to the point where all you can see is rust in most spots. The salt air corrodes vehicles on the Cape faster than lime on a corpse.
'Listen kid, ya gotta wash ya caaah off reg-ah-la-ly if ya don't want The Big C to get to it. The salt air is a kill-aaah, Eddie.'
Paul's truck looks like it would collapse if it took a bump too hard. I hope he doesn't have to drive to Rhode Island anytime soon; that state is just one giant pothole surrounded by water.
I wash the salt off of my car twice a week even though I don't use it much. It's an old silver Volvo that used to be Esme's car back in the early eighties. Because she lives in Boston she rarely used it, and it was in pristine condition when I bought it from her a few years ago. I love the style of the car; boxy with round headlights and soft as butter leather seats. But, she has a diesel engine, and it costs a ton to feed her these days so I mainly hoof it if I can. I named her Liesel because Tyler once told me that all cars perform better if they have a name, and also because it rhymes with diesel.
Yeah, I know, I'm part woman. Sue me.
Paul looks at me like he is about to burst. I swear he reminds me of a fat cartoon cat that swallowed a canary, and if he opens his mouth, feathers are going to fly out of it. I decide to put him out of his misery.
"Um, I have no idea," I finally shrug, scraping a bit of rust off with my thumbnail.
"Rosalie," he states like a gossipy old woman, wiggling his brows.
"Yep, the very same," he assures me.
"What, you mean she just showed up?" I ask.
Well that is an interesting development. It also blows the idea that Emmett will be around tonight to help me with setting up the bar for the Fourth's festivities on the beach.
"You got it," Paul says with a wink. "I came in the store to pick up my old lady and there she was, all curled up boohooing on my mother's lap. Ma was just sitting there stroking her hair with one hand and rubbing her rosary beads with the other. Emmett arrived about thirty minutes later. It was a real scene down at Souza's Market last night, I tell ya. One for the old book."
"Damn. Is Emmett okay?"
"Yeah … I mean; he looked like he didn't know whether to shit or go blind when he first got there. Rose was really het up, and my mother … well, let's face it, nobody can understand a word she says when she gets cranked up and starts praying in her native tongue. Not even me … and I consider myself fluent," he chortles.
"Huh. Well, I'm glad she came to him then. Did she, ahhh … I mean is she still, um …" I trail off awkwardly.
"You mean is she still …" he draws an invisible silhouette of an extended abdomen around his middle. It's comical, and I can't help but chuckle.
"Knocked up? Yeah … she looks like she finally ate a coupla grindas and a few dozen donuts or something. It ain't much yet, but she's working on it."
"Emmett must be happy," I say.
I try to imagine him as a father and it doesn't take much; he is still a big kid himself in so many ways. I remember him as a boy; he was always the one who coaxed me into trying new things, like sports and other after school activities. Pop didn't have a lot of time for those things and Emmett lost his own father young, so we were more or less left to our own devices. But Emmett was always the one who knew what boys should be doing; it was instinctive. With his guidance, we joined everything from chess club to Boy Scouts.
"He's going to be a great father," I said to Paul. "The best." This thought stirs a feeling deep inside of me that I can't shake.
I want what he has.
A wife and God help me, even a few rug rats to call my own one day. The thought of being a dad both thrills and terrifies me; it's not like I have any experience in that department. But in spite of that I still want it. I look up at the balcony a little wistfully; Bella's dad said she loved kids.
Stop being a girl, I tell myself.
Christ pushing a baby carriage, I need to have my testosterone checked.
"Yeah, he is gonna be a great dad," Paul says in agreement.
"As for Rose, meh- the jury's still out. But if last night was any indication, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that the icicles that normally hang from her ass are starting to defrost a little," he chuckles.
"Well, that's good," I say.
"Yeah, it is. Ma's already got her yarn and crochet hook out. I guess she has at least a dozen booties and a few bonnets made by now," He snarks, shaking his head.
Pink or blue, I wonder.
Jesus, I really need to do something manly before I start having my own contractions. Fuck, what is wrong me?
"Hey, did you know that she's got a brother who's a little, um, stunted?" he asks, interrupting my thoughts about planning a nursery with Bella.
I shake my head; Uncle Paul apparently missed the class in how to be politically correct when referring to kids with disabilities. Esme would go off on him in a damn New York minute, that's for sure.
"Uh, no, I didn't know that," I admit. "Emmett never mentioned anything like that to me."
And he hadn't, which sort of surprises me given that he's met Alice, and all and he knows how crazy I am about her.
"Yeah well, I don't really know that he knew too much about it himself until last night. All I know is that when I came in she was babbling something about her mother having a change of life baby when she was in high school. I think she said his name was Joshua or some kind of J name; I can't remember that kind of shit. But Rose, yeah … she was nuts about him.
"Anyway, from what I could figure out, the mother told her that the kid died after she went off to college. Rose didn't even get to say goodbye; no funeral or nothing. I guess Rose had some kind of breakdown after that and said she'd never have kids as long as she lived; couldn't take the fuckin heartbreak, and all that. Not that I blame her.
"But here's the best part ... You ain't gonna believe this one …
"After she left Emmett, she found out that the kid's still alive and is living in some kind of group home in Texas. I dunno, she was half crazy, and my mother was crooning in Portuguese, so who the hell knows what she was talking about."
Jesus, no wonder Rose was so freaked out about having kids.
I make a decision to call Alice as soon as Paul leaves. My throat constricts at the idea of losing her and then finding out it was all a lie. Who the hell does something like that anyway?
"Yeah, I told ya it was a real scene down at the market last night. I couldn't take it. Cripes, even Emmett was shedding a few tears. It was something else, all right," he shudders.
"Do you think they'll be down at the canal tonight?" I ask.
"Oh sure, they ain't gonna miss the fireworks; you know how Emmett loves that stuff," he says with a nod.
"Hey, Edward, do me a favor though and don't say nothing to Em that I told ya this shit, okay? He'll probably tell ya himself, anyway."
I promise I'll keep my pie hole shut. Paul hops into his truck and tells me through his open window that he'll be back before three to get the toilets installed. He reminds me to call Emmett's mother and get the food that she is catering for the beach party and that I need to head on over as soon as possible.
Mrs. McCarty is a fantastic cook; my mouth waters at the thought of her potato salad and Boston baked beans. We're keeping our contribution simple, just hamburgers, hot dogs, chorize, and of course, the prerequisite chowder, but with her side dishes and the fresh sweet corn that is going on the clambake, it ought to be excellent.
I glance at my watch and realize how pressed I am for time. I trot over to the side of the bar where Liesel is parked and hop in. She purrs to life, and I head out to Mrs. Cope's property to gather her mail, and make sure that everything looks okay. I call the Barnstable police to remind them to keep a good eye on the place.
Pete answers the phone and tells me that he's not on duty tonight, but Gus is, and he'll make it a point to keep an eye out for the hooligans and their shenanigans. We chat for a minute, and Pete tells me that he met a girl at the bar a few weeks ago.
"My bar?" I ask him.
"Yeah, is there any other?"
"Anyone I know?" I ask casually. I haven't noticed anyone there recently who Pete would take a shine too; he was always the pickiest bastard I ever knew when it came to women. He had a weird thing for eyebrows. Seriously; if Pete didn't like the way a girls brows arched he wasn't interested.
"Nah, she's not a local girl. Her parents have a cottage out in Harwich, so she spends a lot of time here in the summer. She goes to grad school in Boston; wants to teach nursing at a college eventually. I dunno, she's not my usual type, but she's a lot of fun.
"How are the eyebrows?" I tease him.
"Awesome, they have a bigger arch than McDonalds," he laughs.
"Then she sounds like she's exactly your type."
"Yea, maybe … it's a start anyway."
"So, why do you sound reluctant? I mean, good brows, got a summer place, grad school … must have rich parents? Sounds like a winner to me."
"Yeah, but it won't last Edward. You just said it yourself, rich folks and summer people … she's not gonna want to settle down with a small town cop in East Bumfuck, CC."
His words haunt me long after we've said our goodbyes.
Is Bella going to feel that way down the road? I know she said she loved it here, but let's face it; that's what everybody does when they come to The Cape; they're here to take a break from their real lives. Right now Bella is lost and confused; the girl couldn't even talk to her own father, for crying out loud.
Fuck, I need to stop being such a sad sack. Bella let me in only a few short hours ago; I can still smell the strawberry scent of her hair and taste the sweetness of her mouth when I kissed her senseless. My mouth twitches in remembrance. Yeah, we've got a lot of shit to work out, but I think, I hope, she wants to try to make it work with me.
A feeling so big that it threatens to overwhelm, makes me pull Liesel over to the side of the road so I can get it together.
I love her.
I can't lose her. If she leaves I will follow; it's as simple as that.
I'll sell the damn bar, I swear I will.
My father's face comes to mind and I try my best to erase it; I've way too much going on today for a trip down memory lane. But I can't. The idea of selling the bar, coupled with my strong feelings for Bella, compels me to pull into the Maple lined drive of Seaconch Town Cemetery.
I need to visit Pop.
I pull over to the curb and walk down the narrow path to the plot where he and my mother are buried. It doesn't take me long to spot it; their grave sits on a small knoll facing the canal.
I approach the headstone and chuckle; there's a small bottle of Makers Mark and a shot glass that says Olde Cape Cod sitting on its ledge. People are always leaving little gifts like this for Pop. I check to see if the label is sealed, and it's not. I guess whoever left it must have drained the contents and replaced it with Coke or some kind of colored water. Good thing too, I doubt Barnstable's finest would appreciate full bottles of booze lying around a public cemetery. I mean, the Hooligans might steal it, get drunk and burn down Ole Shelly's carriage house or something.
I kneel in front of the stone and wipe off some of the debris with my hands. The weeds threaten to overtake the bronze marker at the foot of Pop's grave commemorating his time in the Navy. I pluck away the greenery with a small knife, and with the hankie that I always carry in my pocket, (a habit I picked up from Pop) I clean the plaque off as best I can. Then I do the same thing to the granite headstone. My fingers trace the engravings slowly. There's a bit of bird poop on my father's birth date, and I scrape it off with my fingernail. Pop doesn't need to have some damn seagull's shit marring his marker. He hated those birds with a passion.
'Filthy animals … All they do is eat, shit and squawk. Ain't nothin poetic about that, Eddie. Jonathan Livingston Seagull my ass …'
Edward Anthony Masen
(B)September 18, 1952
(D) August 30, 2002
Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker
Elizabeth Ann (Cullen) Masen
(B) January 7, 1959
(D)June 28, 1987
Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand
"Hey Pop, um, it's me. Listen, it's been awhile since I paid you a visit. I know I could give you a million excuses why, but the truth is I hate coming here. I mean, it's a pretty spot and all, but I don't feel closer to you, or whatever, when I'm here. I remember you used to say that about mom when we came to put flowers on her grave.
'She's not in here, kid. If ya wanna see your mother, look up at the sky. Ya see those fluffy clouds? That's your mothers tutu … she's dancing with the angels, Buddy.'
"So, yeah, that's why I don't come that often. I think about you every day at the bar, though; you're all around me.
"Uh, that's sort of what I came here to talk to you about."
I take off my Boston Red Sox cap and lay it next to my mother's plot. She loved the Red Sox. I wish for the thousandth time that she had lived long enough to see them win the series. Pop too, I think gleefully.
Pop, hated the Sox; he was a diehard Yankee's fan from way back.
' Look at them … they're nuthin but a pack of Bums. Now the Yankee's … that's what ya call a class act. Mickey Mantle … talk about a clean cut all American kid who's got class and talent, not some dope with a beard so big you could mistake for the bat. Christ on a crutch… and you root for those beatniks? Ah well, you are ya mother's son after all, I suppose. Still … beards and balls do not a baseball player make. What a sham.'
When the Sox won in 2004 Seaconch had a thunder-storm that rained hail for two, full days, but the weird thing is it was sunny just about everywhere else on the Cape. It's true, you can Google it. The weatherman said it was a fluke rainspout that hovered over our little corner of the world, but I know it was my father having a temper tantrum up there in heaven.
"I've finally met a girl that I think you would like, Pop. She's nothing like Tanya, that's for sure.
"Her name is Bella, and she's an artist. I know you loved people who were creative, you always said that they gave the world color, and she does, she makes everything beautiful just by breathing. I know it sounds corny, but it's the truth.
"I remember you always told me that one day I was going to meet a girl who was going to shake up my whole world and that when she did I'd better have something steady to hold on to if I wanted to survive.
"The thing is Pop, ever since you've been gone, I have been holding on. I've never let go, not even once. I stand behind the bar like I'm saving a place for you in line. My world never changes; I never move forward. It's like I've been frozen in time ever since you left.
"I'm not blaming you for that, well, not anymore, at least.
"I know I could have left Seaconch after you died; it would have been so easy. But the day after your funeral, I came downstairs and I looked at the bar, and it was as if you were still there. I dunno, I just couldn't bring myself to walk away. I remember how hard you worked to get this place going and how disappointed you sounded when I told you I was going off to Yale with Emmett. And I remember how lost you were when mom died, too. It was hard for you to raise me on your own; I know that.
I don't know Pop … maybe after mom died we should have gotten the hell off the Cape and began fresh. I mean, I think back to the nights when you couldn't sleep because of mom's perfume clinging in the air, and how you had to move next door to escape it just so you could catch a few Z's. That wasn't healthy for either one of us."
I let out a big sigh and look at my watch; the day is flying away, and I still have to pick up the food and call Bella's dad.
"Okay Pop, I gotta go. It's the fourth of July, and we're having the bar set up on the canal just like we did when you were alive.
"One more thing before I go. I want you to know that I have no regrets about staying behind and carrying out your dream, Pop, because if I hadn't, well, I might never have found mine.
"I'm not sure if she feels the same way about me, but I want to find out. I don't know if that is going to lead me to leaving The Cape or not. But if I do, I promise that I'll do everything in my power to make sure The Swan Dive goes to someone who'll love and care for it just like you did."
I say a small prayer for the mother who read to me every night and rubbed my head and always wore pink and green Lily dresses just because they made her feel special. I barely remember her, but I know we loved each other. I let her know that The Sox are off to a good season and that their playing in San Diego tonight. I babble on about Bella and how she lost her mother and all her friends. I wish I could ask her for advice because I don't know shit about women. But mostly I just tell her that I wish she could have stayed so we could have known each other a little longer, and that I miss her.
After I leave the cemetery, I head straight to Mrs. McCarty's. I pick up the food and get it settled in the back of my car. Naturally it doesn't all fit but she tells me not to worry that she'll send Emmett by with the rest of the stuff later. She says that Paul called her and told her that the kitchen was up and running, so we could just keep the extra in the fridge and heat it up as needed.
I call Mrs. C on the way back to the bar, and we chat about Harold and plants, and not much else.
But she knows.
"Oh Teddy, there's a lilt in your voice, lad. I can hear it through the phone. You're happy."
I tell her that I am, and she doesn't ask me why; it's as if she already knows the entire story before it even began.
We end the call with promises to see each other in the next few days, and she begs me to bring her a piece of blueberry pie because its Harold's favorite.
I get to the bar and meet Mike as soon as I enter the door. Angie joins us a few minutes later,and we start moving the shit out to Mike's flatbed and proceed to haul it down to the canal in shifts. I've hired a bunch of college kids to help out, and we go over the routine. It's pretty straight forward because we do it every year. Keep it simple stupid is my mantra when it comes to these kind of events. And watch the money-box because it's a cash only night, and it's easy to get distracted when you're under a blanket of stars and a cloud of fireworks.
As I work steadily throughout the rest of the day, I find myself looking longingly to the balcony over the bar. I wonder if Bella is up there watching me, too. I want to take a moment to run upstairs and beg her to join me on the beach, or failing that, to beg her for one more kiss.
My mind drifts from the romantic to more carnal images of us together. I can't help but wonder what it'll be like when we're finally together physically. I smile ruefully when I consider the fact that neither one of us has had any kind of sex in a long times, so I know it'll be quick. But then I grimace when I realize that Bella might still be technically a virgin, since that lunkhead she dated couldn't put the holy water down long enough to get the job done. What a stupid ass.
I sigh when I think about her skin, so satiny and pale. Her full, creamy breasts tantalize my senses and makes me want to bury my nose between them and inhale her scent. Her round, supple bottom that makes my hands long to squeeze it. I feel my fingers flex involuntarily.
A little boy runs toward me and drops his Dells lemonade in the sand. The icy treat splashes against my legs and startles me out of my lascivious daydream. Much as I would like to have a few moments to indulge, I simply do not have the luxury of time for that activity.
But later tonight, well ….
My pulse quickens at the possibilities.
Finally, after hour upon hour of backbreaking manual labor I tell Mike that I have to run back to my place and grab a quick shower. I stink of sweat and burgers and beer. He laughs and tells me he's got things covered, and I sprint back up to the bar.
As I head up the stairs, Paul passes me on the way down.
"Hey, I was just heading down to let you know that the toilets are all installed, and everything looks good. Botello sent his twins over to help, and it didn't take as long as I thought. He must have trained those kids well; we were finished by five… Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I fixed that door you were talking about the other day."
Oh fuck, oh no!
I look at Paul like he's committed murder in the first degree and grab the front of his shirt.
"What did you do?" I practically growl. My hands are shaking, and the vein in my forehead feels like it's going to burst.
"Hey, Edward, settle the fuck down. Jesus H … you told me you wanted to get rid of the door between your apartments and I did. It was easy as pie; the thing practically took itself down for me; I loved your Pop but he wasn't exactly a carpenter. I filled it in with a piece of drywall I had left over from doing the bathroom. I still gotta paint it, but …"
"Where is she?" I ask, my voice rises with each syllable I utter.
"Who?" he asks puzzled. "Oh, you mean the little brunette next door? I told her you asked me to get rid of the door and seal it up. She didn't say nothing, just grabbed her purse and headed out. I told her I'd be finished in a few hours."
I let go of his shirt and fucking fly up the stairs.
"She ain't up there!" he calls up to me.
I tune his words out and bang on her door anyway.
Fuck, fuck, fuck!
I look at the door now resting against the wall in the hallway and my heart just stops. I silently slide to my knees and just sort of clutch at it in disbelief. I don't think I've felt so helpless.
"Hey, Edward?" I hear Paul's voice echo from down below. I manage to scrape myself off the floor and go to the top of the stairs to see what the fuck he wants now. He's probably going to tell me that Jenks got hit by a car.
Could this day get any worse?
My phone starts vibrating in my pocket, and I pull it out and glance at it quickly.
It's Charles Swan.
Never, ever ask if things can get worse because life has a way of answering that for you in record time.
I shove the phone back in my pocket roughly; I am NOT answering this call now.
But you can't put it off too long, Edward. The man has a right to know that his daughter was here. The fact that she's not here now does not negate this. Besides, she specifically asked you to call him, so man up and just do it.
Yeah, that's my conscience talking to me in the third person. I know I have some issues but this one beats all.
I glance at Paul warily and he looks at me concerned.
"You all right kid?"
Fuck no, I'm not all right. I rub the back of my neck, which feels like someone shoved a metal rod in it, it's so tight.
"Yeah, I'm okay. I-uh, just gotta grab a shower so I can get back down to the beach," I mutter.
"Okay, just checking." He proceeds to leave and then turns back around abruptly.
"Merda! I forgot my toolbox upstairs; can you get it for me?"
I let out a sigh and head back upstairs to my place and open the door. The rough outline where the door used to hang, now serves as a painful reminder of what I've lost. I can't even bring myself to look at it, much less to think about how Bella must have felt when Paul came up and told her he was removing it.
Jesus. I let out a huge shudder and then remind myself why I came up here in the first place.
I look around the room, but I can't see it anywhere. I turn to go ask Paul where the hell he left it, but he's already at the door when I open it.
"I didn't leave it in here," he says. 'I left it in your Pops old place. Ya got the master-key? I really got to get a move on, my old lady is chaffing at the bit for me to come get her. She loves this holiday even more than Christmas, ya know. It means something special to her, coming over from Portugal as a war bride, and all. Makes a big ass deal over every sparkler she lights …"
I huff and want to fucking throttle him at this point, but I don't. Instead, I pull out my master-key and storm off to her place, and open the door. I don't like doing it; I feel like an intruder. I'm not even supposed to use this key and enter her apartment without her consent, but screw it.
The door opens with a thud. I flick the lights on and spy his toolbox next to the wall where the door once hung. I snatch it up quickly and shove it in his arms.
"Thanks, kid. Listen I'll see ya down there, Okay?"
He walks down the hall, and I hear the thump of his work boots as he descends the stairs.
Christ in a side car chariot. What the hell am I going to do now?
I have no idea where she is, and worse, I have no way of getting in touch with her even if I did know. She doesn't have a phone, and fuck if I know if she even has a car. The traffic on the Cape is at its fever pitch; there is no way on earth I'd be able to drive around and just look for her.
I debate about going into her bedroom to see if her clothes and stuff are still there, but decide against it. I'll know if she comes back soon enough, besides I've still got to shower, change and get back down to the beach.
I glance at the window that looks over the canal and notice the sun is starting to set; it's nearly twilight.
I move to shut off the light, and when I do, my eyes catch the glass on the window, where only a few short hours ago I had drawn the X to show Bella where the bar would be set up. I walk over to it and smile ruefully; the heart that she circled is still there, too. I trace around it slowly and look outside.
In the exact spot where I said I'd be standing is a young woman whose long dark hair is blowing all around her face. She turns and looks towards the bar as if she is scanning for something, or for someone.
My pulse starts to race as my eyes lock on hers.
I take off running and don't stop until my feet hits the sand.