The next morning, Currie was up early. She sipped coffee in the kitchen while she and Thora started the breakfast buffet. Currie and her sisters had met after the guests went to their cabins last night, and they’d already posted each guest’s name with the project he/she was to do on the chalkboard by the front doors.
1. Ward=use stones on island to build outdoor fireplace/grill by lake.
2. Leann and Teri=sew quilt to hang on lodge wall in evenings, landscape back patio in mornings.
3. Mandy=in charge of vegetable and herb gardens.
4. Trisha=in charge of pet hospital (hurt animals/babies).
5. Avery=catalog all wildlife on island.
6. Frank=fish hatchery and fish farm in cove.
7. Ted & Price=build a 3-hole golf course near dock.
8. Russ & Della=bird feeders & butterfly garden.
9. Brent=Thora’s nursery.
As Currie squeezed oranges for juice, she asked Thora, “What did you and Brent decide on for the baby’s room?”
“He loves boats, even after his accident. And since water’s my home--well, he doesn’t know that, but he knows that I love it--we decided on a seascape.”
“Yeah, we’re going to paint the ceiling to look like a sky with big, puffy clouds. We’ll put a shoreline on the base of the walls, and then water with boats and fish and dolphins, seaweed and shells. Maybe even a lighthouse on a rocky crag.”
“Is Brent an artist?” Currie slid three different quiches into the oven and started making chicken salad to pile on the cantaloupe rings Thora was slicing.
“Well, not actually,” Thora said.
“Then how are you going to …?”
Thora raised her white blond eyebrows and looked at Currie hopefully. “We happened to think of someone who’s really good at sketching.”
Currie laughed. “This is a setup, isn’t it? I’d just sketch, right? No actual painting?”
“All we need are the outlines,” Thora said.
“That works for me.”
“Thank you! Brent’s going to be so happy.”
Currie shook her head. Brent and Thora were turning into great friends. She thought that Brent would enjoy Thora’s company, but she never realized how much Thora would enjoy his. Sprites were drawn to mortals more than nymphs were. Currie just never understood how much. The chicken salad done, she started flipping pancakes for the buffet. “You and Brent are getting awfully chummy.”
“That’s the key word,” Thora said. “Chummy. We’re good friends. Period. I think he’s already taken. He just doesn’t know it yet.” She threw sausage patties on the griddle--traditional breakfast food for the guests who wanted to sink their teeth into a heavy meal before they started their day.
“Did you see his caricature?” Currie asked. “A huge heart behind bars?”
“That’s him. Once those bars are gone, the man’s hooked, and nothing will make him happier.”
The two women hurried to put the juices, coffee, and tea at the end of the table before the guests poured in at eight. They went straight to the chart to see what their projects were before they came for their food. Once they were seated, conversation flowed to their assignments for the month.
“Someone had better tell me the difference between a green and a weed,” Mandy said, “or there won’t be any more salads at supper.”
“I can do that.” Saffron carried her plate to Mandy’s table and joined her. Mandy was young, only twenty-six, but she’d already lost a breast to cancer. Currie remembered seeing her name on Brie’s list, because the medical expenses had put a serious dent in her finances even with decent insurance benefits. She and Saffron had a lot in common, though. Mandy was an elementary phys. ed. teacher, and she used the outdoors and activity as therapy to clear her mind. The island should be perfect for her.
Currie’s thoughts were distracted by Price Compton.
“How in the hell do you make a golf course?” Price asked, plopping down opposite Ted Krashor.
“You start with heavy equipment,” Ted said, his eyes sparkling. “I love working earthmovers.”
“Great. What does that leave me?” Price asked.
“Rakes, grass seed, lots of dirt and sweat.”
Ward passed their table, and Price said, “Hey! You got a sweaty job too, didn’t you?”
Ward turned to join them. “Yeah, I even got a design. Mine’s supposed to look like a fireplace with a chimney, but I figure that I can build a hearth for the foundation with an opening for baked potatoes and stuff. Then you’d have an outdoor grill and an oven.”
Price frowned. “You’re going to make your chore harder than you have to?”
“Yeah, he looks the type,” Ted said. “A go-get-‘em sort of guy. If you ever get tired of being a fireman, you can always come work for my construction company.”
“You two might be used to working with your hands, but I’m not,” Price complained. “I travel a lot and the heaviest thing I carry is my briefcase and laptop.”
“Then it’s time to play in the dirt, boy. You sound like my youngest son. He never wants to get his hands dirty either.”
“What’s wrong with that?” Price demanded. “If you can use your brain, why bust your back?”
“Just what I’d expect from a pretty boy!” Ted said.
“Let’s get something straight, old man. I might have to work with you, but I don’t take any shit off of anyone. Got that?”
“Let’s keep it simple,” Ted said, pointing a stubby finger at Price. “You do your part of the job, and I’ll do mine. The less we talk to each other, the better.”
Ward shook his head. “Can we eat now?”
They both glared at him, but started on their breakfast. Once they’d finished, Currie came to join them. “Is everything okay? Can you handle your projects?”
“Handle it?” Ted’s face flushed scarlet. “Are you worried that I’m going to overexert and drop dead on your island?”
Currie shrugged. “If you do, we can always use you as compost in the garden.”
Price laughed. Even Ted gave a small smile. “Okay, I get it. You’re not treating me like a pansy. You’re just checking to see if we’re okay with what we got,” he growled.
“So, are you?”
“Why only three holes?” Ted complained. “Why not nine?”
“Nothing grows by the beach, too much sand,” Currie said. “We’d never hurt nature to put in a golf course, so that’s all the room we’re willing to donate.”
“You’d rather have pampas grass than a nice, pretty green,” Ted grumbled.
“Any day. I’d rather work in the garden than chase a little, white ball.” Currie laughed at Ted’s scowl. “But some of our guests are like you, they love golf, so we’re trying to compromise.”
Ted opened his mouth to argue, but Price shook his head. “It won’t do you any good. The girls on this island play by different rules.”
“Sort of like my wife,” Ted said.
“She hasn’t divorced you?” Price asked, surprised. “She must have been serious about for better or worse.”
“She’s the toughest, old broad I ever met. I don’t know what I’d do without her,” Ted said.
Price studied him. “So why are you here?”
Currie wasn’t sure that Ted would tell him, but he said, “Heart attack. Almost found out if there are really pearly gates or not. The old woman told me to take it easy and learn to relax, that she doesn’t want to be a widow yet. Guess she really does love me.”
“You’re lucky.” Price’s tone was sincere.
“Don’t I know it! What about you? What brought you?”
“My fiancée didn’t love me enough to stick around. She committed suicide.”
“That’s not the way it is with suicide,” Ward said, joining into the conversation for the first time. “It’s not about not loving enough. It’s about too much pain. It makes everything in your life gray.”
Price gave him a wary look. “You don’t suffer from depression, do you?”
“No, but I had to deal with a jumper once. His neighbor called us--I guess he thought we could reach him with our hook and ladder.”
“Did he jump?”
“Yeah, but his neighbor caught his ankles.” Ward piled his napkin and dirty silverware on his empty plate. “We wrestled him inside, and the cops took it from there.”
“Jumping’s taking the easy way out,” Price said.
“Is that what your girl did?” Ted asked.
“No, she hanged herself.” Price frowned at his half-empty cup of coffee.
“You can’t fix somebody else,” Ted said.
“I know that. My mom was a loser and my sister’s a slut, moving from one guy to the next. I learned to cut my losses really fast. My dad worked all the time, but we were dirt-poor growing up. My mom spent it as fast as Dad made it. I told myself I’d be different. No eight dollars an hour for me.”
“Some women can spend a fortune,” Ted said. “Wouldn’t matter how much you made.”
“I wasn’t planning on getting married. Thought I’d go for the big bucks and never run short of cash. I always knew I could make it, and I did, but I got tired of one night stands. When I met Lyssa, I thought I had a shot at having it all.”
“No one gets it all, kid.”
Ward shook his head. “Some people do. But it takes a lot of work and a lot of luck.”
“You’re living in fantasy land. If you get the money, you lose the broad. If you get both of those, you get sick. Life bites you in the ass one way or another,” Ted said.
Price sighed. “I felt like there was something missing in my life, and I thought Lyssa could fill it.”
“For a while, until the depression settled in again.”
“Was she on meds?” Ted asked.
“She should have been. It’s chemical, you know. Just like making your spark plugs work right--you have to have the right mix.”
Price’s lips turned down. “I’m never taking damaged goods again. I’m looking for quality and perfection.”
“Perfection?” Ted laughed. “You really are buying your own sales pitches. Guess you’re going to be a bachelor for the rest of your life.”
Currie listened to their back and forth comments and thought that Ted and Price might be good for each other-- IF they didn’t have a huge falling out. A wolf and a rhino. An interesting combination. It just might work. Wiles pitted against brute strength. They might both learn something.
Ted turned to Ward. “What about you? You married, son?”
“Haven’t had the time.”
“That’s what they all say,” Ted teased.
“My older brother was sick for a long time,” Ward said. “It was hard for my mom and dad. We all took turns staying with him. He died when he was twenty-seven.”
“Twenty-seven? Holy shit! My younger son’s thirty. That’s too young to go.”
“That’s what we thought too,” Ward said, “but Darryl never complained. He was my personal hero.”
“You know what they say?” Price asked. “The good die young.”
Ward looked around the table. “Then we must be pretty flawed.”
“Speak for yourself,” Price said. “I’m carrying enough guilt for the moment.”
“Hey, if that theory’s right, my wife can cross me off her worry list,” Ted said. “I should live forever.”
“Who’d want that?” Ward asked. “I think even a hundred years would be too much.”
“You say that now,” Ted said. “Wait till you’re my age. You’d be willing to buy a little more time if you could.”
“Speaking of time,” Ward said, “it’s time I got started on my project.”
“You ready, kid?” Ted asked Price.
As they pushed back their chairs to leave, Ward hesitated. “Great breakfast,” he told Currie. “Thanks.”
“Yeah, I guess real men do eat quiche,” Ted teased.
“And anything else she cooks,” Price said. “It all tastes great.”
Currie watched them leave before going to teach her art class after breakfast. Was Ward telling the truth? she wondered. Did he really think it would be awful to live forever? She’d never seriously thought about it before. She was immortal, and nothing would change that. She’d always thought it was a blessing and that dying was a curse. Which was it?