74 Seaside Avenue Page 2

“Listen, you two lovebirds, I wish I could stay but I’ve got to get back. I have a research paper that’s due tomorrow.” With Teri’s encouragement, Johnny was taking a summer course to get a head start on the next school year. He pushed back his chair and stood. “So you’ll get in touch with Mom?”

“I suppose.” Teri sighed, already resigned to the inevitable.

“Christie, too,” her brother insisted. “She is our sister.”

“Mark my words. Bobby won’t be safe with her around.” And neither will my marriage, she thought darkly.

Teri hated to disparage their sister. But experience told her exactly what to expect. Sure as anything, Christie would throw herself at Bobby. The fact that he was married wouldn’t matter. Not to Christie. Every boyfriend Teri’d ever had, her sister had attempted to seduce. Bobby wouldn’t be the exception, and because he was her husband, Christie would probably consider him an especially worthwhile challenge.

Poor Bobby. He had no idea. He’d certainly never encountered a family like hers.

“Next weekend?” Johnny asked hopefully.

“No,” Teri said. She needed time to prepare herself for this. “Give me a week to get organized. Two weeks from Saturday.”

If Johnny was disappointed by the delay, it didn’t show. “See you then,” he said and kissed her cheek on his way out the door.

Bobby slid his arm around her shoulders. Teri reminded herself yet again that she loved her husband and he loved her. Despite that, she couldn’t entirely quell her fears.

While Bobby Polgar was unlike any man she’d ever known, he was still a man. He’d be just as susceptible to Christie’s beauty and her undeniable charm as every other boyfriend she’d had.

“I’m happy to be meeting your family,” Bobby said after Johnny had left.

Smiling proved difficult. Poor Bobby, she thought again. He didn’t know what he was letting himself in for.


Troy Davis had been the duly elected sheriff of Cedar Cove for nearly seventeen years. He’d been raised in this town, graduating from the local high school. Afterward, like many of his friends, he’d enlisted in the army, where he’d served as an MP. He’d trained at the Presidio in San Francisco, and just before shipping out to a base in Germany, he’d spent a three-day leave touring the city. That was where, on a foggy June morning in 1965, he’d met Sandy Wilcox.

After spending the day together, they’d exchanged addresses and corresponded during his tour of duty. When he was discharged, Troy had asked Sandy to marry him. By then she was in college and he’d joined her at SFU in San Francisco. In 1970, they were married and settled in his hometown of Cedar Cove, where Troy had accepted a job in law enforcement. He’d worked as a deputy until he ran for sheriff and won. Life had been good to him, to both of them. And then Sandy had gotten sick….


Troy looked up from where he was seated in the living room, staring down at the carpeted floor. “Pastor Flemming’s here,” Megan said quietly. She’d come over to help him organize Sandy’s things—figure out what should go where.

Deep in thought, Troy hadn’t even heard the doorbell. He stood as the other man walked into the room.

“I came to see how you’re doing,” the pastor from Cedar Cove Methodist church said. He was a soft-spoken, caring man who’d officiated at Sandy’s funeral services with compassion and sincerity. Many an afternoon, Troy had found Dave Flemming sitting with his wife, reading from the Bible or praying with her or sometimes just chatting. He’d been touched by the sympathy the pastor had extended, first to Sandy and now to Megan and him.

Troy wasn’t sure how to respond to the pastor’s concern. “We’re coping as well as we can,” Troy said.

No death was easy and although Troy had felt he was prepared to lose Sandy, he wasn’t. As sheriff, he’d certainly seen his share of death, and it wasn’t something he’d ever get used to. But this one struck at the very foundations of his life. Nobody was ever truly ready to lose a wife or mother, he supposed, and Sandy’s death had hit both him and Megan hard.

“If you need anything, just say the word.”

“I will.” Troy gestured toward the sofa. “Would you care to sit down?” he asked.

“I’ve made a fresh pot of coffee,” his daughter added. “Will you have some?”

Troy was proud of what a good hostess Megan had become. Ever since Sandy’s multiple sclerosis had become so much worse, his daughter often filled that role for him, something she’d continued to do after her marriage. Troy appreciated the way she’d willingly stepped in for her mother. She’d accompanied him to various functions in Sandy’s place, and occasionally held dinners for family friends. They’d grown especially close since Sandy had gone into the nursing home two years before.

“Thank you, no,” Dave told them. “I can’t stay. But I’d like to help in any way I can. If it’s too painful for you to sort through Sandy’s things, for instance, I’d be happy to ask some of the ladies at church to lend a hand.”

“No, no, we’re fine,” Troy assured him.

“Everything’s under control,” Megan said. She’d already begun packing up her mother’s clothes and personal effects.

“I’ll leave you two, then,” Dave said and after shaking Troy’s hand, the pastor let himself out.

“We’re going to be all right, aren’t we, Dad?” his daughter asked him in a tentative voice that reminded him of how she’d sounded as a child.

Draping his arm around her thin shoulders, Troy nodded. He usually managed to hide his pain. And for Megan’s sake he even tried to smile. She had enough grief of her own to carry.

“Of course we’re going to be fine.” With his daughter at his side he walked into the bedroom he’d shared with his wife for more than thirty years. Boxes crammed with Sandy’s clothes were scattered across the carpet. Half the closet was spread on the queen-size bed—dresses, sweaters, skirts and blouses, most of which had hung there for years without being touched.

Sandy had been in the nursing home for two years. He’d understood, when they settled her into the care facility, that she wouldn’t be coming home again. Still, he’d had difficulty reconciling himself to the knowledge that MS would eventually take her life.

It didn’t. Not exactly. As with most people suffering from this disease, her immune system was so compromised that she died of pneumonia. Although it could’ve been almost any virus or infection…

For her sake, Troy had made the pretense of believing she’d move home one day, but in reality he’d always known. He brought her whatever she asked for. As the months dragged on, Sandy stopped asking. She had everything she needed at the nursing home. Her large-print Bible, a few precious photographs and a lap robe Charlotte Jefferson had knit before she married Ben Rhodes. Sandy’s needs were simple and her demands few. As the weeks and months passed, she needed less and less.

Troy had left everything in the house exactly the way it was the day he’d taken her to the nursing home. In the beginning that seemed important to Sandy. It was to him, too. It helped perpetuate the pretense that she’d recover. She’d needed to believe it, until she no longer could, and he’d wanted to hold on to the slightest shred of hope.

“I’m not sure what to do with all of Mom’s clothes.” Megan stood in the middle of the bedroom, her arms hanging limply at her sides. Sandy’s half of the walk-in closet was bare.

“I had no idea Mom had so many clothes,” Megan said helplessly. “Should we donate them to charity?”

Troy wished now that he’d asked Pastor Flemming about that. Perhaps the church had a program that collected items for the poor.

“We should.” Still, if it was up to him, he wouldn’t change a thing. Or at least not for a while…He didn’t understand why Megan thought it was important to pack up the remnants of her mother’s life so soon. When she’d arrived with the cardboard boxes, Troy hadn’t argued, but frankly, he didn’t see the necessity of rushing into this.

“Most of them are outdated now.” Megan held up a pink sweater, one Sandy had always loved.

“Leave everything here for now,” he suggested.

“No.” The vehemence with which his daughter responded surprised Troy.

“Megan, let’s not do something we might regret later.”

“No,” she said again, shaking her head. “Mom’s gone. She’ll never hold her grandchildren. She’ll never go shopping with me again. She’ll never share a recipe with me. She’ll…she’ll…” Tears rained down her pale cheeks.

Troy felt utterly incapable of easing her grief. He’d never been good at dealing with emotions and was at an even greater loss now. Megan was an only child and she’d been close to her mother. Both Sandy and Troy had wanted more children. For years, they’d tried for a second child, until after the third miscarriage, when Troy had said enough. They should be grateful they had a beautiful daughter, he’d told her, instead of yearning for a larger family.

“It’s only been two months,” he reminded Megan as gently as possible.

“No, Dad,” she said. “It’s been a lot longer than that.”

Troy understood this far better than Megan seemed to realize. In the end, Sandy barely resembled the woman he’d married. Her death, while tragic, was a release from the physical nightmare that had become her reality. Sandy had lived with MS for at least thirty years. Not until after she miscarried the third pregnancy had she been tested. Then, and only then, were the physicians able to put a name to the seemingly random symptoms she’d been experiencing for years. Multiple sclerosis.

“Let’s not donate anything just yet,” Troy said.

“Mom’s gone,” Megan repeated in the same emotionally charged tone. “We both have to accept it.”

Troy didn’t have any choice but to accept the fact that his wife was dead. He wanted to tell Megan that he was well aware Sandy was gone. He was the one who walked into an empty house every night, the one who slept alone in a big bed.

Ninety per cent of his free time had been spent at the nursing home with Sandy. Now he was bereft and at loose ends. He knew he’d never be the same. Like him, Megan was hurting and she needed to vent her grief, so he said nothing.

“I’ll help you pack everything up and I’ll put the boxes in the basement,” he murmured. “When you’re ready…when we both are, I’ll bring them upstairs again. Then, and only then, should we think about donating your mother’s things to charity. If we decide to do it, I’ll ask Pastor Flemming to suggest an agency. There might even be one at the church.” If not, he’d go to St. Vincent de Paul or the Salvation Army, both organizations Sandy had supported.

For a moment it looked as if Megan wanted to argue with him.

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