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Authors: Lori Copeland

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BOOK: A Perfect Love
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“Winslow is trying to find money in the church budget for new hymnals,” Edith said. “It's embarrassing when the tourists have to read over our shoulders to sing the hymns.”

“Money.” Olympia clucked softly. “Never enough when you need it, is there?”

Cleta glanced at Barbara as a question rose in her mind. Did Russell have enough money to move out? He kept his business affairs to himself, but even though he'd purchased a boat, he was bound to have a little something set by . . .

She bit her lip and buried a loose thread between the batting and the quilt top. Money was a touchy subject even in the closest of families, so perhaps she shouldn't mention finances to her daughter . . . unless the need arose.

As the quilt circle broke up, Barbara followed Cleta up the stairs and waited on the graveled parking lot while her mother locked the church door. She huddled in her jacket, breathing in the clean scent of the sea and wondering how it would feel to kiss her mother on the cheek and walk away toward a home of her own, where Russell would be waiting. She could walk in and kiss him in the living room if she wanted without anyone squawking, they could eat anything, anytime they liked . . .

On the other hand, it was nice to go home and not have to worry about dinner. Her mother would take care of everything.

They crossed the parking lot together, Cleta jabbering about something Vernie had said, Barbara only half listening. After entering the house, her mother dropped her keys on the kitchen counter and moved to the refrigerator to start supper.

Sighing wearily, Barbara climbed the stairs, then went to her room and stretched out on the bed. The afternoon had been tiring. She'd known the subject of babies would come up—it always did, 'cause women and children went together like love and marriage. She knew the other women were probably wondering why she and Russell hadn't had kids yet, but, fortunately, lots of young couples these days waited a while before having babies.

Trouble was, she hadn't wanted to wait. A honeymoon pregnancy would have been fine with her.

She closed her eyes as exhaustion seeped through her brain. She was tired of thinking about babies, tired of worrying about Russell's disappointment, tired of breathing in her mother's suffocating closeness.

She was tired of everything.

Chapter Three

n Friday morning, Buddy Franklin signed his name at the bottom of the application, then lowered the pen and stared at the scratchings on the page. References? He'd listed his sister and brother-in-law, whose address he'd been sharing for the last several months. He had also listed Vernie Bidderman, who owned the Mooseleuk Mercantile, and Floyd and Cleta Lansdown, owners of the Baskahegan Bed and Breakfast. He suspicioned that neither the Lansdowns nor Vernie thought much of him, but they would be too polite to sound off about his shortcomings to a virtual stranger from the bank.

He crinkled his nose as he stared at his neatly printed block lettering. The loan officer might think it odd that the only people qualified to provide a character reference for Buddy Franklin lived on Main Street, Heavenly Daze, but he couldn't do anything about his lack of connections. He had lived the life of a will-o'-the-wisp until his brief career in the Navy, and the Navy was the last outfit on earth that'd be willing to suggest that the Key Bank of Maine provide Buddy with nearly four hundred thousand dollars at 7 percent interest. He hadn't managed to save any of his Navy wages, but had spent his paycheck like a drunken sailor even when he was cold-stone sober. When he'd finally been discharged, he'd had nothing to show for his brief and unfortunate naval career except three new tattoos: Mother, Kiss My Biscuits, and Don't Take Bilge from Nobody. With his parents dead and the ancestral home in Ogunquit sold, he'd had no choice but to appeal to his sister. Dana had taken him in with one stipulation—as payment for his room and board, he had to promise to attend church. And he had, on several occasions.

Buddy made a face as he skimmed the rest of the loan application. He knew his prospects were so poor the amount in the rectangular box at the top of the form might as well have been a million dollars. But Kremstock Industries, the outfit that owned the Lobster Pot, wouldn't take less than four hundred grand for the place. As the only operational restaurant on Heavenly Daze, tourists packed the brick building from April through October as they gobbled down lobster, clam chowder, and the Lobster Pot's specialty, Heavenly Harbor Crab Cakes.

Ayuh, the place was profitable, but managing it had been more difficult than the owners imagined. Since none of them lived in the area, they'd had to rely on local people to run the place, and since all the Heavenly Daze folk had their own businesses, the Lobster Pot managers and staff had always commuted from Wells or Ogunquit. On those rare days when the rough weather kept the ferry from running, the Lobster Pot couldn't open, and a closed sign in the window created unhappy customers.

Last summer the folks at Kremstock had hoped to solve their problem by hiring Buddy to manage the restaurant, but in less than six weeks he had managed to annoy all of his cooks and servers. By Columbus Day, at the end of the tourist season, all six remaining employees tossed in their aprons, collected their wages, and beat a path out the door, telling Buddy they wouldn't be back come April.

Management, Buddy figured, wasn't his style . . . as long as it was someone else's restaurant. But if the place belonged to him, surely things would be different.

Satisfied that his loan papers were at least legible, Buddy folded the page and slid it into the preprinted envelope. The bigwigs at the Key Bank of Maine were about as likely to give him four hundred thousand dollars as they were to send him to the moon. This application was almost certainly a useless gesture, but it would earn him a few months grace in his sister's eyes. As long as Dana and Mike thought he was trying to be responsible, they'd stay off his back about getting a job and finding a place of his own.

Buddy closed his eyes as he licked the envelope. Dana and Mike would never understand him; they had been cut from different cloth. Ever since he was a kid, Buddy had known he was a loner. He didn't fit in anywhere,
and the only person on Heavenly Daze who seemed to understand that was Yakov Smith, the man who lived in the attic apartment and helped Mike run his business.

Yakov understood, Buddy suspicioned, because he was sort of a loner, too.

From the window of his bedroom on the third floor, Yakov leaned on the sill and watched as Buddy hunched inside his coat and walked west on Main Street. Butch, the Klackenbushes' bulldog, pranced at his side, eager to go out with a member of the family.

As Yakov studied the pair, he noticed the edge of a rectangular envelope protruding from Buddy's pocket, and he knew the envelope contained the loan application— indeed, the entire family knew, because Buddy had talked of nothing else for the last week. Ever since New Year's, when Mike sat Buddy down for a man-to-man and told him he needed to find some sort of fittin' work, Buddy had turned his occasional references to the Lobster Pot into a full-fledged campaign, going so far as to venture into Ogunquit and pick up a loan application at the Key Bank of Maine.

Just last night, as the four of them sat at dinner, Buddy announced that he had nearly finished filling out the forms. “I've listed several of your neighbors as references,” he said, looking at his sister with an uplifted brow. “I'm hoping that won't be a problem.”

Dana shrugged and passed the mashed potatoes. “I think everybody here likes you, Buddy. But maybe you should have listed some people who knew you from one of your other jobs.”

Buddy didn't respond to that comment, and Yakov knew why. Earlier, on a quiet afternoon when Yakov found Buddy waiting for the ferry, the young man had explained that he'd never held a job for longer than six months. “Wanderlust, that's what I've got,” he had said, squinting out at the horizon. “I don't know how long I'll be staying here, either. I think I was born under a wanderin' star.”

Yakov didn't know how long Buddy intended to remain on Heavenly Daze, but as long as Dana kept supplying roast beef and garlic mashed potatoes, he suspected that Buddy might find himself content to remain in one place.

“If you get the restaurant,” Mike asked, slicing his roast beef, “are you going to keep it pretty much as it is?”

Yakov smothered a smile as he accepted a basket of yeast rolls from his hostess. Earlier reports that Buddy was thinking of turning the renowned Lobster Pot into a taco stand had horrified the townspeople.

“Folks seem set on keeping it a lobster place,” Buddy answered, a lump of bread distending his cheek as he talked. “Whatever. But I was thinkin' of givin' it a name with more pizzazz.”

Dana picked up her fork. “That's a nice thought, Buddy. What would you call it?”

Buddy bit off another hunk of bread, chewed thoughtfully for a moment, then swallowed. “I dunno. I figure me 'n Russell Higgs can go into business together. He'll bring in the lobsters, and I'll cook 'em. And then we can call the place Lobsters R Us.”

Mike nearly choked on his dinner, and Yakov had to lower his gaze lest he laugh aloud. Fortunately, Dana was accustomed to her brother's wacky ideas. “I'm sure Russell wouldn't mind selling to you,” she said, her words punctuated by the clink of her silverware as she forked up a mouthful of mashed potatoes. “But he can't be your only supplier, Buddy. What will you do if Russell doesn't go out for a spell? Or his boat breaks down? Or what if he brings in more catch than you can sell? It's nice of you to think of Russell, but he's been a lobsterman for a long time. He may not want to become a partner in the restaurant business.”

Mike chortled a laugh. “'Specially one called Lobsters R—” He froze when his wife shot him a chilly glance.

“Don't give up, Buddy, even if the loan doesn't come through,” Dana said. “I know the owners won't want the restaurant to stand empty this summer. Perhaps you can get a job there anyway, waiting tables or cooking.”

Buddy made a face at that, and Yakov left the dinner table with a clearer picture of how things stood in the household. Dana desperately wanted her brother to succeed, but even she didn't seem to think he'd actually get a loan to buy the Lobster Pot. Mike gave lip service to Buddy's dreams only because he was in love with Buddy's sister, and Buddy seemed not to care terribly much about anything, particularly if it concerned hard work.

But now the young man was walking the loan application to the mailbox, even though Yakov knew the loan's approval would require a heaven-sent miracle. And he'd received no word that a miracle was forthcoming, or that Buddy had even prayed for one.

Lowering himself to one knee, Yakov rested his arm on his thigh and dipped his head to peer out the window. From here he had a good view of the southern end of the island, from the smooth southwestern shore to the rocky ridge at the east. Directly across the street he could see the stately Frenchman's Fairest, home of Olympia de Cuvier, the island's only direct descendant of Captain Jacques de Cuvier.

Yakov smiled when he spotted movement in an upstairs window. Caleb, the house's resident angel and butler, was cleaning windows in an unused bedroom. As Yakov studied the wrinkled face of his angel brother, he saw the lined mouth curve in a smile. Without being signaled, Caleb had felt Yakov's gaze, and now he broadened his grin and lifted his cleaning rag in a wave. Yakov waved back, delighted that his brother found joy in serving the newly widowed Olympia. But why wouldn't he? The angels loved all those the Father loved, and felt their deepest joy in obedient service.

Now Caleb was moving his lips, speaking in the tongue of angels. Yakov concentrated, blocking out the earthly sounds of the house around him, and heard his brother's voice.

“Is Buddy on his way to the post office, then?”

“Ayuh,” Yakov answered, in the tongue inaudible to all but angelic ears. “He has taken the loan application with him.”

Caleb's forehead creased with a frown. “Will they approve it?”

Yakov shrugged. “I do not understand how men decide these matters. But Mike says the bank requires collateral, good references, and a strong employment history. Buddy Franklin has none of those things.”

Caleb's head tilted slightly. “Has he asked the Father for help?”

“He does not know the Lord . . . at least, not yet. His head is filled with dreams, and his heart is heavy with loneliness.”

“Perhaps, in time, he will find the Way. I know you will help guide him.”

“I will do my best, but he does have free will.”

“We will pray, then, that the Lord's will be done. For he does not want any of them to perish.”

Yakov nodded in farewell as Caleb finished his cleaning, then moved away.

Rising from his crouched position, Yakov turned and surveyed his cozy attic room. He'd been living with the Klackenbushes ever since their arrival on the island three years ago. In obedience to the Lord's command, he had arrived on their doorstep and asked for room and board in exchange for help around the house, and Mike had been quick to accept the offer. The house had been run-down when the Klackenbushes moved in, and the newlyweds had neither the expertise nor the funds to complete a major restoration. But out of the generosity of their hearts they had given Yakov this attic room, and together the three of them had worked to repair and restore the house, establish the Kennebunk Kid Kare Center, and make a home in the community of Heavenly Daze.

Yakov had thought he had the easiest job of all the angels until last summer, when Maxwell “Buddy” Franklin came home to the State of Maine and begged his sister for a place to stay. Not wanting to oust Yakov, Dana turned the front half of the old carriage house into an apartment for Buddy. He lived alone in there, apparently content, emerging only for meals and an occasional trip to the mercantile for candy or comic books.

BOOK: A Perfect Love
13.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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