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Authors: Erika Marks

It Comes In Waves

BOOK: It Comes In Waves
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The Guest House

The Guest House
is a sweet breath of a Cape Cod summer, redolent with the scents of salt air, old houses, and the burning wood of a beach bonfire. Erika Marks creates an intoxicating blend of love, lost and found, and confronting the ghosts that lurk in our pasts. I highly recommend this beautiful story of growing up, growing older, building up walls, and knocking them down.”

—Karen White,
New York Times
bestselling author of
A Long Time Gone

“A deftly woven tapestry of love, loss, and family loyalties. Erika Marks's modern-day
Romeo and Juliet
is pitch-perfect.”

—Wendy Wax, author of
While We Were Watching Downton Abbey

“A satisfying read that evokes the leisurely warmth of long summer days and true connection.”

––Kirkus Reviews

“The plot is heartwarming and engaging, stirring up a depth of emotion that makes this novel the perfect summer read.”

––RT Book Reviews

The Mermaid Collector

“An elegant and enchanting story about rescuing ourselves by saving each other, and a beautiful reminder of the magic and mystery we hold in our hearts.”

—Eleanor Brown,
New York Times
bestselling author of
The Weird Sisters

“Marks skillfully navigates a course that wrecks most novels: recounting two stories—one historical, one modern—that are equally moving and compelling.”

RT Book Reviews

The Mermaid Collector
had me immediately transported to the windswept cove at Cradle Harbor, feeling the mist on my face and the sand under my feet—and looking for mermaids at every turn.”

—Sarah Jio, author of
The Violets of March
The Bungalow

Little Gale Gumbo

“Spicy, delicious, and filled with surprises,
Little Gale Gumbo
is a wonderful stew, a debut novel that will fill you with joy. Put it on your reading menu and enjoy!”

—Adriana Trigiani,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Don't Sing at the Table

“A debut like this doesn't come along often—this is women's fiction to be savored . . . a winner.”

—Library Journal
(starred review)

“Built on a roux of charm, intrigue, and family secrets, Erika Marks delivers a savory blend of romance and suspense, bringing New Orleans to Maine in a delectable debut novel.”

—Sally Koslow, author of
With Friends Like These

“Seamlessly shifting in time to reveal the layers of a mystery, this is a poignant story of an unforgettable family bound by secrets, fierce love, and a dash of voodoo. . . . Erika Marks is a shining new talent, and she has written a novel full of heart and grace.”

—Rae Meadows, author of
Mothers & Daughters

“I loved this novel like crazy. With its irresistible settings—from New Orleans to an island off the coast of Maine—unforgettable characters, and heartfelt exploration of love, family, and secrets, [this] is one of my favorite novels of the year.”

—Melissa Senate, author of
The Love Goddess' Cooking School

“This story is simply sublime. . . . The story itself was gorgeous. The characters are complex and unique, and the sacrifices each one made for the other were heartbreaking.”

—Fresh Fiction

“Dahlia and Josie are rich, complex characters. . . . The plot pulls the reader right along, trying to figure out what really happened between the two men, as well as what might still happen for the sisters and their love interests . . . recommended.”

—Devourer of Books

Little Gale Gumbo
is written in the spirit of Adriana Trigiani's bighearted family sagas. . . . The relationships are complex, substantial, fraught with complications and uneasy answers, but ultimately satisfying. . . . While food plays a central role in this novel, in the end the strength of the story is in how it portrays the healing love between broken hearts, the power of that love to heal in unexpected ways.”

—Reader Unboxed

Written by today's freshest new talents and selected by New American Library, NAL Accent novels touch on subjects close to a woman's heart, from friendship to family to finding our place in the world. The Conversation Guides included in each book are intended to enrich the individual reading experience, as well as encourage us to explore these topics together—because books, and life, are meant for sharing.

Visit us online at

Also by Erika Marks

Little Gale Gumbo

The Mermaid Collector

The Guest House

NAL Accent

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

A Penguin Random House Company

First published by NAL Accent, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

First Printing, July 2014

Copyright © Erika Marks, 2014

Conversation Guide copyright © Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 2014

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.



Marks, Erika.

It comes in waves/Erika Marks.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-1-101-61502-7

1. Middle-aged women—Fiction. 2. Widows—Fiction. 3. Female friendship—Fiction. 4. Folly Beach (SC)—Fiction. 5. Domestic fiction. I. Title.

PS3613.A754525I83 2014

813'.6—dc23 2014005365


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


For Ian, Evie, and Murray
Our story will always be my favorite.


Praise for the novels of Erika Marks

Also by Erika Marks

Title Page





Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30



About the Author

Conversation Guide

October 18, 1989

Dear Foster,

Right now my brain may be stuck in this library studying the most boring textbook ever written but my heart is with you, up on our boards and about to launch into the perfect wave. I miss you something crazy.

My roommate, Courtney, thinks I made you up because she's of the opinion that there aren't any guys our age who would be okay with a girl who surfs, but she won't even go to the bathroom without lipstick, so I'm not sure she's the best judge about what guys do or don't like. Either way, send me a picture of your gorgeous face—or write me—so I can put this to rest already.

I'm counting the days until Friday. Are the waves still good? Do you think we could get some more of those crab bites with the peachy-colored sauce? I can't stop thinking about those things. (Or you.)

Oh, tell your mom that I looked up Frieda Zamba like she suggested and WOW! She's amazing! Do you suppose she'd ever show up for the Folly Classic? I would die to meet her! Did you know she was the youngest surfing champion ever? Isn't that incredible??? Maybe they'll be saying that about me one day, huh?

Okay, enough daydreaming. I have to get back to back to the zzzzz. . . .

(Sorry. I glanced over at my textbook and immediately nodded off. Ha.)

Say hi to Shep and Jill for me. Did I tell you already that I miss you? I did? Oh well, I'll say it again. Just in case you missed it the first time.




And I can't believe how much I love being your,



here was a time when Claire Patton looked forward to storms. The kind of crackling skies and wild winds that would send most girls under their covers; those were her very favorites. Because the bigger the storm, the bigger the swells: waves that would quiet those sanctimonious surfers who came from Malibu or Oahu and scoffed at her little Folly Beach tubes. The kind of waves that could hush the world, that reminded her why the ocean was always her master and never her friend.

But today, as she studied the darkening sky from the deck of the town house she shared with her teenage daughter, all that Claire felt was panic. How long did a child have to be missing before a mother could call the police? Hours? Days? Claire should know these things—why didn't she know these things? The minute she found the texts on Lizzie's phone, she should have made it her mission to know how long. A mother could never have enough information. That was going to be Claire's excuse should the truth of her snooping ever come to light: An informed parent was a smart parent. She wouldn't feel guilty for breaking her daughter's trust. After all, Claire paid for the phone and the monthly bill. Lizzie should have known better than to store top-secret escape plans there. Claire had been a far more clever love-struck teenager.

Up until four months ago, Colin Jefferson had been “that boy” Lizzie had known since kindergarten, a squinting, gum-snapping, freckle-faced kid whose upper lip was permanently stained with a red Gatorade mustache. His mother, Deborah, and Claire had been close friends once, eager to coordinate after-school playdates in each other's backyard while they sipped cheap red wine and waited for their husbands to come home from the college. Now Colin was the center of her daughter's universe. No, he
Lizzie's universe: a lanky, sullen galaxy of reckless stars that her daughter was hurtling herself into like a rocket. The irony stung Claire hourly; the many times she had pressed to bring them together as children, now all her efforts were in keeping them apart.

Two weeks ago putting away laundry, Claire had found a nearly drained bottle of vodka in the back of Lizzie's drawer and sat down with it on the edge of her daughter's bed, staring at the frosted glass, as if sure it, or she, might burst into flames, but the only thing she'd burst into was tears. When she'd confronted Lizzie about the liquor that night, her daughter had insisted she was merely keeping it for a friend and promptly poured it down the drain as proof.

Some proof. Everything had snowballed after that. Tests had been failed, curfews broken. The stench of secrets clung to everything in the house like the smell of old smoke. Claire had slept poorly, waking at every creak, sure it was Lizzie slipping out into the night like something small and unprepared, a newly hatched butterfly with damp wings. Then today Lizzie had skipped last period—English class. They were reading
Pride and Prejudice
. Lizzie loved
Pride and Prejudice
! And now, at five fifteen, her daughter was still not home, and the plot that Claire had uncovered two days earlier galloped through her thoughts. Grand plans had been made for flight. From what Claire could glean as she'd scrolled madly through Lizzie's text messages, Colin had a friend with an empty RV in Arizona that would be theirs for the taking—and parking—wherever they wished. All they had to do was find a way out there.

In the two days since uncovering their plan, Claire had monitored her daughter like a documentarian, gauging Lizzie's every gesture, every expression, every word. What else could she do? Confessing that she'd snooped was unthinkable. Claire hadn't even admitted the news to Nick, knowing exactly what her ex-husband would say: Their daughter was just showing a bit of independence, pushing boundaries; what could be more normal? His calm would only unravel Claire more. After all, he wasn't the one who'd fled college at eighteen and moved to Folly Beach to surf with the love of his life.

Claire knew better than anyone that the teenage heart—and its power of persuasion—wasn't to be underestimated.

Yet here she was, losing her beloved child to the pull of a boy's moon, and as ill-equipped to fight the gravity of young love as her own parents had been to stop her from falling into the orbit of Foster King.

Thunder popped and growled; Claire watched the sky for streaks of lightning, her pulse as charged as the air. She bunched her blond hair into a messy ponytail and snapped an elastic band around it. Her work clothes pinched; she wanted to change but didn't dare leave her post. She'd taken off her shoes, and the cold tiles offered some relief to her aching heels as she rubbed her toes into the grout. She held up her smartphone to check the time. Five twenty-one. Claire would give Lizzie until six. At six Claire would call the police and report her daughter missing, or kidnapped, whatever designation turned the wheels faster.

She could call Deborah Jefferson.

And say what?

That Deborah's sixteen-year-old son was plotting to take Lizzie to Arizona to live out their lives in a borrowed RV in a mall parking lot?

Or maybe the truth: that she, Claire, had good reason to believe that making poor choices in love was an inherited trait, as genetically predisposed as eye color or fingernail shape, and that Claire had clearly passed down that curse to her daughter?

Her cell rang out, shattering the silence. Claire snapped her phone off the counter, so sure it was Lizzie that she didn't even look at the caller before she gasped into the phone: “Zee?”

A man answered, “Can I speak with Claire Patton?”

A telemarketer. She could just tell by the cheery tone of his voice. “This is Claire.”

“Claire, my name's Adam Williams. I'm from ESPN, the sports network—”

She cut him off. “I know what ESPN is. I appreciate the call, but I already have cable and I'm not interested in any more channels—”

“No, no. This isn't a sales call,” the man insisted with a laugh. “I'm a series producer at the network. Are you familiar with the show
To the Extreme
, about pioneering women in sports?”

The sound of a car nearing and slowing sailed through the opened slider; Claire rushed back to the deck and looked down, anticipation fisting around her heart a second time, only to see the mailman's boxy truck sputter past the unit.

She exhaled; the fist uncurled.

“Claire? Hello? Are you still there?”

It was a prank call. It had to be. One of her students had obviously ferreted out her ancient past online and was having fun, pulling her leg. “Come on, who is this
?” she said. “Is this Mike? Michael Young, this isn't funny. I need to keep the line clear for my dau—”

“Claire, this isn't a joke.” The man's voice deepened. “We're filming an episode on women surfers in Folly Beach and your name was brought up to our production team. We'd really like to interview you.”

“Me?” She blinked out at the street, incredulous. “But—I haven't been on a board in years.”

“That's fine,” he assured her. “This would be more of a retrospective. A kind of where-are-they-now thing. What we'd like is to film you where you got your start in Folly, have you talk a bit about the scene then, how it was for women surfing in those days, why you chose not to join the circuit—that sort of stuff. We're really excited about it and we'd love to have you on board . . . so to speak.”

Claire walked slowly down the deck, trying to wedge this strange new thought between the crushing layers of worry she was stacking for Lizzie. Go back to Folly? It was unimaginable to her. She hadn't been to Folly since Foster and Jill had turned everything upside down seventeen years ago. Not even for Foster's funeral. How could she possibly go back for something as trivial as a television show?

“No,” she said firmly. “I'm flattered, I really am, but I can't.”

“I promise you won't even have to get in the water if you don't want to.”

“No, it's not that. I have a daughter. She's fifteen—”

“So bring her with you. We'll gladly pay for her ticket too if that's what it takes to get you involved. I'm sure she'd be thrilled to see where her mom got her big start.”

“My daughter doesn't really know about all that. . . .”

“Then what better way to show her?”

Claire frowned, her patience thinning. He had an answer for everything, this guy.

“You don't have to decide right now,” Williams said. “Just think about it. We'll compensate you for your time as well as pay for all expenses. It would just be for a few days. If you give me your e-mail, I can forward a contract for you to look over.”

Wait—were those sirens? Claire scanned the street as she recited her e-mail address, barely listening as Adam Williams read it back to her to confirm. What difference did it make? She just wanted him off the phone, wanted the line clear for Lizzie to get through. Maybe it wasn't a prank call, but it was certainly a laughable proposition.

“Great,” he said. “So we'll be in touch, all right?”

Claire gasped, but it wasn't in response to him. Through the shimmering curtain of aspens that trimmed her deck, she glimpsed Colin Jefferson's black Mustang crawl up the hill, the car stopping short of what he no doubt thought was the boundary of visibility, but Claire saw it. Then she saw her daughter climb out from the passenger seat, look around, and wave him off. Claire hung up and rushed to the front door, relief obscuring her fury and filling her lungs like a balloon.

When Lizzie reached the walk, she lifted her head and met Claire's waiting eyes in the doorway. Claire stilled, frozen with the agony of motherly duplicity. She knew the importance of this moment, the line she had to draw in the parental quicksand she was in danger of sinking in or forever lose her daughter's respect, yet all she wanted to do was throw her arms around Lizzie as if her daughter had arrived in one of the
's lifeboats, to hold her the way she used to when Lizzie woke from a bad dream or with a fever, like the time Claire had rocked her under the shower's steam when Lizzie was eleven months old and miserable with a cold, her tiny, wet spine shuddering with coughs.

Claire's heart won out. “You came home.”

“Of course I came home,” Lizzie said as she tromped up the stairs, wrinkling her forehead and nose in tandem the way only teenagers knew how to do. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

Claire blinked. “Like what?”

“Like you weren't sure I would.” Lizzie scooted around Claire in the doorway as if she were a lazy summer fly who could be easily swatted. When her daughter continued her march through the apartment, heading for the stairs to her bedroom, Claire felt a spark of frustration and she seized it.

“I called you three times, Zee.”

“I had my ringer off. Sorry.” Lizzie climbed higher and Claire felt herself shrinking. She wished she'd never taken off her shoes. It seemed inherently impossible to be a parent in bare feet.

“How did you get home?” Claire demanded.

“Moira gave me a ride.”

Claire's heart shrank with disappointment, then swelled with hurt. To be lied to as a parent was one thing; to be insulted with a bad lie was another entirely. For weeks, her daughter had been careful with her alibis. This was brazenly sloppy. Lazy and fearless, the way someone gets who is about to leave a marriage or take a new job.

Didn't Lizzie know who she was dealing with? Claire and Foster's plan had been months in the making, crafted as cleverly as a historic heist: da Vincis taken from the Louvre, or millions from a Swiss bank. Her daughter would have to do better than that.

“He's one strike away from being expelled, Zee. Just one.”

Almost to the top, Lizzie stopped and turned slowly. The unspoken threat passed between them; Claire watched her daughter's eyes flash with understanding. Such was the tenuous rope bridge of teenage daring. Halfway out, would it still hold?

“You can't say anything, Mom.

Claire folded her arms, feeling taller now. “I will if I have to.”

Lizzie just stared at her. Then, still silent, her daughter squared her shoulders, turned forward, and took the final step to the second floor. In the next minute, her bedroom door slammed. Claire's heart raced, panic sizzling through her all over again.

Memories swirled: a tiny, indignant Lizzie in her room, filling a plastic shopping bag with stuffed animals and toys, announcing she was running away and moving to the library where she could sleep on the giant ladybug floor pillows and cook her meals in the plastic play kitchen. Claire and Nick had chuckled; Lizzie had fallen asleep ten minutes after her tantrum, the bag still clutched in her little hand.

Why had she, Claire, not appreciated how lucky she was then, how easy it was to parent someone so small? You could render doorknobs unusable with plastic covers, bolt cabinets with childproof locks. All you had to do to make a house safe was ensure that medicine caps were screwed on tightly and cleaning products stowed out of reach.

But how did you protect a fifteen-year-old from the dangers inside her heart?

•   •   •

ight crawled across the sky, leaving a dusting of stars in its wake. At two a.m., Claire woke with a thumping in her chest, not sure if she'd heard the clap of a closed door or dreamed it. She threw back the sheets and slipped out into the hall, chastising herself with every step, even as her pulse raced, slowing only when she cracked the door enough to see the lump of her daughter's sleeping form outlined against the blue light of a nearly full moon.

Sinking back into bed, Claire couldn't quiet her thoughts. The standoff she and Lizzie had endured played in her mind, then images of Lizzie alone and preparing dinner in a tiny RV kitchen (not much bigger or more real than the library's plastic version!) in a huge, barren parking lot, pitch-black except for the flickering bulb of a single light pole, waiting for Colin to come back.

BOOK: It Comes In Waves
6.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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