Sunset Inn – First Three Pages

1.

Center Lovell, Maine

August 1957

It was a short drive from her aunt and uncle’s marina to grandmother’s farmhouse. Elizabeth stepped out of the car and looked around. At least the scent of pine trees hadn’t changed. But, it was sad to see paint peeling off the Colonial house, and the adjacent two-story henhouse. Grandmother must have fallen on hard times after she sold Sunset Inn, her beachfront resort for rich city folk.

If grandmother’s mood had deteriorated as much as the property, Elizabeth was in for it all over again.

When she called Elizabeth, she sounded like her to the point self. “Heard you’re here for the summer before nursing school. Stop by, I’m home.”

Taken aback, Elizabeth muttered, “Yeah. Sure, grandma.”

But, why did grandmother want to see her?

Five years ago, she tried to run over her.

That summer in 1952, grandmother drove 13-year-old Elizabeth to a cleaning and dishwashing job at her uncle’s lake side lodge. One morning, grandmother ragged on her again. She was a lazy good for nothin’ kid—not finishing farmyard chores. Elizabeth had enough of her nit-picking. She asked, “Grandma, why don’t you like me?” Grandmother’s face turned red. She slammed the brakes, slapped and punched her. Elizabeth jumped out of the car and ran. Grandmother floored the gas pedal. She chased after her. Elizabeth made it to the lodge and  collapsed, crying on the kitchen floor.

What was she in for this time?

Elizabeth smoothed her long brown hair away from her face and set Cat-Eye sunglasses on top of her head. She braced herself and walked to the front door.

Grandmother—a little grayer, a little plumper—greeted her as if nothing had ever happened between them. “Now just look at you all grown up. It’s been a long time.”

No hug or handshake, grandmother turned and walked through the living room. Elizabeth followed. The dark musty room filled with overstuffed Victorian furniture and embroidered pillows was a stark contrast to the sunny day outside. A Hammond organ took up the far wall.

Good she didn’t have to sell it.  Elizabeth loved that old thing.

Grandmother’s voice trailed behind her. “I want you to know, sometimes when

people get old they do things they’re sorry for.”

Elizabeth paused mid-step. Was this an apology?  Or a justification for beating up on her? She cleared her throat. “Nice to see you too.”

Grandmother pulled up her flowered housedress to the knees. “Now, take a look at my legs. Tell me what you think.”

Elizabeth bent down and slid a hand over her swollen legs. The edema was obvious. “How long have they been like this?”

“A few months.” She pointed to The 1951 Family Physician book on the table.  “Says it’s the way my heart pumps.”

“Dad takes a water pill for blood pressure. Maybe you have the same thing. You really need to see a doctor.”

“I don’t want anyone to know. You find out for me. You’re going to be the nurse.”

Elizabeth scowled. So, this was what she was in for—a secretive medical consultation.  But it was a way to connect, and her grandmother certainly needed the help. She put her hand on grandmother’s shoulder. “Okay, I’ll see what I can find out.”

“Good! Now I’ve got more to say. I’ll make tea, and I baked those brownies you liked so much. Don’t know if you eat em’ since you’re a model. Karl sent me the picture of you posing on a billboard.”

Elizabeth followed grandmother into the kitchen. “Really? Dad keeps you up on the news?”

“Sit down. I’ll be right back.” She turned on the stove burner under the teakettle and disappeared into a small office off the dining room.

Elizabeth fiddled with a strand of hair. What was she up too now?

             Grandmother came back with a folded white lace handkerchief in her hand.

“Grandma! I remember that, it was in your jewelry box. You grabbed it from me once.”

“Now you’re older. I’m not going to be alive much longer, and I’m giving you—it’s your grandfather’s gold pocket watch. Don’t you tell the family.”  Grandmother put the watch into Elizabeth’s outstretched hand.

Elizabeth unwrapped it and put an attached note on the table. “It’s beautiful.” She ran a finger over the floral engraved case, opened the latch and stared at a sepia photo of a young woman. “Who is this?

“Humph…who knows. Your grandfather died and the hospital sent me his clothes bag, the watch was in it. Didn’t know why. I divorced him two years before.”  Grandmother picked up the note. “Look, just look what he wrote. I dedicated each solo performance to this woman. Can you imagine his last words a confession to me? So, I want you to find out who she is.”