Home > The Summer That Made Us(6)

The Summer That Made Us(6)
Author: Robyn Carr

“Do you have any idea how much trouble Grandma is when someone puts an idea like—”

“Sit down, Mother,” Megan said softly. “The doctor said it’s very bad for my cells when you stand over me, talking down at me. It’s upsetting.”

“Oh,” Louise said, taking a seat. And instantly she picked up where she left off. “You can’t imagine how difficult and obstinate and tiresome Grandma is when she’s got some idea—”

“Sure I can,” Megan said. “I’ve heard her rant for years. What’s new?”

“What’s new is that now she wants to go to the lake!” Louise barked.

“Well, I invited her. Why don’t you bring her?” Meg asked this as though she had forgotten that Louise had not gone to the lake in almost twenty-seven years.

Louise’s lips thinned and she leaned stiffly back in the chair. Megan could tell she was grinding her teeth. “Just what are you trying to prove?” she asked very sternly.

Megan took a deep breath. Then she sighed. “Nothing, Mother. I just want to go back to the lake. I loved the lake...”

“The lake that tore our family apart? The lake that swallowed up your baby sister? The lake that—”

“The last place any of us loved each other?” Megan asked, voice escalating to match Louise’s.

They were silent for a long moment. “This is ridiculous,” Louise said, rising as if to leave Meg’s house. Or, more likely, rising so that Meg could call her back and apologize.

“No, this actually makes sense. I’ll tell you what’s ridiculous—that five years ago when John and I wanted to go to a lake up north for a vacation, we rented a house on a different lake so that your feelings wouldn’t be hurt...when in fact we have a wonderful lake house in the family! And what’s even more ridiculous is that no one ever questioned the sanity of that. That’s what’s crazy.”

“Well, Megan, I can see I’ll have no success in discussing this issue with you. I was trying to spare you, but you’re going to do what you’re going to do.”

Spare herself, she meant. Meg knew Louise had never tried to spare anyone anything in her life. Louise dished it out but she didn’t take it well.

“I have nothing further to say.”

Hah! A trap! Louise never ran out of arguments! “Fine. Good,” Meg said.

“If you’re going to go, you’re going to go.”

“I just hope I live long enough to go,” Megan said.

“You’ve been trying to hurt me with your impending death for four long years now, Meggie. And I don’t think I have any fight left in me,” Louise said.

“Mother, darling, you don’t have to fight. You just like to. I have to.”

“Oh, God, you never quit. You’ve become so mean-spirited.”

“And cranky. And foulmouthed, too. This cancer shit’s a bummer. But don’t worry, Mother. I’ll probably quit before you do.”

“I’m leaving. I can’t take any more.”

“Drive carefully, will you? That wine you had at bridge smells a lot like bourbon.”

Louise lifted her chin stoically. She headed for the door.

“Unreal,” Megan muttered as she wearily rose to follow Louise to the door. “You act like you’re afraid we’re going to finally find that goddamn body buried under the porch.”

Louise was brought up short with a gasp. Her skin took on an ashen pallor and she actually swooned slightly, leaning against the door. Then she slowly collected herself and left.

Chapter Three

Charley was able to accomplish a great deal in just a few days and was pretty confident that the decorator, Melissa, could finish what needed to be done in a few short weeks. Melissa could supervise the refurbishing of the wood floors, send in a chimney sweep, schedule the interior and exterior painting, stock the kitchen with small appliances, plates, glasses, pans and cutlery and buy new mattresses and porch furniture. She promised to text pictures before making purchases and Charley promised to make sure she was paid within a week of any purchases no matter how large or small.

And then the house would be like new. Oh, they would still need odds and ends—linens, comforters, rugs large and small. Melissa hoped to haunt some of the thrift shops and antique dealers to see if any side tables, a dining table and chairs and such could be added to make the place special, and Charley approved of that idea. The existing wood furniture, dressers, end tables, etc., looked like they’d be okay after some cleaning and polishing but Melissa thought she could do better with a little effort and not much money.

Just seeing the place after it had been cleared of trash and cleaned made Charley feel good about being there. It was a functional and cozy house—wide-open from living room to kitchen. She’d arrange a sofa, love seat and two large chairs in front of the fireplace, something rarely used during summer visits. A large area rug would have to be bought to cover the wood floors. The wood kitchen table that could seat six—and with extra leaves opened up to seat ten—sat behind where the sofa would be placed. Beyond that was a breakfast bar and work counter fronting the spacious kitchen. There was also an island with a vegetable sink.

Really, the kitchen needed to be gutted and remodeled with new cabinets, sink, countertop and updated work island, but for now the existing cabinets would be fine. More extensive work could be done later, when the house wasn’t in use.

Melissa promised to have the cabinets cleaned, wiped down with lemon oil and in good repair for now and do the same with the bathroom cabinets and countertops.

“Are you sure you can get everything done, Melissa? I promised my sister we’d be here by June.”

“Four weeks isn’t even mid-May,” Melissa said. “I work with some remarkable subcontractors.”

“The porch furniture, Melissa. Make it nice. When the weather is good, which is most of the time, the best place to be is on the porch. The one thing Meg said she wanted was to sit on the porch on one of those sunny summer mornings and look at the fishermen out on the lake.”

“It’ll be resort quality,” she said. Melissa pursed her lips for control and her eyes got a little wet. “You’re such a good sister.”

“She would do this and more for me,” Charley said. “Four chaise lounges, a couple of chairs with ottomans—wicker, maybe, I don’t know. A couple of simple side tables. It’ll all be moved to the boathouse for winter. And pick a good quality screen material—we don’t want the bugs in but we want to see out.”

“Absolutely.”

“I hope you can do this,” Charley said.

“It will be my priority. I don’t have any other big jobs right now and I have help. Let me clarify—okay to text you as often as necessary as long as it’s during business hours?”

“Certainly. And thank you.”

“And I’ll take a look at the boathouse, if you like. You said it once served as a guest room?”

“Go ahead,” Charley said. “I doubt we’ll have need of it. If we have more than five people at one time, I’ll faint. In fact, I think it will be me and Meg, her husband on weekends, maybe a visit from my two guys, my son and his father. Otherwise...I’m not betting on anyone.”

“But you want the house ready in case?”

“I want it like it used to be,” Charley said.

“Are you leaving now?” Melissa asked.

“In an hour or so. I’m just going to look around a little.”

“You must have had such a wonderful childhood here,” Melissa said.

“Mostly,” Charley said.

* * *

The summers were mostly wonderful, even that last one, right up to the end. That summer, when Charley was sixteen, would turn seventeen in late July and was headed for her senior year in high school, she fell in love. She was tall, lithe, pretty, smart and brazen and he was twenty-two. She’d had boyfriends before, hadn’t missed a winter formal, prom or homecoming dance yet, but she’d never been in love before. Not like this. And with all the summer romances and flings she and Hope and even Krista and Meg had had, for Charley this one was special and a little forbidden. Hot and heavy. His name was Mack and he was so handsome her knees buckled when she looked at him. He was a graduate of the University of Minnesota and headed for Harvard Law School. So, she fudged a little bit and said she was eighteen and had just finished her freshman year at Berkeley and was home visiting her family for the summer. She threatened Hope, Krista and Meg with dire consequences if they sold her out.

It was Mack’s first summer working at the lodge. His father was a rich attorney in Minneapolis and wouldn’t even consider letting Mack lay around all summer waiting to go to school back East. He liked to talk about work being a virtue. Mack figured the best way to work and play was a job at the lodge.

The girls used to sneak across the lake to the lodge on hot summer nights when some of the waiters and waitresses had parties after they got off work. Charley would’ve braved the wrath of Louise every night, but the workforce didn’t play every night. The lodge employed a lot of local kids but about a dozen were from out of town and for them there were a couple of small dormitories—cabins with bunk beds and chests. They didn’t dare party on the lodge premises; they’d get canned. They went around the bend to a cove that was just right, just private enough, for a lot of messing around. They’d have a fire, and most of them drank a few beers. Someone usually managed to pilfer some snacks. They’d sit around and tell jokes, stories and probably lies. There was a lot of sneaking off behind the trees or bushes; there was a lot of making out in plain sight.

Charley picked out Mack right off the bat that summer. He told her about himself, his important dad, his plans to be a kick-ass prosecutor and put away all the bad guys. She told him of her plans to be a broadcast newscaster. She let him get to first base, to second base; she went to second base on him and then she found herself in over her head...

   
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