Home > Sunrise on Half Moon Bay

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay
Author: Robyn Carr

Chapter One

Adele Descaro’s mother passed away right before Christmas. While she missed her mother, Adele was relieved to know she was no longer held prisoner in a body that refused to serve her. It had been four years since the stroke that left her crippled, nonverbal and able to communicate only with her eyes and facial expressions. Adele had been her primary caretaker for those four years and now, with Elaine at rest, she could get back to her own life. If she could remember what it was.

She was thirty-two and had actually spent the last eight years mostly as a caretaker. Mostly because Adele had also helped to care for her disabled father for four years. Her mother had done much of the work and then, within just a few months of his death, she had suffered her debilitating stroke. Devastated by this cruel turn of events, Adele resigned from the part-time job she’d taken as a bookkeeper at a local inn and dedicated herself to Elaine’s care full-time. There had been help from a visiting nursing service and from Justine, her much older sister. Justine was, in fact, twenty years older, now fifty-two.

Adele was happy she had made her mother’s care her priority, but was aware that in doing so, she had allowed herself to hide from her own life, to put off her own growth and keep her dreams and desires just out of reach. Now her opportunity was at hand. She lived in the comfort of the home she’d grown up in, had friends in her little town and the time to pursue whatever her heart desired.

Justine, a successful corporate attorney in Silicon Valley and the mother of two teenage girls, hadn’t been able to pitch in much time so she contributed to the cost of Elaine’s care and provided a modest income for Adele. She had made it a point to stay with Elaine every other Sunday so Adele could have at least a little freedom.

The truth was that for the past four years, or actually eight if you really thought about it, Adele had been fantasizing about how she would reinvent herself when the time came. Now that it was here, in the cold rainy months of a typical Pacific winter, she realized she had yet to come up with a plan.

Adele had left her graduate studies in English Literature at Berkeley to return home when her father was released from the hospital. “To help out,” she told her mother. Her father, Lenny, had been a maintenance supervisor for the Half Moon Bay school district and had taken a bad fall while trying to fix a heating vent in the ceiling of an auditorium. He was in a body cast for months, had several spinal surgeries and spent years either in traction or a wheelchair. But the worst of it was his pain, and he became dependent on powerful pain medications.

Adele’s mother needed her help, that was true. But she might still have continued her graduate studies. But Adele had another problem. She fell in love and got pregnant—accidentally. The father of her baby didn’t want the child, so in addition to her pregnancy, she suffered a broken heart. She’d intended to raise the child on her own but she’d suffered complications; her baby was stillborn and her already broken heart was completely shattered. The safety of her home was her refuge, even with her disabled father’s condition casting a pall over life there.

Then, as if to drive home the fact that she was not quite ready to get on with her life, her mother had her stroke.

And now, here she was, still with no plan whatsoever. She gazed out the kitchen window. It was early March in Half Moon Bay, and fog sat on the beach every day until noon. It was like living in a heavy cloud. Adele had no motivation whatsoever. She found herself eating a cardboard container of lentil soup from the deli while standing over the kitchen sink, alone. She was wearing a lavender chenille robe and had slopped some soup on the front. She was not ready for bed early; she hadn’t bothered to get dressed today. She could have spent the day reading great literature or better still, drafting a life plan. Instead, she’d watched a full day of M*A*S*H reruns while lying on the couch.

She’d been sleeping on the couch for months. She and the couch were as one. She had often slept there in her mother’s final days so she could hear her in the night. Adele’s bedroom had been little more than a changing room.

The doorbell rang, and she looked down at the mess on her robe. “Great,” she said. She took another spoonful of soup, then went to the door. She peeped out. It was Jake Bronski, probably her closest friend. He held up a white bag so she could see he brought something for her. She opened the door.

“Hi, Jake. Sorry, but I’m just on my way out...”

“Right,” he said, pushing his way in. “You were invited to a pajama party, I suppose?”

“Yes, as it happens,” she said meekly.

“Well, you look stunning, as usual. Why don’t you slip into something a little less comfortable while I set the table.”

“I will if you promise not to clean the kitchen,” she said. “It annoys me when you do that.”

“Someone has to do it,” he said. Then he smiled at her. “Go on, then.”

“All right, but eventually this has to stop,” she said, even though she had no desire for it to stop.

She went to her room, the master bedroom. It had been her parents’ room until they each got sick and they converted the only bedroom downstairs, which had an adjoining bath, into a sick room. They were fortunate that her father had remodeled the house a bit before his accident since these old homes didn’t usually have large spacious main floor bathrooms.

Maybe that was why she had trouble sleeping in her bed—it was her parents’ when they had been healthy and happy.

She stripped and got into the shower. Jake deserved that much. She blew out her curly hair and rummaged around for a pair of clean jeans. Of course she came from that ilk of women who gained rather than lost weight in their grief. How was it you could barely swallow any food and yet gain weight? She sighed as she squeezed into the uncomfortably tight jeans and added some lip gloss.

When she returned, she found the kitchen had been cleaned and the table was set for two with place mats, good dishes, wine and water glasses. Jake had even put his offerings in serving dishes—tri-tip on a platter, Caesar salad, green beans sprinkled with pieces of bacon. On the counter were a couple of generous slices of cheesecake with berries on top. A bottle of wine had been opened and was breathing.

“Your mother isn’t coming?” Adele asked.

“Dancing with the Stars is on,” he said, by way of explanation. “What did you do today?”

“Not too much,” she said.

He held her chair for her. “Addie, have you given any thought to talking to someone? A professional? I think you might be depressed.”

“You think someone can talk me out of it?” she asked facetiously.

“What if you need medication?”

“Jake, my mother just died!”

“I realize that,” he said. “But for the last few years we talked about the things you wanted to do when you weren’t tied down anymore.”

“That’s true, but I didn’t want her to die! And I think my grief is normal, under these circumstances.”

“I couldn’t agree more, but you’re turning into a shut-in. You are free to live for yourself. You can finally get together with friends, get out, do things.”

“Enjoy this wet, cold weather, you mean? Maybe when the sun comes out, I’ll feel more motivated.”

“You had a long list of things you were going to do. I can’t even remember everything...”

She remembered. “I was going to remodel or at least give this house a face-lift so I could put it on the market, find myself a chic little apartment with a view, finish my graduate studies, date Bradley Cooper—”

He smiled. “I can help with the house,” he said. “Anything I can’t do, I can find you the right person. Have you seen Justine lately?”

“I don’t see too much of her now that I don’t need her to help with Mom,” Adele said. “She brought the girls down a couple of times after Christmas.”

“She should do better than that,” Jake said, frowning.

“I could just as easily go to San Jose and see her. She’s not the only one in this relationship.”

“I don’t think she realizes how much you need her,” he said.

“Well, we’re not close. We’re family. We’d never be friends if we weren’t family. We’re nothing alike.”

“Lots of siblings say that about each other. I’m not close to Marty. If he weren’t in constant need of money, I’d never hear from him.”

The two of them did have that in common, Adele thought, but for very different reasons. Marty, short for Martin, was Jake’s younger brother. He’d been twice married, had three kids from those two wives, presently had a girlfriend he was living with, and was not doing very well at supporting his extended family.

For Adele and Justine, the twenty-year age difference was just the beginning. They had never really lived in the same house. Justine was in college when Adele was born. Elaine had been in her forties when surprised by a second pregnancy. Then, probably because of her age and experience, Elaine made Adele the center of her universe in a way Justine had never been. Adele had been dreadfully spoiled, her parents doting on her every moment.

It wasn’t as though Justine had been pushed to one side, but she certainly didn’t get as much attention. Many times Justine had told Adele the story of her asking their mother to make her wedding gown, Elaine having been a gifted seamstress. But, according to Justine, Elaine had said, “How could I find the time? I have a small child!” When Justine pointed out that the small child was now in school, Elaine had said, “But I have myself and Adele to get ready for the wedding!” So how could she find time to make a complicated gown for the bride?

It had ever been thus as far as Justine could see. Adele was the chosen one and Justine was expected to understand, step aside and worship her darling baby sister. Justine’s great accomplishments, and there were many, were taken in stride while Adele’s merest babble was praised to the skies. Justine used to claim, “If Adele put a turd in the punch bowl, Mother would say, ‘Look what Addie made! Isn’t she brilliant?’”

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