Summer Street Secrets (The Hills of Burlington Book 3), страница 1
Summer Street Secrets
The Hills of Burlington
By Jacie Middlemann
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, incidents and events are either 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.
SUMMER STREET SECRETS - A HILLS OF BURLINGTON BOOK
Copyright © 2014 by Jacie Middlemann
Cover Art by Anna.
This is dedicated to my wonderful and loving Aunt Marty. Her smile and laughter...and her unconditional love filled all our lives with joy. She taught me to appreciate the little things...a good cup of coffee and toast with real butter. And she forever reminded me to value what was most important. Family…as she did always…
Casey kicked an empty pop can to the side with one foot and nudged a pile of paper and who knew what out of her way with the other. "I take it you bought this sight unseen." She didn't even pose it as a question. The statement was a given just as her cousin's purchase of this house would have been. They might tease her about collecting houses but this would be the one that she wouldn't have turned away from for any reason and at any cost.
"Pretty much," Mary looked back at both her cousins. They had come here alone this time without any of the rest of the other family members who had little by little returned and re-settled in Burlington. "Pete told me about it a couple of months ago," she glanced over her shoulder at Casey. "I told you about it then."
"I remember." At that moment Casey Kyle Modig didn't look anything like the major news network anchor she had been up until the last year. Anyone who would recognize her then wouldn't stand a chance of doing so now. Dressed in old jeans with an array of colorful patches and a sweater that had long ago seen better days, she pulled a garbage bag out from the bucket of cleaning stuff they'd brought with them.
"Is it this bad upstairs?" Carrie asked to the room at large.
Mary Lane, author of dozens of bestselling women's fiction novels shrugged her shoulders. "I have no earthly clue. I wanted to wait for the two of you to see it for the first time." As she spoke she pulled her work gloves out of her pocket. "There're some more gloves in the bucket along with everything else."
"This is almost worst than that place that Dave bought." Carrie wiped what she hoped was an empty spider web from her face.
"Nothing on this planet could be as bad as that," Casey agreed immediately shuddering as she thought of the run down house Mary's brother had purchased not long ago.
"I don't know," Mary took in the room, the only one they'd made it through so far. "Pete told me it was bad the further you got into it. Next time I think I'll ask him to specify just how bad."
Carrie McMuerty, with her divorce newly final had taken back her maiden name and felt all the better for it, moved towards a doorway at the back of the room stuffing trash into the trash-bag she carried as she went. "Why don't we explore the house a bit first before we decide where to focus our efforts. We can grab the most obvious garbage as we go through."
"Sounds good to me." Casey finished pulling on the thick gloves that reminded her of the ones her mother had worn to do dishes even after her father had finally broken down and gotten a dishwasher. "I still can't believe you bought this place." She flashed a quick smile at both her cousins but directed her thoughts to Mary. "When Pete told me you were trying to buy it I had a hard time believing you were buying another house period."
"Some people collect stamps..." Carrie began, laughing at Mary's blush.
"I know, I know." Mary picked up a huge pile of old newspapers and stuck them into her quickly filling garbage bag. "But this one I simply couldn't pass up. To think they came to Burlington and settled in this house almost as soon as they arrived."
"And if your research is right they lived here until Great-Grandma died."
Carrie shook her head in amazement. "Over fifty years in one place. That doesn't happen very often anymore."
"It's rare people stay together that long anymore." Casey turned quickly, regret lining her face. "Carrie, I didn't mean..."
"It's true, Casey, don't ever apologize for stating the truth," she sighed as she said it. They'd all been tiptoeing around her for weeks and worse, she'd been letting them. "I should have done it a long time ago." As if that somehow made it all right. It didn't. But the realization of it, the acceptance of it, made her feel better. And with her final divorce papers in hand she had decided that for the next little bit, it was going to be all about her. At least until she decided what to do next.
"Since we're on that topic," Mary broached the subject carefully. "Have you heard anything from Nick?"
Carrie thought about the man she'd been married to for almost half her life. If she’d had any hopes that her act of filing for a divorce would bring about some lost emotional attachment between the two of them she’d been sorely and quickly disappointed. Nick had treated the announcement from her with nothing more than a sense of irritation that she’d the audacity to mess up his schedule. There’d been no real personal reaction let alone anything that could even come close to being described as emotional. So instead of having a reconciliation and second honeymoon with the man she had once loved and promised a life time to she was now the former wife of the powerful Senator who could cause most to tremble in their shoes. Not her. Never her. And she wondered now, had wondered often, if that hadn't been part of their problem. She had stood up to him when no one else would. But not always. Not unless it was important to her. And the Good Lord knew that her view of important had slid downward over the years. Only recently had she been able to reevaluate and put things into a perspective that better suited her than it ever had the Senator's wife. Sighing she looked over to where both her cousins stood waiting. Patience and love personified. She wouldn't have made it through the last months without their constancy. They'd kept her busy and they'd kept her challenged. Though it embarrassed her to no end she answered them honestly.
"Not unless you count the press releases his office sent me the day the divorce was final. The one he planned on releasing and one that he wanted me to release."
Carrie looked at the cousin she hadn't always gotten along with, hadn't always understood. But in the recent months of sharing their mothers' childhood home they had come to better understand each other. "What do you think?"
"I think you wanted to tell him what he could do and where he could put his press release."
"Exactly." She anticipated the next question. "And no, though I dearly wanted to, I didn't."
"Too bad," murmured Mary under her breath just enough for Casey to hear. The smile they shared spoke far more than any words between them could.
They moved through the house, taking notes and avoiding walking through the muck.
"I don't understand how people can live like this let alone leave it behind." Carrie shook her head completely befuddled that anyone could live in this kind of mess that she was having a difficult time just walking through. She glanced over at her cousin wondering what beyond sentiment brought about her desire to own the old house. "Do you have any plans for it other than shoveling out all this nasty stuff?"
"I thought Dave's place was bad but it's beginning to look mild compared to this," Casey added. The change in subject was accepted and she didn't blame her cousin a bit. It had been a rough couple of months for her since she’d filed for her divorce. The entire situation had drawn them together in a way nothing else could have. Even in the midst of her hastily p
Mary looked around the room they stood in taking in the mess that it was now and in her mind more importantly what it could be once it was all cleared away. She had come to Burlington for very personal reasons. To reconnect with what had brought her such tremendous happiness in her childhood. She had never considered she would find a new life beyond that personal desire. But she had. And now it included finding out more about her great-grandparents. Especially her grandmother's parents on her mother's side. They had played a huge role in the lives of their own children, far more than she had ever realized. And now she stood in the house that had been their home for literally all their married lives. There wasn't the immediate connection she'd felt in the home that she lived in, her grandmother's home during her own childhood. Nor was there the connection with the Marshall Street house that her mother had grown up in. But there was a connection. There would be no way to bring this house back to what it had been unless her Aunt Charlie had any memories of the place to share with them. There was no way she was going to bring her here though until the place was cleaned up. She shook her head, she needed to stay in the here and now and not get too far ahead of herself.
She looked at her cousins, understood their concern. "I actually do have some thoughts on what to do with the place. But it has to work for you as well since we're all in this together." That got their attention. "We really need a place for the business side of all we're doing. We've got so much going on now that everything is flowing over into everything else at the Marshall Street house. It was okay in the beginning but now I just feel badly that Carrie has to live among all that. And I worry that one of these days Aunt Charlie's going to trip and fall over something and hurt herself. She might live in the Carriage House out back but she's in and out of the main house a lot during the day depending on what's going on."
Casey nodded, agreeing especially now that she'd moved out with her new husband and family and saw the situation from a different perspective. "She's right Carrie. I know it doesn't bother you but we really need actual offices. Now that Mallie is managing the rink with Beth she's been bringing home paperwork to work on and doing it in the kitchen at the main house because she and Aunt Charlie just don't have the room in the Carriage House out back. We've spread out all the businesses throughout most the first floor and that's just not fair to you."
"You know," Mary started, studying both her cousins knowing they weren't going to resolve anything in the next several minutes. "Let's leave this for later." She looked pointedly around the room they stood in which was the same as every other room in the house. "I think it's more important for us to sit down together and map out where we are," she paused, letting her own thoughts circle around and settle giving her cousins time to do the same. "And where we're going, or at least where we want to go with all we're involved in."
"Sounds good to me," Casey said as she moved cautiously over to the window that looked out into the huge yard out back. "But it's needs to be someplace where we're not going to get continuous interruptions if we want to get anything accomplished."
Carrie nodded in total agreement. "That counts out either of the houses since they seem to be Grand Central Station the minute we try to get uninterrupted time in either." She smiled, something that was becoming more frequent. "That's not a bad thing. I've gotten to enjoy seeing Mallie and Beth bound into a room with all the energy I used to have."
"There is that," Casey wondered absently at the cluster of stones in the far back corner of the yard but turned her attention back to the discussion at hand. "But Mary has a point. We've been lucky to keep things as organized as they've been without putting a lot of effort into it. I'm not certain we'll be that lucky going forward."
"You're right." Carrie ran her hand through her hair, recently cut just as she wanted not as decreed by her ex-husband. "How about the soda fountain?" she suggested referring to the small restaurant on the outskirts of the old downtown area they'd recently discovered and frequented often. The food was good and while often packed during the lunch and dinner hours the atmosphere was conducive to quiet conversations and shared meals most of the rest of the time.
"Sounds good to me." Casey turned to Mary who nodded. "Let's go then. I want to be home before the kids get there this afternoon." Her children from her recent marriage were every bit hers as if she'd labored at their birth.
The three women carefully and cautiously made their way back through the mess that littered the floor throughout Mary's new purchase. Carrie tried without success to control the shiver that ran up her back at the slight ruffling noise she heard only seconds before a quick movement near her feet had her stepping backwards and only barely holding on to her balance.
"Mary." She continued making her way to the front door even as she got her cousin's attention. "I would get an exterminator in here before any clean up is scheduled."
"Yes." Mary stepped even more carefully over a suspicious looking pile of shredded papers. She'd seen the same movement Carrie had. "I most certainly will." And she knew just who to call to find out who the best person for that would be. "I'll call Court on my way to the restaurant and see what he suggests."
Neither of the women walking through the front door with her noticed Carrie's sudden reaction to the mention of his name. At least that's what she told herself.
Mary pulled a small packet of papers from her overly large handbag. With a smile on her face she set them directly in front of Carrie.
"The papers transferring a third of the Marshall Street house into your name," Mary continued without pausing to forego the expected argument she could see building in her cousin's usually calm features. "We agreed that it would wait until after your divorce was final. It's final." And she couldn't think of anything more satisfying to her than that. "It was actually receiving these papers back from the lawyer that got me to thinking about that house and the Summer Street house...and well just everything. What to do with each that works best for all of us." She stopped, fiddled with the silverware she'd yet to use. "But if I'm really honest with you and myself, it's also a way to justify buying the place, at least in my mind." She shrugged slightly, a half smile on her face that was just a little bit wary, something her cousins rarely saw from her.
"If I remember correctly you bought the Marshall Street and Woodhaven house with no specific plan in mind for either," Casey raised her eyebrows as she spoke. "What makes this place different?"
Carrie listened to both as she fingered the envelope Mary had slid across the table to her. "Maybe," she began into the silence when it became apparent Mary had no clear cut answer to Casey's question. "Maybe it's because it doesn't have a connection to us like the others do." She picked up the envelope, ran her fingers along its smooth edges. The papers inside were important, what they meant much more so. Only in this moment was she able to admit to herself just how important they were. She looked at both of them, seeing Mary's uncertainty and Casey's questions as easily as if they were her own. "The Cedar Street house...our grandmother...our childhood. The Woodhaven house...my mother and father...and again our childhood, lots of good childhood memories for all of us there. The Marshall Street house...our mothers...their childhood and their childhood memories but still close enough to us for all that we heard about it most of our lives for it to really mean something." She paused in the act of ticking off items on her fingers with the point of the envelope she still held tight in her hand like a medal of honor. "This one has meaning and certainly has connections but none that are anything we've ever felt or touched. Our memories of all those directly connected to the house, all the great-aunts
"Maybe," Mary conceded quietly. Obviously still mulling over what she'd done.
"But that doesn't mean it's not important," Casey added into the conversation. "I think it's interesting that regardless of how many houses they bought and sold and sometimes rented, they never left that one." Among the many things Casey had learned about their Great-Grandmother and Grandfather was they had been frugal landowners in Burlington. "It was where they raised their children and even a few of their grandchildren. It may have been where Great-Grandmother died though I haven't been able to completely tie that down yet."
"You've been busy," Carrie commented as she carefully put the envelope into her purse. "Mary," she reached across the table to take her cousin's hand. "I'm not going to tell you that you shouldn't have because I already have..."
"And I told you what I thought about that."
"Yes. So let me at least tell you, thank you." She looked into her cousin's eyes, so much like her own. "It means more than I can begin to say." She looked over to Casey, included her in her words. "I couldn't have gotten through these last weeks, months for that matter, the way I have without either of you."
"Since you've put it that way let me say this just this once." Casey reached over to put her hand on top of Carrie's. "Your husband is a moron."
Carrie let out a shaky breath uncertain whether it was laughter or tears that threatened. "Ex-husband," she corrected. "But yes, you're absolutely right. He is."
"Okay," Casey cleared her throat. "Now that that little piece of unspoken information has been clarified, let's talk about what brought us here on this particular day." She stole a glance at both of her cousins, wondering how they would respond to her idea. "This is just a thought," she started with. Which she realized got both of their attention. The question she'd have to deal with later was whether she was that obvious or that predictable.