Chapter One (excerpt, Goshen Cove)
On any other November afternoon, Lucy Weldin would not have invited Mary Shepard in. Lucy did not consider herself superstitious. She didn’t believe in ghosts. But it was the thirty-second anniversary of Alice’s birth and when Lucy opened the door to find a young woman waiting at the bottom of the kitchen steps, it occurred to her that a providential hand might be at work. Besides, the sun was low in an ash-colored sky; she could not turn the girl away.
Not that the young woman looked anything like her daughter. There had been no shock of recognition when Lucy saw her standing on that patch of hard-packed dirt, her hands behind her back and her chin up. She was dark-haired; Alice had been fair. Alice was tall and slender; this girl was shorter and fuller in the face and figure. But she was young, perhaps a little older than Alice was when Alice died, taken at sixteen by a fever so sudden by the time her parents grasped its danger she was gone.
At first, Lucy thought the girl might be an acquaintance whose name and face she had forgotten, someone recently met at church or a neighbor’s house and for a moment she was painfully aware of the ragged state of the wooden stairs, untended for over a year although she had told Henry Robinson more times than she could count to fix them. But then the girl gave her name and said she was new to the place and in need of work.
When Mary Shepard’s knock came, Lucy was in the kitchen considering what to fix Danny for his supper. She hadn’t lit the lamp, close behind her on the room’s knife-scarred table; the murky atmosphere fit her mood. So did the sour smell of coffee drifting from a pot she’d left simmering too long; it never crossed her mind to pour it away. How many times Isaiah had reminded her: never discard anything that might have its use. Never take your blessings for granted or one day those blessings will be gone.
And now Isaiah was gone, sixteen months. They were alone, she and Danny, adrift on a small rudderless vessel without a captain.
If Isaiah were alive today, he would have placed a vase of hothouse flowers by Alice’s photograph, a bouquet of her favorites, sweet peas and carnations, a birthday remembrance. The photograph was there now, on the mantel in the parlor, the only room in that small, spare farmhouse that reminded Lucy of the New London home she’d reluctantly left. “Never Forgotten” the carved frame read, the words entwined with ivy. But there were no flowers for Alice this day nor had there been the birthday before, the first that Lucy weathered without her husband.
In the two days he’d been home from Yale College, Danny had eaten little, barely more than some chunks of bread, an apple or two. He’d appeared without warning, earlier than expected, more than a week before Thanksgiving. If he’d sent a telegram, Lucy would have met him at the Waterford depot, walked with him the two miles home, holding tight to his arm.
The first sight of Danny’s face, so finely shaped, now gaunt, had shocked her, and when he pulled off his gloves, she’d noticed a tremor in his hands. He wouldn’t look her in the eye when she’d asked him what was wrong. He’d insisted he was fine. I’m done with my examinations, he’d said, so why not come home. He’s studying too hard, Lucy imagined. He misses his father, she knew.
If Isaiah were alive, he would have drawn an explanation from their son.
Yesterday evening, after a strained and wordless supper—Lucy managing a few bites, Danny fidgeting and drumming his fingers—he’d stalked to his room, locked the door. She’d heard him in the small hours of the night and for most of that day; the boards of the old house creaked with his pacing. But he was quiet now; Lucy hoped he was asleep.