“Sophie!!” She called up the stairs, juggling a coffee cup in one hand as she buttoned her blouse with the other. “Sophie! You’re going to be late for school!”
Sophie bounded down the stairs two at a time, and made a wordless beeline for the refrigerator.
“We’re out of eggs,” Mellie said over her shoulder. “Sorry, hun.”
She heard her daughter’s exasperated sigh, and watched as she rooted around in the refrigerator. Mellie cringed – she already knew there was nothing left but granola bars. She was in desperate need of a trip to the grocery store.
Sophie ran out the door, mumbling irritably as she went, and Mellie sank heavily into her chair. Things had been far from easy since Frank left, that much was true. Every morning, as she woke to an empty bed, a surly teenager, and bare kitchen cabinets, she had to remind herself it was for the best.
Frank always did have a wandering eye, even back when they first met in college. Mellie had recognized something deceitful in him even then, but if she was honest with herself, her feelings for him were ambivalent at best. She was young and naive, and it seemed that marriage was the next logical step. Mellie knew they were never the perfect couple, but she thought that they were happy enough in their arrangement. Frank was a good father to Sophie, and Mellie turned a blind eye to his occasional transgressions.
So while Melinda Mayberry was not at all surprised to find her husband in bed with another woman, she never expected him to vanish from their lives the way he did. It had been two years since Frank walked out on them, and the only contact she’d had with him had been through their divorce attorneys. Twenty-four months without so much as a phone call, or a card for Sophie’s birthday. For all Mellie knew, he was halfway around the world by now.
Mellie took her coffee to the porch and settled in on a weathered wicker chair. She had twenty minutes before she had to leave for the gallery, and she intended to use her time wisely. The screened-in porch, with it’s painted blue floor and abundance of natural light, was her favorite part of the little house she now called home. It wasn’t much, but it was hers, and that had to count for something.
Her coffee had gone cold by the time she got around to drinking it, but the cool liquid was refreshing on such a warm morning. Mellie browsed through the newspaper, a daily routine she clung to as the rest of the world dove further into their gadgets, getting the news on their cell phones and laptops. She checked her horoscope first, as she always did, and Sophie’s, too, before moving on to the obituaries and the classifieds.
Turning the page to the local news, a photograph in the lower corner caught her eye. It was a small photo, accompanied by a brief article and a title that read, “Historic Orchid Cliff Lodge Set to Re-Open.”
Mellie felt her jaw drop as she quickly read and re-read the article. Her eyes drifted again over the photograph, studying it closer this time. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The Orchid Cliff Lodge had been defunct for years, crumbling in disrepair, full of broken windows and graffiti. She’d seen it once, in an impulsive moment after the divorce, when nostalgia had gotten the better of her. She’d driven out to the place in search of some piece of her former self, but the sight of it had brought her to tears.
The building in the photograph looked nothing like the dilapidated ruins she found that autumn day, but she recognized it nonetheless. The building in the photograph was pristine, painstakingly restored to it’s former glory, contemporary in a way that only added to it’s historic charm. It was breathtaking.
The memories floated to the surface in waves, one after the other, sepia-toned snapshots of her past. Far from the hustle of everyday life, The Orchid Cliff Lodge was a peaceful retreat for the affluent. It had been a stretch for her middle-class family, but Mellie spent a full month there each and every summer from the time she was six years old until her seventeenth birthday. The Orchid Cliff Lodge was the site of her first kiss, the backdrop for her first romance. It was there that she held a paintbrush for the very first time, that she caught her first fish off the lodge’s wooden dock. It was at Orchid Cliff that she first met Enid, headstrong and impossibly sure of herself, even as a kid.
The thought of Enid snapped her back to reality. Mellie glanced at her watch and immediately jumped into action. She should have left for work ten minutes ago, and Enid would tear her apart if she was late again. But as Mellie hurried along, her latest painting tucked safely under her arm, she knew all would be forgotten once she told Enid about the Lodge.
If there was anyone who loved Orchid Cliff as much as she did, it was Enid.
Enid was waiting for her at the door, her arm protectively draped across her pregnant belly.
“You’re losing money by the second, Mel. Every second you make these buyers wait is another strike against you. And when you lose money, I lose money. Capiche?”
Mellie smiled apologetically. She and Enid had been friends for more than twenty years. Enid had been by her side through it all – through the childhood innocence, the teenage angst, and that first ill-fated young love. It was Enid who’d stood up as the maid of honor at her wedding to Frank, and it was Enid who dried her tears after the divorce. It was Enid who believed in her talent, who pushed her to follow her dream. And last year, it was Enid who co-signed the business loan for the Melenid Gallery of Art.
“I know, I know, I’m sorry I’m late, but – Enid! Did you read the paper this morning? The Orchid Cliff Lodge is re-opening!”
Enid stared at her, slack-jawed. “You can’t be serious!” Excitement filled her eyes. “You know this has to be him, right?”
Mellie stared at the ground in silence, and Enid shook her head in disbelief.
“Don’t tell me you’re going to Windenburg?” Enid gasped.
“I’m not going to Windenburg, Enid. We are.”
This is the first installment of my new Windenburg rotational story, The Orchid Cliff Chronicles. You can read more about my plans for the story HERE!