They’d eaten surprisingly well, Margo thought, for people who were worried. And that they were worried was not in doubt.
Barnaby Jenkins and his wife Lou Ann had come in about the time the burgers had gone from raw to medium rare. Their twin toddlers, Pam and Paul, had gone straight to Junior and demanded to be way-yifted (weight-lifted, Lou Ann translated.) Margo tried to admire the sight without blatantly staring with her jaw agape, and notice Monique doing much the same.
She started preparing some macaroni and cheese, sure the twins wouldn’t be too interested in burgers. Just as the water started to boil, Bill Wray, Elvin Irwin and Jessica Barlow showed up. Bill’s usual scowl seemed three times as deep, and he growled “Afternoon,” to the assembly in a rumbling baritone.
Monique hurried to slap a few more burgers on the grill, then lowered a big basketful of potatoes into the fryer. She glanced at Jessica, who looked like she might burst into tears at any second, and wondered what she saw in Bill. To her, he resembled a heavily bearded Neanderthal, and when he spoke that imagery wasn’t dispelled. He was, in fact, a kindly soul, but his brutal appearance made Monique nervous.
She comforted herself by looking back at Junior, who was good-naturedly lifting the twins hanging off his forearms.
“Okay, Jess?” Margo asked. She stirred macaroni into the boiling water.
“Not really. What’s going on?”
“No idea. We can’t call out.”
Jessica glanced at the snow-filled television screen and tightened her lips, huffing out breath from her nose and blinking rapidly. “I can’t reach my mom,” she said. “She wanted me to come home last night, but I decided to…to miss the last ferry.”
Bill patted her shoulder. “Sorry, babe,” he growled.
Jessica snatched at the hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “No need, darling’. I’m just—”
“Worried. Course you are.”
Elvin sat at the bar. “Any coffee made?” he asked. “No worries if not—I can drink a soda.”
Margo grinned at him. “What?” she teased. “Me, not make coffee? You want cream and sugar today, or is it a straight black day for you?”
“It’s supposed to be, but I’m taking the cream and sugar. Thanks.”
Soon enough, they’d pushed tables together and sat facing one another as they ate—with gusto. Margo had been surprised by her appetite.
They agreed that they were only a sampling of those left on the island—there were over fifty year-round residents, and it was unheard of that so many might have gone to the mainland the last evening. It wasn’t even a weekend.
Vivian and Jessica decided they’d go around checking on people. Melvin and Junior would go out on the skiff with Devin. “I want to go with you,” Margo, said. “I have to check on Maggie. Jules is out of town; I shouldn’t have stayed last night…”
“Cats are very good at looking after themselves,” Monique told her. “I’m sure she’s fine.”
Margo sighed. “I’m not. I’m not sure anyone over there is fine.”
“Please don’t go—not yet. Let the men find out what’s happening first.”
“Jesus, Moe, listen to yourself!” Margo flapped a hand impatiently. “Let the men go first? What the hell?”
“You can go if you want,” Devin said. “Just remember, my boat, my rules, so don’t even think of arguing with me about your life jacket.”
Margo scoffed. “Are you still going on about that? It was ages ago! I promise—I’ll wear the jacket.”
“Too right, you will.” He and the others headed out the door.
Margo offered to stay long enough to clean up, but Monique brushed it off. “I’ve got this,” she said. “Sorry I was clingy—I’m scared green, Margo.”
“So am I,” Margo admitted. “But I have to go. It’s not just my cat—”
“I know.” Monique sighed. “I’m sure it’s just a power outage or something.”
“We have power.”
“Yes, but our power line is underwater. They have—oh, what the hell do I know?”
Margo took her friend’s hand. “That sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Maybe someone ran into a power pole and put out the lines. It happens.”
“But why would that affect the Ferry?” Monique cried.
“Uh…” Margo wracked her brain. “Diesel pumps wouldn’t work?”
Monique blinked. “Hmm. Okay, I’ll grasp at straws. Why not?”
Why not, indeed? Margo wished she believed it herself. She heard her name being shouted and impulsively hugged Monique tightly. “Devin’s already on my ass, and I haven’t even boarded the skiff,” she laughed. “I’ll be back with my crazy cat.”
“You will,” Monique agreed. “Don’t try to take off your lifejacket!”
Margo called back over her shoulder, “Ancient history! I’ve seen sharks since then.”
She headed for the dock, already anticipating getting home to check on her cat.
She was also anticipating not getting home…the flutters in her stomach were threatening the nice lunch she’d just eaten.
She forced a smile when Devin held out her lifejacket. She put it on, held her tongue while he checked to make sure she’d fastened it securely, and allowed him to help her aboard.
She tried to see across the reach, but there seemed to be a fog over the water in the distance. She couldn’t remember ever feeling so nervous.
She took a seat. Devin started the outboard motor; the roar made her jump and she worried once more that she might lose her lunch.
Junior gave her an unconvincing smile. “Well,” he said, “here we go.”
“Here we go.”
The skiff pulled away from the dock.