Home > The Time in Between (Magdalene #3)

The Time in Between (Magdalene #3)
Author: Kristen Ashley

1

Once Upon a Time

THE GATE WASN’T VERY WELCOMING.

To one side it had a sign tacked on it, which declared in neon orange on black, Private Property. Keep Out!

To the other side the sign declared, Absolutely No Trespassing!

And down the rickety white fence that led either side of the gate, these signs adorned the peeling painted wood at odd but frequent intervals.

“In the end, Magdalene’s last lighthouse keeper was a little crotchety,” the real estate agent murmured under his breath, sitting beside me in his Chevy SUV as he drove us through the opened gate.

I looked beyond the gate to the lighthouse in front of us.

Unlike from afar, up close the outbuildings of the lighthouse looked as dilapidated as the fence. Their white paint and black trim flaking and faded, some of the red shingles on the roofs askew or missing altogether.

The lighthouse, on the other hand, was a gleaming white (with glossy black trim) beacon of beauty rising five stories in the air. The top two stories all windows, other interesting windows dotted here and there down its circumference. And to end, there was startling green grass that fed into gray rock cliffs that led to the blue sea and blue sky with tufted clouds acting as the backdrop for its magnificence.

And suddenly, seeing it all that close, I was finally becoming excited about this adventure.

It’s a sign, my darling. It couldn’t be anything but. You’re meant to be in Maine. And when I’m gone, when you write the end to this chapter of your life, that’s where your next chapter starts. The one that leads to a happy ending.

That was what Patrick said to me two days before he died.

And one could read from the fact that Patrick died that that particular chapter did not have a happy ending.

Now, when he said it, he’d been significantly drugged up due to the pain caused by the cancer eating away at his body, most specifically his brain. But in weeks where his lucidity wasn’t exactly something you could count on, when he’d said that to me, his voice was firm and his eyes were clear.

“It’s automated now,” the real estate agent said, taking me out of my thoughts.

I looked to him to see we were parked and he was opening his door and lugging his large body out of the car.

I opened my door, following suit, and slammed it, calling, “I’m sorry? What?”

He looked over the hood of the car to me. “The lighthouse. It’s automated now.”

“Oh,” I mumbled, the breeze blowing my hair and my scarf all around, plastering my jacket to me, taking my barely there word and wisping it away on the wind.

“Was automated in 1992,” he shared. “That’s when the old owner started to get crotchety. Tending a lighthouse wasn’t the easiest thing on the planet to do. But when it was automated, it was just about keeping it maintained and making sure the generators were fueled in case the power went out. After years of having something to do, something important, all of a sudden he didn’t have that. Because of what happened to him, I tell my wife, I don’t care if I’m organizing kitchen cupboards. Give me something to do every day until the day I die.”

He delivered this wisdom and then started trudging up to the gleaming black painted wood door at the side of the house.

It had a fabulous, old, black gooseneck light over the door.

Heck, even if the place wasn’t absolutely glorious, which it was, I’d buy the damned thing because of that light.

“So that said,” the agent went on as he inserted a skeleton key (yes, a skeleton key) into the keyhole in the door, “you decide to take that on, it’s not tough.” He turned his attention to me before he opened the door. “It’s taking on other stuff, in all honesty, not that you won’t get the gist of it the second you walk in, that might be iffy.”

He then opened the door and it was like he didn’t. The gloom from inside slithered out and it was so intense, I actually leaned away from it.

He walked inside, the shadows completely engulfing him within seconds.

With no other choice, I followed him.

Gloomy it was.

And dirty.

And dank.

In fact it was dark, musty and smelled like wet brick and rot.

“Old guy died years ago,” the real estate agent said as he moved through the murk. “All his kids had taken off years ago too. They lived with his wife anyway after the divorce. This is no place to raise a family. She knew that. He wouldn’t leave it.”

He made a motion, and I blinked as sunlight made a valiant effort to pour through a bank of grimy windows that followed half the curve of the lighthouse when he shoved aside what seemed like a long vinyl curtain. A curtain which totally disintegrated at his touch, falling with a whoosh and a poof of dust to the countertop underneath it.

“Whoops,” he mumbled.

When I could focus again, first I saw an unadulterated (except for the filth) view of the sea that, even through filth, took my breath away.

Second I saw the agent’s eyes resting speculatively on me.

As my family situation was none of his business, I said nothing to him in response to his unspoken query.

“Anyway,” he continued, catching my hint of silence. “None of them wanted the place. But he’d let it go so bad,” he swung an arm out, “no one else wanted it either. It’s been on the market for nine years. There’s also been a referendum for the town to buy it every year since he died, but the cost and upkeep, they couldn’t absorb. Now the family’s dumped the price so low it’s almost criminal, what with two acres of coastal property coming with it. But there’s a rider on the deed, considering this is a historic site. Current buildings can be renovated at the owner’s discretion if they retain the look they already have on the outside, but nothing else can be built and the lighthouse must remain.”

“So automation is very automated, considering no one has lived here for that long,” I noted.

He shook his head. “We’ve had volunteer keepers since then. Not that they have to do much, but the old girl needs to keep lighting so it’s gotta be looked after. In fact, it was getting so bad, the town paid for it to be repainted a couple of years ago. Other than that, as you can see . . .”

He didn’t finish that but did since he swung his arm out again to indicate the mess of the large, circular room we were in.

I took in the mess of the large, circular room we were in and at first saw nothing but the mess—decaying furniture, a soot-covered stone fireplace, a kitchen that might have been put in in the forties but had not only not been touched the last nine years, it perhaps had not been touched the last nineteen (or more).

Then I saw more.

The extraordinarily carved railing to the sweeping wood staircase that ran the curved side of the house. The red brick walls. The plank wood floors.

“Once upon a time, long ago,” the realtor was suddenly talking wistfully, “someone loved this place. Put that love into building it. Put that love into keeping it. Nine years and more when no one really gave a whit, and still you can see it once had a lot of love.”

Oh yes.

You could see that.

“It’s got a basement, more like a big crawl space,” the agent declared, surprising me with his quick change in tone back to businesslike and informative. “The furnace is down there. You can get down there through a door in the floor. The furnace was put in a while back, and full disclosure, though an inspection will catch it, it probably needs to be replaced.”

Through his words I stared at the fireplace, which scoured would be magnificent, and I noticed it didn’t have a chimney as such, but the smoke probably went out a vent in the wall.

“This floor has a powder room under the stairs,” the realtor kept on. “You can look at it if you want, but if you wanna save yourself that, I’ll just tell you straight, it needs to be gutted.”

I decided to take his word for it and told him that.

He looked relieved when I did before he stated, “Place has a garage, two car. Not in good condition, but think you saw that. Still, it’s close to the house and there’s a covered walkway to that door over there.” He pointed at a door that was across from the door we’d walked in. “Means you might feel a chill but you won’t get wet, unless it’s raining sideways, which happens.”

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