In his enthusiasm, Jackson had gone online, researching all he could find about Seaside and the Maine coast. Now he was convinced that he would learn to fish and sail...and to surf next summer. The more he'd shared his hopeful dreams the harder it became to disclose the whole truth. She hinted when she got the chance, but how could she admit that the real purpose of this trip was to spend a few weeks fixing up the beach cottage—then sell it? It would crush him.
Wendy didn't know the real value of Poppa's beach cottage, but even if it was a dilapidated wreck, which was possible, she felt certain the beachside location would be enough to wipe out the medical bills that insurance didn't cover and provide a small safety net for her and Jackson. If she was lucky it might even pay off their student loans and seed a small college fund for Jackson. She was probably overly optimistic, but no matter what, it would help.
She never discussed finances with Jackson, but Edward's battle with cancer had left her deep in debt. Even after selling their home, which had little equity, and moving to an "affordable" apartment, she'd been unable to climb out. Edward hadn't worked long enough before getting sick to have much in social security benefits. Certainly not enough to support them. So inheriting Poppa's sea cottage felt like a gift from God—just what they needed to get back on their feet. She was determined, no matter how much Jackson loved it and protested, the cottage must be sold.
Jackson suddenly sat up, giving her a start. "Are we there yet?" He chuckled at his own gaffe. "Sorry, Mom—you warned me not to say that again."
"Well, as it turns out, we passed the Maine state line around noon and—"
Jackson let out a happy whoop. "You should've woken me up. How much longer till Seaside?"
"I really hope to get there before dark. Why don't you check the GPS and tell me our ETA." She knew how Jackson liked acronyms.
Within seconds, he reported that they would arrive at their destination in three hours and seven minutes. "According to my calculations, that will be about 3:54," he declared. "Unless we stop."
"Well, I do need a pit stop and we need gas. I don't think Seaside even has a gas station," she told him.
"And I'm kinda hungry."
"We'll grab a quick bite and eat it in the car to save time."
"Sunset is supposed to be at 4:09," he told her. "That's because Maine is so far north. The shortened daylight time might take some getting used to, but I heard the long summer days make up for it. Do you know that the astronomical twilight lasts until almost eleven o'clock in late June? That'll be so cool."
"I don't know what an astronomical twilight is, but I do remember very late summer evenings." She grimaced to think of how he'd never get to experience that.
"Did you go to Seaside every summer as a kid?" he asked with interest.
"Every summer I can remember. Well, until I was seventeen. I had a job that summer—and then it was college and the distractions that came with it."
"Like getting married?" he teased.
"Right. After graduation, Dad and I moved to Cincinnati for his work. And not long after that, you came along, and, well, life just got busier and busier." She remembered how she used to long for Seaside, like clockwork, every summer—even more so when it got hot and humid in Ohio.
"So you haven't been back in almost twenty years? That's like a whole 'nother lifetime, Mom."
"Seems like it to me too. But even so, I can remember every bit of it like yesterday."
"Tell me more about it, Mom. You haven't really given me that many details."
She considered how to paint this picture without making it too rosy—or being disingenuous. "Well, the ocean is beautiful. That obviously won't have changed. And you'll see it soon enough."
"What about our house, Mom? And don't tell me it's falling down."