Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

Eavesdropping on Squire’s Isle

Summary: A tourist spends the afternoon wandering Squire’s Isle.

Your ferry arrives on Squire’s Isle in the late afternoon.

When you step off the ferry, you walk down the ferry lanes on the sidewalk that runs underneath the outdoor dining section of Gail’s Seafood Shack. The day is crisp and bright, and a cool breeze comes in off the harbor. The other tourists who came to the island with you branch off on their own, to see different sights or catch a ride to Sholeh Village for the whale watching. You take the first right turn onto Front Street, past an art studio, until you reach a small dine-in deli. As you approach from the southeast, you hear a bicycle approaching behind you. You step out of the rider’s way and she smiles and waves as she passes you. You return the wave.

She places one foot on the pavement and parks the bike outside the fence that surround the alfresco section of the deli. As she goes inside to get something to eat, you decide there are too many other tourists on the street for you to really enjoy the view. So you take a seat on the bench to relax a moment and enjoy the weather. Moments later, the bike rider comes out of the deli with a sandwich and a drink. She waves to an older woman who is already seated and cuts through the tables to join her. You can’t help but overhear…

Nadine pulled back the chair and sat down. “Sorry, Mom. Hope you weren’t waiting too long.”

Tamara Butler waved off her daughter’s apology. “Don’t worry about it. It’s nice to sit for a while and think about what I have to say.” She was dressed for the weather, with a wide-brimmed hat pulled down over her silver hair. She shared Nadine’s elfin features, just with a few decades added and a wrinkle here and there.

“Is everything all right?” Nadine put down her food and unfolded a napkin on her lap.

“Oh.” Nadine’s mother let out a long sigh and turned toward the street. The top of the ferry was visible over the rooftops across the street. The people who had disembarked were walking north, while people hurrying to catch the ferry’s return trip were walking south. “I guess everything is fine. I’m just having a bit of a… complication, I guess.”

“Have you been to the doctor?”

Tamara laughed. “Not that kind of complication. Although to answer your question, yes I have, and yes, I’m fine. I just wanted to talk with you about something that your father and I have been kind of ignoring. It’s about you and Miranda.”

Nadine braced herself, but didn’t let her anxiety show. “Oh? What about us?” She was tempted to stroke her wedding ring with her thumb, but she resisted.

“How did you know? I mean, when did you know? Were you dating girls when you were in high school? I remember you were very serious about that boy Benjamin during junior year.”

Nadine’s eyes widened behind her glasses. “Benjamin Smart? I wasn’t dating Benny.”

“Of course you were.”

“No. He was a friend.”

“A friend that was a boy.”

Nadine laughed. “That didn’t make him a boyfriend.”

“Well, that’s not the point. What I want to know is if you knew way back then that you… liked women, and just kept it hidden from us.”

“Mom, if this is about not trusting you or–”

“No, no. I just want to fill in these blanks.”

Nadine sighed. “Yes. I knew when I was in high school. Or I at least suspected. I thought maybe I was bisexual, and a part of me thought that it was normal to feel that way about girls. I just figured everyone else was better about hiding it. That’s why I didn’t date very often. Well, that, and my crippling shyness and nerdity.”

“Stop that. You were a–”

“Very lovely girl, yeah, yeah.” Nadine winked at her mother and smiled. “So what’s with the twenty questions?” She took a bite of her sandwich.

“I think I might be a lesbian, too.”

Nadine choked on her sandwich. She coughed, her eyes watering as she struggled to get the blockage from her throat, grasping for her water until her mother placed it in her hand. She took a long drink, swallowed, and drank again until her throat stopped feeling so raw. She coughed a few more times, taking the delay to stare at her mother in disbelief. When she could finally speak again, she said, “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Language, Nadine.”

“Mom!”

Tamara rolled her shoulders. “One of those late-in-life lesbians, like Meredith Baxter-Birney.”

“It’s just Meredith Baxter, Mom. She dropped the Birney. Completely.” She took another sip. “What makes you think you’re gay?”

Tamara tilted her head. “I thought only the men were gay, and women were lesbians. Who are the queers? Is that everyone–”

Mom. Semantics isn’t important right now. Why.”

“Well, I’ve been going to the senior center for some of their activities. You know I’ve wanted to join a book club for ages now. Well, I finally found one for women my age and I went. I’ve been reading more, getting out of the house, doing more than just going to and from work every morning. I love the studio, but honestly, the monotony was getting to me. The book club was a lot of fun. That’s where I met Louise. We started having lunches, and talking about more than the books. Louise is a widower, and I think she was just lonely. She took me out on her husband’s boat and we whale-watched. It was a very, very nice day. The other night I was lying in bed and it just hit me. I love Louise.”

Nadine was trying hard not to smile, well aware of how difficult this speech must have been. “Mom, that doesn’t mean you’re a lesbian. Just loving someone doesn’t mean you’re in love with them. You like spending time with Louise, and you think she’s a great person. But do you want to kiss her? Take off her clothes and climb into bed with–”

Tamara was shaking her head and waving her hand. “Okay, okay. I don’t… I guess I don’t want to do all of that.”

“Mom. You love Louise as a friend, but you’re not in love with her. You’re not a lesbian. I’m kind of surprised you even considered the possibility. Haven’t you ever felt this way for a friend before? What about, uh, what was her name? Sheila. When I was growing up, you guys were inseparable until she moved to Calgary.”

“Well, sure, I guess I loved Sheila, too.”

“So why the sudden panic?”

Tamara shrugged. “I guess if you could be gay for so long without knowing it, or without your father and I knowing it, then anything was possible. And I guess I thought that if I was, then it would give us something in common again. When you were growing up, I only wanted what was best for you. I thought that meant a house, a husband, grandkids, everything. But now you’re happy, and it’s because you have a wife, and that is just so out of left field for me. I accept that you and Miranda are happy together. But it’s just hard for me to feel like I’m a part of that life.”

“You’ll always be a part of my life, Mom.” She put her hand on top of Tamara’s. “I think Miranda and I have been a little… neglectful of you and Daddy. We live on the same island, we work across the street from each other, and we hardly ever see each other. I’ll tell you what; how about you and Daddy come over to our place for dinner sometime this week. You can even bring Louise if you want.”

Tamara grinned. “That sounds lovely, Nadine. You know, I really do admire what you and Miranda have been able to do together. It can’t be easy when you work together.”

“You and Daddy have done it all my life.”

“Well, when it’s the right person, it’s…” She smiled. “I guess it’s not that hard.”

Nadine chuckled. “Are you going to eat?”

“Yes, I was just waiting for you.”

As the ladies begin to eat, you realize that the crowd has thinned considerably. You stand up and stretch your legs, trying to decide where to go next. You decide to go back toward the main road in town, Spring Street. The street rises with the incline of the island, but the slope is gentle and the walk isn’t hard. You window shop as you walk by the various stores until the establishments stop being tourist traps and become regular small-town places of business.

You’re passing a small building with the words “Squire’s Isle Register” painted on the front window when the door bursts open. A woman with wavy black hair emerges and almost collides with you. She apologizes, checks to make sure you’re okay, and continues to the car parked at the curb. You watch as she opens the passenger side door and leans inside.

Kate Price placed her hands on the passenger seat as she leaned inside. Through the Bluetooth clipped to her ear, she heard the ambient sounds of Coffee Table Books. She scanned the floor and then placed her knee on the seat so she could look into the back. “Are you sure you left it in here?”

“Positive,” Amy said on the other end of the line. “The last time I had it was on the weekend, when we went into the country.”

Kate smiled as she remembered the trip. They’d driven out into the wilds of Squire’s Isle, leaving December Harbor behind for the sparsely inhabited western shore. There were only a few campgrounds and private homes to spoil the view of the wilderness, so it was easy to find a perfect picnic spot where they could pretend they were all alone in the world. Amy suggested they pretend to be shipwrecked.

“Honey, it’s got to be in there.”

Kate sighed. “Or you took it into the apartment when we got home.”

“I checked. I remember having it when we were on the mountain, because I ignored two calls.”

Kate sat down in the passenger seat and looked around for places Amy could have stowed her cell phone. She leaned forward and put her hand under the seat. She found a hairbrush she’d been looking for, and a few gas receipts that she’d been meaning to turn in for an expense report, but no phone. “Have you tried calling it?”

“All morning.”

“Hon, maybe you should consider the possibility–”

“Don’t say it.”

“It’s still up on the mountain.”

Amy groaned. “Great. My poor phone.”

Kate looked at her watch. “I’ll head up.”

“No. No, I’ve already interrupted you at work for–”

“Honey. Amy. I’ll go look for your phone and, if it’s up there, I’ll give you some peace of mind. I’ll call it my good deed for the day.” She climbed out of the car and shut the door, walking around to the driver’s side when there was a break in traffic. “It’s a slow news day. I’m just typing up some notes. Taking an hour to help you out is nothing, okay?”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too. I’ll call you when I find it, okay?”

“Yeah. Thank you again, Kate.”

“You’ll owe me. And I’ll be thinking of all the ways you can pay me back the whole drive up there.” She smiled and looks across the street at Coffee Table Books. The sun was too bright for her to see inside, but she knew Amy was probably standing at the counter and watching her. She raised her hand in a wave.

“I’ll see you soon, sweets.”

“I’ll make it up to you. In spade. Promise.”

“I look forward to that. Bye, honey.”

She hung up and tucked the Bluetooth into her pocket. She looked over the top of the car and saw a pedestrian, probably a tourist who came over on the ferry, was standing near the crosswalk looking torn about which direction to go. Kate thought about her errand and decided she could do two good deeds at once. She whistled. “Hey. Do you need a ride somewhere?”

You decline the very polite invitation, embarrassed at checking out the newspaper woman’s ass when she leaned into the car. She was very obviously already taken. You wait until she drives away before you cross the street, leaving the newspaper office and the library behind you. You pause outside a shop called Coffee Table Books, eyeing the display in the window that announced free books with every bakery or coffee purchase. You make a mental note to drop in on your way back to the ferry lanes and continue on your stroll.

You pass a watch shop and then turn onto a shaded one-lane street that forms a dog-leg back toward the harbor. The street is far too narrow for vehicles, and it has long since been covered with bricks to form a promenade. You see a barbershop, a bookstore, a photography studio, and a two-story building that towers on the corner with the letters KELF RADIO proudly displayed next to the door.

You take a seat on a bench at the corner. The town is bustling, alive, and you want to just take a moment to soak it all in. Two women pass you, arms linked at the elbow, very obviously in love. The taller woman is leaning close to whisper to her lover, who laughs and bumps against her. As they pass you, the shorter of the two glances over and offers a smile. She says hello, and you greet her in kind. You watch them walk on, amazed at how friendly this little town is.

“That’s not a holiday.” Alex kissed Rachel’s ear. “We’re talking about indulgent, time-wasting entertainment. Going back home and spending all our time in the bedroom is not special.” She realized what she had said. “I mean…”

“You mean we do that a lot already. Don’t worry, I took it in the spirit you meant.” Rachel laughed and bumped against Alex’s side. “Okay, so stuff we don’t ordinarily do. You know what I would love? To sit and read somewhere. Not at home, just out. And people-watching.”

“We could do that. Do you have any books with you?”

“No. But we could get a couple for free at Coffee Table Books. We get coffee, snuggle up in a booth, and just enjoy being in each other’s presence for a change.”

Alex smiled and slipped her arm free from Rachel’s. Rachel started to protest until Alex put her arm around her partner’s shoulder and pulled her close. “That sounds like a great idea, hon. Maybe we could get a couple of those cookies, too.”

“I do love their cookies. Maybe a little too much.” She touched her stomach. “And if you dare say it’s just more of me to love…”

“I was just going to say that you look gorgeous. And that you eat right and exercise, so you’ve earned the right to binge on sweets every now and again.”

Rachel chuckled. “Good answer. And besides, it is technically a holiday. For you and me, anyway. So why not splurge?”

“Exactly.”

You lose sight of them as they go around the corner. A woman is pushing a cart with a sign on the side that read “Sandy’s Dee-Lights.” It’s not terribly hot, but you admit that a frozen treat would taste great. You rise and make your way over, and you buy a frozen yogurt and eat it as you continue your walk.

You’re almost back where you started; you can see the ferry lanes ahead of you and to the left. You walk down Front Street again, taking your time with the yogurt. The woman in the bicycle and her mother have left the deli, and the bicycle is gone. You pause at the corner and look around. Across the street you see an elegant brick building with stone stairs leading up to the glass front doors. The round lamps on either side of the entry have “SHERIFF” written on them in slender letters, and you continue past.

Across the street from the sheriff’s office is the city hall. It’s an unassuming building with windows lighted gold against the setting sun. A woman is idling at the curb as you walk by. She glances up as you pass, smiles, and returns to her book. A brick walkway connects the sidewalk to the front door of city hall, and as you reach it, the door opens and a woman comes hurrying out. She’s dressed in a black blazer and skirt, her hair up in a ponytail. She loosens it as she walks, her other hand holding her bag so it won’t bump against her side as she walks. She smiles and wishes you a good evening as she passes. You turn and see her climbing into the car where the other woman was waiting.

Patricia sighed as she shut the door. “Sorry. Were you waiting long?”

“I don’t mind. Hi.” Jill leaned across the console and kissed her wife. “Long day?”

“Endless. It was like walking through a minefield trying to get out of there. Things kept popping up. What do you think for dinner?”
Jill shrugged. “I’m open to suggestions.”

“Chinese to go?”

Jill smiled and held up her cell phone. “I called in the order five minutes ago. It should be ready about the time we pull up.”

Patricia cupped Jill’s face and kissed her. “You know me so well, sweetheart. Dinner for three?”

“No, just us.” Jill started the car and pulled away from the curb. “Michael is at his buddy Jay’s house tonight. They invited him over for meatloaf.”

Patricia whistled. “Home alone, and you guessed I’d still want Chinese? Maybe you don’t know me as well as I thought.”

“It’s a sleepover.”

Patricia perked up again. “We should get him some kind of snack, though. Just so he knows we were thinking about him.”

Jill grinned. She knew that Patricia often felt guilty about ‘taking advantage’ of their son’s absences. “We’ll pick up the dinner and then stop to get him something for tomorrow. And then after we eat…” She reached down and took Patricia’s hand. She ran her thumb over the knuckles and Patricia looked down at her wife’s hand.

“You know, Chinese is just as good when you heat it up in the microwave…”

Jill laughed. “Easy, girl. We have all night.”

You find yourself back on Spring Street, amid the tourist shops and restaurants. You haven’t seen any fast food joints or familiar brand name restaurants since arriving, and you feel envious that this town seems to have avoided commercialization of the rest of the world. You pass a café on one side of the street, a laundromat on the other, and return to the combination used bookstore-slash-bakery you’d seen earlier.

Inside is cozy, comfortable. A line of customers stand at the curved glass of the counter, and booths stand in a line under the windows to your right. At the back of the space you can see bookshelves, loose books stacked in the aisles, and a handful of people browsing the space. The women you saw on the promenade are sitting at a table, sharing one side of the booth. One woman is reading a book while the other seems content to just be with her.

The door opens behind you, and you step out of the way as the bicyclist enters with her mother. They’ve been joined by a tall blonde woman who has her hand on the bicyclist’s hip. They join the line and you step up behind them, eyeing the marker board that lists what’s available.

The newspaper woman enters from the back of the bakery. She holds up a cell phone, and one of the workers – a brunette woman wearing a black apron over a white turtleneck – embraces her and thanks her with a particularly saucy kiss. You smile at the sight, and the women in front of you whisper to each other; a private joke between the two of them.

You order a large chocolate chip cookie and carry it to an empty table. You look out the window and see the women from city hall as they park and come inside. You wave, and they return the greeting even though you can tell they don’t remember seeing you earlier. You’re tired from walking, so you enjoy the opportunity to rest your legs and just sit for a while.

Outside, the sun continues its descent. Streetlights start to come on, and the island looks like it was custom-designed for postcards. Someone approaches the table, and you turn just as a cup of coffee is placed in front of you. It’s the brunette with the turtleneck, the newspaper woman’s apparent girlfriend. 

“On the house. A couple of my friends say they saw you around town today. Just visiting?”

“I don’t know. I thought so, but maybe I’ll change my mind.”

“It’s a great place to live. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. You let me know if you want a refill; it’s free, too.”

“Thank you.”

“Consider it your welcome to Squire’s Isle. Enjoy.”

You thank her again and sip your coffee. A few of the women you encountered glance your way and you smile at them. The part of you that’s unused to small-town life warns you that this is unusual, that they must be up to something. But a larger part of you knows the truth. This is just how the town works. It’s a small community, and they look out for each other. It might not be a terrible place to settle down.

You look out the window as the city hall women leave and return to their car. This isn’t just an island to them, or a town. It’s their home. The bakery owner’s invitation wasn’t just a welcome to town, it was a welcome to her home. You smile and finish your cookie. It might not be your home yet, but it was definitely a great place to visit.

Though your visit is still not quite over, you’re already looking forward to your next trip to Squire’s Isle.

Your email is never shared.
Required fields are marked *