“Don’t look now, Harry, but I think we found the end of the world,” Moira said as she drove through the monolithic stone gateway that guarded the entrance to the town of Moonlight Harbor.
Harry, hunkered miserably in his cat carrier, let out a pitiful mewl. There had been a lot of twists and turns in the road the last part of their journey and even though the highway had eventually straightened back out he still hadn’t forgiven her. She didn’t blame him. She felt awful over having added to his misery. The poor little guy had yakked up and she’d had to pull over to clean the mess and reassure him.
But who was going to reassure her? This wasn’t her scene. She was a city girl, always had been. She’d grown up in apartments and she liked being able to go to clubs and dance, to go downtown or run out to the mall and spend some of her tip money on clothes. Lang criticized a lot of what she spent her money on (not that she had much to spend once she kicked in for her share of the rent and bought groceries), but he never complained when she came home with something from Victoria’s Secret.
There was sure no Victoria’s Secret here.
And so what if there wasn’t? She didn’t have anybody to look hot for any more. She sure didn’t want the somebody she’d had.
Lang had texted her six times before she’d finally shut off her phone. At first the texts had been contrite – Baby, you know I’m sorry, followed by, Why aren’t you answering? Then he got a little more anxious. Where are you? Then he got pissed. Damn, M, where the hell are you? The last two texts had been so full of cursing and F bombs and threats of what he was going to do if she didn’t quit ignoring him that she finally took Michael’s advice and traded in her phone for a new one in a T-Mobile store in Olympia, going with the cheapest phone and plan she could find.
There was no turning back now. Even if they made up, even if he said he was sorry he’d been mean to Harry, there would come another time when his temper would flare. Maybe she could have risked getting her jaw broken but she wasn’t about to risk any more of poor Harry’s ribs.
A bruised rib the vet she’d found in town had said. He’d given Harry something right there and provided her with pain killer meds for him.
If only there was something she could take to make herself feel better. She sure could have used some chocolate right then. What a mess her life was.
“It’s not how you start,” her high school English teacher, Mrs. Dickens, had once told her, “It’s how you finish. Remember that, Moira.”
Yes, she needed to remember that. She was going to finish well.
Here at the end of the world.
Okay, it wasn’t so bad. “Look at those cute little shops,” she said to Harry. Hard for Harry to do any looking from his cat carrier, so she went on to describe them. “They’re all different colors. Green, not dark green like Christmas but green, like an Easter egg, and orange like sherbet, and yellow like a sunny day. Oh, wow, and a go-cart track. I always wanted to drive one of those things. And there’s an ice cream place. It’s so cute. Pink, like a balloon at a baby shower. No, actually, darker than that. Like a sunset maybe. It’s got a big, old cement ice cream cone in front of it.”
Ice cream, sherbet. She parked in front of the Good Times Ice Cream Parlor. She still had a little cash left and she was hungry. Not simply for food but for hope. If a woman couldn’t find hope in a cute place like this where could she find it?
The lunch hour had passed and there weren’t many customers inside– only two old women seated at a tiny, wrought iron table painted white, enjoying milkshakes. The woman behind the counter looked almost old enough to be Moira’s mother.
The old ladies were staring at her like she had three boobs. Okay, so she had a nose ring and a tattoo of a butterfly flitting up her neck. Hadn’t they seen anyone with a nose ring or tat? Maybe it was her hair that had them gawking. (Although the strange lollipop red of the one woman’s hair was just as stare worthy, and not in a good way.)
Moira’s hair, on the other hand, was a work of art. A color that Michael had created, it was a gorgeous mix of pastels, silver and gold that he’d dubbed holographic opal because of the way it shimmered. Lang had thought it was hot.
What Lang thought didn’t matter anymore.
The woman behind the counter smiled at Moira and said, “Welcome. What would you like?”
A new life. “What’s your specialty?” She could have asked, “What’s good?” but anybody could say that. She liked the word specialty. It made her think of fancy French restaurants and TV celebrity chefs.
“How about some Deer Poop?”
Moira blinked. “Deer Poop?”
“In honor of all the deer we have around here – chocolate ice cream loaded with chocolate covered raisins.”
“Deer?” Just wandering around? The only deer she’d ever seen had been on TV or in pictures.
“Oh, yes. They’re everywhere.”
Wow. Now, that was cool. “Sure,” Moira said.
“Sugar or waffle cone?”
“Waffle.” Live it up, she thought.
“One scoop or two.”
“One,” Moira said, deciding to limit the living it up. Who knew if things would work out here? Who knew how long that paycheck Michael was sending would last? With what she had in her bank account even one scoop was a splurge.
“You’re new to town.” the woman observed.
“I am.” Moira glanced over her shoulder to find the two older women still checking her out. The freak show had arrived.
“I just got here,” she said. “I’m hoping to find a job. Your town looks adorable.” For the end of the world. Where were the people her age? Were there any?
Moira dug out a bill, but the woman waved it away. “On the house.”
“Really?” Wow. The woman handed over the cone and Moira took a bite. “This is …” Anyone could say good. “Tasty.”
The woman smiled. “All our ice cream is. What do you do?”
“I’m a hair stylist. My old boss sent me down here to meet a Pearl Edwards.” Moira was suddenly aware of the two older women whispering behind her. She could almost feel their stares.
“Pearl, she’s the best. She owns Waves,” said the woman. “Everybody in town goes there. Well, everybody my age and older.”
Old ladies and tight perms. This wasn’t the end of the world. This was hair stylist hell.
You’re here now. May as well check it out.
Now one of the women behind her spoke. “I have an appointment there. You can follow me if you like.”
Moira could have found her own way there, but she thanked the woman and agreed to follow her. People at the end of the world were nice to you, even if they did stare.
“I’ll see you later, Alma,” the good Samaritan said to her friend, and pushed away from the table. Standing up she wasn’t much taller than she’d been sitting down. Moira was five feet five but she stood a good six inches above this woman. There wasn’t much to her, either. She looked like she needed to go on a diet of daily milkshakes. Her sweatshirt was pink and it clashed with her hair and lipstick. I Got Moonstruck at Moonlight Harbor, it informed Moira.
“I’m Edie Patterson,” said the old woman. “Everyone calls me Edie and you can, too. I own the Driftwood Inn.”
The Driftwood Inn. Moira had a sudden vision of a cute little place with driftwood at its entrance. “That sounds charming.”
“Oh, it is. It was one of the first motels here in Moonlight Harbor. My great niece Jenna manages it and she’s fixed it all up and brought it back to its former glory. It’s one of the sweetest places in the whole town. Isn’t it, Nora?”
“It sure is,” agreed the woman behind the counter.
“If you need a place to stay while you’re getting settled I’m sure we can give you a room,” Edie said as she led Moira out of the ice cream parlor.
No way could Moira afford to stay at a motel indefinitely. No way could she afford to stay anywhere. She murmured her thanks and tried not to panic.
“Jenna doesn’t like me to drive,” Edie confided. “She’s always worried I’ll get in an accident. But she was busy giving someone a massage – she’s a massage therapist, you know – so I just went ahead and took my car out when she wasn’t looking,” said Edie conspiratorially, pointing to an ancient car that maybe got fifteen miles to the gallon on a good day. “That’s my car. You follow me.”
It wasn’t hard to follow Edie Patterson. A kid on a tricycle could go faster. They crept out onto the street and inched on down the main road.
It gave Moira time to finish her ice cream and check out the place. The buildings looked like they belonged in a movie from the sixties. And what was that? Some kind of store shaped like a giant shark. It looked like you entered through its gaping mouth, complete with long shark teeth. Now, there was something you didn’t see every day.
And wow! Deer. There were two of them, grazing on the grass in the median. There was something you didn’t see in Seattle.
Seattle. Lang. How many times had he tried to call her by now? He had to be really pissed.
Let him be. He didn’t deserve her. And Harry sure didn’t deserve the way Lang had treated him. She was glad she’d left. Glad.
Except she was sad, too. And she ached a little for what she’d had with Lang when they were first together and everything was good. And she half wished she could have that back.
She was a mess.