Shannon Larkin is forced to confront demons from her past, while her daughter Angie discovers Colm Sullivan's journal in the old lighthouse keeper's cottage. The diary sheds light on the history between the Larkin and Sullivan families, but may be too late to stop the sisters of Mike Sullivan from wreaking vengeance on the Larkin family for sins and tragedies of the past.
Larkin City, Maine
SHANNON PAGE STOOD ON the balcony, drinking in the spectacular view that met her eyes. She never tired of looking out across the vast expanse of her family's estate, or beyond to Larkin City. It was best seen at night, with the winking conurbation of lights growing closer as the city grew larger. It was a sight she beheld her entire life, and she marveled at her good fortune. She knew, when the time came, she would die here, too.
She was now forty-four years old, but had changed little over the last twenty years. Her hair was still dark and long, although she kept it in French braids most of the time, with a few strands of gray at the temples. Scant age lines appeared under her dark eyes, and of late she had taken to wearing glasses while reading or sewing. However, spectacles seemed to accent her good looks rather than detract from them.
She stepped forward and leaned over the balcony railing. Through the morning mist, she could see the lighthouse on Banshee Point. She kept her eyes on the gray-brick lighthouse, noting its beauty and singular simplicity. Logistically, the lighthouse covered eight miles of shoreline. Besides rocky pathways, the structure was also surrounded by tall weeds, blueberry patches, cedar trees and large pine stands. It was also a lookout point for whale watching and birding, usually Puffins common to the area. Now that the lighthouse was automated, the old bronze bell once used sat encased on the lawn of the keeper's cottage. It had an excellent view from its perch on the crest of a hill.
She turned and walked back into her bedroom, closing the French doors that led to the balcony. It was cool inside the mansion. She hurried over to her closet and grabbed a light sweater.
Every morning, Shannon and her husband Scott Page awoke early in their private suite at the Larkin mansion, also Shannon's rooms in her youth. Since their two children were grown, they were able to take their time as they readied themselves for the day. The couple shared a large bedroom, with an adjacent bathroom well equipped with a Jacuzzi, glassed-in shower and several closets. The counter, which housed double sinks and a long mirror below a porthole window, also left room for the makings of a fresh pot of coffee - the first order of the day for them.
Shannon kept it simple. She preferred the drip method of brewing, so she used a ten-cup Mr. Coffee machine. A long-time devotee of Chock Full o'Nuts, she ground the coffee beans fresh every morning. Underneath the sink was a small refrigerator, where she removed a cream jug full of whole milk. Soon, the sound of lightly boiling water and the aroma of fresh coffee filled the room.
When the brew finished, she removed two large breakfast cups from another small cupboard under the sink with saucers to match. She placed them on an antique pewter tray, along with the glass coffee pot and cream pitcher. With everything set on the tray, she carried it back into the bedroom.
Shannon set the tray on the table in front of the French doors, opening the sheer curtains. She poured two cups of coffee, adding cream to each. She turned around and went to help Scott make their bed, neatly and quickly, as they did every morning by rote. Scott was already dressed in blue jeans and a cream colored Irish knit sweater. He lit the pine logs in their fireplace, which gave the room a warm glow. Shannon glanced at the clock over the mantle of the fireplace. It was six-twenty.
It had been snowing for days, but this morning a light mist blanketed the estate. From a short distance away, the foghorn sounded at Banshee Point. Momentarily, the sweep of the lighthouse beam went across the lawn. It shined as it had in the past, to warn approaching ships of dangerous fog.
Scott sipped his coffee appreciatively. "Delicious as always, kitten," he said to his wife. "It beats trooping downstairs for my first cup of joe."
Shannon smiled. "You see, not all great traditions are Italian."
He grinned, enjoying her playful stab at his maternal heritage. "Don't forget," he pointed out good naturedly. "We have two children who possess Italian blood."
"So you remind me every day," she responded dryly. They were quiet for a minute before Scott spoke again. "Angie has a job interview in New York the day after tomorrow."
"I know, she told me. Our little baby is headed for the Big Apple."
He laughed. "Shan, Angela just turned twenty-three, no longer a baby."
"She will always be my little baby," Shannon said stubbornly, finishing her coffee. She reached across the small table and poured herself another cup. "It's not as if she's a woman of the world, Scott. New York is a big place."
"If she gets a job at the Manhattan Daily Journal, she can live in our apartment near Central Park," he soothed his wife. "I've already talked to her about it. She loves the flat, anyway."
"Some flat. It has six bedrooms, for heaven's sake."
"But she'll be safe there," he insisted. "Besides, we don't know if she'll get the job."
"She'll get the job," Shannon predicted. "Angie is unique, and it shows in her writing. Trust me, they'll hire her."
The couple was quiet again. They continued to sip their coffee and watch the rolling mist outside their window. The mantle clock over the fireplace struck seven o'clock. She set her cup on the table. "I'll go downstairs and start breakfast," she said. "What would you like this morning?"
Scott stretched. "What I'd really like is to crawl back into bed with you," he teased. "But if you insist on real food, I'd love a Denver omelet with toast."
She smiled. "Easier done than said. I'll go and get started. On your way down, wake the kids, will you? Angie loves my Denver omelet."
The foghorn sounded loudly again. Shannon stood and removed the tray from the table. "We should go outside after breakfast," she suggested to her husband. "Let's walk down to the lighthouse in the mist."
He chuckled. "You want to visit the lighthouse keeper's cottage, don't you?"
She grinned. "It's still supplied with candles and firewood, along with a few bottles of brandy. Doesn't that sound like a wonderful way to spend the rest of the morning?"
Scott stood up. "You're a sick woman, Mrs. Page," he said, reaching over to touch her arm. "But you have a date."
She looked over her shoulder as she left the room. "You taught me everything I know." She winked at him. "I'm a creature of your own making."
He laughed as she left the room. Then he walked over to stand in front of the French doors. He could see the outline of the A-frame cottage in the distance, where he and Shannon lived for more than a decade to raise their children. They returned to the mansion seven years ago, resuming occupancy of Shannon's old rooms. Scott didn't protest, feeling compromise was one of the main ingredients of a successful marriage. Shannon agreed to live in the cottage to make him happy around the time Jamie was born, and now it was her turn. She spent most of her days at the mansion, anyway. The house was so big it was easy to achieve a great deal of personal space.
Scott turned away from the doors and went to stand in front of the fireplace, rubbing his hands together for warmth. Some things never changed, though. There was still no central heating on the upper floors of the mansion, the cost being prohibitive, even for the wealthy. He didn't mind that, either. The fireplace provided adequate warmth, as did the bed. He loved to huddle under the blankets with his wife every morning, and he never tired of being close to her on a daily basis. They were emotionally inseparable on almost every level, as if they were one person with one mind and one body. She seemed able to fixate on what he needed and when. It had only gotten better as the years passed. The feelings of love grew stronger instead of waning with time.
Stepping forward, he grabbed the wrought-iron fireplace poker and stoked the blaze in the hearth. The fire leapt up for a moment, and then settled into a steady flame.
But there was one ubiquitous element in their marriage that remained a sore point, a constant bone of contention although they rarely spoke about it. One small detail that always stood between them, however slight it seemed at times. It was one bridge they had been unable to cross - the only one in their long relationship of unconditional love.
"Mike Sullivan," Scott thought to himself as he stoked the fire again. "Why is it, after all these years, his ghost still haunts us? Shannon rarely talks about it, but it's always there. Like an image one cannot touch, or eliminate. It's a part of herself she will not share. She might talk about him off and on, but she never goes deep to tell me how she felt about him, how events from that time truly impacted her. It's a part of her she keeps to herself, and I hate it." He paused, the irony striking him all of a sudden. "If it's true, and there is life after death in heaven, then that son of a bitch has probably enjoyed a good laugh all these years. The attention Sullivan craved from Shannon while he was alive has wrecked havoc on those he left in his wake for more than twenty years."
Scott stepped away from the fireplace. Dismissing Sullivan from his mind, he decided today was for Shannon and himself. They would breakfast with their family, and then take a walk down to the lighthouse. He was alive and Shannon was his wife, the mother of his children. Those were things the past, or the ghost of Mike Sullivan, could never take away.
Smiling, he replaced the poker in the stand by the fireplace and left the room. The mist continued to swirl outside, accentuated by the blasting foghorn and the sweeping sea beacon. The pine logs in the hearth crackled, while bits of wood and ash fell under the grate, making a hissing sound.
THE KEEPER'S JOURNAL ©Deidre Dalton. All rights reserved.
"The Keeper's Journal" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "The Keeper's Journal" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.