fact, now that we're off the boat, I think I'm starting to like this place.'

He looked around appreciatively. The place did look its best by candlelight. The living room was two stories high, with stairs curling around one wall, leading to a balconylike upper hall, off which the three bedrooms opened. Downstairs, under the bedrooms, were a large bathroom and a larger kitchen. I remembered the place as tiny and cramped--which it usually was in the summer, with every bedroom filled, a carpet of sleeping bags in the living room, and a typical hour-long wait to use the bathroom. But for two people looking for peace and quiet and a place to get away from it all, the cottage suddenly looked like a palace.

'Let's worry about the luggage later,' Michael said, sitting down on one of the sofas and patting the cushion beside him. I joined him, and for a few minutes we sat there in silence, enjoying the warmth, the music, the whole ambiance.

Although I did wonder who had opened up the cottage and set everything up for us. Had Winnie and Binkie made a quick call from the gift shop and sent some helpful neighbor over? Or had Aunt Phoebe noticed the missing key, done a head count, and decided to arrange a lovely surprise? Whoever it was, they had my thanks. In my exhausted state, I kept remembering the version of 'Beauty and the Beast' in which the disembodied hands set the table and served dinner, and I wondered if something similar had happened here.

No matter, I thought, sinking back against Michael's arm. This is heavenly.

The door suddenly opened with a bang.

'I'm back!' caroled a voice.

Michael and I whirled about in astonishment.

'Dad?' I said.

My father stood in the doorway with a load of wood in his arms. Water flew everywhere as he shook himself like a dog.

'Meg!' he cried. He dumped the wood on the hearth with a thump, then enfolded me in a soggy bear hug. 'What a wonderful surprise!'

'You think you're surprised,' I muttered. 'You have no idea.'

'And Michael,' Dad added. 'How grand! Margaret, come look; it's Meg and Michael here to join us.'

Mother appeared at the top of the stairway, delicately suppressing a yawn, carrying her embroidery and a European fashion magazine.

'Meg, dear,' she cried. She floated gracefully down the stairs and bent over to kiss my cheek. 'This is so nice! And how lovely to see you, Michael.'

Not a single improbably blond hair had strayed out of place, and she looked, as usual, as if she could replace any of the models in the magazine on a moment's notice.

Just then, I heard a loud pop, and something whizzed past my nose and bounced off Michael's chin.

'Sorry about that, Michael,' Dad said, waggling the champagne bottle. 'Nothing broken, I hope?'

'No, I'm fine,' Michael said, rubbing his chin.

'Here we go,' Dad said, handing Mother a glass of the champagne and taking a sip from his own glass. 'Would you two like any?'

'No thanks,' Michael and I chorused. I closed my eyes. I wasn't quite ready to watch people eating and drinking.

The door slammed open again.

'Well, I see the ferry's in,' said Aunt Phoebe, appearing in the doorway with a dripping canvas tote in each hand. 'You've missed dinner, but there's plenty of leftovers. Smithfield ham, potato salad--'

'No thanks,' I said.

'Maybe later,' Michael added.

'Hell, they just got off the ferry; they're probably sick as dogs,' cackled Mother's best friend, Mrs. Fenniman, appearing behind Aunt Phoebe with her own pair of tote bags. 'Leave them in peace till their guts stop heaving.'

Although Mrs. Fenniman was absolutely right, I wished she hadn't emphasized the word heaving quite so forcefully. My stomach gave a queasy lurch, as if to say, Okay, time to pay attention to me.

'Is the ferry going back tonight?' came a voice from above our heads. I looked up, to see my brother, Rob, standing on the upstairs landing, rubbing his eyes as if he'd just awakened.

'My God,' I said. 'Is everyone in Yorktown up here? Yikes!'

I jumped as something cold and wet touched my ankle.

'What the devil is Spike doing here?' Michael asked, looking down at the small black-and-white fur ball at my feet. Although Spike was Michael's mother's dog, he had never liked Michael. He looked up for a moment, curled his lip at Michael, and returned to his favorite pastime of licking me obsessively. He didn't seem to mind the mud.

'Your mother asked me to baby-sit him for the weekend,' Rob said. 'And when I had to drive up here, there wasn't anything I could do but bring him along. You want to take charge of him?'

'Thanks, but you'll probably get back to Yorktown before I do,' Michael said. He didn't like Spike any more than Spike liked him. Of course, Spike didn't really like anyone but Michael's mother and me. And I'd never figured out why he liked me. The feeling certainly wasn't mutual.

'True, I'm heading home as soon as possible,' Rob said. 'Speaking of which, I'd probably better get my bag and head down to the ferry.'

'I doubt the ferry's going anywhere tonight,' I said. 'And trust me, if it was, you wouldn't want to be on it. For a tropical storm that's heading out to sea to die, this one still has a lot of life left in it.'

'That's because it isn't heading out to sea to die,' Mrs. Fenniman said, pouring herself some tea. 'It just went out to sea long enough to pick up steam. It's back up to a hurricane again and has turned around to take another run at the coast.'


'It's true; I just heard it on the radio,' Mrs. Fenniman said with the good cheer she usually displayed when she had managed to scoop everyone else with news of a scandal or disaster.

'Oh great,' Rob said. 'I guess that means I'm stuck here for the duration.'

He threw himself down on one of the couches and assumed a martyred air. Along with Mother's slender height and aristocratic blond looks, he'd inherited her talent for self-dramatization.

'Don't be gloomy,' Dad said. He stood before the hearth, apparently trying to set the back of his pants on fire. His short, round form and the way the firelight played on his bald head made him look like a mischievous gnome. 'Look on the bright side,' he added. 'After all these years, we'll finally get to see what really happens here during a hurricane!'

'Yippee,' Rob mumbled without enthusiasm.

'Oh dear,' Mother murmured.

'Don't worry, Margaret,' Aunt Phoebe said. She had shed her dripping rain gear and was tying a green-and- orange-flowered apron over her stout khaki-clad form. 'We've got plenty of food and fuel. We may have to rough it for a bit, but we'll come through just fine.'

Mother looked relieved. After all, she knew better than anyone that Aunt Phoebe's idea of roughing it meant using the checked gingham napkins instead of the starched linen, and that the caviar might be tinned instead of fresh.

'Time we got busy,' Mrs. Fenniman said. She had donned a flowered apron identical to Aunt Phoebe's, though it looked odd over her usual black clothes and scrawny frame. The two of them hefted their tote bags and disappeared into the kitchen.

'We can go out on the cliffs at Green Point and actually see the storm hit!' Dad went on. 'Won't that be fantastic!'

'Oh, James, you mustn't!' Mother protested.

'Won't that be dangerous?' Michael asked. I looked at him with astonishment and more than a little dismay. He sounded as if he might actually be considering Dad's suggestion. Much as I adored my father, I'd always sworn never to get involved with someone who did the kind of crazy things Dad did. And yet, there it was again: I could see on Michael's face that same look of lovable but daft enthusiasm. Oh dear, I thought. Dad had spread a small map of Monhegan over the coffee table and was scribbling madly on it--apparently trying to calculate the best spot to await the hurricane's arrival. Michael leaned over to watch.

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