It is December on Nantucket Island—a month of white skies and the first truly cold winds of the winter, a month made bearable by Christmas cheer. When Kayla stands next to the big Douglas fir in front of Pacific National Bank, she gazes down Main Street at the rows of trees with their fat colored lights, the snow flurries dusting the cobblestones, and the people she has lived amongst for twenty years, who are hurrying into the warm shops.
Kayla has shopping to do as well. At The Complete Kitchen, she buys an ice cream scoop for Luke’s teacher, and the woman behind the register offers her an hors d’oeuvre from a silver platter: smoked salmon on rye bread topped with caviar that looks like black pearls. At Nantucket Sleigh Ride, they’re handing out hot cider in paper cups. Kayla buys ornaments and a strand of scallop-shell lights. At Johnston’s of Elgin cashmere shop, Kayla splurges on a cherry red pashmina for a party she and Raoul have been invited to on the fifteenth. The salesgirl wraps the pashmina in cream-colored tissue paper, ties it up with red ribbon, and then slips it into a fancy shopping bag with silk cord handles. Walking back to her car, Kayla marvels at how, on the outside, everything in her life appears to be back to normal. And on a day like today, better than normal.
Antoinette has been missing for three months.
As Kayla walks into her house, the phone rings. She still can’t bring herself to answer the phone because she’s afraid.
“Afraid of what?” Raoul asked her once.
Afraid of this very thing: She waits for the machine to pick up, and then she hears a voice.
“Kayla,” the voice says. “This is Paul Henry. I have news. Please call me.”
Kayla deletes the message and begins pacing the house, still clutching her shopping bags. She is grateful that she’s the only one home. No one else heard the message.
I have news.
Afraid of what?
Afraid that everything is not back to normal. Antoinette, the woman whom Kayla once called her best friend, was swept off the coast of Great Point while swimming in the middle of the night on Labor Day weekend.
Was Antoinette dead? Alive? There was no way to know.
Copyright © 2002 by Elin Hilderbrand.