Home > The Sandcastle Hurricane

The Sandcastle Hurricane
Author: Carolyn Brown

 


Chapter One

Who in their right mind would name a hurricane Delilah? That’s just asking for trouble,” Ellie Mae fussed as she put the final screw in the plywood covering the last door on the second floor of the Sandcastle Bed-and-Breakfast.

“That’s better than Jezebel or Lucifer. I understand that the names they give them aren’t random, and they come from a list that is put together years in advance.” Tabby wondered at the same time if hurricanes should be given names of the infamous rather than common folks.

“The last one that created havoc in south Texas was named Ida. That sounds like an old-maid aunt’s name,” Ellie Mae said as she finished the job.

“If there’s another one this fall, it will be named James. The names are switched back and forth between female and male to keep things equal,” Tabby said with a giggle.

Ellie Mae tucked the drill and extra screws into a tote bag, slung it over her shoulder, and started down the rickety old wooden ladder that had been propped up against the railing around the balcony. “Well, then, I hope there’s not another one this year, because your ex-husband does not deserve any glory—not even the negative kind that folks talk about for years to come.”

“You got that right.” Tabby felt a surge of anger thinking about any notoriety that man might get.

James had always been a good provider, and a good father, but he believed that the man’s word was law in the family, and he had no reason to discuss his decisions with her. His attitude had been the final straw that had broken the old proverbial camel’s back and caused their divorce two years before.

“Be careful!” Tabby glanced over the side of the railing, tracking Ellie Mae’s movements. “Neither of us would win a contest for gracefulness, Eleanor Mason Landry.”

“I will, Tabitha June Landry.” Ellie Mae set her feet on the ground and gave her cousin a thumbs-up. “Why are we second-naming each other?”

“Probably because Aunt Charlotte does when she’s either scolding us or worried about us,” Tabby said as she threw a leg over the railing and planted a foot on a ladder rung. “And I could hear her voice in my head saying, ‘You girls be careful on that ladder. It’s as old as Methuselah.’”

“You sounded just like her. I didn’t think she’d ever leave Sandcastle,” Ellie Mae said with a smile. She grabbed both sides of the ladder to give it some support but let go briefly with one hand to scratch her nose.

“Don’t shake this thing. I’m already afraid of heights, and . . .” Tabby gasped as the ladder began to weave. She stopped midway up.

“My nose was itching,” Ellie Mae yelled over the sound of the wind.

“Scratch it later,” Tabby said in a no-nonsense tone. “And I figured Aunt Charlotte would breathe her last right here in Sandcastle, but she seems to love living in Colorado.”

A rush of salty-smelling wind heralded Delilah’s arrival and whipped Tabby’s dark brown hair across her face. She eased down the ladder a rung at a time, afraid to push her locks back and even more scared to look down.

The ladder wobbled once more, and she sucked in enough air to explode her lungs. “Did you have to scratch your nose again?”

“Nope. The wind is really wicked. Hurry up before it carries you and this ladder away,” Ellie Mae shouted.

Dammit, Tabby thought as she stepped down again and cursed the wind for blinding her with her own hair. Santa Ana must have left this ladder behind back at the Alamo before Texas was even a state.

Dark clouds blotted out what little sunshine was left as they rolled toward the shore. Tabby looked up to see the tops of the trees all blowing toward the north. She could hear at least one limb of the old oak in the backyard moaning before it cracked. There would be a mess to clean up when the storm passed on through, for sure.

“If we survive this hurricane, I might give you my share of the B and B and move to Colorado with Aunt Charlotte. I thought tornadoes were the evilest thing on earth, until now,” Ellie Mae yelled over the noise of the rushing wind. “We need to figure out a way to put that last piece of wood up from the inside of the window; then we won’t need to climb down this rickety old ladder.”

From the sound of her cousin’s voice, Tabby could tell she wasn’t far from the bottom now. “If that had been possible, Aunt Charlotte would have already figured it out. At least we only have to go down this thing one time.”

Lightning streaked across the sky in a long, ragged line, and a clap of rolling thunder followed. Tabby fought the urge to let go and cover her ears. She forced herself to keep a tight grip on the sides of the ladder and hoped she wouldn’t end up with dozens of splinters in her palms. She glanced over her shoulder to see more lightning flash behind Ellie Mae, turning her into a momentary silhouette.

“Just four more steps and you’re on the ground,” Ellie Mae said. “You could jump from there.”

“Not . . .” She let go with one hand and instinctively covered one ear when the thunder rolled so close that the noise rattled the ladder. “Going to . . .” She quickly got a grip on the edge of the ladder again. “Happen!” she yelled above all the mixed sounds of the weather, the angry surf, and the creaking tree limbs.

“Hurry up, woman. I can feel the rain and see sheets of it coming right at us,” Ellie Mae said. “Those waves are taller than me.”

“That’s not very tall.” Tabby glanced down at the ground and then at the surf not a hundred yards away from the B and B. “But then, that’s a good sign.”

“How can you be so positive about everything?” Ellie Mae asked.

“I’ve wallowed in a negative world too long. When I moved down here, I decided I was leaving all the bad behind and just dwelling on the good,” Tabby answered above the rush of blood pounding in her ears. “Let’s be thankful for everything, including a drill that didn’t run out of power and even this rotten old ladder.”

“The little things, huh?” Ellie Mae asked.

She’d barely gotten the last word out when the next rung on the ladder snapped in half. One second, Tabby was only a couple of steps from solid ground; the next, she was grabbing for anything to break her fall. With her hands outstretched and catching nothing but fistfuls of air, she landed on Ellie Mae and sent both of them to the ground.

Everything seemed to happen in slow motion, and then poof! Just like that, she was struggling to catch her breath, lying flat on her back, staring up at a mass of black clouds. A mop of her own hair was in her face and mouth, trying to choke her to death as she struggled to fill her lungs with air. When she opened her eyes, Ellie Mae was pushing her off, sputtering and trying to catch her breath all at the same time.

“Not”—Ellie Mae rolled over and sat up—“graceful . . .” She inhaled deeply.

Tabby was staring up at the angry black clouds with lightning bolts shooting out of them and thunder rolling close behind. “Is that what drums sound like in heaven?” she asked between gasps for air.

“Not funny!” Ellie Mae gasped. “You knocked the wind out of me.”

“It’s either laugh or cry! Are you hurt? Did I break any bones when I fell on you?” Tabby sat up and checked her arms and fingers. Everything seemed to be working just fine.

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