Home > Tempest Rising (Jane True #1)

Tempest Rising (Jane True #1)
Author: Nicole Peeler


I eyeballed the freezer, trying to decide what to cook for dinner that night. Such a decision was no mean feat, since a visiting stranger might assume that Martha Stewart not only lived with us but was preparing for the apocalypse. Frozen lasagnas, casseroles, pot pies, and the like filled our icebox nearly to the brim. Finally deciding on fish chowder, I took out some haddock and mussels. After a brief, internal struggle, I grabbed some salmon to make extra soup to—you guessed it—freeze. Yeah, the stockpiling was more than a little OCD, but it made me feel better. It also meant that when I actually had something to do for the entire evening, I could leave my dad by himself without feeling too guilty about it.

My dad wasn’t an invalid—not exactly. But he had a bad heart and needed help taking care of things, especially with my mother gone. So I took up the slack, which I was happy to do. It’s not like I had much else on my plate, what with being the village pariah and all.

It’s amazing how being a pariah gives you ample amounts of free time.

After putting in the laundry and cleaning the downstairs bathroom, I went upstairs to take a shower. I would have loved to walk around all day with the sea salt on my skin, but not even in Rockabill was Eau de Brine an acceptable perfume. Like many twentysomethings, I’d woken up early that day to go exercise. Unlike most twenty-somethings, however, my morning exercise took the form of an hour or so long swim in the freezing ocean. And in one of America’s deadliest whirlpools. Which is why I am so careful to keep the swimming on the DL. It might be a great cardio workout, but it probably would get me burned at the stake. This is New England, after all.

As I got dressed in my work clothes—khaki chinos and a long-sleeved pink polo-style shirt with Read It and Weep embroidered in navy blue over the breast pocket—I heard my father emerge from his bedroom and clomp down the stairs. His job in the morning was to make the coffee, so I took a moment to apply a little mascara, blush, and some lip gloss, before brushing out my damp black hair. I kept it cut in a much longer—and admittedly more unkempt—version of Cleopatra’s style because I liked to hide my dark eyes under my long bangs. Most recently, my nemesis, Stuart Gray, had referred to them as “demon eyes.” They’re not as Marilyn Manson as that, thank you very much, but even I had to admit to difficulty determining where my pupil ended and my iris began.

I went back downstairs to join my dad in the kitchen, and I felt that pang in my heart that I get sometimes when I’m struck by how he’s changed. He’d been a fisherman, but he’d had to retire about ten years ago, on disability, when his heart condition worsened. Once a handsome, confident, and brawny man whose presence filled any space he entered, his long illness and my mother’s disappearance had diminished him in every possible way. He looked so small and gray in his faded old bathrobe, his hands trembling from the anti-arrhythmics he takes for his screwed-up heart, that it took every ounce of self-control I had not to make him sit down and rest. Even if his body didn’t agree, he still felt himself to be the man he had been, and I knew I already walked a thin line between caring for him and treading on his dignity. So I put on my widest smile and bustled into the kitchen, as if we were a father and daughter in some sitcom set in the 1950s.

“Good morning, Daddy!” I beamed.

“Morning, honey. Want some coffee?” He asked me that question every morning, even though the answer had been yes since I was fifteen.

“Sure, thanks. Did you sleep all right?”

“Oh, yes. And you? How was your morning?” My dad never asked me directly about the swimming. It’s a question that lay under the auspices of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that ruled our household. For example, he didn’t ask me about my swimming, I didn’t ask him about my mother. He didn’t ask me about Jason, I didn’t ask him about my mother. He didn’t ask me whether or not I was happy in Rockabill, I didn’t ask him about my mother…

“Oh, I slept fine, Dad. Thanks.” Of course I hadn’t, really, as I only needed about four hours of sleep a night. But that’s another thing we never talked about.

He asked me about my plans for the day, while I made us a breakfast of scrambled eggs on whole wheat toast. I told him that I’d be working till six, then I’d go to the grocery store on the way home. So, as usual for a Monday, I’d take the car to work. We performed pretty much the exact same routine every week, but it was nice of him to act like it was possible I might have new and exciting plans. On Mondays, I didn’t have to worry about him eating lunch, as Trevor McKinley picked him up to go play a few hours of cheeky lunchtime poker with George Varga, Louis Finch, and Joe Covelli. They’re all natives of Rockabill and friends since childhood, except for Joe, who moved here to Maine about twenty years ago to open up our local garage. That’s how things were around Rockabill. For the winter, when the tourists were mostly absent, the town was populated by natives who grew up together and were more intimately acquainted with each other’s dirty laundry than their own hampers. Some people enjoyed that intimacy. But when you were more usually the object of the whispers than the subject, intimacy had a tendency to feel like persecution.

We ate while we shared our local paper, The Light House News. But because the paper mostly functioned as a vehicle for advertising things to tourists, and the tourists were gone for the season, the pickings were scarce. Yet we went through the motions anyway. For all of our sins, no one could say that the True family wasn’t good at going through the motions. After breakfast, I doled out my father’s copious pills and set them next to his orange juice. He flashed me his charming smile, which was the only thing left unchanged after the ravages to his health and his heart.

“Thank you, Jane,” he said. And I knew he meant it, despite the fact that I’d set his pills down next to his orange juice every single morning for the past twelve years.

I gulped down a knot in my throat, since I knew that no small share of his worry and grief was due to me, and kissed him on the cheek. Then I bustled around clearing away breakfast, and bustled around getting my stuff together, and bustled out the door to get to work. In my experience, bustling is always a great way to keep from crying.

Tracy Gregory, the owner of Read It and Weep, was already hard at work when I walked in the front door. The Gregorys were an old fishing family from Rockabill, and Tracy was their prodigal daughter. She had left to work in Los Angeles, where she had apparently been a successful movie stylist. I say apparently because she never told us the names of any of the movies she’d worked on. She’d only moved back to Rockabill about five years ago to open Read It and Weep, which was our local bookstore, café, and all-around tourist trap. Since tourism replaced fishing as our major industry, Rockabill can just about support an all-year-round enterprise like Read It and Weep. But other things, like the nicer restaurant—rather unfortunately named The Pig Out Bar and Grill—close for the winter.

“Hey girl,” she said, gruffly, as I locked the door behind me. We didn’t open for another half hour.

“Hey Tracy. Grizelda back?”

Grizelda was Tracy’s girlfriend, and they’d caused quite a stir when they first appeared in Rockabill together. Not only were they lesbians, but they were as fabulously lesbionic as the inhabitants of a tiny village in Maine could ever imagine. Tracy carried herself like a rugby player, and dressed like one, too. But she had an easygoing charisma that got her through the initial gender panic triggered by her reentry into Rockabill society.

And if Tracy made heads turn, Grizelda practically made them spin Exorcist style. Grizelda was not Grizelda’s real name. Nor was Dusty Nethers, the name she used when she’d been a p**n star. As Dusty Nethers, Grizelda had been fiery haired and as boobilicious as a Baywatch beauty. But in her current incarnation, as Grizelda Montague, she sported a sort of Gothic-hipster look—albeit one that was still very boobilicious. A few times a year Grizelda disappeared for weeks or a month, and upon her return home she and Tracy would complete some big project they’d been discussing, like redecorating the store or adding a sunroom onto their little house. Lord knows what she got up to on her profit-venture vacations. But whatever it was, it didn’t affect her relationship with Tracy. The pair were as close as any husband and wife in Rockabill, if not closer, and seeing how much they loved each other drove home to me my own loneliness.

“Yeah, Grizzie’s back. She’ll be here soon. She has something for you… something scandalous, knowing my lady love.”

I grinned. “Awesome. I love her gifts.”

Because of Grizzie, I had a drawer full of naughty underwear, sex toys, and dirty books. Grizzie gave such presents for every occasion; it didn’t matter if it was your high school graduation, your fiftieth wedding anniversary, or your baby’s baptism. This particular predilection meant she was a prominent figure on wedding shower guest lists from Rockabill to Eastport, but made her dangerous for children’s parties. Most parents didn’t appreciate an “every day of the week” pack of thongs for their eleven-year-old daughter. Once she’d given me a gift certificate for a “Hollywood” bikini wax and I had to Google the term. What I discovered made me way too scared to use it, so it sat in my “dirty drawer,” as I called it, as a talking point. Not that anyone ever went into my dirty drawer with me, but I talked to myself a lot, and it certainly provided amusing fodder for my own conversations.

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