Mistress for a Month

By: Ann Major


North Shore

Oahu, Hawaii

W ild, zany Aunt Tate dead?

Amelia flipped her cell phone shut. Then her grip tightened on her steering wheel as she rounded a curve of green mountain, and the tall hotels of Waikiki vanished in her rearview mirror. Why couldn’t her mother ever just answer the phone?Amy punched in her mother’s number once more, and again it rang and rang.

After Aunt Tate’s horrid French attorney had told her her aunt had died, Amy had stopped listening for a second or two. The next thing she’d caught was, “She left you everything.”

Everything should have included only Château Serene and the vineyard in Provence where Amy had once shared sparkling summers with Aunt Tate and her haughty comte, but her aunt had not quite finished the process of donating her extremely valuable Matisse to a French museum before her death. She’d left a letter to Amy in her will stating her intentions regarding the painting, but technically the Matisse was hers, as well.

“I’m afraid the property is in a pitiable state of neglect. Luckily for you the young comte is ready to make you a generous offer. Naturally he would like to buy the painting back, as well. Surely it belongs on the wall in the home of the family who’s owned it for nearly a century.”

“The comte’s family disliked my aunt. I’m not sure I want to sell to him!”

“But, mademoiselle, the château belonged to his family for nearly eight hundred years.”

“Well, apparently everything belongs to me now. Goodbye!”

She’d immediately called Nan, her best friend, who’d been in a sulk because she hadn’t gotten to go on a retreat on Molokai with her sister Liz and had asked her to cover for her at Vintage, her resale shop, during the sale today. Then she’d tried to call her mother to tell her about Tate and to ask her if she’d work at Vintage so that she could fly to France to check on the château and vineyard.

Imagining her customers lined up outside Vintage, Amy pressed the accelerator, speeding through the mountains and then along the rugged coastline where waves exploded against the rocks. The shop didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. Life was short. She wanted Fletcher, her longtime boyfriend. She wanted his arms around her. That was why she was driving as fast as she could to his beach house on the North Shore.

Aunt Tate was gone. On a day like this there should be a rogue wave hurtling toward the Hawaiian Islands or an earthquake about to topple the hotels in Waikiki.

Despite the wind pounding the hood of her Toyota and streaming past her windows, the North Shore of Oahu with its lush, green mountains and wide, white beaches and ocean was beautiful.

Amy felt sad and restless and increasingly nostalgic about Aunt Tate as she kept redialing her mother. If only she could reach her.

I’ll never watch Aunt Tate put on one of her crazy getups again. I’ll never hear her throaty laugh as she bows extravagantly and jokes about being a countess.

The bright blue sky misted. Amy’s eyes burned.

No! She wasn’t crying!

She was driving too fast, and she never drove too fast. With a shaking hand she dialed her mother again, only this time she mashed her cell phone against her ear.

Sounding out of breath, her mother caught the phone on the eighth ring. “Hello!”

“Mom! Finally! The most awful thing has happened! I’ve been calling you and calling you. For hours.” The last was an exaggeration, but her mother deserved it.

“Do you need more money? Me to sign another mortgage paper on Vintage? Where are you, sweetie? You’re breaking up. Isn’t today your big day? How’s the sale going?”

“Mom, I’m not at Vintage. I’m on the North Shore.”

“Amelia, I thought we agreed you weren’t going to chase Fletcher any more!”

Do moms ever step out of the mom role? The last thing she needed was for her mom to start in on how irresponsible and indifferent Fletcher was. Why had she called her mom, of all people?

Because Carol, favorite daughter, her sister, had married well—an English lord, no less. Carol lived on an estate an hour out of London, and it was in the middle of the night over there. Because her best girl buddy, Liz, was in Molokai sitting cross-legged at a retreat. Because Fletcher’s phone was turned off as usual. Because Mom was Tate’s sister. Because she was her mom, for heaven’s sake. And if she had to go to France, who would take care of Vintage?

Shells crunched under Amy’s tires as she braked in front of Fletcher’s unpainted house. As always the house and neighborhood looked so shabby they creeped her out.

“Amelia! Tell me you didn’t drive out to Fletcher’s alone!”