Lady lightkeeper by Nikki Leigh
Lizbeth's happy world is turned upside down. Can she move ahead with her life? Lizbeth keeps an almost obsessive vigil from the lighthouse catwalk. She must find a way to help her children.
Friends help her realize she can help the townspeople and move her life ahead. The assistant light keeper helps her learn the ropes of her new job. He is a secretive man. Is he hiding a dark secret or a lifetime of hurt? Will they recover from their disappointments?
Lizbeth's children grow up in a time and place where death and loss are prevalent. Can Lizbeth draw on her disappointments and help them understand and cope?
(Tuesday, September 21, 1852)
The ocean mist brushed across my face. Amber, orange and pink fingers of sunlight wrapped around the rails. My seat on the floor of the parapet was wet, but it didn’t matter. From my perch high atop the lighthouse, I scanned the horizon. There was no sight of the Misty Pride II. William should’ve been home weeks earlier.
He sailed with his men over six months ago. Where was he and why wasn’t he home? Our children needed him and so did I. Waves crashed against the sandy floor far below.
As the sun rose, my frustration grew. “William, where are you? I need you here with me.” The words escaped my lips. Turning from side to side, I made sure no one heard my words.
Holcomb would arrive to check the light soon. Each morning he extinguished the light and began his daily chores. I should know the responsibilities after all these months. My presence day after day must irritate him, but the lighthouse was the best vantage point in Misty Cove. I could view the coast from the lamp room. Normally, the sheer beauty along our section of the Massachusetts coastline would take my breath away, but not as long as William was missing.
I could watch from the widow’s walk at home. Shivers raced along my spine and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. Even looking at that part of the house gave me chills. With William missing, I simply couldn’t think about that. The name seemed like an warning and I would not give up hope that William and his men were fine. I couldn’t give up.
Tears flowed from my eyes and ran down my mist covered face. My thoughts wandered to Marta and Aidan. Our children were our greatest job and they needed a father and a mother. I grew up without my mother because she died when I was young. But, my children needed both parents. I remembered Marta’s sad expression when William’s boat set out to sea. Before the Misty Pride II had cleared the dock she wanted to know when her daddy would be home because she already missed him.
In my heart, I knew he would be home. He’d been gone for over six months, but he would return to us. How many times had father’s fishing boat been late returning to shore? I couldn’t remember the exact number of times, but it was common for the men to arrive home later than expected. I leaned against the metal rails and gripped the wet surface with all my might. I wouldn’t lose again. I couldn’t lose again.
I shook my head and tried to clear my thoughts. Things happened on the ocean. I knew that better than most people. There had to be a good reason why the Misty Pride was late, we just hadn’t received the details. I would continue to keep an eye on the dock and speak to any sailors that came ashore. Someone had to know where William and his crew were.
Dark gray clouds moved closer to the lighthouse and obscured my view of the harbor. Maybe it was time to go home and get breakfast. The cloud cover made it difficult to see any boats from the lighthouse, but I could see from the bay window in my bedroom. I’d return to the house to wake Marta and Aidan while Sara prepared breakfast. I had to smile when I thought about Sara. Sara and I had been close since the day father brought her home to care for me and the house.
I heard footsteps beside me and I turned to see Holcomb. “Good morning, Mrs. Kinsey. Can I help you this morning?” He leaned against the rail.
“No thank you, Mr. Holcomb.” I hesitated for a moment.“Why don’t you call me Lizbeth?”
I tilted his head toward me. “Are you sure, ma’am?”
Smiling I held my hand out to him. “I am. Do you mind if I call you James?”
He shook my hand and a warm smile crept across his face. “That would be nice.” He turned to face the ocean. “Have you seen anything this morning?”
Shaking my head, I spoke. “No, nothing yet. I didn’t see any boats coming into the harbor before the clouds moved in.” I watched the horizon and soaked in the sparse rays of sun that filtered through the gathering clouds.
James Holcomb kept his feet rooted to the platform but reached out to me with his words. “If you need anything, just tell me. I know the details about your father’s accident. Actually, that’s why I was government brought to Misty Cove. You can trust me to keep the light shining for Mr. Kinsey to find his way home.”
I hadn’t thought about the time of year. How could the date have escaped me? The eleventh anniversary of father’s accident was only a few weeks away. Tears flowed down my face. I lowered my head into both hands.
Holcomb placed a hand on my shoulder with a tentative touch. “I didn’t mean to make you unhappy. Please ignore me and I will leave you alone.”
He turned to leave, but I stopped him. “I’ve been so overwrought about William that I forgot about the anniversary of father’s death. I have to remember father, no matter how worried I am about William.”
“Can I do anything to help?” He asked in a ragged voice.
“Sara and I set aside time to remember father each year. I want my children to know about their grandfather. He was a wonderful man. It is a shame they will never meet him.”
“It’s wonderful that you help your children to know their grandfather. I’ve heard stories about George Sullivan. He was loved and respected by many people.”
His eyes faced the sea. “I remember the hearings after Grimes let the light go dark during that storm. The first and foremost responsibility of the keeper is to keep the light shining. Grimes deserved to be jailed for shirking his duties.”
I touched James shoulder and smiled at him. “I’m glad to know you feel that way. The government built a lighthouse here because the sailors need the beacon. The October Gale of 1841 was bad, but I still believe father could’ve gotten home if the light had shone that night. He knew this coast better than anyone I know, except maybe William.”
“You husband is a competent captain and he will get his men and the boat home if it’s possible. There’s probably a good reason why they are late.”
“I know you’re right. Somehow, I have to find out why he isn’t home.” Determination pushed me to find the information I needed. “I will go to the docks and ask every captain who puts into shore, whether he has heard anything about the Misty Pride.” The heel of my hand slammed against the rails.
“I’ll check information I get for details about Mr.Kinsey and his crew.”
“Thank you. Please let me know if you hear anything.”
“You will be the first person I tell.” His words touched me.
I reached for my coat and turned to the door. “Sara is expecting me, so I need to go. The children will want breakfast and they don’t like to eat without me.” Thoughts of my children brought a bittersweet smile to my lips.
James stepped back to allow me to enter the lamp room. I reached out to touch the reflector that would magnify the light from the lamps. It was clean and that enabled the lamp to shine the furthest distance. It might seem unimportant to many people, but I knew the importance of keeping the lamp room clean and functioning properly.
Curving stone steps led to the door of the lighthouse. My hand laid gently on the rail as I made my way down the stairs. There was a little bounce to my steps when I thought about my children. My boots clinked on the stones as I reached the bottom. James stayed upstairs to begin the morning duties. My horse stood by the hitching post. I climbed into the saddle for the ride home.
The front door opened when I galloped into my driveway. Aidan stood in the doorway and waved. “Good morning mother. We waited breakfast for you.” Marta’s protests were audible before Aidan closed the door. I smiled and pictured my feisty daughter.
Shadow, my horse, pranced around while I removed my saddle. I ran a hand along his mane and brushed him with my other hand.
“Good boy. I enjoyed our ride.” He neighed and nuzzled my cheek.
“Lizbeth, are you in the barn?” Sara’s voice came from the kitchen door.
“I’ll be inside in a few minutes.” I called out to her. Turning my attention back to my horse, I spoke to him. “Take a rest and I’ll be back later today.” I led him into a paddock and started toward the house.
Sara sat my breakfast on the table. The curl of steam wafted to my nose. Scents tickled my nose and made my mouth water. I dug into the eggs and enjoyed the crisp bacon. Evidently, my excursion to the lighthouse made me hungry.
“Mommy’s home. Can we eat now?” My daughter worried about food most of the time.
I ruffled her curls. “We can eat sweetheart.” Turning to Aidan, I asked. “How are you my little man?”
Aidan rolled his eyes and smiled. “I’m fine mother. How are you?”
He sounded much older than his age. I hoped he would be able to enjoy his childhood. He needed to be a child and to spend time with his father. Sad thoughts flashed through my mind, but I turned my attention back to our children.
“Mommy, can we play today?” My little Marta asked.
“We can play this afternoon when I get back from the office. What if we play with Sara and Aidan later?” I slathered butter on my piece of warm bread.
“That’s good mommy.” Her smile could shine like the sun.
“Lizbeth, why do you need to go to the office?” Sara looked directly into my eyes.
“There are some things I need to check on since William has been gone so long. You know we can’t trust Lockwood to stay out of trouble. Can you stay with the children while I’m gone?” I asked my dear friend.
“I’ll be here anytime you need me.” Her smile reflected her love for us. I mouthed the words, thank you, to my friend. She smiled and turned her attention back to her breakfast. “The children and I can clean the keeping room until you get home. Or, you can help me clean the breakfast dishes.” Sara teased.
“That’s not fun.” Marta’s lip turned into a pout and she wrinkled her nose.
Sara and I laughed while Aidan shook his head. I would ride to the Lockwood Shipping offices and check on news of William and the crew. Being an owner of a boating and shipping business should help me get the information I needed. However, my shares in Lockwood hadn’t helped me thus far. Maybe another approach was what I needed. What did I need to do to find the details I needed?
Sara walked to my side. “I heard that a boat may be in the harbor today. It isn’t a boat from Misty Cove and they may have information about the Misty Pride and William.”
I turned to her and my eyes opened wide. “How do you know that?”
Her face turned a soft crimson red. “A friend mentioned it to me.” With that, she turned to walk into the kitchen. I would talk to the captain if a boat did arrive. It was perfect since I was going to the shipping office this morning. Maybe I would find out something today about William and his men. I couldn’t help wondering who Sara had been talking to. If a boat did arrive, then I would be really curious about how she knew about their arrival. After all these years she still surprised me.