Home > Bayou Cottage (Cypress Cove #1)

Bayou Cottage (Cypress Cove #1)
Author: Suzanne Jenkins

Chapter 1

 

 

The train had traveled through the bayou for the past hour. Maggie Angel saw the first signs of community when the engineer sounded the whistle as it approached a road crossing. She looked up from her book, and sure enough, a line of cars had stopped at the crossing. Just beyond it, the first buildings: a white clapboard church with a steeple and a crowd of men standing outside, a weathered gas station with cars at each pump, and a row of storefronts with people coming and going. Cypress trees shaded the district, the long branches hanging down along the sidewalks, shading tables and chairs outside the café that were unoccupied in the afternoon heat.

As a child, she’d spent many afternoons drinking lemonade or sweet tea at one of the tables, unaware of the buzz of humanity around her. Before long, as a resident of Bayou Cottage, she’d come to know the buildings and their occupants; the church was now the community social service center. On this particular afternoon, a crowd of men clustered around the front, all members of their mandatory AA meeting after receiving a DUI, but on subsequent days it could house a meeting of the knitting society of Logan Township, or a Tuesday cooking class led by master chef Georgia Boles.

The low brick buildings housed the Café Delphine, Rickie’s Used Books, and Farrow’s Five and Dime next door to the gas station. Across the street, Spencer’s Grocery store and Casson Hardware, and next to that, the train station, a one-room building that also served as the post office and Western Union.

The train came to a stop at the station with screeching brakes. This was the end of the line. The tracks made a horseshoe around the village and disappeared north to loop around the bayou before it returned east. Excitedly, Maggie stood up and pulled her bags out of the upper luggage compartment. She realized she was the only passenger disembarking in Cypress Cove.

The heady fragrance of sweet bay magnolia hit her in the face, and she breathed of it, letting it envelop her in the memories of her childhood that would draw her back to this place. The heat and humidity was the next thing she noticed approaching the open door, but she had expected it.

“Don’t dress too warm,” her aunt Elizabeth had warned. “Don’t forget, it’s hotter than hades over there, sweetheart. Makes Pensacola feel like Alaska.”

Stepping down to the pavement, she noticed that the lone driver waited with a name printed on a sign. M. Angel. She waved to the man.

“That’s me.”

“Welcome back to Cypress Cove,” he said in a thick accent, reaching for the largest bag. “Floyd Guidry, at your service, Miss Angel.”

“I remember you, Floyd,” she said, smiling.

“And I remember you as a little chil’. Now you’re here, all growed up to live in the bayou. I’m parked right over on the street.”

She handed over another bag, but he insisted on taking all of them, leaving her with a backpack.

“I have four boxes to pick up inside,” she said, pointing to the station. “It’s the post office, too, isn’t it?”

“That’s right. I’ll get you settled in the car and go around back where the dollies are kept.”

He led her to a large SUV, and she waited at the back while he placed her bags inside.

“I’ll start ’er up so you’ll have AC. No one can sit in a car without AC around here. It’s brutal.”

After starting the car for her and seeing that she was comfortable, he left with the receipts she’d handed him to retrieve her boxes. It was hard to believe that she had managed to pack what she absolutely couldn’t live without in three suitcases and four boxes, but she had done it. The rest of the boxes would arrive at the cottage in a week.

Waiting in the car gave her a chance to look around. It had been several years since the last time she was in Cypress Cove. Her father was still alive at the time, and they’d come together so he could fish and she could sit on the porch and spend her week’s vacation reading a stack of paperback suspense stories ready and waiting.

At the end of the summer, the residents looked forward in anticipation to cooler weather in the months to come, but in early September it was still oppressive. A group of shirtless young boys, with fishing poles over their shoulders, passed by the car on their way to the dock. A barking dog followed them while a vintage pickup truck rambled by in the opposite direction. The tableau with the moss-strewn trees was a throwback to another time, and emotions flooded over her.

Rattling around in back of the car signaled that Floyd was there with her boxes.

“Do you need help?” she called out when the gate opened.

“Nope, stay put. Polly said she got you fixed up with change o’ address cards.”

He handed her mail already, including a big envelope from the US Postal Service.

“Now I really feel like I belong here,” Maggie said, aware of how the address was going to change her life.

“I got the place opened up fer ya, but it needs a thorough cleaning. We hit the important spots like the kitchen and facilities so you can at least get moved in. I can help ya with anything you gotta mind to do. Me and the missus are at your service, miss.”

“Thank you so much. I’ll be in touch if I run into anything I can’t handle. Right now all I have on my plate is getting the place livable. I know it’s been a while since anyone stayed there.”

“I think the last time might have been you and your father. But you’ll see. It’s in good shape for an old lady.”

“I was just thinking about that visit with my dad.”

He maneuvered the car around the bumpy path to the trail leading from the village to the more desolate parts of the cove.

“We can’t get here at high tide anymore,” he said. “You got your skiff all tuned up, and there’s a can of gas in the shed if you gotta get out when the road is covered with water.”

“When did it happen?” she asked, frowning. The high water table was part of living at Cypress Cove, but the trail had always been dry, as it was at the highest point.

“Unpopular topic around here and all. Just say the water level has risen. You’re lucky your place is already on stilts. Dry as a bone even during storm season. I checked up on the place, and it did fine last storm, not a drop o’ water out of place.”

“Well, that’s good to know,” she said. Yet another issue she hadn’t given much thought to: what to do during hurricane season. “I guess I’ve got a lot to learn.”

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