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A lesbian romance set in a seaside town. Like my other submissions, it’s a bit of a read and the ‘good stuff’ doesn’t happen right away.
For those not familiar with the slang, the term shoobie originated in the 1920’s on the southern shore of New Jersey as a nickname for tourists. Tourists supposedly brought their lunches in shoe boxes when visiting the Shore and they were dubbed ‘shoobies’. Okay, enough with the history lesson.
A huge thank you to LaRascasse for solid suggestions for improvement/editing and thank you to my beta reader, Stroudle for all the great feedback!
The strong scents of the ocean poured over Amelia Lincoln as she walked over the wooded boardwalk toward the railing. An orange glow was thrown over the water by the rising sun, the damp jetty glistening where it jutted out. Several dots lined the rocks, early risers casting out fishing lines in hopes of catching a piece of the ocean’s bounty.
She placed her fingertips on the cool surface of the metal bars, closing her eyes as she relished in the soft heat coming from the new day.
A ring from a passing bicycle chimed loudly, an errant string of laughter heard from one of the closest shops. The aroma of fresh fried doughnuts and baked bread wafted into her face on a breeze, her brown hair being tugged aside by it. She smiled to herself, imagining that her mother was pulling her hair back into a ponytail, as she had many a time in that very spot when Amelia was a child.
But, she wasn’t. She was in the ground, had been for two months. Amelia stepped back, opening her eyes and allowing reality to slip back to the forefront of her mind. She had so many things to do, a near failing business to run, a contract extension to negotiate; her time to grieve had passed. Turning toward the row of awakening shops, Amelia braced herself for the day ahead of her.
The tiny shop her mother had cherished sat at the end of 11th avenue beside a Christmas themed store and in front of one of two amusement parks on the boardwalk. It was a prime location that her mother was lucky to get a deal on. The rent was quite inexpensive, and Amelia was thankful for that. She only hoped the new property owner was as gracious as the last who had owned the building for nearly three decades.
Amelia received the call from her mother six months prior. End stage pancreatic cancer. She had chosen to forgo treatment, which was futile at any rate, causing Amelia to drop everything to care for her ill mother.
She sighed, attempting to assuage the torrent of emotions that threatened to distract her from the many pushing matters of her day. Walking through the glass doors of the shop, the smell of fresh flowers pressed against her and she welcomed its embrace. The aroma would always remind her of her mother.
It was a small shop, no bigger than the average ice cream stand, the storefront a simple counter and two display cases. The back was taken up by various refrigerators for the flowers as well as supplies for bouquets and arrangements. Entering the office, she set up her laptop and began reordering supplies from her inventory the night before. She had dived head first into the business upon her arrival back home, taking over for her mother as she became sicker and weaker.
Martha Lincoln had a knack for her trade, capturing quite a profit for many years as well as a large client base. However, with the damage that had been done to the shop during Hurricane Sandy, she’d used most of her savings to help the owners rebuild the structure and replace windows. Before she could manage to reassemble her savings, she fell ill.
Amelia had done her best to salvage her mother’s baby, but with limited funding and even less aptitude for customer service, she felt as if she was failing. A knock on the door to the tiny office brought Amelia’s gaze up. Her mother’s teenage delivery driver, Brady Tripe, stood in the small door frame, a long box hanging in his hands. “The flower shipment is here, Miss Lincoln,” he gestured to the load in his arms.
She stood, reaching for the box of assorted roses. “Thanks, Brady. I’ll come help with the rest.”
The young man had worked with her mother for the previous three summers and had grown quite fond of her. It took a toll on him and the other full time summer employees with her unexpected passing, especially her mother’s good friend and longest standing employee, Kathy Meek. The absence of her mother was even more painful when she allowed herself to recognize the hurt in other people’s eyes.
She doubted she could manage the impossibly large shoes of her mother and she wasn’t even sure she could keep the shop open long enough to find out.
“Are you sure you want to do the wedding all the way down here? Why not, like, Philly, or, I don’t know, New York City? Mom and Dad are giving you full reign,” Morgan Burke stretched out in the passenger seat of her sister’s Toyota Prius, istanbul escort staring at her dubiously, her bare feet on the dash.
When her sister didn’t look at her, Morgan peered out at the vast ninth street bridge heading into Ocean City, New Jersey. The nearly three-mile causeway between Ocean City and Somer’s Point was jam packed with out of city visitors and the traffic was moving slow even at eleven a.m. In Morgan’s estimation and memory, the city was ugly, far from what her sister deserved as a location for her anticipated wedding.
Regardless of what she or her mother and stepfather said, Allison had made her choice.
Allison glanced at her sister. “Doug and I really love this place. It’s just so nostalgic. Don’t you remember coming down here during the summer with aunt Fran? The food, the rides, all of it. It was awesome,” she looked back to the road, traffic having stopped as the bridge lifted to let a grandiosely restored schooner drift by. “And don’t be so dyspeptic,” Allison added.
Morgan scoffed and rolled up the window, the fetid odor of exhaust fumes too potent. “Wow, listen to you being all literary. Was that the word of the day on your dictionary app?” She chuckled. Allison whacked her sister’s arm before pulling forward as the traffic resumed.
It wouldn’t be so bad if we could actually drink, Morgan thought to herself and immediately felt guilty. Her future brother-in-law was an openly recovering alcoholic and she knew that Ocean City prohibited the sale of alcohol within city limits. She surmised this had a lot to do with the choosing of the location, but feigned ignorance.
“You know, Morgan, you could at least pretend you’re excited to see the hotel we chose. It’s going to be so beautiful. Think of the pictures, right off the water! And don’t worry, you won’t have to tag along after Doug gets here tomorrow.”
It was adorable how her sister’s face lit up when she got excited about the wedding, like it was a little girl’s dream. Morgan knew it probably was. With her Mom and stepfather’s offering to pay for the entire shindig without setting any limitations, Allison could’ve had the wedding in Vegas for all they cared. They just wanted her to be happy, as did Morgan.
She couldn’t, however, stifle the trepidation stirred by the implications of her being married. The slight jealousy of her baby sister finding love ahead of her had Morgan planning to at least pregame beforehand to deal with the wedding taking place in the driest city in the Tristate area.
The wedding was planned for the following June, nearly a year away and they were already setting up reservations at a hotel in the small seaside city. “I’m sure it’ll be beautiful. I just don’t understand why we have to come out here a year in advance to scope it out. I mean, I’m not complaining because I do have some stuff I’ve got to do while we’re down here, but we could’ve waited until after tourist season to set up all of the reservations,” her tone was dyspeptic, she noticed and mentally berated her sister for choosing such a fitting word.
She didn’t mean to be irritable, but she had unpleasant business to attend to within the city. Giving notice of a lease termination was not her favorite aspect of her job. Prior to leaving the office the day before, her business partner loaded her with an envelope and a quick description of the situation.
A small company purchased a property from an aging couple and wanted to boot out the long-standing tenants to gut the structure and rebuild. It was a smart idea, he had told Morgan, due to the location and history of hurricanes. It was still one of her least favorite bits of the job and was saving it for Tuesday morning, determined to enjoy her weekend away from work.
“Because. If we waited until after tourist season, most of these places won’t even be open. A lot of them close during fall and board up to prevent damage during hurricane season,” Allison reasoned. Morgan sighed, understanding her logic.
“We better at least find some bomb-ass ice cream, then,” Morgan asserted as the car pulled into a large parking lot by the shoreline.
As Morgan stepped out of the car, she realized her sister was right about its beauty. The long planks of the boardwalk stretched for miles, the beach windswept, wispy cattails and blades of grass sticking up from the dunes bordering the boardwalk. Kaleidoscopic kites fluttered in the skies above the beach.
The hotel they were staying at was on the southern end of the island, farther away from the more crowded areas with private beach access. It was a three story building with large pillars decorated with faux seashells lining the white concrete, a tall archway above the entrance to the courtyard.
Allison sighed, leaning against her older sister. “I told you it was beautiful,” she nudged her sister’s arm with an elbow.
Morgan couldn’t deny that it had a charm to it. “Yeah, I guess. Let’s get our crap şirinevler escort inside so we can score some lunch and ice cream,” she commanded, heading to the trunk of her sister’s Prius.
By the time the sisters were ready to start their trek down to the boardwalk, it was past lunch time and the heat that blanketed the area was intense. Morgan had changed out of her tee shirt into a blue tank top and tan cargo shorts to fend off the humidity. The lobby of the hotel offered two exits, one to 14th street and the other exiting onto the boardwalk right beside the Ocean City Fishing Pier.
The siblings headed toward the boardwalk, the sun immediately hitting them as they stepped onto the wooden planks of the boardwalk. It was beautiful, a gentle breeze pushing off the water from the beach, the wispy green dune grass weaving through the air, as if tickling the horizon.
Morgan smiled, remembering the times spent with her sister and their cousins down by the water years and years ago. Each summer, their parents sent them down to their mother’s sister’s shore rental for a few weeks, to enjoy their own peace and quiet, and to allow their children a beachside adventure.
Allison turned to Morgan, “Okay, we have to eat real food first and then we’ll grab some ice cream. But, this trip isn’t just for fun; I need to find a caterer, a rental company for the equipment we need, and a florist,” Allison listed. Morgan nodded, and they made their way up the boardwalk in mutual silence.
It became more crowded the closer they got to the northern end of the island, families with their small children flooding the area. The beaches were packed with tourists, colorful umbrellas lining the shore, towels sprawled across the hot sand and people darting for the water, looking for a respite from the heat. The salty smell in the air was tinged with fried dough and garlic and Morgan’s stomach growled.
They grabbed a couple slices of pizza and as they ate, Morgan scoped out the local creameries on Yelp, finding an intriguing shop that offered rolled ice cream. “Hey! We have to try this,” Morgan exclaimed as she showed Allison the advertisement and they headed in the direction of their target.
Before they reached it, however, Allison stopped at a storefront on the corner. Martha’s Flowers the sign above the door exclaimed. “Let’s check this place out real quick,” Allison said and she went through the open door without waiting for an answer from her sister.
“Why can’t you wait until Doug gets here?” Morgan called out to her sister before she reluctantly followed her into the store. It was a beautiful little shop, floor to ceiling glass doors on one wall showcasing delicate bouquets and arrangements. She hadn’t noted another flower shop in the area and with its neighboring stores being mostly food merchants and retail, the shop didn’t have much competition. Having the store directly on the corner must’ve done wonders for the business as well.
When her eyes completed their survey, they settled on a beautiful woman behind the counter. Her grey blue eyes met with Morgan’s, the intensity of them causing Morgan to stifle as gasp as she was taken in by the gaze. She mentally shook herself from their grasp and smiled at the woman before following her sister to the large ordering catalogue. The book had various sections based on occasion and Allison perused the wedding section, oohing and ahhing at the different arrangements offered. “Look at this one,” she cooed at a page dedicated to just roses.
The woman from behind the counter approached them. “Is there anything in particular you’re looking for?” She smiled warmly at the sisters.
Allison turned toward the woman. “My sister and I are just looking right now. I’m getting married down here next summer and I wanted to check out the different businesses for the ceremony,” she grinned. The woman and her sister talked over the differing arrangements ordered for weddings, the typical wait time and cost. Morgan watched her lips moving but she didn’t hear what she was saying to Allison.
The woman was breathtaking, her naturally highlighted brown hair pulled back in a loose pony tail, her elegant fingers pushing back a strand behind her ear as she spoke. A light splay of freckles adorned her cheeks and her brows were quite expressive as she explained in detail the difference between a regular daisy and a gerbera daisy. Morgan found it humorous that was the only snippet of the conversation she heard. She couldn’t remember the last time she was so utterly stricken by someone.
She was caught staring when the two women looked at her expectantly. “Uh, what? I’m sorry,” she muttered with discomfiture.
Allison laughed and grabbed hold of her sister’s forearm. “I was saying that I promised we’d hit the ice cream shop down the way after we were done in here,” she turned toward the florist, “Thank you so much for your time. I’m pretty taksim escort sure I’ve found where I’ll be getting my flowers.”
Amelia watched the women leave, grateful for the potential new customer. Her mother always tried her best to acquire engaged couples as customers, going as far as entering in wedding expos in Atlantic city and neighboring towns to obtain their service. The business from these customers was large and always boosted her clientele.
She smiled. The bride’s sister kept staring at her with a dumbfounded look, and Amelia deliberately made eye contact with her as much as possible. She couldn’t help but want to flirt with the woman.
The woman wore her dark hair short and it framed her chiseled jaw beautifully and she looked starkly different than her sister. The woman was tall, tanned and her facial features much more defined and her overall appearance was androgynous while her sister was fair skinned, feminine and quite petite. The bride’s sister wasn’t wearing a ring that I could see, she guiltily thought to herself. What had gotten into her? She didn’t have time for relationships, not even one-night stands. The bell above the door jingled and her young employee stepped in.
“Hey, Meg! Thanks for coming. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it,” she told Brady’s younger sister as she stepped into the shop.
“Sure, Miss Lincoln. I could use the extra money,” the teen came up behind the desk and dropped her bag on the floor. The Tripe siblings were two of her more frequent employees who had been working with her mother for some time. Meg had just started the previous summer and Brady was coming up to his third year with the shop. Amelia said another thanks before stepping into the back and making her way to her office to do some much needed work on her book.
Three hours later, Amelia pinched the bridge of her nose, evening her breath as she combated the growing agitation. “Duke, I respect your concerns, however, I assure you it’s almost complete. If you could station another extension just—,” he quickly cut off her, his voice loud through the phone.
“I’ve already provided you with an extension. Look, Amelia, I understand your mother passed away, and I’m sorry to do this,” he paused, “but, the publisher needs to move forward with this anthology. Unfortunately, they’ll be going with another author. I can’t change the editor’s mind,” he asserted.
She knew her agent was right but that didn’t diminish her frustration. “I get it,” she conceded before concluding the call. Sitting back in the chair in the tiny office of the floral shop, Amelia cursed. She was not only struggling to keep the shop open, but now she was losing her contract with the small publishing house she’d worked with for years.
There will be others, she tried to tell herself, grasping an invisible hope. Her stomach growled ravenously, and she figured she’d need to eat something soon or hope would not be easily retained in her sour state.
The storefront had a few customers, Brady’s younger sister still standing at the cash register. “Hey, Meg, I’m going to grab something to eat,” she told her young employee who nodded in return.
The boardwalk was crowded, even for seven p.m. on a Friday evening in June. A humidity hung heavily in the air, clinging to everything it touched. Amelia was thankful she thought enough to wear her thin cotton tank top beneath her blouse and some shorts, the heat nearly oppressive with the thick misty atmosphere. If the sky had been light enough, Amelia was sure there would be a massive cumulonimbus cloud visible ominously hovering over the ocean. As it was, she could make out the defined edges of clouds on the swiftly greying horizon.
The looming threat of a good storm brightened her mood slightly as she stood in line for pizza. Her work in progress was truly almost done and it pained her to lose the contract for the anthology. Prior to her mother falling ill, she had been contracted to complete the final draft of her horror anthology for the small publishing house she forged a companionship with early in her career. It was the first time since she’d been rejected in a such a manner. She sighed, moving up to the counter, her hands on the cold surface of the countertop as she ordered.
After obtaining her food, she threaded her way through the crowd to the edge of the boardwalk, taking in the smell of the salt water and the sounds of the waves crashing on the shoreline.
Her mood lightened a fragment more as she bit into the cheesy goodness, until someone ran into her, the pizza being knocked from her hands. Red sauce and cheese bits splattered to the boards below her feet and she met guilty brown eyes. “Oh, my God. I’m so sorry. Let me buy you another slice,” apologized a tall woman, her dark hair short and rakish.
She was clearly a woman, wearing a fitted blue tee shirt and cargo shorts, her figure boyishly handsome and incredibly familiar. Duh. It was the same woman who had come in earlier that afternoon with the bride-to-be.
Amelia felt herself blush. “Ah, it’s okay. Too much grease anyway,” she brushed off the stranger’s concern, picking up the now spoiled pizza and tossing it into a garbage can.
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