Too hot to garden...time for a good book.


Dear Friends: I really wanted to spend the day out in my new garden, but it seriously is just too hot and muggy. So I am inside working on a new book. If it is too hot for you to really do anything but relax, I thought you might enjoy reading a little bit of my novel Nantucket Tuck You Inn, Looking for Santa. Even though the name Santa is in the title, this has nothing to do with Christmas per say. Well, maybe a little bit but it is set on Nantucket in the middle of the summer.


So take a minute for an arm chair visit to Nantucket and let yourself fall under the spell of Noel and Max. Don't forget to have some tea, but make it iced...


Cheers,

Jacqueline


Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild

author: The Nantucket Series, The Midwest Series. Coming soon, The Mermaid Mansion (set on Nantucket of course, that's where all the mermaids are). All available on Amazon or from teatimewithhermajesty.com.



Nantucket Tuck You Inn, Looking for Santa



Chapter 1

“Uncle Max!” Lily, Max’s six year old niece, hollered.

He ignored her. She yelled again, this time louder, if that was even possible. Max ran a hand through his black shaggy hair, and squeezed his black brown eyes shut.

“Kendall says it’s not true!” Lily pouted.

Kendall was his eight year old niece--Lily’s sister--eight going on eighteen. He inhaled, ready for whatever--whatever his nieces were bickering about now; the never ending teasing and taunting of each other. When were they going to become best friends? Like sisters were supposed to be …

“Why? Why do I baby sit you girls?” He muttered.

But Kendall was quick, never missing a thing, “Because you love us Uncle Max!” Kendall already had the smile he knew would break hearts. Probably was already, when she wasn’t picking on someone or something that is.

Lily had joined them. She had a pretty cute little smile of her own, hard to see, as she was a pouter, and she was pouting now. “Well I say it’s true!” And she gave it her best effort.

“Is not!” Kendall yelled, well maybe sneered at her sister. She was older. That’s what she did, yelled and sneered.

“Is too! I heard it from Kim Nanny and she knows things!” And she held her hand like an oath. Max watched wondering who this Kim Nanny was Lily obviously was entranced with. “You know everything too Uncle Max! And what you don’t know you find out!”

Well, the child was smart, he’d give her that.

“That’s right Uncle Max!” Kendall joined in. “You’re not the Times number one investigative reporter for nothing! That’s what Mom says!” And she was done sneering and bossing now.

Well, I am good, Max thought, very good, and hid a vain grin.

Lily now curled up on his lap; hoping her uncle would pay attention to her, take her side, believe her. And of course, most of all help her. “We’re leaving it up to you Uncle Max! I heard Santa Claus has a summer home on Nantucket!” There she said it. It did sound a little hard to believe even to her with her active imagination. Still, that’s what she’d heard. It could be true...

“You’re nuts Lily!” Kendall snorted and rolled her eyes at her sister.

“Am not! And if he does, I want to go and meet him … or at least see him … or at least go past his house … wave to him. Maybe drop off an early letter …” And little Lily’s mind was whirling with the possibilities. She’d crawled down off Uncle Max’s lap and now was pacing--pacing with anticipation.

And so they both turned to Max, hands on hips and stared because of course he could solve this for them both.

“Santa Claus has a summer place on Nantucket?” Where did they get this stuff? Max rolled his eyes. He was hungry, and tired. But as he stole another look at his two wild nieces he knew they were serious, and wouldn’t relent.

“That’s right Uncle Max--everyone--well, Kim Nanny says so! Find out! Investigate! Write an article and we can meet him!” And now Lily was getting cranked up again, on her soap box, mentioning this Kim Nanny ‘special’ person, and making her demands--demands that her Uncle Max solve her problem. Find out about Santa Claus. And do it now. Right now!

“Cannot!” Kendall countered. “Cuz it isn’t so!” Kendall was just old enough to counter anything and everything. And she did. And to her this was a no brainer because she was starting to even wonder if there really was a Santa Claus. She saw packages in her mother’s closet, and later saw them under the tree from Santa Claus. Santa Claus didn’t come early and come down the chimney and put things in Mom’s closet just to make his work load easier on Christmas Eve like Lily said.

There was a pretty good possibility that Santa Claus wasn’t even real because if Santa Claus wasn’t, well he could hardly have a summer place on Nantucket. And if there was a Santa Claus, well would Nantucket be his first choice? Come on, what about the Hamptons? So much closer to New York City ... Or New York City itself--far more exciting.

If there was a Santa Claus, well she was sure Santa Claus would have a trendy loft in So Ho or a brown stone on Madison Avenue because that’s where you lived, if you were some one. And if Santa Claus didn’t live at either of those addresses, well common on, he couldn’t possibly be real. And so the loop went. Round and round in her eight year old head.

“Is so!” Lily was now screaming at the top of her lungs, because Kendall really got to her--pushed all her buttons. And picking on Santa Claus or worse yet, doubting him, was the last straw--the very last.

And then Max heard the key in the door of the elegant Madison Avenue brownstone and his sister was home. And he could leave to his So Ho loft.

And quiet.

***

Belle Nichols was back--just for a quick visit. Back to Nantucket to see Miss Tabatha Tucker, her grandmotherly friend who owned the Tuck You Inn and Magee, somewhere in age between Miss Tabatha and her own youth, who owned The Bake Shoppe … because she missed them, was home sick for their friendship. So she’d slipped away for a few days, just a quick trip, just a break.

They were having lunch at Neptune’s Under the Sea, one of Nantucket’s premiere restaurants. “Gwyn has another tough wedding to deal with,” Magee began as she opened her little cello bag of oyster crackers and plopped them in her quahog chowder. Gwyn owned the smartest and most expensive dress business on the island.

“Really?” Belle cut into her crab cakes. As the steam escaped and she inhaled the sweet scent she sighed. Belle was a bride, a new bride, married just a season or two. She still felt like a bride. Still kept her album on the coffee table, still had her cake top in the freezer, still reminisced about the loveliest day in her life. Yes, she was still a new bride.

“Same old story,” Miss Tabatha, the proprietress of the Tuck You Inn, and their senior friend, began. “She can’t find wedding dresses--well, unique ones that is. You know, to compete.” Well Gwyn had no real competition on Nantucket but, the majority of her brides, serious brides, didn’t just shop on the island--of course not. They were a stone’s throw from Boston and another stone’s throw from New York City. No, her customers were pretty sophisticated. And then of course, there was the internet. And everyone knew that was unlimited. One click and you could see what they were wearing in Milan or Paris.

Miss Tabatha began again because she understood, “Gwyn needs a dress maker for formal affairs and of course weddings. She needs someone to make outrageous things for her and her customers, and maybe someone who could just take her stock to a new level, so the average browser would be wowed. You know, so word would get out--one of a kind, unique, wow. Not just any seamstress though, she needs, uh, an artist I guess, but not an artist temperament of course.” Then Miss Tabatha pushed back a stray silver tendril off her round sun kissed face. “And not full time--just, you know, on call.”

There, that summed it up, the old inn keeper hoped. And of course it was a huge request list, not to mention then tossing in the part time part. That could go either way; give a creative person a little freedom or not enough of an income. Tabatha knew it was an impossible search. That type of person just wasn’t floating around looking for work on Nantucket. Nantucket was the play ground of the wealthy, or vacation novelty of the curious day trippers. It was not the stomping ground for the ambitious yet part time creative dress designers.

Miss Tabatha was simply grateful she only ran an inn. She didn’t have to constantly come up with new merchandise. She didn’t have to constantly try and impress her customers and win them over--over and over. No, she simply had to keep all her lovely appointments dusted and fluffed and well, ready. And breakfast of course. But she had a friend, Magee, who owned the Bake Shoppe so; actually breakfast wasn’t a problem either.

Magee knew what she meant, but she also knew it was virtually impossible to find that specialized person to help in your business, or join your business for that matter. As the owner of a small run bakery she knew good help was difficult to come across. And help that understood what you stood for, the gem that made your business special, well … that just was next to impossible; and on a tiny island, well virtually impossible to find help of any kind. Good or bad. It was just impossible.

Belle looked off into middle space, and then surfaced. She hesitated but then decided these were her people. They had helped her get her memory back. They had cared for her. Still did. And she cared for them. They had supported her outrageous struggle and then planned the perfect wedding for her. No, if she had even a slight chance of helping, well she would, even if it seemed a tad out there.

“I know the perfect person,” She started quietly but of course Magee and Miss Tabatha both perked up. Way up. Belle went on, “She makes ball gowns and … well, exotic formal things. She’d love to try her hand at wedding dresses, if she hasn’t already. She’s truly creative. And she loves formal, the fancier the better, though I should add she’s a little unusual …”

“Works out there with you guys?” Magee ventured. The ‘little unusual’ phrase stuck in her mind, it was the tip off. Not that Magee objected, she didn’t, and still it was just something to keep in mind. What with help and all because that little unusual could mean any number of things from not showing up, to being temperamental, to whatever. Of course they weren’t talking about someone to make cakes in her bakery or frost her cookies. So … she could afford to be very open minded.

Belle caught on, couldn’t help it. Actually at first she had been surprised what a hard time her friends and neighbors on Nantucket had to accepting her own situation. And she wasn’t really sure why. After all, it was not a new concept, actually one of the oldest. Still … She was beginning to understand. Understand that people weren’t as opened minded as she had always thought. No not really--not at all. They needed convincing. Often times brain washing.

Still she kept talking, “She does work out there with us but you know our work is seasonal, sporadic. She could use some part time work.” Then Belle sighed, “I’m afraid if we don’t help her fill the dull times, and the slow times, she’ll leave. And she’s irreplaceable.” And Belle looked almost sad tinged in frantic. “You’d be helping us out.” And she meant it.

And as they spoke who walked in but Gwyn. They waved her over. “Hi girls,” Gwyn was a true islander but with a touch of glitz. a flare of glamour. It was a natural for her to be in the fashion business. And locals and tourists turned to her for something special to wear. Often they had no idea what they wanted, but when they entered Gwyn’s they found it, captivated by her exquisite taste and flare. So they learned to count on her, and her shoppe. And that was part of the reason Gwyn felt she had to step up her formal and bridal selections. She didn’t want to let her customers down, or lose them for that matter.

She noticed Belle was at the table. They had met briefly, at Belle’s wedding but then again everyone literally was at Belle and Harv’s wedding. They had opened it up to the island, and the island came. So Belle just smiled and Gwyn smiled back. “Good to see you Belle …” But she didn’t sound good--she sounded distracted, and maybe a little tired, though she looked perfect, as always.

“Sit. Join us.” Miss Tabatha encouraged, “And talk to us. We were actually just talking about you.”

Gwyn ran a hand through her elegant hairdo, disrupting it in her stress. Still she looked better than most. “Oh girls, I’ve got Mary Beth Jamison coming in this afternoon to talk about her wedding …” Gwyn figured the name was all she needed to drop. It was a small island--very small.

“Ooh …” Magee jumped on it, “So she’s getting married.”

“Yes to Chas Herrington from Connecticut--should be a huge affair. She’s giving me a shot at her dress though she’s been everywhere already, and I mean everywhere including a little jaunt to Paris, if you can even imagine,” Which of course they all could as they had just said Paris was part of the competition now. As if you got out of a plane at Charles De Gaulle and racks of bridal dresses were all just there by the baggage claim calling your name … in English. But of course who knew … “And if that isn’t bad enough this morning Tiffany Bartlet was in for something for the Daffodil Ball. She might be queen.”

“Well that all sounds like good business …” Magee encouraged, just trying to be nice because of course she knew it was rough. She just pretended it was a society wedding cake she was competing for and then some society party that wanted extra special little tid bits, and of course had no idea what they should be--except the extra special part. So she did understand, to a certain degree, and she could feel that stress alright.

But Gwyn was staring off into middle space worrying her bottom lip. “Well girls it could be good business but I just don’t have anything … well fabulous enough. Outrageous or or … different. You know? We’re talking ‘Princess time’ here, and we are just one boat ride and car ride from New York City and Boston. There’s a lot of competition out there …”

The owner and chef extraordinaire brought her the seafood salad she always ordered, knowing her time was short. She started stabbing absently at the Romaine.

“Well you are and always have been the most elegant and, well, outrageous clothing boutique on island …” Miss Tabatha tried to sooth, but she knew what Gwyn meant, the princess time part. The average princess not only wanted fabulous but one of a kind and racks of fabulous one of a kind to pick through. It was a rat race for Gwyn. And one she felt she was losing.

The chef was back with crispy rolls. “Thanks E.J.” Gwyn gave him the smile that said she appreciated all his attention. Then she turned back to her meal and her friends. “But girls I need an edge. A secret weapon … to compete … Heaven knows I’ve been to every trade show from here to kingdom come and still, it is tough to well, be original.”

Miss Tabatha and Magee turned to Belle. Belle looked nervous but decided to take the plunge. She didn’t want, after all, to interfere, or suggest something that might not turn out good … later … “Uh …Gwyn. I have this friend …” Belle began.

Gwyn perked up and turned a hopeful head her way. She knew Belle’s only real friends on Nantucket were right at the table. Any of her other friends had to be from … home.

“Her name is Princess Noel but she goes by Noel.” Belle wanted to get this all out and get it out right, and maybe just once. So she wanted it to be clear from the beginning.

Gwyn thought, of course it is, but actually felt hope.

“She works for the family of course,” Belle thought she probably should be specific. Everyone seemed to treat back home as a mystical place. It was just back home, though it did have an aura about it. And she supposed that was of mystery and maybe it was a bit mystical, she couldn’t really say.

“Of course,” Everyone said with a look that they understood though they didn’t actually know firsthand, or even really understand. But they acted as though they did. After all, Belle was their friend. And she had married one of their own: Harv.

“She’s a dress maker of sorts. But she’s more than that, she well, she specializes in the formal, the exotic, the outrageous, and the romantic.”

Gwyn now flushed with excitement.

“And as you can imagine on a regular basis our workshop creates work clothes, mostly for the … uh … village people.” And of course she knew they for one second did not think it was that old band The Village People she’d heard about from the nineteen eighties. Or … people in a village either. No she meant the people back home.

“You can say elves my dear.” Miss Tabatha patted her hand, “We’re all island family here.” And she smiled like the grandmother Belle always wanted.

“Well yes then, the elves. So Noel, Princess Noel, well, she has a lot of down time. Now we all encourage her to work on those cute little felt waist jackets and those striped socks and pointy hats, but her heart is in taffeta, and silk--roushing and gathers: magic. She is a bit of magic herself, if I dare say so. She claims she creates dreams for people to wear. And if you ever saw some of the faerie princess dresses she’s made for our clients, well, you would have no doubt, none what so ever.” And Belle had a faraway look as though she were picturing one of these creations.

“She needs a challenge, craves it. But if we lost her … we’d be lost. And sometimes I think we are very close to her up and bolting. Heaven knows where she’d go, or how she’d survive and all that. Plus we need her. Things she has made for Nicole are heaven. She made Mother Nature a gossamer gown you would cry over … Who would we get? She sizes up a situation, and just knows what would be perfect, and then creates it.” And Belle stopped to catch her breath. Hoping, hoping she was saying it right. Making it clear how really special her friend Noel was.

Gwyn looked close to tears, her salad forgotten.

“I think she can pop in now and again for a special client and well, work for you. And when we need her, we’ll let you know.” Belle hoped she wasn’t over stepping her new role. Maybe she was, but the threat of losing Princess Noel was so huge, well drastic times and all that …

“She … she … she could be my answer to my prayers … my edge.” Gwyn wiped a stray tear off her perfectly made up face.

“She could,” Belle assured. “You would need to understand her and her ways.” And Belle wasn’t sure how to elaborate on this. “She’d need a workshop, a place to stay. She can supply her own materials … if you know what I mean.” And on this point Belle wasn’t sure how to elaborate, so she didn’t.

They didn’t, but none of them questioned any means the family used--ever.

“There’s the carriage house next door to me …” Miss Tabatha began, “Vacant, part of that old abandoned mansion. I’m sure Lawyer Trundle could, well arrange it. Her rent could go into the estate or just to help pay to restore it …” Miss Tabatha’s mind was spinning. Since no one had been in the carriage house, Miss Tabatha actually had no idea what it would take. But it would be nice to have it tidied up and to help her friend Gwyn. “She could take meals with me if she wanted. And that carriage house is so tucked back there I am guessing none of you ever even noticed it. So she’d have privacy to, uh, do what she does. And …” Miss Tabatha thought for one split second maybe she was going overboard offering the carriage house. It wasn’t really hers to put on the table like this, as a bargaining chip. Still she would like to see a little clean up going on over there. She’d check. Maybe she could persuade Mr. Trundle to bend the rules and let her get it fixed up and rented.

“She could lock up when she’s gone and no one would be the wiser,” Belle supplied with a grin.

“Exactly!” Miss Tabatha beamed. She wanted something to happen next door and this would be a start, a good start. Real estate on Nantucket was at a premium, and to have her immediate neighbor just forgotten … not to mention shabby, well, this would make Miss Tabatha happy no end.

Gwyn just listened, afraid to question. Afraid to believe it could happen. Afraid to get her hopes up. And afraid this would all take time … tons of time.

“Doesn’t that place need a lot of work? I mean a ton of work? Hasn’t it been locked up forever?” Magee pictured a shingled ancient carriage house next to the derelict mansion, over grown with beach roses and well, riff raff. Who knows what had crawled in and taken up residence, not to mention dirt, probably a century of dirt.

“It does …” Miss Tabatha conceded. She knew better than anyone what a wreck it was. It was right next door. She had to look over at it all the time. When she got her mower out, and worked on the back yard, she had a chance to really look at it. Her heart broke because it was neglected and forgotten, and an eye sore. And of course she agreed with Magee, it was probably shocking inside, beyond her wildest imagination of a wreck. Still … it was extra space, a lot of extra space. And she suspected it could be quite a prize if it had a little attention, okay a lot of attention, still a prize none the less.

Miss Tabatha was sure Magee and Gwyn thought she could just take this Noel on. Make room for her at the Tuck You Inn. And if she could read minds pretty good, and she could, they thought she had tons of space; that her inn was gigantic. She did and it was. Her inn was full of furniture, priceless and fabulous furniture. All her rooms were set up for guests. Lovingly decorated, beautifully accessorized, each detail perfect whether she had guests or not. Each room its own lovely escape, waiting for a visitor. She would dust them carefully, tenderly, almost as though they were alive. And in some ways to her they were. They were full of spectacular antique furniture that if it chose to talk could tell wonderful tales.

So much old furniture was either left to grandchildren, ended up at Good Will or was scattered in homes among the modern and the semi modern. Miss Tabatha’s rooms were restored to a detail. No IKEA mixed in. No scrub-able vinyl wall paper to keep it all practical. No latest trend color combinations. No, they were better than pages out of magazines or designer showcases because they were as they should be authentic and yet very useable. And she loved them all, thought back fondly to guests over a long period of time, guests that in some ways defined some of the suites. She heard laughter when there wasn’t any. And quiet words when for all intensive purposes the inn was silent.

As big as her building was, unless she were to dismantle a couple suites, there would be no where to roll out bolts of fabric, house a fabric collection or whatever it took. No spot for cutting tables and steamers, racks, and drawers for supplies. Endless piles of trim and whatever a seamstress needed to have a good work area. She just didn’t have the room. Unless she were to take her bedrooms apart and have her furniture put in the attic, which was already stuffed, or in the cellar, which of course would not be good for her priceless antiques. And besides it was stuffed with basement stuff …

But if the carriage house was cleaned up, well there was a ton of space, she was quite certain, and she would be able to walk in her back yard and not see such an eye sore. It would be the beginning, though a very small chip, of cleaning up that mess next door. A mess that had been there, vacant and going to rack and ruin for one hundred years. No, that would be her first choice, actually her only choice. She could keep an eye on this Noel princess and still keep her lovely inn intact. And she would ultimately see that part of the yard tidied up. The building itself painted, hopefully and well, brought back. Even if it wasn’t brought back on the outside, if the inside was restored, well that would be a start, a good start. She looked at Belle expectantly.

And Belle looked back at her thinking she was being given a cue. One she was missing. And then it sank in, of course. She had the where with all to make it come together. “Well, I could, of course, check with Harv. Maybe he’d send a crew and well zap it together.”

“Of course he could!” Miss Tabatha was used to getting her way, so she said it with a smile in her voice. “It could be Bippity Boppity Boo for Harv’s people and well, we could get Gwyn calmed down …”

And Gwyn let out a breath and started to pick at her salad again.

Belle knew it would be asking a lot out of Harv but she also knew if they lost Noel, well, it would be far harder to replace her--if even possible. And Noel would love the opportunity … she felt sure of it. She could see it in Noel’s eyes, that longing for an adventure, for something new, a challenge. And Gwyn really did look desperate--very desperate. “I’ll put it in motion.” Belle promised shooting up a little arrow prayer. “I’ll call Harv this afternoon and see how soon he can get a crew out here.”

“And Noel …” Gwyn whispered, daring to have hope. “How soon could she come?” Not even daring to guess what kind of answer Belle might give her.

Belle stopped to consider. It was off season up north. “Well I think she could come--whenever. She could stay with Miss Tabatha while her carriage house comes together. And I’m guessing she could send her silks and velvet and trims, and all of her supplies ahead separate …”

Gwyn simply nodded, not even caring what that actually meant. Then Gwyn had an idea and dared to just toss it out. “And maybe she could, uh, design some stock pieces … you know, to give my clients some ideas of what is available?” Gwyn was eating again, buttering a crispy roll, daring to be happy, and picturing her shoppe full of exotic and wondrous designs.

“Of course, she’d love to just design and create from her heart without any client restrictions,” Belle assured Gwyn. “And I would suspect if you asked her nicely … she probably has some samples she could bring … so you could instantly have your new image. I want you to talk to her after I do. Gwyn, you can explain it all to her, and you’re very convincing, tell her what all you need. I don’t want her to think I’m doing this on a charity level. You’d sound sincere--even desperate.” And Belle knew it had to all be worded carefully or Princess Noel would turn up her little nose, and laugh at them or worse yet sneer. No, they needed a plan, a tactful one.

“I … could …” Gwyn was already forming her requests, “Because I am desperate. Let’s call her.”

“Okay but I need to tell you just a tiny bit more …” Belle ate a little of her now cold chowder, stalling. Of course it was still delicious. She still wasn’t used to all the wonderful seafood on Nantucket.

“Come on Belle—give,” Magee demanded because now Magee felt like this was her project too.

“Well I know I called her Noel. But Noel is really her last name. Her name is Princess Noel, and she is a bit of a princess. Okay, a lot of a princess.” There it was out. She’d said it, but did she make herself clear? Well, as Belle looked at the still questioning faces she felt no, not at all.

“Well if Noel is her last name …” Magee asked right out, “What is her first name?” Like how different could it be in this day and age of well, made up names. Even celebrities made up names for their little precious’.

Belle gave a little cough, “Princess.”

The girls all stared at her stunned. Not even believing Belle; surely Belle was teasing them, not really getting how desperate Gwyn was, how serious the situation was. She was having a little fun at their expense at such a desperate time.

Belle tried to read their expressions. All she could come up with was not good. “Now, now remember she’s from … you know … home. We just all need to, well, treat her special.” And she wanted to add very special, like royalty because of course Princess Noel thought she was all of that and more--lots more.

“Like a Princess?” Gwyn asked, still thinking perhaps Belle was just going over the top for affect, “Because I can do that! If she can convert my business, and solve my problems, I’ll treat her like a queen!”

Relief shown in Belle’s eyes, “Okay then I’ll call her …”

***

Chapter 2